By MICHELLE STODDART and LAUREN KING, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — This is Day 28 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how events unfolded on Tuesday. All times Eastern:
Feb 16, 10:18 pm
Biden won’t predict the end of COVID-19, has hope for the future
Members of the audience continued to ask about vaccinations and how to manage fear for those who are immune-compromised and still don’t qualify for early vaccination.
“The states make the decisions on who is in what order. I can make recommendations — and for federal programs, I can do that, as president of the United States — but I can’t tell the state ‘you must move such and such a group of people up,"” he said.
Biden was also asked when Americans can expect things to get back to normal, but said he was cautioned by health officials not to make a prediction. He said that he has hope that the end is near.
“I don’t want to over promise anything here. I told you when I ran and when I got elected, I will always level with you. But it matters. It matters whether you continue to wear that mask. It matters whether you continue to socially distance. It matters whether you wash your hands with hot water. It — those things matter. They matter. And that can save a lot of lives while we’re getting to this point where we get to herd immunity,” he said.
Feb 16, 10:07 pm
Schools might open closer to the end of his first 100 days, Biden says
A parent in the audience asked Biden about this plan and recommendations to get students back to schools.
“What we found out is there are certain things that make it rational and easy to go back to the brick and mortar building,” Biden said. “One, first of all, making sure everybody is wearing protective gear. It’s available to students as well as to teachers, the janitors, the people who work in the cafeteria, the bus drivers. Secondly, organizing in smaller pods, which means that’s why we need more teachers.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released new guidelines to reopen schools amid the new COVID-19 variants.
Cooper followed up with a question about the Biden administration’s goal of reopening schools in the first 100 days of his administration, “You’re now saying that means those schools may only be open for at least one day a week?”
“No, that’s not true. That’s what was reported, but that’s not true. It was a mistake in the communication. What I’ve — what I’m talking about is, I said opening the majority of schools in K through 8th grade, because they’re the easiest to open, the most needed to be open, in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home,” Biden responded.
The president also said that he believes a significant percentage of schools — kindergarten through eighth grade — will be opened back up closer to the end of his first 100 days in office.
Feb 16, 9:30 pm
Enough doses to vaccinate every American by end of July: Biden
The town hall kicked off with CNN’s Anderson Cooper asking Biden when the nation could expect everyone to be vaccinated.
“By the end of July this year. We have — we came into office, there was only 50 million doses that were available. By the end of July we’ll have over 600 million doses, enough to vaccinate every single American,” Biden said.
Biden stressed the need to get shots in the arms of the people and health care workers to help with the vaccinations. Biden signed an executive order to allow former doctors, nurses and National Guardsmen to assist in the vaccination process. He made clear that his administration is continuing to make strides to set up vaccination centers and increase vaccine supply.
Feb 16, 9:20 pm
Biden in Milwaukee, taking part in televised town hall
Biden traveled to Milwaukee Tuesday evening and is participating in a televised CNN town hall where he’s answering questions from Americans.
“Some of the questioners here voted for him, some did not,” CNN’s Anderson Cooper said.
Biden is working this week to shift attention back to his ambitious agenda, with COVID-19 and his $2 trillion relief package taking center stage. As he continues to work to get at least some Senate Republicans on board, he’s taken his message outside of Washington to talk directly with the American people on his first official trip as president.
He heads to Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Thursday where he is expected to tour a Pfizer manufacturing facility currently producing the vaccine and to meet with workers.
Feb 16, 6:52 pm
Biden talks with governors in states hit by winter weather
Biden held a phone call Tuesday evening with “with governors of states impacted by severe winter weather, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt,” according to the White House.
They discussed the severe weather across the south and central U.S., and Biden told them his administration was “prepared to assist and stands ready to respond to requests for Federal assistance from the governors and will deploy any additional Federal emergency resources available to assist the residents of their states in getting through this historic storm,” the White House said.
He also “expressed gratitude” to frontline workers, the White House added.
Feb 16, 5:13 pm
Republican senators put forth minimum wage increase proposal
Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney are putting together a proposal to raise the minimum wage, as Sen. Bernie Sanders and other Democrats continue to push forward a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 in the next COVID-19 relief package.
According to Cotton’s Twitter thread Tuesday afternoon, the proposal will require employers to verify the legal status of their workers, and “gradually” raise the minimum wage by tying it to inflation. It would go into effect after the pandemic is over and would include “protections” for small businesses.
Romney’s office told ABC News that the bill text and more details will be released next week. The Utah senator has suggested raising the minimum wage to around $10 an hour.
The emerging proposal underscores the shifting politics around the issue and marks a potential opportunity for compromise down the road, depending on how Democrats decide the handle the minimum wage issue on Capitol Hill, since it’s not expected to make it through the Senate in the COVID-19 relief legislation.
-ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel and Mariam Khan
Feb 16, 3:53 pm
Biden briefed on Ebola reemergence in Africa, White House says
President Biden has been briefed on the reemergence of Ebola in Central and West Africa, “and his prayers are with the families who have died and those who are impacted,” the White House said today, after Guinea this week declared an outbreak of the disease and Democratic Republic of Congo a week before had confirmed Ebola’s presence there, too.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on Tuesday spoke with ambassadors from Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Liberia in order “to convey the United States willingness to work closely with the governments of affected countries, and neighboring countries whose citizens would be at risk of the current outbreak spread,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a written statement.
Psaki said “the world cannot afford to turn the other way” and pledged U.S. support to fight the spread of Ebola.
“The Biden Administration will do everything in its power to provide U.S. leadership to stop these outbreaks,” she said, “working with the affected governments, the World Health Organization, the African Union and the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and neighboring states.”
-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson
Feb 16, 3:44 pm
House could stay in session to pass $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced Tuesday that the House is expected to vote next week on the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and that the vote could slide into the last weekend of February.
“Members should be aware that the House may need to remain in session through the weekend next week to complete consideration of the American Rescue Plan,” Hoyer said in a letter to colleagues Tuesday.
The House is expected to take up the Senate-passed version the second week of March.
-ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel
Feb 16, 3:57 pm
White House announces start of effort to allow entry for migrants awaiting asylum
The White House announced the start of an effort to allow U.S. entry to migrants who had been forced to wait in Mexico as their asylum cases made their way through immigration courts will begin Feb. 19 in a statement Tuesday.
The White House says there will be an announcement of a virtual registration process “soon” that will allow eligible people to provide their information and receive instructions on when and where to arrive at the border. It remains unclear how quickly those who register will be summoned to begin the process in-person.
The start of the process will come one day after a major immigration reform bill is unveiled on Capitol Hill. The statement reiterates warnings White House press secretary Jen Psaki has made from the briefing room podium, urging potential migrants not to come to the border now, especially in light of the pandemic.
The Biden administration has promised test all those eligible for entry to the U.S. for COVID-19 before they cross the border.
“President Biden is committed to immigration reform in the long term, but it will take time,” the statement acknowledges. “his is a crucial first step to communicate our respect for human rights and human dignity, which includes abiding by legal processes and health and safety protocols.”
-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinvosky
Feb 16, 2:45 pm
Biden trip to engage with Americans, not pressure Congress on relief, Psaki says
ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a press briefing Tuesday if Biden’s trip to Wisconsin today and a televised town hall were a way of taking his message about COVID relief directly to the American people and if it’s a signal that the president was throwing in the towel on getting Republican support in Congress.
“This is an opportunity, as you noted, to go out and have a conversation with the people of Wisconsin, people who agree with him or disagree with him. But if you look at the polls, they are very consistent. The vast majority of the American people like what they see in this package,” Psaki said. “That should be an indication or should be noted I members of Congress as they consider whether they will vote for it or not.”
When pressed if the visits were meant to put pressure on Republicans in Congress, Psaki brushed off the suggestion, arguing Biden’s focus is on connecting with Americans dealing with the impacts of COVID-19.
“His objective is really to make sure he is engaging directly with the people who are impacted by the pandemic or impacted by the economic downturn, who are worried about whether they will get a shot, who don’t know where to get information, who are worried about whether they will be able to put food on the table. That’s the focus of this trip. Obviously, Republicans in Congress will have to make their own choice about whether they support the final package.” Psaki said. “It’s still working its way through Congress but the vast majority of the public supported including the vast majority of most members’ constituents so it’s really questions for them.”
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Mary Bruce
Feb 16, 2:41 pm
Biden backs Jan. 6 commission, Psaki says
President Biden supports the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce.
“It’s of course Congress’ decision to form this commission, but it’s one the president would support,” Psaki said. “And President Biden has made clear his views on the tragic events of January 6th, including where responsibility for them lies. He backs efforts to shed additional light on the facts to ensure something like that never happens again.”
A House Democratic leadership aide tells ABC News that legislation to set up this independent 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack could be introduced as early as this week, though it is unclear when a final vote could be. Once it clears the House, it will also need to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Biden.
-ABC News’ Mary Bruce and Mariam Khan
Feb 16, 12:55 pm
Biden allies in Congress expected to introduce immigration reform bill this week
President Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill are expected to introduce an immigration reform bill later this week, in what could be Democrat’s most ambitious attempt to overhaul the hardline border policies of the Trump administration. Multiple sources tell ABC News the bill is expected to be introduced on Thursday.
While it’s unclear exactly what the legislation will include, it is expected to mirror many of the immigration priorities Biden laid out on day one of his administration – including a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants and prioritizing keeping families together by eliminating visa backlogs.
Past attempts to overhaul the U.S. immigration system have failed under both parties. The Biden administration has signaled it may have better luck by splitting up the legislation – rather than putting everything in one giant reform package. But ABC News has learned Democrats spearheading this effort on Capitol Hill are, for now, committed to one major legislative push. One Democratic aide insisted no conversations about splitting the package up are occurring.
Biden has already taken sweeping executive action aimed at undoing some of former President Trump’s hallmark initiatives on immigration – from halting construction of the southern border wall to reversing the Trump administration plans to exclude undocumented immigrants from the Census count. He has been able to make these changes since Trump enacted many of these policies through a series of executive actions, as opposed to legislation.
-ABC News’ Cecilia Vega, Ben Gittleson, Molly Nagle, Quinn Owen, Benjamin Siegel and Sarah Kolinovsky
Feb 16, 9:20 am
Biden to use 1st trip as president to make case for his COVID relief plan
With Trump’s impeachment trial no longer dominating the headlines, Biden is making his first official trip as president Tuesday to visit Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as he tries to drum up popular support for his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
Biden is taking his case directly to the American people at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee at 9 p.m. ET ahead of another Midwestern trip — to Michigan on Thursday — to visit a Pfizer manufacturing site.
The White House has maintained that while GOP senators in Washington are balking at his costly plan, two-thirds of Americans support it, as well as several Republican governors and mayors.
Biden’s first trip official trip outside Washington as president — amid an ongoing pandemic and still struggling economy — also provide him the chance to show the one-on-one empathy with Americans he’s made his trademark.
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