The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Split screen: Biden sells stimulus; GOP highlights border

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 534,889; Tuesday, 535,628.

It’s a tale of two messages for lawmakers this week. The White House is on a mission to sell the stimulus law and all things coronavirus, while Republicans are hellbent on bringing the burgeoning immigration crisis at the border to the forefront, laying blame at the feet of President Biden for the situation there. 


Monday marked the first day of the White House’s “Help is Here” tour, headlined by Vice President Harris’s stop in Las Vegas and first lady Jill BidenJill BidenJill Biden, Jennifer Garner go mask-free on vaccine-promoting West Virginia trip Masks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last' First Latina since 2005 wins Teacher of the Year award MORE’s appearance in New Jersey. The president set a new goal of sending out 100 million relief checks in the next 10 days and tapped Gene Sperling, an experienced economic adviser, to oversee implementation of the $1.9 trillion relief package that has highlighted the opening weeks of his administration. 


“It’s one thing to pass a historic piece of legislation like the American Rescue Plan, and it’s quite another to implement it,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “The devil is in the details. It requires fastidious oversight to make sure the relief arrives quickly, equitably and efficiently with no waste or fraud.” 


In all, the effort represents a coordinated effort to tout the rescue package in states across the country this week to underscore its popularity across segments of the population and highlight the tangible aspects of the bill, including another round of direct payments and funding for vaccines and school reopenings, as The Hill’s Morgan Chafant writes. 


The stimulus pitch will continue today as Biden appears in Chester, Pa., and Harris makes multiple stops in Colorado to promote the law.


Axios: Biden said the administration will reach 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses and 100 million relief checks distributed to the public in the next 10 days.


Reuters: Biden kicks off stimulus tour with promises of vaccine shots and cash payments.


The Associated Press: Road show: Harris, first lady promote aid plan.


Across the aisle, Republicans are desperate to change the subject toward immigration and what they consider a nascent pitfall of the Biden administration. GOP lawmakers made their strongest effort to highlight the situation on Monday as 12 House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyRoy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position Stefanik shake-up jump-starts early jockeying for committee posts Why Cheney was toppled, and what it says about the GOP and Trump's claims MORE (Calif.) (pictured below last week), visited the border in El Paso, Texas. 


As The Hill’s Juliegrace Brufke and Scott Wong write, the lawmakers blamed the influx in border crossings and apprehensions on the Biden administration’s immigration policies and decision to stop the construction of former President TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE’s border wall. They also urged Biden to make a visit to the border to examine the situation firsthand. 


“I know the president is going to travel this week. This is where you should bring Air Force One. This is where he should look the people in the eye. This is where he should talk to the border agents and let them know that this is beyond the crisis,” McCarthy told reporters after a tour of the border. “He can continue to deny it, but the only way to solve it is to first admit what he has done, and if he will not reverse action, it's going to take correct congressional action to do it.”


The Hill: Biden searches for the immigration solutions he promised during his campaign against Trump as Republicans seek to ensure Biden takes the blame for a burgeoning crisis.


The Washington Post: Border upheaval looms as a threat for Biden.



House Republicans



The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes that the border surge collides with Biden’s immigration push for a legislative overhaul.


The Dallas Convention Center will be used by the administration to hold up to 3,000 teenagers as it searches for space to house a surge of immigrants showing up at the border since January (The Hill and The Associated Press).  


> Back inside: Sperling (pictured below) cut his political teeth working for former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D), was recruited to help former President Clinton’s Little Rock, Ark., presidential campaign and rose to become national economic adviser to Clinton in the White House before once again taking on several senior positions while advising former President Obama, including leading the National Economic Council for a second time. Now Sperling, known for constructive ties with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, is bringing years of experience with domestic policy, politics and communications to Biden’s West Wing to oversee the just-enacted coronavirus relief law. It’s the sort of trusted role Biden played for Obama after the 2009 passage of the $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Sperling enlarges an already gargantuan band of reunited colleagues in the Biden administration who made their reputations together during the Clinton and Obama years, including during debates about federal spending, deficits, taxes, welfare, trade, health care, immigration, child benefits, education and energy (The Hill).  



Gene Sperling



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CORONAVIRUS: Europe is experiencing a vaccine problem after a cadre of nations suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot due to concerns of surrounding the fear of blood clotting in some recipients.


Germany, Italy and France all announced on Monday that they would suspend use of the shot, dealing another blow to the ongoing effort to vaccinate millions across the European Union that has been riddled with shortages and other problems. The moves by the three nations followed initial actions by Ireland and the Netherlands, among other countries (The Hill). Sweden today joins the list (The Associated Press).


However, AstraZeneca maintains that the shot is not to blame for the reported blood clots. According to The Associated Press, seven cases of clots in the brains have been reported by individuals who have received the vaccine. 


“Today’s decision is a purely precautionary measure,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn, adding that the decision to halt use of the vaccine was taken following advice from the country’s vaccine regulator.


While European nations hold back doses, other nations are plowing forward and will continue to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine, including Great Britain, Canada and Australia. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) supports use of the medication, saying it does not see a correlation between the vaccine and the small number of instances of blood clots.


“While its investigation is ongoing, EMA currently remains of the view that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks of side effects,” the EMA said in a statement on Monday. 


The AstraZeneca vaccine has not been approved for emergency use in the United States. The company is concluding a phase 3 trial with U.S. research subjects.


CNBC: Doctors baffled as countries suspend use of AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot fears.


Reuters: Moderna begins testing a next-generation coronavirus vaccine. 


The Washington Post: “We want to be educated, not indoctrinated,” say Trump voters hesitant to receive COVID-19 shots. 


The Hill: Alcatraz near San Francisco closed at the beginning of the pandemic. The prison is opening again to tourists.



AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine



> State Watch: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfFor real attacks on democracy, look to Pennsylvania Pennsylvania lifting COVID-19 restrictions, but not mask mandate, on Memorial Day West Virginia governor signs bill restricting transgender athletes MORE (D) announced a major rollback of COVID-19 restrictions on Monday that will expand capacity for restaurants and sporting events starting in early April.


Starting April 4, restaurants and bars may operate at 75 percent capacity, while restrictions on bar service at restaurants and curfews for alcohol sales will be lifted.


Wolf also revealed that outdoor sporting events may take place at 50 percent capacity, with indoor events permitted to allow 25 percent capacity. The discretion for crowd sizes, however, is up to city officials (CBS Philly). 


Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserBipartisan Senate bill introduced to give gyms B in relief Maryland to lift remaining COVID capacity restrictions Transgender inmate sues DC over incarceration in men's unit MORE (D) on Monday announced a series of restriction rollbacks. She said bars may serve alcohol until midnight (pushed back from 10 p.m.) and movie theaters may reopen at 25 percent capacity. Bowser also gave the greenlight for the Washington Nationals to host roughly 5,000 fans when the first pitch is thrown in early April. 


On the vaccine front, the district will also open access to shots to all adults by May 1, coinciding with Biden’s timeline to allow all individuals to become eligible to receive vaccinations (The Hill).


The New York Times: Mississippi opens vaccine eligibility to everyone starting Tuesday.


The Associated Press: U.S. air travel rises to highest levels yet since pandemic hit.


The Washington Post: Death in the prime of life: COVID-19 proves especially lethal to younger Latinos.


The Hill: Wall Street charges ahead on one-year anniversary of major plunge.




MORE CONGRESS: The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports that Senate Democrats have reached no consensus about how to pay for legislation that would tackle the nation’s infrastructure needs, combined with provisions to help combat climate change. Projected price tags range from $2 trillion to $4 trillion. Republicans in theory support traditional goals for upgrades to roads, bridges, ports and airports. But they balk at progressives’ eagerness for “green infrastructure” tethered to hefty federal costs and climate policies.


Forbes: Biden is expected to unveil a green infrastructure plan in April during an address to a joint session of Congress.


> Security: Federal authorities on Sunday arrested and charged alleged Capitol rioters Julian Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania and George Tanios, 39 of West Virginia with assaulting Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick on Jan. 6 with an unknown chemical spray. Authorities have not determined whether the exposure caused Sicknick’s death (The Washington Post). … Meanwhile, Capitol Police plan to remove parts of perimeter fencing around the Capitol acreage and make other security changes (The Hill and WTOP). Capitol Police officials have stated that "there does not exist a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol Complex that warrants the temporary security fencing," according to the House sergeant-at-arms.


ADMINISTRATION: Deb HaalandDeb HaalandSenate panel advances Biden's deputy Interior pick Interior secretary approves new Cherokee constitution providing citizenship rights for freedmen Carter sworn in as House member to replace Richmond, padding Democrats' majority MORE became the first Native American Interior secretary on Monday with the Senate’s confirmation vote of 51-40. GOP Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP governors move to cut unemployment benefits as debate rages over effects Trump critics push new direction for GOP Graham warns about trying to 'drive' Trump from GOP: 'Half the people will leave' MORE (S.C.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Kerry denies allegations from leaked Iran tapes OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court considers whether US should pay for Guam hazardous waste cleanup | EPA eyes reversal of Trump revocation of California vehicle emissions waiver | Kerry faces calls to step down over leaked Iran tapes MORE (Alaska), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate panel deadlocks over Biden pick to lead DOJ civil rights division Senate GOP dismayed by vote to boot Cheney Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMasks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last' Senate GOP dismayed by vote to boot Cheney The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting MORE (Maine) backed the New Mexico Democrat from the House, adding to her Senate Democratic support. Nine senators missed the vote (The Hill and NPR).


Haaland’s swearing-in takes the House Democratic majority down to 219, enlarging previous vacancies and squeezing Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Hillicon Valley: Colonial pipeline is back online, but concerns remain | Uber, Lyft struggle with driver supply | Apple cuts controversial hire Ocasio-Cortez on Taylor Greene: 'These are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time' MORE’s (D-Calif.) current power base. 



Debra Haaland



> Taxes: Bloomberg News and The Hill: Biden is planning the first major tax hike in almost 30 years. … The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda reports that Biden is considering raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy in order to help finance the cost of his next economic package, ensuring a storm of debate in Congress.


> International: The Biden administration said Monday it had reached out to North Korea and received no response (Reuters). ... Today, however, North Korea warned the United States not to “cause a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace.” A statement by Kim Yo Jong, who is Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnBiden must tell Kim: Begin denuclearization, end dehumanization of North Koreans North Korea has much to consider — when, and if, talks resume Pompeo on CIA recruitment: We can't risk national security to appease 'liberal, woke agenda' MORE’s sister, was issued as Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenProgressive groups call for Biden to denounce evictions of Palestinians as 'war crimes' Why women make great diplomats — tales from a 'tough-girl negotiator' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden expresses optimism on bipartisanship; Cheney ousted MORE and Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate l First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot l Israeli troops attack Gaza Strip Military sexual assault reform bill has votes to pass in Senate First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot MORE arrived in Asia to talk with counterparts from Japan and South Korea. They met with counterparts in Tokyo today before speaking to officials in Seoul on Wednesday (The Associated Press).   


> Justice Department: Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBiden officials testify that white supremacists are greatest domestic security threat Watch live: Garland testifies before Senate panel on domestic extremism The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting MORE faces a tangle of press freedom cases and leftover First Amendment questions from the Trump years. One is a quirky situation that would effectively transform the new president’s Justice Department into Trump’s law firm in a private defamation case (Lawfare).


> EPA: Michael ReganMichael ReganEPA rescinds Trump rule expected to make air pollution regulation harder Overnight Energy: Colonial Pipeline restarting operations after cyberattack | Gas shortages spread to more states | EPA relaunches website tracking climate change indicators EPA relaunches website tracking climate change indicators MORE, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, tells The Washington Post in an interview that “science is back.”  



POLITICS: New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo accuser blasts governor's 'Trumpian gaslighting' over harassment allegations Cuomo defends himself, pushes back amid harassment probe Bipartisan Senate bill introduced to give gyms B in relief MORE (D), facing calls for his resignation from most of the state’s congressional delegation and state legislators, received a rare snippet of positive news in his quest to hold onto his governorship following allegations from six women of sexual harassment or unwanted advances.


A new Siena University poll released on Monday showed that 50 percent of New York residents believe Cuomo should not immediately resign, while 35 percent believe he should step down. Forty-eight percent of respondents added that they believe he can effectively continue as governor. Thirty-four percent disagreed, backing the view of most members of Congress from the Empire State. 


Additionally, the New York Democratic Party called for state lawmakers to “focus on getting the work of government done” given that Cuomo will not resign in the face of calls for him to be ousted (The New York Times).


The New York Times: Can Biden stay on the sidelines of the Andrew Cuomo saga?


The Wall Street Journal editorial board: Andrew Cuomo becomes expendable.


Vox: The list of Democrats demanding that Andrew Cuomo resign is growing.



Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.)



> 2022 fights: The Senate Conservatives Fund, a top right-wing outside group, has called out Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.) as a RINO — Republican in name only — and “weak” even though the same group championed Toomey’s 2010 bid for the upper chamber when other Republicans thought he was too far right to win in Pennsylvania. 


As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, the stance is an opening salvo in what is expected to be a messy battle over the future of the GOP in next year’s primaries, where allegiance to the former president will be a predominant question.


The Hill: Special election a bellwether for Texas Democrats.


The Hill: Social media platforms on the right fail to maintain post-Jan. 6 growth.

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! 


Republicans need to get their story straight on deficits, by Gerard Baker, editor at large, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3bNSUe0 


The right way to boycott the Beijing Olympics, by Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyImmigration experts say GOP senators questioned DHS secretary with misleading chart Top border officials defend Biden policies US Olympic Committee urges Congress not to boycott Games in China MORE (R-Utah), opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3eFKtTT 


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The House meets at noon.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nominations of Xavier Beccera to become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Marty WalshMarty WalshStudy: Early unemployment cutoff would cost 16M people 0B On The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Former AFL-CIO official tapped to lead Labor Department division MORE to become secretary of Labor. 


The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Biden flies to Philadelphia to visit a small business in Chester, Pa., this afternoon. He will overnight in Wilmington, Del.  


Harris and second gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal Biden plugs infrastructure with a personal favorite: Amtrak MORE will travel to Colorado from California today and visit a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Fort Lupton, Colo., and hold a listening session with small business owners in Denver. They return to Washington this evening.


The Federal Reserve begins a two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting.


Economic indicator: The Census Bureau reports at 8:30 a.m. on retail sales in February following a January surge.


INVITATION: Thursday at 1:30 p.m. The Hill’s Virtually Live hosts “The Future of Modern Expeditionary Warfare,” to discuss how the Navy and Marine Corps can maintain military readiness domestically and abroad. Featuring Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps; Reps. Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyHouse passes bill to prevent violence in health care workplaces We can't afford to lose one more nurse — passing workplace violence prevention bill would help Marine Corps commandant says China, Russia to pose biggest challenges for years MORE (D-Conn.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, and Rep. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanOvernight Defense: Iran talks set up balancing act for Biden | Pentagon on alert amid Russian saber rattling | Lawmakers urge Pentagon to be pickier about commanders' requests for more troops Battle heats up over Pentagon spending plans Marine Corps commandant says China, Russia to pose biggest challenges for years MORE (R-Va.), ranking member of the subcommittee; and Sinclair Harris, former commander (ret.), U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet. Registration 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


INTERNATIONAL: The Vatican announced in a formal response to a question about whether Catholic clergy have the authority to bless gay unions that the Catholic Church will not since God “cannot bless sin.” The Catholic Church blesses gay people but not their unions, the Vatican stated. It said Monday that such unions are not part of God’s plan and that any sacramental recognition of them could be confused with marriage (The Associated Press).


COURTS: Publicity about Minneapolis’s $27 million settlement with the family of George Floyd, who was killed last year, could taint a jury pool in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering Floyd, the trial judge said on Monday (Reuters). The city announced the settlement with Floyd’s relatives on Friday.


TECH & NEWS CONTENT: News Corp. announced a three-year agreement with Facebook Inc. in Australia, declaring victory in a battle over how news organizations are compensated by big tech. In a move expected to be emulated by other countries, Australia’s Parliament in February enacted a law requiring Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. to pay media companies for using their content (Reuters).


And finally … The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Monday announced Oscar nominations for awards to be announced with fanfare on April 25. The list made history and included a few snubs and plenty of surprises, according to The New York Times.


Two women were nominated Monday in the best director category at the same time, making Oscar history. “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao became the first Chinese woman and first woman of color to be nominated for best director, while filmmaker Emerald Fennell, director of “Promising Young Woman,” also made the distinguished best director list.  


If you’ve been in lockdown and missed too many movies this year, there’s time to bring Oscar-nominated films into your living room (The New York Times).


“Mank,” David Fincher’s black-and-white meditation on old Hollywood, received 10 Academy Award nominations. The Netflix-produced film appears in the best picture, director, actor and supporting actress categories. Academy of Motion Pictures voters handed six nominations each to “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “Sound of Metal,” “Nomadland” (streaming on Hulu), “Minari,” “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “The Father.” All the films on that list received nominations for best picture, along with “Promising Young Woman” (The New York Times).


The New York Times has the full list of Oscar candidates. 


The Associated Press: Nine actors of color were nominated this year, a record. They include Steven Yeun, whose nod for “Minari” makes him the first Asian American to be nominated for best actor, and Riz Ahmed, who became the first person of Pakistani descent to be nominated in an acting category with his own best actor nod for “Sound of Metal.”



An Oscars statue