By LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — This is Day 16 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern.
Feb 04, 5:21 pm
Pentagon to require mask wearing indoors and outdoors
In compliance with Biden’s executive order requiring masks on federal properties, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has announced new mask-wearing rules that require masks by worn by all individuals on military installations indoors and outdoors including “all individuals performing official duties on behalf of the Department.”
Some exceptions remain for when someone is alone in an enclosed room with a closed door, while eating, for ID purposes and for a disability.
Mask-wearing rules at military facilities had already been in place but there had been more exceptions.
Thursday’s order changes rules at the Pentagon that allowed for no mask-wearing in shared office spaces as long as one could maintain social distancing.
-ABC News’ Luis Martinez
Feb 04, 4:35 pm
Senate ‘vote-a-rama’ makes way for Biden COVID-19 relief
With control of both chambers of Congress, Democrats are now moving to advance Biden’s COVID-19 relief package through a budget reconciliation process that would allow Democrats to pass the measure with a simple majority vote.
On Capitol Hill Thursday afternoon, a “vote-a-rama” is underway in the Senate — part of the reconciliation process that allows nonstop consideration of amendments to the annual budget. There’s no limit to how many amendments can be considered.
The Senate conducts about three 20-minute votes per hour, which would mean about 36 amendments will be voted on by 1 a.m. Friday.
-ABC News’ Trish Turner
Feb 04, 4:05 pm
Trump legal team calls request to testify a ‘public relations stunt’
Trump’s legal team has responded to a letter from lead House impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, R-Md., requesting former President Donald Trump to testify before or during his Senate impeachment trial next week and rejected the idea of Trump appearing.
In a short response, Trump’s attorneys called the request a “public relations stunt.”
“The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to play these games,” wrote Trump attorneys Bruce Castor and David Schoen.
While the letter did not answer directly the question of whether Trump will testify, Trump spokesman Jason Miller told ABC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl, “The president will not testify in an unconstitutional proceeding.”
-ABC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Katherine Faulders
Feb 04, 3:25 pm
Biden draws contrasts with Trump in 1st foreign policy speech
Biden gave his first major foreign policy address at the State Department on Thursday and made several announcements marking a stark shift from his predecessor’s “America First” policy.
He announced he’ll sign an executive order to raise U.S. refugee admissions back to 125,000 persons for his first full fiscal year.
“It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do,” he said.
Pres. Biden says he’s spoken with key U.S. allies, “reforming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscle of democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years of neglect—and, I would argue, abuse.” https://t.co/cE9Clrzkyp pic.twitter.com/RRJza9lvA7
— ABC News (@ABC) February 4, 2021
Biden announced the U.S. is “ending all support” for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, saying, “This war has to end.” The halt would not include U.S. action against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Biden said he’s also naming a special envoy for Yemen.
Unlike his predecessor, Biden established a tough relationship with Russia and called on the Kremlin to release Alexey Navalny.
“I made it clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber-attacks, poisoning its citizens, are over,” he said.
Pres. Biden: “We’ll confront China’s economic abuses, counter its aggressive, coercive actions, push back on China’s attack on human rights…but we are ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so.”https://t.co/q83jvfohUB pic.twitter.com/nUiwGYQ43I
— ABC News (@ABC) February 4, 2021
Biden also called on an end to the coup in Myanmar, adding he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have discussed “shared concerns” and are “united in our resolve.”
“The Burmese military should relinquish power they have sieged, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications, and refrain from violence,” he said.
Biden made several references to the Trump administration but did not name his predecessor by name.
Pres. Biden on climate change: “America must lead in the face of this existential threat—and just as with the pandemic, it requires global cooperation.” https://t.co/q83jvfohUB pic.twitter.com/sPgYLBxmWf
— ABC News (@ABC) February 4, 2021
“America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage,” he said to conclude.
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan and Ben Gittleson
Feb 04, 2:05 pm
Biden addresses State Dept. employees at 1st agency visit
Biden addressed State Department employees with a public speech at the department Thursday afternoon, his first time doing so since taking office and ahead of a second speech on foreign policy later in the afternoon.
Speaking directly to employees at home and abroad, Biden said, “I promise I’m going to have your back,” insisting also that, “America is back.”
“The main message that I want to communicate to you all is that, whether you’re part of the newest class of foreign service officers and you’ve worked for decades in the civil service or foreign service, or your locally employed staff, your vital and success, the strength of our nation depends in no small part on you,” he said.
Pres. Biden speaks to State Dept. staff: “You’ve never let us down. I believe in you…We need you badly. I trust you. And I’m going to have your back—that I promise you.” https://t.co/JK8FakkvSG pic.twitter.com/Z2ufV5tCHg
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 4, 2021
“America is back. America is back. Diplomacy is back. You are the center of all that I intend to do. You are the heart of it. We’re going to rebuild our alliances. We’re gonna re-engage the world and take on the enormous challenges we face dealing with the pandemic, dealing with global warming, and again standing up for democracy and human rights around the world,” he said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered opening remarks before introducing Harris, who spoke ahead of Biden. Harris spoke about the administration’s commitment to State Department staff and to setting an example on the global stage.
“Today, we are here in person to tell you that we are committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and accountability, inclusivity and diplomacy on the global stage as a partner and a leader,” Harris said.
Feb 04, 1:23 pm
House impeachment managers request Trump to testify under oath
House impeachment managers are requesting that former President Donald Trump testify either before or during his Senate impeachment trial slated to kick off in full next week.
“Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense,” the statement from the managers began, referring to his legal team’s response to their legal brief laying out the change for “incitement of insurrection.”
“In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021,” the managers requested.
“If you decline this invitation, we reserve any and all rights, including the right to establish at trial that your refusal to testify supports a strong adverse inference regarding your actions (and inaction) on January 6, 2021,” the statement finished, asking for a response from Trump by Friday at 5 p.m.
The crux of Trump’s legal argument is that the trial is unconstitutional as he is out of office and a denial that he violated the oath of office, while skirting into election fraud territory, according to his formal answer to the article of impeachment submitted through his attorneys on Tuesday.
Feb 04, 12:57 pm
US to halt ‘support for offensive operations in Yemen’ after backing Saudi Arabia, UAE
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, at Thursday’s White House press briefing said Biden would announce “an end to American support for offensive operations in Yemen” in afternoon remarks at the State Department.
Sullivan said the move was aimed at stopping support for “the types of offensive operations that have perpetuated a civil war in Yemen that has led to a humanitarian crisis.”
Under then-President Donald Trump, the United States backed a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has been widely criticized for alleged human rights abuses.
Sullivan noted that the Biden administration had frozen two U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates the Trump administration had green-lighted; the U.A.E. is part of the coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen.
That halt would not include U.S. action against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Sullivan said.
Biden will also name a special envoy for Yemen Thursday, Sullivan added.
Feb 04, 12:42 pm
Biden to announce presidential memo on protecting LGBTQ rights worldwide
Biden is set to announce “a presidential memorandum on protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals worldwide” during his remarks at the State Department later Thursday, said Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.
Sullivan announced the imminent memo while previewing the president’s visit to the State Department and answered several national security-focused questions at Thursday’s White House press briefing.
“It reflects his deep commitment to these issues both here in the United States and everywhere around the world,” Sullivan said. “And the United States will speak out and act on behalf of these rights as we go.”
Feb 04, 12:43 pm
Pelosi defends taking impeachment trial to Senate, sticks to Biden’s COVID plan
During her weekly press conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the decision to impeach then-President Donald Trump, insisting the trial set to begin on Tuesday is not a waste of time. She said she believes Republicans could be swayed to convict the former president once the evidence is presented.
She also responded to critics who say “why bother” with the Trump impeachment trial now that he’s out of office.
“‘Why bother?’ Ask our founders why bother. Ask those who wrote the Constitution. Ask Abraham Lincoln,” Pelosi said. “Ask anyone who cares about our democracy why we are bothering. You cannot go forward until you have justice.”
Pelosi pushed back when reporters noted that the House impeachment managers are walking into a Senate that is poised to acquit Trump.
“They don’t know that. They don’t know that. They haven’t heard the case,” Pelosi said. “We’ll see if it will be a Senate of courage or cowardice.”
On COVID-19 relief, Pelosi defended the price tag of the $1.9 trillion plan Biden is pushing for. She signaled she’s not going to support the GOP slimmed down rescue package offer of $600 billion.
“Are we going to feed fewer children?” Pelosi said. “I just don’t see how you have to make those choices on who you cut out when you decide to cut the funding.”
Pelosi also said Congress can take up a bill raising the minimum wage to $15 in bills other than the COVID-19 relief bill if it doesn’t pass muster with the Byrd rule during the reconciliation process. The Byrd Rule ensures other legislation not related to the budget doesn’t make it into the final bill.
“It’s not the last bill we’ll pass. This is the rescue package,” Pelosi said.
Feb 04, 11:53 am
Biden’s pick for labor secretary supports raising minimum wage
It’s been two weeks since Biden’s inauguration and the Senate has so far confirmed six of his Cabinet nominees.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Labor, is testifying Thursday morning before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who Biden had said he was also considered for the role of labor secretary, asked Walsh where he stood on the minimum wage on a federal level.
“I definitely support raising the minimum wage. I know that President Biden has made that part of his economic plan as well,” Walsh said, to which Sanders replied, “Good.”
Asked about Biden’s Cabinet confirmations at Wednesday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there has “certainly” been a delay in the confirmation of his nominees, saying, “Some of them were slower-paced than they should have been, early on,” and calling out Republicans for so far blocking a hearing for Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland.
Since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a power-sharing agreement Wednesday, Democrats will not get the gavel at all committees, likely speeding up the confirmation process for Biden’s Cabinet picks.
Feb 04, 10:26 am
Biden calls out ‘political extremism’ at National Prayer Breakfast
At the 2021 National Prayer Breakfast, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle spoke of unity and oneness under God, and every living former president gave a video contribution to the virtual event — except former President Donald Trump.
In some ways, Trump’s legacy was still present, as Biden focused his remarks on healing the divisions caused by the 45th president.
“We know now we must confront and defeat political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism. For so many in our nation, this is a dark dark time. So where do we turn? Faith,” Biden said.
Biden said that while he’s attended many prayer breakfasts over the years, “with a nation at war and struggle and strife, and a nation at peace and prosperity,” this year was different than any other before, citing the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest.
“This is not a nation that can or will simply stand by and watch this. It’s not who we are. It’s not who faith calls us to be. In this moment, we cannot be timid or tired. We have too much work to do. And it’s by our work, not just our words, that we’re going to be judged,” he said.
The devout Catholic ended with his conviction that faith will sustain Americans through the pandemic, citing Psalm 30:5: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
At last year’s event, which came right after the Senate voted to acquit his first impeachment charges, Trump held up newspaper headlines reading “Trump acquitted” and took swipes at Sen. Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, as well a House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s penchant for saying she prays for him.
Feb 04, 10:10 am
Yellen to meet with SEC, Fed on GameStop
In an exclusive interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she would be meeting Thursday with representatives from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodities Future Trading Corporation and the Federal Reserve to discuss the recent trading activity around GameStop and look into whether more regulatory action is needed.
“We really need to make sure that our financial markets are functioning properly, efficiently and that investors are protected and we’re going to discuss these recent events and discuss whether or not that the recent events warrant further action,” Yellen said.
When pushed to confirm whether steps would be taken, Yellen said only that she and other financial leaders need to “understand deeply what happened” before making any moves.
In a nod to Yellen’s appointment as the first female treasury secretary, when asked what she hopes to achieve and leave as her mark on the Treasury Department, Yellen spoke not about her own place in history, but about lifting up American families, especially those who are disadvantaged, and plugged Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan.
“I want to make sure that this package gets into law and that we build back better and address long-term problems in the labor market and issues of structural racism, so I would feel if I can make a contribution to that, I would feel that that’s a great legacy for me and for the country,” Yellen said.
Feb 04, 9:17 am
Biden to outline foreign policy goals at State, Senate to enter ‘vote-a-rama’
President Biden will deliver his first major foreign policy speech since taking office on Thursday during a visit to the State Department, where he is expected to talk about “reclaiming America’s role in the world” and restoring values to the center of U.S. foreign policy, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Ahead of those afternoon remarks, Biden is slated to give pre-recorded remarks at the 2021 National Prayer Breakfast in the morning. The event is virtual this year due to the pandemic and has been a tradition for all presidents dating back to Eisenhower. Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, will likely invoke his faith.
It all comes as Democrats move on Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan without Republicans, although Biden has pledged to get bipartisan support for the bill. The House on Wednesday night approved a budget resolution that would allow the chamber to advance a relief package through the reconciliation process, which would allow Democrats in the Senate to pass the measure with a simple majority vote.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, a “vote-a-rama” begins around 2:30 p.m. — a period of nonstop consideration of amendments to the annual budget resolution as part of the reconciliation process. There’s no cutoff to how many amendments can be considered. Harris is expected to be on the Hill in case she needs to cast a tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate.
Biden told Democrats Wednesday he’s willing to further target the relief payments in his package, but he does not want to go below $1,400.
Psaki also holds her daily press briefing at the White House at 11:30 a.m.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.