Monday, March 29, 2021

Notations From the Grid (Weekly Edition): On the Week That Was...


It has been quite a week in our World.    Our team was on assignment in the community as it captured a grid of the last 100+  years at Santa Ana College here in our home county, Orange County.

This was quite a week.   The Suez Canal was shut down, Iran signed a 25-year agreement with China, Georgia enacted a new Voter Law, President Biden held his first news conference  and as COVID continue to rage on.   We present a snapshot of the week was as we look forward to our continued journey of service: 

Andrew Cuomo's wait-it-out strategy is working for now

Andrew Cuomo's wait-it-out strategy is working for now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s strategy to wait out his scandals seems to be working.

Read the full story here.

Transition Playbook


Presented by Uber Driver Stories

With help from Allie Bice

Welcome to POLITICO’s 2021 Transition Playbook, your guide to the first 100 days of the Biden administration

Nearly all of President JOE BIDEN ’s Cabinet has been confirmed, and his nominees for other crucial positions are working their way through the Senate. But the process of building out the top layer of the administration is only beginning.

There are about 1,200 Senate-confirmed posts Biden must fill, and even more appointed positions that don’t require the Senate’s signoff. Biden has submitted 68 names to the Senate, according to the Partnership for Public Service. That’s more than President GEORGE W. BUSH or President DONALD TRUMP had at this point in their terms but fewer than the 109 names submitted by President BARACK OBAMA.

MAX STIER, the Partnership’s president and chief executive, said it’s not especially useful to compare Biden to his predecessors because every recent president had barely scratched the surface on his 66th day in office.

“This is such a monumental hill to climb,” he said in an interview.

MICHAEL GWIN, a White House spokesman, said in a statement that the administration was “moving as quickly as possible to fill these positions with highly qualified applicants who will help the President deliver for the American people and meet our historic standards on diversity of background and experience.”

Still, while Biden has appointed an unprecedented number of people — more than 1,200 — to non-Senate-confirmed jobs, only 29 of the 68 nominees he’s submitted for Senate-confirmed posts have been confirmed. And some of the unfilled positions deal with critically important tasks. Here are a few of the standout jobs for which Biden hasn’t nominated (or in one case, appointed) anyone:

Food and Drug Administration commissioner

Perhaps no unfilled position has drawn more scrutiny than the head of the FDA. Biden isn’t too far behind his predecessors in nominating someone — Obama and Trump both nominated their first FDA commissioners in mid-March — but it’s a particularly crucial position in the midst of a pandemic.

Six former FDA commissioners sent Biden a letter earlier this month urging him to choose a commissioner soon and praising JANET WOODCOCK, the acting commissioner. But as ADAM CANCRYN has reported, Woodcock faces opposition from some Democrats. (Follow Adam, and send him your tips on the search.)

“He certainly wants to have an FDA commissioner in place,” White House press secretary JEN PSAKI said in today’s briefing. “He wants it to be the right person. There sometimes is a journey on personnel in determining who the right person is for the job, who’s willing to do the job, who’s available to do the job, and it’s a priority.”

Office of Federal Student Aid chief operating officer

The Biden administration is still searching for the top Education Department official responsible for managing the nation’s $1.6 trillion portfolio of student debt owed by 45 million Americans.

Progressives, led by Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.), successfully pushed MARK BROWN, a Trump administration holdover, out of the job earlier this month with a full year remaining on his term. That clears the way for Education Secretary MIGUEL CARDONA to appoint someone new to the role, which doesn’t require Senate confirmation.

The post used to be relatively obscure, but it’s become a major focus for progressives who see it as critical to carrying out the student debt relief they’re demanding as well as tightening regulation of the for-profit education and student loan industries.

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator

Biden isn’t behind his predecessors in nominating someone to fill this powerful post, which oversees federal government regulations. Obama didn’t nominate CASS SUNSTEIN until April 20, 2009, and Trump didn’t nominate NEOMI RAO — whom he later tapped to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — until April 7, 2017. But progressives, including JEFF HAUSER of the Revolving Door Project, have fixated on the position while praising the other people Biden sent to that office.

"We have been encouraged by the team that was being built out at OMB, including assigning SHARON BLOCK and SABEEL RAHMAN” to OIRA (pronounced “oh-eye-rah”), Hauser wrote in an email. “Filling out that team with a nominee to run OIRA has, however, seemingly fallen by the wayside as collateral damage from the implosion of the [Neera] Tanden nomination.”

Comptroller of the currency

This powerful banking regulatory role has been filled by acting comptrollers since JOSEPH OTTING resigned last year. Thirty-four members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent Biden a letter this week backing MEHRSA BARADARAN, a racial wealth gap expert and progressive favorite who’s been a leading contender for months. (The letter was first reported by Axios.)

Some Congressional Hispanic Caucus members have supported MANUEL ALVAREZ, the commissioner of the California Department of Business Oversight.

Deputy Homeland Security secretary

Despite the intense focus on the border in recent weeks, Biden still hasn’t nominated a deputy to serve under Homeland Security Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS . It’s a break from the past two presidents: Obama and Trump both nominated their deputy secretaries within two weeks of taking office. Biden also hasn’t nominated anyone to lead the department’s three component agencies: Customs and Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

(Tips on who he will end up choosing? Send ‘em to LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ.)

Army secretary

Biden hasn’t nominated Army, Navy or Air Force secretaries yet. But sometimes waiting to make the right pick isn’t a bad idea. Trump nominated VINCENT VIOLA as Army secretary more than a month before he took office, only to pull the nomination when it became too hard for Viola to divest his various business interests. Trump’s second choice for the role, MARK GREEN, also withdrew, as did PHILIP BILDEN, his first Navy secretary nominee.

Obama, meanwhile, didn’t nominate an Army secretary until June 2, 2009. So Biden has time.

FEMA COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Update  


In alignment with President Biden’s plan to respond to COVID-19, FEMA will work with other federal agencies to coordinate with state, tribal and territorial authorities and private sector partners and others to assist, augment and expedite vaccinations in the United States.

Key Messages

  • As of March 25, FEMA has provided more than $4.44 billion to 42 states, Washington D.C., four tribes and five territories for expenses related to COVID-19 vaccination at 100% federal cost share. These funds cover critical supplies, staffing, training and transportation needs that support increased vaccination efforts.
  • On March 25, FEMA announced that President Biden made additional disaster assistance available for all 50 statesthe District of Columbia, five territories and two tribes. The increase provides federal funds at 100% of total eligible costs for work performed from Jan. 20, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021. Federal funding was previously made at 75% of the total eligible costs.
  • On March 24, FEMA published the interim policy guidance on the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program. The program will reimburse individuals for funeral expenses for deaths attributed to COVID-19 that occurred after Jan. 20, 2020.
  • FEMA is working to speed up vaccinations by supporting states as they open community vaccine centers across the country and working with its interagency partners continue to stand-up and provide support to additional sites daily. Each state determines its own vaccination priority groups and procedures. Community vaccination centers are led by states, but may be supported by the federal government, including FEMA.
  • Working with state governments, FEMA will open additional federal community vaccination center pilot sites, which include both federal support and supplemental vaccine allocation:
    • Next week, federal community vaccination center pilot sites are scheduled to open in Boston, Massachusetts; Newark, New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia; and Yakima, Washington.
  • Find out where, when and how to get a vaccine in your community and get more information from your local health department and a list of places where adults can get a vaccine. Visit FEMA.Gov for information on FEMA’s vaccination support efforts.

Please note: further information and data on Vaccine Distribution is available in the attachment.

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