Just a day after the unprecedented attempted insurrection at the Capitol and four years of tearing down the Rule of Law in Donald Trump’s quest to emulate the dictators he so admires, President-Elect Joe Biden’s introduction of his “Justice League” – the Attorney General, Deputy and Assistants – brought a welcome, calming reassurance. As with his other teams – health and human services, national security, climate and environment – Biden’s Justice nominees “have the experience, judgment, and moral compass that these roles demand, as well as an abiding commitment to supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States,” Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris said.
Biden set aside discussing the calls to remove Trump using the 25th Amendment or impeaching him for a second time before the term ends at 12:01 pm on January 20, but used yesterday’s “unprecedented assault on our democracy,” the mob attack on the Capitol while both chambers of Congress were in the process of certifying Biden-Harris election incited by Trump, to reaffirm his commitment to restoring an independent judiciary, the rule of law, and equal justice for all – all of which were subverted by a dictator wannabe demanding loyalty.
Indeed, it was the reason Biden sought the presidency, after seeing the White Supremacists march in Charlottesville. He evoked that image – as well as the differences in how Black Lives Matter protesters were treated compared to the mob that invaded the Capitol Building, rampaging and ransacking it. “Not only did we see a failure to protect one of the three branches of our government, we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.”
Biden declared, “I made it clear from the moment I entered this race what I believed was at stake nothing less than who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and what we believe, what we will be. And at the center of that belief is one of the oldest principles this nation has long held — we are a government of laws — not people….
“The judiciary doesn’t serve the will of the president, or exist to protect him or her….Our president is not above the law. Justice serves the people — it doesn’t protect the powerful. And it is blind….
“I want it to be clear to those who lead the department and those who serve there. You don’t work for me. Your loyalty isn’t to me. It is to the law. To the Constitution. To the people of this nation. To guarantee justice.”
Here are Biden’s remarks, highlighted, and highlights from the nominees: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Yesterday was one of the darkest days in the history of our nation.
An unprecedented assault on our democracy.
An assault on the citadel of liberty, the United States Capitol itself.
An assault on the rule of law.
An assault on the most sacred of American undertakings: ratifying the will of the people
in choosing the leadership of their government.
We grieve the loss of life. We grieve the desecration of the people’s house.
But what we witnessed yesterday was not dissent. It was disorder.
It was not protest. It was chaos.
They weren’t protestors. Don’t dare call them protestors.
They were rioters, a mob.
It’s that basic and that simple.
And I wish we could say we couldn’t see it coming.
But that isn’t true. We could.
For the past four years we’ve had a president who has made his contempt for our democracy, our Constitution, and the rule of law clear in everything he has done.
He has unleashed an all-out assault on the institutions of our democracy.
And yesterday was but the culmination of that unrelenting attack.
He has attacked the free press who dared to question his power, repeatedly calling the free press the enemy of the people.
Language that has long been used by autocrats and dictators all over the world to hold on to power.
Language that is being used now by autocrats and dictators across the world, only this time with the imprimatur of the outgoing President of the United States.
He has attacked our intelligence services who dared to tell the American people the truth about the efforts of a foreign power to elect him four years ago, choosing instead to believe the word of Vladimir Putin over the word of those who had sworn their allegiance to this nation — many of whom had risked their lives in service in this nation.
He deployed the United States military, tear-gassing peaceful protestors in the pursuit of a photo opportunity in service of his reelection. Even holding the Bible upside down.
An action that led to an apology from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the outspoken denunciation of the use of the military for domestic political purposes from scores of former military leaders and Secretaries of Defense.
He thought he could stack the courts with friendly judges who would support him no matter what.
He went so far as to say he needed nine justices on the Supreme Court because he thought the election would end up in the Supreme Court and they would hand him the election.
And he was stunned, truly stunned, when the judges he appointed didn’t do his bidding, but instead acted with integrity, followed the Constitution, and upheld the rule of law.
Not just once or twice, or three times — but over 60 times.
In more than 60 cases, in state after state after state, and then at the Supreme Court judges, including people he considered quote “his” judges, “Trump judges” — the courts looked at the allegations Trump was making and determined they were without merit.
Nothing was judged to put the election in question or doubt.
You want to understand the importance of democratic institutions in this country?
Take a look at the judiciary in this nation.
Take a look at the pressure it was just subjected to by the sitting president of the United States.
At every level, it rose to the moment during this election.
Did its job.
Acted with complete fairness and impartiality.
With complete honor and integrity.
When history looks back at the moment we just passed through, it will say our democracy survived in no small part because of the men and women who represent the independent judiciary in this nation.
We owe them a deep, deep debt of gratitude.
And then there is his attack on the Department of Justice.
Treating the Attorney General as his personal lawyer and the department as his personal law firm.
Through it all, we would hear the same thing from this president — my generals, my judges, my Attorney General.
And then yesterday.
The culmination of the attack on our institutions of democracy.
This time the Congress itself.
Inciting a mob to attack the Capitol, to threaten the elected Representatives of the people of this nation and even the Vice President, to stop the United States Congress from ratifying the will of the people in a just-completed free and fair election.
Trying to use a mob to silence the voices of nearly 160 million Americans who summoned the courage in the face of a pandemic that threatened their health and their lives to cast their sacred ballot.
I made it clear from the moment I entered this race what I believed was at stake nothing less than who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and what we believe, what we will be.
And at the center of that belief is one of the oldest principles this nation has long held — we are a government of laws — not people.
I said it many times in the campaign.
Our democratic institutions are not relics of another age.
They are what set this nation apart.
They are the guardrails of our democracy.
They are why no president is a king.
No Congress is the House of Lords.
The judiciary doesn’t serve the will of the president, or exist to protect him or her.
We have three co-equal branches of government.
Our president is not above the law.
Justice serves the people — it doesn’t protect the powerful.
And it is blind.
What we saw yesterday in plain view was another violation of a fundamental tenet of this nation.
Not only did we see a failure to protect one of the three branches of our government, we also saw a clear failure to carry out equal justice.
No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protestors yesterday that they wouldn’t have been treated very differently than the mob that stormed the Capitol.
We all know that’s true. And that is totally unacceptable. And the American people saw it in plain view and I hope it sensitized them to what we have to do.
Not many people know it, but the reason the Department of Justice was formed in 1870 was to enforce the Civil Rights Amendments that grew out of the Civil War — the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.
To stand up to the Klan.
To take on domestic terrorism.
This original spirit must once again guide and animate its work.
So as we stand here today, we do so in the wake of yesterday’s events.
Events that could not more vividly demonstrate some of the most important work we have to do in this nation.
Committing ourselves to the rule of law in this nation.
Invigorating our democratic institutions.
Carrying out equal justice under the law in America.
There is no more important place for us to do this work than at the Department of Justice.
And there are no more important people to carry out this work than the people I am announcing today.
More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, and the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation.
I want it to be clear to those who lead the department and those who serve there.
You don’t work for me. Your loyalty isn’t to me.
It is to the law.
To the Constitution. To the people of this nation. To guarantee justice.
For Attorney General of the United States, I nominate Judge Merrick Garland.
One of the most respected jurists of our time.
Brilliant yet humble.
Distinguished yet modest.
Full of character and decency.
Supreme Court clerk.
Served in the Justice Department during the Carter, Bush 41, and Clinton Administrations,
where he embraced the Department’s core values of independence and integrity.
As federal prosecutor he took on terrorism and corruption and violent crime always with utmost professionalism and duty to the oath he swore.
Nominated by President Clinton to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the second most powerful court in America.
Throughout such a long and distinguished career, he has earned the praise and admiration of members of the bar and bench, and politicians of both parties.
And despite his busy schedule and prestigious position, he still makes time to volunteer
regularly tutoring students in Northeast D.C. as he has for more than 20 years.
This is about character.
It is no surprise why President Obama nominated Judge Garland to the Supreme Court.
He embodies honor, decency, integrity — fidelity to the rule of law and judicial independence.
It’s those same traits he will now bring as the Attorney General of the United States, not as the personal attorney to the President.
He will restore trust in the rule of law and equal justice under law.
I fully expect that he will receive a fair hearing and swift confirmation.
And once he is confirmed, I will move promptly to nominate his replacement on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and I expect that the distinguished nominee will receive a prompt and fair hearing as well.
“As everyone who watched yesterday’s events in Washington now understands — if they did not before — the Rule of Law is not just some lawyer’s turn-of-phrase. It is the very foundation of our democracy,” Garland said.
“The essence of the Rule of Law is that like cases are treated alike: That there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes; one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless; one rule for the rich and another for the poor — or different rules depending on one’s race or ethnicity.
“And the essence of its great corollary, Equal Justice Under Law, is that all citizens are protected in the exercise of their civil rights. …
“These principles — ensuring the Rule of Law and making real the promise of Equal Justice Under Law — are the great principles upon which the Department of Justice was founded and for which it must always stand.
“They echo today in the priorities that lie before us — from ensuring racial equity in our justice system to meeting the evolving threat of violent extremism.
“If confirmed, those are the principles to which I will be devoted as Attorney General.”
For Deputy Attorney General I nominate Lisa Monaco.
A fifteen-year veteran of the Department of Justice, Lisa knows the department inside and out.
She is a definition of what a public servant should be — decent, trusted, and honorable.
A top-flight prosecutor who took on public corruption, corporate fraud, and violent crime.
Chief of Staff to the Director of the FBI.
The first woman ever to be confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for National Security,
where she elevated cybersecurity to a top priority — which is even more consequential today.
And at the White House, she was the top homeland security and counterterrorism advisor to President Obama and me.
She coordinated our fight against Al-Qaeda and ISIL. She helped lead our response to the Ebola crisis.
And when the bombs went off at the finish line on Patriot’s Day in Boston, her hometown , she coordinated the federal government’s response with local and state law enforcement to get to the bottom of this horrible tragedy.
I know she will help restore the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice that she reveres.
“The soul of the Justice Department lives in the integrity of its career professionals, in the independence of its investigations and prosecutions, and in the principles it brings to bear as it stewards the ideal of justice in America,” Monaco said.
“Today, we are at another inflection point. Some of the challenges we face are familiar — racial inequality; the need for criminal justice reform; domestic terrorism and threats to public safety.
“Some of the tasks are enduring — like the importance of working closely with law enforcement to ensure public safety and build trust in our communities.
“Some of the challenges are evolving — like mounting cyber threats.
“I’m confident that the Department of Justice is up to all these challenges, but what is most critical in the days ahead is not a challenge at all — but an opportunity.
“A chance for this team and the career professionals who make up the Justice Department to reaffirm its norms and traditions, to do justice without fear or favor, to keep the American people safe and to do so always consistent with the rule of law.”
For Associate Attorney General, the number 3 job at the Department — I nominate Vanita Gupta.
One of the most respected civil rights lawyers in America.
Started her career at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Then on to the ACLU.
And then to the Justice Department during the Obama-Biden Administration where she led the Civil Rights Division.
At every step, with every case, she has fought for greater equity and to right the wrongs in our justice system where they existed.
And she has done so by bringing people together, earning praise from across the ideological spectrum for her approach to solving some of the thorniest problems we face.
During the Obama-Biden Administration, Vanita was put in charge of investigating abuse of power in police departments in Ferguson, Missouri, and other communities torn apart by acts of violence and racial injustice.
She helped institute common-sense police reforms to build greater equity, safety, and trust.
She was commended for her work both by law enforcement and by those advocating for changes in the criminal justice system.
That is a rare achievement — and it speaks volumes about her capacity to unite people in common purpose, which this is all about.
Born in Philadelphia and a proud daughter of immigrants from India, if confirmed, Vanita will be the first woman of color to serve as Associate Attorney General.
I am grateful that Vanita is leaving her current job leading one of the premier civil rights organizations in the world to answer the call to serve once again and ensure our justice system is even more fair and equitable.
There are many agencies in our federal government — but only one which bears the name of a value,” Gupta said.
By virtue of that name — that value of justice — we know the Department carries a unique charge and North Star.
At its best, it is the keeper of a sacred promise — the promise of equal justice for all.
That no one is above the law.
When this promise is pursued with vigor, it brings light to our nation and serves as a beacon to the world.
But when abandoned, we degrade our democracy and sow the division we’ve come to know all too well…
This moment demands bold leadership
The Department of Justice, as it has done throughout history, will have to uncover and reckon with hard truths; hold people, companies, and institutions accountable to our Constitution and laws;
drive change where there is injustice; and heal a nation starving for decency and hope.
Now is the time to ensure our economic system works for everyone, to protect the health and safety of the American people, and to harness all DOJ levers for civil rights, justice reform, and climate justice.
For Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, I nominate Kristen Clarke, who has also spent her career advocating for greater equity in the justice system.
A daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Kristen is also one of the most distinguished civil rights attorneys in America.
A proud native of Brooklyn, New York she began her legal career in the very same office she is now nominated to lead.
Her previous tenure with the Justice Department saw her take on some of the most complex civil rights cases — from voting rights and redistricting challenges to prosecuting hate crimes and human trafficking.
She has earned accolades throughout her career — including as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for her home state of New York, where she led the charge to end the school-to-prison pipeline and root out discrimination in housing and law enforcement.
She currently leads one of the nation’s top civil rights organizations, where she promotes greater equity in voting rights, in our education system, our housing system, our justice system, and so much more.
Now, she will return full circle to pursue that vital work where her career began.
The Civil Rights Division represents the moral center of the Department of Justice, and the heart of that fundamental American ideal, that we are created equal and deserve to be treated equally.
I am honored she accepted the call to return to make real that promise for all Americans.
“Not everyone is blessed with the opportunities I enjoyed,” Clarke said. “That awareness has animated my life’s work — it’s what brought me to the Department of Justice where I started my career — and it’s what brings me back for this homecoming today. ..The clarion call of equal justice under law is what binds us together as a nation.”
Biden said, “To each of you, thank you for your service and that of your families.
And to the American people, this is the team that will restore your trust and faith in our institutions of democracy.
One of the reasons I ran for president was when I saw those people coming out of the fields in Charlottesville, shouting hate, a young woman killed, and when asked, the President of the United States said there are good people on both sides.
That’s why I ran. There is no more important or heartfeld effort on my part than restoring the independence and integrity of our Justice Department.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops and those who have sworn to protect the American people.
New York State announced its plan to dramatically increase vaccination efforts, approving 3,762 providers to serve as vaccination sites. Currently, 636 locations have been activated.
By the end of this week, the state would have distributed 911,000 first doses for administration to eligible New Yorkers.
In an effort to take pre-emptive steps to ensure this network of sites does not become immediately overwhelmed once the vaccine is available to the general public, Governor Andrew Cuomo is encouraging essential worker groups such as police departments, fire departments, educators, and public transit organizations to begin developing plans for their workforce if possible. The more groups of essential workers able to receive vaccines through internal distribution plans, the more availability there will be for those New Yorkers seeking the vaccine through the “retail network,” he said.
To further bolster these plans, New York is continuing to move forward on a number of special efforts to ensure resources are in place to facilitate widespread vaccination, especially in underserved communities. Pop-up vaccination centers will be established to facilitate public vaccinations. The state is also identifying public facilities and convention centers to also be used as vaccination centers. This includes the Javits Center, as well as SUNY and CUNY facilities. The state is also actively recruiting retired nurses, doctors and pharmacists to support vaccine administrations.
At the same time, the Governor renewed his call on the federal government to test all travelers from outside the United States. Despite the fact that the highly transmissible UK strain has been identified in 33 countries, as well as here in the state of New York, the federal government has yet to learn from mistakes made in the spring and mandate testing for international travelers entering the country, he said.
“The vaccine is the weapon that will win this war and we must move quickly and efficiently to get New Yorkers vaccinated as soon they become eligible,” Governor Cuomo said.”All health care workers can now receive the vaccine and the state is working around the clock to ensure resources are in place as more and more members of the general public become eligible to receive it. While these efforts are underway, the UK strain of the virus remains highly problematic – it is here and it could complicate matters further, as it is much more transmissible. Despite all of this, the federal government continues its refusal to test all international travelers entering the country. Government is supposed to be competent, government leaders are supposed to be competent. We already saw this situation play out in the spring – have we learned nothing?”
New York is working around the clock to distribute vaccines to eligible groups as fairly and expeditiously as possible, he said. Work is also under way to prepare for widespread vaccination of the general public once allowable under state guidelines. As part of this work, New York has worked with the public and private sectors across the state to develop a ‘retail network’ of vaccination provider sites. Similar to operations for the annual distribution of the influenza vaccine and ongoing COVID-19 testing, these sites will help ensure access to the vaccine through multiple locations in each of the state’s 10 regions. The network includes pharmacies, federally-qualified health centers, local health departments, private urgent care clinics, private doctor networks, and other sites capable of vaccinations. More sites continue to be added to the network every day.
A breakdown of the different types of retail vaccination sites:
Number Enrolled to Administer Vaccine
Pharmacy – Chain
Long-Term Care /Congregate Living Facility
Federally Qualified Health Center
Community/Rural/Public Health Center & Clinic
The regional breakdown of sites:
Number of Sites Enrolled to Administer Vaccine
New York City
Central New York
Western New York
Already, 636 of these sites have been activated and are administering the vaccine to eligible New Yorkers. Those include:
Federally Qualified Health Centers
Urgent Care Clinics
Local Health Departments
A regional breakdown of activated sites:
Number of Sites
New York City
Central New York
Western New York
A main focus of these efforts is ensuring vaccine access in under-served communities and health care deserts. The state has already begun building Community Vaccination Kits and working with public housing officials, churches, and community centers to support these efforts and deploy kits to the appropriate locations. Each kit includes step-by-step instructions for how to set up a site, and critical supplies and equipment such as office supplies, workstation equipment, communications equipment, cleaning supplies, lighting equipment, PPE, crowd/traffic control equipment, vials, syringes, room dividers and privacy curtains.
President-Elect Joe Biden, in remarks that included a rebuke of the Trump Administration’s failure to achieve even a fraction (2 million) of the 20 million vaccinations promised by the end of 2020, outlined five things Americans need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and his administration’s plans to get COVID-19 under control:
1. Things are going to get worse before they get better, with nation on track to hit 400,000 dead by Inauguration Day, but tens of thousands of lives can be saved if people are vigilant.
2. “The Trump administration plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind.”
3. The Biden-Harris administration will spare no effort to provide vaccines, free, and stand up distribution system to deliver 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days, to “make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably, so every person who wants the vaccine can get it no matter the color of their skin or where they live.”
4. Will use the Defense Production Act to accelerate production of the materials needed for the vaccine. And massive public education campaign to show vaccines are safe – and equitable distribution
5. Remain vigilant. Will ask Americans to wear mask for first 100 days of his presidency, as part of his 100-day challenge; get Congress to fund COVID action plan for testing, PPE, vaccination program and so that K-8 schools can open safely
Here is a highlighted transcript of Biden’s remarks on Tuesday, December 29, from Wilmington, Delaware:
Vice President-elect Harris and I just received a briefing on COVID-19 by our team of experts.
As we end one of the most difficult years as a nation, I am optimistic about the future.
The vaccines that have been discovered and developed give us enormous hope.
Our economy is poised to come back, and come alive.
And I can see a return to normalcy in the next year.
I also see the incredible opportunities for our nation in the years ahead in job creation, in clean energy, racial equality, and so much more.
But I need to be honest.
The next few weeks and months are going to be a very tough period of time for our nation — maybe the toughest of the entire pandemic.
I know that’s hard to hear. But it’s the truth.
So, we need to steel our spines for what’s ahead.
We need to follow even more closely the recommendations to slow the spread of the virus.
And each of us needs to do what we can to protect ourselves, our families, and our fellow Americans.
We are going to get through this.
Brighter days are coming.
But it’s going to take all the grit and determination we have as Americans to get it done.
So today, I want to clear about five things every American should know about our efforts to contain COVID-19 and where the vaccine stands today
First — things will get worse before they get better.
In September, we passed the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths.
At the time, I warned that we’d hit 400,000 deaths before the end of the Trump Administration in January.
Critics said I was being too alarmist and negative.
But as I’ve said all along, I will tell it like it is when it comes to COVID.
And the reality is, it looks like we’ll hit that grim milestone.
We just crossed 330,000 deaths.
We’re averaging a daily death rate of nearly 2,200 people — which means we will lose tens of thousands of more lives in the months to come.
Hospitals are being stretched beyond capacity.
And that’s data before we see the impact of cases coming from the holidays.
People getting infected today don’t show up in case counts for weeks, and those who perish from the disease die weeks after exposure.
So we have to anticipate that infections over the holidays will produce soaring case counts in January and a soaring death toll into February.
Turning this around will take time. And we might not see improvement until well into March, as it will take time for our COVID response plan to begin to produce visible progress.
Second, the Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind.
We are grateful to the companies, doctors, scientists, researchers, and clinical trial participants, and Operation Warp Speed for developing the vaccines quickly.
But as I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should.
A few weeks ago the Trump Administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December.
With only a few days left in December, we have only vaccinated a few million so far.
At the pace the vaccination program is moving now, it would take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.
Which brings me to the third thing every American should know: the Biden-Harris Administration will spare no effort to make sure people are getting vaccinated.
I’ve laid out three challenges in our first 100 days.
One of them is ensuring that 100 million shots have been administered by the end of our first 100 days.
If Congress provides the funding, we would be able to meet this incredible goal.
It would take ramping up five to six times the current pace to 1 million shots a day.
But even with that improvement, even if we boost the speed of vaccinations to 1 million shots a day, it will still take months to have the majority of the country vaccinated.
I have directed my team to prepare a much more aggressive effort — with more federal involvement and leadership to get things back on track.
We will find ways to boost the pace of vaccinations.
But as Dr. Fauci and others have stated these past few days, this will all take more time than anyone would like – and more time than the promises from the Trump administration has suggested.
This will be the greatest operational challenge we have ever faced as a nation.
We will get it done.
But it’s going to take a vast new effort that is not yet underway.
And that gets to the fourth thing you should know: I will move Heaven and Earth to get us going in the right direction.
I will use my power under the Defense Production Act to order private industry to accelerate the making of materials needed for the vaccine.
Vice President-elect Harris and I have been speaking with county officials, mayors, and governors of both parties to speed up the distribution of the vaccine across the nation.
We are planning a whole-of-government effort.
We will work to set-up vaccination sites and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities.
We also know there is vaccine hesitancy in many communities, especially in Black, Latino, and Native American communities who have not always been treated with the dignity and honesty they deserve by the federal government and the scientific community throughout our history.
That’s why we will launch a massive public education campaign to increase vaccine acceptance.
We will do everything we can to show the vaccines are safe and critically important for one’s own health and that of their family and community.
That means we will also make sure the vaccine is distributed equitably, so every person who wants the vaccine can get it no matter the color of their skin or where they live.
And we’re going to ensure vaccinations are free of charge.
Fifth — while the pandemic rages on and as we increase the supply, distribution, and administration of the vaccine, we must remain vigilant.
As part of our 100-day challenge, I’ll be asking the American people to wear a mask for the first 100 days of my administration.
Not as a political statement, but as a patriotic duty.
Our Administration will require masks where we can for federal workers, in federal facilities, and on interstate travel like planes and trains.
And we’ve been working directly with county officials, mayors, and governors to implement mask mandates in their towns, cities, and states.
Masking has been a divisive issue in this country.
But COVID is a killer in red states and blue states alike.
So — I encourage all of you — wear a mask.
Encourage your family and friends to do the same.
It’s one of the easiest things we can do that will make a huge difference to save lives.
Another 100-day challenge is opening most of our K-8 schools by the end of our first 100 days in the spring.
But we can only do that if Congress provides the necessary funding so we can get schools, districts, communities, and states the resources they need for so many things that aren’t in their already tight budgets.
They need funding for testing to help reopen schools.
More funding for transportation so students can maintain social distancing on buses.
They need it for school buildings, for additional cleaning services, protective equipment, and ventilation systems.
This will require an additional tens of billions of dollars to get it done.
And Congress also needs to fund and provide more protective equipment for frontline health care workers who are still reusing masks and gowns.
And we need to scale up testing so anyone who needs one can get one.
After 10 months of the pandemic, we still don’t have enough testing.
That’s a travesty.
All of this — vaccinations, testing, protective gear — will require more funding from Congress, more than was just approved.
That is why I will propose a COVID action package early next year and challenge Congress to act on it quickly.
My ability to change the direction of the pandemic starts in three weeks.
But with thousands dying every day between now and then, let me conclude by discussing what needs to happen now.
I congratulate the bipartisan majority on passing and President Trump on signing the COVID relief bill.
It is a step in the right direction.
It will help people in need.
It will pay for some, but far from all of what we need to fix the COVID response.
It’s a down payment.
But now, with that done — I hope that the President will also clearly and unambiguously promote mask wearing.
I give former Governor Chris Christie credit. He and I disagree on most things.
But I’m thankful he’s now encouraging people to do the right thing and wear a mask for themselves, their loved ones, and their country.
I hope President Trump listens to him.
He can do it, too.
It would make a huge difference.
And I hope that the President will clearly and unambiguously urge all Americans to take the vaccine once it’s available.
I took it to instill public confidence in the vaccine.
Vice President-elect Harris took hers today to do the same.
When his doctors recommend it, President Trump should take it and instill that same degree of confidence.
And let me also say this to the American people: we can save 60,000-100,000 lives in the weeks and months ahead if we step up together.
Wear a mask. Stay socially distanced. Wash our hands. Avoid large indoor gatherings.
I know that these are often not easy asks.
You’re already making tremendous sacrifices every single day.
It’s hard on your lives, on your livelihoods, and on your kids and families.
It’s not small what’s being asked of you.
But we are in it together.
And the actions we take now will help us contain the pandemic and get us back to our lives and loved ones.
So, to the American people, I know there’s a lot that we have to do.
But I want you to know there’s also so much we can do.
We are the United States of America.
We’ve been through hard times before as a nation, and we’ll come through this as well.
President-Elect Joe Biden issued his sternest condemnation yet of the Trump Administration’s “roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget” of his transition team, which will endanger national security as the Biden administration takes over in January. “It’s nothing short of irresponsible.”
In remarks following briefings with his National Security team, Biden laid out the challenges he faces and a blueprint for his administration’s approach:
“Many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage. They’ve been hollowed out. In personnel. In capacity. In morale. In policy processes that have atrophied or been sidelined. In the disrepair of our alliances. In our absence from key institutions that matter to the welfare of the American people. In a general disengagement from the world.
“And all of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting. Rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is a key challenge that Vice President-elect Harris and I will face upon taking office — starting with our diplomacy.”
Issues ranging from climate change to global pandemic to fair trade and economic opportunity, he said, will depend on “the power of smart and effective American leadership” with partners, effectively doing a 180-degree turn from Trump’s “America First” policy.
It also means “modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past. And we have to be able to innovate and reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace.
Biden said he would work immediately to roll back the restrictions at the southern border, but cautioned that new processes and procedures will take time to implement. “We will have to have a process to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including the safety of asylum seekers hoping for a new start in the United States free from violence and persecution…
“We will champion liberty and democracy once more. We will reclaim our credibility to lead the free world. And we will, once again, lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Biden declared.
Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks on December 28, from Wilmington, Delaware:
Before I begin, I want to say a few brief words on the explosion that took place Friday in Nashville.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement are working around the clock to gain more information on motive and intent.
This bombing was a reminder of the destructive power that individuals and small groups can muster, and the need for continuing vigilance.
I want to thank the police officers who worked quickly to evacuate the area before the explosion occurred, and all the firefighters and first responders who jumped into action early on Christmas morning.
Their bravery and cool-headedness likely saved lives and prevented a worse outcome — and we are all grateful for that.
And I know the hearts of all Americans are with the people of Nashville as they rebuild and recover from this traumatic event.
Now, Vice President-elect Harris and I, along with our nominees to lead our national security institutions, have just been briefed by some of the professionals who have been conducting agency reviews as part of our transition.
This is a long-standing part of the orderly transition of power in American democracy.
We welcomed teams from the incoming Trump-Pence administration four years ago.
And over the past few weeks, teams of genuine policy and management experts, many with previous government experience, have gone into agencies across the government to conduct interviews with personnel to gather information and to assess the state of the federal government that we will shortly inherit.
These teams worked under incredibly difficult circumstances — taking COVID-19 precautions, and waiting weeks for ascertainment — but they have done an outstanding job.
From some agencies, our teams received exemplary cooperation from the career staff.
From others, most notably the Department of Defense, we encountered obstruction from the political leadership.
And the truth is: many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage.
They’ve been hollowed out.
In personnel. In capacity. In morale.
In policy processes that have atrophied or been sidelined.
In the disrepair of our alliances.
In our absence from key institutions that matter to the welfare of the American people.
In a general disengagement from the world.
And all of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.
Rebuilding the full set of our instruments of foreign policy and national security is a key challenge that Vice President-elect Harris and I will face upon taking office — starting with our diplomacy.
Today, we heard from the leaders of the State and USAID agency review teams about the critical early investments we are going to need to make in our diplomacy, in our development efforts, and in rebuilding our alliances to close ranks with our partners and bring to bear the full benefits of our shared strength for the American people.
When we consider the most daunting threats of our time, we know that meeting them requires American engagement and leadership, but also that none of them can be solved by America acting alone.
Take climate change for example.
The United States accounts for less than 15 percent of global carbon emissions.
But without a clear, coordinated, and committed approach from the other 85 percent of carbon emitters, the world will continue to warm, storms will continue to worsen, and climate change will continue to threaten lives and livelihoods, public health, and economies — and our very existence on our planet.
We’ve learned so painfully this year the cost of being unprepared for a pandemic that leaps borders and circles the globe.
If we aren’t investing with our partners around the world in strengthening health systems everywhere, we’re undermining our ability to permanently defeat COVID-19, and we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable to the next deadly epidemic.
And as we compete with China and hold China’s government accountable for its abuses on trade, technology, human rights, and other fronts, our position will be much stronger when we build coalitions of like-minded partners and allies to make common cause with us in defense of our shared interests and values.
We are almost 25 percent of the global economy on our own, but together with our democratic partners, we more than double our economic leverage.
On any issue that matters to the U.S.-China relationship — from pursuing a foreign policy for the middle class, including a trade and economic agenda that protects American workers, our intellectual property, and the environment — to ensuring security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, to championing human rights — we are stronger and more effective when we are flanked by nations that share our vision for the future of our world.
That’s how we multiply the impact of our efforts and make those efforts more sustainable.
That’s the power of smart and effective American leadership.
But right now, there’s an enormous vacuum.
We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of a world that has begun to find ways to work around us or without us.
We also heard from key leaders on our intelligence and defense review teams, including Stephanie O’Sullivan, former principal deputy director of national intelligence, and retired Army Lieutenant General Karen Gibson.
We talked about the different strategic challenges we will face from both Russia and China, and the reforms we must make to put ourselves in the strongest possible position to meet these challenges.
That includes modernizing our defense priorities to better deter aggression in the future, rather than continuing to over-invest in legacy systems designed to address the threats of the past.
And we have to be able to innovate and reimagine our defenses against growing threats in new realms like cyberspace.
We are still learning about the extent of the SolarWinds hack and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed.
As I said last week — this attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security.
And we need to close the gap between where our capabilities are now and where they need to be to better deter, detect, disrupt, and respond to these sorts of intrusions in the future.
This is an area where Republicans and Democrats are in agreement — and we should be able to work on a bipartisan basis to better secure the American people against malign cyber actors.
And right now, as our nation is in a period of transition, we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the handoff between administrations.
My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and of our operations to deter our enemies.
We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.
But — as I said at the beginning — we have encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget.
Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas.
It’s nothing short of irresponsible.
Finally, we spoke about the day-one challenges that we will need to address immediately, drawing on the skill sets of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
We were briefed on the steps needed to clean up the humanitarian disaster that the Trump Administration has systematically created on our southern border.
We will institute a humane and orderly response.
That means rebuilding the capacity we need to safely and quickly process asylum seekers without creating a near-term crisis in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
These are hard issues.
And the current administration has made them much harder by working to erode our capacity.
It’s going to take time to rebuild it.
And we’re going to work purposefully and diligently to responsibly roll back Trump’s restrictions starting on day one.
But it’s not as simple as throwing a switch to turn everything back on — especially amid a pandemic.
We will have to have a process to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including the safety of asylum seekers hoping for a new start in the United States free from violence and persecution.
Of course, an essential part of this will be managing the safe, equitable, and efficient distribution of vaccines to as many Americans as possible — as quickly as possible.
FEMA has an enormous part to play in this, and we heard from the former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate today.
We want to make sure that our administration is poised to make full use of FEMA’s domestic reach and capacity in managing our COVID response.
Finally, from every briefer, I was heartened to also hear about the incredible strength we will be inheriting — the career professionals working across these agencies.
They never stop doing their jobs and continue to serve our country day in and day out to keep their fellow Americans safe, just as they have always done.
These agencies are filled with patriots who have earned our respect, and who should never be treated as a political football.
I’m looking forward to the honor of working with them again, to asking for their advice and inputs to help shape the best possible policies for all Americans.
And I want to thank the incredible folks who have served on all the Agency Review Teams as part of this transition.
They’ve dedicated their time, energy, and vital expertise to help ensure Vice President-elect Harris and I are ready to hit the ground running.
As we look forward to the start of a new year, fresh with hope and the possibilities of better days to come, but clear-eyed about the challenges that will not disappear overnight, I want to reiterate my message to the American people:
We’ve overcome incredible challenges as a nation. And we will do so again.
We’ll do it by coming together.
By uniting after a year of pain and loss to heal, to rebuild, and to reclaim America’s place in the world.
This is the work that lies ahead of us, and I know we are up to the task.
We will champion liberty and democracy once more.
We will reclaim our credibility to lead the free world.
And we will, once again, lead not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.
As Donald Trump sits back, tweets inciting calls to violence over overturning the 2020 election and makes threats as millions face eviction in the middle of winter and a raging pandemic; hunger; poverty (8 million have fallen into poverty just since July); the number of COVID-19 deaths surpass 330,000; every four days, a million more are infected (double the number just from Election Day, likely having much to do with Trump super-spreader rallies and forced in-person voting amid his sabotage of absentee voting); and Trump’s inaction or actual veto of bills that would provide COVID-19 relief and help fund vaccinations, and would cause the entire government to shut down, President-Elect Joe Biden is calling his refusal to sign the bill, passed with overwhelming and bipartisan majority, an “abdication of responsibility” that has “devastating consequences.” That’s an understatement. Here is Biden’s statement:
It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority.
This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. Today, about 10 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance benefits. In just a few days, government funding will expire, putting vital services and paychecks for military personnel at risk. In less than a week, a moratorium on evictions expires, putting millions at risk of being forced from their homes over the holidays. Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. And while there is hope with the vaccines, we need funding to be able to distribute and administer them to millions of Americans, including frontline health care workers.
This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now. But it is also a first step and down payment on more action that we’ll need to take early in the new year to revive the economy and contain the pandemic — including meeting the dire need for funding to distribute and administer the vaccine and to increase our testing capacity.
In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for bipartisan action and compromise. I was heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together. President Trump should join them, and make sure millions of Americans can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads in this holiday season.
Each one a person of remarkable achievement, who lifted themselves up, sometimes from abject poverty; several were the first in their family to go to college, several were immigrants or children of immigrants, and one is a 35th generation Pueblo Indian, the first Native American to lead the Interior Department which historically ruled over Indian lands and routinely violated treaties. The nominees and appointees to key climate and environmental positions are the incarnation of President-Elect Joe Biden’s campaign promises, specifically, the first administration to elevating climate and environmental protection to this level and priority.
As Biden said, like his other cabinet picks, these climate, energy and environment nominees and appointees are brilliant, qualified and tested, and barrier-busting, precedent-breaking, historic, “a cabinet that looks like America, that taps into the best of America.”
The contrast to Trump, who declared climate change a “hoax” and whose priorities – to overturn the climate action and environmental protection initiatives of the Obama-Biden administration and elevate to top positions lobbyists and executives from gas, oil, and mining industries, people of privilege and wealth – could not be more stark.
Clean energy, resilient infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and development, are the building blocks to Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan that will employ millions in new jobs and enterprises and keep the United States competitive with the rest of the world. “When we think about climate change, we think jobs.”
Electric cars – incentivized with purchase for the federal fleet – will mean one million auto industry jobs; transforming the electricity sector to being carbon-free “will be the greatest spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st Century, not to mention the benefits to our health and our environment.”
He added, “And we are committed to facing climate change by delivering environmental justice.
“These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete, actionable solutions. And this team will get them done.”
Biden introduced his nominees:
Secretary of the Interior, Congresswoman Deb Haaland. Secretary of Energy, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality Michael Regan
Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, environmental lawyer Brenda Mallory
National Climate Advisor and head of the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
Deputy National Climate Advisor, Ali Zaidi.
These nominees – as throughout Biden’s cabinet – are notable for their story and the values their background forged.
Here are their remarks, highlighted: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Remarks by President-elect Joe Biden
Today I am pleased to announce the team that will lead my Administration’s ambitious plan to address an existential threat of our time — climate change.
Like their fellow-Cabinet nominees and appointments, members of our environment and energy team are brilliant, qualified and tested, and barrier-busting.
With today’s announcements there will be six African American members of our Cabinet.
After today, our Cabinet won’t just have one or two precedent-breaking appointments, but 12 —including today’s long-overdue appointment of the first Native American Cabinet Secretary.
Already there are more people of color in this Cabinet than any Cabinet ever. More women than ever.
The Biden-Harris Cabinet will be an historic Cabinet.
A Cabinet that looks like America.
That taps into the best of America.
That opens doors and includes the full range of talents we have in this nation.
And like the rest of the team, today’s nominees are ready on Day One, which is essential because we literally have no time to lose.
Just this year, wildfires burned more than 5 million acres in California, Washington, and across the West — an area roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey.
Intense and powerful hurricanes and tropical storms pummeled Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and across the Gulf and along the East Coast.
Record floods, hurricane-speed windstorms, and severe droughts ravaged the Midwest.
And more Americans see and feel the devastation in big cities and small towns, on coastlines and farmlands, in red states and blue states.
Billions of dollars in damage. Homes and memories washed away. Small businesses closed up for good. Crops and farmlands destroyed for the next generation family farmer.
Just last year, the Defense Department reported that climate change is a direct threat to more than two-thirds of the military’s operationally critical installations. And this could well be a conservative estimate.
And so many climate and health calamities are colliding at once.
It’s not just a pandemic that keeps people inside — it’s poor air quality.
Multiple studies have shown air pollution is associated with an increased risk of death from Covid-19.
Folks, we’re in a crisis.
Just like we need a unified national response to COVID-19, we need a unified national response to climate change.
We need to meet this moment with the urgency it demands as we would during any national emergency.
And from the crisis, we need to seize the opportunity to build back better than we were before. That’s what this Administration will do.
When we think about climate change, we think “jobs.” Good-paying union jobs.
A key plank of our Build Back Better economic plan is building a modern, climate-resilient infrastructure and clean energy future.
We can put millions of Americans to work modernizing water, transportation, and energy infrastructure to withstand the impacts of extreme weather.
When we think about renewable energy, we see American manufacturing, American workers, racing to lead the global market.
We see farmers making American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and gaining new sources of income in the process.
We see the small businesses and master electricians designing and installing innovative, energy-conserving buildings and homes. This will reduce electricity consumption and save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in energy costs.
And we will challenge everyone to step up.
We will bring America back into the Paris Agreement and put us back in the business of leading the world on climate change.
The current Administration reversed the Obama-Biden fuel-efficiency standards and picked Big Oil companies over the American workers. Our Administration will not only bring those standards back — we will set new, ambitious ones that our workers are ready to meet.
We see American workers building and installing 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country.
We see American consumers switching to electric vehicles through rebates and incentives.
Not only that — the federal government owns and maintains an enormous fleet of vehicles.
And we’re going to harness the purchasing power of our federal government to make sure we are buying clean, electric vehicles that are made and sourced by union workers right here in America.
All together, this will mean one million new jobs in the American auto industry.
And we’ll do another big thing: put us on a path of achieving a carbon-pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 that no future president can turn back.
Transforming the American electricity sector to produce power without carbon pollution will be the greatest spur to job creation and economic competitiveness in the 21st Century, not to mention the benefits to our health and our environment.
But we need to get to work right away.
We’ll need scientists at national labs, land-grant universities, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to innovate the technologies needed to generate, store, and transmit this clean electricity.
We’ll need engineers to design them and workers to manufacture them.
We’ll need ironworkers and welders to install them.
That’s how we’ll become the world’s largest exporter of these technologies, creating even more jobs.
We know how to do this.
The Obama-Biden Administration rescued the auto industry and helped them retool.
We made solar energy cost-competitive with traditional energy and weatherized more than a million homes.
The Recovery Act made record clean energy investments — $90 Billion — on everything from smart grid systems to clean energy manufacturing.
We will do it again — bigger, and faster, and better than before.
We’ll also build 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes and public housing units that will benefit our communities three-times over by alleviating the affordable housing crisis, by increasing energy efficiency, and by reducing the racial wealth gap linked to homeownership.
We’ll create more than a quarter-million jobs right away, to do things like working toward plugging the 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells that the EPA says pose an ongoing threat to the health and safety of our communities.
We’ll launch a new, modern-day Civilian Climate Corps to heal our public lands and make us less vulnerable to wildfires and floods.
And I believe that every American has a fundamental right to breathe clean air and drink clean water.
But I know that we haven’t fulfilled that right. No, we haven’t fulfilled that right for a generation or more in places like Cancer Alley in Louisiana or along the Route 9 corridor right here in Delaware.
Fulfilling this basic obligation to all Americans, especially in low-income white, Black, Brown, and Native American communities who too often don’t have clean air and clean water is not going to be easy.
But it is necessary. And we are committed to facing climate change by delivering environmental justice.
These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete, actionable solutions.
And this team will get them done.
For Secretary of the Interior, I nominate Congresswoman Deb Haaland.
She’s of the Pueblo people. A 35th-generation New Mexican.
She’s from a military family. Her mom, also Pueblo, served in the United States Navy. Her dad, Norwegian American, a Marine now buried in Arlington.
A single mom, she raised her child while running a small business.
When times were tough, they relied on food stamps.
Congresswoman Haaland graduated from law school and got involved in politics.
Two years ago, she became one of the first Native American women to serve in Congress.
She serves on the Armed Services Committee, and Committee on Natural Resources, and Chairs the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, where she’s earned the respect of a broad coalition of people — from tribal leaders to environmental groups to labor.
As the first Native American Cabinet Secretary in the history of the United States of America, she will be a true steward of our national parks, natural resources, and all of our lands.
The federal government has long broken promises to Native American tribes who have been on this land since time immemorial.
With her appointment, Congresswoman Haaland will help me strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship, and I am honored she accepted this critical role.
For Secretary of Energy, I nominate Jennifer Granholm.
The first woman to ever serve as Governor of Michigan.
In 2009, she faced the collapse of a defining industry of her state and our nation.
But I saw firsthand how she responded. She bet on the autoworkers. She bet on the promise of a clean energy future.
Her leadership helped rescue the American auto industry, helped save one million American jobs, and helped bring Detroit back.
Governor Granholm is just like the state she led so effectively for eight years: hard-working, resilient, and forward-thinking.
Someone not only capable of solving urgent problems, but someone who sees the opportunities of the future always with her eyes on the needs and aspirations of working people.
Throughout her career, she’s worked with states, cities, business, and labor to promote a clean energy future with new jobs, new industries, cleaner and more affordable energy.
Now, I’m asking her to bring that vision and faith in America to the Department of Energy.
For Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, I nominate Michael Regan.
A proud son of North Carolina, he turned a passion for exploring the woods and waters of the Inner Coastal Plain into a deep expertise in environmental science.
He got his start at the EPA serving in both Democratic and Republican Administrations, working on everything from reducing air pollution to improving energy efficiency.
He currently serves as Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, where he’s brought people together across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to help build a new clean energy economy, creating quality jobs, and confronting climate change.
He led the charge to clean up the Cape Fear River, contaminated for years by dangerous toxic chemicals.
And he created North Carolina’s first board of its kind to address environmental justice and equity.
It helps lift up frontline and fenceline communities who had carried the burdens of industrial progress for too long, without sharing in the benefits.
Michael would be the second African American official and first African American man to serve in this position.
He shares my belief in forging consensus and finding common purpose.
He is the leader who will reassert the EPA’s place as the world’s premier environmental protection agency that safeguards our planet, protects our lives, and strengthens our economy for all Americans.
For Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, I nominate Brenda Mallory.
An accomplished public servant. A brilliant environmental lawyer.
A daughter of a working-class family who has dedicated her life to solving the most complex environmental challenges facing America.
She has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, helping safeguard our public lands and helping communities manage their natural resources responsibly.
As Chair of CEQ, I’m asking her to coordinate our environmental efforts across the entire federal government to solve some of the most persistent environmental problems America faces today.
Brenda would be the first African American official to hold this critical position.
We are fortunate that one of the most widely respected environmental leaders in the country accepted the call to serve again.
To serve as the first-ever National Climate Advisor and lead the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, I appoint Gina McCarthy.
The fact I’ve asked a former EPA Administrator to take this role and lead this new office shows how serious I am.
Gina’s got more than 30 years of experience.
She’s a policy wonk and a people person.
A problem-solver and coalition builder.
As EPA Administrator, she was instrumental in carrying out the Obama-Biden Climate Action Plan.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Getting toxins out of the air we breathe. Conserving critical water sources.
She led our effort to help lower carbon emissions of existing power plants and power plants of the future.
And by doing the necessary work here at home, she helped us rally the world around the Paris Climate Accords.
Today, I’m asking her to take a singular focus on carrying out our ambitious climate agenda here at home, while my Special Envoy John Kerry leads our climate efforts around the world.
I’m grateful to work alongside her again.
And to serve as Deputy National Climate Advisor, I appoint Ali Zaidi.
He served as a top climate advisor to President Obama and me at the Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council.
He helped draft and implement our Climate Action Plan and secure the Paris Climate Agreement.
He currently serves as New York’s Deputy Secretary of Energy and Environment and the State’s Chairman of Climate Policy and Finance.
He’s helping to create jobs generating solar and wind power, jobs building electric charging stations and a more modern grid, bold climate action grounded in science, economics, and public health.
And, he’s an immigrant from Pakistan who grew up in the Rust Belt, outside Erie, Pennsylvania.
Ali knows we can beat the climate crisis with jobs.
He knows we can deliver environmental justice and revitalize communities too often overlooked and forgotten.
And every day he’ll walk into the White House, knowing the world is looking for America to lead.
To each of you, thank you for answering the call to serve.
To your families, thank you.
We could not do this without you or them.
To the career civil servants at these agencies, we look forward to working with you to once again carry out your department’s mission with honor and integrity.
And to the American people — yes, the goals I’ve laid today are bold.
The challenges ahead are daunting.
But I want you to know that we can do this.
We must do this.
And we will do this.
We are America.
And there’s nothing we can’t do when we work together.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops.
Remarks by Nominee for Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland
I’m proud to stand here — on the ancestral homelands of the Lenape Tribal Nation.
The president-elect and vice president-elect are committed to a diverse cabinet, and I’m honored and humbled to accept their nomination for Secretary of the Interior.
Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. My life has not been easy — I struggled with homelessness, relied on food stamps, and raised my child as a single mom.
These struggles give me perspective to help people succeed.
My grandparents — who were taken away from their families as children and sent to boarding school, in an effort to destroy their traditions and identities — maintained our culture.
This moment is profound when we consider the fact that a former Secretary of the Interior once proclaimed it his goal to, quote, ‘civilize or exterminate’ us. I’m a living testament to the failure of that horrific ideology.
I also stand on the shoulders of my ancestors, and all the people who have sacrificed so that I can be here.
My dad was a US Marine, and no matter where we were stationed, he made sure we spent time outdoors.
Time with my dad in the mountains or on the beach and time with my grandparents in the cornfield at Laguna taught me to respect the Earth and to value our resources. I carry those values with me everywhere. I’m a product of their resilience.
As our country faces the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice, the Interior Department has a role to address these challenges.
The president-elect’s goals are driven by justice and empowering communities who have shouldered the burdens of environmental negligence.
And we will ensure that the decisions at Interior will once again be driven by science.
We know that climate change can only be solved with participation of every department and of every community coming together in common purpose — this country can and will tackle this challenge.
The president-elect and vice president-elect know that issues under Interior’s jurisdiction aren’t simply about conservation — they’re woven in with justice, good jobs, and closing the racial, wealth, and health gaps.
This historic moment will not go by without the acknowledgment of the many people who have believed in me over the years and had the confidence in me for this position.
I’ll be fierce for all of us, for our planet, and all of our protected land.
I am honored and ready to serve.
Remarks by Nominee for Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect — thank you for your confidence.
I bring my gratitude, and that of the loves of my life: My best friend and husband Dan Mulhern, my glorious children and their equally magnificent spouses — Connor and Alexis, Cece and Damián, and Jack.
My commitment to clean energy was forged in the fire.
I was the Governor of Michigan when the Great Recession struck, pushing the auto industry — the lifeblood of our state — to the brink of collapse.
Workers were losing their jobs through no fault of their own.
Banks wouldn’t lend; families lost their homes; our unemployment rate shot up to 15 percent.
But then, thankfully, as now, “help was on the way.”
Joe Biden and the Obama administration worked with us to rescue the auto industry, save a million jobs, retool and electrify Detroit for the future, and diversify Michigan’s economy on the strength of a new sector: clean energy.
Today, in the midst of another harrowing crisis, clean energy remains one of the most promising economic growth sectors in the world.
Over the next two decades, countries will invest trillions of dollars in electric cars, solar panels, wind turbines, and energy-efficient appliances and buildings.
They’ll upgrade their electric grids using smart technology.
Millions of good-paying jobs will be created — but where will those jobs be?
In China, or other countries fighting tooth-and-nail to corner the clean energy market? Or here in America?
The path to building back better starts with building and deploying those products here, stamping them Made in America, and exporting them around the world.
We can win those jobs for American workers.
I know what those jobs will mean for families.
Though I’m proud to have been a U.S. citizen for 40 years, I arrived here as a Canadian immigrant at age four, brought by parents seeking opportunity.
My mom is a funny and fierce Irish/Welsh “Newfie” from Newfoundland, Canada — an island fishing province they call “The Rock.”
Like many women in her generation, she never went to college.
My dad died earlier this year of a cerebral hemorrhage.
He was born into extreme poverty, in a cabin in rural Canada with no running water.
My grandfather had immigrated from Sweden during the depression; unable to find a job to provide for his young family, he shot himself in desperation when my dad was three years old.
My grandmother became a single mom, with three young children, living in dire poverty.
My dad found work at a sawmill at 11. And after he married my mom, they came to America for better jobs.
Despite not having a college degree, my hard-working, gentle dad got the fair chance he was looking for in America — he started out as a bank teller, and retired as head of the bank.
It is because of my family’s journey — and my experience fighting for hardworking Michigan families — that I have become obsessed.
Obsessed with creating good-paying jobs in America — obsessed with seizing the opportunities of a clean energy future.
We can let other countries beat us to those opportunities, or we can get in the game.
I’m so ready, and honored, Coach, that you are putting me on the field with this amazing team — to help create those jobs in every pocket of this country, and especially in the hardest-hit places, for the people still waiting on the fair chance they need.
Thank you for tapping me to work on their behalf.
Remarks by Nominee for Administrator of the EPA, Michael Regan
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect: Thank you for this opportunity.
Growing up as a child, hunting and fishing with my father and grandfather in eastern North Carolina — I developed a deep love and respect for the outdoors and our natural resources.
But I also experienced respiratory issues that required me to use an inhaler on days when pollutants and allergens were especially bad.
I’ve always been curious about the connections between our environment and our health — how the world around us contributes to, or detracts from, our enjoyment of life.
So after completing my education in environmental science, there was one place in particular I wanted to work: the EPA.
When I started that first summer internship, I never imagined I would one day be nominated to lead the agency as its Administrator.
So this opportunity is a dream come true.
Since the start of my career, my goals have been the same: To safeguard our natural resources; to improve the quality of our air and water; to protect families and communities and help them seize the opportunities of a cleaner, healthier world.
Now, I’m honored to pursue those goals alongside leaders who understand what’s at stake.
When President-elect Biden called out the plight of fenceline communities during the campaign, he made it clear that we would no longer just deal with issues up to the fencelines of facilities — we would actually see the people on the other side of those fences.
He has already backed up that commitment by assembling a team that reflects America — and I’m proud to join the vice president-elect as a fellow HBCU graduate in this administration.
Together, this team will ensure that environmental justice and human impacts are top of mind as we tackle the tough issues.
After nearly a decade at the EPA, I know firsthand the remarkable dedication and talent of the career staff.
And as a state official, I understand how the actions of the EPA can help or hurt local efforts.
We are going to ensure that the EPA is once again a strong partner for the states — not a roadblock.
We will be driven by our conviction that every person in our great country has the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthier life no matter how much money they have in their pocket, the color of their skin, or what community they live in.
We will move with urgency on climate change, protecting our drinking water, and enacting an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities.
But we also know that these challenges can’t be solved by regulation alone.
And we know that environmental protection and economic prosperity are not mutually exclusive — they go hand in hand.
We need an all-hands-on-deck approach from industry to individuals, finding common ground to build back better for workers, for communities, for our economy, and for our planet.
And that’s what we’ll pursue together.
I look forward to continuing that work on behalf of the American people.
Remarks by Appointee for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory
Mr. President-elect — Madam Vice President-elect —I am honored and humbled by the trust you’ve placed in me, and I look forward to getting to work with this incredible team.
I am especially grateful for this chance to return to public service at a time when agency personnel are looking for optimism, and so many communities are struggling under the weight of persistent and interwoven crises.
I know first-hand the challenges that everyday people face when one unexpected illness or expense can upend the economic stability of a family.
I grew up in the working-class community of Waterbury, Connecticut — a town not so different from Scranton, Pennsylvania.
I know the faces of the marginalized, and I appreciate the challenges of urban pollution.
While the words climate change and environmental injustice were not part of my vernacular back then, the evidence of their impacts was all around.
In that setting, there was plenty of opportunity to work to make a difference in people’s lives.
For my parents, and particularly my father, dedication to tackling community challenges was vitally important.
Service, in all its forms, was essential.
They taught me to be a problem-solver — to recognize that each of us is blessed with different talents, and we are called to bring those gifts to bear wherever we are to work with anyone and everyone to make things better in the communities we share.
This has been a driving force and a guiding principle on my journey.
I earned a high school scholarship that changed the course of my life.
I became the first in my family to go to college, I attended law school, and at each stage, I was aware of how different the world I came from was from the one I was entering.
I didn’t set out to specialize in environmental issues, but once I started, I was always mindful of the practical implications of decisions.
As a staffer at the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights, I learned that environmental protection and ensuring the health and wellbeing of all communities had to be reconciled.
It is essential that we deploy smart and humane policy to help communities pull themselves back from the edge and improve the health, security, and prosperity of all their people.
The Build Back Better plan is poised to breathe new life into the Council on Environmental Quality.
CEQ will work with a broad range of partners on a broad range of issues, tackle the full breadth of climate change, preserve the natural treasures of our nation, center environmental justice, and help more communities overcome legacy environmental impacts.
I am grateful to the President-elect and the Vice President-elect for elevating this work and lifting up the communities where it will make a world of difference.
Thank you for this opportunity to serve.
Remarks by Appointee for White House Climate Coordinator, Gina McCarthy
Mr. President-elect — Madam Vice President-elect—
Thank you for the opportunity to serve — and to work alongside this talented team.
The issues I’ll be taking on in this role are personal to me, and have been for as long as I can remember.
As keen listeners may have already guessed, I grew up in and around Boston.
My Dad was a teacher in the Boston Schools for more than 40 years; my Mom waitressed in local doughnut shops.
Looking back, I guess we were a lower-middle-class family. Instead of expensive vacations, my sisters and I did our adventuring in our backyard, playing in the woods and around ponds in our hometown.
A beach day for our family was a swim in Boston Harbor.
That meant coming out of the water with oil and other things stuck to our skin — so we’d have to dry and clean ourselves at the same time.
That was back in the 60s, before the first Earth Day — not the Boston Harbor of today.
I can remember jumping up to close the windows in my classroom when the chemical stench from the nearby rubber factory would start wafting in.
That smell kept us from outside recess on more days than I cared to remember.
So I figured out early on that there was a connection between our environment and our health.
And that understanding drew me into a long career of public service helping families and communities like mine, and those facing much steeper and more insidious legacies of environmental harm to overcome the challenges that were holding them back.
Environmental protection is part of my moral fiber.
And I am proud of the progress we’ve made and the work I did in local and state governments as well as at EPA to make air and water cleaner, make communities safer and more livable, and begin to confront climate change.
I’m here today because climate change isn’t only a threat to the planet — it’s a threat to the health and wellbeing of people, and the precious natural resources we depend on.
Defeating that threat is the fight of our lifetimes.
And our success will require the engagement of every community and every sector in our nation, and every country across our world.
But the opportunities to act on climate right now fill me with hope, energy, and excitement.
We not only have the responsibility to meet this moment together, we have the capacity to meet this moment together.
The President-elect has put together the strongest climate plan ever raised to this level of leadership.
It rises to this incredible moment of opportunity to build back better for our health, for jobs, and for communities that have been systemically disadvantaged for years.
It will be my honor to help turn this plan into promises kept by marshaling every part of our government, working directly with communities, and harnessing the forces of science — and the values of environmental justice — to build a better future for my two—soon to be three—little grandchildren, and for generations of Americans to come.
Thank you for this opportunity to help put Americans back to work in innovative, good-paying jobs to improve the health of our communities and to help clear the path for people in every hometown in America to live brighter, cleaner, more vibrant lives.
Remarks by Appointee for Deputy White House Climate Coordinator, Ali Zaidi
Thank you President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris.
I am deeply honored to answer your call to serve this nation that I love, especially at this moment of consequence.
For our planet and the people who live here, the peril of the climate crisis is already evident.
But we can also see the promise in the jobs — casting and machining, installing and rewiring, pouring new foundations and building new industries.
And in the possibility of repairing communities hurt places where the pollution has been heavy, and opportunity has never quite reached.
Mr. President-elect & Madam Vice President-elect, you campaigned on delivering that promise by mounting a response equal to this existential threat, not only by listening to the science, but also by invigorating the economy. Revving up manufacturing and innovation, spurring good-paying union jobs and advancing justice — long overdue.
Leading by the example of America at its best.
When my parents moved from Pakistan to Pennsylvania, they brought two little kids — and a few suitcases of dreams.
Dreams their kids are living today:
Danish, my brother: a doctor on the frontlines of the COVID crisis, and me: moving to frontlines of the fight against climate change.
To be healthy, to have purpose, and to be able to give back — that is how our parents taught us to define the American Dream.
I am so grateful to be serving alongside the team you have assembled.
Grateful for Gina McCarthy, my guide and good friend, for the incredible and inspiring leaders on this stage, and for those with whom we’ll partner all across your administration.
This has been a trying year for all Americans — marked by so much loss. But throughout, you have been there for us.
And when the pandemic hit closer to home, you were there for me.
Mr. President-elect, that is who you are. A person of faith and family, decency and goodness.
Your leadership gives me hope.
My students, scientists imagining and inventing, give me hope
Young organizers, mobilizing and advocating, give me hope
And together, I know: We will meet this moment.
Remarks Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
A few months ago, as wildfires raged across the West, I traveled home to California.
What I saw on that trip — and so many others in recent years — was heartbreaking.
Homes and neighborhoods in ashes.
Firefighters battling fires, while their own homes burned to the ground.
Some of the most toxic air, anywhere in the world.
Two years ago, in 2018, when I visited communities like Paradise that had been devastated by wildfires, that year’s fire season was considered the worst in California’s history.
This fire season was even worse. The worst in California’s history — and America’s history.
And of course, fires are only one symptom of our growing climate crisis.
In recent years, families across the Midwest have experienced historic flooding, while families along our coasts have endured some of the most active hurricane seasons on record.
They only name a storm if it’s particularly dangerous. This year, we had more named storms than ever before.
Our climate crisis is not a partisan issue.
And it is not a hoax.
It is an existential threat to all of us, particularly poor communities and communities of color who bear the greatest risks from polluted air, polluted water, and a failing infrastructure.
Years ago, when I was District Attorney in San Francisco, I created the first environmental justice unit in the city — and one of the first in our country.
Because I believe that everyone has a right to breathe clean air and drink clean water.
So does the president-elect.
Part of the reason I was so proud to join him as his running mate was because he was proposing one of the most ambitious climate plans in history.
A plan to secure carbon-pollution free electricity by 2035.
A plan to achieve net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
A plan to invest in a clean energy future, and create millions of good-paying, union jobs, along the way.
And the team that President-elect Biden and I are announcing today will help make that plan a reality.
They are some of our country’s most seasoned public servants and climate experts.
They have experience mastering the most effective ways to get things done when it comes to climate change.
They recognize the importance of bringing the private sector and organized labor together with government to meet this challenge, and confront this crisis head-on with our allies and partners around the world.
And they are compassionate leaders who understand that, ultimately, addressing climate change is about building safer communities, and healthier communities, and thriving communities, for all Americans.
These public servants reflect the very best of America.And they are the team we need to meet this urgent challenge.
In his 2015 encyclical, the Holy Father Pope Francis wrote — quote: “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.”
Starting on January 20th, we will work to heed those words and come together, here in our country and around the world, to build and protect our common home for generations to come.
Joe Biden officially became President-Elect with the conclusion of the Electoral College vote cementing Joe Biden’s victory with 306 votes to Donald Trump’s 232. After weeks of keeping silent as the Trump campaign brought 60 lawsuits in the hopes of the Supreme Court ultimately declaring Trump the winner, Biden delivered a rebuke of the efforts by Trump and the Republicans to overturn the election, as notable for the most votes cast in history and the most votes won by a candidate in history, by disenfranchising millions of voters, mostly Black, but declared democracy “resilient, true and strong.”
“In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them,” Biden declared.
He attacked the unprecedented, relentless but baseless court challenges, culminating in Texas seeking to overturn the results in four swing states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia to “wipe out the votes of more than 20 million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.
“It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution. Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort…
“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.”
Here is a highlighted transcript of his remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Good evening, my fellow Americans.
Over the past few weeks, officials in each state, commonwealth, and district, without regard to party or political preference have certified their winning candidate.
Today, the members of the Electoral College representing the certified winner, cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States in an act just as old as our nation itself.
And once again in America, the rule of law, our Constitution, and the will of the people have prevailed.
Our democracy — pushed, tested, threatened — proved to be resilient, true, and strong.
The Electoral College votes which occurred today reflect the fact that even in the face of a public health crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes, the people voted.
They voted in record numbers. More Americans voted this year than have ever voted in the history of the United States of America. Over 155 million Americans were determined to have their voices heard and their votes counted.
At the start of the pandemic crisis, many were wondering how many Americans would vote at all. But those fears proved to be unfounded.
We saw something very few predicted or even thought possible — the biggest voter turnout ever in the history of the United States of America.
Numbers so big that this election now ranks as the clearest demonstration of the true will of the American people — one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country.
It should be celebrated, not attacked.
More than 81 million of those votes were cast for me and Vice President-elect Harris.
This too is a record number. More votes than any ticket has received in the history of America.
It represented a winning margin of more than 7 million votes over the number of votes cast for President Trump and Vice President Pence.
Altogether, Vice President-elect Harris and I earned 306 electoral votes — well exceeding the 270 electoral votes needed to secure victory.
306 electoral votes is the same number of electoral votes Donald Trump and Mike Pence received in 2016.
At that time, President Trump called his Electoral College tally a landslide.
By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then.
And I respectfully suggest they do so now.
If anyone didn’t know it before, they know it now.
What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy.
The right to be heard.
To have your vote counted.
To choose the leaders of this nation.
To govern ourselves.
In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant power to them.
The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.
And as the people kept it aflame, so, too did courageous state and local officials and election workers.
American democracy works because Americans make it work at the local level.
One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was these everyday Americans — our friends and neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats and Republicans and Independents — demonstrating absolute courage. They showed a deep and unwavering faith in and a commitment to the law.
They did their duty in the face of a pandemic.
And then they could not and would not give credence to what they knew was not true.
They knew the elections they oversaw were honest and free and fair.
They saw it with their own eyes.
And they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different.
It was truly remarkable because so many of these patriotic Americans were subjected to so much: enormous political pressure, verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence.
While we all wish that our fellow Americans in these positions will always show such courage and commitment to free and fair elections, I hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election.
It is unconscionable.
We owe these public servants a debt of gratitude. They didn’t seek the spotlight, and our democracy survived because of them.
Which is proof once more that it’s the everyday American — infused with honor and character and decency — that is the heart of this nation.
And in this election, their integrity was matched by the strength, independence, and the integrity of our judicial system.
In America, when questions are raised about the legitimacy of any election, those questions are resolved through a legal process.
And that is precisely what happened here.
The Trump campaign brought dozens and dozens and dozens of legal challenges to test the results.
They were heard. And they were found to be without merit.
Time and again, President Trump’s lawyers presented their arguments to state officials, state legislatures, state and federal courts, and ultimately to the United States Supreme Court, twice.
They were heard by more than 80 judges across the country.
And in every case, no cause or evidence was found to reverse or question or dispute the results.
A few states went to recounts. All of the counts were confirmed.
The results in Georgia were counted three times. It did not change the outcome.
The recount conducted in Wisconsin actually saw our margin grow.
The margin we had in Michigan was fourteen times the margin President Trump won the state by four years ago.
Our margin in Pennsylvania was nearly twice the size of President Trump’s margin four years ago.
And yet none of this has stopped baseless claims about the legitimacy of the results.
Even more stunning, 17 Republican Attorneys General and 126 Republican Members of Congress actually signed on to a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas. It asked the United States Supreme Court to reject the certified vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
This legal maneuver was an effort by elected officials in one group of states to try to get the Supreme Court to wipe out the votes of more than twenty million Americans in other states and to hand the presidency to a candidate who lost the Electoral College, lost the popular vote, and lost each and every one of the states whose votes they were trying to reverse.
It’s a position so extreme we’ve never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution.
Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court immediately and completely rejected this effort.
The Court sent a clear signal to President Trump and his allies that they would be no part of this unprecedented assault on our democracy.
Every avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results.
He took full advantage of each and every one of these avenues.
President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take.
He took his case to Republican Governors and Republican Secretaries of State. To Republican state legislatures. To Republican-appointed judges at every level.
And in a case decided after the Supreme Court’s latest rejection, a judge appointed by President Trump wrote: “This court has allowed the plaintiff the chance to make his case, and he has lost on the merits.”
Even President Trump’s own cybersecurity chief overseeing our elections said it was the most secure in American history.
Let me say it again, his own cybersecurity chief overseeing this election said it was the most secure in American history.
Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy — even when we find those results hard to accept.
But that is the obligation of those who have taken a sworn duty to uphold our Constitution.
Four years ago, as the sitting Vice President of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes that elected Donald Trump.
I did my job.
And I am pleased — but not surprised — that a number of my former Republican colleagues in the Senate have acknowledged the results of the Electoral College.
I thank them. I am convinced we can work together for the good of the nation.
That is the duty owed to the people, to our Constitution, and to history.
In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed.
We the People voted.
Faith in our institutions held.
The integrity of our elections remains intact.
Now it is time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history.
To unite. To heal.
As I said through this campaign, I will be a president for all Americans.
I will work just as hard for those of you who didn’t vote for me, as I will for those who did.
There is urgent work in front of us all.
Getting the pandemic under control and getting the nation vaccinated against this virus.
Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than ever.
In doing so, we need to work together, give each other a chance, and lower the temperature.
And most of all, we need to stand in solidarity as fellow Americans. To see each other, our pains, our struggles, our hopes, our dreams.
We are a great nation.
We are a good people.
We may come from different places and hold different beliefs, but we share a love for this country. A belief in its limitless possibilities.
For we, the United States of America, have always set the example for the world for the peaceful transition of power.
We will do so again.
I know the task before us will not be easy.
It’s tempered by the pain so many of us are feeling.
Today, our nation passed a grim milestone, 300,000 deaths due to this virus.
My heart goes out to all of you in this dark winter of the pandemic about to spend the holidays and the new year with a black hole in your hearts and without the ones you love by your side.
My heart goes out to all of you who have fallen on hard times through no fault of your own, unable to sleep at night, weighed down with the worry of what tomorrow will bring for you and for your family.
But we have faced difficult times before in our history.
And I know we will get through this one, together.
And so, as we start the hard work to be done, may this moment give us the strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away.
And as in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith, where there is darkness, light.
This is who we are as a nation.
This is the America we love.
And that is the America we will be.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops and all those who stand watch over our democracy.
FDA Expected to Authorize Pfizer Vaccine This Week; New York Could Receive Initial Allocation of 170,000 Doses Beginning this Weekend
Nursing Home Residents, Nursing Home Staff and ‘High Risk’ Hospital Workers Prioritized First
90 Cold Storage Sites Identified Across the State to Receive and Store Vaccines
New York National Guard Selected by Department of Defense to Participate in One of 16 Pilot Programs Aimed at Vaccinating Military Personnel
With the FDA expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo detailed plan for distributing what is expected to be an initial allocation of 170,000 vaccines as soon as this weekend.
The state’s vaccination distribution effort will focus on battling skepticism, include outreach to Black, Brown and poor communities, as well as expedited distribution and administration.
“Distributing the vaccine is a massive undertaking. I think frankly, people have not focused enough on the extent of what this undertaking means. I can’t think of a government operation that has been commenced that is more difficult and intricate than what governments will be asked to do here,” Governor Cuomo said. “The way the vaccine is going to work is the federal government will be responsible for the procurement and the distribution. The military is doing the transportation with private companies, and they will send it where we ask them to send it. We then set the priorities for not only where it goes, but who gets it. The first allocation is for nursing home residents, nursing home staff and high-risk health care workers. We’ve identified 90 regional centers that can keep the vaccine at the required temperature and they’ll act as distribution centers for that region. Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to be approved by the FDA tomorrow. Immediately after that, our New York State panel will convene and review and approve it. They’ve already been speaking to the FDA about the process.”
As outlined in New York’s vaccination program, high-risk healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff are prioritized first to receive the vaccine, followed by other long-term and congregate care staff and residents and EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population, starting with those who are at highest risk, will be vaccinated after these initial priority groups.
New York has opted into the federal government’s nursing home vaccination program. Under the federal program, employees of CVS and Walgreens will vaccinate residents and staff in these facilities, much like the do for the flu vaccine. New York State will issue guidance for hospitals to select which patient-facing staff should be prioritized as “high-risk” in line with state rules.
If authorized by the FDA, the first delivery of Pfizer vaccines for the federal nursing home vaccination program could begin arriving next week, with the federal program slated to begin on December 21. New York is dedicating a portion of its initial allotment of 170,000 doses to this program. Portions of future state allocations will also be used to help complete the program and ensure all residents and staff are vaccinated.
‘High risk’ hospital workers eligible to receive a vaccination from the state’s initial allotment include emergency room workers, ICU staff and pulmonary department staff. As part of the effort to vaccinate ‘high risk’ hospital staff, the state has identified 90 locations across the state with requisite cold storage capabilities and those sites will receive enough doses for approximately 90,000 patient-facing hospital staff, or 40 percent of the entire patient-facing hospital workforce. The state expects all ‘high risk’ hospital staff will receive a vaccine by the end of week two. Staff at every hospital in New York State, regardless of storage capabilities, will have access to the first allocation of a vaccine.
The vaccine will be allocated on a regional basis. Regional estimated distributions are as follows:
New York City -72,000
Long Island – 26,500
Mid–Hudson – 19,200
Capital Region – 7,850
North Country – 3,700
Mohawk Valley – 4,200
Central New York – 6,400
Southern Tier – 4,500
Finger Lakes – 11,150
Western New York – 14,500
Following the vaccination of ‘high risk’ health care workers, the priority will shift to all long-term and congregate care residents and staff, EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population will follow those groups, and those with the highest risk will be prioritized.
Additionally, the New York National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as one of 16 pilot programs across the nation to be part of the limited distribution of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to military personnel. Members of the New York Army and Air National Guard who serve as part of the state’s COVID response efforts will be eligible for the vaccine.
In his daily update, Cuomo said, “New York expects the initial allocation of 170,000 doses. The federal government is doing the allocation based on state population. Again, they distribute it to the state, the state then turns around and does an allocation within the state. It could arrive as soon as this weekend. That assumes the FDA does act right away. The FDA does approve it and the military turns around and ships it immediately. It could actually be coming this weekend. Further allocations will be in the following weeks.
“Our state priority: Nursing home residents first, nursing home staff. There was a discussion about if you do the residents or do you do the staff. New York, we decided to do both residents and the nursing home staff. Then you go to high-risk hospital workers. We have about 700,000 hospital workers in this state so its’s a very large population. We’ll prioritize the high-risk hospital workers within that overall health care population. We have rules that we have established that we will send to hospitals about what is a quote, unquote high-risk health care worker. The hospitals will select the actual individuals who will get the first vaccines within that guidance. Emergency room workers, ICU staff, pulmonary department staff.
“The allocation by region, again, this is based on number of nursing home residents, number of nursing home staff and number of high-risk health care workers. The 90 locations across the state that can provide the cold storage will receive enough doses for roughly 90,000 patient-facing hospital staff. That is 40 percent of the total hospital patient-facing workforce of 225. The 225,000 is a subset of the overall 700,000, obviously. By the end of week two, if all goes well and the federal government sticks to the schedule, we expect all high-risk staff will receive the vaccination. Staff at every hospital will have access to the allocation, even if their hospital doesn’t have this cold storage capacity. They will have access to the vaccine by a hospital in their region that does have that storage capacity. After we take care of all the high-risk healthcare workers, we’ll then move to all long-term and congregate care staff and residents. NEMS and other healthcare workers and then essential workers, general population, starting with those who have the highest risk.
“The federal government offered a program that New York State opted into, whereby pharmacies will do the vaccinations in nursing homes, which will take a burden off the nursing home staff, and New York has opted into that program. It’s run by the federal government, but basically they subcontract with private companies to do the vaccinations in nursing homes. Flu vaccine we do this way. New York by participating in that program, we provide part of our allocation to that program, so we actually have enough vaccinations to cover all residents. Part of the future allocations will ensure enough doses to make sure we complete that program. Completion is all nursing home residents and staff.
“We expect deliveries to begin next week. The federal administration says they’re going to start by 12/21. New York is dedicating part of our initial allocation to the program, but we do expect to have enough to cover all residents and all staff. The staff is actually vaccinated on a rolling basis to make sure they have staff that’s receiving the vaccine and staff that’s working at all times.
We’re also pleased that the New York National Guard has been selected by the Department of Defense as a pilot program where they will vaccinate people from the National Guard who have been working on our COVID-19 task force. And New York is pleased to participate in that. And the National Guard who have been doing a phenomenal job for the past nine months as we’ve worked through this barrage, they’ll be eligible for the vaccine also.
“The fairness of the vaccine is paramount, and I mentioned it before, but we have to make sure this nation understands that we can’t make the same mistake twice. Death rate among Blacks, twice what the death rate among whites is from COVID. Death rate among Latinos, one and a half times the death rate among whites. COVID testing, fewer tests taken in the Black and Latino and poor communities. It was just a manifestation of the disparity in healthcare, and it has to be corrected during the vaccination program. we have to get into public housing. We have to partner with Black churches and Latino churches, community groups. This has to be a fair distribution, and New York will lead the way. We’ve made these concerns known to HHS, I’ve sent letters, I’ve done speeches, I’m working with civil rights groups across the state. Made these points to Congress on several occasions, we’re working with the NAACP, Mr. Johnson, we’re working with the Urban League, Mayor Marc Morial. But this is a point that we have to bring home and we have to be successful.
“We do have good news that we waged a similar effort on the rules for vaccinations for undocumented people. The way the federal government constructed the program, basically they wanted the states to collect social security numbers, passport numbers or driver’s license numbers for anybody vaccinated. These are all bells for people who are undocumented, alarm bells. And it sounded like you were trying to use the vaccination to identify undocumented people. We have gone through this with the federal government at length wit the trusted traveler program previously. If undocumented people don’t get vaccinated, it compromises their health and it compromises the whole program. again, the program only works if you hit a critical mass of the population. If you say, well, the undocumenteds we’re going to exclude practically because they don’t come in and participate, you have 50 percent of the population that’s skeptical, if we’re not going to reach out to the Black, Latino and poor communities, it’s never going to be a success. So, we raised this point again. We did letters. I did speeches. I’ve spoken out publicly and HHS has agreed. The CDC specifically has agreed that the State will not send individual data identifying a person in a way that could be used to document citizenship or deportation, et cetera.
“We insisted on that in what’s called the data-sharing agreement, data use agreement, and the CDC agreed. So, that is a better vaccination program for this country and for this state. It took a lot of work, but I want to congratulate all the advocates and people who stepped up and spoke up, because it was a good service.”
President-Elect Joe Biden introduced the individuals he will nominate to key health and COVID positions in remarks in Wilmington, DE, and declared three key actions he would take in the first 100 days of his administration to turn around the skyrocketing rates of coronavirus sickness, hospitalizations and deaths: promote masking, facilitate vaccinations, and opening schools.
The key health and COVID members – widely hailed for their expertise and accomplishments – include:
Secretary of Health and Human Services: Xavier Becerra
Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team: Jeff Zients
Surgeon General of the United States: Dr. Vivek Murthy
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dr. Rochelle Walensky
COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair: Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith
Head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor on COVID-19: Dr. Anthony Fauci
Here are remarks, as prepared for delivery, highlighted:
President-Elect Joe Biden
Today, I am announcing our health care and COVID team at a critical time, as we near the end of one of the toughest years we’ve faced as a nation.
More than 285,000 Americans are dead because of COVID-19 — and counting.
Last week, COVID-19 was the number one cause of death in America.
For Black, Latino, and Native Americans — who are nearly three times as likely to die from it — COVID-19 is a mass casualty event.
For families and friends left behind, it’s a gaping hole in your heart that will never fully heal.
And as a country, we’ve been living with this pandemic for so long that we’re at risk of becoming numb to its toll on us.
We’re resigned to feel there is nothing we can do. That we can’t trust one another. That we must accept the death, the pain, and the sorrow.
We are in the midst of this deadly pandemic that has infected almost 15 million Americans — one out of every 22 of our people — often with devastating consequences to their health.
And at this very moment, what is the outgoing Administration asking the Supreme Court of the United States to do? To repeal in its entirety the Affordable Care Act.!
A law that’s on the frontlines against the pandemic.
That protects more than 100 million Americans who live with pre-existing conditions — which now includes lung scarring and heart damage from COVID-19.
That provides coverage to more than 20 million Americans who get the care they need if they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19.
The law that fulfills our moral obligation that, here in America, health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the few.
But I know that out of our collective pain, we will find our collective purpose — to control the pandemic, to save lives, and to heal as a nation.
Today, I am pleased to announce the team that will do just that.
It’s a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields. Crisis-tested. Defined by a deep sense of duty, honor, and patriotism.
They are ready on Day One to spare no effort and get the pandemic under control, so we can get back to work, back to our lives, and back to our loved ones.
They will lead the COVID-19 response across our government to accelerate testing, fix our supply chain, and distribute the vaccine.
They will work with my economic team — because controlling the pandemic, delivering better health care, and reviving the economy go hand in hand.
They will work with my foreign policy and national security team — because we can only beat this virus if we beat it everywhere.
And today I am announcing that — in consultation with Dr. Tony Fauci — we’ve developed the first three objectives and new initiatives that I am asking this team to complete during my first 100 days in office.
My first 100 days won’t end COVID-19. I cannot promise that. We did not get into this mess quickly, and it’s going to take time to fix.
But I am convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.
First, my 100 day masking plan.
It starts with my signing an order on Day One to require masks where I can — like federal buildings and interstate travel on planes, trains, and buses.
I’ll be working with governors and mayors to do the same in states and cities.
We are going to require masks wherever possible, but this goes beyond government action.
And so, as a new President, I’m going to speak directly to the American people.
We need your help. Wear a mask for 100 days.
It’s the easiest thing you can do to reduce COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Help yourself, your family, your community. Whatever your politics or point of view — mask up for 100 days.
100 days to make a difference.
It’s not a political statement — it’s a patriotic act.
It won’t be the end of our efforts. But it’s a necessary and easy start.
Second, this team will help get at least 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots into the arms of Americans in 100 days.
We will follow the guidance of scientists and get vaccines to those most at-risk.
That includes health care personnel and people in long-term care; and, as soon as possible, that will include educators.
This will be the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history. I credit everyone who has gotten us to this point, but developing the vaccine is one herculean task.
Distributing it is another.
And vaccines in a vial only work if they are injected into the arms of people, especially those most at risk.
This will be one of the hardest and most costly operational challenges in our history.
We’re going to need Congress to fully fund vaccine distribution to all corners of our country.
I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts in Congress around a $900 billion economic relief package, which I’ve said is critical now, but this package is only a start for more action early next year.
We must also focus significant resources on the direct public health response to COVID-19.
Our preliminary review of the Trump Administration’s vaccine distribution plan confirms media reports.
Without urgent action this month by Congress to put sufficient resources into vaccine distribution and manufacturing — which the bipartisan group is working on — there is a real chance that, after an early round of vaccinations, the effort will slow and stall.
Let me repeat: We need Congress to finish the bipartisan work underway now or millions of Americans may wait months longer — months longer — than they otherwise would have to to get their vaccinations.
And then we will need additional action next year to fund the rest of our distribution efforts.
We also need the Trump Administration to act now to purchase the doses it has negotiated with Pfizer and Moderna and to work swiftly to scale manufacturing for the U.S. population and the world.
This can be fixed.
If it does, my team will be able to get at least 100 million vaccinations done in my first 100 days.
Third, it should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school.
If Congress provides the funding we need to protect students, educators, and staff, and if states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days.
That’s right, we will look to have most of the schools open in 100 days if Congress provides the funding we need.
Masking. Vaccinations. Opening schools.
These are three key goals for my first 100 days.
But we will still have much to do in the year ahead. And sadly, much difficulty, too. We will be far, far from done.
Yet, it is possible that after 100 days, we will be much further along in the fight against the pandemic.
And I’m grateful for the members of my core COVID team, that I will now introduce, to lead the way.
For Secretary of Health and Human Services, I nominate Xavier Becerra.
He’s currently Attorney General of California, leading the second largest Justice Department in America — only behind the United States Department of Justice.
For nearly 25 years before that, he was a Congressman representing Los Angeles, one of America’s largest and most diverse cities.
Xavier spent his career fighting to expand access to health care, reduce racial health disparities, protect the Affordable Care Act, and take on powerful special interests who prey on and profit off people’s health — from opioid manufacturers to Big Tobacco.
During the pandemic, he’s protected the safety of frontline healthcare workers, rooted out fraud from bad actors taking advantage of people, and stood up for homeowners trying to pay their mortgage during the devastating economic crisis.
And as HHS Secretary, he will skillfully oversee the CDC and FDA, Medicare and Medicaid.
No matter what happens in the Supreme Court, he will lead our efforts to build on the Affordable Care Act.
He’ll work to dramatically expand coverage and take bold steps to lower health care and prescription drug costs.
Xavier is the key leader who will lead the key agency charged with protecting the health and wellness of the American people.
He will also be the first Latino leading HHS, a son from a working-class immigrant family that came from Mexico.
A true public servant who has dedicated his career in service to the people, and in service to this country that we all love.
To serve as the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response Team, I’m turning to a world-class manager and leader, Jeff Zients.
I’ve known Jeff for a long time — from the first and last days of the Obama-Biden White House, and throughout the campaign, and now the transition.
There’s no one else you want to help manage some of the most consequential and complex priorities of a country.
Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama.
Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
He was there during the Great Recession, as we went from crisis to recovery to resurgence over eight years.
He was there to lead the team and help implement the Affordable Care Act — to get HealthCare.gov up and working at a critical moment. That was a monumental feat that required vision, patience, and fortitude and expertise.
Well-respected across the aisle, and around the country from business and labor leaders to entrepreneurs and educators.
Chairman of the Board of Children’s National Medical Center, one of the world’s top children’s hospitals.
Jeff knows how to build and lead a team. How to identify and solve problems.
And how to fully mobilize the federal government on behalf of the health, safety, and prosperity of the American people.
For Surgeon General of the United States, I nominate Dr. Vivek Murthy.
A renowned physician and research scientist. A trusted national leader on health care, and for me, a trusted advisor during this campaign and transition.
This will be his second time serving as America’s Doctor, having served in this role under President Obama.
During his tenure, he took on some of the most pressing public health issues we face — from the opioid crisis to threats to America’s mental health.
I’ve asked Dr. Murthy to serve again as Surgeon General — but with expanded responsibilities.
He will be a key public voice on our COVID response, to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine.
But he will also be a key advisor to me and help lead an all-government approach to broader public health issues — mental health, addiction and substance use disorders, social and environmental determinants of health, and so much more.
Above all, he will help restore faith in this country as a place of possibilities.
A son of Indian immigrants, who raised their children to always believe in the promise of America.
Dr. Murthy will be one of my most trusted public health and medical advisors — and I’m grateful for his continued public service.
For Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I appoint Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
She is the Chief of Infectious Diseases at one of the country’s preeminent hospitals, Massachusetts General in Boston.
A distinguished professor at Harvard Medical School. A world-class physician.
One of the nation’s foremost experts on the testing, treatment, and eradication of viruses.
She has served on the front lines of the COVID crisis. She has conducted groundbreaking research on vaccine delivery, including how to reach underserved communities that are too often hit first and the hardest.
Dr. Walensky’s work was instrumental in helping the world mitigate one public health crisis — HIV/AIDS.
It inspired her as a young doctor to pursue her pioneering research in virus containment.
Now, she will bring her experience to bear against COVID-19.
She is uniquely qualified to restore morale and public trust.
She will marshal our finest scientists and public health experts at the CDC to turn the tide on the urgent crisis facing us today.
Because of the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, I concluded we need a COVID-19 Equity Task Force.
To chair it, I appoint Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. One of the country’s foremost experts on health care disparities.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Management at the Yale School of Medicine.
Founding director of Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center.
And co-chair of my COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board.
Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead our efforts to provide care to the communities most in need and most affected by the pandemic and most often overlooked.
She will ensure that fairness and equity are at the center of every part of our response.
This is a central front in our fight against the pandemic, and I am grateful Dr. Nunez-Smith will lead this charge.
And finally, as both head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and my chief medical advisor on COVID-19 — I am pleased that Dr. Tony Fauci will be a member of my core COVID team.
By now, he needs no introduction.
But he will have my gratitude when I’m president, the seventh president he will have served.
We’ve known each other a long time.
I’ve seen him take on HIV/AIDS, H1N1, Ebola, Zika, COVID-19, and every infectious disease in between, over his nearly forty years of service to our country.
Trusted. A truth teller. A patriot.
Like every good doctor, he will tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.
This is my core COVID and health care team.
Before January 20, we will be adding more leaders to oversee vaccine distribution, supply chain, testing, and other key functions.
To each of you on this team, you have my gratitude for answering the call to serve. And to your families, thank you. We could not do this without them, or without you.
And to the American people, I know we’ve all had a lot of sleepless nights this year.
So many of you staring at the ceiling late at night, worrying if you’re going to be okay.
All I can tell you is the truth.
We’re in a dark winter. Things may well get worse before they get better. A vaccine may soon be available. But we need to level with each other.
It will take longer than we would like to distribute it to all corners of our country.
We will need to persuade enough Americans to take it.
It’s daunting, but I promise you that we will make progress starting on Day One.
But we didn’t get into this mess quickly, and it’ll take time to fix.
That’s the truth, and telling you the truth is what this team, Vice President-elect Harris, and I will always do.
This is one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced.
But I know that we will overcome — and heal — together as one nation.
To all of the front-line health professionals and first responders, the grocery store workers and delivery truck drivers, the educators, parents, and our children.
Thank you for everything you have done to get us through this crisis thus far.
We will never give up on you.
And we will never give up on our country.
We can do this, together.
To all those we have lost in this pandemic, and all those sick and suffering, our hearts go out to you.
May God bless you all.
May God protect our troops.
Remarks by Attorney General Xavier Becerra
Along with Carolina, my wife, and Natalia, Olivia, Clarisa, and Yvonne: greetings from California.
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, I am honored and excited to join your team.
The mission of the Department of Health and Human Services has never been as vital or as urgent as it is today.
The COVID pandemic and its economic fallout have thrust families into crisis.
Too many Americans are sick or have lost loved ones.
Too many have lost their jobs, and with that, their healthcare and hope.
You have made it clear, Mr. President-elect, that to build back a prosperous America we need a healthy America. That, then, will be Job One for your team at HHS.
Fifty-five years ago, during another time of hardship, former Health Secretary — and fellow Californian — John Gardner said:
“What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.”
Gardner went on to help President Lyndon Johnson build the Great Society — ushering in Medicare, Medicaid, and Civil Rights that brought greater equity, greater opportunity, and greater hope to all Americans.
Now it is our turn to discover the breathtaking opportunities before us in the midst of hardship and pain.
It is our turn to build up and to back up our doctors and medical professionals, our hospitals and clinics, battling the coronavirus; our turn to restore faith and confidence in our leaders to deliver solutions that unite and heal us and inoculate us from fear; our turn to spur our brightest minds to launch the next generation of innovative medicines and cures.
And, it is our turn to build a nation where, as the President-elect so often says, health care is a right — not a privilege.
At HHS, tackling pandemics, saving lives, and keeping us healthy should be our calling card.
And we won’t forget that there is a second “H” in HHS…The “human” services — the work we do for our children, seniors, and disabled — they will stand tall in a Biden-Harris HHS.
Almost a year ago, on New Year’s Day, my father Manuel passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family. We got to celebrate Christmas together. And, when the end came, my dad knew we were there with him.
No one should ever have to die alone in a hospital bed, loved ones forced to stay away. That seems so contrary to the values of a great nation — the values that drew my parents, like generations before and after them, to come to America.
Manuel and Maria Teresa had only their health and hope when they arrived in California. A road construction worker with a sixth grade education and a clerical worker who arrived in her teens from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
They built a pretty good partnership that lasted 67 years. Along the way they sent four kids to college and the military.
They opened the door for me. I am enormously grateful to them.
Now, President-elect Biden has offered me a breathtaking opportunity to work with his team to shape our healthcare future.
I share the president-elect and vice-president-elect’s determination to rebuild unity and civility in America. We know it takes hard work. We know we must do it together. We know it will be key to building critical momentum and support for the prevention and treatment of the coronavirus.
Those values and priorities will help us emerge from this pandemic a stronger, more just, and more equitable nation. Literally, there are millions of small business owners and tens of millions of workers who are counting on us.
I am proud to have this chance to implement the president-elect’s vision for a better America through the challenging assignments that are in store for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for this opportunity to serve.
Remarks by Dr. Vivek Murthy
Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for your trust and confidence.
When I left my role as Surgeon General, I never dreamed I would have an opportunity to serve again.
And in this moment of crisis, when so many Americans have fallen sick and lost loved ones, when people are losing jobs and struggling with childcare, I feel grateful to be able to do everything I can to end this pandemic.
While this is a daunting task, we absolutely have what it takes to get the job done.
We have world class scientists.
We have courageous medical professionals who are risking their lives to care for the ill.
We have companies on the cusp of delivering vaccines, and we are blessed with generous, compassionate people all across America who are stepping up to help those who are struggling.
If we all work together, we will overcome this pandemic and return to our lives.
But COVID 19 is not the only health crisis we face — if anything, it has underscored a host of other epidemics that are devastating families and shortening lifespans: addiction, the opioid crisis, and spiraling mental health concerns; glaring racial disparities and high rates of diabetes and heart disease.
These challenges are both caused and exacerbated by broader societal issues — from the economic strains families face to the disconnection and loneliness many of us feel.
In my new, expanded role, I will work to bring a health perspective to our policies across government so that our schools, workplaces, and communities can be forces for strengthening our health and well being.
But the truth is that the best policies — and the best vaccines and treatments — will not heal our nation unless we overcome the fear, anxiety, anger, and distrust so many Americans are feeling right now.
So more than anything, I will come to this role as a doctor — one who learned the most important lessons about medicine not in medical school, but in the clinic my parents opened when they first came to America as immigrants decades ago.
As a child, I saw how they took the time not just to diagnose illnesses, but to ask about their patients’ families and lives, happily poring over photos of children and grandchildren taken from wallets, listening deeply to people’s stories and struggles, often running well over the appointment time.
They taught me that the best doctor is not an authority figure who writes prescriptions, but rather a partner in healing — someone who sees patients in their fullest humanity and empowers them to take control of their health.
That is the kind of doctor I have always tried to be.
And if confirmed, that is the approach I will take as I serve as America’s doctor.
I will dedicate myself to caring for every American, driven always by science and facts, by head and heart — and endlessly grateful to serve one of the few countries in the world where the grandson of a poor farmer in India can be asked by the president-elect to look out for the health of the entire nation.
That is a testament to the promise of America — one that I will work to fulfill every day as Surgeon General.
Remarks by Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, I’m honored by the trust you’ve placed in me to serve the American people at this critical moment.
I want to thank my amazing husband and our three wonderful sons for answering this call along with me.
As all doctors and public servants know, these jobs ask a great deal not only of us, but of our families.
The pandemic that brought me here today is actually one that struck America and the world more than thirty years ago.
Because my medical training happened to coincide with some of the most harrowing years of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
As a medical student, I saw firsthand how the virus ravaged bodies and communities.
Inside the hospital, I witnessed many people lose strength and hope. While outside the hospital, I witnessed those same patients — mostly gay men and members of vulnerable communities — be stigmatized and marginalized, by their nation and many of its leaders.
A scientific breakthrough came in 1995, when the FDA approved the first AIDS cocktail, and we saw the first glimmers of hope.
I’ve dedicated my career ever since to researching and treating infectious disease and to ending the HIV/AIDS crisis for good.
Now, a new virus is ravaging us.
It is striking hardest, once again, at the most vulnerable — the marginalized; the under-served.
Nearly 15 million Americans have been infected.
Nearly 285,000 of our loved ones are gone.
The pain is accelerating, our defenses have worn down.
We are losing life, and hope, at an alarming rate.
I never anticipated that I would take on a role helping lead our national response.
Government service was never part of my plans.
But every doctor knows that when a patient is coding, your plans don’t matter.
You run to the code.
And when a nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.
You run to take care of people; to stop the bleeding, to stabilize, to give them hope and a fighting chance to come back stronger.
That’s what doctors do.
And I’m honored to get to work with an administration that understands that leading with science is the only way to deliver breakthroughs, to deliver hope, and to bring our nation back to its full strength.
To the American people, and to each and every person at the CDC, I promise to work with you to harness the power of American science — to fight this virus and prevent unnecessary illness and deaths — so that we can all get back to our lives.
Thank you for this opportunity.
Remarks by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect, thank you for the opportunity to serve the American people.
I’m proud to go to work with leaders who are deeply committed to science and to centering equity in our response to the pandemic.
Not as a secondary concern, or as a box to check — but as a shared value, woven into all of the work we do and prioritized by every member of the Biden-Harris team.
I’m enormously thankful to my research team, my colleagues, to President Salovey and the leadership at Yale for supporting me in this work.
And I’m grateful to all of the researchers and advocates who’ve blazed the trail, whose work on health equity and racial justice too often went unbelieved or overlooked across the generations.
Most of all, I’m thankful to my family, to Jessie and our three children, for their unwavering support and humor.
And to my mother, and her mother, for modeling kindness, generosity, and courageous leadership through service.
I have wanted to be a doctor since I was six years old, and I am a proud general internal medicine physician today.
But as I grew up, I came to understand that there were deeper dimensions to health, beyond what I saw in the human biology textbooks I borrowed from my mother’s bookshelf.
I grew up on St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A place where people too often died too young — from preventable conditions.
My own father had his first stroke in his forties and was left paralyzed.
I learned there was a term for what we were: an “underserved community” — marginalized by place and by race.
In my medical training, I saw countless patients whose conditions were shaped by factors having nothing to do with science — and everything to do with broader social inequities.
Now, the COVID-19 crisis has laid those inequities bare.
It is not a coincidence, or a matter of genetics, that more than 70 percent of African Americans, and more than 60 percent of Latinx Americans, personally know someone who has been hospitalized or died from COVID-19.
The same disparities ingrained in our economy, our housing system, our food system, our justice system, and so many other areas of our society have conspired, in this moment, to create a ‘grief gap’ that we cannot ignore.
It is our societal obligation to ensure equitable access to testing, treatments, and vaccines.
Equitable support for those who are hurting.
And equitable pathways to opportunity as we emerge from this crisis and rebuild — including for the most marginalized communities: the undocumented, the incarcerated, and the homeless.
I’m grateful for the chance to continue this work, to earn trust and find success through genuine partnerships with the people and communities who’ve been hit the hardest during — and before — this crisis.
On this team, you will be heard, you will be counted, and you will be valued.
Remarks by Dr. Anthony Fauci in a Pre-recorded Message
President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, thank you so much for asking me to be part of this COVID response team.
I hope that you don’t mind that the reason that I am sending this video is because a close friend and colleague at the NIH, Dr. Harvey Alter, is receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine at the same time, and we wanted to attend the ceremony at the NIH to show our support.
Such an achievement is a reminder of the incredible public servants we have at the NIH and of America’s place as a pioneer in science and medicine.
I believe — as you do — that in the fight against this pandemic, we must lead with science. And that a key piece of our ongoing work is communicating consistently with the American people.
Whether it’s maintaining social distancing and not congregating indoors; or the 100 day challenge you described on masking; or to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
These actions are bold, but they are doable and essential to help the public avoid unnecessary risks, to help us save lives, reopen schools and business, and to eventually beat the pandemic.
I look forward to advising you on these most urgent priorities and to working with this team of world-class experts whom I have known for many years and deeply respect.
I have been through many public health crises before, but this is the toughest one we have ever faced as a nation.
The road ahead will not be easy. We have got a lot of hard and demanding work to do in the next year.
But, as we have done during previous crises, I also know we can get through this pandemic together, as a nation.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of this effort.
Remarks by Jeff Zients
President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris — I am honored by your trust in me and humbled by the task at hand. And I am hopeful because of your leadership.
As it is for both of you, everything starts with family for me. And I am forever grateful for the love and support of my wife, our children, and our parents.
Mr. President-elect, we’ve known each other for a long time, and our relationship has been forged under immense pressure: the severity of the Great Recession; the challenge of implementing the Affordable Care Act; and the daily decisions a White House makes that affect the lives of millions of Americans.
You and President Obama knew how to build a team with the right diversity of backgrounds and views. A team to make progress on difficult situations and capture enormous opportunities.
That’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my career.
I am not a doctor or public health expert. In fact, we’ve got the best ones in the world on this team.
But I know management and execution. And the key part of the role you’ve asked me to take on is the last part, “Coordinator.”
It’s about empowering experts, developing a culture of teamwork, and maintaining a focus on strategy and execution.
It’s knowing that leadership requires expertise, transparency, and prioritization. It also requires trust, truth, and integrity.
To the American people, that’s what this team will provide.
We will utilize the full capacity of the federal government to get this pandemic under control.
To harness and examine the data to expand testing. To deliver equipment and PPE to those on the frontlines. To provide resources for schools and businesses to operate safely. To address the racial disparities and inequities of this pandemic. To rejoin the global fight against COVID-19 — because no one is safe until everyone is safe.
And with our collective expertise, we will oversee the rollout of the vaccine which, as the president-elect said, will be one of the greatest operational challenges our country has ever faced.
And we will also pull the country together — across governments at the federal, state, and local levels, and across the private sector.
And as we begin this vital work, Mr. President-elect, I remember what you told me when we were implementing the Affordable Care Act.
Your message was: I know this is no small task; I know you and the team are feeling tremendous pressure to succeed; and we want and need the team to pull this off.
You then said, “I know you and the team can do this, but I need you to promise me one thing: That you will always, always, give it to us straight because we have to understand the challenge we’re facing. Because most of all, we are in this together. And together we can do this.”
President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the American people, this team will always tell it to you straight.
The work ahead will not be easy. But we know what needs to be done. And we will get it done, together.
Remarks by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
Congratulations Mr. President-elect on nominating and appointing this outstanding team to get this pandemic under control.
And thank you to these accomplished physicians, experts, and public servants for answering the call to serve the American people in this hour of need.
Over Thanksgiving, the president-elect and I called health care workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic. Just to thank them.
We wanted to express our gratitude — and our nation’s gratitude — for everything they have been doing. For every sacrifice they have made.
That day, I spoke with a registered nurse named Maureen in Pennsylvania and Talisa in Illinois.
They shared stories we’ve all heard.
We’ve all heard the stories about grandmothers and grandfathers, loved ones and friends spending their last moments alone.
We’ve all heard about nurses and physicians who are physically and mentally exhausted trying to keep up with ever-increasing caseloads. Those on the frontline who say to each other, it’s a matter of when, not if, they get the virus.
We’ve all heard about health care workers without the supplies and equipment they need to care for patients and save lives.
So, today, we have a message for Talisa, Maureen, and all Americans: help is on the way.
And it’s long overdue.
The scale of this pandemic is heartbreaking.
Almost 15 million cases. More than 2,800 deaths. In a single day.
And then, there’s the economic devastation. The lost jobs. The small businesses shuttered.
Not to mention what’s happening to our schools. The parents and teachers who are being stretched to their limits. And the toll it’s all taking on the mental health and well-being of our children who risk falling behind.
Opening our schools and economy safely and responsibly, getting this virus under control — all of it starts with listening to experts and leaders like these; Americans who reflect the very best of our nation.
They are top physicians, public health experts, and public servants.
And they are the team the American people need and deserve.
To make sure testing and treatment are free for everyone.
To make sure vaccines are safe, free, and equitably distributed.
To make sure we are better prepared for future pandemics and other health threats.
And to make sure quality, affordable health care is available to all.
From an early age, I saw the lifesaving work that our health care professionals provide, especially for the most vulnerable among us.
You see, my mother was a breast cancer researcher, and my sister and I spent many hours roaming the halls of the hospital where she worked.
It’s why I co-founded an auxiliary group to help patients at the county hospital in Oakland more than twenty years ago.
It’s why we need to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act.
And it’s why we have to listen to frontline health care workers like Maureen and Talisa.
During our conversation, Talisa said:
“We wouldn’t send our soldiers to battle without the gear they need. And we shouldn’t send our doctors and nurses to fight this pandemic without the gear they need.”
She is right.
And President-elect Biden and I — along with this world-class team — will make sure we are doing everything we can, to save lives and contain this pandemic once and for all.
Getting this virus under control is one of the defining challenges of our time.
And we will do what the American people have always done in the face of a great challenge.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called on Congress to renew and expand federal support programs for unemployed Americans — many of which have expired or will end just days after Christmas. The programs provide critical benefits for millions of American families that have faced unemployment as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including supplemental benefits for individuals and support for local and state governments. The Governor sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to act quickly as states across the country face another surge of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths while millions of Americans remain unemployed.
“The pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis. As we enter the holiday season, and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop COVID, critical federal unemployment benefits are about to expire. Inaction from Washington is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk,” Governor Cuomo said.”Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and should once again take action before the calendar year ends to bring badly needed support to millions of struggling Americans.”
Separately, Cuomo, who is also National Governors Association Chairman, and Arkansas Governor and NGA Vice Chairman Asa Hutchinson issued a statement regarding ongoing negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill:
“Even as COVID-19 vaccine trials show remarkable results and the pandemic finish line is in sight, the danger the virus poses has never been greater. Today our country is seeing record-high cases, hospitalizations and deaths — every single state has been affected.
“It is time for Washington to step up and deliver desperately needed relief for their constituents. Governors are heartened that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers are now talking with each other to find a way forward. We encourage leadership to stay at the bargaining table and work out a deal that delivers the critical relief to the American people.
“As an interim measure to address states immediate and pressing needs, we support the bipartisan framework proposed by Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Bill Cassidy and a bipartisan group of their colleagues as a response that would bring meaningful relief to those who are struggling; situate states to quickly, effectively and equitably implement their vaccination plans; and prime the economy to allow for a faster rebound.
“Governors have been on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic, procuring lifesaving medical and personal protective equipment, establishing field hospitals, and providing economic relief to small businesses and workers. But this is a national crisis, cutting across geographic, economic and demographic lines, and it demands a national, bipartisan solution. Congress should not leave Washington for the holiday recess without enacting a much-needed COVID relief package. We look forward to working with Congress and the new Administration in the new year on a more comprehensive COVID relief package.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, New York State has paid more than $55 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.8 million New Yorkers — which represents more than 26 typical years’ worth of benefits. Nationwide, more than 20 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits, including 12 million covered by programs that will expire on December 31, 2020. In New York, that includes 1.2 million current claims from New Yorkers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides benefits for freelancers, self-employed workers, and others who do not typically qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, and 682,000 claims from individuals who are receiving 13 additional weeks of benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program after exhausting the 26 weeks of traditional benefits.
Here is Governor Cuomo’s full letter detailing the aid that is requested:
As you are well aware, the coronavirus has continued to spread across the country, with the United States entering what appears to be another surge of infections this fall. While disturbing, this increase is not surprising — experts told us that as temperatures fell, cases would increase, and those predictions have unfortunately come true.
The physical toll of the pandemic is well known: 12 million Americans have been infected and more than 250,000 have lost their lives.
But the pandemic has not just impacted Americans’ health — it has also created an unprecedented economic crisis with unheard of levels of unemployment across the nation. Since March, more than 68 million Americans have filed unemployment claims, representing over 42 percent of the nation’s workforce. Last week, the number of newly filed claims nationwide grew by 31,000, representing the first week-over-week increase after four weeks of decreasing claims.
Unlike the federal government’s response to the virus itself, Congress moved decisively this spring to address the economic impacts of the pandemic — supplying Americans with federally-funded stimulus checks, supplemental unemployment benefits, and benefits for freelancers, the self-employed, and others who are not typically covered by traditional unemployment insurance.
However, as we enter the holiday season — and as states once again enact stronger measures to stop the surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — Washington’s inaction is putting millions of Americans’ financial security at risk.
When the CARES Act was passed in March, roughly 10 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits during the pandemic — today, that number has increased by nearly 600%. At the time, the nation had only faced two weeks with unemployment claims above the pre-pandemic high of 695,000. Now, we have surpassed that level for 35 weeks straight.
Yet despite this worsening economic picture, many critical support programs that were put in place earlier this year have already expired and the few remaining ones are set to expire just days after Christmas. This is simply unacceptable and must be rectified.
The Senate and House must work to renew and expand federal unemployment benefits for Americans while supporting the state governments that are implementing these programs and disbursing the benefits.
The following programs should be extended or renewed through the end of the federal Fiscal Year 2021:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)— This program, which is set to expire on December 31, 2020, allows freelancers, self-employed individuals, and others who are not typically eligible for unemployment insurance to receive 46 weeks of federal benefits. As of the latest US DOL data, nearly 8.7 million Americans are currently receiving benefits under PUA.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)— This program, which is also set to expire on December 31, 2020, provides an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits to Americans who have exhausted state unemployment insurance. As of the latest US DOL data, nearly 4.4 million Americans are currently receiving benefits under PEUC.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)— Created by the CARES Act, this program provided federal supplemental benefits of $600 per week to all unemployed Americans. After expiring in late July, this program was temporarily replaced with the Lost Wages Assistance program, which failed to adequately address the continuing needs of the American public, while causing more administrative work for states.
Federal Support for Shared Work— Shared work programs allow employers to keep staff partially-employed while still cutting costs. Rather than laying off their staff, a business is able to reduce all workers’ hours, with unemployment benefits replacing some or all of their lost wages. To encourage use of these programs, the federal government fully funded states’ shared work programs, but this support is set to expire on December 31, 2020.
Reimbursements for Local Government, Non-profit, and Tribal Employers— Recognizing the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic on local governments, non-profit organizations, and tribal nations, the federal government agreed to reimburse half of unemployment benefits these employers paid out. That support is due to expire on December 31, 2020, putting further strain on organizations that are already struggling to stay afloat and provide needed services during this crisis.
Support for State Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds— Due to the unprecedented surge in unemployment insurance claims, states across the country have exhausted their unemployment insurance trust funds. Earlier this year, the Federal government allowed states to borrow to replenish their trust funds interest-free. Starting next year, those loans will begin accruing interest — even as unemployment levels remain at critically high levels. All states should be allowed to continue borrowing for their unemployment insurance trust funds without accruing interest next year. Further, the federal government must recognize the impact repaying these loans will have on businesses, especially already-struggling small businesses, and fully forgive all loans.
Cost-Sharing for Unemployment Insurance Administrative Costs— Every state’s unemployment insurance system has been tested by the pandemic response, and many state departments of labor have implemented multiple new federal programs using decades-old technology. The Federal government has so far paid half of these administrative costs — that should increase to 100 percent reimbursement, but at the bare minimum this cost sharing must continue. Failing to do so will significantly harm states’ abilities to support unemployed workers.
The United States of America’s economy remains in crisis. More than 20 million of our neighbors received some form of unemployment benefits during the week ending October 31st — over thirteen times the number receiving benefits this time last year.
Not extending these programs — which can largely be accomplished by passing the unemployment and workforce provisions of H.R. 925, the HEROES Act — is akin to abandoning millions of Americans in their time of need. Congress must take action before the calendar year ends, and anything less would be an abdication of your duty.
I look forward to your immediate attention to these matters.
Andrew M. Cuomo Governor, New York State Chair, National Governors Association