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The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings

The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today is Friday! 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, 555,001; Tuesday, 555,615; Wednesday, 556,528; Thursday, 559,116; Friday, 560,116.

President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won't run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE on Thursday decried the epidemic of gun violence in America as an “international embarrassment” as he rolled out a series of executive actions intended to address the issue (The Hill).

“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said at the White House. “They're phony arguments suggesting these are Second Amendment rights at stake with what we’re talking about. But no amendment, no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.

“So the idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we’re recommending are contrary to the Constitution,” he added. “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. And it’s an international embarrassment.” 

Biden, flanked in the Rose Garden by Vice President Harris and Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Biden set to flex clemency powers Genetic material from 1993 killing revealed years after another man executed for crime, groups say MORE, outlined six measures his administration will pursue to try to curb gun violence with an understanding that enacting major gun reforms in Congress is unlikely this year. Biden urged lawmakers to reinstate the assault weapons ban and bar the sale of high-capacity magazines (The Hill).

The president directed the Justice Department to propose rules to make “ghost guns,” homemade weapons without a serial number that are more difficult to track, subject to background checks; to propose model “red flag” legislation for states that could help law enforcement keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous individuals; and to reclassify pistols modified with stabilizer braces to be subject to the National Firearms Act.

The Department of Justice is also expected to issue a report on gun trafficking for the first time in years, and five federal agencies will be directed to focus grant programs more on community-based gun violence intervention. Biden is set to nominate David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Chipman worked as an ATF agent for 25 years.

As evidence of a problem he believes can be tackled at the federal level with help from Congress, Biden framed the need for action as urgent, pointing to recent killings in Atlanta; Boulder, Colo.; and Wednesday’s shooting deaths of five people in South Carolina, including two children, in addition to the gunman’s apparent suicide and the hospitalization of another victim. 

Hundreds of people in this country are gunned down each day, Biden said, noting flags were still at half-staff for the victims of the Atlanta shooting when the Boulder shooting happened less than a week later.

“This is an epidemic for God's sake, and it has to stop,” he said. 

Shortly after the president spoke, a gunman killed one person and injured five others in a shooting at an industrial park in Bryan, Texas (NBC News). A 27-year-old man suspected in the shooting was arrested and charged with murder.

Seated in the Rose Garden as Biden’s guest was former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, who suffered a severe brain injury during an assassination attempt at an event with her constituents near Tucson in 2011. Her husband, former astronaut Mark KellyMark KellyBowser on Manchin's DC statehood stance: He's 'not right' Manchin says he doesn't support DC statehood, election reform bills Manchin, Sinema filibuster support scores political points back home, GOP poll shows MORE, was elected to the Senate in November as a Democrat representing Arizona. Both are gun control advocates.

 

President Biden with Gabby Giffords



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: South Florida is the place to be for Republicans (namely, GOP donors) this weekend. They’re set to strategize about the 2022 and 2024 elections and debate the best course of action for the party in the coming years. 

The weekend will feature a trio of events, headlined by the Republican National Committee’s spring retreat for donors at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach, Fla., which was rented out for the occasion. The donor retreat will also feature a cocktail reception with former President TrumpDonald TrumpVeteran accused in alleged border wall scheme faces new charges Arizona Republicans to brush off DOJ concern about election audit FEC drops investigation into Trump hush money payments MORE at his Mar-a-Lago resort. 

The Hill’s Max Greenwood previews five things to watch over the course of the GOP weekend. First up: What does Trump say to the deep-pocketed crowd on Saturday night, including his message on finances?  

Since his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump has encouraged individuals to give to his Save America political action committee rather than official accounts such as the Republican National Committee. Whether that message continues this weekend as part of the RNC’s event among party big-wigs will be interesting. 

On top of that, whether donors challenge Trump over his actions on Jan. 6 or blame him for losing the pair of Senate contests earlier this year in Georgia that cost the GOP its Senate majority will also be noteworthy. 

Another thing to keep an eye out for is how the prospective field of 2024 candidates navigates the weekend waters. Among those set to appear are former Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoPompeo on CIA recruitment: We can't risk national security to appease 'liberal, woke agenda' DNC gathers opposition research on over 20 potential GOP presidential candidates Dozens of scientists call for deeper investigation into origins of COVID-19, including the lab theory MORE, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida's new voting law immediately hit with lawsuits The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Florida's restrictive voting bill signed into law Pollster Frank Luntz: 'I would bet on' Trump being 2024 GOP nominee MORE (R), South Dakota Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Noem takes pledge to restore 'patriotic education' in schools Kansas GOP fails to override governor veto of transgender sports ban MORE and Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  Crist launches bid for Florida governor, seeking to recapture his old job MORE (Fla.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Opposition to refugees echoes one of America's most shameful moments White House defends CDC outreach to teachers union MORE (Ark.), but with Trump still ever-present and floating a bid of his own, how they manage the weekend, their messages and their interactions with those who would bankroll their potential bids is a fascinating subplot. 

Arkansas Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonGenetic material from 1993 killing revealed years after another man executed for crime, groups say Arkansas governor allows bill targeting critical race theory in state agencies to become law Pennsylvania gov says he'll veto ban on transgender athletes in women's sports MORE (R) in The Washington Post: Why I vetoed my party’s bill restricting health care for transgender youth. 

The Associated Press: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) talks elections with Trump after affirming Biden win. 

 

Mar-A-Lago

 

As for Trump, one area where he continues to flex his muscles is via endorsements (The Hill). On Thursday, he made two more, giving his blessing to Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill FBI was aware Giuliani was a target of a Russian influence campaign ahead of 2020 election: report MORE (R-Wis.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Sherrod Brown calls Rand Paul 'kind of a lunatic' for not wearing mask Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna MORE (R-Ky.), two of his most ardent supporters. More notably, as The Hill’s Julia Manchester points out, he weighed in earlier this week to back Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksRepublicans embrace Trump in effort to reclaim Senate Democrats warn Waters censure move opens floodgates Conservative House members call on Senate to oppose ATF nominee MORE (R-Ala.) to replace the retiring Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyRepublicans embrace Trump in effort to reclaim Senate Top Senate Democrat announces return of earmarks Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (R-Ala.).   

Alabama is a state that has burned Trump in the past, having given Judge Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Trump faces test of power with early endorsements CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be MORE the party nod over former Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Ala.), whom Trump supported in 2017. However, it swung Trump’s way in 2020 by denying former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsEx-Sen. Doug Jones joins law and lobbying firm Arent Fox Former Barr spokesperson at DOJ hired to be Fox News Washington editor Biden should call for Article I immigration courts MORE his former seat in the upper chamber, handing it instead to Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). 

> Gaetz-ed corner: More problems emerged for Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzLiz Cheney: A profile in courage Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 GOP frustration with Liz Cheney 'at a boiling point' MORE (R-Fla.) on Thursday as Joel Greenberg, a Florida politician at the center of a sex trafficking investigation by the Department of Justice, is in talks with prosecutors over striking a plea deal, a potential blow to the Florida congressman. 

Roger Handberg, a federal prosecutor, told a judge on Thursday that he expects a deal to be struck; negotiations are continuing. A Greenberg attorney asked the judge to set a May 15 deadline to reach an agreement. A plea deal could be bad news for Gaetz if Greenberg cooperates with investigators in an effort to receive a more lenient deal (The Washington Post). 

Adding to Gaetz’s woes, a second staffer resigned from his congressional office on Thursday. According to The New York Times, Devin Murphy, Gaetz’s legislative director, quit his office and told associates that he was interested in writing rather than doing tabloid work. 

Daily Beast: Gaetz paid accused sex trafficker, who then Venmo’d teen. 

Politico: Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Florida's restrictive voting bill signed into law Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Kinzinger hits GOP on 'operation #coverupJan6' over Cheney ouster plot MORE (R-Ill.) calls for Gaetz to resign.

The Hill: Gaetz's female staffers defend boss amid DOJ probe.

FiveThirtyEight: Many Democrats are sick of Iowa and New Hampshire going first, but the primary calendar is unlikely to change. 

The Hill: Dana Loesch has Limbaugh-like aspirations for conservative talk. 

***** 

CORONAVIRUS: Today, France’s top health body is saying that recipients of a first dose of AstraZeneca’s traditional COVID-19 vaccine who are under 55 should get a second shot with a new-style messenger-RNA vaccine rather than a second dose of AstraZeneca, which has been linked to fatal blood clots in a tiny fraction of vaccine recipients (Reuters).

The Wall Street Journal: Troubled COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Europe nears possible turning point.

The Washington Post: Americans hit the road for long trips to get vaccinations. 

Japan increased the COVID-19 alert level in Tokyo and rolled out new restrictions on Friday in a bid to corral infections of a variant only months before the Summer Olympics kicks off in late July. The new alert level allows Tokyo to close businesses and restaurants earlier than usual through May 11 (The Associated Press).

Reuters: German Chancellor Angela Merkel to take control from German states in pandemic battle.

The Hill exclusive: House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) on Thursday offered a bill that has 18 cosponsors to bar federal agencies from issuing or requiring “vaccine passports.” Biden has said the government has no plans to require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations but anticipates there may be some private companies and organizations that choose that option. Biggs in the past has falsely asserted that masks do not slow the transmission of COVID-19.   

> Economy: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell expressed a dose of optimism about the U.S.’s economic on Thursday, saying that the country is “on track to allow a full reopening of the economy fairly soon,” but cautioned that the U.S. will be moving into a new economy due to the pandemic.  

“There are a number of factors that are coming together to support a brighter outlook for the U.S. economy,” Powell said during the virtual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. “It’s important to remember we’re not going back to the same economy. This will be a different economy” (PBS NewsHour).

The Wall Street Journal: Powell calls for faster global vaccination. 

> Scams: Hundreds of sellers are offering false and stolen vaccine cards online, as businesses and states weigh proof of vaccinations for getting people back to work and play. Selling fake vaccination cards could break federal laws that forbid copying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention logo, legal experts said. If the cards were stolen and filled out with false numbers and dates, they could also violate identity theft laws (The New York Times).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Biden's bid to secure bipartisan support for his $2.25 trillion infrastructure package is off to a rocky start, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton. The president’s plan is being second-guessed by key moderates such as Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Manchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' MORE (R-Maine) and Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHouse panel advances bipartisan retirement savings bill Democrats confront difficult prospects for midterms Biden, GOP set to find out if US wants activist government MORE (R-Ohio). Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin touts rating as 'most bipartisan senator' Bowser on Manchin's DC statehood stance: He's 'not right' It's Joe Manchin vs the progressives on infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.), the most important swing Democratic vote in the Senate, is balking at using a budget tool to get around the filibuster with a simple majority, plus he thinks Biden wants to raise the corporate tax rate too high as part of his infrastructure plan. Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsUS, Iran signal possible breakthroughs in nuke talks How the United States can pass Civics 101 Americans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster MORE (D-Del.), a close Biden ally, predicts a month will not be long enough to try to forge a consensus with some Republicans and he says the plan would have to shrink to attract any GOP support. 

More in Congress: Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE (R-N.C.) is recovering from surgery for prostate cancer (The Hill). 

 

Sen. Chris Coons

***** 

ADMINISTRATION: On Thursday, General Motors Co. announced that a computer chip shortage will force the company to halt production at several North American plants, showcasing a supply chain problem many manufacturers have experienced since last year and raised with the White House (The Wall Street Journal). Biden is expected to convene a White House summit on Monday to address concerns about semiconductor shortages and explore how the federal government can help (Bloomberg News).  

Housing: As part of the administration’s infrastructure plan, Biden proposes a $5 billion inducement to encourage local communities to allow construction of apartments and multi-family, affordable housing in communities currently zoned for single-family homes (Reuters). The Hill’s Sylvan Lane reports on the administration’s focus on affordable housing as a key economic strain for millions of U.S. families. 

Immigration: The number of migrants apprehended at the U.S. southern border rose 71 percent since February, according to data released on Thursday by Customs and Border Protection. The information challenges the administration’s assertion that the migrant flow since April 2020 is largely unchanged. The Associated Press answers the question: Is the U.S. border with Mexico in crisis?  

Oil: The administration expects today to decide whether to temporarily shut down the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline, which extends from North Dakota to Illinois. A decision comes after a court determined that the federal government did not adequately evaluate the environmental impacts of an easement that allowed the pipeline to cross the Missouri River, and ordered the government to do a more robust analysis, reports The Hill’s Rachel Frazin. Thirty-three Democrats recently wrote to Biden saying he should stop the pipeline from carrying crude oil.  

Federal lands: In Utah, Interior 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 met on Thursday with Jonathan Nez, president of the largest Native American tribe, to discuss the potential restoration or expansion of two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, that were drastically downsized by Trump (Reuters and The Hill).

Middle East: Opponents of Biden’s decision to send $150 million in U.S. funding to a controversial Palestinian refugee program want to root out what they say is a culture of incitement to violence and anti-Semitism. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and a chorus of pro-Israel groups are calling for the Biden administration to carry out strict oversight of textbooks and learning tools used by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the primary humanitarian assistance organization for Palestinian refugees (The Hill). 

 

Refugee settlement

 

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! 

 

OPINIONS

Interview with Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUS says 'swift' return to Iran deal possible ahead of Vienna talks Blinken: US stands with Ukraine in face of Russian aggression The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney MORE about how Biden’s foreign policy decisions will be made, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/39UEBTU

Data on gun violence would save lives — just like it has for car crashes, by Emmy Betz, a practicing emergency room physician and opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3wHWxdS

On vaccine passports, maybe Ron DeSantis has a point, by Jack Shafer, senior media writer, Politico. https://politi.co/39Sp2Ms

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at noon on Monday. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July Rural Democrats urge protections from tax increases for family farms Cheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women MORE (D-Calif.) will join Harris, members of the Cabinet and other lawmakers on Saturday at noon ET at a virtual #CareCantWait National Summit to support home- and community-based care for the aging and disabled, paid leave and expanded child care. Information is HERE.  

The Senate convenes at 3:30 p.m. on Monday. 

The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden and Harris will receive an economic briefing from advisers at 2:45 p.m   

First lady Jill BidenJill BidenJill 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 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal MORE and actress/producer Jennifer Garner will travel to Birmingham, Ala., for an event that was initially postponed due to bad weather in March. They are pairing up to promote the administration’s coronavirus relief law and economic policies (CNN).

The White House press briefing will take place at 12:30 p.m., including Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden administration in talks with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for India ambassador post: reports Business groups target moderate Democrats on Biden tax plans Biden plugs infrastructure with a personal favorite: Amtrak MORE. The administration’s COVID-19 briefing for the news media is scheduled at 11 a.m.

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

ELSEWHERE

LABOR: Efforts to unionize an Amazon.com plant in Alabama remain up in the air today as 500 ballots are challenged and roughly half of 3,200 ballots have been counted. The election tally overnight appeared poised to result in workers rejecting a unionization push by a more than 2-1 margin, potentially dealing a blow to organized labor. The contest will determine whether an Alabama warehouse becomes the online retailer’s first organized workplace in the United States (Reuters).

STATE WATCH: In Minneapolis, two medical experts used anatomical diagrams and charts on Thursday to testify that George Floyd was killed last year by police who pinned him to the ground, not a drug overdose, undermining a key assertion by former police officer Derek Chauvin in his murder trial for Floyd’s deadly arrest. The trial is ending its second week (Reuters). Martin Tobin, a Chicago-area pulmonologist and critical-care doctor who specializes in the science of breathing, testified that the pressure of Chauvin “jamming” his knees into Floyd’s body cut off oxygen and led to brain damage within minutes, sparking an arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop. Chauvin’s actions would have killed any healthy person, he testified (The Washington Post).  … Florida on Thursday filed suit against the Biden administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in federal court in a bid to restart the cruise industry. The Sunshine State, an important center for the U.S. cruise ship industry, said its ports have suffered a decline in operating revenue of almost $300 million since the pandemic started (Reuters).

MARS: Ingenuity, NASA’s baby helicopter, is poised to make a much-anticipated flight on the red planet no earlier than Sunday, with data from that test potentially reaching Earth on Monday, NASA officials have said. The $85 million, 4-pound, solar-powered drone is the first helicopter ever sent to another world and is designed to test technologies for future flying vehicles on other planets. Ingenuity carries two cameras to document its flights, plus a tiny swatch of muslin fabric taken from the 1903 Wright Flyer airplane. The flight will be observed by the Perseverance rover (Scientific American). Here’s everything you need to know about a feat of science and technology (CNET). A first weather report, which was sent back to Earth from Perseverance, will help decide when Ingenuity takes flight above the decidedly cold planet (The Washington Post).

 

Mars rover

 

THE CLOSER

And finally …   Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! 

Here’s who aced the news coverage puzzle about Atlanta all-stars (and sporting history): John Donato, Art Hamilton, Patrick Kavanagh, Pam Manges, Ki Harvey, Trevor Zack, Sam Wilson, Lesa Davis and Mark Neuman-Scott. 

They knew that Centennial Olympic Stadium, home to the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics that eventually became Turner Field, is now the sporting home to the Georgia State University Panthers after the Braves departed for Truist Park in 2017.  

Deion Sanders is the only athlete to participate in both a Super Bowl and a World Series. He appeared in Super Bowls XXIX (San Francisco 49ers) and XXX (Dallas Cowboys), while also playing for the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series. 

Hank Aaron appeared in 25 All-Star Games during the course of his 20-year MLB career as multiple All-Star Games were held in some seasons during his baseball tenure. Therefore the answer is none of the above

Finally, two NHL teams have called Atlanta home. Both departed for cities in Western Canada. The Atlanta Flames became the Calgary Flames in 1980, while the Atlanta Thrashers departed for Winnipeg in 2011. 

 

Henry Aaron