The Hill's Morning Report - For Biden, it goes from bad to worse

 

 

 

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, 837,664; Tuesday, 839,500; Wednesday, 842,322; Thursday, 844,562.



The news is not getting any better for President BidenJoe BidenMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures US raises concerns about Russian troop movements to Belarus Putin tests a model for invading Ukraine, outwitting Biden's diplomats MORE

 

The Labor Department announced on Wednesday that inflation jumped at its fastest rate in nearly 40 years in December, representing a 7 percent increase from last year (The Associated Press). Hours later, a poll showed Biden’s already plummeting approval rating at a new low of 33 percent (The Hill).

 

Exacerbating those issues is the president’s inability to further an agenda on Capitol Hill. His latest push to reform voting rights appears to have hit a brick wall within his own party, becoming yet another example of frustration at the White House as the year begins.

 

Biden and Democratic leaders are nonetheless attempting to create legislative momentum. Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Hundreds attend mass funeral for victims of Bronx apartment building fire MORE (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday laid out the party’s roadmap for bringing up election reform and voting rights legislation and, ultimately, to try to scrap the legislative filibuster to do so. 

 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney details, the Democratic leader is planning to use Senate procedure to bypass the 60-vote prerequisite needed to start debate by considering the bill as a “message,” a loophole that lets them bypass how many times they need to break a filibuster. While the GOP can still block it, it gives Democrats a chance to spark debate on the voting rights proposals. 

 

“With this procedure, we will finally have an opportunity to debate voting rights legislation — something that Republicans have thus far denied,” Schumer wrote. “Of course, to ultimately end debate and pass the voting rights legislation, we will need 10 Republicans to join us — which we know from past experience will not happen — or we will need to change the Senate rules as has been done many times before.”

 

The move will take place after the House passes a consolidated package on Thursday in order to allow the upper chamber to give it “urgent consideration,” according to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTwo-thirds of Americans support banning lawmakers from trading stocks: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Watch: Lawmakers, activists, family members call for voting rights legislation on MLK day MORE (D-Calif.) (The Hill). Schumer has promised a vote on the bills by Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

 

Ultimately, the process is expected to be fruitless legislatively for the majority party, which has been unable to win the support of at least two Democrats — Sens. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSenate Democrats eye talking filibuster NAACP president presses senators on voting rights: 'You will decide who defines America' Schumer tees up showdown on voting rights, filibuster MORE (Ariz.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenate Democrats eye talking filibuster NAACP president presses senators on voting rights: 'You will decide who defines America' Schumer tees up showdown on voting rights, filibuster MORE (W.Va.) — to create a filibuster “carveout” to deal with the issue.

 

Politico: Old-school senator no more: Biden goes all-in against the filibuster.

 

Carl Hulse, The New York Times explainer: Here are some of Democrats’ proposals to curb the Senate filibuster.

 

The Hill: Biden to huddle with Senate Dems as voting bill on brink of defeat.

 

 

Protester David Barrows carries a sign during a rally to press Congress to pass voting rights protections and the "Build Back Better Act"

 

 

Perhaps a bigger issue for Biden is what this expectedly futile process will mean for him and Democrats moving forward. As The Hill’s Niall Stanage argues in his latest Memo, the president and his team have an overpromising problem that is plaguing the administration.

 

While progressives were over the moon early last year about Biden’s domestic agenda, a problem has set in: He is falling short on every front. The omicron and delta variants have compounded problems, the Build Back Better agenda is in a coma, and the voting rights push is destined to fail legislatively, just to mention the big-ticket items — and voters are taking notice. In addition to the 33 percent approval rating, a University of Massachusetts Amherst-YouGov poll released Tuesday showed that 55 percent of adults believe Biden has “fallen short of expectations” — representing a nearly 20-point jump from their previous survey released in April. 

 

It also has ratcheted up the attacks from Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellNAACP president presses senators on voting rights: 'You will decide who defines America' Sununu says he skipped Senate bid to avoid being 'roadblock' to Biden for two years 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE (R-Ky.) gave his most blistering remarks about Biden since he took office on Wednesday, labeling his voting rights address in Atlanta one day earlier “incoherent, incorrect and beneath his office.”

 

“Look, I've known, liked and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday. … Yesterday, with the world's largest megaphone, he invoked the literal Civil War and said we are on the doorstep of autocracy. Talked about domestic enemies. Rhetoric unbecoming of a president of the United States," McConnell said from the Senate floor. 

 

“Take a step back for one minute. President Biden’s story is that democracy is on death’s door … but he spent nine months chasing a reckless taxing and spending spree before addressing it?” McConnell asked, referring to the Build Back Better package (The Hill). 

 

The Hill: Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate Democrats eye talking filibuster Clyburn says he 'wholeheartedly' endorses Biden's voting rights remarks GOP senator knocks Biden for 'spreading things that are untrue' in voting rights speech MORE (D-Ill.) says Biden may have gone “a little too far” in Georgia speech.

 

Brett Samuels, The Hill: Voting advocates focus on next steps after Biden speech.

 

CNN: As candidates refuse to disavow McConnell, former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE comes to terms with his grip on the GOP. 

 

Greg Ip, The Wall Street Journal: Is inflation a microeconomic problem? That’s what Biden’s competition push is betting. 

 

The Washington Post: Democrats worry Biden could pay the political price for rising inflation.

 

 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

 

 

> Jan. 6: The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol asked House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyOvernight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE (Calif.) for his voluntary cooperation on Wednesday, making him the highest-ranking Republican to receive such a request in the probe. The committee laid out a host of questions for the GOP leader, including about his communications with Trump “before, during and after” the deadly riot.

 

McCarthy fired back hours later, saying that he will not cooperate and maintained that the "illegitimate" panel was seeking to interview him about “private conversations not remotely related to the violence that unfolded at the Capitol” (The Hill).

 

Alexander Bolton, The Hill: How Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsSome in GOP begin testing party's lockstep loyalty to Trump Trump to make election claims center stage in Arizona Fed's Brainard faces GOP pressure on climate stances MORE (R-S.D.), a nice-guy South Dakota senator, fell into a Trump storm.

 

The Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.): Rep. Trey HollingsworthJoseph (Trey) Albert HollingsworthThe Hill's Morning Report - For Biden, it goes from bad to worse GOP lawmaker adheres to term limit pledge, won't run for reelection Members of Congress not running for reelection in 2022 MORE (R-Ind.) won't run for reelection.

 

Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg Opinion: Why House Democrats are retiring, and what it means.



LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: Biden this morning will announce that he and Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinGOP lawmakers press administration on US weapons left behind in Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation Milley tests positive for COVID-19 MORE are sending 1,000 military medical personnel to six states to help hospitals during omicron’s winter surge. The new teams of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel will begin arriving at hospitals in Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island to help triage patients now straining the capacity of hospitals and emergency rooms, officials said (The New York Times).

 

> Masks: The bottom line from the Biden administration about the right mask to wear during the omicron surge is the highest-quality face covering that has effective filtration against viral transmission, fits well, is comfortable to wear for long periods indoors if necessary, and comports with the daily lifestyle demands and respiratory fitness of the wearer.

 

For now, there is no change in the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the government is “strongly considering” making higher quality N95 and KN95 masks more available and will update the CDC website to help people make smart mask choices, officials said during a briefing.

 

“We do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19,” CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Overnight Health Care — Biden faces pressure from Democrats on COVID-19 Walensky says she will improve CDC messaging amid criticism MORE said. “And the recommendation is not going to change” (The Hill).

 

> Tests: Separately on Wednesday, the White House pledged to provide 10 million more COVID-19 tests to schools each month to bolster the test-to-stay policy endorsed by CDC and favored by many school districts to continue in-person instruction and keep schools open (NBC News).

 

The Hill: The United States is ordering 500,000 more courses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 treatment. 

 

 

Elementary school teacher Carrie Landheer protests for stronger COVID-19 safety protocols

 

 

For the curious and the cautious, here’s a roundup of some news you can use:

 

Forbes and University of Utah: What’s the best type of mask to protect against omicron?

 

The Associated Press: If I’m infected with omicron, when am I contagious?

 

The Atlantic: Should teen boys get booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine?

 

NBC Chicago: If I’ve been infected with COVID-19, how long should I wait for a booster shot?

 

NPR: Where should I test, what kind of test should I use and what do the results mean? (Tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration are listed HERE).

 

The Conversation and the CDC: Some people suffer with COVID-19 symptoms for prolonged periods, even years. What is “long COVID,” and should I worry?

 

Infections: Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, 70, announced he tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated and boosted. His planned State of the State speech on Wednesday was instead delivered in writing to the legislature to satisfy constitutional requirements. Justice, who said, “I feel extremely unwell at this point,” received monoclonal antibody treatment from physicians following his test results (The Hill and The Washington Post). … Rep. Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerMaryland Democrat announces positive COVID-19 test The Hill's Morning Report - For Biden, it goes from bad to worse Maryland Democrat experiencing mild symptoms after positive COVID-19 test MORE (D-Md.), 75, announced he was experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday (The Hill).

 

To try to prevent another year in which Mardi Gras in New Orleans becomes a COVID-19 superspreader event, officials are requiring effective face coverings in all indoor public spaces (bars, restaurants, public offices, balls) beginning Wednesday morning and continuing at least through Fat Tuesday on March 1 (The Washington Post). … Because of omicron, Broadway is closing some shows and hoping for better days (in smaller theaters) later this year (The New York Times). … The Australian Open tennis tournament, which begins next week, will cap crowds at 50 percent of capacity because of omicron’s spread in Melbourne (The Guardian).

 

 

A masked rider in the Iris Mardi Gras parade throws beads

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Developments in the federal investigation of Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGallego on Jan. 6 rioters: 'F--- them' The Hill's Morning Report - For Biden, it goes from bad to worse Gaetz ex testified to federal grand jury in sex crimes investigation MORE (R-Fla.) involving reported allegations of sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl, violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking women across state lines for prostitution, and obstruction of justice may indicate the Justice Department is closer to indicting the congressman, who denies any wrongdoing, according to reports.

 

Gaetz’s former girlfriend testified to a federal grand jury in the sex trafficking probe on Wednesday, which surprised some who are familiar with witnesses in the case (NBC News). Gaetz, 39 (pictured below), has not been charged with a crime and has denied all accusations, saying he never paid for sex and never had sex with a minor when he was an adult. He has said the yearlong federal investigation into his activities is a “witch hunt.”

 

> Both parties nationwide are trying to install favored candidates in top election posts in states and localities this year, believing that ballot challenges, assertions of fraud and demands for recounts in 2020 put a spotlight on debates about election integrity and voting restrictions, reports The Hill’s Julia Manchester. The parties are raising big money to inject into races for down-ballot secretary of state contests. 

 

> In half a dozen states, Texas-style bills have been introduced while anti-abortion state lawmakers eye what they see as a chance to end Roe v. Wade. Gun rights supporters, however, see a danger in the new approach, which they fear could open the door to legal challenges filed in blue states aimed at gun manufacturers, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson. … A new poll suggests that abortion and reproductive rights are rising among priority issues among self-identified Democrats (The Associated Press).

 

> In Pennsylvania’s GOP Senate primary, former hedge fund manager David McCormick on Wednesday filed paperwork to run in what will be one of the most competitive races in the country for an open Senate seat (NBC News). McCormick is a Pennsylvania native but has been living in Connecticut and recently purchased a house in Pittsburgh as he embarked on advertising his political aspirations.



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



OPINION

We need to follow John LewisJohn LewisSenate Democrats eye talking filibuster NAACP president presses senators on voting rights: 'You will decide who defines America' Schumer tees up showdown on voting rights, filibuster MORE’ example and fight for our democracy, by former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaCould the coming 'red wave' election become a 'red tsunami'? Bottom line Barack Obama wishes a happy 58th birthday to 'best friend' Michelle MORE, opinion contributor, USA Today. https://bit.ly/3fhcZun

 

Watch Ukraine, not Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke says he raised record .2M since launching campaign for Texas governor Golden State Warriors owner says 'nobody cares' about Uyghurs All hostages free, safe after hours-long standoff at Texas synagogue: governor MORE’s Senate sideshow, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/3HYqTh3

 

The cops who didn’t come home, by Christopher Wray, opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3tnqEs7



WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. and plans to vote to advance a consolidated measure dealing with U.S. elections for consideration by the Senate. McCarthy will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center.  

 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the Protecting Europe's Energy Security Implementation Act.

 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will update the public at 10:30 a.m. about the administration’s responses to the COVID-19 surge. The president will meet with Senate Democrats in the Capitol at 1 p.m. to discuss a way forward for pending voting rights legislation.

 

Vice President Harris was interviewed by NBC News and portions of the interview will appear this morning on the “Today” show.

 

Federal Reserve nominee to be vice chair, Lael Brainard, will appear at 10 a.m. before the Senate Banking Committee for a confirmation hearing.

 

The White House press briefing is scheduled at 3 p.m. and will include national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanWhite House says Russia could launch attack in Ukraine 'at any point' Blinken stresses 'unshakable' US commitment to Ukraine in call with Russian counterpart Texas hostage-taker was known to British security officials MORE.

 

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



ELSEWHERE

INTERNATIONAL: North Korea has been laboring to get the world’s attention with prominent ballistic missile tests. The Biden administration imposed its first sanctions on Wednesday following two such tests in the span of a week (Reuters). … NATO and Russia traded what became incompatible demands on Wednesday in Brussels during four hours of high-stakes discussions about Moscow’s aggressive posture toward Ukraine (The Washington Post). Russia has been cool to security proposals from the United States as well as other NATO members.

 

WEATHER (uhoh): When we see U.S. forecasts with the phrase “bomb cyclone,” we pay close attention. An unusual weather front expected to swoop from the Midwest into Southern states and then make a left turn up the East Coast on Sunday into Monday could “be primed for winter weather mayhem,” according to AccuWeather meteorologists. The preliminary maps appear ominous for heavy snow and lots of rain in some states.

 

WEIRD SCIENCE: Mr. Darcy is a good driver. He’s a goldfish. He and his five goldfish pals (named after characters from “Pride and Prejudice”) were trained by researchers in Israel to propel little tanks of water on wheels equipped with cameras to target destinations, responding to food rewards. Whenever the fish swam near one of the tank’s walls, facing outward, the vehicle trundled off in that direction. The main takeaway from this playful experiment, soon to be published in Behavioural Brain Research, was that the fish were able to adapt navigational skills separate from their natural habitat to achieve what they wanted (one was allowed to wander outside the lab into the building and tried to make a break for it) (Science News).



And finally … It’s a brand-new year, which means the Morning Report Quiz is back in business in 2022!  Inspired by our final quiz of 2021 about things Americans enjoyed last year, we’re turning the tables and eager for some smart guesses about things people are complaining or upset about to kick off 2022. 

 

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

 

This week, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Trump-DeSantis tensions ratchet up Overnight Health Care — Biden faces pressure from Democrats on COVID-19 MORE referred to which U.S. senator as “a moron”?

  1. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul cancels DirecTV subscription after it drops OAN Trump slams Biden, voices unsubstantiated election fraud claims at first rally of 2022 Overnight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks MORE (R-Ky.)
  2. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallThe Hill's Morning Report: Biden takes it on the chin GOP senator plans to introduce FAUCI Act after clash at hearing Scientists, medical professionals defend Fauci after heated exchanges with Republicans MORE (R-Kan.)
  3. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
  4. All of the above

Much of the NFL universe was heartbroken on Sunday night after which of the following did not happen in the Los Angeles Chargers-Las Vegas Raiders game?

  1. A tribute to John Madden
  2. A tie 
  3. A safety to end the game
  4. None of the above

Former “Full House” star Bob Saget (pictured below) died on Sunday at age 65. What did the longtime entertainer do the night before he passed away? 

  1. Attended a sporting event
  2. Headlined a stand-up comedy show
  3. Filmed a TV special
  4. Visited family

Which celebrity was recently referred to as “Spartacus of the new world” by a family member over a perceived mistreatment?

  1. Kyrie Irving
  2. Donald Trump
  3. Novak Djokovic
  4. Ben Affleck 

 



THE CLOSER

 

Bob Saget attends the premiere of Dave Chappelle's untitled documentary