Here’s what’s happening in politics Jan. 27, 2021. Check back often for updates.

Ex-President Donald Trump pledged Thursday to work with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on 2022 congressional elections – and also seemed to leave the door open to endorsing primary challengers to GOP incumbents who have opposed him on impeachment and other matters.

“President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time,” said a readout of the McCarthy meeting released by Trump’s office.

The statement said nothing about Republican incumbents. Also: There would be no need to endorse a Republican incumbent who is unopposed within the party.

Trump and allies have threatened to back primary opponents of Republicans who criticized efforts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in last year’s presidential election. The threat extends to the 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment over Trump’s actions before the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

McCarthy and Trump met at the latter’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Trump readout struck an overall tone of optimism, calling the meeting “a very good and cordial one. They discussed many topics, number one of which was taking back the House in 2022.”

McCarthy released an upbeat statement about the meeting, saying that Trump “committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022.” McCarthy also called for “a united conservative movement” that can “strengthen the bonds of our citizens.”

– David Jackson

Biden signs directives to reopen Obamacare enrollment, lift family-planning restrictions

President Joe Biden on Thursday took initial steps to expand health care coverage and reverse some of the policies of his predecessor, including directing that people be given a new chance to sign up for government-subsidized care and lifting restrictions on family-planning services.

Biden ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to reopen insurance enrollment on HealthCare.gov from Feb. 15 through May 15. The annual open enrollment for the plans ended in December in most states.

Nearly 9 million uninsured Americans could get free or subsidized health insurance through the special enrollment period, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization.

Biden said his actions are designed to “undo the damage Trump has done.”

“There’s nothing new that we’re doing here other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became president,” Biden said. “As we continue to battle COVID-19, it’s even more critical Americans have meaningful access to health care.”

He directed federal agencies to reexamine policies that undermine the Affordable Care Act, make it difficult for Americans to enroll in Medicaid or reduce affordability of coverage or protections for those with pre-existing conditions. 

And, as the initial steps in Biden’s pledge to stop the “relentless and extreme attack” on reproductive health, the president revoked the Mexico City Policy, which blocks foreign assistance to groups that include abortion services or information in their family planning programs.

President Donald Trump both restored and expanded that policy, which was started by the Reagan administration and has been turned off and on again depending on whether a Democrat or Republican holds the White House. Critics call it a “global gag rule.”

Biden began the process of undoing similar restrictions on domestic groups that receive federal family planning funds to serve the uninsured and low-income populations. 

The number of clients served by the program dropped by about 840,000 – or 21% – after the Trump administration changed the rules for receiving Title X grants.

Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services to review those changes. The agency would need to write new regulations to undo the Trump rules.

— Maureen Groppe

Mayors call for immediate passage of Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill 

Facing budget shortfalls and reduced city services, America’s mayors made an urgent plea Thursday for Congress to quickly pass President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill, which would provide $350 billion in direct aid for city and state governments. 

“This is it. This is the moment,” said Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in a conference call with media. “Cities are the backbone of the American economy. If we want to be able to build back better, we can’t let what’s left of the foundation crumble.”

Mayors said the sagging economy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has decreased sales, property and income tax collections across the country. 

Some cities have laid off city employees. Others have made cuts to waste collection, public transit, hours of government services or canceled infrastructure projects and put off hiring new police officers and firefighters.

“Every day that is delayed, more consequences are being realized, and very much negative consequences,” said Arlington, Texas, Mayor Jeff Williams. He called on Congress not to put off aid any longer. “Next time needs to be now.”

Although some states and cities have experienced greater revenue intakes than forecasted last spring in the early weeks of the pandemic, local leaders said they are still crunched. 

Tacoma, Washington, Mayor Victoria Woodards, citing a survey from the National League of Cities, said 90% of municipal governments have experienced a revenue decrease of at least 21% and 76% of cities have experienced an expenditure increase of 17%.

“We cannot leave – I repeat, we cannot leave – America’s hometowns behind,” Woodards said. “And we need Congress to act, not yesterday, not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, but we need them to act now.”

The $900 billion relief package that Congress passed in December did not include direct aid for cash-starved local and state governments, which Democrats have been pushing. Only 38 cities received direct federal assistance from former President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that passed last March, according to Whaley. 

More than 370 mayors this month signed a letter urging Congress to take “immediate action” on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. The White House has indicated it hopes for passage by March. But while congressional Democrats are firmly behind the legislation, no Senate Republicans have offered their support.

Thursday’s call also included DeKalb County, Georgia, Commissioner Larry Johnson; Clark County, Nevada, Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick; and Union City, Georgia, Mayor Vince Williams.

— Joey Garrison

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy to meet with Trump in Florida

Former President Donald Trump meets privately with House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday, three weeks after the two clashed over the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.

Trump and McCarthy are expected to discuss the upcoming Senate impeachment trial and plans for the 2022 congressional elections – including the fates of House Republicans who supported impeachment.

The lunch-time meeting at Trump’s estate in South Florida comes hours before U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks in Wyoming against one of the Republicans who backed impeachment, Rep. Liz Cheney.

Gaetz and other pro-Trump lawmakers have called for Cheney’s removal from a House Republican leadership position. They have also suggested they would support primary challengers to the 10 House Republicans who backed impeachment.

McCarthy, who voted against impeachment, has expressed support for Cheney, but is likely to hear complaints from Trump.

The Trump-McCarthy meeting takes place less than two weeks before opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trail on charges that Trump incited the riot.

McCarthy criticized Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection – “the president bears responsibility,” he said a week after the riot – but he has also taken a softer tone toward Trump in more recent days.

“I don’t believe he provoked it, if you listen to what he said at the rally” right before the attack, McCarthy told reporters a week ago.

Trump and McCarthy aides have not said much about their meeting Thursday, and it is not known if the participants will comment afterward.

– David Jackson

Biden reopening Obamacare insurance markets

President Joe Biden on Thursday will take steps to expand health insurance coverage during the pandemic and to reverse some of the Trump administration’s restrictions on family planning services.

Biden is expected to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to allow people to sign up for Obamacare plans from Feb. 15 through May 15. Open enrollment for plans available through HealthCare.gov ended in December.

Nearly 9 million uninsured Americans could get free or subsidized health insurance through the special enrollment period, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research organization.

Biden also wants to revisit Trump administration changes to the Affordable Care Act, such as allowing states to impose work requirements on some Medicaid recipients.

And, as the initial steps in Biden’s pledge to stop the “relentless and extreme attack” on reproductive health, the president is expected to revoke the Mexico City Policy, which blocks foreign assistance to groups that include abortion services or information in their family planning programs.

Trump both restored and expanded the Mexico City Policy, which was started by the Reagan administration and has been turned off and on again depending on whether a Democrat or Republican holds the White House. Critics call it a “global gag rule.”

Biden is also expected to begin the process of undoing similar restrictions on domestic groups that receive federal family planning funds to serve the uninsured and low-income populations. Since those changes, about one-quarter of clinics and other providers that had received Title X federal grants no longer participate, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

– Maureen Groppe



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