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Quick Take: US stimulus, vaccine rollout, & Russian cyber espionage

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. It's Christmas week. God, we need it. Great to see you and a little quick take to kick us off this last full week of 2020, getting through on fumes this most, most challenging year. First, obviously happy to finally see a deal come through almost a trillion dollars in relief that is desperately needed in the United States. People complaining that $600 checks aren't going to do very much. And I agree, it's kind of pathetic, especially in the context of what other advanced industrial democracies have been doing for their working populations around the world, but it's better than zero, which is where we were.

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Biden's controversial Defense pick may need bipartisan support

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics this week:

First question. Why is Biden's nomination of Lloyd Austin for Secretary of Defense controversial?

It's controversial because Austin has not been out of the military for the required seven years that are needed, under the National Security Act of 1947, to ensure civilian control over the Department of Defense. As a result, he'll need a waiver from Congress in order to serve. This would be the second waiver that Congress has approved in the last four years with the first one coming for Trump's Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis. That was justified at the time because Congress was a little concerned about President Trump and really wanted somebody with a steady hand like Mattis on the till. But Biden has other options, including Michele Flournoy, who has a lot of supporters in Capitol Hill. And so, you're seeing some Democrats suggest they may not be willing to give a waiver this time. Austin may require a lot of Republican votes in order to get confirmed.

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Why US COVID relief package progress is unlikely before January

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on US politics:

With 250,000 Americans dead of COVID and case counts rising, is there any sign of a federal relief package on the way?

And the answer is a solid maybe. The interesting thing is even after the election, neither party has really changed their views on what they want in a stimulus. The Democrats are still holding to their $2.5 trillion number, and the Republicans are saying they want something much smaller and more targeted. President Trump is nowhere to be found in these discussions. He's busy litigating the outcome of an election he lost. Vice President Biden, the incoming President on January 20th, has indicated he basically supports the Democrat's position. He can probably be the deal breaker here. If he wants to tell the Democrats to come down with their number, that could potentially drive compromise with the Republicans. Negotiations haven't really gone anywhere though in the last six months, and I'd frankly be surprised at this point if we saw relief before the fifth January runoff election in Georgia, which will determine control of the Senate.

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Barrett hearing reflects Supreme Court polarization; predicting US voter turnout

Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the latest in US politics:

What has been most revealing to you about the Amy Coney Barrett hearing so far?

Well, what was interesting about them to me was how nakedly political they are. Normally, you have at least the pretense of probing the justice's judicial philosophy, trying to figure out where they stand relative on the political spectrum. But here, you know, the Republicans know they have a vote, so it's largely been cheerleading. And the Democrats have been running what looks like a political campaign, asking questions about the Affordable Care Act, bringing up constituent stories of people who are going to be affected should the Supreme Court knock it down in a way that just is really unusual for Supreme Court. I think that just reflects the polarization of the court and political polarization more generally.

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Why Trump won't debate Biden or make a decision on stimulus

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics this week:

Why wouldn't the president want to debate Joe Biden?

Well, I think the president does want to debate Joe Biden, but he wants to do it on his terms. He wants an in-person debate where he can try to dominate and overwhelm Biden and push him into having what looks like a senior moment, to help make the case that Joe Biden is too old to hold office. The Commission on Presidential Debates has offered a virtual debate where they can mute Trump's microphone and that's the format just doesn't really work for him. So, probably this debate is canceled. We'll see what happens with the third.

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