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The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Lawmakers face Capitol threat as senators line up votes for relief bill

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The U.S. Capitol is seen behind a sign during a demonstration in support of COVID-19 relief, organized by Shutdown DC, on the National Mall, on February 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today is Thursday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!



Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 513,091; Tuesday, 514,657; Wednesday, 516,608; Thursday, 518,453.



Senate Democrats on Wednesday took a scalpel to President BidenJoe BidenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech Kemp: Pulling All-Star game out of Atlanta will hurt business owners of color MORE’s $1.9 trillion relief bill hoping to surgically ensure enough support from centrists this week to clear the measure, already passed by the House.

 

Biden and Senate allies say they’re willing to be less generous with the bill’s income cutoffs for proposed $1,400 federal direct payments to higher-income individuals and families (The Hill and The New York Times). 

 

The Hill: Senate Democrats cut deals to gain votes for COVID-19 relief measure.

 

The Senate is moving with the pace of a cooling saucer and hopes for a final vote later this week (Reuters), while the House on Wednesday suddenly accelerated its floor schedule to approve sweeping voting and police reform bills and canceled plans for votes today amid new security threats involving the Capitol (The Hill). Law enforcement and intelligence officials warned that extremists threaten to attack the Capitol today based on a convoluted and false belief that former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE will be reinstalled in office (The Hill).

 

The Associated Press: House passes voting rights bill over GOP opposition (and defeats proposal to let 16- and 17-years-olds vote (The Wall Street Journal).

 

The Associated Press: House Democrats late Wednesday voted 220-212 to overhaul policing nationwide with national standards. 

 

The Capitol Police force is preparing for another assault on the Capitol building after obtaining intelligence of a potential plot by a militia group, just two months after a mob of Trump loyalists and extremists attacked the building, leaving five dead and hundreds injured (The New York Times).

 

Senate conservatives, including Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Trump endorses Rand Paul for reelection MORE (R-Wis.) (pictured below), have their own ideas about how to slow a Senate bill they believe is partisan and too bloated, especially in the context of $4 trillion previously enacted as COVID-19 relief. They vowed on Wednesday to gum up the works by asking the clerk this week to read the entire bill aloud, which Johnson estimated could take 10 hours. 

 

“We need to keep this process going,” Johnson told reporters, adding that he has readied “plenty” of amendments to slow momentum.

 

Republican senators are plotting how they can score political points as the bill moves through the Senate. The process known as vote-a-rama gives the minority party opportunities to force Democrats to go on the record with each vote ahead of 2022 elections, reports The Hill’s Jordain Carney. 

 

The Hill: Senate’s GOP will force clerks to read bill to delay COVID-19 relief bill vote.

 

 

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

 

 

The Hill: In addition to a voting rights measure, the House on Wednesday passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, seen by progressives as a landmark police reform bill named after the Minneapolis victim of a police killing last summer. Biden has said he would sign both measures, but the bills face long odds in the Senate (Reuters).

 

 

 



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LEADING THE DAY

SECURITY: The U.S. Capitol Police Department is bracing for a second attempted assault on the Capitol today, a day after the commanding officer of the Washington, D.C., Guard lamented the delayed response to activate troops on Jan. 6 until hours after the Capitol had been breached by pro-Trump supporters. 

 

The Capitol Police said in a statement Wednesday that it has “obtained intelligence that shows a possible plot to breach the Capitol.” 

 

“We have already made significant security upgrades to include establishing a physical structure and increasing manpower to ensure the protection of Congress, the public and our police officers,” it added.

 

The Capitol complex has been fortified by a fence that includes barbed wire and National Guard troops that are expected to remain in the coming weeks. As The Hill’s Chris Mills Rodrigo notes, March 4 has been circled on law enforcement’s calendars for months because some QAnon adherents believe Trump will be reinaugurated that day. That was the date for presidential swearing-ins until 1933.

 

On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. Guard, testified to lawmakers that top Pentagon officials approved deploying the National Guard to the Capitol more than three hours after then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund placed a “frantic” call to him asking for help on Jan. 6. 

 

“At 1:49pm I received a frantic call from then Chief of U.S. Capitol Police, Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters. Chief Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster," Walker said in written testimony released ahead of a Senate hearing Wednesday morning. 

 

“Immediately after the 1:49pm call with Chief Sund, I alerted the Army Senior Leadership of the request. The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the Acting Secretary of Defense and be relayed to me by Army Senior Leaders at 5:08pm — 3 hours and 19 minutes later,” he added (The Hill). 

 

The Hill: Five takeaways from dramatic Capitol security hearing.

 

The Hill: Threats to lawmakers up 93.5 percent in last two months. 

 

The Associated Press: Takeaways: What hearings have revealed about Jan. 6 failures.

 

 

Army Maj. Gen. William Walker, Commanding General of the District of Columbia National Guard, answers questions during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on March 3, 2021.

 

 

*****

 

POLITICS: New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNew York City's suicide mission should alarm the entire nation New York's wealthy could face 51.8 percent tax rate: report Rep. Lee Zeldin announces bid for New York governor MORE (D) said on Wednesday that he won’t resign after three women accused him in recent days of sexual harassment or unwanted sexual advances.

 

“Some politicians will always play politics. That’s the nature of the beast. I don’t think today is a day for politics. I wasn’t elected by politicians, I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I’m not going to resign. I work for the people of the state of New York, they elected me, and I’m going to serve the people of the state of New York,” Cuomo said at a press conference.

 

The remarks came during Cuomo’s first public appearance since allegations of sexual improprieties first surfaced. He added that he was “embarrassed” by his actions, but maintained that he never touched anyone “inappropriately.” 

 

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward. And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional, and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly, I am embarrassed by it. And that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth,” Cuomo said. “I never touched anyone inappropriately. I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. … And I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain.”

 

Letitia James, New York's Democratic attorney general, has opened up an independent investigation into the claims (The Hill).

 

The Associated Press: Double standard? Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Gillibrand2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet Manhattan law firm named as lead in Cuomo impeachment investigation Senate Democrats call on DHS for details on response to Portland protests MORE (D-N.Y.) in the spotlight after Cuomo scandal.

 

 

Protesters call for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign.

 

 

> 2024: Trump is reportedly seriously considering a 2024 presidential bid, but it isn’t expected to happen with a key cog in his two previous campaigns. 

 

According to Bloomberg News, any bid is unlikely to happen with former Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence pleaded with military officials to 'clear the Capitol' on Jan. 6: AP The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids' climate lawsuit MORE on the ticket as Trump believes he was disloyal to him by not attempting to overturn the election results on Jan. 6, with advisers suggesting that other candidates could be more effective overall. 

 

The Hill: Pence said in an op-ed published in the Daily Signal that there were “significant voting irregularities” and “numerous instances of officials setting aside state election law” in the 2020 presidential contest. Pence wrote the opinion piece for the Heritage Foundation’s publication to criticize the voting rights legislation, HR 1, supported by House Democrats and on the floor this week. Pence argued that if enacted, the bill would “increase opportunities for election fraud.”

 

Karl Rove: Trump’s appeal rings hollow at CPAC.

 

> Midterms: Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerGOP campaign chief confident his party will win back House Letlow wins Louisiana special House election to replace late husband Fundraising spat points to Trump-GOP fissures MORE (Minn.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), issued a warning to Trump on Wednesday, saying that he hopes he does not meddle in primary contests and attempt to oust lawmakers who supported his impeachment in January. 

 

Speaking at an event hosted by Politico, Emmer said he has not spoken to Trump directly about staying out of primary races involving the 10 House Republicans that voted in favor of impeachment. However, he said that he believes Trump will listen to Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielRNC rolls out ad campaign hitting Democrats over election reform RNC to shadow Biden as he promotes COVID-19 relief bill Fundraising spat points to Trump-GOP fissures MORE and other GOP leaders telling him “that’s not going to be helpful.” 

 

“I imagine we’ll have a conversation at some point,” Emmer said. “He can do whatever he wants. Any citizen can do whatever he wants. But I’d tell him it’s better for us that we keep these people and have a majority that can be sustained going forward.” 

 

Don't bet any amount of money that Trump is going to heed Emmer's advice.

 

Emmer said the NRCC will not intervene in primaries, including to support incumbents (The Hill).

 

The Hill: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) caught in middle of opposing GOP factions.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS: Biden on Wednesday panned the decisions by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to reopen their states fully, saying the pair of governors were making a “big mistake” and labeling it “Neanderthal thinking.”

 

“I hope everybody's realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden said, referring to the rollback of mask mandates in the two states. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way we're able to get vaccines in people's arms.” 

 

Biden’s comments came a day after he bumped up the timeline for all Americans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by two months, saying that there will be enough vaccines by the end of May instead of the end of July. As Morgan Chalfant and Jonathan Easley write, the announcement sets a new bar that could carry risks for an administration that is likely to be judged on its handling of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

 

> Everlasting contagion? Eighteen specialists who closely track the pandemic or are working to curb its impact, interviewed by Reuters, say they now believe data about SARS-CoV-2 variants indicates the virus will remain as endemic, continuing to circulate in communities and globally and will likely cause a significant burden of illness and death for years to come.

 

The Hill: Experts warn the United States risks delaying “normal” summer.

 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Biden's COVID-19 bet comes with deep risks. 

 

The Wall Street Journal: Support for COVID-19 vaccine passports grows, with European, Chinese backing.

 

 

President Biden

 

 

> Mask fight: Retailers and grocery stores are fearing a resurgence of the mask wars from earlier in the pandemic as states start scaling back coronavirus restrictions. 

 

As The Hill’s Alex Gangitano writes, nationwide chains that have COVID-19 rules in place for both employees and customers are worried about the confusion that's likely to ensue as some states lift mask mandates for indoor spaces but stores keep them in place. Industry groups and major companies with operations in Texas are already saying they plan to stick with their own coronavirus mitigation measures, regardless of changes at the state level.

 

The Wall Street Journal: Starbucks, Target among companies to still mandate masks in Texas despite lift on COVID-19 restrictions.

 

The Associated Press: California: More vaccines go to the rich than at-risk.

 

The Hill: Antibodies from South African coronavirus variant may offer cross-protection, researchers find. 

 

*****

 

MORE ADMINISTRATION: Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBudget tasks DOJ with turnaround of policing, voting rights, hate crimes Progressive group ramps up pressure on Justice Breyer to retire The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE, Biden’s nominee to be attorney general, hit GOP Senate roadblocks that will likely delay until next week his expected confirmation to lead the Justice Department. Senate Judiciary Committee member Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonMcConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS Overnight Defense: Biden proposes 3B defense budget | Criticism comes in from left and right | Pentagon moves toward new screening for extremists POW/MIA flag moved back atop White House MORE (R-Ark.) said he has additional questions he wants Garland to answer and will block efforts by his colleagues to expedite a vote on the nominee this week (The Hill). 

 

> Following enactment of 2001’s war powers authorization in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by al Qaeda, successive presidents have found themselves embroiled in debate with Congress about whether the legislative branch must sign off on all new U.S. military operations. The surgical strikes Biden recently ordered in Syria reawakened misgivings in Congress that the commander in chief’s interpretation of his constitutional authority to order military operations without consultation and pre-approval from lawmakers is too broad. But Democrats, like Republicans before them, struggle to find consensus around proposals to rein in the president in times of international emergency (The Hill). 

 

> The Hill’s media reporter Thomas Moore reports on Biden’s communications strategy, as managed by top West Wing aide Kate BedingfieldKate BedingfieldWhite House says Biden 'first to say' gun executive actions are 'not enough' Manchin throws cold water on using budget reconciliation 'SNL' mocks Biden trip on Air Force One stairs MORE.

 

> Shalanda Young, nominated to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, could become the president’s escape hatch after Neera TandenNeera TandenFive ways an obscure Senate ruling could change Washington 2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet White House delays release of budget plan MORE withdrew her nomination on Tuesday to be budget director. Young will testify before a Senate panel today in a bid for confirmation for the No. 2 job, but already Democratic leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus are encouraging Biden to elevate Young to director. The White House says the president will not decide on a new OMB nominee this week (The Hill).   



The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 



OPINION

The Iran nuclear deal needs to be fixed and rewritten, not just revived, by Russell A. Berman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/309VNzl

 

Capitol Police begged for help. For 199 minutes, Trump’s Pentagon stalled, by Dana Milbank, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2OpvRNG

 

Don't refuse a COVID-19 vaccine, by Joseph Chamie, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3v0zXg3



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WHERE AND WHEN

The House will hold no votes today.

 

The Senate convenes at noon.

 

The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:30 a.m. Biden and Harris will meet in the Oval Office at 2 p.m. with a bipartisan group of House lawmakers to discuss legislative plans for infrastructure, joined by Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegSunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Buttigieg hopes cruises will return by mid-summer Biden to host bipartisan talks on infrastructure next week MORE. At 5 p.m., Biden will offer congratulations to NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during a virtual hookup to discuss the Mars rover landing.

  

The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. and will include Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughCongress must address the toxic exposure our veterans have endured Veterans shouldn't have to wait for quality care The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality MORE.

 

Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on claims for jobless benefits filed in the week ending Feb. 27. The report is expected to show elevated unemployment and a labor market that has not recovered from effects of the pandemic.

 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EST at Rising on YouTube



ELSEWHERE

INTERNATIONAL: Prince Philip, 99, on Wednesday was treated for an unspecified pre-existing heart condition with what Buckingham Palace described as “a successful procedure” and remains hospitalized (BBC).  

 

CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY: Texas’s power grid manager, Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, was fired by the council’s board on Wednesday in the wake of one of the worst blackouts in U.S. history. ERCOT is under investigation in the state and by the House Oversight Committee (CNBC).

 

CULTURE: Carlos Tavares, the chief executive of Stellantis — the owner of Jeep, said on Wednesday that the company is open to dropping the Cherokee name from its line of sport utility vehicles. Tavares added that Stellantis is in talks with the Cherokee Nation about the potential change for the line of cars. “We are ready to go to any point, up to the point where we decide with the appropriate people and with no intermediaries,” Tavares said. “At this stage, I don’t know if there is a real problem. But if there is one, well, of course we will solve it” (The Hill). … What’s behind the decision to halt publication of Dr. Seuss’s “If I Ran the Zoo,” “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” "McElligot’s Pool," "On Beyond Zebra!," "Scrambled Eggs Super!," and "The Cat’s Quizzer" (NBC News).

 

JOLENE VACCINE: Country music legend Dolly Parton got a taste of her own medicine on Tuesday when she received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine whose research she helped fund. Parton, 75, documented the moment in a video posted to social media on Tuesday in which she encouraged eligible viewers to get the shot and broke into a modified rendition of “Jolene.” “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I'm begging of you please don't hesitate,” she sang. “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, ‘cause once you're dead then that's a bit too late.” Parton last spring announced a $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University. That money helped fund three pandemic-related research projects, including a test used in Moderna vaccine trials. She said last month that she was going to wait her turn to be inoculated. “Hopefully it'll encourage people. I'm not going to jump the line just because I could” (NPR).



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Alert to the FBI’s alarm about the rise in domestic terrorism, we’re eager for some smart guesses about U.S. extremists in the news.

 

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

 

Adherents of which group believe that events today, March 4, will result in Trump’s return to office? 

  1. The Federalist Society
  2. QAnon
  3. Three Percenters
  4. Groyper Army

Who warned senators on Tuesday that domestic terrorism is “metastasizing across the country?”

  1. Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGaetz hires legal counsel amid DOJ probe Georgia lieutenant governor: Giuliani election claims helped lead to new voting law Rep. Lee Zeldin announces bid for New York governor MORE
  2. Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonAnti-Defamation League calls for Tucker Carlson to be fired Arkansas governor quietly bucking GOP's dive into culture wars GOP governor clashes with Tucker Carlson over veto of bill to block trans youth health care MORE
  3. Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland
  4. FBI Director Christopher Wray

Conservative conspiracists, refuting contradictory evidence gathered by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, claim that ______ was responsible for attacks on the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

  1. National Organization for Women 
  2. Antifa, or left-wing anti-fascists
  3. International Revolutionary Front
  4. Democratic National Committee

Since 9/11, white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been responsible for almost three times as many violent attacks on U.S. soil as Islamic terrorists, according to federal data. Which of these homegrown hate groups espouse racial superiority of whites?

  1. National Socialist Order
  2. American Identity Movement
  3. Hammerskin Nation
  4. All of the above

 



 

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fly a U.S. flag with a symbol from the group QAnon as they gather outside the U.S. Capitol January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.