The Electoral College Meets

The Electoral College will vote today, but protesters from coast to coast are still unwilling to accept the election’s results. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

We all said that in the middle of a pandemic we should expect an Election Month, not an Election Day. But it’s now been nearly six weeks since Nov. 3, and here we are, still trudging out of a contested election.

Today, however, is a turning point. Members of the Electoral College will gather in their states to cast their votes, which will then be placed in physical envelopes and delivered to the Senate for a final count.

President Trump and his allies had pressured Republican officials in states that Joe Biden narrowly won to ignore the election’s result and appoint their own friendly electors who would vote for Trump.

But this has not happened, and Biden is on track to receive 306 electoral votes today, the same number that Trump won four years ago. The proceedings in most states can be watched via livestream.

Trump, of course, has insisted that he will continue to challenge the results. Interviewed by Fox News on Saturday, after the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge by Republicans to the election results, Trump said the fight was “not over,” adding, “We keep going.”

And even as many Republicans quietly try to move on, some of Trump’s staunchest allies in the House are planning a last-ditch stunt for Jan. 6, when Congress meets to officially tally the electors’ votes and declare a winner.

With Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results, the Electoral College and its archaic processes are facing greater scrutiny than in any other recent election. The college, its detractors note, imposes far more complexity and bureaucracy on the electoral system than a simple popular vote count would.

The renewed attention has some members of the Electoral College arguing that it’s time for a change. “What’s terrifying is how close we came to another election of a president who won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote,” said Alan Kennedy, a presidential elector in Denver.

Some electors have more immediate concerns to worry about — including their own safety. With Trump supporters leading protests across the country, some of which have resulted in clashes with counterprotesters, officials have taken added precautions to protect Electoral College voters in various states. In Arizona, state officials are holding the vote at an undisclosed location for safety reasons.

Protests over the election results boiled over this past weekend, as Trump supporters reacted with anger to the Supreme Court’s dismissal, and confrontations in some places with counterprotesters escalated into violence. The police declared a riot in Olympia, Wash., where one person was shot on Saturday.

And in the nation’s capital, a man was arrested after four people were stabbed in a confrontation outside a bar that was reportedly being used as a gathering place for a far-right group.

The White House is rushing to unveil a $250 million public education campaign for the coronavirus vaccine, which will reach the first patients in the United States this week after its approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

In many ways, the campaign will be fighting public distrust that Trump himself has helped sow — by faulting government scientists, promoting ineffective remedies and dismissing the seriousness of the pandemic.

Trump delayed a plan to distribute vaccines to senior White House staff members in the coming days, hours after The New York Times reported that the administration was planning to rapidly distribute the vaccine to its staff. The first doses are generally being reserved for high-risk health care workers.

Photo of the day

Trump returned to the White House from his golf club in Virginia yesterday.

What is the fate of the stimulus negotiations?

Will Congress ever pass that long-awaited next stimulus bill? Lawmakers approved an emergency bill on Friday to keep the government running for one more week, but the big problem remains unsolved: how to get aid to Americans as the pandemic worsens and its economic toll mounts.

We checked in with The Times’s Washington correspondent Emily Cochrane about where things stand, and what the chances are of real stimulus legislation being passed before the end of the year.

Hi, Emily. By the time the House and the Senate leave for holiday recess next week, some larger bill to fund the government into 2021 will be passed — but the question is whether that bill will include significant funding to contain the coronavirus and stimulate the economy, right?

That Friday timeline is not guaranteed, quite frankly, but this is indeed a make-or-break week for Congress. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill agree that they don’t want to shut down the government and that additional pandemic relief should be included in a package, but there are still a number of policy differences standing in the way — and they are the same policy differences that have stopped efforts to reach a compromise in the past.

Typically, Congress works best on a deadline, but lawmakers have blown past quite a few this year. If the combination of legislative compromise, the rise in coronavirus cases and a desire to adjourn this Congress and go home works some magic by Friday, we could see a Christmas tree omnibus package that funds the entire government, doles out billions of dollars in pandemic relief and includes additional priorities like surprise billing legislation.

Or we could also see another one-week stopgap bill and another round of negotiations.

In your most recent dispatch with Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos, you wrote that millions of Americans have been relying on specific relief programs passed by Congress this year, some of which are set to expire next week, and others of which already have. What programs are on the chopping block this month and what have they done, in a nutshell, for working people?

The day after Christmas will be the last day an estimated 12 million workers could lose additional jobless benefits because two federal programs that expand and extend the unemployment insurance system — allowing gig workers to receive state unemployment and an extension of unemployment eligibility — are set to expire.

Even more programs will expire on Dec. 31 without action from Congress or the administration, including a federal mandate requiring employers to offer family leave and paid sick time during the pandemic, nutrition waivers and a moratorium on evictions. State and local governments will also have to return any unspent money left over from the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March.

If some form of stimulus does pass, will another stimulus check to Americans be included?

Unclear! There’s been an interesting alliance between Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Josh Hawley of Missouri to try to get approval for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks in whatever package there is. The White House appears on board with at least $600 — that was in a proposal that Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, offered to Speaker Nancy Pelosi this past week — and Hawley has personally spoken to the White House about this.

It hasn’t quite been a part of these bipartisan talks around a $908 billion framework, largely because it would drive up the overall price tag. But there are procedural ways for Sanders and Hawley to hold up passage of a final spending package should it not be included. They ultimately allowed the one-week stopgap bill to pass on Friday, but Sanders in particular indicated he would not relent as easily this week.

DealBook: How to rediscover the art of bipartisan deal making

With Congress so far failing to agree to a pandemic relief bill, The Times’s DealBook D.C. Policy Project gathered a virtual panel of experts early this month to discuss the art of bipartisan deal making, the roots of the current dysfunction and how to break the deadlock.

You can read more and watch their discussion here.

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