Weeks Late, Biden Gets His Briefings

No matter who wins in Georgia, Joe Manchin has no intention of endorsing a sharp shift to the left. And his vote could matter a lot. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

After weeks of waiting, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris received their first full presidential intelligence briefings yesterday, their transition team announced.

Most presidents-elect begin to receive the briefings shortly after the election, but the White House did not approve the move until last week, after the head of the General Services Administration announced that she was allowing the formal transition to begin.

Presidential briefings are conducted in person, with a different intelligence official assigned to each person authorized to be briefed. Each presentation is tailored to the person receiving the briefing. In the process of interacting with Biden and Harris, officials will begin to redirect their focus in response to their questions.

Wisconsin and Arizona certified their presidential election results yesterday, making Biden’s victories in those hard-fought swing states official.

In Iowa, the state canvassing board certified the results of a House election in which Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican, was declared the winner by exactly six votes after a recount. She was running for a seat in southeastern Iowa that is being vacated by a retiring Democrat.

Rita Hart, the race’s Democratic candidate, signaled that she planned to challenge the certification, and Iowa election law gives her two days to do so. Because a number of legal avenues remain open to Hart’s campaign, this is one of a few rare elections in which The Associated Press and other news outlets have declined to call the races even after the state certified them.

What will a presidential inauguration look like amid a pandemic? Where there would typically be a tightly packed outdoor ceremony attended by thousands, followed by inauguration balls across downtown Washington, things may look much more low-key come Jan. 20.

Biden yesterday announced the formation of a Presidential Inaugural Committee, which will be responsible for planning a coronavirus-appropriate event. The committee is being led by Tony Allen, the president of Delaware State University, a historically Black institution in Biden’s home state.

“This year’s inauguration will look different amid the pandemic, but we will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe,” Allen said in a statement.

Even if Democrats gain control of the Senate in January by prevailing in two runoff elections in Georgia, they will have to unify a party that is becoming increasingly diverse ideologically and geographically.

As the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, Joe Manchin of West Virginia is in a position of particular importance — and he has no plans to march in lock step with what the party’s leadership, let alone its left wing, wants to accomplish.

In an interview with our congressional reporter Luke Broadwater, Manchin bragged of being more “moderate or centrist — as far as centrist voting — than anybody else in Congress,” adding, “If we can’t come together to help America, God help us.”

He expressed his immovable opposition to ending the filibuster — meaning that even with a majority, Democrats would need sizable Republican support to bring legislation to the floor — and said he saw himself as a check on the party’s rising progressive tide.

Photo of the day

A rainbow appeared above the White House yesterday.

Why the Supreme Court isn’t going along with Trump’s plan on redistricting.

The Constitution mandates that congressional districts be apportioned using census data, “counting the whole number of persons in each state” — saying nothing of citizenship status.

But the Trump administration has sought to overturn precedent and exclude undocumented immigrants from the count.

As the president found out yesterday, just because he appointed three of the Supreme Court’s nine justices, and now enjoys a 6-to-3 conservative majority, it won’t necessarily mean approval of the administration’s efforts to push through a partisan power play in its waning days.

“A lot of the historical evidence and longstanding practice really cuts against your position,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett told the Justice Department’s chief litigator, Jeffrey Wall.

A number of justices seemed highly skeptical of how the administration would successfully measure which census respondents were undocumented immigrants, after the court last year rejected the administration’s efforts to add a question to the census asking respondents for their immigration status.

In July, Trump wrote a memorandum directing the commerce secretary to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count, saying that his decision could affect the number of House seats that states receive. But in court yesterday, Wall argued that keeping “illegal aliens” out of the country was not likely to affect reapportionment.

This provoked more skepticism from the justices. Wall argued that any worries about reapportionment could be addressed later, after the decision on whether to count undocumented immigrants had been made.

“Isn’t that going to be like having to unscramble the eggs?” Chief Justice John Roberts asked.

It’s far from an inconsequential question. As our reporter Michael Wines writes in an explainer, there are roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, many concentrated in a few states, such as Florida, California and New York, and those states may lose congressional seats if the immigrants are not counted.

The longtime tradition of counting noncitizens in the census, Michael writes, is by design: The drafters of the 14th Amendment deliberated over the issue, and decided to count all immigrants for apportionment purposes.

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