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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths each morning this week: Monday, 572,200; Tuesday, 572,674; Wednesday, 573,381; Thursday, 574,329; Friday, 575,194.
President BidenJoe BidenCourt nixes offshore drilling leases auctioned by Biden administration Laquan McDonald's family pushes for federal charges against officer ahead of early release Biden speaks with Ukrainian president amid Russian threat MORE marked his 100th day in office by kicking off a political and publicity blitz to sell his new legislative proposals. He began with an evening “thank-you” rally in Duluth, Ga., in the state responsible for giving Democrats control of the Senate.
The president said the newly enacted $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law would not have been possible without the support of Georgia’s two new Democratic senators. “If you ever wonder if elections make a difference,” Biden said, commending Sens. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockBiden approval rating drops to 34 percent in Georgia: poll Warnock outraises Walker in Georgia Senate race Herschel Walker reports .4M raised in latest quarter for Senate bid MORE and Jon OssoffJon OssoffBiden approval rating drops to 34 percent in Georgia: poll Perdue tests positive for COVID-19, campaign says Missouri Senate candidate says Congress members should go to jail if guilty of insider trading MORE, “you began to change the environment.”
“Your vote changed the world,” he shouted to people who waved flags while standing and sitting in their cars. The president endorsed voting rights legislation currently pending in Congress before repeating, “Thank you, thank you, Georgia!”
The Hill: Biden marks 100th day plugging his jobs plan.
The president’s remarks — delivered in rapid-fire fashion using a teleprompter — were interrupted by his frequent coughing and throat clearing, attendees’ cheers and horn honking and some loud commentary from demonstrators who objected to the administration’s reliance on private detention centers for migrants.
“Folks, I’m not going to bore you with the details,” Biden said at one point as he raced through the tax implications of his proposals for the wealthiest Americans, which he had described to Congress the night before.
Both senators joined the president and first lady Jill BidenJill BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Jill Biden adds to communications team in lead-up to midterm elections Harris invokes MLK in voting rights push, urges Senate to 'do its job' MORE on the outdoor stage, all wearing masks and with arms linked and held high for the campaign advertising ahead. Biden then exchanged some distanced fist bumps with the crowd before departing for Washington.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Big-name Republicans are skipping a 2022 matchup against Warnock.
Biden will continue the salesmanship for his plans during a pre-taped appearance this morning on NBC’s “Today” show and a stop in Philadelphia today to mark the 50th anniversary of Amtrak, the rail system on which he shuttled for decades as a senator.
NBC News: “America is not a racist country. I don’t think the American people are racist,” Biden tells the “Today” show, according to an excerpt released on Thursday.
USA Today: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) on Wednesday said “America is not a racist country” during a response to the president’s address to Congress.
The president and first lady also made an afternoon stop in Plains, Ga., visiting for 45 minutes with former President Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter. Biden was a first-term senator from Delaware in 1976 when he endorsed the Southern governor over a sweep of higher-profile figures, becoming one of the first elected officials outside Georgia to pick Carter in the race (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
More about those proposed tax hikes: Biden’s pitch to Congress to raise the top tax bracket to 39.6 percent would impact single filers with incomes above about $453,000 and married couples with income above roughly $509,000, the White House said on Thursday. Biden has said one of his red lines while calling for higher taxes to pay for new federal spending is that no one earning less than $400,000 would be affected (The Hill).
What Biden skipped: The president spoke to Congress and the nation for more than an hour on Wednesday. The Hill’s Alex Gangitano sifted out some hot button issues and news headlines that didn’t make it into his presentation, including student loan debt forgiveness, filibuster reform, refugee policy, the stock market, and Supreme Court changes. While the president was silent about some progressive priorities, other omissions offered clear contrasts with former President TrumpDonald TrumpMark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race Judge lays out schedule for Eastman to speed up records processing for Jan. 6 panel Michael Avenatti cross-examines Stormy Daniels in his own fraud trial MORE.
Who watched?: Biden’s first speech to a joint session of Congress attracted at least 22.6 million viewers in early results. In unadjusted fast affiliate data, his address at 9 p.m. ET attracted viewers watching Univision (1.08 million) and Telemundo (884,000) in addition to ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox (plus C-SPAN). Nielsen has yet to release the overall official numbers publicly. In comparison, Trump’s first speech to Congress in 2017 attracted an audience of 48 million (Deadline and The Hill).
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: Bucking some of the strategic planning inside the White House, Democratic lawmakers envision an opening to plug a mammoth Medicare expansion into Biden’s proposed $1.8 billion American Families Plan. It’s yet another hurdle for the legislative affairs team at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (The Washington Post).
Approximately 100 House and Senate Democrats led by Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOn The Money — Economy had post-recession growth in 2021 Progressives apply pressure on Biden, Senate to pass Build Back Better Progressives urge Senate to pass Build Back Better by March 1 MORE (Wash.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell warns Biden not to 'outsource' Supreme Court pick to 'radical left' Briahna Joy Gray discusses Pelosi's 2022 re-election announcement Ocasio-Cortez: Supporting Sinema challenge by someone like Gallego would be easy decision MORE (I-Vt.) publicly had encouraged Biden in recent days to include the overhaul as part of his latest package. Their proposal, which the White House left on the table, would lower the eligibility age for Medicare to either 55 or 60, expand the range of health services the entitlement covers and grant the government new powers to negotiate prescription drug prices.
Biden instead used his Wednesday night speech to propose more federal subsidies for Americans who buy health insurance. Rhetorically, he offered the liberal wing some support, repeating that “health care should be a right, not a privilege in America,” and he encouraged Congress this year to send him legislation, which is opposed by drug companies, to lower Medicare prescription drug prices.
Biden also tied potential federal savings from lower drug costs to his goal of strengthening the Affordable Care Act, which is an unpopular aim among many Republican lawmakers, even those who agree that the rising costs of prescription drugs are a significant economic hurdle for millions of families.
The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTop Biden official says information classification system undermines national security, public trust Senate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal Overnight Energy & Environment — High court will hear case on water rule MORE (D-Ore.) are among those who believe legislative provisions to lower drug prices could be included in the sweeping plans Biden hopes to see Congress send to him this year.
While a small group of moderate Republicans and Democrats are discussing a compromise infrastructure package, Vice President Harris is working behind the scenes to put together a version that is expected to pass with only Democratic votes (The Hill).
One question on Capitol Hill is how the GOP will proceed this year as Biden presses Congress for two or more measures to achieve $4 trillion in spending that is largely popular with majorities of Americans, offset by proposed tax increases on the wealthy and corporations, which most Americans support, according to polls.
Republican drama continues with a new round of Trump-fueled tensions and House GOP infighting. But Biden's big and clearly progressive agenda for government gives the Republican Party a unifying political target (or perhaps many) during a period in which conservatives say they need more unity (The Hill).
The New York Times’s Carl Hulse interviewed Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBreyer retirement throws curveball into midterms Schumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Voting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? MORE (D-N.Y.) this week, who said he is willing to give bipartisanship some time, but with a tight window to push through any major legislation.
> Policing reform legislation could gain some momentum on Capitol Hill as Biden and Congress remain under pressure to take action this year. The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports on Thursday’s first bipartisan, bicameral meeting among the key players who are discussing potential compromise language that could lead to a draft bill.
> Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBriahna Joy Gray discusses Pelosi's 2022 re-election announcement The Hill's Morning Report - Who will replace Justice Breyer? House Republicans bash Democrats' China competition bill MORE (D-Calif.) said on Thursday that 75 percent of House members have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a percentage still too low to entirely abandon mask-wearing, social distancing and other coronavirus precautions such as proxy voting, a staggered voting system, and remote committee hearings. She was responding to criticism from some Republicans that the restrictions imposed in the chamber on House and Senate members during Biden’s address to Congress on Wednesday were excessive.
"Republicans come up to me and say, 'Let's shorten the time for votes.' I say, 'Tell your friends to get vaccinated. That will help,'" she told reporters (ABC News).
CORONAVIRUS: A little good news from two major U.S. cities: Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioSarah Palin dined inside NYC restaurant on Saturday despite not being vaccinated Hochul raises .6 million since launching gubernatorial campaign De Blasio says he won't run for New York governor MORE on Thursday announced that New York City plans to fully reopen by July 1 with 100 percent capacity everywhere from restaurants and bars to gyms to athletic stadiums (Axios). And in Washington, D.C., 22 outdoor public swimming pools and 27 spray parks that were closed last summer because of the coronavirus are set to reopen May 29 (WTOP).
Yet, there is no bigger COVID-19 story this morning than the horrors in India, where the spread of the coronavirus and its variants threaten to cripple the government and have overwhelmed the country’s health care system.
The Associated Press reports that panicked Indians are turning to the black market for unproven drugs, iffy therapies and medical oxygen in a desperate effort to prolong the lives of infected relatives who are being shut out of overwhelmed hospitals and clinics.
India set another global record in new virus cases on Thursday with more than 379,000 new infections, putting even more pressure on the country’s overwhelmed hospitals. Public health experts believe the infection rate could be as much as 10 times what’s being reported because of the shortage of COVID-19 testing, processing of tests and contact tracing.
The country of nearly 1.4 billion people has now recorded more than 18 million cases, behind only the United States, and more than 200,000 deaths — though the true number of fatalities is believed to be higher. Vaccinations have lagged and more Indians who may have been blasé earlier this year about a need for COVID-19 doses are lining up for available shots (pictured below).
The New York Times: India prepares to make residents 18 and older eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting Saturday, but vaccine supplies now are well behind demand, perhaps for months. The U.S. government authorized families of diplomats to leave India and on Wednesday advised other Americans there to leave “as soon as it is safe to do so.”
The New York Times’ The Daily podcast: Jeffrey Gettleman, Southeast Asia bureau chief based in New Delhi, describes “Fear and loss: Inside India’s coronavirus crisis.”
Death is so omnipresent that burial grounds are running out of space in many cities and glowing funeral pyres blaze through the night, according to the Times. The few medicines known to help treat COVID-19, such as remdesivir and steroids in hospitalized patients, are scarce in a country known for its pharmaceutical manufacturing industry.
The United States, along with other countries, is shipping supplies, vaccine manufacturing ingredients, therapies such as remdesivir and medical oxygen to India. The Biden administration said $100 million in emergency aid (NPR) had begun arriving Thursday.
The New York Times: 100 U.S. colleges will require coronavirus vaccinations to attend in-person classes this fall.
Brazil on Thursday became the second nation to officially surpass 400,000 COVID-19 deaths. The United States was the first (Reuters).
In France, President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronLook to the EU to understand the US border crisis New French law bans 'conversion therapy' The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Russia attack 'would change the world' MORE on Thursday told newspapers that schools in his country would reopen next week, followed by the return of museums, cinemas, shops and outdoor service at cafes on May 19. Cafes and restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons inside starting the second week of June, and gyms will also reopen then under certain conditions. France’s nighttime curfew and most restrictions on gatherings will be lifted on June 30. Europe has experienced a significant downturn in coronavirus cases after two months of surging infections, and other governments are rolling back restrictions (The New York Times).
Reuters: Pfizer is exporting to Mexico U.S.-made COVID-19 vaccine.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Former President Trump said on Thursday he would “certainly” consider Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantis Broward County Sheriff sacks deputy union head amid COVID-19 dispute Biden leading Trump, DeSantis by similar margins in new poll DeSantis leans into COVID-19 treatment fight amid 2024 chatter MORE (R) as a potential running mate, should he decide to mount a third White House campaign in 2024. “He’s a friend of mine. I endorsed Ron, and after I endorsed him, he took off like a rocket ship. He’s done a great job as governor,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria BartiromoMaria Sara BartiromoTrump says he would not impose boycott against Beijing Olympics The Memo: Omicron poses huge threat to Biden presidency Fox's Bartiromo called Bill Barr 'screaming' about election fraud: book MORE during an interview (Politico). DeSantis did not immediately comment. The subplot: the governor has encouraged speculation he may make his own presidential run; Trump says he’s “100 percent” considering another campaign and continues to encourage his supporters to treat him as the leader of the Republican Party.
Separately, DeSantis is set to sign an election bill passed on Thursday by Florida's Legislature that includes restrictions on drop boxes and voting by mail. The bill was adopted after weeks of negotiations among Republicans despite concerns among Democrats and voting rights activists that the restrictions amount to voter suppression (NBC News).
Montana: New census data and pending congressional reapportionment are moving swiftly through the political bloodstream. Former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund unveils first midterm endorsements Trump's relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook Watchdog: Trump official boosted former employer in Interior committee membership MORE (pictured below), a controversial Cabinet member with the Trump administration, filed paperwork on Thursday with the Federal Election Commission to try to return to Congress as a Republican after representing Montana’s lone House district until his confirmation as secretary. Zinke’s filing indicates he plans to run for Montana’s 2nd Congressional District, a seat that does not yet exist on paper. The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports on what’s expected next.
Arizona: Reporting about the Grand Canyon State, The Hill’s Max Greenwood writes about the Maricopa County, Ariz., ballot audit, which is tied to the 2020 presidential election — another ballot challenge favored by Trump.
The Washington Post: As Trump seizes on an Arizona ballot audit, election officials fear partisan vote counts could become the norm in future elections.
Kansas: Republican Kris Kobach announced on Thursday he is running for state attorney general (NPR). He is a former secretary of state and unsuccessful candidate for Senate and governor. Kobach is a Trump ally who with Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceBiden leading Trump, DeSantis by similar margins in new poll Best path to Jan. 6 accountability: A civil suit against Trump Biden trails generic Republican in new poll, would face tight race against Trump MORE ran Trump’s 2017 voter fraud commission, which was quietly disbanded after a year when no evidence of 2016 voter fraud was uncovered and the effort attracted criticism from the states.
Investigation, warnings, seizures: Former Trump attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Breaking: Justice Breyer to retire Best path to Jan. 6 accountability: A civil suit against Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Russia attack 'would change the world' MORE asserted his innocence and was defiant on Thursday on his radio show, a day after the FBI searched his home and office (The Associated Press). The former New York mayor referred to prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which he used to run, as unaccomplished “bullies.” He turned to his Twitter account to assert that “these prosecutors violated the laws, not me,” referring to a federal probe into his ties to Ukraine.
CNN: Federal officials anticipate a court fight with Giuliani over the computer and electronic files seized during the FBI raid.
The former mayor later described the search to Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonIs it journalism if the 'news' is crafted to fit audiences' biases? Democrat says Tucker Carlson viewers telling his office US should side with Russia The Hill's 12:30 Report: More of Biden's agenda teeters on collapse MORE during a Fox News interview on Thursday: “Well, about six o’clock in the morning, there was a big bang! bang! bang! on the door and outside were seven FBI agents with a warrant for electronics,” he recalled. “And I looked at the warrant and I said it was extraordinary because I offered to give these to the government and talk it over with them for two years. I don’t know why they have to do this. The agents seemed somewhat apologetic. They were very, very professional and very gentlemanly” (The Guardian).
Fox News: Giuliani claims the FBI showed no interest in Hunter Biden hard drives.
Trump called the federal seizures from Giuliani’s house and office “very unfair.”
The Washington Post: The FBI in late 2019 warned Giuliami — then deeply involved in Trump’s reelection campaign and efforts to surface in Ukraine unflattering information about the Biden family — that he was a target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating false information intended to damage candidate Biden politically ahead of the 2020 election.
ADMINISTRATION: U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has begun, in keeping with Biden’s order for all forces to be out by Sept. 11, the White House confirmed on Thursday. “A drawdown is underway,” deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-PierreKarine Jean-PierreThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden comes out swinging in 2022 Biden says he plans to run for reelection in 2024 'if I'm in good health' The Memo: Failure on big bill would spark cascade of trouble for Biden MORE told reporters traveling on Air Force One (The Hill).
CBS News: Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — Inside Austin's civilian harm directive North Korea sparks US condemnation with latest missile launch Republicans again call for Oversight hearing on Afghanistan withdrawal MORE will visit Ukraine next week, he told “60 Minutes” during an interview to air on Sunday. “There are more forces amassed on the border with Ukraine than any time since 2014, when Russia actually invaded," Blinken said. "I can't tell you that we know Mr. Putin's intentions. There are any number of things that he could do or choose not to do. What we have seen in the last few days is apparently a decision to pull back some of those forces and we've seen some of them in fact start to pull back."
> Smoking: In one of the most anti-tobacco moves made by the government in years, menthol-flavored cigarettes and all flavors of cigars would be banned in this country under a new plan unveiled by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. The government said it will issue a proposal "within the next year" to ban menthol in cigarettes and ban all flavors, including menthol, in cigars, officials said. Public health advocates had long sought the action and the administration faced a Thursday deadline to respond to a lawsuit filed by anti-smoking and public health groups. One key data point: More than 85 percent of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, according to federal data, as do more than half of all smokers ages 12 to 17. Flavored cigars are also popular among Black teens, according to the FDA, posing a health hazard. The tobacco industry strongly opposes the regulatory effort (The Hill).
> Cyber: The Hill’s Maggie Miller reports on Biden administration record thus far as it tackles cyber policy after what some officials viewed as serious national security setbacks during the previous administration. Massive cyber intrusions into federal and private networks by foreign hackers sharpened the need for rapid U.S. action to revitalize national cyber security efforts.
> Air Force One: A $5 billion effort to build two new Air Force One jetliners is facing delays following problems with a key supplier and workforce issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the U.S. Air Force and officials with Boeing and a contractor (Defense One).
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Does Biden really mean business when it comes to foreign policy? by Jon Lerner, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3t2GcNR
We urgently need a COVID-level response to the US drug crisis, by Mitchell S. Rosenthal, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2R94HMb
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The Senate will hold a pro forma session Monday at 12:45 p.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. The first lady will participate in a tree planting event for Arbor Day at the White House at 10:30 a.m. The Bidens depart at noon for Philadelphia to headline an event to mark the 50th anniversary of Amtrak. Biden speaks at 2:30 p.m. at 30th Street Station. He and the first lady will depart for Delaware at 3:40 p.m. to spend the weekend.
The vice president will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, with a focus on infrastructure. She will participate in a roundtable discussion at 12:20 p.m. with Mayor John Cranley (D); Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal N95 distribution plan could imperil small US mask makers Biden's year two won't be about bipartisanship MORE; the local president of the largest U.S. union representing transit workers; as well as the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and Metro. Harris leaves Ohio at 3:50 p.m. to return to Washington.
The administration’s coronavirus briefing for reporters will take place at 11 a.m.
➔ RECOVERY: The U.S. economy grew in the first quarter this year at a booming 6.4 percent, fueled by consumers flush with optimism as COVID-19 vaccination rates rose, businesses reopened and the government dispatched pandemic relief checks to more than 100 million eligible Americans. Economists expect the current quarter, which ends in June, to be even better. It’s one of the reasons Biden has encouraged Americans to envision the Fourth of July as a potential turning point along the road to more normal everyday life (The Associated Press).
Also on Thursday, the Labor Department reported that filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending April 24 dropped 13,000 from the previous week, to 553,000, another small indication that joblessness is moving in a more positive direction. Employers added an impressive 916,000 jobs in March, and the government is expected to report next week that they hired another 875,000 in April, according to a survey from the data firm FactSet. The unemployment rate has dropped to 6 percent from a peak of 14.8 percent in April 2020. Before the pandemic swept into the United States last year, unemployment had been a low 3.5 percent (The Associated Press).
➔ STATE WATCH: Officials from both parties say the census numbers released this week raise questions about the totals, with Democrats contending that the Hispanic population was undercounted. Arizona, Florida and Texas — Republican-run states that committed relatively few resources to the census — each ended up with one House seat fewer than the Census Bureau had forecast, while Minnesota and New York (pictured below is a census training session in New York early in 2019), controlled by Democrats, did better than expected. The more detached approach taken by the three Sun Belt states raised questions about whether Republican leaders had limited their states’ political clout by not doing enough to encourage participation. And because those states have some of the largest Hispanic populations in the country, the census is already fueling a debate over whether that group may have been significantly undercounted (The New York Times).
And finally … Hail, hail all puzzle masters who aced this week’s Morning Report Quiz drawn from news reports this week pointing to various implications of “free.”
Taking a bow in the winner’s circle this week: Daniel Bachhuber, Mary Frances Trucco, Terry MacDougall, Patrick Kavanagh, Richard Baznik, Patricia Swank, Tom Chabot, Ki Harvey, Chuck Schoenenberger, Marietes Crawford, Stewart Baker, Harry Strulovici, Joel M. Shaw, Cam Cornish, Donna Nackers, John Donato, Sharon Banitt, Trevor Zack, Terry Pflaumer, Chuck Ramsay, Gary Breakfield, Michel Romage, Stephen James, Eileen Lavine, Randall S. Patrick, Lesa Davis, Leon Burzynski, Dara Umberger, David Anderson, Cliff Grulke, Phil Grimes, Jack Barshay and Rich Davis.
They knew that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during an interview this week, referred to neighboring countries near Afghanistan as “free riders.”
Biden said during his address to Congress on Wednesday that under his proposals, two years of community college would be “free” to Americans.
Masses of Russian demonstrators this week continued to oppose the Kremlin by arguing that imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny should be freed (a worker on Wednesday, below, painted over graffiti in St. Petersburg that praised Navalny as “the hero of the new times”).
The U.S. government recommended on Tuesday that Americans can be set free from wearing face masks outdoors if they are fully vaccinated.