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🚨: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Sunday that he tested positive for covid-19 and is exhibiting “mild” symptoms. “I have informed my leadership team of my positive test result, as well as the President,” Austin said in a statement. “My staff has begun contact tracing and testing of all those with whom I have come into contact over the last week.”

On the Hill

Here we go again: Build Back Better is back on Senate stage

Never gonna give you up: President Biden and White House aides spent part of the holiday recess working the phones with Senate Democrats on how to get the Build Back Better Act (BBB) through the Senate, according to a White House aide.

But the dynamics of getting the big health care, child care and climate change package through the evenly divided chamber remain as tough as they were the week before the holidays, when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced he opposed the current plan and opened a rift with the White House.

It's unclear how much Biden and his legislative emissaries have been in touch with Manchin since their unusually sharp pre-Christmas war of words. Biden and Manchin did speak and pledge to continue negotiating after Manchin's bombshell announcement. Manchin's concerns are rooted in his opposition to an extension of the beefed-up child tax credit — which expired on New Year's Day since Congress did not act — included in the House version of the bill, as well as some climate provisions. 

And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Senate Democrats in a virtual caucus meeting days before Christmas that he would push to vote on the bill by the end of January, according to a person familiar with the call.

Manchin isn't the only thing standing in the way of passage; Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) also hasn't committed to voting for the bill.

New ideas floated over the recess to pass the package through the Senate include breaking it up into smaller pieces.

“Well, that's a strategy decision that's being negotiated," Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told "Fox News Sunday" on Dec. 26. “We are open to a way to reach the finish line. We want to make it as comprehensive as possible, because the needs are just there." 

The biggest problem with such strategy is that Senate rules limit the number of bills that can be passed via reconciliation, and there's little to no appetite among Republican senators to support any elements of BBB. Democrats also decided against trying to pass a separate bill last month to extend the child tax credit before it expired.

Meanwhile, many progressives are furious with Manchin. “The Progressive Caucus will continue to work toward legislation for [BBB], focused on keeping it as close to the agreed-upon framework as possible. At the same time, we are calling on the president to use executive action to immediately improve people’s lives,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the CPC's chair, wrote in a post-Christmas op-ed for The Post.

That's not all

Still, Schumer’s legislative to-do list is a little less punishing than it was last month.

Lawmakers this week will mark the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and Schumer and the White House plan to mount a renewed push this month to pass a voting rights bill. But Schumer isn’t confronting the same avalanche of deadlines he was last month, when the Senate had to pass a government funding bill, raise the debt limit and move a must-pass defense spending bill in only a few weeks.

And some think Manchin will find a way to “yes.”

Hoppy Kercheval, the West Virginia radio host to whom Manchin kvetched the day after he said he couldn’t back BBB, said Democrats shouldn’t be under any illusion that Manchin has given up.

“I’ll leave it to Washington insiders to suss out any moment-by-moment, event-by-event issues that led Manchin to finally put his foot down,” Kercheval wrote in an op-ed in West Virginia’s Gazette-Mail newspaper after Manchin dropped his pre-Christmas bombshell. “But know this after Manchin — he wants a deal, he craves a deal.”

Biden, Harris to speak at Capitol on first year anniversary of Jan 6. insurrection

One year later: President Biden, Vice President Harris and former president Donald Trump will deliver remarks on Thursday to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection. The separate remarks from the current and previous administrations showcase the split-screen politics that have colored the past year.

  • Trump, at a news conference in Mar-a-Lago, is expected to “commit a whitewashing of the day, repeating the lie that the 2020 election was rigged and defending his part in fomenting the insurrection — all while a solemn prayer service is held at the Capitol,” Politico’s David Siders reports
  • “And, as Trump castigates Republicans not toeing his line, his event will also serve as a marker of Trump’s extraordinary dominion over the GOP.”
  • About that dominion: “A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds that about 1 in 3 Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified,” our colleagues Meryl Kornfield and Mariana Alfaro report. “The findings represent the largest share to feel that way since the question has been asked in various polls in more than two decades. They offer a window into the country’s psyche at a tumultuous period in American history.”

As Washington braces for the anniversary of the attack, U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss improvements that were made to the force “after criticisms were raised during and after the Capitol insurrection about the response to the violent attacks,” the Hill’s Joseph Choi reports.

  • “Typically, when we are planning for different events, we know ahead of time before we’re going to need additional assistance, and that’s been one of the improvements that we’ve made since Jan. 6 is that we — our planning is ... much more well thought out,” Manger told Fox’s Trace Gallagher.
  • But “the one thing that we have not been able to fix, so to speak, are the staffing issues,” Manger said. “We’ve lost over 130 officers that have left through either retirements or resignations after January 6.”

Jan 6. panel expected to hold public hearings and issue reports in the coming months

Committee members said on Jan. 2 that they had "firsthand testimony" confirming former president Donald Trump watched the Capitol riot on TV as it unfolded. (The Washington Post)

The investigation continues: The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will continue their work into the new year by reviewing videos Trump recorded while the riot was taking place and information from the Willard InterContinental hotel in Washington, D.C. 

  • Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the panel, told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump recorded “several videos” before posting a one-minute clip urging his supporters to go home. Thompson told Todd that the committee asked the National Archives for the videos.
  • “We do know now that several videos were made,” Thompson said. “The president was told, ‘You need to say directly to your people to go home. Leave the Capitol.’ [But] it took over 187 minutes to make that simple statement. Something’s wrong with that.”
  • Thompson also told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the committee is combing through documents about the “war room” at the Willard hotel. “Part of our work is to try to get access to the records on that day, who paid for it,” Thompson said. Bernie Kerik is significant. He started cooperating with our committee, we look forward to that cooperation to continue.”

These developments come as the committee prepares to hold public hearings and eventually release its final report. However, the panel is “confronting a series of difficult questions, including how forcefully to flex its subpoena power and whether the Supreme Court will stymie a major element of its inquiry” – access to White House records related to the attack, the New York Times’s Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane report.

At the White House

Biden tells Zelensky U.S., allies will ‘respond decisively’ if Russia invades Ukraine

From Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky:

New year, same old crisis: “Biden conferred on Sunday with Ukraine’s leader over the Russian troop buildup near its border, promising that the U.S. and allies will act ‘decisively’ if Russia further invades the Eastern European nation,” AP News’s Aamer Madhani reports

  • “Biden and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call came as the U.S. and Western allies prepared for a series of diplomatic meetings to try to de-escalate a crisis that Moscow said could rupture ties with Washington.”
  • “President Biden made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement following the call.

The Media

What we’re reading:

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Alexa, play “My Boo” by Usher and Alicia Keys: 

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