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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It 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 reported each morning this week: Monday, 628,503; Tuesday, 629,411; Wednesday, 630,816; Thursday, 632,272.
The plan to deliver booster shots across the country took key turns on Wednesday as vaccine manufacturers plan for additional doses and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) said its vaccine data shows strengthened immunity to fight COVID-19 after a second dose.
The booster vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech will begin to be administered two months earlier than initially described by administration officials — at six months instead of eight months for millions of Americans this year, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Booster doses of all three vaccines, including J&J, will likely begin to be administered in less than a month in the United States. J&J announced that preliminary data shows a nine-fold increase in antibodies generated in comparison to those detected 28 days after individuals receive their initial COVID-19 shot.
“Significant increases in binding antibody responses were observed in participants between ages 18 and 55, and in those 65 years and older who received a lower booster dose,” J&J said as it seeks federal authorization for fully vaccinated people to get a reinforcing jab (The Hill).
The drugmaker added that it was “engaging” with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a push to get approval in the near term (NBC News).
The Hill: Moderna completes submission for full FDA approval of vaccine.
The Associated Press: Japan suspends 1.6 million doses of Moderna over contamination.
Days after the FDA licensed Pfizer’s vaccine, inoculation mandates (and pressure points) continued to spread. Delta Air Lines on Wednesday announced that employees who remain unvaccinated will be required to pay a $200 monthly health insurance surcharge and could lose pay protection if they miss time from work due to the virus.
The $200 monthly charge for unvaccinated workers who are a part of the airline’s healthcare plan “will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” Ed Bastian, Delta’s chief executive, wrote in a letter to employees (The Wall Street Journal).
The Associated Press: Massachusetts State Senate to require vaccinations for lawmakers, staff.
The Associated Press: Cruise lines require vaccinations, tests, amid virus surge.
Meanwhile, governors made news on Wednesday. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfMichigan's governor should follow Pennsylvania's on school choice expansions Josh Shapiro officially launches Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign Republicans are today's Dixiecrats MORE (D) wants lawmakers to return to Harrisburg and pass a law requiring mask mandates in schools. In a letter to state legislature leaders, both Republicans, Wolf noted that only 59 schools in the state indicated they were implementing a mask mandate as of last month.
“It is clear that action is needed to ensure children are safe as they return to school,” Wolf said (The Associated Press).
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was dealt a blow on Wednesday as a Dallas County elected judge ruled against his move to ban mask mandates across the state, saying that such a policy violates the county's ability to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Judge Tonya Parker issued a temporary injunction against Abbott’s ban, allowing a mask order in schools to temporarily remain in effect (The Hill).
Abbott has also been the target of GOP criticism in recent days. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) bashed Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Judge sides with Tennessee families in mask mandate fight GOP leaders escalate battle against COVID-19 vaccine mandates MORE (R) without naming them for trying to stop locally elected officials from implementing decisions they are empowered to make.
“Not only are they against it, but they’re mandating against it. There are Republican governors who are saying they’re all about freedom, and yet they’re taking away the freedom of local school systems and in some cases businesses to make those decisions for themselves,” Hogan told “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday.
“We’ve tried to find the right balance. We’ve been encouraging mask usage. We left it up to the duly elected school boards in our state — that’s who has the power to make those decisions. About two-thirds of our school systems voted to wear masks. Others decided not to,” Hogan continued. “But to mandate that they have to, or mandate that they cannot doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s a basic conservative Republican principle to let local decision makers make decisions.”
Hogan on Wednesday repeated his criticism during a Bloomberg television interview. “Florida and Texas right now are responsible for 40 percent of all the new hospitalizations in America. They’ve got overflowing hospitals. … They’re at the very peak of this,” he said.
DeSantis, Abbott and Hogan (pictured below) have separately indicated they are weighing possible 2024 bids for the White House.
Politico: Abbott bans COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Texas, regardless of FDA approval status.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Live music is a new battlefield in the COVID-19 war.
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
Internet regulations are as outdated as dial-up
Facebook supports updated regulations, including four areas where lawmakers can make quick progress:
– Reforming Section 230
– Preventing foreign interference of our elections
– Passing federal privacy law
– Setting rules that allow people to safely transfer data between services
LEADING THE DAY
ADMINISTRATION: The U.S. focus in Afghanistan on Wednesday continued to be on numbers. How many remaining Americans and Afghans can be flown out of Kabul in approximately four days?
What the Taliban decide to do while the remaining U.S. troops board aircraft and leave the country for good was unclear, despite the Islamist militants’ public commitments to cooperate with evacuations.
Late Wednesday and today, the United States and allies urged people to move away from the Kabul airport because of what was described as a threat of a terror attack by Islamic State militants. As a result, some evacuations have been paused or halted. Days ahead of the cutoff deadline, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark all said they would no longer be able to facilitate airlifts from the capital (Reuters and The New York Times).
The Washington Post: Cash-strapped Taliban seeks political deal to legitimize government.
NBC News: “We need young, educated professionals for our nation, but if they want to leave, it’s their choice,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told correspondent Richard Engel when asked during an interview about evacuations of Afghans.
Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Nearly 200 Americans want to leave Afghanistan, State Department tells Congress Syria's challenge to Tony Blinken's conscience MORE estimated on Wednesday that 500 to 1,500 Americans were still trying to get out of Afghanistan, along with thousands of Afghans who seek to escape (The Hill).
“There is no deadline on our work to help any remaining American citizens who decide they want to leave to do so, along with the many Afghans who have stood by us over these many years and want to leave and have been unable to do so,” the secretary told reporters. “That effort will continue every day past Aug. 31.”
Blinken pointed to “public and private commitments to provide and permit safe passage for Americans, for third-country nationals and Afghans at risk,” even beyond Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline. The president asked the Pentagon this week for contingency plans, just in case.
The secretary said 114 countries have made it “clear to the Taliban that they have a responsibility to hold to that commitment and provide safe passage for anyone who wishes to leave the country — not just for the duration of our evacuation and relocation mission, but for every day thereafter.”
American citizens have priority as evacuations continue, the secretary said. Humanitarian organizations working to help Afghans flee say the U.S. government has placed the burden on petrified Afghans to try to get past Taliban checkpoints, even as fighters have blocked roads leading to the airport.
Reuters: Western nations rush to end Afghan evacuation before troops depart.
The Associated Press: There were about 6,000 Americans eager to leave when the U.S. airlift began Aug. 14 as the Taliban mowed past Afghan forces in the provinces, the State Department said for the first time on Wednesday. About 4,500 Americans have been evacuated so far, Blinken said.
> Cybersecurity: After meeting with Biden and corporate leaders at the White House on Wednesday, Google and Microsoft say they will each spend tens of billions of dollars on cybersecurity in the next few years (CNBC).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: The House select committee that is probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is pushing to obtain documents and communications from top Trump administration officials, giving the White House record-keepers and other agencies two weeks to turn over information on a lengthy list of prominent people in the former president’s orbit.
The first wave of document requests, which were delivered to the National Archives, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security, among others, is asking for documents and communications from within the Trump White House “relating in any way” to former first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMcCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral GOP leader's remarks on Fox underscore Trump's power White House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee MORE, all of former President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE’s adult children (sans Tiffany Trump), son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump attacks Meghan McCain and her family McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE, and any member of Congress or Hill staffer.
The letter also asks for communications with a horde of Trump aides, including former chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsMeadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - White House tackles how to vaccinate children ages 5+ Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Hope HicksHope HicksWhite House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee Grisham calls Kushner 'Rasputin in a slim-fitting suit' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan MORE, Stephen MillerStephen MillerTrump Defense chief blocked idea to send 250,000 troops to border: report Dave Chappelle refuses to be cancelled White House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee MORE and Kayleigh McEnany.
As The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch writes, the wide-ranging requests show the panel is not exclusively focused on the events of Jan. 6, but also on Trump’s months-long effort to contest the election overall.
CNN: House committee seeks documents from agencies on Jan. 6 Capitol attack, signaling massive investigative effort.
The Washington Post: Federal judge in Michigan orders pro-Trump lawyers disciplined over lawsuit seeking to overturn 2020 election.
Later today, attention will shift from the request to the Capitol Police, as the officer who was recently exonerated for shooting and killing rioter Ashli Babbitt will reveal his identity and sit for an interview with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt tonight.
NBC News said in a statement that the officer, who has been attacked relentlessly by pro-Trump supporters, “will share his perspective on the events of that day, including the aftermath of the deadly insurrection and the threats he has received.”
Video of Babbitt being shot: PBS “Frontline,” “American Insurrection,” time stamp 1:09:16.
> Budget battle: Progressives are digging in for a fall fight with centrists following a House budget deal to advance their top social priorities, with some threatening to vote against the infrastructure bill if it comes to the floor before the reconciliation package.
As The Hill’s Hanna Trudo, Scott Wong and Cristina Marcos write, progressives are signaling that they are prepared to use their momentum and power in numbers within the House Democratic Caucus to ensure that the bipartisan infrastructure measure does not hit the floor before the potential $3.5 trillion reconciliation proposal.
Buoying their stance is how Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Judge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November MORE (D-Calif.) has approached the dual-track situation, having sided with progressives throughout.
The Hill: Pelosi frames deal with centrists on infrastructure as a “clarification.”
Jordain Carney, The Hill: “New normal”: GOP signals big headaches for Biden after midterms.
POLITICS: Republicans are motivated to try to knock off Democratic incumbents in a contest just weeks away in deep-blue California and next year in barely blue Georgia.
A recall campaign against Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Ivory poaching changes evolution of elephants California regulator proposes ban on oil drilling near schools, hospitals, homes Biden says he would tap National Guard to help with supply chain issues MORE (D) is coming down to the wire on Sept. 14 and will likely turn on the results of the most expansive get-out-the-vote effort in California history, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson. If voters remove Newsom from office three years into his first term, it will be because conservatives are excited, everyone else is ho-hum, the process is confusing, and the pandemic heightened all kinds of tensions, The Washington Post reports. Democrats in the Golden State, however, say they are feeling more optimistic about Newsom’s chances, Wilson writes.
Attempting to help Newsom is Biden, who still expects to campaign for the governor before Election Day, despite his own troubles with the Afghanistan withdrawal, migrant issues at the border and the pandemic (The New York Times). Vice President Harris will also lend support to Newsom on Friday while in her home state.
In Georgia, Republicans think Democratic Sen. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockWill Trump choose megalomania over country? Senate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents On The Money — Democrats eye tough choices as deadline looms MORE will have a tough time holding on to a seat he won in a runoff election in the afterglow of progressives’ presidential-year get-out-the-vote appeals to liberals and Black voters. The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports that the new Senate competition from Republican candidate and football celebrity Herschel Walker injects more uncertainty into one of the closest-watched races of the 2022 midterms.
Walker may boast about Trump’s influential shove onto the political stage, but this is his first bid for public office, making him a relatively unknown quantity off the gridiron. Walker, 59, will likely face questions about his past struggles with mental illness and allegations of violent behavior, Greenwood writes.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Walker faces big hurdles as he launches Senate bid.
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!
The era of easier voting for disabled people is over, by Sarah Katz, freelance contributor, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3jjePxK
It’s dawning on Democrats: Biden-Harris will drag them down, by Charles C.W. Cooke, senior writer, National Review. https://bit.ly/3zmQRXN
A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK
Why Facebook supports the DETER Act
Communication around elections has changed a lot in the last 25 years — the last time comprehensive internet regulations were passed.
That's why Facebook supports updated internet regulations — like the DETER Act, to help protect election integrity against foreign interference.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet on Friday at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes for a 9 a.m. pro forma session on Friday. Senators are expected back in Washington on Sept. 13.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8:30 a.m. Biden will meet with his national security team at 9:15 a.m. to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. The president will also host Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House beginning at 11:30 a.m. Biden at 3:30 p.m. will talk via video conference to governors who are assisting Afghan refugees in their states.
The vice president while in Hanoi held meetings Thursday with Vietnamese citizens and Americans from the U.S. embassy. In the afternoon, she took questions from the press corps before departing for Hawaii with a fuel stop in Guam. In Honolulu at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Harris will greet members of the U.S. military before she departs for San Francisco. She will spend the night on Air Force Two.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at noon. The White House COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 10:30 a.m.
➔ STATE WATCH: A Texas House committee this week advanced a funding bill that would appropriate nearly $2 billion to focus on immigration issues at the Texas-Mexico border. The measure, seen by the governor’s critics as a heavy-handed play for reelection next year, would pay for prosecuting migrants for trespassing, building border barriers such as fencing and dispatching state troopers to the border to arrest migrants (The Texas Tribune and The Dallas Morning News).
➔ TECH: The U.S. has approved license applications for the embattled Chinese telecom company Huawei to purchase chips for its auto component business, with those license applications being worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The reported deal marks a significant victory for Huawei, whose business efforts have been stymied by strict restrictions imposed by both the Biden and Trump administrations (The Hill).
➔ RUSSIA: Dissident Alexei Navalny, who was nearly assassinated but survived poisoning a year ago, speaks from a prison east of Moscow to The New York Times. He describes psychological manipulation of prisoners using forced viewing of state television and movies, but he is not muzzled by the Kremlin (interview excerpts HERE). “You need to imagine something like a Chinese labor camp, where everybody marches in a line and where video cameras are hung everywhere. There is constant control and a culture of snitching,” he said. … Navalny recently wrote a piece published by The Guardian.
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Saddened by news of Charlie Watts’s death this week, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the history of the Rolling Stones.
Email your responses to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
What was the first international No. 1 hit single for the Rolling Stones?
- “Heart of Stone”
- “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
- “Paint It, Black”
- “Get Off of My Cloud”
Which Rolling Stones album was the first to feature the now-iconic tongue and lips logo?
- “Exile on Main St.”
- “Let It Bleed”
- “Sticky Fingers”
- “Some Girls”
In 1971, members of the band moved to what location because of high taxes owed to the British government?
- The Caribbean
How many drummers did the band cycle through before landing on Charlie Watts in 1963?