By LIBBY CATHEY and EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — This is Day 17 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:
Feb 06, 12:43 pm
Biden launches ‘A Weekly Conversation’ with woman who lost job amid pandemic
The White House has released a new video of Biden speaking on the phone with an unemployed mother who lost her job because of the coronavirus pandemic and telling her what his COVID-19 relief proposal could do to immediately help Americans.
Last year, Michele lost her job because of the pandemic. I recently gave her a call to hear her story and discuss how my American Rescue Plan will help families like hers. pic.twitter.com/SAqM2GytPf
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 6, 2021
Michele is from Roseville, California, and lost her job at a startup clothing company, according to the White House. In the video, she says she was laid off for the first time ever in July and hasn’t been able to find work. She decided to write a letter to Biden.
The president, sitting at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, offers Michele his familiar line, recounting his father’s motto that a job is “a lot more than just a paycheck.”
“The idea that we think we can keep businesses open and moving and thriving without dealing with this pandemic, it’s just a non-starter. We’re putting together a plan that provides for emergency relief to people in desperate need now, everything from mortgage payments, to unemployment insurance, to rental subsidies, to food security for children. It provides for some small and medium-sized businesses to be able to open,” Biden tells her.
Biden also repeats that he believes his administration will deliver on his 100 million shots in 100 days plan, which leads Michele to say she “finally” got her parents an appointment and they were getting their vaccines the same day the call took place.
Biden tells Michele’s daughter that he called after reading her mother’s letter because he admired “her determination” and “commitment.”
The White House says this new effort, labeled “A Weekly Conversation,” will allow Biden to regularly communicate directly with Americans. On Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki teased the video, saying Biden will continue the tradition, similar to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” or Reagan’s weekly radio address, and that Biden’s effort will take on “a variety of forms.”
-ABC News’ Justin Gomez
Feb 06, 12:14 pm
Blinken discusses Iran, other issues with European allies
Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his French, German, and British counterparts Friday for a wide-ranging conversation that “affirmed the centrality of the Transatlantic relationship in dealing with security, climate, economic, health, and other challenges the world faces,” according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
The meeting, however, also focused on Iran, which Price warned earlier in the week requires “urgency” as it ramps up its nuclear program ahead of possible U.S.-Iran talks on restoring the Iran nuclear deal.
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom remain parties to the deal, which the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from, reimposing sanctions.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan convened a meeting of Cabinet chiefs Friday morning, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, including Blinken, to discuss Iran.
“The meeting today is part of an ongoing policy review. It is not decisional. There are no pending policy announcements,” Psaki said in a tweet. Biden also did not mention Iran during his foreign policy address on Thursday.
While Price listed Iran as one of many issues, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab indicated it was a major topic, tweeting the four top diplomats “discussed how a united approach could address our shared concerns towards Iran.”
-ABC News’ Connor Finnegan
Feb 06, 11:36 am
Biden calls first ride on Air Force One ‘a great honor’
Biden landed in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, Friday night after taking his first ride on Air Force One, calling it “a great honor” and a “pretty sweet ride” after seeing practice landings from New Castle Air National Guard Base in the past.
“It’s a great honor. But I didn’t think about it to tell you the truth,” Biden said.
“They’ve used this air — to practice landing for the 747 take off of the president’s plane for a long time. So I’ve been watching. About 5 miles that way as you come off the air force, going north you pass over my house. Now I’m getting off that plane, which is really kind of strange.”
Asked what his plans for the weekend were, Biden said, “to see my grandchildren and to hang out with Jill to get the rest of the stuff we have to move from our house to the other house.”
-ABC News’ Justin Gomez
Feb 06, 11:24 am
Biden says Trump shouldn’t receive intelligence briefings because of ‘erratic behavior’
When asked in pre-recorded interview by “CBS Evening News” Anchor Norah O’Donnell if former President Donald Trump should receive any further intelligence briefings, Biden said “I think not,” adding that it’s because of Trump’s “erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection.”
Asked what his worst fear is if Trump continues to get these briefings, Biden wouldn’t speculate, simply saying there’s “no need for him to have” it.
“I’d rather not speculate out loud. I just think that there is no need for him to have that intelligence briefing. What value is giving him an intelligent briefing? What impact does he have at all? Other than the fact he might slip and say something.”
Trump’s own former deputy director of national intelligence, Sue Gordon, previously said that Trump shouldn’t have access to the briefings after he left office.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the decision to revoke Trump’s access was “under review” and there was no determination yet.
-ABC New’s Justin Gomez and Molly Nagle
Feb 06, 11:04 am
Biden predicts $15 minimum-wage hike won’t be in final COVID-19 relief bill
In a clip of Biden’s pre-recorded interview with “CBS Evening News” Anchor Norah O’Donnell, President Joe Biden Friday night said that his plan for a $15 minimum-wage hike in his COVID-19 relief bill likely won’t happen.
“Well, apparently, that’s not going to occur because of the rules of the United States Senate,” Biden said on the minimum-wage effort.
“So you’re saying the minimum wage won’t be in this?” O’Donnell clarified.
“My guess is it will not be in it. But I do think that we should have a minimum wage stand by itself $15 an hour, and work your way up to the 15– it doesn’t have to be “boom.” And all the economics show, if you do that the whole economy rises. I’m prepared, as president of the United States, on a separate negotiation on minimum wage, to work my way up from what it is now, which is– look, no one should work 40 hours a week and live below the poverty wage. And if you’re making less than $15 an hour, you’re living below the poverty wage,” Biden said, suggesting an incremental shift to $15/hour.
Biden also spoke about overall negotiations, saying he was “wide open” on how to target direct payments to those who need it most but seemed to commit to an upper boundary of $75,000 per person, $150,000 a couple.
“I’m prepared to negotiate on that,” Biden said when asked what the limit should be on those getting [stimulus payments].
“But here’s the deal: Middle-class folks need help. But you don’t need to get any help to someone making 300,000 bucks or 250. So it’s somewhere between an individual making up to 75 and phasing out, and a couple making up to 150 and phasing out. But, again, I’m wide open on what that is.”
-ABC New’s Justin Gomez and Molly Nagle
Feb 05, 8:51 pm
Biden administration to reverse sanctions on Houthis: Source
Weeks after the Trump administration announced new sanctions on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Biden White House is now moving to revoke them, a State Department official confirmed to ABC News.
The designation of the group, formally known as Ansar Allah, as a foreign terrorist organization on Jan. 11 was condemned by human rights groups and United Nations officials for hampering the delivery of international aid to the war-torn country on the brink of famine.
The official told ABC News that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has notified Congress of the intention to revoke the designation and “will share more details in the coming days.”
“This decision has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct, including attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens. We are committed to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory against further such attacks,” the State Department official said in a statement to ABC News. “Our action is due entirely to the humanitarian consequences of this last-minute designation from the prior administration, which the United Nations and humanitarian organizations have since made clear would accelerate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
Individual Houthi leaders have been sanctioned over the years, but former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to designate the entire movement as a foreign terrorist organization essentially criminalized working with them, which aid groups say they have to do.
This is just the latest effort by the Biden administration to extricate the U.S. from the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. On Thursday, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, announced that the U.S. would end “American support for offensive operations in Yemen.”
Last week, Biden suspended two U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the coalition fighting the Houthis, that the Trump administration had green-lighted.
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
Feb 05, 2:46 pm
House passes budget resolution, paving way for Biden’s COVID relief plan
The House passed the Senate-amended budget resolution in a 219-209 vote on Friday.
Maine Rep. Jared Golden was the only Democrat to vote no.
Final passage of the budget resolution now unlocks the next phase in drafting the COVID-19 rescue package, with the work divided among several Congressional committees.
Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Friday that House committees will begin their work next week. They hope to have a final COVID-19 rescue package ready for votes in the House for the week of Feb. 22.
-ABC News’ Mariam Khan
Feb 05, 2:30 pm
Psaki maintains commitment to bipartisanship, won’t give negotiation timeline
White House press secretary Jen Psaki stressed Friday that Biden has not given up on the idea of bipartisan support even though he said earlier in the day that it would be “an easy choice” between quick relief and drawn out negotiations.
“He is somebody who is keeping the door open. He will remain engaged with Republicans in the days ahead,” she said at Friday’s press briefing.
Psaki pointed to a number of areas of bipartisan compromise including funding for small businesses and some elements of the minimum wage, but acknowledged that there was still a gulf on agreements for scope and size.
When pressed by ABC News on what Biden viewed as a reasonable timeline for negotiations before he considers them “bogged down,” as he indicated in his remarks earlier in the day, Psaki declined to give guidance.
“I’m not going to set a timeline,” she said.
The president, she said, “is certainly hopeful that there is opportunity for this bill, whatever form it takes, to have bipartisan support, and there’s an opportunity to do that.”
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle, Ben Gittleson and Sarah Kolinovsky
Feb 05, 12:38 pm
Biden calls his American Rescue Plan ‘a real answer to the crisis we’re in’
In remarks on the economy Friday, Biden called his American Rescue Plan “big,” “bold” and “a real answer to the crisis we’re in.”
The president said he will not lower stimulus payments to under $1,400. Biden’s plan also includes extending unemployment checks until September (it’s set to run out in March) and raising the minimum wage.
When it comes to compromising with Republicans, Biden said, “they’re just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go.”
“What Republicans have proposed is either to do nothing or not enough,” he said.
“If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice. I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now,” he said.
Feb 05, 11:52 am
Biden to speak about economy on heels of dismal jobs report
Biden is set give remarks on the economy Friday after the first jobs report during his presidency was released Friday morning, pointing toward a slow economic recovery.
The Labor Department report showed the U.S. unemployment rate dipped slightly to 6.3% in January — down just 0.4% from last month — and employers added some 49,000 jobs.
Last February, before COVID-19 upended the labor market, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was 3.5%.
Feb 05, 11:34 am
Administration announces 3 ways it’s using Defense Production Act to combat COVID-19
Tim Manning, the COVID-19 response team’s supply chain coordinator, announced Friday that the administration is using the Defense Production Act in three ways: getting Pfizer more equipment to ramp up vaccine production; increasing supply of at-home tests to 60 million by the summer; and building plants to produce surgical gloves in the U.S.
Meanwhile, 1,110 active-duty military personnel will be assigned to assist at vaccination sites, the White House COVID-19 response team said.
The personnel — including Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — will be divided into five teams of 222 personnel each.
FEMA and the Department of Defense will jointly determine when military vaccination capabilities are no longer required.
Feb 05, 10:47 am
House Dems meet with Biden on $1.9 trillion COVID relief package: ‘We can’t do too much,’ Biden says
House Democrats met with Biden at the White House Friday morning to discuss his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package — the president’s first in-person meeting with House Democrats since he was sworn in.
Ahead of the meeting, Biden compared his push for the relief package to the effort in 2009 to get the Recovery Act passed.
“It was hard as hell to get the votes for it to begin with,” the president said of the massive stimulus plan during the first weeks of the Obama Administration. “Then it was hard as hell to get even the number we got.”
“But one thing we learned: We can’t do too much here. We can do too little. We can do too little and sputter,” Biden said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer were among the members in attendance. Biden sat between Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Feb 05, 10:07 am
Biden tells African Union the US has ‘mutual respect’ for them
Biden has recorded his first remarks for an international summit, taping a short video message in advance of the African Union Summit.
“The United States stands ready now to be your partner in solidarity, support, and mutual respect,” Biden said in the remarks posted by the White House overnight. “We believe in the nations of Africa, in the continent-wide spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Feb 05, 9:41 am
Congressional Democrats propose up to $50,000 in debt cancelation
Congressional Democrats renewed calls Thursday for Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loans per person.
The Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, said Thursday that canceling loans would provide a much-needed boost to the economy and help lift communities of color.
“Debt holds people back from buying cars, from going on vacations, from starting families, from getting the job they want to get, it’s a huge anchor on our entire economy,” Schumer said. “There’s very little that the president could do with a flick of a pen that would boost our economy more than canceling $50,000 of student debt.”
However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that Biden supports a more modest proposal: up to $10,000 in student loan forgiveness per person.
Feb 05, 6:13 am
Senate approves bill to pass Biden’s COVID-19 relief package
The Senate approved a budget resolution early Friday that would allow for the passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package without Republican support.
Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the Senate by casting a vote in favor of the Democratic measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The resolution now goes back to the House for final approval.
Biden has said he hopes to gain Republicans’ support for the relief package.
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