The Hill’s Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Biden delivers 100 million shots in 58 days, doses to neighbors
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 534,889; Tuesday, 535,628. Wednesday, 536,914; Thursday, 538,087; Friday, 539,698.
The Biden administration made a pair of key revelations on Thursday as part of the battle against COVID-19, announcing that the national effort to administer 100 million shots will be met today and that the U.S. will loan part of its stockpile to neighboring countries.
President Biden celebrated a small victory on Thursday afternoon, saying that the push to administer 100 million shots will be met today, his 58th day in office — far eclipsing the original goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.
“Behind this 100 million shots are millions of lives changed when people receive that dose of hope,” Biden said from the East Room, adding that number is “just the floor.” “We will not stop until we beat this pandemic.”
According to Bloomberg News’s vaccine tracker, the U.S. is averaging 2.5 million shots per day over the past week, including 2.7 million that individuals received on Thursday alone.
The vaccination effort on the administration’s part was not limited to those in the U.S. as the White House announced that it will loan 4 million doses of the vaccine by AstraZeneca and Oxford University to Canada and Mexico. According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, Mexico will receive 2.5 million doses of the vaccine, while Canada receives 1.5 million. She added that the U.S. has 7 million “releasable” doses of AstraZeneca vaccine overall, adding that the administration could share those with other countries.
“Our first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population, but the reality is the pandemic knows no borders,” Psaki told reporters. “Ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is mission critical to ending the pandemic” (The Hill).
The AstraZeneca shot has not yet been approved for use in the U.S., but has been greenlighted by the World Health Organization and is in use in both nations, which have continued to use the shot despite reports of side effects in some recipients. However, health regulators in Europe maintained on Thursday that the vaccine is safe after roughly a dozen nations suspended its use.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, citing results of an investigation by the European health regulator, a finding that officials hope will allay concerns of the public after reports of potential side effects (more on this below) (The New York Times).
> Confirmations: Xavier Becerra, the former California attorney general and congressman, was confirmed on Thursday to serve as Health and Human Services secretary. The Senate narrowly confirmed him, 50-49. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to support his nomination (The Hill).
The upper chamber also confirmed William Burns, a longtime diplomat, to serve as CIA director on Thursday. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lifted his hold on Burns’s nomination earlier Thursday, with his confirmation taking place shortly after by voice vote (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Biden expected to nominate former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to be NASA administrator.
> Atlanta shooting: The administration on Thursday ordered flags at the White House, public buildings, military locations and embassies to fly at half-staff to honor the victims of shootings at separate Asian-owned spas in the greater Atlanta area, which left eight people dead. The proclamation remains in effect until Monday evening (The Hill).
As The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis write, the deadly shooting reverberated around Capitol Hill on Thursday as lawmakers were left angry and frustrated in its wake. It was especially evident during a Thursday hearing focused on discrimination and violence against Asians in which Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) criticized House Republicans present for using anti-Asian rhetoric like “Wuhan virus” to discuss COVID-19, and for bringing up the southwest border and Black Lives Matter protests.
“Your president and your party and your colleagues can talk about issues with any other country that you want. But you don’t have to do it by putting a bullseye on the back of Asian Americans across this country, on our grandparents, on our kids,” said Meng, a Chinese American who represents the heavily Asian neighborhood of Flushing.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: America faces long war with extremism.
The New York Times: Asian-American lawmakers call out racist language: “I am not a virus.”
The Hill: Advocates demand transparency in Biden migrant facilities.
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: The United Kingdom officially announced on Thursday that it will continue to administer AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 shot after a British health regulator reaffirmed confidence in the vaccine.
Great Britain’s top pharmaceutical regulatory agency revealed that it did not find evidence that the vaccine is responsible for blood clots reported in a few people who received the shot in some European countries. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said that the benefits of receiving the vaccine still outweigh the extremely small risk involved.
“Our thorough and careful review, alongside the critical assessment of leading, independent scientists, shows that there is no evidence that that blood clots in veins is occurring more than would be expected in the absence of vaccination, for either vaccine,” said June Raine, chief executive of the regulatory agency, in a statement (The Hill).
Roughly a dozen nations have suspended use of the vaccine, but those are changing after health officials have given the OK. Italy reversed course on Thursday, with Germany doing so on Friday. Both countries are resuming inoculating individuals today (The Wall Street Journal).
The Associated Press: Europe pause of AstraZeneca sends ripple of doubt elsewhere.
Elsewhere on the vaccine front, Johnson & Johnson has moved into production of vaccines to boost protection against variants of COVID-19. Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky added that they might be needed if its current vaccine’s effectiveness reduces over time.
“We have to be prepared,” Gorsky said. “We should prepare for the worst and hope for the best” (The Wall Street Journal).
The Hill: Weekly jobless claims rise slightly to 770K as U.S. marks one year of recession.
The Kansas City Star: All adult Missourians can get COVID vaccine beginning April 9, Gov. Mike Parson (R) says.
> Entertainment: AMC Theatres announced on Thursday that 98 percent of its locations will be open today after roughly 40 percent of its California locations — including all of its theaters in Los Angeles and San Diego county — reopen after being shut down for most of the past year.
> Sports: The NBA said on Thursday that rules will be relaxed for fully vaccinated players, including fewer mandated COVID-19 point-of-care tests and the elimination of quarantines after coming into contact with someone who tests positive for the virus. Players and coaches will also be able to enjoy aspects of pre-pandemic life, including meals at restaurants and have visitors at their homes or at hotels while on the road (The Associated Press).
New York Post: Yankees, Mets will have fans at games for Opening Day.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS/ADMINISTRATION: The House on Thursday passed legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers as part of a piecemeal approach to immigration reform as Biden’s comprehensive effort is unlikely to come to fruition.
As The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch writes, the Dream and Promise Act would provide certainty to undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children whose ability to go to school, get work and even remain in the country has hung in the balance from administration to administration. In total, the bill would naturalize nearly 4.5 million people.
The bill passed, 228-197, as the entire House Democratic Caucus was joined by nine Republicans — Reps. Don Bacon (Neb.), David Valadao (Calif.), Fred Upton (Mich.), Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.), Dan Newhouse (Wash.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Chris Smith (N.J.), Carlos Gimenez (Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.).
> Filibuster: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took the debate surrounding the filibuster a step further on Thursday and argued that it has racist roots and should be abolished on those grounds.
“The filibuster … was designed to give the South the ability to veto any effective civil rights legislation or anti-lynching legislation,” Warren told Axios. “The filibuster has deep roots in racism, and it should not be permitted to serve that function, or to create a veto for the minority. In a democracy, it’s majority rules.”
The comments were instantly criticized as being hypocritical. Scott Sloofman, an aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that Warren has employed use of the filibuster in the past, including last year (The Hill).
> Foreign policy: It was a frosty first day of talks between the U.S. and China in Alaska on Thursday as the two sides broke from planned talking points to engage in a war of words and accuse each other of human rights abuses in the first public face-to-face meeting between the two geopolitical foes.
The meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese diplomats had low expectations to begin with, but even those couldn’t be met as U.S. officials immediately complained that the Chinese was breaking with the format agreed to for the three-day summit. According to The New York Times, Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, accused the U.S. of taking a “condescending” approach to the discussions and that the U.S. should worry about its own human rights situation before criticizing China’s.
Blinken fired back, saying that the U.S. at least learns from its mistakes over the course of history rather than erasing it from memory.
The meeting was supposed to be an attempt for the two sides to come together on shared goals, including on the North Korean weapons systems and limiting Iran’s nuclear program. Talks are expected to continue through Saturday.
CNN: U.S. and China trade barbs after Blinken warns of need to respect global order or face a “more violent world.”
Amie Parnes, The Hill: Former President Clinton leaves big influence on Team Biden.
> Environmental rule: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rulemaking issued during the Trump years is opposed by the Biden administration based on “numerous concerns” now under review within the Council on Environmental Quality, according to a brief filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Government lawyers urged the court to remand the controversial rule without vacating it, meaning it would remain in effect until the council takes further action (Bloomberg Law).
All that’s known about the 2024 elections are the unknowns, by Jonathan Bernstein, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3bZVDRJ
Fairfax, enough is enough: Open schools full-time, by Rory Cooper, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3s2xvn0
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.
The Senate convenes on Monday at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nominations of Marty Walsh to become Labor secretary.
The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m., and will subsequently travel to Georgia to promote the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law. They will visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 2:15 p.m., and meet with Asian American leaders in Georgia at 3:45 p.m. Biden will deliver remarks at 4:40 p.m. The president will depart for Camp David afterwards.
The White House’s COVID-19 response team will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m.
➔ POLITICS: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) teased a likely bid for Senate on Thursday and is expected to formally announce a campaign to replace outgoing Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) on Monday. Brooks is being advised by Stephen Miller (The Hill). … Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D) is laying the groundwork to jump into the state’s open Senate race. The winner will replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) (The Hill).
➔ TV RIGHTS: The NFL announced on Thursday new 11-year media rights deal that will move Thursday Night Football to Amazon Prime (except for in-market viewers) in 2023 and nearly double the value of the previous rights agreement. As part of the agreements, ESPN will also move into the Super Bowl rotation as it will play host to Super Bowls LXI (2026) and LXV (2030). The new deals also include fresh agreements to keep Sunday afternoon games on Fox and CBS, Sunday Night Football on NBC, and Monday Night Football on ESPN. However, there is no word on the future of NFL Sunday Ticket, which has long been affiliated with AT&T/DirecTV. ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said that the company has had “exploratory conversations” about acquiring it (The Associated Press).
And finally … ☘ ☘ Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners who knew some trivia about American presidents and Ireland.
Here are the savvy Googlers who aced at least four of five questions: Phil Kirstein, Richard Baznik, Daniel Bachhuber, Chuck Schoenenberger, Ki Harvey, Patrick Kavanagh, Pam Manges, Judy Kulczycki, Michel Romage, Lesa Davis, Trevor Zack, Harold P. Grimes, Luther Berg and John Donato.
They knew that historians have determined that 23 U.S. presidents had or have (in Biden’s case) Irish heritage.
Ulysses S. Grant was the first president to visit Ireland, but not while in office. Readers who knew that or selected Grant as a choice among listed options received a bonus point this week.
Ronald Reagan’s presidential library and museum displays the interior of a County Tipperary pub, which he visited while in Ireland in 1984.
Tip O’Neill, Patrick Moynihan and Ted Kennedy founded the Friends of Ireland Caucus in Congress in 1981.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy and Pat Nixon were among former first ladies with Irish roots, thus the correct response was “all of the above.”
— Presidential Trivia (@triviapotus) June 3, 2020
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Updated 8:42 a.m.