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The U.S. Capitol dome

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today is Wednesday! 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, 525,035; Tuesday, 525,816; Wednesday, 527,699.



Ahead of a self-imposed mid-March deadline and 50 days into President BidenJoe BidenDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Sasse to introduce legislation giving new hires signing bonuses after negative jobs report Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE’s administration, the House today will pass the third and largest coronavirus relief measure to emerge from Congress in the last year, embracing $1.9 trillion in additional spending and almost immediate distribution of $1,400 checks to millions of Americans. 

 

The Hill: House and Senate Democrats ironed out intraparty frictions to move quickly to hand Biden his first major legislative accomplishment and enact expanded unemployment and other emergency benefits before they expire on March 14.

 

The Hill and CNBC: A look at what's in the relief package, in addition to the big ticket items, such as the stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits.  

 

The Wall Street Journal: Breaking down the COVID-19 aid bill.  

 

The Associated Press: Restaurants are big beneficiaries of COVID-19 relief bill.

 

Biden has said he will sign the American Rescue Plan Act right away, and he plans to deliver a prime time address on Thursday to mark one year since the first COVID-19 lockdown started as the virus began to spread across the United States.

 

The Washington Post, by Joel Achenbach, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Frances Stead Sellers: How the underestimated coronavirus took over the world.

 

The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes that Biden’s speech to the nation has to walk a fine line between reassuring a shaken nation and conveying confidence. Scientific surprises could still be in store with a coronavirus that virologists believe will continue to infect humans for years to come.

 

The Hill: Coronavirus relief checks to individuals will not include Biden’s name (in contrast with a decorative innovation adopted by his predecessor a year ago).

 

Congress watchers believe Biden’s most significant policy and political challenges lie ahead as he seeks legislation to boost the economic recovery, floats a plan to spend another $2 trillion, this time to rebuild infrastructure and address climate change, and searches for willing GOP partners to overhaul the nation’s immigration system (The Hill). 

 

The New York Times: Steering Biden’s agenda proves a tall order for Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (D-N.Y.), now in his dream job as majority leader.

 

Republicans have begun a narrative crafted to undercut Biden and Democrats’ agenda as far-left, budget-breaking spending. The American Action Network, tied to House GOP leaders, says it has launched digital ads in mostly moderate districts calling the majority’s American Rescue Plan Act “a freight train of frivolous spending to bankroll their liberal cronies” (The Associated Press).

 

 

President Biden

 





LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: States continued to roll back coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday while simultaneously attempting to broaden the base of individuals who can receive COVID-19 vaccines in an attempt to corral the pandemic.

 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday that, effective Friday, all capacity limits have been lifted at restaurants, bars, gyms and shops. At mass gathering sites such as theaters, music venues and outdoor sporting facilities, including Camden Yards and Pimlico Race Course, 50 percent capacity is permitted. The Baltimore Orioles’ home opener is on April 8, and the Preakness Stakes is expected to take place in May.

 

“My advice would be that they should follow the state guidance and get in line,” Hogan said at a news conference. “It’s been very confusing with a patchwork of different people changing rules or not being in alignment with one another” (The Baltimore Sun).

 

In New York, Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo's communications director resigns The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Broadway to fully reopen in September MORE (D) said that the group of those eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines will now extend to those aged 60 and over, beginning this morning. Previously, the age cutoff was 65. 

 

The New York governor added that public-facing essential workers from governmental and nonprofit entities will be eligible for inoculations beginning March 17. This group includes public works employees, social service and child service caseworkers, government inspectors, sanitation workers, and Department of Motor Vehicles workers (The Hill).

 

The Associated Press: Alaska today is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations to add those ages 55 to 64 and people 16 and older who meet certain criteria. That criteria includes being considered an essential worker, living in a multigenerational household, being at or at possible high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or living in communities lacking in water and sewer systems, the state health department said in a release.

 

The Washington Post: Los Angeles schools reach agreement with teachers union to reopen classrooms.

 

The Hill: Austin, Texas, is requiring face masks despite the governor’s decision to lift a statewide mask mandate.

 

The Hill: Vaccine portals address tech problems as states begin wider sign-ups. 

 

> Therapeutic: A five-day course of oral antiviral appears to stop SARS-CoV-2 in Its tracks, a new study shows. The investigational drug molnupiravir taken twice a day for  five days eliminated the coronavirus from the nasopharynx of 49 participants (Medscape).

 

> Travel: Meanwhile, airlines are unhappy with new guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday meant to be recommendations for fully-vaccinated individuals. The CDC urged even fully-vaccinated people to avoid some forms of travel as a precaution. The U.S. airline industry says it continues to have confidence in steps taken to prevent COVID transmission aboard aircraft, reports The Hill’s Alex Gangitano.

 

“We remain confident that this layered approach significantly reduces risk and are encouraged that science continues to confirm there is a very low risk of virus transmission onboard aircraft,” said a spokesperson for Airlines for America, which advocates for major U.S. airlines.

 

The Associated Press: Americans largely support Biden’s virus response, per AP-NORC poll.

 

The Washington Post: Daily new coronavirus cases hit new U.S. lows but experts warn about the looming spring break.

 

The Hill: The University of California, Davis will pay students not to travel during spring break.

 

 

An airline traveler at an airport window

 

 

> Vaccine messaging: House Democrats are struggling to come together behind a simple, singular message on vaccines, concerned that the new, slightly less effective one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is being targeted to inner-city minority communities. 

 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDefense lawyers for alleged Capitol rioters to get tours of U.S. Capitol Gaetz, Greene tout push to oust Cheney: 'Maybe we're the leaders' Free Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech MORE (D-Calif.) has sided with Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) leaders, who argued on a recent conference call that majority-minority communities should have a choice when it comes to vaccines, coming into conflict with proposed messaging from others in the Democratic conference. 

 

According to The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis, Rep. Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - At 50 days in charge, Democrats hail American Rescue Plan as major win Democrats spar over COVID-19 vaccine strategy Democrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help MORE (D-Wash.) told her colleagues that the emerging message from CBC leaders could add to the rising vaccine skepticism across the country, with many in Trump-supporting areas and the African American community hesitant to take it. Schrier added that the party’s messaging should be clear: that all vaccines are good.

 

NBC News: The vaccines are working. That's why we shouldn't panic about variants.

 

The Hill: Working moms struggle under pressure from pandemic.

 

Reuters: Japan to keep foreign spectators away from Tokyo Olympics.

 

*****

 

POLITICS: A sixth woman came forward on Tuesday to allege that Cuomo sexually harassed her late last year at the governor’s mansion in Albany amid calls within his party to step aside. 

 

The Albany Times Union reported the latest allegation, in which the woman recently told a supervisor in the executive chamber that Cuomo inappropriately touched her in late 2020. The woman, whose name was not disclosed, is a member of the executive chamber staff and was summoned to the governor’s mansion to do work, a source told the publication. 

 

The complaint was subsequently forwarded by the governor’s team to state Attorney General Letitia James, who is supervising an independent investigation conducted by a former prosecutor and another lawyer (The Hill). 

 

Politico: New York GOP’s bet to take down Cuomo: Do nothing.

 

> Committee business: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm for the House majority, is officially ending its controversial ban on political consultants who work with candidates challenging sitting Democratic incumbents in primaries, clinching a major victory for progressives.

 

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the newly installed chairman of the committee, officially reversed the policy on Tuesday when he moved to strike language in an official DCCC questionnaire that specified to interested vendors that the "DCCC will not conduct business with, nor recommend to any of its targeted campaigns, any consultant that works with an opponent of a sitting Member of the House Democratic Caucus.” (Politico).

 

“This policy change means that the only criteria for a vendor to be listed in the directory are our standards for fair business practices related to use of organized labor, critical diversity and inclusion standards, and other minimum qualifications,” DCCC spokesman Chris Taylor told The Hill in an emailed statement.

 

The development is a major win for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBattle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers Overnight Energy: Update on Biden administration conservation goals | GOP sees opportunity to knock Biden amid rising gas prices | Push for nationwide electric vehicle charging stations The Memo: The GOP's war is already over — Trump won MORE (D-N.Y.), who had been a vocal opponent of the provision, which was instituted by Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDemocrats confront difficult prospects for midterms Democrat Cheri Bustos to retire from Congress GOP campaign chief confident his party will win back House MORE (D-Ill.), who chaired the committee last cycle (The Hill). 

 

Reuters: Republican donations surge despite corporate boycott after Capitol riots. 

 

The Hill: Wave of Senate retirements puts GOP ranks on defense.

 

The Hill: The FBI released new video footage on Tuesday hoping to enlist help from the public to identify a suspect thought to be linked to pipe bombs found on Jan. 6 at the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters near the Capitol. Watch on YouTube HERE.

 

The Hill: Nearly 2,300 members of the National Guard will remain in and around the Capitol to provide security through May 23, about half the current deployment, the Pentagon announced.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION: Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBiden 'confident' meeting with Putin will take place soon Blinken calls for Taiwan to join World Health Assembly in opposition to China US general warns China is actively seeking to set up an Atlantic naval base MORE will testify today before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about U.S. international policy, his first appearance since becoming America’s top diplomat. Lawmakers are likely to focus on China, Iran and Russia and the U.S. response to recent outbreaks of violence and democratic rollbacks in Myanmar and Ethiopia (The Hill).

 

On Tuesday, Blinken called on the Iranian government in a statement to provide “credible answers” about the abduction and likely death of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared 14 years ago in Iran. In a statement Tuesday, the secretary said Levinson’s “case is not closed” and called on Tehran to release all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in the country (The Hill). 

 

 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken

 

 

> Immigration: The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to a Biden administration request to dismiss an upcoming case challenging the Trump’s administration’s “public charge” rule, which limited access by non citizens to green cards if they were deemed likely to need public assistance. The court had agreed last month to hear challenges to the 2018 rule, but the Biden administration in its request noted that all parties had agreed to ask the court to toss the case. Biden campaigned to scrap Trump’s public charge rule, and the request to the high court signaled the president plans to follow through on that pledge. States and advocacy groups argued the rule amounted to a wealth test for immigrants (The Hill). 

 

> Nominees: The Senate today is scheduled to vote on the nominations of Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandDOJ proposes crackdown on 'ghost guns' following Biden pledge America's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Biden set to flex clemency powers MORE to be attorney general (USA Today) and Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeHHS, HUD team up to extend COVID-19 vaccine access in vulnerable communities Iowa governor signs law allowing landlords to refuse Section 8 vouchers Ohio sets special election to replace retiring Rep. Steve Stivers MORE (D-Ohio) to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Vice President Harris will swear in Fudge during a virtual ceremony at 5 p.m. 

 

Interior: Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesThree questions about Biden's conservation goals Hillicon Valley: DOJ to review cyber challenges | Gaetz, House Republicans want to end funding for postal service surveillance | TikTok gets new CEO Senators introduce bipartisan bill to protect personal travel data MORE (R-Mont.) placed a procedural hold on the nomination of Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water | Watchdog questions adequacy of EPA standards for carcinogenic chemical emissions | Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections Biden officials unveil plan to conserve 30 percent of US lands and water Interior proposing revocation of Trump-era rollback on bird protections MORE (D-N.M.) to be Interior secretary in an effort to slow her trajectory. “Her record is clear: she opposes pipelines & fossil fuels, ignores science when it comes to wildlife management & wants to ban trapping on public lands. Her views will hurt the Montana way of life and kill Montana jobs. We must consider the impact she will have on the West,” Daines wrote in a statement. Sen. Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisTrump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan GOP frustration with Liz Cheney 'at a boiling point' Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill MORE (R-Wyo.) also has a hold on Haaland’s nomination because of what she called the lawmaker’s “radical policies.” The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-9 last week to send Haaland’s nomination to the full Senate, and on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) filed cloture on the Interior nomination in an effort to break the holds (The Hill).

 

Justice Department: Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Biden’s nominee to be associate attorney general, received an icy reception from Senate Republicans Tuesday at her confirmation hearing. Her nomination is backed by police labor organizations; however, she is criticized by conservatives as anti-police (The Hill). “I do not support defunding the police," she said. "I have, in fact, spent my career advocating where it's been necessary for greater resources for law enforcement and things like body-worn cameras and officer wellness and safety programs and any number of programs."

  

FTC: Biden is expected to nominate antitrust scholar Lina Khan to lead the Federal Trade Commission (The Wall Street Journal). He appointed Tim Wu last week to be White House special assistant for technology and competition policy. Khan, a Columbia University associate professor, would be the second individual promoted by progressive Big Tech critics.

 

Khan is best known for “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” a paper she wrote while still a law student at Yale in which she described how the e-commerce giant could be violating antitrust law. She also served as an aide to the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee during its investigation into the monopoly power of major digital platforms (The Hill).

 

OMB: White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainHouse Republicans urge opposition to vaccine patent waiver Pressure builds for Biden to back vaccine patent waivers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Biden sales pitch heads to Virginia and Louisiana MORE told Punchbowl News during an interview on Tuesday that the president would like to see the Senate confirm Shalanda Young as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and considers Young “a very strong candidate” to become budget director (The Hill and Reuters). The top budget job is vacant following the withdrawal of Neera TandenNeera TandenManchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' Manchin says he doesn't support DC statehood, election reform bills Manchin floats breaking up Biden's infrastructure proposal MORE’s nomination after a majority of senators signaled they would not vote to confirm her in that role.



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

Making senators orate won’t blunt the filibuster, by Jonathan Bernstein, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3cjeKoO 

 

The only way Cuomo gives up power is if it’s taken from him, by Matt K. Lewis, columnist, Daily Beast. https://bit.ly/3cengWd 





WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. Lawmakers are set to vote today on a pair of bills to expand background checks before gun purchases (Reuters).

 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of pending nominations.

 

The president and Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden will host the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck Co. to discuss their partnership to produce more COVID-19 vaccines at 3 p.m.

 

First lady Jill BidenJill BidenBiden to record video message for 'Vax Live' concert White House posts visitor logs for first time since Obama Jill Biden surprises National Teacher of the Year MORE will visit Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., at 2:15 p.m. ET.

   

The White House press briefing is at 12:30 p.m. The White House COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.

 

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. will release a report on the consumer price index in February.

 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom holds a virtual hearing at 10:30 a.m. about the persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats cool on Crist's latest bid for Florida governor Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Fla.) is scheduled to deliver opening remarks. Information HERE.

 

INVITATION: The Hill’s Virtually Live event today at 12:30 p.m. ET, “The Future of Education.” The two-part virtual summit explores old and new challenges as schools begin to reopen during the pandemic. Editor-at-Large Steve Clemons talks with Rep. Alma AdamsAlma Shealey AdamsOfficials discuss proposals for fixing deep disparities in education digital divide The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - At 50 days in charge, Democrats hail American Rescue Plan as major win House Democrats call on Biden to fill Postal Service Board vacancies to pave way for ousting DeJoy MORE (D-N.C.), American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R), Howard University President Wayne Frederick and Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica RosenworcelJessica RosenworcelTo build lasting digital equity, look to communities Officials discuss proposals for fixing deep disparities in education digital divide The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - At 50 days in charge, Democrats hail American Rescue Plan as major win MORE, plus others. RSVP HERE. 

 

The Hill TODAY hosts a Zoom book event (including audience questions) from 5-6 p.m. ET to discuss “Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency,” by Amie Parnes, senior correspondent at The Hill, and Jonathan Allen, senior political analyst for NBC News. RSVP via email HERE.  

 

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

K STREET: A potential revival of congressional earmarks triggers excitement among lobbyists and corporate-focused government affairs teams. Veteran lobbyists say a return of earmarks would lead to a boom for firms with clients seeking special projects in congressional districts. Government watchdogs fear that earmarks will lead to damaging and perhaps corrupting influence over public policy on Capitol Hill (The Hill). … House Republicans may follow Democrats in bringing earmarks back (Reuters).

 

INTERNATIONAL: The rebuilding of the Notre Dame cathedral took a major step on Tuesday, as four French oaks that had stood for hundreds of years were cut down and will be used to recreate the 305-foot spire that collapsed and burned in the April 2019 fire. The four trees were cut down in the Loire region’s Forest of Berce, ending a months-long hunt for trees to replace the iconic spire that adorned the cathedral. Overall, more than 1,000 oaks from more than 200 French forests were chosen to rebuild the frame of the cathedral transept and spire. French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBiden to record video message for 'Vax Live' concert EU leaders criticize Biden push to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents: Not a 'magic bullet' EU urges Biden administration to increase vaccine exports MORE has pledged to rebuild the cathedral by 2024 (The Associated Press). 

 

 

A 230 years old Sessile oak tree selected the week before to be used in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral in the Foret de Berce, near Jupilles.

 

 

ROYAL PAIN: Two days after Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, leveled bombshell accusations at Buckingham Palace, the royal family has responded, saying it is “saddened” by the challenges the couple faced, especially those on race. “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan,” Buckingham Palace said on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II in its first comments since the pair sat down with Oprah WinfreyOprah Gail WinfreyOprah interview with Meghan, Prince Harry grew subscriptions for Paramount+ Meghan announces children's book inspired by Prince Harry and Archie Oprah Winfrey says Harry and Meghan interview 'powerful' because of couple's openness, vulnerability MORE. “The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.” The statement added that Harry, Meghan and Archie, their son, “will always be much loved family members” (In The Know).



THE CLOSER

And finally … Washington, D.C., forfeited valuable tourism and business revenue during the pandemic, but one upside after COVID-19 closures, blockades for security and a quieter year was a 77 percent decline in traffic congestion in the D.C. metro region (pictured a few years ago). It was the most dramatic change seen among the largest cities in the nation, according to one study released on Tuesday (The Washington Post). 

 

 

Heavy highway traffic