Cracks emerge in Democrats’ unity as Biden pursues COVID deal: The Note

RICK KLEIN and ALISA WIERSEMA
·7 min read

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It's a Washington fact that pursuing 60 Senate votes can make it harder to get to 50.

It's also a Washington fact that controlling the Senate with 50 votes means there are 50 majority-makers -- and an equal number of majority-breakers.

It's a Washington theory that has President Joe Biden trying to keep both bipartisan and partisan paths alive in seeking a deal on COVID-19 relief.

In the meantime, progressives are starting to voice concerns that Biden will give too much to get Republicans on board. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made clear he wants Republicans to negotiate with their fellow senators, as opposed to with Biden directly, while congressional leaders start the budget process on their end this week.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden meets Republican lawmakers to discuss a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office, Feb. 1, 2021. (Evan Vucci/AP)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden meets Republican lawmakers to discuss a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office, Feb. 1, 2021. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The kind of meeting Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, calls "very productive, cordial" is not going to be viewed the same way among Democrats. Then there's Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., perhaps the most conservative Senate Democrat and a vote his party needs as always, now smarting from a few perceived White House slights.

At stake are lifelines for millions of Americans, and something broader when it comes to the political system: a test of Biden's ability to govern in post-Trump Washington.

Biden's problem isn't finding dance partners. It may be that there are still too many options -- each of them still hearing different tunes.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

Nearly a month after the insurrection on Capitol Hill, the implications of that day continue to ripple across both sides of the aisle in both personal and political ways.

“This was the moment I thought everything was over,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram Live video Monday night. “I thought I was going to die,” the 31-year-old plainly stated as she laid out a harrowing, blow-by-blow account of first hiding in her bathroom when she thought her office was being broken into, before traversing the Capitol in hopes of getting to safety.

The New York congresswoman also revealed that as a survivor of sexual assault, she is used to not being believed and drew a comparison between the tactics of abusers and the rhetoric used by some Republicans who said she should apologize for her comments about the Jan. 6 riot.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, file photo, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the Postal Service on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (Tom Williams/AP)
PHOTO: FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, file photo, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the Postal Service on Capitol Hill, in Washington. (Tom Williams/AP)

“We are not safe with people who hold positions of power who are willing to endanger the lives of others because they think it will score them a political point,” Ocasio-Cortez said while calling for greater accountability in the current political environment.

The progressive congresswoman’s account coincides with a groundswell for accountability aimed at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s extremism and conspiracy-hawking rhetoric. The latest rebuke against the Georgia congresswoman appeared to come in the form of a rare statement on House matters from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” McConnell said without calling out Taylor Greene by name.

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

Stacey Abrams hasn't said she's gunning for governor of Georgia again in 2022, but Republicans are already preparing for what politicos in the Peach State anticipate: A rematch between Abrams and Gov. Brian Kemp.

"After losing the White House and United States Senate in 2020, grassroots Republicans across Georgia and America are standing together to stop radical Stacey Abrams. ... We will do whatever it takes to expose Stacey Abrams' radical network, highlight her dangerous agenda, and ultimately defeat her -- and her left-wing candidates -- at the ballot box," Jeremy Brand, a Kemp ally and GOP strategist, said in a statement announcing a new organization called "Stop Stacey."

PHOTO: Stacey Abrams speaks to the media about the U.S. Senate runoff elections outside St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Jan. 5, 2021. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)
PHOTO: Stacey Abrams speaks to the media about the U.S. Senate runoff elections outside St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Jan. 5, 2021. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

As Brand recognizes in his statement, Georgia's political landscape now is vastly different than it was in 2018, and anyone who's been paying attention will credit Abrams' organizing efforts since her 55,000-vote loss to Kemp for that shift. Her loss was considered close at the time -- a warning to the GOP that Georgia was trending purple -- but since then, Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by 11,779 votes -- bringing new meaning to what qualifies as a "close" election -- and Democrats won both of the state's Senate seats in dual runoffs, defeating Trump-allied Republican incumbents by vote margins larger than Kemp's was when he captured the governorship.

Despite losing those campaigns -- reversing a 20-year streak of Republicans dominating statewide runoffs -- the new anti-Abrams group is sticking to the same playbook, branding her and her allies as "radical," and asserting that defeating them is critical to "Save America." While there are several factors at play in the state flipping blue, the bottom line is this messaging -- which flooded Georgians' airwaves and mailboxes for two months -- didn't lead to GOP victory on Jan. 5.

A new poll from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution should increase concern within the party of reusing a strategy that so recently failed. Among registered voters in the state, 51% say they have a favorable impression of Abrams; the same amount said they disapprove of the governor.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News Senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce, who recaps President Joe Biden's meeting with GOP senators on COVID relief. ABC News Medical Unit coordinating producer Sony Salzman breaks down Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demographic data on vaccine distribution thus far. And ABC News Senior Foreign correspondent Ian Pannell explains the situation unfolding in Myanmar after its military staged a coup. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight's Politics Podcast. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Anna Maria Barry-Jester of Kaiser Health News joins the crew to compare President Joe Biden's response to the pandemic with that of former President Donald Trump. They also discuss a recent poll showing that if Trump were to start a new "Patriot Party," it would have significant draw among Republican voters. https://53eig.ht/2MglsmL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a nomination hearing for Kathleen Hicks to be deputy secretary of defense at 9:30 a.m.

  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the Oval Office at 9:45 a.m. Biden signs executive orders aimed at reforming the U.S. immigration system at 5 p.m.

  • The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Thomas Vilsack to be secretary of agriculture at 10:30 a.m.

  • The Senate votes on the confirmation of Pete Buttigieg to be secretary of transportation at noon.

  • The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee votes on the nomination of Denis McDonough to be veterans affairs secretary at noon.

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at 1:30 p.m.

  • The Senate votes on the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas to be secretary of homeland security at 2:30 p.m.

  • At 5:30 p.m., Harris ceremonially swears in Mayorkas as homeland security secretary.

  • The late-Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick will lie in honor at the Capitol. A ceremonial arrival takes place at 9:30 p.m. on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol. A viewing period for Capitol Police begins at 10 p.m. and continues overnight. A congressional tribute will take place Wednesday morning.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

Cracks emerge in Democrats’ unity as Biden pursues COVID deal: The Note originally appeared on abcnews.go.com