The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by AT&T – Ida death toll rises; abortion battle intensifies
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths each morning this week: Monday, 637,539; Tuesday, 638,711; Wednesday, 640,108; Thursday, 642,081; Friday, 643,669.
Hurricane Ida and her stormy aftermath left at least 58 people dead nationwide, produced billions of dollars in damages stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast and spawned new warnings from scientists and elected officials that climate change has increased the risks of powerful natural disasters.
The death toll as of today rose to at least 44 across four states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania — where high winds and flash flooding left extensive damage and at least 200,000 homes were without power days after what began as a Category 4 hurricane first made landfall far to the south (The New York Times and Reuters). The aftermath of Ida also walloped parts of Maryland, with flooding that killed one man in an apartment complex while another person remained missing (WTOP and The Baltimore Sun).
The New York Times describes some of those who died in New York and New Jersey, including people who drowned in basement apartments, after being submerged in their cars and trapped in structures ripped apart by the storm.
In Louisiana, fatalities unofficially climbed to 13 and were expected to rise. One million people lost power on Sunday in Louisiana and Mississippi, and hundreds of thousands of customers in Louisiana still have no electricity. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said 25,000 utility workers were in the state to help restore electricity, with more on the way (WDSU6). In New Orleans, power was restored to a small number of homes and businesses, city crews cleared some streets of fallen trees and debris and a few corner stores reopened. Officials declared Grand Isle, La., (seen below), where Hurricane Ida first came ashore, uninhabitable, but property owners will be allowed to survey damage and remove personal effects today and tomorrow (The Times Picayune).
If residents in some parts of Louisiana are without transportation, gasoline, cell service or money, many have been forced since Monday to either swelter outdoors or move inside to what’s left of their sodden, moldy shelters as they await help. Those who are luckier were able to evacuate early, went to stay with friends and relatives outside the state or temporarily decamped to hotels that have electricity and air conditioning.
President Biden will travel today to meet in New Orleans with Louisiana state and local officials to personally pledge all available assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal departments. Officials believe it could take weeks to restore power in Louisiana (The Hill).
Biden said at the White House Thursday that “extreme storms and the climate crisis are here,” constituting what he called “one of the great challenges of our time.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who has been in the job for nine days, said at a news conference on Thursday that Biden phoned her to offer “any assistance” as the state assesses the storm’s powerful and unexpected impact in her state. “We need to foresee these in advance, and be prepared,” she said.
Amtrak on Thursday suspended service between Boston and Washington, D.C., because of the storm damage.
In Connecticut, a veteran state trooper was found drowned on Thursday, apparently a victim, while on duty, of the storm’s ferocious floodwaters (News12).
Other disasters: Lake Tahoe residents are still at risk from the enormous wildfire in California, although firefighters caught a break on Thursday with lighter winds (CNN).
Afghanistan-related headlines: Biden and first lady Jill Biden on Thursday night visited wounded service members being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (The Hill). … Did Biden wear blinders about getting the United State military out of the longest war — so much so that he discounted valuable advice he received from others? It is a compelling question that The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Hannah Trudo posed to insiders: “After 40 years of foreign policy experience, I don’t want to say he’s set in his ways but trying to convince him that he’s off the marker is not easy,” one commented.
More than 40,000 Afghan refugees are scattered at sites across the globe, stuck for an indeterminate time as they await vetting by the United States (The Hill). … Green card holders and Afghan allies who said the United States promised to get them out of Afghanistan describe broken promises and failed attempts to flee (The Associated Press). … The Taliban could announce a government today. U.N. humanitarian flights into Afghanistan resumed and international money transfers have been received in banks (The Washington Post). … Qatar said it was unclear when the airport would reopen in Kabul but the watchword is “soon” (The Associated Press). … How will the Taliban rule? A look at the past offers some clues (The New York Times).
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LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: Washington on Thursday became embroiled in a branch-off (if you will) as the executive and legislative fired back at the Supreme Court mere hours after its five most conservative jurists allowed the Texas “heartbeat” statute to stand late on Wednesday.
Biden on Thursday announced that he is directing his administration to look into ways to protect access to abortion for women in Texas following the court’s ruling. He added that the 5-4 decision is an “unprecedented assault” on a woman’s right to an abortion under the Roe v. Wade precedent, warning it will result in harmful consequences for millions of women.
“By allowing a law to go into effect that empowers private citizens in Texas to sue health care providers, family members supporting a woman exercising her right to choose after six weeks, or even a friend who drives her to a hospital or clinic, it unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,” Biden said in a statement.
“Rather than use its supreme authority to ensure justice could be fairly sought, the highest Court of our land will allow millions of women in Texas in need of critical reproductive care to suffer while courts sift through procedural complexities,” he added (The Hill).
On Capitol Hill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the lower chamber will vote on legislation once it returns to Washington on Sept. 20 by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) that would statutorily protect a person’s ability to seek an abortion and for health care providers to provide abortion services. Pelosi called the Texas statute “a flagrantly unconstitutional assault on women’s rights and health” and a “catastrophe.”
“This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade,” Pelosi said, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling.
John Kruzel, The Hill: What the Texas abortion law means for Roe v. Wade.
Assuming the House passes the codifying measure, the bill would die quickly in the 50-50 Senate, with Democrats needing 10 Senate Republicans to cross party lines to do so — something that has zero percent chance of happening.
The Washington Post: Texas abortion law abruptly reshapes the political landscape.
Axios: Democrats’ next moves after a stunning SCOTUS loss on abortion.
Put simply, this would set up a political battle over Roe v. Wade in the 2022 midterm elections, with Democrats believing that a defeat of the 48-year-old ruling would give the party another tool in its push to retain both congressional majorities.
“It’s too early to say if it is ‘the issue,’ but there is a reason Washington Republicans want nothing to do with this: Americans overwhelmingly believe folks in need should be able to get an abortion,” Cole Leiter, who served as communications director for the House Democratic campaign arm in the 2020 cycle, told the Morning Report. “When you attack that fundamental and established right you piss them off and remind them how much their health is at risk.”
“Pissed off people vote, and they’re not confused about who pissed them off,” Leiter added.
As Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, while public opinion on the hot-button issue has not conclusively shifted left over time in the same way other issues have (such as same-sex marriage), a consistent majority has favored preserving Roe v Wade.
The Associated Press: Seeing danger, some in GOP leery of Texas abortion law.
Fox News: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Democrats renew push to pack Supreme Court after Texas abortion ruling.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: Democratic and progressive hopes to pass a massive $3.5 trillion reconciliation package hit a major speedbump on Thursday as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) called on party leaders to hit the “pause” button and poured cold water on the possibility of supporting a bill of that size and scope.
In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, the West Virginia centrist questioned the price tag of the proposal and the effect a package that immense could have on inflation, an issue Manchin has raised in Senate Democratic conference meetings. He added that his colleagues should slow down the process of passing the bill, which is considered the cornerstone of the Biden agenda (The Washington Post).
“Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation,” Manchin wrote. “A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not.”
“While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions,” Manchin continued. “I have always said if I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it, and I can’t explain why my Democratic colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.”
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the planned package is expected to include a number of top priorities of the majority party, including an expansion of Medicare, immigration reform and monies to combat climate change. Manchin can single-handedly hold up passage of any bill as Senate Democrats will need all 50 members to vote in a bloc for it to reach Biden’s desk.
The timing of Manchin’s comments also complicates matters for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). The Democratic leader has given Senate panels until Sept. 15 to finalize their portions of the $3.5 trillion blueprint so that they could start socializing the bill with conference members.
The Hill: Progressives hit Manchin after he tells colleagues to “pause” on Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan.
The Washington Post: White House joins push to beef up pandemic prevention funding amid worries Congress will shortchange the effort.
Politico: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) phone records are among those eyed for preservation by the House Jan. 6 investigators.
The Associated Press: Democrats promote Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to vice chairwoman of Jan. 6 panel.
The Washington Post: “QAnon Shaman,” face of pro-Trump Capitol riot, to plead guilty.
CORONAVIRUS: Despite rising U.S. COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant last week, weekly applications for jobless benefits hit a new post-lockdown low, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department. As The Hill’s Sylvan Lane reports, the continued decline of new weekly applications for unemployment benefits suggests that the delta surge has not led to widespread layoffs — a glimmer of good news about August’s trendline ahead of the government’s monthly nonfarm payroll report to be released this morning.
However, private-sector job creation in August fell short of analysts’ expectations, according to ADP data. The big picture remains that both ADP and Labor Department job reports show a big increase in private-sector employment since May — more than 2 million new jobs, according to MarketWatch.
> Vaccine booster shots: The Biden administration has a plan to begin offering booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines to adults after Sept. 20, recommending Americans get refresher doses about eight months after their last shots on the theory that the antibody shield built up against the virus in vaccinated adults has begun to ebb.
The debate about whether the available science supports the government’s booster plan rages inside the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Two experienced and influential FDA vaccine regulators decided to resign this fall (The Hill). For an administration that pledged to follow the consensus recommendations of top scientific experts while responding to the pandemic, discord within agencies complicates trust and sows public confusion at a time when the government is working to increase the number of Americans rolling up their sleeves for first doses of vaccines.
The Washington Post: The FDA plans to meet publicly on Sept. 17 with outside advisers about boosters, just days before the government’s rollout of a plan for additional doses.
CNBC: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speculated as an immunologist (“I would not at all be surprised”) that the recommended vaccine regime eventually becomes three doses, period.
And speaking of scientific research, COVID-19 vaccines cut the risk in half of a debilitating condition called “long COVID” or “long-haul” recovery in infected patients, according to a major new study published Wednesday in the Lancet (USA Today). One of the cautionary tales about people who survive COVID-19 infection is how often they sustain serious kidney damage that can produce lifetime impairment (The New York Times).
> Variants: We heard about alpha, lambda, learned to fear delta as the dominant U.S. strain of the virus, and are now told that the COVID-19 variant known as “mu” is not an “immediate threat” (The Washington Post).
> Employers & employees: What can employers do if workers avoid COVID-19 vaccines? It’s legal for businesses to require the shots and they could fire employees who don’t comply. They can ask employees to disclose their vaccination status. They can impose higher insurance surcharges on employees who are unvaccinated, compel weekly COVID-19 testing, and impose different workspace requirements on unvaccinated workers (The Associated Press). Federal employees can be fired if they lie to their bosses about being vaccinated (Government Executive).
> State watch & COVID-19: The New York state legislature on Wednesday extended the state’s residential and commercial eviction protections and foreclosure protections through the end of 2021 with the pandemic in mind and COVID-19 cases surging. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed the extensions on Thursday (The Hill).
New York City subway posters, sporting logos from the CDC and Health and Human Services, vividly admonish Gotham’s residents to wear masks and get vaccinated (pictured below).
> International developments: The European Union said countries in the bloc will return millions of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses it received from a plant in South Africa, following criticism by health activists that the EU removed doses from a continent that has the lowest immunization rate in the world (The Wall Street Journal).
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!
The Supreme Court aids and abets Texas in violating women’s constitutional rights, by Ruth Marcus, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3t8eEsa
Supreme Court gets it right on Texas abortion law, by The Editors at National Review. https://bit.ly/2WQ5HYg
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at noon for a pro forma session. The full House will not be active until Sept. 20.
The Senate convenes at 1:30 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 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks about U.S. employment data in August at 10 a.m. The president will then travel to New Orleans to receive a briefing from local officials at 1:15 p.m., tour a part of LaPlace, La., at 2:45 p.m., and survey damage from Hurricane Ida from the air, including Grand Isle, at 3:55 p.m. The president will meet with leaders from impacted communities at 5 p.m. Biden will depart New Orleans at 6:10 p.m. and fly to Philadelphia to make his way to his home in Wilmington, Del., after 10 p.m.
The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on U.S. employment in August. Analysts anticipate that employers added jobs at a brisk clip as parts of the economy, including hospitality and travel, continue to rebound during the pandemic.
➔ TECH: Does Apple Inc.’s Siri violate users’ privacy? A federal judge on Thursday said a lawsuit can go forward on that question (Bloomberg News). … The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed it is investigating whether Richard Branson’s recent test flight to the edge of space aboard his Virgin Galactic rocket-powered plane veered off course during its descent. The company confirmed the plane’s trajectory “changed” but said it was controlled and intentional (New Yorker and CNN Business). … WhatsApp on Thursday was fined roughly $267 million by a privacy watchdog in Ireland due to alleged violations of the European Union’s data privacy rules, the largest penalty issued yet by the group since the strict 2018 regulations took effect (The Hill).
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Friday that he will not run for reelection as party leader at the end of the month, bringing his time atop the nation to an end after a year. Suga, 72, said he will not be a candidate to head the Liberal Democratic Party, long the party in power, later this month, with parliamentary elections set to be held by Nov. 28 (The Wall Street Journal). … The Russian state communications watchdog called on Apple and Google Thursday to remove an app spawned by allies of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from their stores, or face fines if they decide not to. Roskomnadzor, the agency, told the two tech behemoths that a decision not to remove the app created by supporters of the jailed political figure would be construed as interference in Russian elections. The app promotes Navalny’s push to back candidates who are most likely to defeat political figures from the Kremlin’s main United Russia party (The Associated Press).
And finally … Applause galore for Morning Report Quiz winners! We made Princess Diana our puzzle theme this week because Tuesday marked the 24th anniversary of her death.
These readers recalled or Googled some A+ royal trivia to take their bows in the winner’s circle: Patrick Kavanagh, Mary Anne McEnery, Richard Baznik, Jaina Mehta, Eden Infante, Dylan Way, John Donato, Joan Domingues, Randall S. Patrick, Amanda Fisher, Richard Beal, Ricca Slone, Zoë Walker, Candi Cee, Mari Rusch, Michel Romage, Grace Siler, Steve James, Amy Condit, Joe Erdmann, Elisabeth Morrissey and Lesa Davis.
They knew that Diana’s sons William and Harry in July unveiled an outdoor sculpture at Kensington Palace to honor their late mother.
“Diana The Musical” heads to Broadway in November.
Former President George W. Bush was identified as Princess Diana’s 11th cousin, twice removed.
At a 1985 White House event, 24-year-old Princess Diana accepted actor John Travolta’s invitation to dance, an experience he later described as “a storybook moment.” ★ Almost every one of our puzzlers knew exactly which actor caused a stir on the dance floor that night. The suggestion to ask the princess, Travolta said, had been former first lady Nancy Reagan’s. The images live on.