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Biden administration steps up efforts to reopen schools

MERIDEN, Connecticut – After telling educators they would be vaccinated soon, the Biden administration on Wednesday launched an aggressive campaign to build support for the reopening of schools, demonstrating unity with leaders of teachers’ unions and highlighting measures to retain students. and staff safe from the coronavirus.

A day after President Biden announced a new federal program to give teachers across the country access to at least a first dose of the vaccine by the end of March, the administration sought to position itself as determined to open schools as soon as possible while addressing concerns. teachers that their fears were ignored.

To carry the message, the White House sent First Lady Jill Biden and newly confirmed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on a trip to Connecticut and Pennsylvania to stress that teachers should no longer be afraid to return without classroom protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said teachers did not need to be vaccinated for schools to reopen safely.

Getting gunshots in the arms of educators and school staff would be his “top priority” as education secretary, said Dr Cardona in Connecticut, where he and the first lady were joined. by Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“We need to continue to reopen American schools for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible,” Dr. Cardona said during a stop at a school district in Meriden, his hometown. “The president recognizes this, which is why he took bold steps yesterday to get teachers and school staff immunized quickly.”

But it is not known how quickly educators will be able to get vaccinated. According to a New York Times database, at least 38 states and the District of Columbia already vaccinate school employees to some extent. But vaccine shortages continue to slow progress in immunizing eligible people.

On Tuesday, the White House coronavirus response team held a call with governors and told them not to expect an additional vaccine allocation until later in the spring. An additional boost from the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they were told, wouldn’t arrive until the first week of April.

Participants on the call were confused later that day when Mr Biden announced that teachers would be given priority for the vaccine, even if the amount of vaccine available would not be increased, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

“We were on the phone with the Biden administration for an hour yesterday, and that didn’t happen at all,” Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, a Republican, told reporters Wednesday at a press conference.

The president’s decision to vaccinate teachers was also unexpected news for some health officials. A note that circulated among some at the CDC on Wednesday shared advice on vaccinating teachers, but Mr Biden’s order was called a surprise. “We learned when you talked about the executive order presented by President Biden yesterday,” read the note, which was obtained by The New York Times and sent to officials in several states. “Pharmacies will be asked to update the eligibility of this population; there is no choice.

Caught between the priorities of parents, teacher unions and Americans who desperately need the vaccine, White House officials have welcomed Dr Cardona’s confirmation with a full list of tasks for him. As Connecticut’s education commissioner, he successfully reopened most of the state’s schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The White House now expects Dr Cardona to push for nationwide reopenings, even as teachers’ unions across the country worry about back-to-class safety and questions arise regarding conflicts with existing health guidelines that immunizations should only be necessary for teachers to resume in-person learning.

White House officials said Mr Biden’s decision to increase educators’ vaccinations was based on the president’s view that teachers are essential workers who are essential in bringing the country back to normal. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said vaccinating teachers was “not a prerequisite,” but Mr Biden believed they should be “a priority.”

Ms Psaki defended the decision to prioritize teachers against some critics who said it undermined efforts to distribute the vaccine more equitably to minority communities.

“The program goes beyond teachers and includes bus drivers, janitors, babysitters – an incredibly diverse workforce,” she said. “Second, getting kids back to school is one of the most equitable steps we can take, because what we’ve seen statistically is that black and Latino students experience disproportionate learning loss.”

On Tuesday, after Biden announced his plan, Washington state added licensed educators and educators to its priority tier “immediately,” accelerating its plan by a few weeks.

The purpose of the first lady’s trip on Wednesday, the White House said, was for Dr Biden, an English professor with a doctorate in educational leadership, and Dr Cardona to review security measures and mitigation that schools have no one learning.

Still, the political dynamics of the trip were on display: the presidents of two of the country’s largest teachers’ unions, whose members helped get Mr Biden elected and who protested in person, fearing the reopening could happen. safely, joined Dr. Biden for the tours.

After Ms. Weingarten met Dr. Biden in Connecticut, Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, or NEA, met her in Pennsylvania. Dr Biden is a longtime member of the association.

The unions have provided comments to the White House and the CDC, including detailing the realities facing their members – including those who have been teaching in buildings since the start of the school year.

The most pressing concern the administration heard from teachers, several officials said, was that teachers would not be prioritized in the immunization process.

“Since the vaccines were launched, the NEA and educators across the country have advocated for educators to prioritize the safety of students, educators and families,” Ms. Pringle said in a statement. “President Biden has heard us – and we applaud his work.”

Ms Weingarten, who heads the country’s second-largest teachers’ union and has supported the CDC’s recent position on teacher vaccination, in particular, is said to have a direct line with the president’s inner circle. She praised Mr Biden’s announcement, saying that with the new federal guidelines and the vaccination campaign, her union was “confident that in the weeks and months to come, we can be back in the classrooms. “.

Yet while some local teachers’ unions say vaccinations are sufficient for safe in-person learning, others are calling for districts to improve ventilation and ensure social distancing of at least six feet – two steps which have been shown to reduce the spread of the disease. virus. CDC guidelines emphasize a distance of only six feet when the prevalence of the virus is high, and only briefly noted the need for ventilation. Some union members also insisted that schools not open until infection rates in their communities are very low.

For Caitlin Hickey, a preschool teacher in New York City, the opportunity to get the vaccine in January through her local union was a relief. Her father died of Covid-19 last April, and her mother, who lives with her, has an underlying health problem and she was afraid to bring the virus home. She teaches at a distance because her students’ families have chosen virtual learning, but she is in a building with other children and adults.

“I was dying to get the shot,” Ms. Hickey said. “It was a weight on my shoulders. This is the only way for us to get back to some kind of normalcy. The pandemic will not go away on its own. “

Epidemiological models have shown that vaccinating teachers can significantly reduce infections in schools. “This should be a top priority,” said Carl Bergstrom, an infectious disease expert at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Still, requiring teachers to be vaccinated could significantly slow the pace of reopening schools, he and other experts have acknowledged.

In guidelines released last month, the CDC called for elementary and secondary schools to be reopened as soon as possible and offered a step-by-step plan to get students back into classrooms. Although the agency recommended prioritizing teachers, it said vaccination should “nevertheless not be considered a condition for reopening schools for in-person instruction.”

Days later, the CDC released a study which concluded that “educators could play a central role in school transmission” and that “school mitigation measures and educators’ Covid-19 vaccination are an essential part of preventing transmission in schools. ”

Many local teachers’ unions remain adamantly opposed to resuming in-person learning now, saying school districts lack the resources or the will to follow CDC guidelines on coronavirus safety.

Without vaccination, unions say, adults in school would remain vulnerable to serious illness or death from Covid-19 because children, although much less prone to the disease, can nonetheless easily be carriers of the virus. Studies suggest that children under 10 transmit the virus about half as effectively as adults, but older children can look a lot like adults.

Katie rogers reported by Meriden, and Erica L. Green from Washington. Apoorva Mandavilli contribution to New York reporting.

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What to know about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall efforts

So how does the recall work? What awaits you Here’s what you need to know:

How many signatures does the recall require?

For the recall to progress, promoters must submit a total of 1,495,709 valid signatures to county election officials. before March 17th, the deadline set by the court, which has been extended due to the pandemic. The number of signatures required is 12% of the votes cast in the last governor’s election, when Mr Newsom defeated Republican businessman John Cox in 2018.

And yes – as the office of the secretary of state recently highlighted in response to incorrect information circulating online – signatures of any official petition must be verified and held valid.

In this case, election officials must compare the signature of the petition to the signature of the voter in their registration file; signatures must come from a registered voter.

The counties have until April 29 to verify signatures. After that, the Secretary of State’s office has 10 days to determine if there are enough valid signatures to qualify the recall election. (Another note: Voters who signed the recall petition can withdraw their signatures within 30 business days of this decision, and county election officials have 10 days after that period to notify the Secretary of State’s office of the number. people who have withdrawn.)

How many signatures did this recall actually get?

According to the latest state report, as of February 5, supporters of Mr Newsom’s recall effort had submitted around 1.1 million signatures in total, including 798,310 signatures that were verified by county officials. .

Of those, about 84%, or 668,202, were valid, meaning they belonged to a registered California voter.

Is the recall election likely to take place?

That 84% figure is an unusually high rate of valid signatures, compared to, say, a typical petition to put an initiative on the ballot. Observers say this is an encouraging sign for supporters of the recall.

Additionally, experts have told me that polls suggest there are plenty of voters, including around six million who voted for former President Donald J. Trump, who are likely to support a recall.

Widespread dissatisfaction with the initial vaccine rollout could be contributing to these numbers. Finally, as the school year nears its usual end, with most students learning from a distance, the governor comes under fire from Republicans and members of his own party for failing to reach a broad agreement on how to bring children back to classrooms.

Still, experts said things could change dramatically before voters are asked to decide whether to end their governor’s term prematurely.

What happens if a recall campaign gets enough signatures?

The state’s finance department will work with the secretary of state’s office and county election officials to estimate the cost of a recall election. Once that happens, the estimate is sent to senior state officials, and then the Joint Legislative Budget Committee has 30 days to review and comment on the costs before the signatures are officially certified.

After that, the lieutenant governor – not the secretary of state’s office – is required to schedule an election between 60 and 80 days from the date of accreditation. This could be extended to 180 days if it consolidated the recall election with a regular election.

Analysts suggested that a recall election could take place in November.

Voters would be asked two questions: Should Mr. Newsom be called back? And if a majority of voters say yes, who should replace him? (In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the winner of a crowded field of candidates.)

Is this unusual?

Kind of. California is one of 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allows public servants to be recalled. And while recall efforts have been launched for every California governor since 1960, only one has led to an election.

Read more:

  • Here is a detailed explanation on how to recall a governor in California. [CalMatters]

  • Here’s everything you might want to know on who is behind the effort to recall Mr. Newsom and the story of the governor remembers. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • What do the polls say? Here is a recent overview. [The New York Times]

  • The state has responded to many questions about the recall process – in 2003. (Take the estimated costs with a grain of salt.) [California Secretary of State]

  • Could Democrats delay recall? Here’s a look at possible ways to extend the timeline – although some say it could give the recall supporters more time. [The Sacramento Bee]

  • The governor recently approved a law that would extend a requirement that a postal ballot be sent to each eligible voter in every election “declared or conducted” before the start of 2022. [California Legislature]


Tell us what you want to know: We know that the process of reopening schools in California has been interrupted, fragmented, uneven and confusing. There is a lot of flow, and we want to help you sort it out. If you are a parent or educator (or both), please email your questions to us at CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will respond to some of them.

Read all articles from The Times cover of the school reopening here.


  • Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state is revamping its vaccination efforts and that more doses would go to the central valley, which has been criticized by the pandemic. [The Bakersfield Californian]

  • It started with a hot mic moment, in which there were jokes about parents wanting their kids to go back to school so they would be free to smoke weed. Then the entire Oakley Union Elementary school district board quit. [The New York Times]

  • In his latest reform move, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, seeks information on agents with a history of misconduct that could affect their credibility in court. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • Following the passage of proposition 22, companies hope to leverage their advantage and use the model to convert millions of additional jobs into employment contracts. [Bloomberg]

Learn more about the fight for Proposition 22. [The New York Times]

  • “If the studios wanted to kill the Golden Globes, they could do it overnight,” a source said. “But everyone likes to receive an award.” The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is criticized again – for breaches of ethics and automation rules. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • California almond blossom, the world’s largest pollination event, has begun. [The San Luis Obispo Tribune]


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. PT on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Have you been forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read each edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley and has reported statewide, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow us here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.

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Georgia prosecutors open criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn election

President Trump: “We won this election in Georgia based on all of this, and there is nothing wrong with saying that, Brad. You know, I mean, have a good – the Georgian people are angry. And these numbers are going to be repeated on Monday evening with others that we will have by then, which are even much more substantial. And the Georgian people are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you recalculated, because the 2,236 missing votes, I mean, these are all exact numbers that were made by accounting firms, accounting firms. ‘avocados, etc., and even if you cut them in half, cut them in half and halve them again, that’s more votes than it takes. Brad Raffensperger: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge you have is the data you have is wrong. We spoke to members of Congress and they were surprised. But they – I guess there was a person named Mr. Braynard who came to these meetings and presented data. And he said there were deaths, I believe it was over 5,000. The actual number was two. Of them. Two deceased people who voted. And so it is wrong. It was two. Trump: “Well, Cleta, how do you respond to that?” … Trump: “Now do you think it’s possible that they shredded ballots in Fulton County?” Because that’s the rumor, and also Dominion released machines. This Dominion is going really fast to get rid of his machinery. Do you know anything about it? Because it’s illegal. “Ryan Germany. No, Dominion has not moved any machinery out of Fulton County – “” Well, but no, but did they move, did they, did they move the internal parts of the machines and replaced them with ‘other parts? ” “No.” “Are you sure, Ryan?” “I’m sure. I’m sure, Mr. President. … Raffensperger:” Mr. President, the problem you have with social media, people can say anything – “Trump:” No, this is not social – this is Trump’s media. This is not social media, it really is not. This is not social media. I don’t care about social … “” But … “” I don’t care. Social media is big tech. Big tech is on your side, you know – I don’t even know why you have a side, because you should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican. . “We think we have a precise election.” “No, I – no, you don’t. No, no, no. You don’t. You don’t, not even close. You have hundreds of thousands of votes.” … Trump : “Because you know what they did and you don’t report it, it’s, you know, it’s a criminal, it’s a criminal offense, and you know, you can’t let that happen. It’s a big risk for you and Ryan, your lawyer. It’s a big risk. But they shred the ballots, in my opinion, from what I heard. And they take them away. machines and move them as fast as they can, which is criminal discoveries. And you can’t let it happen. And you let it happen. You know, I mean, I’m informing you that you let it happen. So look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. “… Trump:” So tell me, Brad, what are we going to do? we do? We won the elections. And it’s not fair to take it away from us like that. And it’s going to be very expensive in many ways. And I think you have to say that you are going to review it. And you can reexamine it, but reexamine it with people who want to find answers, not people who don’t want to find answers. For example, I hear Ryan, that he’s probably, I’m sure, a great lawyer and all, but he’s making statements on these ballots that he doesn’t know. But he does them with such, he did them with certainty, but now I think he’s less sure, because the answer is they all went to Biden, and that alone wins us the election of many. . You know, then. Raffensperger: “Mr. Chairman, you have people submitting information and we have our people submitting information. And then he comes to court. And the court must then make a decision. We have to stay true to our numbers. We believe our figures are correct. … Trump: “Well, under the law, you’re not allowed to give false election results, okay? You are not allowed to do this. And that’s what you did. It is an incorrect election result. And honestly, it should go really fast. You should meet tomorrow, because you have a big election, elections coming up, and because of what you did to the president – you know, the Georgian people know that was a scam. And because of what you did to the president, a lot of people are not going to vote. And a lot of Republicans are going to vote against it because they hate what you did to the president. Okay? They hate it. And they will vote. And you would be respected, truly respected if that could be fixed before the election. You have a big election on Tuesday. … Trump: “I mean, look, it’s – you’d have to be a kid to think anything other than that, just a kid.” I mean, you have… ”Cleta Mitchell:“ How many ballots? How many ballot papers, Mr. Secretary, do you say were processed then? Raffensperger: “We asked GBI to investigate thoroughly.” “We had our – it’s Ryan Germany. Our law enforcement officers spoke to everyone who was – who was there after this event came to light. GBI was with them, as well as FBI agents. Trump: “Well, there’s no way for them – so they’re incompetent. They’re dishonest or incompetent, okay? There are only two answers: dishonesty or incompetence. … Trump: “I would like you, for my lawyers, I would like you to meet maybe Ryan, ideally tomorrow, because I think we should come to a resolution on this before the election.” Otherwise you’re going to have, you’re going to have people who just won’t vote. They don’t want to vote. They hate the state, they hate the governor, and they hate the secretary of state – I’ll tell you right now. And the only people who love you are people who will never vote for you. You know that, Brad, don’t you? They love you. You know, they love you. They can’t believe what they found. They want more people like you. So listen, can you get together tomorrow? And Brad, we just want the truth, it’s simple.

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Video: Pentagon to deploy troops to support vaccination efforts

new video loaded: Pentagon to deploy troops to support vaccination efforts

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Pentagon to deploy troops to support vaccination efforts

The White House announced Friday that Lloyd J. Austin III, Secretary of Defense, had approved the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s request for support and would deploy 1,110 active duty soldiers to Covid-19 vaccination centers in across the country.

I want to announce that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has approved FEMA’s request to increase and speed up immunizations across the country. He ordered the first contingent of more than 1,000 active-duty military personnel to support state vaccination sites. Some of this group will begin arriving in California within the next 10 days to begin operations there around February 15, with additional vaccination missions to follow soon. The military’s vital role in supporting the sites will help immunize thousands of people per day and ensure that every American who wants a vaccine receives one.

Recent episodes of Coronavirus pandemic: latest updates

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Automakers drop efforts to derail California climate rules

WASHINGTON – Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and several other major automakers said on Tuesday they would no longer try to stop California from setting its own strict fuel economy standards, signaling that the auto industry is ready to work with President Biden on his greatest effort to reduce greenhouse effects. gas emission.

The corporate move was widely anticipated, after General Motors dropped its support for the Trump-era efforts just weeks after the presidential election. But the change could help the Biden administration move quickly to restore national fuel efficiency standards that would control the global warming automobile pollution, this time with the backing of industry giants who have fought these regulations for years. .

“After four years of going backwards, it’s time to reboot and build a sustainable future, expand domestic manufacturing and deliver clean cars for America,” said Gina McCarthy, Senior Advisor on climate change at the White House. “We have to move forward – and quickly.”

The auto giants’ announcements come on top of a pledge from five other companies – Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo – to meet California’s strict standards. And last week, GM pledged to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035, a move that would bring the company into line with another recent California policy banning the sale of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. this year.

Tuesday’s decision also marked a brutal reversal of California’s influence on policymaking in Washington. After President Donald J. Trump rescinded the Obama-era auto pollution rules that were modeled on the California state-level rules, he then blocked the state authority from establish such rules. Mr Biden is now expected to use California as a model to quickly restore national rules.

“We will continue to play an important role in pushing the federal government and the automakers,” promised Jared Blumenfeld, California’s secretary of environmental protection, who added that Biden had recently spoken with Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, on using state auto emissions policies as a guide for federal policies.

In a statement, the automakers, represented by the industry group Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation, said the Trump administration’s lawsuit to block California’s fuel economy rules was no longer supported: ” We are aligned with the goals of the Biden administration to be achieved. Year-over-year improvements in fuel economy standards that provide significant climate benefits and national energy security.

They added: “In a gesture of good faith and to find a constructive way forward, the CSAR decided to withdraw from this trial in order to unify the automotive industry behind a single national program with ambitious and achievable standards.

Mr. Trump had made the rollback of Obama-era fuel economy standards the centerpiece of his deregulation agenda. The Obama-era standards, modeled after those in California, would have required automakers to manufacture and sell vehicles that achieved an average fuel economy of about 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The standards , which would have wiped out roughly six billion tonnes of the planet – the lifelong warming carbon dioxide pollution of vehicles is the biggest federal policy ever to reduce climate change.

Last year, the Trump administration lowered that standard to around 40 miles per gallon by 2026 – a move that would have effectively allowed most of that carbon dioxide to return to the atmosphere. California, however, has a separate deal with the five automakers, in which they agreed to reach a standard of 51 miles per gallon by 2026. The Trump administration, backed by GM and other automakers , has blocked California’s legal authority to set these standards.

Now that GM, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler have walked out of this lawsuit, officials in the Biden administration have one less retarder before a new federal standard. The White House is also expected to explore ways to adopt California’s policy requiring all new vehicles sold after 2035 to be zero-emissions.

The Biden administration is already working quickly to develop this new standard, which will be jointly published by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed the new Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg. At his confirmation hearing, Mr Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., And 2020 presidential candidate, pledged to make tackling climate change one of the guiding principles of his tenure – a first for a transport secretary.

And he will be aided by a new senior official who helped negotiate the California deal with the five automakers: Steven Cliff, formerly deputy managing director of the California Air Resources Board, has been appointed by Mr Biden to lead the National Highway. transport department. and Traffic Safety Administration, the body that will oversee the rewrite of the new automotive fuel economy standards.

“He’s probably the most knowledgeable person in the world about how these automakers are aligning on this and how we’re pushing it,” Blumenfeld said.

McCarthy is expected to meet this week with heads of several major auto companies and representatives of the United Auto Workers and other unions as she begins to sketch out the details of the new rules.

Although the agreement with California sets a standard of 51 miles per gallon for the 2026 model year, the upcoming Biden Rule will likely take a year or more. Its first targets will therefore be later, 2028 or 2029. California and environmental groups are likely to push for even more aggressive standards to help achieve the goal of ending sales of gasoline and diesel cars by now. 2035.

Developing such rules could be a long and complex process, but several people close to the administration say they expect the EPA and the Department of Transportation to issue a “Notice of Proposed Settlement” – essentially, a document that launches the one-to-two – one year legal process of drafting and implementing these rules – by March.

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Josh Hawley, who led the Senate’s efforts to overturn the election results, is targeted by a super PAC.

Former staff members of Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who lost her 2018 re-election to Senator Josh Hawley, launched a super PAC to defeat Mr Hawley the next time he runs for office – as part of a broad backlash against him for leading the effort last week to overturn the presidential election results.

“Senators swear an oath to the Constitution and loyalty to this country, not aiding and encouraging a coup attempt against the two,” super PAC said first announcement, released Friday, said. The band is called Just Oust Seditious Hacks, a backronym for JOSH.

Mr Hawley, who represents Missouri and is seen as someone who wants to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, was the first senator to agree to join members of the House in challenging the election results when Congress met to formalize them on January 6.

Because such challenges require the support of at least one Senator to be considered by members of Congress, his action has guaranteed the disruption of what is normally a ceremonial process – a disruption during which supporters of the president Trump violently stormed the Capitol. His move prompted an immediate reaction from fellow Republicans, and anger escalated after the attack on Capitol Hill, with some lawmakers calling for the resignation of Mr Hawley and Simon & Schuster canceling plans to publish his delivered.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who joined Mr Hawley in opposing the results, also faced a backlash, including the resignation of his communications director this week. But while Mr Cruz filed his objection to the results in Arizona early in the proceedings, Mr Hawley drew particular anger for opposing the results in Pennsylvania hours later after the attack on the Capitol.

“Josh Hawley is confident that his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and deny Joe Biden the presidency – even after helping fuel the U.S. Capitol riots – will make him president in 2024,” the new super PAC said in a statement. . “He’s betting that the same far-right nationalist crowds who have backed Donald Trump will put him in the White House to continue Trump’s work. JOSH PAC will be waging an ongoing campaign to stop it now. “

Mr Hawley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The super PAC, news of which was first reported by Politico, is part of a long tradition of efforts to fund electoral challenges in response to a specific vote or action by a lawmaker. These efforts are not always successful, even when they involve large sums of money.

For example, a crowd-funded campaign in 2018 raised $ 3.7 million for the Democrat who would be appointed to challenge Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine in response to her support for Judge Brett M’s confirmation Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The candidate ended up being Sara Gideon, who gave Ms Collins her most serious challenge in years, but ultimately lost by more than eight percentage points.

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Biden chooses ex-FDA chief to lead federal vaccination efforts

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has selected Dr David Kessler to help lead Operation Warp Speed, the program to accelerate the development of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, according to transition officials.

Dr Kessler, a pediatrician and lawyer who headed the Food and Drug Administration during the presidencies of George Bush and Bill Clinton, has been a key adviser to Mr Biden on Covid-19 policy and is co-chair of the Covid transition team – 19 working group.

He will replace Dr Moncef Slaoui, researcher and former head of a pharmaceutical company, who will become a consultant for Operation Warp Speed. Dr Kessler will share key responsibilities for the initiative with Gen. Gustav F. Perna, who will remain chief operating officer, according to a Biden transition spokesperson. Dr. Kessler’s responsibilities will cover the manufacture, distribution, and safety and efficacy of vaccines and therapeutic products.

“Dr. Kessler became a trusted advisor to the Biden campaign and President-elect Biden at the start of the pandemic, and has probably briefed Biden 50 or 60 times since March, ”said Anita Dunn, co-chair of the transition team. “When you ask staff, ‘What are the doctors saying? “We know David Kessler is one of the doctors President-elect Biden expects us to see.”

Dr. Kessler will join Operation Warp Speed ​​at a critical time. While the program is widely credited with making possible the development of two highly effective coronavirus vaccines in record time, it has been far less successful in delivering the vaccines to the public – a complex task it shares with many federal authorities. state and local.

The Trump administration had promised to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020, but as of Thursday, just over 11 million vaccines had been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At some vaccination sites, long lines of elderly people lined up for hours waiting for a vaccine; in others, the lack of willing recipients forces providers to offer injections to random passers-by before doses expire.

In late fall, Dr. Kessler warned Mr. Biden that Operation Warp Speed ​​was not prepared to send the shots into people’s arms. The transition team said last week that the president-elect intends to create vaccination sites in high school gymnasiums, convention centers and mobile units to reach high-risk populations. Details of the plans are expected Friday.

In addition to working to speed up vaccine delivery across the country, Dr Kessler is expected to put more emphasis on treatment development and he plans to launch a major antiviral development program for the treatment of Covid-19, according to reports. responsible for the transition. He also wants to strengthen the US capacity to manufacture vaccines against the coronavirus as well as the main known pathogens.

Dr Kessler is close to Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease physician who has emerged as the main government voice on the coronavirus pandemic. The two worked closely to accelerate the development and approval of drugs that changed the course of the AIDS epidemic in the 1990s.

When George Bush appointed him to the head of the FDA in 1990, AIDS was raging in the United States. During Dr. Kessler’s tenure, the FDA released new rules to speed up drug approval. The pharmaceutical industry has developed a class of antiviral drugs to treat AIDS / HIV called protease inhibitors, some of which were approved within 40 days.

“Each of these drugs that I took with Tony,” Dr. Kessler said of Dr. Fauci in an interview. “We did it together. We have approved over a dozen antivirals and antibiotics. We accelerated the approval, but we did it the right way. “

As commissioner, Dr Kessler was also known for his fight against the tobacco industry, which until then had been considered sacrosanct in American politics.

Under his leadership and with the significant help of investigator Jack Mitchell, the FDA has proven that the tobacco industry has known for 50 years that nicotine is an addictive drug and that cigarette manufacturers can control the levels of nicotine in the drug. their products.

This work paved the way for the landmark settlement framework agreement in 1998, which forced the tobacco industry to pay damages estimated at $ 206 billion to states and change the way they advertised. and the sale of tobacco products. It also led to the passage in 2009 of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which ultimately gave the FDA the power to regulate tobacco products.

Dr. Kessler’s other big priority in government was to improve the American diet. As commissioner of the FDA, he developed modern nutrition facts labels that are easy to read and include basic nutritional information often previously omitted.

After leaving the FDA, Dr. Kessler served as dean of the Yale School of Medicine, followed by a stint as dean and vice-chancellor of the faculty of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. After exposing financial irregularities at the university, he was dismissed as dean, but after an independent auditor concluded he was right, the university apologized and he remained a professor.

In 2018, Dr. Kessler became chairman of the board of directors of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a diet and health watchdog group that often criticizes federal health policy.

He served on the board of directors of Immucor, a supplier of diagnostic transfusion and transplant products, for several years. In 2020, he joined the board of directors of Ellodi Pharmaceuticals, a spin-off of Adare Pharmaceuticals, specializing in gastroenterology-focused drugs.

This week, he resigned from all three boards of directors and is divesting his shares in companies. He said he did not own any shares in pharmaceutical or vaccine-related companies.

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In a letter to Pelosi, Pence dismisses the House’s efforts to impeach Trump.

Vice President Mike Pence rejected the possibility of stripping President Trump of his powers through the 25th Amendment, berating a bipartisan House resolution calling on the Vice President to do so.

“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interests of our nation or in accordance with our Constitution,” Pence wrote in a letter to President Nancy Pelosi. “I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and ignite the passions of the moment.”

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Video: ‘Most important vote’: McConnell condemns efforts to call off election

Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell on Wednesday strongly berated President Trump and members of his own party as they sought to reject the victory of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. by Reuters.

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Sasse denounces GOP efforts to challenge election results as ‘dangerous ploy’

Mr Trump continued to erroneously claim that Mr Biden unfairly won the election due to widespread electoral fraud and demanded that Republicans in Congress make every effort to overturn the results. Attorney General William P. Barr admitted that the Justice Department had not discovered any such fraud that would have changed the outcome and the Supreme Court, as well as the courts of at least eight key states in the country, refused. or dismissed the challenges launched by the Trump Campaign in an attempt to reject the election results. These challenges did not fail to reverse the results in one state.

There is still a substantial divide in the party. While a steady stream of House Republicans have announced their willingness to oppose critical state election votes, Mr. Hawley is the first senator to do so. He hinted on Wednesday that other senators may soon join his efforts, telling reporters “a number of offices have contacted ours through staff and said, ‘We are interested.’

On Thursday, he launched a fundraising pitch highlighting his plan. “We have to make sure that a vote means a vote in America,” read the post, which was placed next to a photo of Mr. Hawley and Mr. Trump. “I intend to oppose the Electoral College results on January 6, but I need your help.”

It is not known how many – if any – of his Senate colleagues will rally to his side.

But this is already creating a sort of test for Republicans and their allies, who are being forced to side with and support Mr. Trump or reject his efforts to overturn the election.

His Wednesday announcement was met with a lack of enthusiasm in many conservative circles. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and majority leader, had discouraged lawmakers from opposing the results, arguing that a challenge would force senators to formally declare themselves by defying Mr. Trump or rejecting the will of voters.

And in a private conference call Thursday with Senate Republicans, Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is retiring in 2022, spoke to express his “strong” disagreement with Mr. Hawley’s plan, a spokesperson for Mr. Toomey confirmed.

Mr Hawley’s objection will force the Senate to debate his claim for up to two hours, followed by a vote on Mr Biden’s victory. Since every Democrat in the Senate is expected to certify the election, along with at least several Republicans, the Senate is likely to affirm Mr. Biden’s victory. The House, which also has to take the same vote, is controlled by Democrats, making certification a certainty.