By MICHELLE STODDART, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Wednesday is Day 43 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how the day is unfolding. All time Eastern:
Mar 03, 4:08 pm
Schumer picks all-female leadership team for Senate Sergeant at Arms office
On Wednesday, as Congress heard about serious problems on Jan. 6 regarding the security situation at the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that an Army veteran, Retired Army Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson, with extensive intelligence experience will take over as the new Senate Sergeant at Arms.
Schumer unveiled an all-female leadership team heading the Sergeant at Arms office, the office that oversees security at the Capitol.
-ABC News’ Trish Turner
Mar 03, 2:44 pm
Biden says relaxing COVID-19 precautions now is ‘neanderthal thinking’
Biden on Wednesday told reporters in the Oval Office that decisions by the Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves to relax COVID-19 restrictions by opening businesses and repealing mask mandates are a “big mistake.”
“I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody has realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden said “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way we are able to get vaccine in people’s arms.”
Despite the promising increase in vaccinations, Biden said it is not time to relax social distancing measures before enough Americans get the vaccine.
“And the last thing, the last thing we need is the neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine, take off your mask, forget it,” Biden said. “It still matters.”
Biden noted that more than 500,00 Americans have died from the pandemic, saying he keeps a card with that number.
“And it’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science. Wash your hands. Hot water. Do it frequently. Wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And, I know you all know that,” Biden said. “I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”
Mar 03, 2:43 pm
Biden hopes to ‘preside over the end of cancer’
Biden hosted a meeting with bipartisan lawmakers Wednesday afternoon to discuss ways to get to their shared goal of ending cancer “as we know it.”
“And what I want to talk with them about today is how we go about taking advantage of the work they’ve done to get us where we are today, because I think we’re on the cusp of some real breakthroughs across the board on cancer,” Biden said before the meeting.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki previewed the meeting, saying that fighting cancer has “significant personal importance” to Biden, whose oldest son Beau passed away after fighting brain cancer in 2015. During his tenure as vice president, Biden was tapped by former President Barack Obama to lead the fight against cancer.
Mar 03, 2:23 pm
First lady makes school visit
First lady Jill Biden and newly sworn-in Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden, Connecticut, on Wednesday, to see how the school was adapting to the pandemic. Biden began the tour in a kindergarten classroom, where a teacher at the school showed her plexiglass dividers with pool noodles on the edge, one of the mitigation strategies.
On the next stop on the tour, the first lady visited a sensory room to learn how they modified their approach for special needs students, as well a second-grade classroom, though no students were present.
“I think the teachers are doing such a great job in, you know, meeting the kids where they are, whether that’s in school, whether it’s at home. I mean, really, I think what the teachers have done here to help…America’s children has just been incredible,” Biden said.
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle
Mar 03, 2:18 pm
Harris visits woman-owned small business in Virginia
Harris visited Fibre Space, a woman-owned small business in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday morning to discuss changes small businesses made in the wake of the pandemic and to tout Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill.
Fibre Space sells yarn, fibre, and other supplies.
She met with the owner of Fibre Space, Danielle Romanetti, and three employees during the visit, and discussed how Romanetti and her employees have been impacted by COVID-19, including how they have incurred additional child care costs and dealt with uncertainty about their economic futures.
Harris also discussed the importance of passing Biden’s American Rescue Plan to get relief to those who need it.
Mar 03, 1:51 pm
White House ‘hopeful’ Texans, Mississippians will continue to follow health guidelines
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to questions in a briefing Wednesday about decisions by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves to relax COVID-19 restrictions, including opening businesses and ending mask mandates.
“… This entire country has paid the price for political leaders who ignored the science when it comes to the pandemic,” Psaki said.
Psaki added that the president is “hopeful that people in these states will continue to follow the guidelines that have been set out and the recommendations made by health and medical experts.”
Mar 03, 1:49 pm
Biden is ‘comfortable’ with COVID-19 relief negotiations
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing Wednesday that the president is “comfortable” with negotiations on Capitol Hill resulting in limiting income thresholds for direct payments in the COVID-19 relief bill.
“We don’t have a final bill, as you know. There will be ongoing discussions. He is comfortable and knows there will be tweaks at the margin,” Psaki said. “What his firm viewpoint is, is that it needs to meet the scope of the challenge, it needs to be the size he’s proposed.”
A Democratic aide told ABC News Wednesday morning that changes in the bill include single filers making over $80,000 and joint filers making over $160,000 not receiving $1,400 direct payments.
Psaki added that Biden is “unmovable” on the dollar amount of the payments despite attempts to reduce it.
Mar 03, 1:45 pm
White House says not to expect new OMB pick this week
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the public should “not expect” an announcement for director of the Office of Management and Budget after Biden’s pick Neera Tanden withdrew her consideration Tuesday night over criticism from her past tweets critical of Republicans.
Mar 03, 12:22 pm
CDC director pushes back on states reopening
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky responded to the decisions by some governors, including Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, to relax COVID-19 precautions, including opening businesses and ending mask mandates, saying the CDC and White House have been very clear about the need to step up protections and not relax them.
“Today we are at a critical nexus in the pandemic,” Walensky said. “So much can turn in the next few weeks. On the one hand, cases in the country are leveling off at rates just on the cusp of potential to resurge.”
Walensky made a personal plea to Americans regardless of local policies to continue making choices that will stop the virus from spreading.
“Whether mandated or not, as individuals and as communities, we can still take the right public health action to protect ourselves and others. Wearing a well-fitting mask, avoiding travel and crowds, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene,” Walensky said. “Now more than ever, we must do all we can to stop the spread of the virus.”
Mar 03, 11:38 am
Becerra’s nomination moves out of committee despite GOP opposition
The withdrawal of Neera Tanden’s nomination Tuesday night marked the first Biden appointee to fall at the hands of the 50-50 split Senate, but Wednesday morning, another potentially controversial nominee was advanced out of committee: Xavier Becerra.
The Finance committee voted on a party-line to advance Becerra’s nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Services out of committee. No Republicans supported him.
Democrats tout Becerra’s experience as California attorney general, but many in the GOP say they are not sold that he has the relevant experience for the post. It’s not entirely clear whether Becerra will have the support necessary to be confirmed. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has not said yet whether he’ll support the nomination.
Mar 03, 11:35 am
House Democratic leaders endorse Young for OMB director
House Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Stenny Hoyer, D-Md., Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., released a statement Wednesday endorsing Shalanda Young for director of the Office of Management and Budget. Young was nominated for deputy director of the agency, but some lawmakers threw their weight behind her as director amid criticism of Neera Tanden, Biden’s original pick to lead the agency, who withdrew from consideration Tuesday night.
Young appeared before the Senate Budget Committee Tuesday, and was received positively by some lawmakers. She has also gotten the support of Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Mar 03, 11:24 am
Final COVID-19 bill narrows income brackets for $1,400 direct payments: Source
A Democratic aide tells ABC News that the final Senate COVID-19 relief bill makes changes around who will get a $1,400 direct payment.
The payments will begin to phase out at the $75,000 income bracket, and single filers making over $80,000 will not receive payments. For joint filers, payments will begin to phase out at $150,000 income level and joint filers making over $160,000 will not receive payments.
That addresses concern of moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., who have called for more targeted direct payments.
Mar 03, 10:49 am
White House says ‘more than 200,000’ have enrolled for health insurance
Biden released a statement Wednesday saying more than 200,000 Americans have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in the first two weeks since his administration started a special three-month enrollment period for HealthCare.gov on Feb. 15.
Biden signed an executive order on Jan. 28, opening the federal marketplace for a three-month special enrollment period for coverage during the pandemic. The special enrollment period ends May 15.
Mar 03, 10:30 am
Debate on COVID-19 relief bill expected Wednesday
Senate Democratic aides tell ABC News they expect debate on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill to start late Wednesday, but they’re waiting on the text to be completed and nonpartisan offices to issue a new price tag, also called a “score,” and analysis.
After that, there will be up to 20 hours of debate over the bill, and then a Senate “vote-a-rama” will begin, during which senators can propose amendments. Then the Senate will vote on the bill’s passage.
Mar 03, 9:50 am
First lady wades into school reopening debate
Jill Biden, the nation’s highest-ranking teacher, is wading into the debate over reopening schools, with a visit Wednesday to Connecticut and Pennsylvania alongside the newly confirmed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Upping her role in this contentious fight is a significant move for Jill Biden, and one that could put her in the political crosshairs, as the Biden administration tries to balance the interests of teachers’ unions and pandemic-weary parents who are desperate to get their kids back in school.
The first lady will need to walk a fine line. Wednesday’s visits are being billed more as a listening session. Biden and the education secretary will be stopping by two schools that have managed to reopen with the hopes of “having a conversation… about what has been effective, what has worked, what are the lessons learned, what do they need more assistance with?” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
But Biden, who herself is teaching virtually at Northern Virginia Community College this semester, will nonetheless get a reality check on the difficulties facing schools as the Biden administration struggles to achieve its goal to reopen the majority of schools in his first 100 days.
Mar 03, 9:09 am
Biden to hold meeting on cancer, meet with House Dems
After meeting with Senate Democrats two days in a row, Biden speaks, virtually, to the House Democratic Caucus at their annual retreat. Before that, Biden and Harris will hold a 1:45 p.m. bipartisan meeting on cancer in the Oval Office. Details on that are still unclear but Biden has long advocated a cancer “moonshot.”
Separately, Harris will spend part of the day visiting a woman-owned small business in Alexandria, Virginia, to discuss the impact of the pandemic and promote the American Rescue Plan. The vice president will also ceremonially swear in Gina Raimondo as Secretary of Commerce in the evening.
The White House Covid-19 response team will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. and White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold a briefing at 12:30 p.m.
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