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Meadows hints FDA chief's job is in jeopardy over coronavirus vaccine

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows hinted to Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn on a phone call Friday that his job security might be in jeopardy as he pushed the FDA chief to approve Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine by the end of the day, according to two sources familiar with the call.

Why it matters: It's one more example of the White House putting political pressure on the FDA to expedite its green light on a coronavirus vaccine.


  • The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A White House official replied, "We don't comment on private conversations, but the Chief regularly requests updates on progress toward a vaccine."
  • The exchange was first reported by the Washington Post.

Where it stands: Pfizer's vaccine authorization was already on a fast track and the FDA's announcement was expected to come soon, perhaps over the weekend, following an advisory committee's recommendation on Thursday.

  • Moving that timeline up by a day or two is unlikely to make a difference in how quickly people can actually receive the vaccine.

What's next: The administration has said that roughly 3 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine can be shipped immediately, once the FDA issues its authorization.

  • Those doses will primarily go to health care workers. And because the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at sub-Arctic temperatures, it likely will be concentrated among research institutions that are equipped for ultra-cold storage.

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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Biden on states lifting COVID restrictions: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking"

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told pool reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).

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