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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths to date: 637,539.
As of this morning, 61.6 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 52.3 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.
President BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE is focused today on a dangerous, painful exit from Afghanistan, a powerful hurricane now downgraded to a tropical storm that slammed into Louisiana on Katrina’s anniversary with 150 mph winds on Sunday and a spreading virus putting children in ICUs just as thousands of schools welcome students back to classrooms today.
It is a world of hurt as the week begins.
Remaining U.S. forces in Kabul are set to depart by Tuesday, but Biden and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenUS, Brazil discuss ways to slow migration Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics MORE, who will deliver a speech about Afghanistan today, say that Americans and many Afghan allies who are left behind will be able to get out of Afghanistan later, after U.S. service members depart (The Hill).
White House advisers this morning informed the president about an overnight rocket attack apparently aimed at Hamid Karzai International Airport as U.S. evacuation operations continued. Reuters reported that U.S. anti-missile defenses intercepted as many as five rockets today, according to a U.S. official. The attack struck a local neighborhood (The Associated Press).
White House national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanBiden struggles to rein in Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — World leaders call for enhanced cooperation to fight wave of ransomware attacks White House weighing steps to address gas shortages MORE told CNN on Sunday that there are 300 or fewer Americans remaining in Afghanistan (the State Department said approximately 250) and that the administration was in contact with most of them. In mid-August, the administration estimated there were 6,000 Americans there.
Biden on Saturday warned that as evacuations continued in smaller numbers, another terrorist attack was a possibility before Tuesday’s takeover by the Taliban (CNN).
The administration on Sunday morning reported that since Aug. 14, 5,500 U.S. citizens “and likely more” had been evacuated from Afghanistan.
“Our message ... is that after Aug. 31st, we will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident,” Sullivan told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And yes, we will ensure the safe passage of those Afghans who helped us to continue coming out after [Aug. 31st],” he said.
To accomplish that, Sullivan appeared to suggest there is cooperation or a commitment with the Taliban, although he also said America’s “current plan” is not to have a permanent embassy presence in Afghanistan as of Sept. 1.
“But we will have means and mechanisms of having diplomats on the ground there, be able to continue to process out these applicants, be able to facilitate the passage of other people who want to leave Afghanistan,” he said, referring to Afghans who helped the U.S. during the war and are applying for Special Immigrant Visas through the State Department.
ABC News: Blinken says there is “no deadline” to extract Americans, Afghans, but many will be left behind after the last evacuation flights.
The Hill: “They will kill us if they find us”: LGBT Afghans fear new Taliban regime.
The Hill: Blinken said on Sunday that the U.S. has “significant leverage” to see that the Taliban make good on commitments.
The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 Hoyer: Democrats 'committed' to Oct. 31 timeline for Biden's agenda MORE (R-Ky.) said Sunday that the administration has “little or no leverage” to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies after Tuesday’s withdrawal deadline.
The New York Times: Reports of detentions and executions of foes despite Taliban vow of amnesty.
Adding to uncertainties about the Taliban’s plans after Tuesday is Western wariness about ISIS-K terrorists, their intentions and continued U.S. efforts to strike targets as retribution for the deaths of 13 U.S. service members on Thursday at the Kabul airport.
The Hill: The Pentagon said two high-profile ISIS targets were killed in a drone strike on Friday in eastern Afghanistan.
The Taliban early on Sunday said a U.S. airstrike targeted a vehicle driven by someone who wanted to attack the Kabul international airport amid the U.S. evacuations. The United States later said it was a drone strike, killing “multiple suicide bombers.” An Afghan official said as many as nine civilians were also killed (The Associated Press and NBC News).
The Washington Post opinion by Abdul Sayed: ISIS-K is ready to fight the Taliban.
Across Pennsylvania Avenue, members of Congress of all stripes continued to criticize Biden’s ongoing handling of the situation on the ground, with some floating the possibility of hearings once lawmakers return from the August recess.
Rep. Susan WildSusan WildDemocrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Biden meets with vulnerable House Democrats with agenda in limbo Congress needs to help schools meet mental health challenges MORE (D-Pa.) said in a statement on Friday that the “evacuation process has been egregiously mishandled,” telling Axios over the weekend that she expects oversight hearings to uncover a lot. Other Democrats have homed in on the Tuesday deadline in Afghanistan to withdraw forces, including members of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus.
Republicans have been harsh in their assessments. Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseTrump goes after Cassidy after senator says he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Invoking 'Big Tech' as an accusation can endanger American security Biden slips further back to failed China policies MORE (R-Neb.) said Biden failed to see what was happening in Afghanistan and failed to prepare for the Afghan army’s collapse and the U.S. exit.
“There is clearly no plan. There has been no plan,” Sasse said. “People have died and people are going to die because President Biden decided to rely on happy talk instead of reality. … And so they decided to outsource security around the perimeter of the airport to the Taliban” (The Hill).
The Hill: McConnell: Afghanistan withdrawal “one of the worst foreign policy decisions in American history.”
The Hill: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case A pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' MORE (R-S.C.): “The chance of another 9/11 just went through the roof.”
As The Hill’s Cristina Marcos and Scott Wong write, the Afghanistan debacle has led rank-and-file GOP lawmakers to call for Biden’s resignation, for impeachment or even for the invocation of the 25th Amendment. Party leaders haven’t gone that far, but say they see it as a political boon for the GOP as the party works to retake the House and Senate next year.
While lawmakers deal with the macro issues, they are also very much involved in district work, including how many Afghans their offices have been able to get out of Afghanistan in the last few weeks. Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinDemocrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention Bleak midterm outlook shadows bitter Democratic battle Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll MORE (D-Mich.) said she and her congressional staff had helped 114 Afghan allies evacuate Kabul as of Friday.
Overall, 25 nations have agreed to accept the Afghan refugees who managed to get out. In the United States, those who have been airlifted out are flown to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., in Virginia and are then relocated for clearance at seven U.S. military bases, where 50,000 people can be housed, according to the administration.
The New York Times: “What will happen to me?” An uncertain future awaits Afghans who fled.
The Washington Post: U.S. makes room on bases for up to 50,000 Afghans as evacuations continue.
The Hill: Sunday Shows: Impending Afghanistan withdrawal deadline dominates.
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LEADING THE DAY
HURRICANE IDA: The lashing storm that spent 16 hours ashore in Louisiana is a tropical storm this morning moving over land at 8 mph. The National Hurricane Center said Ida early today has maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and was among the most powerful storms to ever make landfall in the United States. It plunged New Orleans into darkness on Sunday after voluntary evacuations forced the remaining city residents to hunker down, most of them without power.
Ida came ashore as a monster Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph before dropping to Category 3 strength of 115 mph winds on Sunday night as it crawled inland, pummeling all in its path, shearing roofs off buildings and reversing the flow of the Mississippi River with storm surge (The Associated Press).
Forecasters warned of rainfall, flash floods and life-threatening storm surge as Ida moved today into Mississippi. There were reports of people trapped on rooftops and flooding in Louisiana. At least one person died after a tree fell on them in Prairieville, La., about 65 miles northwest of New Orleans. At least 200 people are believed to be stranded in the southeastern part of the state after a levee failed (The Washington Post).
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Sunday that modeling indicated that the $14.5 billion flood-protection system that was constructed around New Orleans after Katrina could withstand Ida’s power (The Hill).
On Sunday, administration officials coordinated with Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi congressional delegations as well as to Louisiana local leaders to prepare for Ida. In advance of the storm, Biden met on Sunday with FEMA personnel in Washington as more than 2,400 employees headed to the Gulf Coast, and Incident Management Assistance Teams and Urban Search and Rescue teams were activated.
CNBC: Colonial Pipeline halts gasoline deliveries to the East Coast due to Hurricane Ida.
CORONAVIRUS: Children across the country are in the process of returning to classrooms and are experiencing high levels of anxiety as they enter their third school year marred by COVID-19. At least 90,000 students have already been subject to quarantines and school shutdowns as the new academic year begins.
That anxiety has compounded as their educational routines have become jeopardized, with parents and teachers also staring down high stress levels. Underscoring the issues, children’s hospitals have become pushed to the limit with surges in admissions that are almost certainly to grow as schools across the country open their doors in the coming weeks, according to The Hill’s Justine Coleman.
Experts believe that clear communication and transparency from school leadership can help alleviate the concerns of students. School psychologists are also expected to be in higher demand than previous years.
“We know that the need for us is greater than it ever has been, and it's always been great,” Sheila Desai, the director of educational practice at the National Association of School Psychologists, said. “So I hope there's an opportunity for schools and state-level agencies to invest in school psychologists and mental and behavioral supports in schools and making that a priority.”
Meanwhile, health officials remain concerned about potential outbreaks in schools. That issue came to the forefront on Sunday as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailed a case where an unvaccinated and unmasked teacher in California taught class for two days in May while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and then tested positive for the virus. Eventually, 12 of her 22 students tested positive, with 26 individuals in total doing so (Axios).
Peter Sullivan, The Hill: Food and Drug Administration sees growing pressure to authorize vaccines for children under 12.
Bloomberg News: COVID-19 boosters work at curbing severe cases, Israel data shows.
The Hill: Anthony FauciAnthony FauciMore than 40 Texas hospitals face ICU bed shortages FDA mulling to allow 'mix and match' COVID-19 vaccine booster shots: report The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Remembrances flow in after Powell's death MORE: U.S. still planning booster shots after eight months, but “flexible.”
Reuters: Japan's Moderna vaccine contamination woes widen as 1 million more shots suspended.
> COVID-19 politics: Some polls have shown an erosion in support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisNearly 80 percent of Republicans want to see Trump run in 2024: poll Miami private school orders vaccinated students to stay at home for 30 days as 'precautionary measure' Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo announces bid to be Florida's first Latina governor MORE (R), but so far, it's hardly been catastrophic — and he knows the importance of playing to the GOP base in Florida and across the nation. He’s widely seen as a likely 2024 presidential candidate and has positioned himself as a leading foe of Biden on mask and vaccine mandates.
However, as The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, the Florida governor seems to be losing the argument. The Sunshine State is experiencing more than 200 COVID-19-related deaths daily, the highest total at any point during the past 18 months, and record numbers of hospitalizations.
Nevertheless, it remains unknown whether DeSantis will pay a political price. As Niall argues, he would under normal circumstances. But in today's polarized climate? The answer is much murkier.
NBC News DeSantis’s school mask mandate ban is unlawful, Florida judge rules.
The Wall Street Journal: High pay for COVID-19 nurses leads to shortages at some hospitals.
CONGRESS: The recent demands by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot for executive branch documents is likely to spark yet another standoff between Congress and former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE, who has vowed to fend off the inquiry.
The panel on Wednesday sent lengthy requests to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), along with eight government agencies, seeking exhaustive records and communications to determine, among other things, “how the January 6th events fit in the continuum of efforts to subvert the rule of law, overturn the results of the November 3, 2020 election, or otherwise impede the peaceful transfer of power.”
Trump quickly attacked the committee’s requests as a “partisan sham” and vowed to fight them with claims of executive privilege. The threat raises the possibility for another standoff between the former president and investigators, which has become a familiar happening for Trump, who fought numerous legal battles while in office to block congressional probes into his ties to Russia, his personal finances and his administration’s actions (The Hill).
NBC News: Biden's agenda confronts shifting House Democratic power dynamics.
> Evictions: The ball is now in Congress’s court to keep millions of Americans in their homes after the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s latest eviction moratorium.
In its 6-3 ruling late last week, the court said that it is up to lawmakers to authorize a freeze on evictions, something that has not transpired. However, with the full Congress not back in Washington for another three weeks, members are urging state and local governments to quickly get federal rental assistance funds to eligible recipients. They are also weighing additional legislative action to extend the moratorium and speed up the delivery of rental aid (The Hill).
The Associated Press: Anxious U.S. tenants await assistance as evictions resume.
The Hill: Crypto debate set to return in force.
The Hill: Business groups aim to divide Democrats on $3.5 trillion spending bill.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
MORE ADMINISTRATION: The clock is running out on more than 100,000 employment-based green cards that the Biden administration could — but likely won't — issue before the end of the fiscal year, reports The Hill’s Rafael Bernal. The green cards, or permanent residency permits, are available for the administration to dole out to eligible immigrants, but will expire with the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Nearly 90 percent of the immigrants who would be eligible for the expiring tranche of green cards are Indian nationals currently on temporary work visas who otherwise face decades-long wait times to receive permanent residency.
> Havana Syndrome: It’s a puzzle. The recent medical evacuation of a U.S. diplomat in Vietnam raised more questions about the medical mystery known as Havana Syndrome. Hundreds of Western diplomats are believed to be suffering serious health issues from unidentified health incidents (UHI) occurring at posts across the globe. The cause and culprits are as yet unexplained. Last week’s U.S. staff evacuation in Vietnam forced Vice President Harris to briefly delay her arrival there, and the State Department issued an explanation that in veiled language pointed to a phenomenon first documented in Cuba. “The issue in Vietnam was the highest-level reaction we have ever seen publicly,” said Mark Zaid, a lawyer who is representing more than two dozen people affected by UHI (The Hill).
> U.S. Postal Service: Postage got more expensive on Sunday. Forever Stamps for a 1-ounce letter went up from 55 cents to 58 cents, and other categories of mail service got pricier, too. The increase in rates is part of Postal Service’s 10-year “Delivering for America” plan to achieve financial sustainability and service excellence. The Postal Service raised overall product and service prices by approximately 6.9 percent due to declining mail volume. (Public objections to higher mailing rates are linked in part to ongoing complaints about unreliable mail delivery) (SILive.com).
> Cybersecurity: Ferociously corporate competitors who otherwise might not embrace collaboration came together last week at the White House to brainstorm how to ensure the security of the supply chain of tech products, how to address ransomware attacks and how to encourage the public to take basic cybersecurity measures, reports The Hill’s Maggie Miller. More than two dozen key leaders from across a variety of industries, including big players such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and major banks, built momentum and ideas around how to quickly take action to tackle cybersecurity threats (CNET). In that vein on Friday, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced a new three-year Cyber Fellowship program at the Justice Department that will give new attorneys experience handling cases that deal with national security and criminal cyber threats while rotating through the criminal and national security divisions and the U.S. attorneys’ offices.
POLITICS: In Virginia’s gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, a strong proponent of COVID-19 vaccines, is under pressure to reach pro-vaccine voters as well as vaccine skeptics in a contest in which he wants to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D) by defeating a former Virginia governor, Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe favors vaccine mandates, an approach Youngkin has not endorsed, reports The Hill’s Julia Manchester. Youngkin trails McAuliffe by 5.5 points, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average. When asked about the latest polling in the Virginia race last week, Youngkin responded, “Polls make mistakes.”
The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that because Youngkin’s general observation is correct that there have been vulnerabilities in political polling in recent cycles, pollsters nationwide are walking a tightrope this year. They are the first people in the field, and they're making changes in hopes of improving the accuracy of their survey results. However, pollsters point out that Trump, whose influence with supporters had an impact on polling accuracy in 2020, is not a candidate this cycle.
The Hill: In some rural states, a political factor that could benefit Republican candidates could be voter opposition to federal regulation of methane, which in farming and ranching is an emission from cows and cattle considered a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
With hurricane season in full force, COVID-19 adds a layer of anxiety, by Erin N. Marcus, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3jpMeGJ
What Trump’s disgraceful deal with the Taliban has wrought, by Kori Schake, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2WrTrOd
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Lawmakers return to the nation’s capital on Sept. 20.
The Senate convenes on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators are expected back in Washington on Sept. 13.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden and Harris will receive intelligence, security and diplomatic updates on Afghanistan at 10 a.m. The president will get briefings from his homeland security team about Hurricane Ida throughout the day.
Blinken will host a virtual ministerial meeting today about Afghanistan that includes participants from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Qatar, the European Union and NATO. The goal, according to the department, is to craft “an aligned approach for the days and weeks ahead.” The secretary will deliver a speech about Afghanistan at 2:30 p.m.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m.
➔ STATE WATCH: Fighting wildfires with huge dumps of water from aircraft is ineffective, according to some experts. “People say we need more planes,” said Marc Castellnou, a senior fire analyst with the Corps of Firefighters of Catalonia. “But the efficiency of a plane working on a fire doesn't go above 23 percent — that’s what percent of the drops are useful for the firefighters on average.” The controversy over firefighting from the air is especially relevant in light of the U.S. Forest Service’s early-August announcement — following criticism by California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomNewsom expands California drought emergency statewide Don't break California's recall by 'fixing' it Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Walrus detectives: Scientists recruit public to spot mammal from space MORE (D) — that it will no longer leave remote fires to burn under supervision but will work to extinguish them (The Hill). … Mississippi was ill prepared to deal with the latest surge of COVID-19 because of poverty, shortages of doctors and nurses, teetering hospitals and the state’s politics (The New York Times). … Maine has implemented a new law to make companies rather than taxpayers foot the bill for recycling waste. It’s a change that environmentalists think could be transformative when it comes to the deterrent of rising municipal costs of recycling. Nearly a dozen states have been considering similar regulations and Oregon is about to sign its own version in coming weeks (The New York Times).
➔ ECONOMY: Experts say the raging pandemic is still taking the greatest toll on those U.S. workers least able to afford the economic effects, and it is widening the gender earnings gap (The Hill). … The impacts of the coronavirus’s delta variant eroded Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy in August compared with their outlook in July, Gallup reported on Friday. They believe the economy is getting worse, a perception that has implications for consumer and business decisions and U.S. politics.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Israeli air force jets struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday in retaliation for the launch of incendiary balloons that caused fires and violent demonstrations along the border (The Jerusalem Post). Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, while concluding a U.S. visit on Sunday, told reporters as he prepared to fly home from Washington, "The party responsible for what happens in Gaza was and remains Hamas." … Weeks after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southern coast of Haiti, some communities are just beginning to receive aid, with medical care and other resources slow to reach some isolated areas that have been cut off by damaged roads and landslides. Haitians are relying on locally based networks and organizations to meet many needs (The Hill), … North Korea appeared to rekindle operations of its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, a move that could allow the dictatorial country to expand its nuclear capability. The International Atomic Agency reported the development, saying that the reactor was inactive for more than 2 ½ years until last month, labeling the update as “deeply troubling” (The Wall Street Journal).
➔ TECH & PRIVACY: Even if you signed up for Facebook and then forgot about it and never used the social media behemoth — or perhaps never had a Facebook account — the company knows everything about you. This loss of privacy worries a lot of people, including at the Federal Trade Commission. Some 69 percent of American adults now have Facebook accounts, according to Pew Research. Instagram, the next most popular social network, WhatsApp and Messenger are also owned by Facebook. Facebook is so big that it has convinced millions of other businesses, apps and websites to also snoop on its behalf. Even when you’re not actively using Facebook. Even when you’re not online (The Washington Post).
And finally … Over the weekend, the Pentagon released the names of the 13 members of the armed forces killed in a gruesome blast near the Kabul airport on Thursday — 11 Marines, one Navy medic and one Army soldier. Biden met privately with some of their relatives at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday as their flag-draped remains arrived in the United States (The Hill and The Associated Press).
Among the service members the president commended as “heroes” were a dozen still in their 20s, and some were born in 2001, the year America’s longest war began. The oldest was 31 (The Washington Post).
They became the first U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan since February 2020: Marine Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20; Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23; Marine Staff Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover, 31; Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23 (casket seen below); Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22; Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20; Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20; Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20; Marine Cpl. Daegan Page, 23; Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25; Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22; Marine Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20; and Navy Corpsman Maxton Soviak, 22.
The Washington Post: Afghan victims of Thursday’s Kabul bombing had flights to a new life in sight.