The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden faces GOP's immigration and filibuster offensive

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 534,889; Tuesday, 535,628. Wednesday, 536,914.

President Biden and Democratic lawmakers are facing a two-front assault as Republicans highlight troubles at the U.S.-Mexico border and try to thwart a progressive drive to nuke the Senate filibuster. 


Biden, who is publicly promoting the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law, is repeatedly pilloried by Republicans, topped by criticism of the president’s handling of a surge of migrants along the U.S. southern border. During a stop in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Biden indicated he will keep his eyes on the stimulus push and has no plans to visit the border, which House Republicans called for him to do during a trip to El Paso, Texas on Monday.


“Not at the moment,” Biden told reporters. 


Biden’s focus on the stimulus plan is unsurprising given the popularity of the newly-enacted law. Equally unsurprising is the GOP’s latest immigration push, as it views the issue as one it can go on the offensive over. According to a National Republican Senatorial Committee official, internal polling shows that 62 percent of respondents disagree with Biden’s border security stance, including the suspension of deportations and cutting of funds for border security.


Buoying the GOP messaging: 62 percent of independents and 31 percent of Democrats disagree with the president’s immigration plan. Only 60 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of independents agree with Biden, according to the poll, which was conducted by OnMessage, a GOP consulting firm.


At the same time, Biden and Democrats were on the receiving end of a broadside from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week GOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture MORE (R-Ky.), who delivered a scathing speech warning the majority party against nixing the legislative filibuster. McConnell warned on the Senate floor that the most minute, day-to-day items would need consent of the Senate, meaning all senators sign off on an action. 


“Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin, to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” McConnell said. “I want our colleagues to imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires a physical quorum” (The Hill).


The comments came a day after Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, panned the 60-vote threshold and compared it to a “weapon of mass destruction” that was holding the Senate “hostage.” 


Chatter has increased in the Senate Democratic Conference about the possibility of nixing the legislative filibuster or reverting to a “talking filibuster” — which would force senators to physically be on the floor. However, any action would need the support of Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Manchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds Sinema urges Biden to take 'bold' action at border: 'This is a crisis' Bowser on Manchin's DC statehood stance: He's 'not right' MORE (D-Ariz.), who have steadfastly supported the 60-vote rule and have committed to maintaining it. 


The “talking filibuster” idea received a major boost on Tuesday as Biden threw his weight behind it, denoting a shift for the president after the White House insisted that his preference was to not make changes. 


“I don't think that you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” Biden told ABC News’s George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosHarris: I don't think America is a racist country, but we need to speak truth about history Biden meets with TV anchors ahead of joint address CDC director 'cautiously optimistic' about coronavirus situation in US MORE in an interview set to air tonight. “You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking. … That's what it was supposed to be.”


“It's getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning," Biden said (ABC News).



Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)



The Hill: The migrant upheaval at the border has injected fresh uncertainty into Senate discussions about the ebbing potential for comprehensive immigration reform this year. The House may vote this week on targeted immigration bills that would help "Dreamers" and farm workers. Those measures face an uncertain future in the Senate.


CNBC: What to know about the House immigration bills being voted on this week.


The Hill: Texas Republican Sens. John CornynJohn CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls MORE plan to lead a delegation of lawmakers to the border on March 26. 


Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasSinema urges Biden to take 'bold' action at border: 'This is a crisis' Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' America's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do MORE (pictured below) on Tuesday defended the administration’s handling of the migrant surge at the border (The Associated Press). Two weeks ago in the White House briefing room, the newly sworn-in secretary urged migrants and asylum-seekers to wait and argued that the Biden team needed time to transition beyond the hard-line immigration policies put in place by former President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE.


We are working around the clock, seven days a week to make that timeframe as short as possible, but they need to wait,” Mayorkas said on March 1. “We are not saying don't come. We're saying don't come now.”


Central American immigrants, who are trying to get into the United States in part because they say they thought Biden would be more welcoming, are finding rugged conditions on both sides of the southern border, and many are being flown by the Biden administration out of one location in Texas and deported into Mexico hundreds of miles away.


Republicans argue that Trump’s policies secured the border and made the United States safer.


The president faces tough questioning about his immigration goals as well as many other topics on March 25, when the White House says he will hold his first solo news conference.


ABC News: During the interview with Stephanopoulos, Biden told migrants not to travel to the U.S. border. “Don’t leave your town or city or community,” he said. The president also said New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe 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 Mets, Yankees to open vaccination sites to fans before games MORE (D), who is being investigated for allegations of sexual harassment, should resign if charges are supported by the findings. "I think he'll probably end up being prosecuted, too," he said. Biden added that "a woman should be presumed telling the truth and should not be scapegoated and become victimized by her coming forward” (CNN).


The Hill’s Niall Stanage reports that public jabs from Biden’s White House advisers that former President Obama made mistakes a dozen years ago while trying to promote an $800 billion stimulus law rubs some in the party the wrong way. Democrats who seek to calm the waters contend that Team Biden is trying to say the administration learned lessons during the Obama era, not that Biden is criticizing the popular former president.


Reuters: Biden wants to make permanent the child tax credit, which was expanded for one year as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief program signed into law last week. Experts believe the move will significantly decrease child poverty in the U.S., and Democratic leaders say they will try to enshrine child tax benefits in the next major legislative package dealing with infrastructure.


Politico: Republicans on Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill: We bungled this one.


The Washington Post: Republican attorneys general are challenging the new stimulus law’s provisions providing $350 billion to states, counties and cities to cover the additional costs of the pandemic. Twenty-one attorneys general on Tuesday said they want to challenge the government in court for allegedly imposing “unprecedented and unconstitutional” limitations on their states’ ability to lower taxes. Congress in the new law restricts states from tapping the pandemic funds from Washington to finance local tax cuts.



Alejandro Mayorkas



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CORONAVIRUS: European nations are being criticized for suspending the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as regulators and experts argue that concern that it causes blood clots is overblown and that they are missing a chance to vaccinate the population. 


The European Union’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said on Tuesday that an investigation into the reports of clots by the EMA’s safety committee is expected to conclude on Thursday and report new recommendations. However, the EMA maintained that it believes the vaccine is safe to use despite a spattering of concerns surrounding clotting (The Associated Press).


“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


While Germany, Italy, France and a host of other nations have temporarily halted use of the shot, Great Britain has plowed along and continues to vaccinate the masses with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged Britains to get the shot, noting that the EMA and Worth Health Organization have greenlighted the vaccine.


“We keep the effects of these vaccines under review all the time and we know that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is saving lives in the UK right now so if you get the call, get the jab,” Hancock said (BBC).


The New York Times: Europe’s vaccine suspension may be driven as much by politics as science.


New York Post: Will the U.S. approve the AstraZeneca vaccine amid Europe suspensions?


The Hill: Italian regulator says decision to suspend AstraZeneca “political.”


Reuters: Britain is considering the best way to proceed on vaccine passports.


The Hill: Moderna begins testing a vaccine on young children, infants.


> Capitol vaccinations: Congress received a new tranche of COVID-19 vaccines as 8,000 doses were delivered to the Capitol complex on Tuesday that will be split between the Senate and House. 


“I do not expect the Doctor will be able to provide vaccination to all staff at this time but we will continue to provide to member offices as inventory becomes available,” the House Administration Committee said on Tuesday (Politico). 


Meanwhile, rank-and-file Republicans on Capitol Hill are resisting taking the COVID-19 vaccine, undermining national efforts to defeat the virus and reinforcing the views of GOP base voters and Trump supporters who are already opposed to the vaccine.


According to The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis, although the top GOP leaders were quickly vaccinated in December — and encouraged the public to follow suit — a number of high-profile rank-and-file members have indicated that they will ignore the advice for a number of reasons. Among those, some lawmakers say they don’t want to jump ahead of constituents in line for vaccines of their own or note that they have already had the virus and have antibodies. 


Some also say they’re concerned the vaccine poses a greater health threat than COVID-19 itself — which infectious diseases specialists widely dispute. This has caused a headache for Republicans who want Congress to return to regular order and procedures, but do not want to mandate individuals receive a shot. 


“This is our way out. … This is our ticket back to normalcy,” Cornyn said.


The downside: Lawmakers who received a shot in the weeks immediately following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December, especially younger members, were lampooned for “cutting the line.” This disincentivizes lawmakers to use their own inoculations to promote the shots. 


The Hill: Trump urges supporters to get coronavirus vaccine.


The Associated Press: Schools weighing whether to seat students closer together.


Akron Beacon Journal: Ohio expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to 40+, cancer, obesity; all over age 16 eligible March 29. 


CBS New York: Connecticut to open vax eligibility to all by April 5.


POLITICS: Democrats believe selling the details buried inside the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law lays some groundwork for a successful midterm election cycle, especially if Biden’s transformative first-year legislative achievement ends up being one gargantuan spending bill. That law now speeds vaccine delivery, puts thousands of dollars in many families’ pockets and potentially boosts chances that small businesses and schools can soon reopen. Nevertheless, it’s eons until next year’s elections, and lots could go awry for the party in power.


History suggests Democrats will lose House seats and perhaps their majority as a result of the midterms. When a president’s job approval is above 50 percent, his party loses an average of 14 House seats, according to Gallup. If a president’s job approval is below 50 percent, the average loss of seats has been 37. Biden’s average job approval is at 53 percent (RealClearPolitics).


Across the Capitol in the 50-50 Senate, six Democrats who are 70 or older represent states where a Republican governor could fill vacancies with Republicans. Five other Democratic senators represent states in which a vacancy would go unfilled in advance of a special election. Such a situation could instantly tip the Senate majority to Republicans (The New York Times op-ed by law professor Paul F. Campos).     


> Not so fast, governor: Eighty-seven-year-old Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Senate Democrats call on Biden to restore oversight of semiautomatic and sniper rifle exports MORE (D-Calif.) says she plans to serve out her entire term, despite Democratic California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomWhy Caitlyn Jenner should not be dismissed San Francisco lawmakers vote to make home of city's first legally married same-sex partners a landmark Woman charged with starting fire that burned 63,000 acres in California MORE’s comment on Monday that he could nominate a Black woman to succeed the senior senator if she retires (Los Angeles Times). Newsom faces a recall and is trying to tamp down pandemic misgivings among some voters.


Feinstein, who agreed last year at the urging of Democratic leaders to give up her position as top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters she and Newsom “are very good friends. I don’t think he meant it the way some people thought.


The New York Times reports that Feinstein’s husband, investor Richard Blum, 85, is interested in an ambassadorship. Such a posting could potentially take the couple out of the United States and create a graceful opening for Feinstein to leave the Senate. Biden has not yet nominated friends and Democratic donors to such posts.




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 warned China on Tuesday against using “coercion and aggression” as he aimed during his first trip abroad to shore up Asian alliances in the face of growing assertiveness by Beijing. China’s extensive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas have become a priority issue in an increasingly testy Sino-U.S. relationship and are an important security concern for Japan. 


“We will push back, if necessary, when China uses coercion and aggression to get its way,” Blinken said.


His visit to Tokyo with Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: Former Navy secretary reportedly spent .4M on travel | Ex-Pentagon chief Miller to testify on Jan. 6 Capitol attack | Austin to deliver West Point commencement speech White House posts visitor logs for first time since Obama Overnight Defense: US may keep training Afghan forces in other countries | Defense chief tight-lipped on sexual assault decision | 'Swift' return to Iran deal possible, US says MORE began the first overseas visit by top members of Biden’s Cabinet. Today they are meeting officials in Seoul before meeting with Chinese counterparts in Alaska on Thursday.


The Associated Press: U.S. officials weigh North Korea options in talks in Seoul.


In advance of meeting with the Chinese, Blinken and Austin issued a statement on Tuesday with their Japanese counterparts, saying, “China’s behavior, where inconsistent with the existing international order, presents political, economic, military and technological challenges to the alliance and to the international community” (Reuters).


> Interior Department: Secretary 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, confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, provides the Biden administration with another Cabinet breakthrough as it pursues the most diverse administration leadership in history. Haaland is the first Native American Cabinet member (The Hill). … Advocates for Native Americans want the secretary to promote stronger tribal involvement in environmental decision making, broadband internet for tribal nations and modernization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, created in 1824 (The Hill).


> Cyber: The Biden administration and organizations around the world are still struggling to address a massive cyber threat after Microsoft announced two weeks ago that it discovered major vulnerabilities in a popular email application. The email problem follows news of the SolarWinds breach, pressuring government and incident responders to come up with answers (The Hill).


Inside the National Security Council, deputy adviser Anne Neuberger is involved in coordination of responses to the Microsoft and SolarWinds breaches, White House spokeswoman Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden 'confident' meeting with Putin will take place soon Sinema urges Biden to take 'bold' action at border: 'This is a crisis' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - More states are passing voting restrictions MORE said Tuesday. The breaches, as well as instances of 2020 election interference and alleged Russian bounties offered to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, remain under U.S. review, she added.   


The New York Times: Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden 'confident' meeting with Putin will take place soon Blinken: US stands with Ukraine in face of Russian aggression Russia keeping 80K troops at border amid NATO exercise, US officials say MORE authorized extensive efforts to hurt the Biden campaign during the election last year, including by mounting covert operations to influence people close to Trump, according to a declassified intelligence report released on Tuesday.

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The House meets at 10 a.m.


The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nominations of Katherine TaiKatherine TaiOn The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain EU urges Biden administration to increase vaccine exports Battle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers MORE to be U.S. trade representative and Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraNearly 940,000 sign up for ObamaCare coverage in special enrollment HHS, HUD team up to extend COVID-19 vaccine access in vulnerable communities We urgently need a COVID-level response to the US drug crisis MORE to become Health and Human Services secretary.


The president will attend a St. Patrick’s Day mass in Wilmington, Del., at 8 a.m. before departing for Washington, D.C., at 9:40 a.m. Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. and arrive at the White House at 10:35 a.m. The president will also host Irish Prime Minister H.E. Micheál Martin at 1 p.m. for a virtual bilateral meeting. 


Vice President Harris will host Martin for a virtual bilateral meeting in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office at 11 a.m. before the two attend a virtual event celebrating the Frederick Douglass Global Fellows. Harris will also host a virtual meeting with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill of the Northern Ireland Executive at 2:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., Harris will ceremonially swear in Michael ReganMichael ReganOvernight Energy: EPA takes major step to battle climate change Carper asks EPA to require half of new cars to be zero-emissions by 2030 EPA proposes major rule to reduce certain greenhouse gases MORE as EPA administrator. 


First lady Jill BidenJill BidenWhite House posts visitor logs for first time since Obama Jill Biden surprises National Teacher of the Year The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE will travel to Concord, N.H., to visit the Christa McAuliffe School as part of the “Help is Here” tour to promote the $1.9 stimulus package.


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 be in Albuquerque, N.M., to visit a vaccination site and to meet with a group of working women to discuss school reopenings during the pandemic.


The White House press briefing takes place at 3 p.m. The White House COVID-19 response team and public health officials will brief the press at 1:30 p.m. 


Federal Reserve: The central bank releases a policy statement and revised economic projections at 2 p.m., and Chairman Jerome Powell holds a news conference this afternoon.


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.


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INTERNATIONAL: Prince Philip, 99, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, left a London hospital on Tuesday following a month of treatment for an unspecified cardiac condition (NBC News).


TECH: Russia will block Twitter in a month unless it agrees to remove banned content from the platform, officials said on Tuesday. Vadim Subbotin, deputy chief of Roskomnadzor, the Russian state communications watchdog, said on Tuesday that the social media giant is not complying with demands to wipe out 3,000 posts that feature banned content, including posts that allegedly encourage suicide among minors. Twitter has served as a platform for dissent against Putin and the Kremlin, and the Russian government is displeased (The Associated Press).


LABOR: Uber granted drivers in the United Kingdom worker status after losing a major labor battle. Under the new designation, more than 70,000 drivers will receive some benefits, including minimum wage, holiday time and pension contributions, but they will not get full employee benefits (CNBC).The unionization battle between workers at a Bessemer, Ala., plant and Amazon is set to take center stage during a Senate hearing on wealth inequality today. One of the employees agitating for higher wages and less restrictive hours will testify, but Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosHillicon Valley: Trump's Facebook ban to stay in place, board rules | Facebook board's Trump decision pleases no one | Republicans float support for antitrust reform Republicans urge probe into Amazon government cloud-computing bid: report SpaceX's Elon Musk has become the coolest capitalist of them all MORE will be absent (The Hill).



An Amazon delivery person



And finally … Sister Jean is coming back to March Madness.


Loyola-Chicago’s 101-year-old team chaplain, who was a star of the 2018 NCAA Tournament (the last time the school made the Big Dance), was cleared to watch the school play against Georgia Tech at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday. 


Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt has not attended any of the school’s games this season due to COVID-19 restrictions, and there were questions surrounding whether she’d be able to watch on Friday given the limited travel parties for the teams. However, she received both doses of the vaccine and is ready to watch her Ramblers take the court in person.


“I’m not going to run down on the court and I’m not going to cause any disturbance,” she said about her presence (Chicago Tribune).


Tip-off for Loyola-Chicago and Georgia Tech is set for 4 p.m.



Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt