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Biden to fill Trump COVID vacuum with blunt warning of rising death rate

President-elect Biden, who has vowed to be clear-eyed and straight about the pandemic, plans a renewed warning in remarks on COVID-19 in Wilmington today, a transition official tells Axios.

Driving the news: Echoing a CDC forecast from last week, Biden is expected to say that, tragically, the infection rates and the number of deaths are expected to increase in the coming weeks.


  • Biden plans to call outthe Trump administration for falling short on the pace of vaccine distribution, and will discuss his own plan to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible. 

Why it matters: Although Americans have been getting blunt talk from their governors and from doctors on TV, President Trump has been AWOL on COVID since the election.

  • Biden is intentionally filling the vacuum, addressing the nation in terms that aim to balance hope and realism.

With a bluntness that has been missing from this administration, Biden talked Dec. 14 about "this dark winter of the pandemic," then said last week: "Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us."

  • Biden has said he has a plan to aim to administer 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days (by May 1).

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who'll be Biden's chief medical adviser on COVID, on Sunday repeated his grim "surge upon a surge" prediction for post-Christmas cases.

  • Fauci told Dana Bash on CNN's State of the Union: "I share the concern of President-elect Biden that as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse."

What we're watching: Straight talk is easier when it's on Trump's watch. Biden's test will be to be just as blunt after he takes the oath.

Kellyanne Conway: "Power should be used sparingly yet strategically"

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

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Pro-Trump reps continue plan to oust Cheney

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

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Democrats aim to punish House Republicans for Capitol riot

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.

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Google's parent shuts down effort to deliver Internet via balloons

Alphabet is shutting down Loon, one of its "moonshots" which aimed to deliver Internet service via high-altitude balloons.

Why it matters: The effort was one of several approaches designed to get high-speed connectivity to some of the world's remote spots and also proved useful in the aftermath of disasters that shut down traditional infrastructure.

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What has and hasn't changed as Biden takes over U.S. foreign policy

President Biden swiftly recommitted the U.S. to the Paris climate pact and the World Health Organization, but America's broader foreign policy is in a state of flux between the Trump and Biden eras.

Driving the news: One of the most striking moves from the Biden administration thus far was a show of continuity — concurring with the Trump administration's last-minute determination that China had committed "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims.

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McConnell to propose February impeachment trial

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to propose later today that the impeachment trial of former President Trump begin in February to allow for due process, two sources familiar with the proposal tell Axios.

Why it matters: The impeachment trial is likely to grind other Senate business to a halt, including the confirmation process for President Biden's Cabinet nominees.

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Podcast: Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

House grants waiver for Biden's Pentagon pick Gen. Lloyd Austin

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

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