Biden's first full day in office

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

Updated 9:48 PM ET, Thu January 21, 2021
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7:39 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Biden administration authorizes extension of federal housing eviction moratorium

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal 

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has extended its moratorium on single-family foreclosure and eviction after a request from the Biden administration on Wednesday.

The moratorium applies to HUD-insured or guaranteed single-family forward and reverse mortgages, except for those secured by legally vacant and abandoned properties.

More context: As one of his first acts as president, Joe Biden called on several federal departments and agencies to extend their bans on evictions and foreclosures for those affected by the coronavirus until at least the end of March.

One of several executive actions Biden took on Wednesday is a signal from the incoming administration that immediate action is needed in order to stabilize housing for the estimated 25 million renters and homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes.

The action seeks to extend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's federal moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent by two more months. The CDC's order first went into effect in September and the latest stimulus bill extended the protection until Jan. 31.

7:29 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

The National Academy of Medicine advises the Biden administration to address inequities

From CNN's Andrea Diaz

The National Academy of Medicine released commentaries advising the Biden administration to prioritize addressing racial and gender inequities to help ensure better health care for all. 

"The unacceptable health inequities that persist in the US today, compounded by the enormous and uneven impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasize the need and the opportunity for the next administration to address the fundamental challenges that the nation faces in health and health care," several health experts, including NAM President Dr. Victor J. Dzau, explained in the journal Health Affairs on Thursday. 

This comes as the NAM found that Black, Indigenous, Pacific Islander, and Latino Americans have been proportionately more likely than White Americans to die from Covid-19, and advices the new presidential administration to consider confronting economic inequities and rejecting policies that perpetuate structural racism within health care. 

"Given the high costs and substandard health outcomes of the US health system, ensuring effective and high-value health care for all Americans must be a top priority for the next administration," the experts explain.  

The academy suggests that to provide more equitable access to affordable health care, the United States will need to develop new systems to improve access to coverage, reform health care payment methods, and address workforce shortages in health care facilities. 

Additionally, the academy believes that the country needs to optimize health coverage for women and children, as they continue to experience high rates of morbidity and mortality in the US and are even further intensified by racial inequities. 

"The US should set the world’s standard for promoting the health and well-being of women and children," the experts write. 

7:52 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Harris praises the new director of national intelligence following swearing-in ceremony

Avril Haines appears before the Senate Intelligence committee for a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill January 19, in Washington, DC.
Avril Haines appears before the Senate Intelligence committee for a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill January 19, in Washington, DC. Melina Mara/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris said Avril Haines, the new director of national intelligence, "will be dedicated to keeping the American people safe," she tweeted this afternoon following the swearing-in ceremony.

"Earlier today, I swore in our first Cabinet member, Avril Haines, after her confirmation by the Senate last night. As the Director of National Intelligence, Director Haines will be dedicated to keeping the American people safe," Harris tweeted today.

In a statement, Haines called her appointment "the honor of a lifetime."

“From my time in government, I know that those who serve in the Intelligence Community are the very best this country has to offer. The men and women of the IC are patriots of extraordinary talent and expertise, who work tirelessly to protect our nation, advance its security and prosperity, and defend its freedoms and values," she said.

More details: Haines is the first woman to lead the US intelligence community; her role was approved in the Senate by 84 to 10.

Haines takes over an intelligence community that was repeatedly disparaged and sidelined by former President Trump throughout his four years in office. The director of national intelligence is the president's top intelligence official and leads an agency that coordinates the entire intelligence community, a total of 17 agencies and organizations.

Read the tweet:

7:02 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Democrats are reviewing McConnell's offer to delay impeachment trial to February

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

As Democrats are reviewing Sen. Mitch McConnell’s offer on how to structure the impeachment trial including a delay to February, multiple Democratic aides say it’s not a bad idea to wait. 

Sen. Chris Coons, who is a close ally to President Biden, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he wasn’t shutting the door to the idea of delaying the trial if it meant Biden got nominees confirmed quickly. Coons isn’t the only Democrat who thinks that delay could be a way to allow Biden a bit of breathing room in his first days in office.

Multiple aides say that Democrats have been waiting for years to have the House, Senate and White House back again, and an impeachment trial has always been a daunting task. It’s something Democrats believe they can’t ignore. They have wanted to hold the President accountable, but allowing more time could provide them the space they need to move Biden’s nominees along.

On the Republican side, the benefits for delaying the trial are obvious. It gives Trump’s newly formed team time to prepare as well as offers McConnell more time to take the temperature of his conference who has up to this point been divided over whether Trump can even be convicted now that he is no longer in office.

5:25 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

House Democrat: Capitol riot won't be an isolated event unless we "work to make it so"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Rep. Abigail Spanberger speaks during a news conference on December 21, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger speaks during a news conference on December 21, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger today said security officials and Americans must remain vigilant to protect against future attacks from domestic terrorists, warning that the Capitol riot was not a one-time event. 

"I think it's important for everyone, your viewers, those who are doing the day-to-day work of preventing attacks to recognize that what occurred on Jan. 6, was not an isolated event," Spanberger, a former CIA officer, told CNN's Brooke Baldwin today. 

Spanberger said she believes too many made the error of quickly dismissing the "Unite the Right" rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, "as a one-time event," when it it should have been linked to events that followed, including the 2017 Tree of Life synagogue shooting. 

"They don't all look the same," she said. "They are all rooted in the same domestic far-right White nationalist threat."

"Across out country we need to recognize that this is a real threat," Spanberger added of the Capitol riot. "This was not a one-off. This was not a one-time thing unless we aggressively work to make it so."

5:10 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Still no call planned between Biden and Trump, White House press secretary says

From CNN's Jasmine Wright 

There are still no calls planned between President Biden and former President Trump, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Asked again about the note Trump left Biden, Psaki said Biden telling reporters yesterday he wouldn’t reveal the contents of the “generous” letter until he spoke with him was not Biden seeking a call with his predecessor.

“There's no call planned. What he was conveying is that he didn't want to release a private note without having agreement from the former President. But I wouldn't say he's seeking it through a phone call, he just was even trying to be respectful in that moment of a private letter that was sent," she said.

5:21 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

McConnell wants to delay impeachment trial until February and tells colleagues he is in no rush

Fom CNN's Manu Raju 

Pool/Getty Images
Pool/Getty Images

On a call with GOP senators, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell told his conference he’s in no rush with regard to the impeachment trial, according to multiple GOP senators.

His point: The House moved quickly on impeachment but the Senate needs time to prepare for a full trial.

He is proposing to delay the start of the trial until sometime in February. He wants to give Trump's team two weeks to prepare their case, according to a source.

McConnell’s office says a formal statement on his remarks is coming shortly.

It remains to be seen if Democrats, who now hold a slim majority in the Senate, will go along with McConnell's proposed timeline.

House Democrats could still send the article of impeachment over at any time, and the Senate would be forced to start the trial the next day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held the timing plans of delivering the article close to her vest.

5:10 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

White House doesn't share specifics on how they will engage with states on Covid-19

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 21. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed Thursday on whether the Biden administration would provide guidance to states on some of its key priorities, like reopening schools and businesses, but she declined to share many specific details on how this administration plans to engage with state and local officials. 

Psaki suggested there will be “more engagement with states,” including “more clear guidance from the federal level,” going on to criticize the Trump administration’s communication with state and local officials.  

“Our objective is to ensure that health and medical experts are leading the effort in delivering guidance, determining guidance, and also communicating with the public whenever possible,” Psaki said.  

She continued, “But part of our priority and our focus here is on providing more engagement with states, more clear guidance from the federal level in terms of how we're planning to operate, what data we're seeing, how vaccines are being distributed, what we see as the challenges, and that communication has been lacking as we understand it from our conversations in the past few months so that is what we will focus on improving in the months ahead.”

She was unable to provide any specifics on how communication would be improved. 

Part of the Covid team’s role, she said, “will be engaging with governors, Democrats and Republicans, mayors local elected officials to gain a better understanding of what's happening on the ground.” 

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, she said, will “also do engagement… because they also want to have that conversation with states and local officials on what they’re experiencing, what they see the challenges as, and how they can be addressed.”

She declined to say whether there would be any sort of official weekly call or report for states, as the Trump coronavirus task force previously did.

5:07 p.m. ET, January 21, 2021

Democrats frustrated as fight over filibusters stalls power-sharing agreement in Senate 

From CNN's Ted Barrett, Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav 

Senate Democrats are refusing to buckle to demands from Senate Republicans that they agree not to weaken filibusters against legislation. It's something many progressives are anxious to do in order to push through the Biden administration’s agenda as Democrats take control of the White House and both chambers of Congress for the first time in years.

"I think we ought to end the filibuster, unquestionably. It is an obstacle to conquering the pandemic and reviving the economy, getting stuff done,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut.  

The tense standoff over the issue is stalling a power-sharing agreement between the parties in the 50-50 Senate and could impact the confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees. That's because the Senate operates under the rules of the last Congress – when the GOP controlled the Senate majority and held the committee chairmanships – until a power-sharing deal is agreed.

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, now in the minority, is insisting language assuring the protection of minority rights -– through the requirement that 60 votes are needed to overcome filibusters of bills – be added to a must-pass organizing resolution.

“Mitch McConnell was fine with getting rid of the filibuster to a United States Supreme Court nominee for a lifetime appointment, but he’s not okay getting rid of the filibuster for unemployment relief for families that are out of work because of COVID-19,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts. “I’ve just had enough of Mitch McConnell.”

While the Senate is evenly divided, Democrats have the edge because Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris can vote to break ties in their favor. But Democrats can’t take full control of the Senate until reaching an agreement with Republicans on an organizing resolution and therefore are operating on the organizing resolution from the last Congress, when the GOP was in the majority. Because of that, for instance, confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s cabinet picks this week are being chaired by Republicans.

Republicans are trying to leverage the urgency to pass an organizing resolution to press Democrats to agree not to gut the filibuster for legislation. With Democrats staunchly refusing to do so, it’s not clear how long it will take the sides to reach an agreement and it could drag out.