The latest on Biden's transition

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 10:33 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020
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8:37 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Here are the key priorities of Biden's first 100 days in office

From CNN's Gregory Krieg, MJ Lee and Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre on November 25, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. 
President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre on November 25, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Mark Makela/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team are preparing for an early, all-out push to pass an ambitious new stimulus bill, while also drawing up plans for a flurry of executive actions aimed at delivering on campaign promises and undoing the Trump administration's efforts to undermine key government agencies.

Biden will be inaugurated in January with a pressing mandate to confront simultaneous and interwoven public health, economic and racial crises. At the same time, his team will take over the work of spearheading one of the most complicated, politically fraught mass vaccination campaigns in American history.

Biden's agenda for his first 100 days in office will, according to both those close to him and outside groups in contact with his top aides, center on two key avenues of action:

  1. The passage of a broad economic aid package
  2. A series of executive actions aimed at advancing his priorities where legislation is not necessary.

Containing the Covid-19 pandemic, launching an economic recovery and tackling racial inequality are his most urgent priorities, transition officials say.

The scope of stimulus legislation will likely turn on the results of the Senate run-offs in Georgia in early January, a little more than two weeks before Biden is inaugurated.

If either Democrat fails to unseat their GOP incumbent rivals, and the body remains under the thumb of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, Biden's ambitions will be checked from the outset. The immigration legislation Biden said he plans to send to the Congress within his first 100 days would likely be dead on arrival.

But sources familiar with internal discussions stressed that getting a grip on the surging coronavirus crisis is far and away Biden's top concern. Until that happens, one of the sources said, the President-elect's wider legislative agenda is likely to take a backseat.

Read more here about Biden's priorities in the early days of his administration.

8:11 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020

The important relationships Biden will have on Capitol Hill

From CNN's Michael Warren and Manu Raju

Most Republicans in Congress still haven't called to congratulate Joe Biden for winning the election, let alone refer to him as President-elect — which makes Mitt Romney all the more of an outlier.

He was the first GOP senator to congratulate Biden when he was declared the victor. That's a reflection of Romney's moderate background, but also of the personal relationship he's fostered with Biden over the years.

The two were on opposite sides of the Presidential ticket in 2012, though, as Romney recalled to CNN on Tuesday, that didn't stop Biden from speaking at Romney's 2017 political summit.

"He was kind enough to come and speak at my conference in Utah, and we spent probably an hour together, with our wives, and had a very nice meeting. Seems like a very down-to-earth, charming guy," Romney said.

With 36 years in the US Senate, Biden will have more experience on Capitol Hill than any other US President. Yet only a quarter of those he served with are still in Congress, meaning he will have to rely on a few key relationships to get things done.

Along with maintaining working partnerships with the leaders of both chambers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Biden will have to rely on a handful of moderates and close political allies.

Here are some key relationships to watch between Biden and the Hill early in his administration:

  • Chris Coons: One key ally of Biden's will be the man who now occupies his Senate seat, Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware. A friend for more than 30 years, Coons remains an unofficial adviser in regular touch with Biden and his team. According to a senior Democratic Capitol Hill aide, during the transition Coons has spoken with incoming White House counselor Steve Ricchetti daily and incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain multiple times a week. Regarded as temperamentally moderate and willing to work with Republicans, Coons will be a reliable barometer for his fellow senators about where the new President will stand. For Biden, Coons will be just as important for taking the temperature of any group of centrist senators who might hold the balance of power over presidential nominations, spending bills or big pieces of legislation.
  • Joe Manchin: There was a time when Joe Manchin was the Democrat least welcome by the Obama White House. The West Virginia senator often found himself voting against the administration on issues like climate, trade and guns. And by the second term, Manchin was in regular contact with only one Obama administration official: Biden.Biden eventually became a key adviser to Manchin on a gun control bill he co-wrote in 2013, drawing on his own experience crafting gun legislation. At one point, Manchin asked Biden to stop the White House from publicly supporting the legislation — which would have killed any momentum to get GOP support. Manchin could also help Biden build a bridge to Trump voters. West Virginia is the second-most pro-Trump state (behind Wyoming), giving Manchin insight into a slice of Trump's base of working-class white voters who continue to move away from the national Democratic Party. If Biden hopes to regain ground with these voters, he could do worse than to keep calling Manchin.
  • Lisa Murkowski: There's also space for a Republican centrist contingent. Sens. Romney, Susan Collins of Maine, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio could all at times provide crucial votes in breaking from their party. But Alaska's Lisa Murkowski could be the most crucial partner for Biden on that front. Murkowski is up for reelection in 2022, meaning she'll have cross pressures from both her right within the Alaska GOP as well as from centrist voters who have occupied her base of support for two cycles. On social issues and with respect to judicial appointments, Murkowski has been the most willing Republican senator to break with the Mitch McConnell and the GOP conference — an opportunity for the Biden administration.

Read the full story here.