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Business leaders see Biden's first 6 months as a make-or-break period for the economy

Business leaders see President-elect Biden's first six months as a make-or-break period for the economy — when he will either emerge as a promised bipartisan, centrist leader or submit to the demands of his party's progressive wing, lobbyists, top banks and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tell Axios.

Why it matters: Both Presidents Obama and Trump were able to pass big-ticket legislative items, like the Affordable Care Act and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, at the outset of their terms, thanks to having a unified government in both chambers of Congress.

  • Biden needs to do similar big things, but he currently faces a narrowly Democratic House and a Republican Senate. Even in a best-case scenario, he will operate with no better than a 50-50 Senate, making it a constant challenge to maintain his governing coalition.

What we're hearing: The business leaders say the pandemic is keeping the economy fragile, and they fear Biden will try to appease progressives, who want immediate regulatory action, through executive orders.

  • "We prefer him to legislate rather than regulate, and we'll know which path he's able to take within the first six months," the Chamber's chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, tells Axios.
  • Bradley added that the administration’s ability to get big pieces of legislation through hinges on a “policymaking center of gravity” of bipartisan legislators, similar to the group driving a compromise coronavirus stimulus package.
  • Moving — legislatively — on issues enjoying both Democratic and Republican support will allow Biden and those legislators to log some wins and build their political capital, Bradley said.

The bottom line: Wall Street would certainly prefer a more centrist administration that doesn't take a strong line on regulation or tax increases, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin tells me.

House passes For the People Act to expand voting rights

The House voted 220-210Wednesday to pass Democrats' expansive election and anti-corruption bill.

Why it matters: Expanding voting access has been a top priority for Democrats for years, but the House passage of the For the People Act (H.R. 1) comes as states across the country consider legislation to rollback voting access in the aftermath of former President Trump's loss.

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House passes George Floyd Justice in Policing Act

The House voted 220-212onWednesday evening to pass a policing bill named for George Floyd, the Black man whose death in Minneapolis last year led to nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

Why it matters: The legislation overhauls qualified immunity for police officers, bans chokeholds at the federal level, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases and outlaws racial profiling.

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Republicans are demanding a full 600-page reading of Biden’s COVID relief bill

Republicans are demanding a full, 600-page bill reading — and painful, multi-hour "vote-a-rama" — as Democrats forge ahead with their plan to pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Why it matters: The procedural war is aimed at forcing Democrats to defend several parts the GOP considers unnecessary and partisan. While the process won't substantially impact the final version of the mammoth bill, it'll provide plenty of ammunition for future campaign messaging.

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Here’s how a single resignation, retirement or death could flip control of the 50-50 Senate

Note: Bernie Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Data: Axios Research/ProPublica/NCSL; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Nineteen seats in the U.S. Senate could potentially flip parties if there's an unexpected vacancy, according to Axios' analysis of state vacancy rules, which most often allow the governor to appoint a replacement.

Why it matters: Depending on the senator, a single resignation, retirement or death — by accident or old age — could flip control of the 50-50 Senate, or give Democrats a two-vote cushion.

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White House works with Democrats to ensure Biden quickly fills any federal court vacancies

The White House is quietly working with Senate Democrats to ensure President Biden has a steady stream of nominees for the federal courts, according to people familiar with the matter and an administration official.

Why it matters: Biden wants the federal judiciary to better reflect the country’s demographics, and to try to shield his unfolding legislative agenda from a judiciary currently dominated by Trump appointees.

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Journalists around the world face record persecution

Around the world, journalists are being targeted at record levels by despots, eager to silence the press.

Why it matters: Experts worry that the United States' wavering stance on press freedoms over the past few years may have empowered autocrats looking to gain power and undermine democracy by going after journalists.

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FBI, Homeland Security warn of increasing threat to Capitol

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

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Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

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