By MICHELLE STODDART and LAUREN KING, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — This is Day 30 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how events are unfolding Thursday. All times Eastern:
Feb 18, 6:30 pm
US ready to accept invitation for talks with Iran
The State Department has announced the U.S. is “ready” to accept talks with Iran and the other remaining parties of the Iran nuclear deal “to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program,” according to spokesperson Ned Price.
The EU’s deputy foreign affairs official Enrique Mora tweeted earlier Thursday that the body was ready to play facilitator again and host Iran and the P5+1 — the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, who negotiated the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
The announcement from Price comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Thursday morning with his French, British, and German counterparts and presented a unified front on the way forward on Iran. In a statement, they notably agreed that Iran must return to compliance with the nuclear deal and then negotiate with the parties to “strengthen the JCPOA” and “address broader security concerns related to Iran’s missile programs and regional activities” — something Iran says it won’t do.
The Biden administration is also rescinding moves by former President Donald Trump to restrict Iran at the United Nations. As a gesture of good will, it is easing the travel restrictions on Iran’s diplomats in New York and withdrawing the Trump position that the U.S. had snapped back U.N. sanctions.
Offering to meet — and that potential first meeting — “may not necessarily be a breakthrough,” said one official on a briefing call with reporters. “We’re not going to hype it for what it isn’t. But it is a step. Until we sit down and talk, nothing’s going to happen. … But if we don’t take that step, the situation is going to go from bad to worse.”
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
Feb 18, 5:26 pm
Biden to travel to Michigan, participate in virtual G7 conference
Biden will once again take his message about COVID-19 vaccinations and relief on the road Friday, traveling to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to tour a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing plant. The trip was originally scheduled for Thursday but was postponed.
Before he travels to Michigan on Friday, the president will participate in a virtual G7 conference. Biden plans to announce that the United States will contribute a total of $4 billion to a U.N.-backed program seeking to distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses to people in the poorest countries in the world, according to senior administration officials.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki gave a preview of Biden’s scheduled address to G7 leaders during a press briefing Thursday, suggesting that he will take his main domestic agenda and apply it on the world stage.
“President Biden will focus on a global response to the COVID pandemic, including coordination on vaccine production, distribution and supplies, as well as continued efforts to mobilize and cooperate against the threat of emerging infectious diseases by building country capacity and establishing health security financing,” Psaki said.
The president will also virtually the Munich Security Conference on Friday.
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Ben Gittleson
Feb 18, 4:01 pm
Democrats introduce Biden’s immigration reform bill
Congressional Democrats on Thursday unveiled sweeping immigration reform legislation, which essentially consists of a roundup of immigration priorities President Joe Biden laid out on his first day in office.
The reform proposal is the most ambitious effort so far to counteract the Trump administration’s hardline border policies.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would create an eight-year path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in the country. The measure provides funding for more immigration judges and support staff to help with the backlog of asylum seekers. The bill provides for increased security at ports of entry focused on detecting drugs and other contraband.
Counties and municipalities will be able to petition for additional work visas as needed under the reform bill. The bill would also remove the word “alien” in the immigration code and replace it with “noncitizen.”
It would end the three and 10-year bans on reentry for undocumented immigrants who voluntarily leave the country, reform the legal immigration processes by no longer counting spouses and minor children against a country’s share of allotted visas and would increase from 55,000 to 80,000 the number of diversity visas issued for countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
-ABC News’ Cecilia Vega and Quinn Owen
Feb 18, 3:43 pm
Power restored to some in Texas, but 600,000 remain without, White House adviser says
White House deputy national security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall joined White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a White House press briefing with an update on the winter storm and power outages in Texas.
Sherwood-Randall said Biden held a call with governors on Tuesday to offer whatever federal help was needed, including approving emergency declarations in Texas, Oklahoma and processing a new request from Louisiana to allow FEMA to offer immediate assistance.
Sherwood-Randall noted that as of Thursday morning, numbers of those without power in Texas have fallen from in the millions to around 600,000 but stressed that due to the nature of the storm, residents would likely still experience rolling power outages as officials work to restore power across the state. When asked for additional specifics on what FEMA had provided to Texas, Sherwood-Randall said FEMA “has made 60 generators and fuel available to support critical sites like hospitals and water facilities. It has moved in 729,000, liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets and 225,000 meals.”
Psaki addressed the winter storm’s impact on the vaccination effort, saying the administration was staying in close contact with partners.
“We’re also working with our partners to move on scheduled deliveries whenever possible and to search shipment operations through the end of the week into the weekend. We’re in conversation about extended hours and additional appointments to try and reschedule shots given the storm,” Psaki said.
Psaki said Biden had spoken with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott two days ago to convey his commitment to helping and stressed that the president was being kept aware of the unfolding situation Thursday while working from the White House. She did not commit to a visit from Biden to the region due to the strain a presidential trip can put on local resources.
-ABC News’ Molly Nagle
Feb 18, 3:35 pm
Psaki addresses immigration reform bill
White House press secretary Jen Psaki discussed the newly revealed immigration reform bill which would provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants during a virtual press briefing Thursday.
Psaki wouldn’t say whether the White House supports the idea of splitting up the bill’s proposals to get them through Congress and recognized that proposed bills do not always look exactly like final bills that get signed — indicating either a recognition that some priorities might be dropped or that the bill could be split.
Pressed on why the administration unveiled the bill Thursday when the White House has consistently made clear its sole legislative focus is COVID-19 relief, Psaki said the negotiation process can begin while the White House pushes COVID-19 aid.
-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky
Feb 18, 1:33 pm
Harris calls economic plight of women a ‘national emergency’ during roundtable discussion
Harris hosted a virtual roundtable Thursday with women lawmakers and community leaders to highlight the disproportionate impact of the economic downturn on women. Harris and the congresswomen delivered brief opening remarks citing statistics that illustrate the impact on women, calling once again for passage of the administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue plan.
“In one year, the pandemic has put decades of the progress we’ve collectively made for women workers at risk,” Harris said, pointing out that 2.5 million women have dropped out of the workforce, and one in four female small business owners have had to shut their doors.
Harris also touched on the child care crisis.
“Many of you are working mothers, many of you are caring for your own parents sandwiched between two generations. And all of you are a voice of women who have been severely impacted by this pandemic,” Harris said. “Which is why you know, it has created a perfect storm for women.”
Harris summed up the economic plight of women as a “national emergency.”
“Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully. So, I believe, I think we all believe, this is a national emergency,” Harris said.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., was among the participants in the roundtable who said passing Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan could help.
“The American Rescue Plan really shows a commitment to women as equal partners in our economy and our country’s future,” Murray said.
-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky
Feb 18, 1:13 pm
Pelosi discusses investigation into Texas power outages
In a press briefing Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed the proposed congressional commission to investigate the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 and the possibility of investigations into Texas power outages.
Pelosi that the “9/11-style” commission that would investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection must be “strongly bipartisan” and confirmed that Democrats have sent their commission proposal to Republicans to review.
“For this to work it really has to be strongly bipartisan,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said she consulted with the former 9/11 commission members about how to structure a review of the Jan. 6 insurrection. She also said the commission needs to have subpoena power.
On the Texas energy crisis, Pelosi said the House Energy and Commerce Committee will be investigating. She also confirmed that her daughter, who lives in Houston, is without power but is safe.
“I believe that the [House] Energy and Commerce Committee will be taking up some form of, when I say investigation, I mean a look into it to see how things could have turned out better and will turn out better in the future,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi also said she thinks teachers should be vaccinated depending on how bad the COVID-19 virus is in their respective regions but did not say she thought it was a requirement for schools to reopen.
“I want everybody to be vaccinated and I certainly want our teachers to be. But depending on what the situation is in their area, it may or may not be necessary,” she added.
On the new immigration bill introduced by Democrats Thursday that is supported by the White House, Pelosi said she doesn’t think it will be necessary to get it through both chambers using the reconciliation process, which Democrats are using for the COVID-19 relief bill, but she left the door open to that possibility. Pelosi said a piecemeal approach is possible.
“How it happens through the legislative process remains to be seen,” Pelosi said.
-ABC News’ Mariam Khan
Feb 18, 9:37 am
Federal offices in Washington closed for weather
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced that all federal offices in Washington, D.C. are closed Thursday because of extreme weather.
A briefing at the State Department scheduled for Thursday was cancelled and the press briefing with White House press secretary Jen Psaki will be by phone. Many other government operations will continue virtually.
Feb 18, 9:15 am
Democrats expected to release immigration reform bill, Biden trip postponed
Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing and a COVID-19 response briefing today, both of which are closed to the press. This comes after the president’s trip to visit a Pfizer vaccine production plant in Michigan, originally scheduled for Thursday, was postponed until Friday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki will give a virtual briefing at 12:30 p.m.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats are planning to unveil an immigration reform bill, which will include immigration priorities Biden laid out on day one of his administration. The bill, which does not have bipartisan support, would establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S., provide more funding to alleviate the backlog of asylum cases and the border and include funding for border security.
However, it seems now the Democrats do not have the bipartisan support in Congress they’d need to pass the legislation, so questions remain if they will have to water down the bill, or pass it in many small parts. Setting aside these concerns, administration officials tell ABC News they are more concerned with getting the legislation introduced.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.