Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Americans struggle with soaring prices

Supermarket inflation
AP/Charles Krupa

 

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 902,624; Tuesday, 905,544; Wednesday, 909,016; Thursday, 912,255; Friday, 915,618.

Americans do not need a government report to tell them they’re paying a lot more for groceries, gasoline, rent and utilities, thanks to inflationary pressures that on Thursday set a record — a 7.5 percent rise in consumer prices not seen for 40 years (The Hill). 

An overall strong economy, but one with a scarcity of workers during a pandemic, may have pushed wages higher, but not enough for the middle class, Latinos and millennials to stay ahead of what analysts say shakes out to about $276 more a month in costs for the average U.S. household (CNBC). Most Americans did not receive 8 percent raises as 2022 began, which means they are falling behind, and they know it. 

The New York Times: High inflation was anticipated in January’s consumer price index, but it was worse than expected. 

The Wall Street Journal: From breakfast cereal to light bills, prices are up. 

Whom do Americans blame for the price squeeze? The White House and Democrats who are preparing to face voters in November think President Biden and the party in power will be held to account (The Hill). Perhaps they already are: 58 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the job Biden is doing, according to a CNN poll released on Thursday. A large majority of those surveyed could not come up with a single idea when asked to name something they favored during Biden’s tenure (The Hill). 

As the finger-pointing continues, Republicans and some Democrats insist part of the fault lies with what they believe was excessive federal stimulus approved by Congress in 2020 and 2021 to address the economic impact of COVID-19. 

“I’ve been ringing the alarm bell forever… nobody’s been listening,” complained West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), who holds great sway in the 50-50 chamber. “It’s a 7.5 percent tax on everything you buy. It’s unbelievable! 

Manchin (pictured below) almost single-handedly put the brakes on Biden’s nearly $2 trillion proposed Build Back Better social spending and climate agenda last year. The centrist senator is convinced he was correct. “We’re not in a financial position to do it,” he told reporters. “We’ve got to get our financial house in order. … Now’s not the time to be throwing caution to the wind and putting more trillions of dollars out” (The Hill).

 

 

Nonetheless, the president on Thursday continued to champion his proposals, bypassing the misgivings of Manchin and others. During a stop in Culpeper, Va., Biden said the spending proposals already approved by the House would lower drug prices. “In my Build Back Better legislation…we can do that. … Now we just have to get it through the United States Senate, and we’re close,” he said (The Hill). 

Reacting to the inflation report on Thursday with a written statement, the president basically changed the subject. He touted what he sees as favorable wage growth as well as some economists’ projections that inflation will be tamer by the end of the year. “While today’s report is elevated, forecasters continue to project inflation easing substantially by the end of 2022,” Biden said (CNBC). 

 

Also facing considerable blame is the nation’s central bank, which has been accused of being too slow to recognize the inflation warnings and is expected to begin raising interest rates in March. The January inflation data and expectations for higher interest rates sent stocks tumbling

Analysts and Wall Street soothsayers warned Americans on Thursday that they may be tired of inflation, but they need to buckle up. The actions of the Federal Reserve will not and cannot provide relief for months (CNBC). 

More economic data: Recent studies point to Black women as the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the country, with nearly 2.7 million nationwide (The Hill’s Changing America).

 

 

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LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: The Biden administration on Thursday called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government to move to end the ongoing truck blockade that is protesting the northern nation’s COVID-19 rules. 

The trucker blockade, known as the Freedom Convoy, kept up for its fourth straight day on Thursday and has forced auto plants on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border to shut down or roll back production in recent days by blocking the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario and Detroit.  

According to the White House, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke with Canadian officials in a push to end the protest. Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, successfully asked a court to freeze millions of dollars in donations that have helped fund the protests, which have threatened to crop up in major U.S. metropolitan cities.  

“The economic harm is not sustainable and it must come to an end,” Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said (The Associated Press).  

General Motors said in a statement on Thursday that the automaker was impacted each of the past two days, noting that its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant was forced to cancel its second shift on Wednesday and the first shift on Thursday because of parts shortages (The Hill). 

The Hill: Third U.S.-Canada border crossing blocked by “Freedom Convoy” protests. 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Americans brace for Canada-style COVID-19 protests. 

 

> Restriction rollback: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday called on the state’s board of education to lift the statewide school mask mandate, citing the falling COVID-19 cases and rising vaccination rate of school-age children.  

“A growing number of medical professionals, parents, and bipartisan state officials throughout the nation are calling for an end to school mask requirements,” Hogan wrote to Clarence Crawford, the president of the board. “In light of dramatic improvements to our health metrics and the widespread availability of vaccines, I am calling on you to take action to rescind this policy.”  

The lone statewide mask order in effect is in schools, with the state having already rescinded its indoor mask mandate, and county governments can make their own rules (The Hill). 

> Infections: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) announced on Thursday that she tested positive for COVID-19. She added that she is asymptomatic and will quarantine for five days (The Hill). 

Across the Atlantic, the office of Prince Charles said that he tested positive for the virus. The Prince of Wales was slated to attend a statue unveiling on Thursday but had to cancel due to the positive result.  

Charles’s positive test also raises questions about the status of Queen Elizabeth II, who met with her son only two days earlier. Elizabeth II, 95, just celebrated the 70th anniversary of her ascension to the throne (CBS News). 

The Wall Street Journal: Omicron’s decline prompts a rethink of COVID-19 measures. 

Reuters: French President Emmanuel Macron refused to submit to a COVID-19 while visiting the Kremlin this week because of concerns Russia would obtain his DNA.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION: Americans should leave Ukraine immediately because of the risk of a Russian invasion, Biden told NBC News anchor Lester Holt during a Thursday interview (the two are pictured below in 2020).  

Interview video HERE.

“We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It’s a very different situation and things could go crazy quickly,” Biden said, warning that U.S. military rescue of trapped or displaced American citizens would not be the priority if Russia invades Ukraine. “That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another. … We’re in a very different world than we’ve ever been,” he added. 

On the question of mask mandates in schools, Biden said it is “a tough call” for school systems and states that are making different decisions than those recommended by Washington. He argued that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for masks in schools has helped schools stay open during the omicron surge. 

“We’re now on the verge of being able to have shots for children under the age of seven and young children, and so the more protection they have, probably you’re going to see less and less requirement to have the mask,” he continued. 

The president confirmed he’s well into a planned process of selecting a Supreme Court nominee and has surveyed the backgrounds of a few potential candidates. He previously said that later this month he will nominate a Black woman to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer, who will retire in June or early July. 

“I’ve taken about four people and done the deep dive on them, meaning thorough background checks, to see if there’s anything in the background that would make them not qualified,” Biden said during a Nightly News interview conducted for broadcast ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl. 

“The short list are nominees who are incredibly well-qualified and documented,” he added. “They were the honor students. They have come from the best universities, they have experience, some on the bench, some on the practice of law.” 

The president predicted his nominee will find support among some Republican senators, despite conservatives’ predictions of Senate GOP opposition. “I’m not looking to make an ideological choice,” he said. “I’m looking for someone that replaces Judge Breyer with the same kind of capacity Judge Breyer has, with an open mind, who understands the Constitution, interprets it in a way that is consistent with the mainstream interpretation of the Constitution.” 

Biden on Thursday met with Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the White House as part of his outreach ahead of the confirmation process. The president has also spoken to some Republican senators by phone. 

CNN: Biden’s Supreme Court selection process and progress are underway.

 

 

> Afghanistan: CNN’s reporting team looks back to August with a gripping video examination, “Horror at Kabul’s gate to freedom. Inside the final deadly moments of the US’ longest-running war,” about the final hours of the U.S. withdrawal from the airport in Kabul. … Meanwhile, Biden told NBC he rejects a tough internal Pentagon report, obtained by The Washington Post, about the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan that pointed fingers at the National Security Council and the U.S. embassy staff in Kabul (The Hill). 

> News media: The White House, State Department and the Pentagon are on the receiving end of complaints from news outlets and beat reporters about getting timely and non arbitrary access to the president and other decision makers, as well as information transparency. The pushback from journalists is similar to dust-ups encountered during previous administrations, with the caveat that COVID-19 precautions create new challenges. Here’s some recent coverage: The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell reports the Pentagon will not grant journalists’ requests to embed with U.S. forces in Ukraine and Eastern Europe (arrangements familiar from the Iraq war). … Roll Call White House correspondent John T. Bennett reports on “harsh” White House and State Department exchanges and a “dismissive Biden press strategy” that reverses some 2020 Biden campaign boasts about greater transparency. … Fox News made much of a recent Twitter back-and-forth between White House press secretary Jen Psaki and Time magazine political reporter Molly Ball over limited access to a New York City crime event featuring Biden with Gotham’s new mayor. 

****** 

CONGRESS: The Senate on Thursday passed legislation ending the use of forced arbitration in lawsuits involving sexual assault and harassment claims.  

The bill passed the chamber by a voice vote, days after the House advanced it, 335-97, putting to an end the years-long debate on the bill, which was sparked by the #MeToo movement. Biden is expected to sign the bill into law.  

The legislation ensures that individuals will have the ability to bring a case alleging sexual assault or harassment in court rather than being forced into arbitration proceedings that are often conducted in private and confidential hearings. As The Hill’s Jordain Carney notes, it would do so by voiding clauses in agreements, such as employment contracts, that require disputes to go through the arbitration process. 

The Hill: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asks for input as Democrats finalize cannabis bill.

Politico: Democrats want to clean up lawmaker stock trades. It could get messy. 

The Hill: The House extends proxy voting until March 30. 

> Document watch: The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced on Thursday that it is launching a probe regarding the boxes of former President Trump’s records that had been recovered by the National Archives and Records Administration from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.  

Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to archivist David Ferriero that she was “deeply concerned” that the records were not handed over at the conclusion of the Trump administration and with reports indicating that Trump and other officials attempted to destroy them. 

Maloney’s ask comes on the heels of the National Archives reportedly requesting an investigation by the Department of Justice into the former president’s handling of documents during his term in office (The Hill). 

Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill: Capitol Police inspector general to investigate GOP spying claims.

The New York Times: Investigators find gaps in White House logs of Trump’s Jan. 6 calls.

New York Daily News: Trump denies reports of clogging White House toilets by flushing wads of paper.

 

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

Republicans, stand against excess, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/36adZiJ  

Surging inflation puts Federal Reserve in an impossible situation, by Robert Burgess, executive editor, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/34vMNu0

 

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

Why Facebook supports updated internet regulations, including Section 230

 

Aaron is one of 40,000 people working on safety and security issues at Facebook. 

Hear more from Aaron on why Facebook supports updating regulations on the internet’s most pressing challenges, including reforming Section 230 to set clear guidelines for all large tech companies.

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session. Votes are next scheduled for Feb. 28 following the President’s Day recess. 

The Senate convenes on Monday at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the Postal Service Reform Act. 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will depart for Camp David in Maryland at 3:15 p.m. and remain there during the weekend. 

Vice President Harris will travel to Newark, N.J. to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up meetings in Australia, flew to Fiji to meet with leaders there, then heads to Hawaii to participate in a U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea trilateral ministerial discussion. 

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 2 p.m. 

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

➜ OLYMPICS: U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin on Friday rebounded from two events where she did not finish to place 9th in the Super G, representing a victory of sorts after days of questions over whether she would compete at all in the event. The three-time U.S. gold medalist is expected to compete in three more events including Tuesday’s downhill skiing event in a bid to win a medal in three straight Olympics (The Wall Street Journal). … Russia. Doping. Olympic team figure skating: A controversy over a gold medal and a banned substance this morning (The Wall Street Journal). … The U.S. women’s hockey team survived a scare on Friday, taking down the Czech Republic, 4-1, keeping gold medal hopes alive. The U.S., a co-favorite with Canada, was tied in the quarterfinal match heading into the third period, but buried three goals, including an empty-netter to send the team to the semifinal. The U.S. will face the winner of Finland-Japan in the coming days (ESPN).

 

 

HEALTH: The American Red Cross said the U.S. is facing its “worst blood shortage in over a decade,” having seen a 10 percent drop in blood donations since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, now further complicated by omicron. The Red Cross is working to address common misconceptions about blood donation, such as tattoo and piercing restrictions, weight and age restrictions, and how to best prepare for donation to help end the blood shortage (The Hill).  

➜ ENDANGERED: Not great news this morning. … Koalas are now on the endangered list in parts of Australia because disease, habitat loss and other threats have taken a devastating toll over the past 10 years. Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley downgraded their conservation status across the country’s east coast, in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, on a recommendation by the government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee. “Koalas have gone from no-listing to vulnerable to endangered within a decade. That is a shockingly fast decline,” said Stuart Blanch, a conservation scientist with the World Wildlife Fund-Australia. “Today’s decision is welcome, but it won’t stop koalas from sliding toward extinction unless it’s accompanied by stronger laws and landholder incentives to protect their forest homes,” he said (The Associated Press).

 

THE CLOSER

And finally …  A thundering round of applause (one might even call it royal) for all of this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners who knew their trivia (or did some high-quality Google-ing) about the life of Elizabeth II:

Here are the puzzle champions who went 4/4: Jaina Mehta, Patrick Kavanagh, Pam Manges, Len Jones, Warren Miller, Harry Strulovici, Lori Benso, Jonathan Scheff, Luther Berg, Michael Romage, Timothy Bolden, John Donato and Steve James.   

They knew that during Elizabeth’s 70-year reign, the only one of the 14 U.S. presidents she did not meet in person was Lyndon Johnson.  

Elizabeth does not have a combined 15 grandchildren and great-grandchildren (she has 20).  

When Elizabeth came to the U.S. for her first state visit in October 1957, Elizabeth traveled to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Williamsburg, Va. Thus, the correct quiz answer is none of the above. 

Finally, Princess Anne is currently 17th in the line of succession. She was second in line when Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952.

 

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Antony Blinken Biden agenda Carolyn Maloney Charles Schumer classified documents Donald Trump economy Emmanuel Macron Inflation Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin Justin Trudeau Larry Hogan Morning Report Olympics Pete Buttigieg Rising prices Shelley Moore Capito Stephen Breyer
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