Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden to country: ‘Turning peril into possibility’


President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress



Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today is Thursday! 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 each morning this week: Monday, 572,200; Tuesday, 572,674; Wednesday, 573,381; Thursday, 574,329.

President Biden told Congress and the American people on Wednesday that “millions of jobs” can result from his proposals to spend $4 trillion in less than a decade to expand the government’s reach into upgraded roads, broadband, health care, child care, community college and electric vehicles.


“Let’s get it done this year,” he said during his first, hour-long address to a joint session of Congress.


(Speech transcript is HERE).


Speaking to a smaller group of lawmakers because of COVID-19 precautions, the president called his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan “a blue-collar blueprint to build America,” and he described his latest $1.8 billion American Families Plan as a “once-in-a-generation” investment that could help the United States win a competition “for the future,” including with China.


The president took stock of his first 100 days in office by heralding his administration’s achievements against the coronavirus. He pointed to work done with Congress to pass relief legislation as evidence that the White House, Congress and government can move from a pandemic to rebuilding a nation he suggested has been on the wane. 


Biden will be in Atlanta today to mark his first months in office with a drive-in rally, shifting his focus from crisis management to the arguably tougher task of legislating in a bitterly partisan Congress, with no Democrats to spare in either chamber.


During a speech that presented a decidedly progressive picture of American competitiveness, racial equity, government intervention and economic fairness, the president did not assail Republicans seated in front of him, who voted in lockstep against the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. 


The Hill: Biden makes his case for sweeping change.


The Hill: Biden: “Trickle-down economics has never worked.”


Dan Balz, The Washington Post analysis: At 100 days, Biden seeks to leverage narrow majorities to reverse the Reagan era.


John Harris, Politico magazine analysis: With the most ideologically ambitious speech of any Democratic president in decades, Biden aims to splinter the Trump coalition.  


I want to make sure the American people understand,” the president added, that the law he signed to help working-class and middle-income families who have been hardest hit by the contagion reached beyond delivering hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines.


The relief law, he said, put the United States on track to “cut child poverty in America in half this year. In the process, the economy created more than 1.3 million new jobs in 100 days.” 


The president’s unspoken point: Trust Democrats; trust government.


Biden mostly stuck to the White House-prepared script, improvising a few folksy greetings (“thanks for having me,” he told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and hailing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for his graciousness in renaming a 2016 law that funded cancer research for Biden’s late son, Beau, who died of brain cancer. 


It was so quiet in the chamber at one point that a lawmaker’s ringing cellphone could clearly be heard as the president began his explanation about overhauling corporate taxes to pay for some of the proposed new spending he had just described. 


The Washington Post: Biden’s sweeping agenda.


Democrats leaped to their feet at least 57 times to applaud the president, joined by most Republicans when Biden hailed the achievements and the historical importance of the first female Speaker and first female vice president, both standing with him. 


Biden said Vice President Harris, in addition to managing the U.S. response to the surge of migrants and other “root causes” of the border crisis, will work on a specific piece of their jobs plan, ensuring that “every American” is connected with high-speed internet, “including 35 percent of rural Americans who still don’t have it.” 


“I am asking the vice president to help lead this effort because I know it will get done,” he added.



President Biden speaks as Vice President Harris and Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) look on



After pitching the major plans, Biden turned his attention to other policy issues, domestic and international. He waded into policing and racial justice just a week after the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd


Biden made news by calling on Congress to pass legislation to overhaul policing practices by May 25, the first anniversary of Floyd’s death, effectively putting a timer on lawmakers to come up with a bipartisan bill that can make it through the Senate. That will be a very steep climb for all parties involved. 


The Hill: Biden calls for Congress to pass gun control bills. “Don’t tell me it can’t be done,” he said.


Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), who delivered the GOP’s response to Biden’s speech, remained skeptical that Democrats want to pass any meaningful legislation on the topic, having authored the GOP’s policing bill last year. He is also in the thick of negotiations this go around.


“My friends across the aisle seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution,” said Scott, who will reportedly meet with lawyer Benjamin Crump and Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, later today. “But I’m still working. I’m still hopeful.”


Biden’s calls for bipartisan legislation also extended to guns and immigration, calling on Republicans specifically in both instances to come together to pass targeted bills on background checks and undocumented immigrants already living and working in the country, who are known as “Dreamers.” 


The Hill: Tim Scott says Biden dividing country in GOP response to joint address.


Biden also touched on LGBTQ issues, specifically telling transgender individuals that he and the White House support them. 


“I want you to know your president has your back,” Biden said. 


On the international stage, Biden reiterated warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin and touted his decision to pull all troops from Afghanistan by September. 


The Hill: Biden: “The insurrection was an existential crisis.”


The speech was delivered before a chamber that was roughly one-eighth the capacity of normal joint sessions or State of the Union addresses, leading to awkward moments throughout the 65-minute speech. At multiple moments, the television audience could hear things happen that would never be heard in a normal address. As The Washington Post’s Paul Kane noted, one lawmaker’s ringtone went off for everyone to hear. One person in the chamber could also be heard sneezing.


“Low energy, felt longer than the clock said,” one House Republican present in the chamber said of the event. When told of what could be heard over the broadcast, the lawmaker added that it was no better in person. 


“Worse in the room,” the lawmaker added. 


On his way out of the chamber, Biden conversed with a crowd of lawmakers, mostly Democrats, as the new House sergeant at arms tried to usher him out of the chamber. While most Republicans did not hang around, at least three were spotted chatting up the president on the way out: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), who represents a swing district in Staten Island, and Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R).


As it happens, Biden will be in Philadelphia on Friday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Amtrak, the transportation mode he used for decades as a senator from Delaware.


Scott Wong and Mike Lillis, The Hill: Biden offers traditional address in eerie setting.


The Hill’s Niall Stanage explores his takeaways from Wednesday’s address.


The Wall Street Journal has the details from Biden’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, and The Washington Post has five broad takeaways. The Associated Press explains possible tax ramifications for wealthy investors.


Republicans on Wednesday criticized the president’s proposed American Families Plan hours before the speech, arguing Biden’s announced proposals for health care, child care and community college, among other provisions, represent “socialist spending” that they maintain would cost jobs, hurt small businesses through proposed tax changes and curtail investment as the economy moves out of recession.


Democratic lawmakers said they are generally pleased with the proposals described by the president but acknowledged a heavy legislative lift ahead for Congress. But as The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), whose misgivings can sink any major Democratic measure, worries about the price tag of the president’s agenda. 


The Biden infrastructure plan with its $2.3 trillion price tag faces an uncertain trajectory as a bipartisan group drafts a smaller alternative and Democrats debate whether to break up the sweeping proposal or forge ahead with a single measure, The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports

The Hill: McConnell accused Biden on Wednesday of breaking his promise to unify the country and govern in a bipartisan way.


The Hill: “It’s about time,” Pelosi said when asked about two powerful women seated behind the president for the first time at an address to a joint session of Congress.


The Associated Press: Watching from afar, Congress will make or break the Biden agenda.


Bloomberg News: Biden for the first time will host House and Senate GOP and Democratic leaders at the White House on May 12. 



Socially distanced members of Congress stand as US President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress



CORONAVIRUS: Positive developments on the COVID-19 transmission front emerged on Wednesday as a new study showed that individuals who received one vaccine shot were far less likely to transmit the virus to someone else in their household. 


According to a new study conducted by Public Health England, those infected with COVID-19 three weeks after receiving a dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine were between 38 and 49 percent less likely to pass the virus on to unvaccinated others in their homes.


The study provides a new round of evidence to show that COVID-19 vaccines reduce transmission of the virus, a question scientists have attempted to answer since shots first started being administered in early December. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock lauded the findings as “terrific news.” 


“We already know vaccines save lives and this study is the most comprehensive real-world data showing they also cut transmission of this deadly virus,” Hancock said. “It further reinforces that vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic as they protect you and they may prevent you from unknowingly infecting someone in your household” (CNBC).


In the U.S., more evidence emerged on Wednesday that a minute segment of the fully vaccinated population can contract COVID-19. Of the 1.8 million Wisconsin residents who are fully vaccinated, there have been only 605 infections (0.03 percent) (Wisconsin State Journal). 


The Hill: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky “cautiously optimistic” about coronavirus situation in U.S.


The Associated Press: North Carolina to lift outdoor mask rule, raise gathering limits.  


The Baltimore Sun: Maryland lifts outdoor mask mandate after new CDC guidance for vaccinated people.


The Associated Press: BioNTech boss: Europe will reach herd immunity this summer


> International: South America is experiencing high caseloads from a Brazil variant of COVID-19, which is described as a warning to the world. Countries that recently had the spread of COVID-19 under control are now seeing hospitalizations and deaths surge (The Wall Street Journal). … Russia and China are spreading disinformation to undermine trust in Western vaccines, a report by the European Union says (Reuters via US News). 


Bloomberg News: U.S. tells citizens to leave India as COVID-19 crisis deepens.



Employees work on the production line of CoronaVac





CONGRESS: The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday questioned Ketanji Brown Jackson, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jackson, 50, is considered by Democrats to be one of their brightest judicial stars and a top candidate for a Supreme Court nomination should a current justice retire (The Hill).



Ketanji Brown Jackson



> The Senate on Wednesday used the Congressional Review Act as a tool to unwind a Trump administration rule that scuttled emission standards for methane and complicated calls to regulate releases of greenhouse gas from the oil and gas industry (The Hill). 


> Anton Hajjar, Amber McReynolds and Ronald Stroman, the president’s nominees to key positions on the Postal Service Board of Governors, advanced on Wednesday through the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, setting up a final vote in the full Senate (The Hill). Biden is eager to get his own appointees confirmed to the board to gain sufficient votes to remove Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee, whose time as head the Postal Service has led to decreases in mail delivery standards (The Washington Post). 


> The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Samantha Power to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development, an independent global humanitarian agency. The vote was 68-26. Power is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide.” 


POLITICS: Federal agents for the Justice Department raided Rudy Giuliani’s Manhattan home and office on Wednesday, seizing computers and cellphones in a major escalation of a government investigation into the business dealings of former President Trump’s personal lawyer. 


Giuliani, the 76-year-old former New York City mayor, has been under federal scrutiny for several years over his ties to Ukraine. The dual searches sent the strongest signal yet that he could eventually face federal charges (The Associated Press).


> 2022 watch: Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) (pictured below) took the Senate plunge on Wednesday as he launched a bid for the open North Carolina seat, becoming the latest high-profile entrant in what has become a crowded primary. 


Budd, a two-term lawmaker and member of the House Freedom Caucus, announced his campaign in a video released Wednesday morning, pitching himself as an ally of former President Trump while railing against the work of the Democratic-controlled Congress. 


“I’m a political outsider who can’t be bought by the swamp, and I don’t give a rip about their Washington games,” said Budd, who is seeking to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). “I’ve shoveled a lot of manure on my family’s farm, and it’s not the dirtiest job I’ve ever had, now that I’ve been to Congress.”


Budd is the third high profile candidate to toss his hat into the ring, after former Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and former Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.). Walker retired from Congress last year due to redistricting after he, ironically, decided against launching a primary bid against Budd for his seat in the state’s 13th Congressional District (The Hill). 


Political watchers in the state argue that all three have their strong suits — but everything could be rendered moot if Lara Trump enters the race.  


“Ted has lined up outside groups smartly, McCrory has decent name recognition, and Walker has been working the grassroots. This is shaping up to be a real race with no heir apparent,” one North Carolina GOP elected official told the Morning Report when asked what Budd’s entrance means. 


“However, if Lara Trump gets in, it’s all over for these men,” the official added.


> Cheney vs. Trump, episode 108: Taunting from the 45th president on Tuesday that Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who supported Trump’s impeachment, won’t seek reelection next year is “wishful thinking,” Cheney said Wednesday (The Associated Press). 


Politico: Budd launches Senate bid in North Carolina.


The Associated Press: In new Electoral College map, shifting battleground dynamics.



Republican Congressman Ted Budd


The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 


Vaccine hesitancy is as old as vaccines. I take comfort in that, by David Motadel, opinion contributor, The New York Times. 


Cheerleader free speech case puts liberals in a bind, by Noah Feldman, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. 


The House meets on Friday at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session. Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.


The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act.


The president will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9 a.m. He and Jill Biden will travel to Atlanta to mark his 100th day in office. They plan to visit at 1:35 p.m. with former President Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter in Plains, Ga. At 6 p.m., the Bidens will participate in a drive-in car rally in Duluth, Ga., before returning to the White House. 


The vice president will travel to Baltimore at 1:15 p.m., and will tour a COVID-19 vaccination site at M&T Bank Stadium. She will make remarks at 2:55 p.m. about the administration’s first 100 days.


Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets virtually at 1 p.m. with the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists.


Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis at 8:30 a.m. reports U.S. growth in the first quarter of the year. In the first official reading of gross domestic product for 2021, analysts expect to see big gains from consumer spending, rising business investment and a robust housing market as recovery continues during the pandemic.


INVITATION: Join The Hill’s Virtually Live Small Business Recovery Tour ~ PhiladelphiaTODAY at 1 p.m. with Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), House Financial Services Committee member; Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), House Small Business Committee member; VestedIn CEO Jim Burnett; Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke; Urban League of Philadelphia President and CEO Andrea Custis; and Sunny Phanthavong, chef and owner of Vientiane Bistro. Registration is HERE.


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


HATE CRIME: The Department of Justice in an indictment Wednesday said three Georgia men previously charged in the killing last year of Ahmaud Arbery will be charged with hate crimes and attempted kidnapping, alleging Arbery was shot while jogging in Brunswick, Ga., “because of his race.” Travis McMichael, 35, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer, were previously charged with murder after pursuing Arbery in their truck when he was shot by the younger McMichael. William “Roddie” Bryan, 51, who was driving behind them in a separate truck, filmed the shooting (NBC News).


COURTS & TECH: The U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Wednesday decided not to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Amazon to protest Microsoft being awarded a $10 billion cloud-computing contract instead of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Microsoft in October 2019 was awarded the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract, but Amazon quickly cried foul and filed suit alleging that the Trump administration interfered and that the former president used “improper influence” to steer the contract in Microsoft’s direction. The Pentagon’s new cloud system is now in limbo, as Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith has issued a sealed decision that effectively deflects the attempt by Microsoft and the Defense Department to get work underway on the contract, which has been halted since February 2020 (The Hill). … Amazon says it is raising compensation for hundreds of thousands of its workers between 50 cents and $3 per hour (The Wall Street Journal).


RIP: Michael Collins (center below), one of the astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, has died at the age of 90 following a battle with cancer. Collins’s family posted a statement to his Twitter page on Wednesday announcing the astronaut’s death and commemorating his life. Known as the “forgotten astronaut,” Collins was the command module pilot for the 1969 lunar mission but did not set foot on the moon like crew members Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. In a tweet, Aldrin said that Collins will “always have the Fire to Carry us deftly to new heights and to the future” (The Hill). The New York Times obituary is HERE.



Crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission



And finally …  It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by news headlines this week, we’re eager for some smart guesses about various meanings and implications of “free.”


Email your responses to and/or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


Secretary of State Antony Blinken during an interview this week called neighbors near which country “free riders”?

  1. Spain
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Mexico
  4. Eswatini


During his address to Congress on Wednesday night, Biden said which would be “free” to Americans under his proposals?

  1. Prescription drugs under Medicare
  2. Flood insurance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency 
  3. Two years of community college
  4. None of the above


Masses of demonstrators this week continued to say they want which prisoner to be freed?

  1. Derek Chauvin
  2. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
  3. Joseph James DeAngelo Jr.
  4. Alexei Navalny


The U.S. government recommended on Tuesday that people can be set free from wearing face masks outdoors if they are _______?

  1. Fully vaccinated
  2. Athletes
  3. Wearing a hat 
  4. Physicians and nurses



The Statue of Liberty


Tags Antony Blinken Brian Fitzpatrick Dan Meuser Donald Trump Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin Lara Trump Liz Cheney Louis DeJoy Madeleine Dean Mark Walker Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Richard Burr Rob Portman Rochelle Walensky Rudy Giuliani Samantha Power Ted Budd Tim Scott Vladimir Putin
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