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Team Biden eyes a trillion-dollar January stimulus

If Joe Biden wins the presidency, he might need a trillion-dollar stimulus bill in January, just to buy enough time to push through his nearly $3 trillion "Build Back Better" plan later in spring 2021. That's according to Biden advisers who are growing increasingly worried that the economy is deteriorating by the day.

The big picture: Congress and the White House are locked in a stalemate on additional spending to soften the blow of the pandemic. Every day that extra stimulus is delayed only serves to increase the ultimate size of the final cost to the economy.


  • Economists advising the Biden campaign are privately warning that problems can compound and cascade — including business bankruptcies, supply chain disruptions, mass evictions, and huge shortfalls in state and local budgets.
  • "We have always contemplated the need for additional stimulus," Jake Sullivan, a senior policy adviser to Biden, tells Axios. "We will confront the situation we find in January."

Between the lines: Biden's signature economic stimulus plan is an ambitious attempt to recover from the pandemic while tackling income inequality, climate change and structural racism. The plan would pump $2.7 trillion into American manufacturing, clean energy technology and infrastructure over just four years.

  • He wants to spend an additional $775 billion for working parents and caregivers over 10 years.

Reality check: In a crisis, the most important aspect of any stimulus is speed — getting cash out the door as quickly as possible.

  • Even if Democrats win the Senate, Biden's advisers know that it will be difficult to pass such a plan within weeks of the inauguration.
  • Our thought bubble: Even Biden is not going to get Congress to spend $300 billion on new batteries before Valentine's Day.

By the numbers: Officially, Biden aides are reluctant to commit to a January price tag, given uncertainties about the virus and congressional action this fall. But many economists on his advisory committees privately put it between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, depending on what Congress passes (if it passes anything).

  • The goal would be to get money out the door and Americans back to work, while keeping families in their homes.
  • One blueprint already exists: The House passed a $3 trillion Cares Act II in May, but it's not close to becoming law. House and Senate leaders are trillions of dollars apart.

The other side: Trump would also spend big in January, if not before, if he's re-elected.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to spend $1 trillion this fall, but he's warned Trump about going much higher.
  • Trump's call for a $2 trillion infrastructure bill back in March would be a starting point for a 2021 stimulus.

The bottom line: Many of Biden's economic advisers served in the Obama administration and know what it's like to inherit an economic crisis on day one.

  • They feel that the 2009 stimulus package — the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — was woefully inadequate. And they're determined not to make the same mistake twice.

In photos: Fortified capitols see only small protests

Small groups of protesters rallied outside fortified statehouses over the weekend ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The big picture: Some rallies attracted armed members of far-right extremist groups but there were no reports of clashes, as had been feared. The National Guard and law enforcement outnumbered demonstrators, as officials took security steps to avoid a repeat of the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, per AP.

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Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December pardon spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

  • Those set to be pardoned before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice and people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

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Members of House and Senate fear for their safety away from a hardened Capitol

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
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Off the rails: Trump mainlines election conspiracies as Oval Office descends into madness

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

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Convicts turn to D.C. fixers as they seek pardons from President Trump

A flood of convicted criminals has retained lobbyists since November’s presidential election to press President Trump for pardons or commutations before he leaves office.

What we're hearing: Among them is Nickie Lum Davis, a Hawaii woman who pleaded guilty last year to abetting an illicit foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of fugitive Malaysian businessman Jho Low. Trump confidante Matt Schlapp also is seeking a pardon for a former biopharmaceutical executive convicted of fraud less than two months ago.

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Conservatives plot to punish the tech industry for deplatforming Trump

Capitol Hill conservatives are gaming out a multi-front war on the tech industry as retribution for deplatforming President Trump and others on the right, congressional sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: When you're in the minority, you figure out who you are as a party. With Republicans now looking up at the Democrats, they're searching for a unifying issue. This is one, at least for now.

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Kevin McCarthy warned members to not call out colleagues by name, citing potential political violence

Members of the House Republican Conference ignored leader Kevin McCarthy last week when he warned them against criticizing colleagues by name based on intelligence that doing so could trigger more political violence.

Why it matters: McCarthy made clear that name-dropping opponents, instead of spelling out complaints in more general terms, can put a literal target on a politician, especially with tensions so high following the events of Jan. 6.

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