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Inside Joe Biden's Supreme Court strategy

Joe Biden’s closing argument will shift to a dominant emphasis on health care, turning the looming Supreme Court fight into a referendum on coverage and pre-existing conditions, officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Biden aides believed they were winning when the race was about the coronavirus pandemic. Now they plan to use the Supreme Court opening as a raucous new field for a health care fight, returning to a theme that gave Democrats big midterm wins in 2018.


Here’s the case Biden will make: The new justice could have a deciding vote on protections for pre-existing conditions.

  • Biden said in Philadelphia on Sunday: "There is so much at stake — the right to health care, clean air and water, and equal pay for equal work. The rights of voters, immigrants, women and workers."
  • The Biden campaign will coordinate closely with House and Senate Democratic leaders on how to link the Supreme Court fight to Trump's coronavirus response.
  • Like House Democratic challengers in suburban seats in 2018, Biden will constantly remind voters that Trump's stated goal has always been to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Don't forget: An Affordable Care Act case will be heard by the Supreme Court a week after the election. A decision is expected in June 2021.

Between the lines: Biden advisers view the court vacancy as a rare last-minute chance to get a second look from independents.

  • The campaign will use the coming fight to appeal and motivate younger voters who want to protect Roe v. Wade.
  • "If you want something to fire up young people who weren’t all that interested this year, this is it,” John Anzalone, a Biden pollster, told the New York Times.

The other side: Republicans see the court vacancy as a new chance to hold the Senate by juicing GOP turnout in states like North Carolina, where Sen. Thom Tillis has been trailing in public and private polls, officials tell Axios' Alayna Treene.

  • Trumpworld now believes a fired-up Republican base diminishes Democrats' hopes of flipping Texas and Georgia.
  • But nothing appears easier for Cory Gardner in Colorado or Susan Collins in Maine.

Republicans view the SCOTUS fight as a battle of the bases: They think they can demoralize Democrats, and depress turnout, if they quickly fill RBG's seat.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

A Texas man who has be charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

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Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

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Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

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U.S. national security adviser speaks with Israeli counterpart for the first time

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

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Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.

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Muslim families hope to reunite following Biden's travel ban repeal

Muslim Americans across the U.S. are celebrating President Biden's day-1 reversal of former President Trump's travel ban that targeted several Muslim-majority countries.

The big picture: The repeal of what many critics called the "Muslim ban" renews hope for thousands of families separated by Trump's order.

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The cloudy science on school reopening during the pandemic

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

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Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

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