The Hill’s Morning Report — Hurricane Ian roars into Florida
🌀 Hurricane Ian is poised to strike Florida’s Gulf Coast with winds that could initially measure 140 mph as it makes landfall across a broad swath of the state this afternoon with severe conditions lasting into Thursday, followed by tropical storm conditions on Friday, according to forecasts of the Category 4 monster approaching slowly this morning at about 10 mph.
After leaving Cuba in the dark after lashing the island on Tuesday, what could be a history-making and destructive direct hit encouraged Floridians to board up, fill sandbags, locate shelters and heed official warnings to relocate out of the storm’s path.
“Ian is forecast to approach the west coast of Florida as an extremely dangerous major hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center said.
The Hurricane Center’s 5 a.m. ET forecast noted the storm’s forward motion is expected to slow today after landfall, “followed by a turn toward the north on Thursday. On the forecast track, the center of Ian is expected to approach the west coast of Florida within the hurricane warning area this morning and move onshore later today. The center of Ian is forecast to move over central Florida tonight and Thursday morning and emerge over the western Atlantic by late Thursday.”
The storm shifted its direction slightly and was reported at 5 a.m. to be about 75 miles west-southwest of Naples. The cities and towns up and down the state’s heavily populated white sandy coastline have been preparing for what could be as much as 15 feet of storm surge and flooding. Between the wind and water, the National Hurricane Center warned that “locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months” (The Washington Post).
The hurricane has rearranged airline and cruise schedules, closed Disney World and supermarkets, disrupted businesses and placed hospital personnel on high alert. It is not expected to affect gasoline supplies or gas prices (CNN).
▪ The Hill: Why Hurricane Ian poses a unique threat to Tampa Bay.
▪ The Hill: Florida prepares for Hurricane Ian’s wrath.
President Biden and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Tuesday admonished residents to heed official directions to evacuate or voluntarily take shelter inland, instructions affecting millions of people. The two men spoke on Tuesday night and pledged “continued close cooperation,” the White House said on Twitter.
The president described federal prepositioning of emergency response teams and supplies in coordination with the governor, local officials and law enforcement throughout the Sunshine State.
“Citizens in the potential impact area should obey the instructions of local officials. Evacuate when ordered,” Biden said after speaking by phone with the mayors of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater in the state. “Safety is more important than anything.”
As previous presidents and governors learned, major hurricanes challenge emergency management and coordination, can cause tragic loss of life and property, and render political verdicts among elected leaders from the White House on down.
DeSantis on Tuesday delivered regular televised updates to the public about everything from suspension of highway tolls to the number of shelters accepting pets (WFLA News Channel 8). He said 5,000 National Guard were activated from Florida plus 2,000 from neighboring states. Search and rescue teams and helicopter evacuation crews were activated, if needed, he added.
Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Texas in 2005, and Hurricane Sandy along northeastern coastal states in 2012 are reminders that rapid and effective emergency response — and greater clarity about who is in charge — has evolved in law and practice as deadly and increasingly costly weather events occur with greater frequency.
▪ The Hill’s Niall Stanage: DeSantis faces a make-or-break moment with hurricane response.
▪ Vanity Fair: DeSantis: The making and remaking (and remaking) of a MAGA heir.
▪ CNN: How former President Trump and DeSantis are already splitting the conservative movement.
▪ Time: How Democrats gave DeSantis a pass.
LEADING THE DAY
As the public’s focus zeroes in on Florida, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks postponed a public hearing scheduled this afternoon. A new date was not announced (The Hill).
“In light of Hurricane Ian bearing down on parts of Florida, we have decided to postpone tomorrow’s proceedings,” committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in a Tuesday statement. The Select Committee’s investigation goes forward and we will soon announce a date for the postponed proceedings.”
Members of the panel remain tight-lipped about what they were planning on discussing during Wednesday’s hearing, but many acknowledged the difficulties of compiling the sheer amount of information the committee has gathered (The Hill).
The New York Times: House Jan. 6 panel faces key decisions as it wraps up work.
Meanwhile, senators overwhelmingly voted to advance Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) comprehensive stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. The shell of the bill, which passed a test vote 72-23, will proceed through both chambers ahead of the Friday funding deadline (The Hill).
The vote comes after Schumer announced the removal of Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) permitting reform language from the bill (The Hill). Manchin’s bill, which faced criticism from both sides of the aisle, looked to jeopardize the whole spending package.
“It is unfortunate that members of the United States Senate are allowing politics to put the energy security of our nation at risk,” Manchin said in a Tuesday statement. “The last several months, we have seen firsthand the destruction that is possible as Vladimir Putin continues to weaponize energy. A failed vote on something as critical as comprehensive permitting reform only serves to embolden leaders like Putin who wish to see America fail.”
As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, Senate Republicans worked to defeat Manchin’s permitting reform bill “in a show of political payback” after he supported the Democrats’ tax and climate legislation earlier this summer. Some see the move as proof that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking ahead to 2024, when Manchin will be up for reelection, and did not want to give the West Virginia Democrat a big win in his Republican-leaning state.
▪ Politico: Manchin folds on his energy plan amid GOP stonewall.
▪ Bloomberg News: Manchin pulls energy permitting plan from government funding bill.
▪ Roll Call: Manchin relents, asks Schumer to drop permitting language.
▪ Vox: The unlikely allies who sank Manchin’s energy deal.
▪ The Hill: White House hits GOP over removal of Manchin permitting reform.
McConnell on Tuesday also announced his support of the Senate’s Electoral Count Reform Act, which aims to protect future elections by making changes to the 1887 Electoral Count Act. The bill, introduced by Manchin and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), would make it more difficult to challenge the outcome of a presidential election (The Hill).
“I strongly support the Collins legislation as introduced, and assuming that we make no changes here today, or at the most technical changes, I’ll be proud to vote for it and to help advance it,” McConnell said in a floor speech.
In supporting the bill, McConnell breaks ties with former President Trump, who has pressed Republicans to vote against it. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed the version of the legislation that his chamber approved last week (The Washington Post).
House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a long-awaited bill that would bar members of Congress, federal judges, Supreme Court justices, the president and others from trading stocks and attempt to crack down on conflicts of interest throughout the government.
The bill — introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) — follows a growing push to ban lawmakers from trading stocks, “amid reports that members have violated laws meant to prevent conflicts of interests involving financial transactions” (The Hill).
The New York Times: Despite their influence and extensive access to information, members of Congress can buy and sell stocks with few restrictions.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ POLITICS & INVESTIGATIONS
North Carolina Democrats believe their state’s hotly contested Senate race offers the party one of its best shots at flipping a GOP-held seat in November, The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports, and are asking outside groups for more funds. Polling averages show Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) and former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley (D) deadlocked in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
Strategists and operatives lament that the race has largely flown under the radar for national Democrats and warn against missing an opportunity to flip a seat in a state that’s been competitive for the party in recent years.
▪ NBC News: Democratic super PAC launches new ad in the North Carolina Senate race.
▪ Roll Call: The fight for the Senate: Fundamentals, polling and opposition research.
▪ The New York Times: Will North Carolina’s Senate race break Democratic hearts again?
▪ Reuters: Eight Senate races to watch in November’s midterm elections.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has gone around the world in 80 days — figuratively speaking. As The Hill’s Mike Lillis reports, Pelosi has spent much of the year hopping around the globe, visiting war zones and political hotspots, and bringing new attention to old conflicts and simmering diplomatic history. In the process, Pelosi has made some history, invited some controversy — and raised plenty of questions about whether her world tour is pure diplomacy, power politics or the swan song performance of a historic Speaker who may be readying an exit from Capitol Hill.
“It’s a combination of all three,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), a 24-year veteran and former member of Pelosi’s leadership team.
▪ Roll Call: Midterm elections could set another turnout record this year.
▪ FiveThirtyEight: How Black Americans reshaped politics In Georgia.
▪ The Washington Post: How McCarthy’s political machine worked to sway the GOP field.
■ Florida’s grid, as Hurricane Ian arrives, should benefit from lessons of the past, by Theodore J. Kury, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3dVc2dU
■ Is Nord Stream the latest victim of Putin’s pettiness? by Jessica Karl, editor, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3fp5m8z
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at noon.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to resume deliberations about a continuing resolution to fund the government before the fiscal year ends on Friday. … Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will speak at 1 p.m. at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
The president receives the President’s Daily Briefing at 8 a.m. Biden at 10 a.m. will address a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health gathered in downtown Washington with a goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases in the United States by 2030. The administration previewed an action plan intended to address U.S. food, hunger, nutrition and health challenges (The Washington Post). The president and first lady Jill Biden will speak at 11 a.m. about the benefits of the Americans with Disabilities Act and help mark Disability Pride Month. Biden will receive a briefing from his economic team in the Roosevelt Room at 1:15 p.m. The president will attend a reception in Washington for the Democratic Governors Association at 7 p.m. and return to the White House.
Vice President Harris today is in Tokyo. She will host a discussion with Japanese semiconductor business executives at 10:15 a.m. JST. Harris will travel to the Yokosuka Naval Base to board the USS Howard for a tour and briefing at 2:45 p.m. JST, then meetings with service members aboard the ship. The vice president will give a speech at 3:45 p.m. JST on the ship and then depart the base for Hardy Barracks. Harris is scheduled on Thursday to travel to the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea, according to the White House.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera at the State Department at 10 a.m. He will speak at 11:15 a.m. at a signing with the Millennium Challenge Corporation of a memorandum of understanding along with Chakwera, Malawian Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Sosten Gwengwe and corporation CEO Alice Albright. At noon, the secretary will participate in a working lunch during a meeting of U.S. leaders and those from Pacific Island countries.
The first lady at noon will address the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) at a conference in Alexandria, Va., part of the White House’s Joining Forces initiative.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m.
U.S. consumers during August and September grew more optimistic about the U.S. economy (CNN), yet 71 percent of workers in a separate survey say their wages and compensation are not keeping up with inflation (CNN).
As Americans gauge the risks of a U.S. recession ahead, there’s been a stampede this week of predictions that a global recession is brewing.
The Federal Reserve argues it has a path to tame inflation through a series of aggressive interest rate hikes this year while achieving a “soft landing,” or avoidance of a U.S. recession including high unemployment, even while projecting future “pain.” Economists and markets are dubious about the soft landing scenario, and even central bankers acknowledge risks. The New York Times explains some of the reasons the central bank describes a rosier picture, leading with a strong U.S. jobs market.
But because the Fed insists its target inflation rate remains 2 percent compared with a current annualized inflation rate above 8 percent, some economists believe a deep recession would be needed to achieve that central bank target, based on models drawn from past recessions.
Harvard Kennedy School economic policy professor Jason Furman, previously a White House adviser to former Presidents Clinton and Obama, told Bloomberg TV on Tuesday, “It’s possible the Fed chooses to stop before 2 percent. I actually think that would be a worthwhile thing to consider. If there’s an opportunity to lock in a credible 3 percent inflation rate, I think that would be terrific.”
Charles Evans, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, told CNBC Europe on Tuesday that the Fed’s perspective offers “a path for employment stabilizing at something that still is not a recession. But there could be shocks.”
Global recession worries in many cases are outside U.S. control, including the projections tied to the United Kingdom’s budget and tax cuts and unknowable winter temperatures in Europe, which could drive up high-priced energy demand.
“Any time you are trying to … go between buildings on the high wire, you’re worried about a big gust of wind coming up,” St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on Tuesday at an economic forum in London, referring to the path the Fed is trying to walk between controlling U.S. inflation without triggering a serious downturn. “Talk about the recession story should be more on a global basis than a U.S. basis,” he said, with the possibility of Europe and China pulling the rest of the world into a downturn (Reuters).
U.S. officials late on Tuesday spoke with Danish counterparts about reports of explosions and “apparent sabotage” as the cause of dramatic leaks of natural gas from pipelines beneath the Baltic Sea near Denmark (The Hill). Blinken earlier on Tuesday said sabotage was unconfirmed and he predicted the leaking gas would not undermine European energy security (Bloomberg News and CNN). Neither of the Nord Stream pipelines was pumping gas to Europe at the time the leaks began. The CIA in June issued a vague warning to European allies that the pipelines could be targeted for attack (The New York Times).
The incidents raised new doubts that Europe could receive natural gas before winter via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which links Russian gas with Germany’s market.
Reuters: European Union believes sabotage likely in leaking Russian gas pipelines.
▪ The Hill: Medicare Part B premiums will drop by 3 percent in 2023 for the first time in a decade, the Biden administration said on Tuesday.
▪ The Hill: Who is helped and hurt by the surging U.S. dollar?
▪ Bloomberg News: Gun violence costs the United States $557 billion a year, according to a new study. Losses in revenue and productivity cost employers $535 million a year — on top of added insurance spending.
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
Rising COVID-19 case numbers in the United Kingdom could be a warning sign that the U.S. is headed for a similar fall wave, experts say. Cases across the pond don’t seem to be driven by a new subvariant, although several — including BA.5 and BF.7 — are gaining strength on both sides of the Atlantic (CNN).
“Generally, what happens in the U.K. is reflected about a month later in the US. I think this is what I’ve sort of been seeing,” Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told CNN.
▪ CNN: Study links COVID-19 vaccination to small, temporary change in menstrual cycle.
▪ ProPublica: The COVID-19 booster’s public relations problem.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,057,273. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 353, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. and its allies are mobilizing the international community to reject Russian attempts to annex territory in Ukraine, in a move that Kyiv hopes will spur greater military support to deliver Moscow a decisive battlefield defeat (The Hill). The United States, Europe and NATO should now increase delivery of heavy artillery, tanks and war planes to Kyiv, argue some of Ukraine’s hawkish advocates.
The Washington Post: Russia is on the cusp of land seizures with Tuesday’s staged referendums in four partially occupied regions in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Experts say the administration’s posture of vowing unspecified U.S. consequences if Russia uses nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine is correct, especially given the uncertainty around Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thinking. The U.S. version of strategic ambiguity is an effort to avoid escalation (The Hill).
▪ The Hill: Ukraine warned this week of “massive” Russian cyberattacks against critical infrastructure.
▪ Bloomberg News: Russia declares victory in sham Ukraine ‘referendums.’
Since Biden said this month that American forces would defend Taiwan against an invasion by China, he’s been pushing the boundary on the U.S. stance on Taiwan, write The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Laura Kelly. Despite efforts by senior advisers — including Blinken — to soften Biden’s message, experts and analysts say the president’s rhetoric reflects a keen use of language that walks right up to the line of America’s capabilities.
👉 Don’t miss the work of photojournalists working inside Ukraine’s battle zones to capture images of the war’s impacts. The New York Times published a wide-ranging slideshow on Tuesday (one of the photos is below) as well as additional images by award-winning photographer Tyler Hicks, who illustrated some of the Times’ report on Monday from the Donbas region.
The New York Times: Iran’s foreign minister denied his country sent weapons to Russia to fight Ukraine.
And finally … 🍁🍃🍂 Autumn lovers, rejoice. The official start of fall means leaf peeping season is upon us, and foliage becomes a sea of red, orange and yellow for a few short weeks.
Want to make the most of the leafy season? National Geographic has rounded up the 10 best national parks to visit to witness one of the Northern Hemisphere’s most colorful seasonal phenomena.
As for why the leaves change color, it’s about chlorophyll, which is responsible for a green pigment during the warmer months. As temperatures drop and the sun’s angle changes, chlorophyll breaks down, leaving behind whatever pigment is present in the leaf — and giving the canopy those vivid autumnal hues (NewsNation).