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If confirmed, the congresswoman from New Mexico would be the first Native American person to head the department.

USA TODAY

USA TODAY’s coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he rolls out more of his picks for top jobs in his administration and prepares to take the oath of office Jan. 20. The Electoral College affirmed Biden’s win Monday, officially giving Biden enough electoral votes to defeat President Donald Trump. Congress will count and certify the results in a joint session Jan. 6. 

Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.

COVID-19 stimulus deal is close but debate remains over Federal Reserve lending powers

Lawmakers continued to negotiate over the final provisions of a COVID-19 stimulus deal Friday morning, but a debate over Federal Reserve lending authority threatened to throw a wrench in negotiations.

One of the largest remaining holdups, according to two Democratic aides not authorized to speak on the record, was Sen. Pat Toomey’s insistence on restricting emergency Federal Reserve lending powers authorized in March that are set to expire at the end of the year.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a Friday statement that sunsetting the Fed’s authority “would set a terrible precedent, hurt the Fed’s independence, and weaken its ability to respond quickly to future crises.”

Republicans counter that the authority was already set to expire at the end of the year.

Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, has said the lending authority has achieved its intended goals of stabilizing the market and should be ended to prevent them from being used to supplement other policies measures.

He told reporters Thursday there was “broad support” among Republicans for ending the programs, and doing so was “very important to many of us.”

The second-ranking Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, told reporters Thursday the restriction of the lending authority was a “big priority” for Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed the Senate would keep negotiating.

“I am even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is close at hand,” he said Friday morning, though he warned the Senate could stay in session through the weekend.

– Nicholas Wu

Kamala Harris to campaign Monday in Georgia

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will campaign in Georgia on Monday for two Democrats in runoff elections whose results will determine control of the Senate.

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are trying to defend their seats against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively.

The races present an opportunity to shift control of the Senate from Republicans to Democrats. If both Democratic challengers won their races, the chamber would be split eve and Harris could break ties in favor of President-elect Joe Biden’s priorities.

Harris will travel to Suwanee and Columbus to campaign on behalf of Ossoff and Warnock. Both parties are campaigning heavily for the seats. President Donald Trump visited Valdosta on Dec. 5. Vice President Mike Pence has made several campaign swings through the state.

Biden visited Tuesday. Georgia supported Republicans statewide reliably for decades, but Biden narrowly beat Trump in November and is trying to repeat the feat in the Senate runoffs.

– Bart Jansen

Pence receives the COVID-19 vaccine on camera

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, was vaccinated for COVID-19 Friday morning at an event intended to build public confidence in the vaccine.

“I didn’t feel a thing,” Pence said. “Well done.”

Pence sat in a chair next to an American flag and under a sign that said “SAFE and EFFECTIVE.”

He received the recently-approved vaccine developed by Pfizer that is being distributed throughout the country.

“Karen and I hope this step today will be a source of confidence and of comfort to the American people,” Pence said. “These days of hardship and heartbreak will, in a day not too far in the future, be put in the past.”

– Maureen Groppe

Top lawmakers to be vaccinated as first vaccines arrive on Capitol Hill 

Top lawmakers would soon be vaccinated as the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived on Capitol Hill. 

In a memo sent to lawmakers late Thursday, Brian Monahan, the Attending Physician of the United States Congress, said members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and top government officials had received doses to ensure continuity of government. Monahan said the “small” number of doses received were just a “fraction of the first tranche of vaccines.” 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she would receive the vaccine “in the next few days,” though she said she would continue to follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask. Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement he too would receive the vaccine . As a polio survivor, he said, he knew “both the fear of a disease and the extraordinary promise of hope that vaccines bring.” Both congressional leaders urged Americans to accept the vaccine as it became available and to continue following CDC guidelines. 

– Nicholas Wu

Congress rushes to strike deal on COVID stimulus, avoid shutdown

After months of contentious negotiations and bitter finger-pointing over their failure to reach a deal on a new stimulus package, lawmakers on Capitol Hill say they are close to an agreement to deliver about $900 billion to Americans reeling from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. But a final version of the bill is still being hammered out, and while both sides still seem optimistic a deal is near, it appears likely Congress will have to stay in session through the weekend to get it done. 

The broad strokes of the package are said to include $300 billion in aid for business,  direct payment of $600 to taxpayers and $300 a week in supplemental unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans unable to find work amid the crisis. 

Though the pandemic has not relented since the coronavirus first began to infect people in the U.S., Congress has not passed a major stimulus package in response since the  CARES Act in March. 

On top of the COVID relief bill, congressional Democrats and Republicans are also wrangling over a roughly $1.4 trillion government funding bill. An extension passed last week expires at midnight and a partial government shutdown would begin if lawmakers can’t agree. 

Though lawmakers are undoubtedly anxious to leave town for the holidays, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stressed the importance of getting the bills through before recess. 

“We must not slide into treating these talks like routine negotiations to be conducted at Congress’ routine pace,” McConnell said. “The Senate is not going anywhere until we have COVID relief out the door.” 

– William Cummings 

Tuberville suggests he might object to electoral vote count on Jan. 6 

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump praised a GOP Senator-elect on Thursday night for suggesting he might challenge the Electoral College count. 

Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville of Alabama said “You’ll see what’s coming … You’ve been reading about in the House. We’re going to have to do it in the Senate.”

More: Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville suggests he might challenge Electoral College count; other GOP senators mum

“It’s impossible. It is impossible what happened,” Tuberville said, referring to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, during a campaign stop in Georgia, “But we’re going to get that corrected.”

Trump called Tuberville a “great champion and man of courage” and demanded “More Republicans Senators” follow his lead and “Do something!” 

Any objections Jan. 6, when Congress meets to count the election results from the state, would require support from one House member and one senator to be considered. 

On Thursday, Biden’s cabinet selections continued with the historic pick of Rep. Deb Haaland to be secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, she will be the first Native American to serve in that position.

More: Biden to select Deb Haaland as interior secretary, the first Native American to hold that position, if confirmed

Top Senate leaders said Thursday a COVID-19 stimulus deal was close but warned they might not pass a bill until the weekend as they tried to close the gap on remaining differences. 

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