Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – All eyes on Zelensky today

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook Tuesday, March 15, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine.

 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will make a direct appeal in an address to members of Congress and the United States this morning as Russia continues its assault on Kyiv and President Biden plots a trio of his own to Europe next week. 

Exactly three weeks into the war, Zelensky is expected to heap pressure on lawmakers and the public as he continues his push for the U.S. and its European allies to increase its support militarily for Ukraine as Russian forces continue to make inroads throughout the country. 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney and Cristina Marcos note, the address will be Zelensky’s second to members of Congress, having talked to 300 of them during a Zoom call earlier this month. However, the speech marks the first time he will address the American public and make a direct call for help. 

Zelensky is slated to speak at 9 a.m. ET (The Hill). 

On Tuesday, Biden signed into law the year-end government spending bill, which included nearly $14 billion in humanitarian and military aid for the war-torn nation (pictured below). The aid, which Congress OK’d last week, comes after Biden barred imports of Russian oil and levied heavy sanctions on the Russian economy. Biden also could be on the verge of announcing an additional $1 billion in new military aid for Ukraine today (The Wall Street Journal). 

However, Zelensky is expected to ask for more. His appeal will take place a day after two other speeches to the British Parliament and Canada’s House of Commons, where he pleaded for support for a no-fly zone over his country and requested further assistance in the deadly conflict with Moscow. He also directed questions at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking him to imagine what it would be like if Canadians were the ones being attacked (The Associated Press). 

“Dear Justin … can you imagine every day you receive memorandums about the number of casualties including women and children? You heard about the bombings. Currently, we have 97 children that died during this war,” Zelensky said (The Hill). 

Brett Samuels and Mike Lillis, The Hill: Five things to watch for during Zelensky’s address to Congress. 

Politico: Zelensky’s pitch to Congress puts more pressure on Biden to expand U.S. role. 

Axios: Zelensky says Russian peace talk positions “more realistic.” 

 

President Biden signs the Consolidated Appropriations Act

 

Zelensky’s pitch to Congress comes amid continued tumult in Kyiv, where the Russian military has continued its assault, including on Tuesday. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that missile strikes killed four more individuals in the Ukrainian capital, having also put the city under a 35-hour curfew amid a “difficult and dangerous” moment (The Washington Post). 

Adding to the drama in Kyiv, the prime ministers of Poland, Czech Republic and Slovenia became the first world leaders to travel to the city since the fighting began 21 days ago. Petr Fiala, the Czech prime minister, wrote in a Facebook post that the visit was meant to “to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.” 

The Associated Press: Russia steps up bombardment of Kyiv, civilians flee Mariupol. 

Reuters: Ukraine says 20,000 escape besieged Mariupol; United Kingdom says Russian forces struggling.

The Washington Post: More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine since invasion, United Nations migration agency says. 

The Hill: Lawmakers raise pressure on White House to back Poland fighter jets plan. 

The Washington Post: Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova killed near Kyiv. 

As for Biden, the White House announced on Tuesday that he will visit Brussels on March 24 for discussions with European leaders, including a NATO summit and a separate one with the European Council. 

“We’ve been incredibly aligned to date,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the U.S.’s work with European nations on the Ukraine situation. “That doesn’t happen by accident. The president is a big believer in face-to-face diplomacy. So it’s an opportunity to do exactly that” (The Associated Press). 

Meanwhile, the Russian government on Tuesday imposed its own set of sanctions against top U.S. officials, including Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The move blocks the three, among others, from entering Russia. According to Bloomberg News, the Russian Foreign Ministry added that the sanctions would not stand in the way of high-level contacts if needed. 

The Hill: Russia seeking 13-year prison sentence for Putin critic Alexei Navalny

The Wall Street Journal: Marina Ovsyannikova, who burst onto Russian TV set with anti-war poster, is fined. 

Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Lawmakers back Biden on potential economic penalties for China

David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner: “I thought he was negotiating”: former President Trump didn’t think Putin would order the Ukraine invasion. 

 

Ukrainian soldiers in a cemetery

 

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LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: COVID-19 isn’t over. Amid fears that case totals could arise in parts of the U.S. due to the BA.2 omicron variant, infections are popping up across Democratic circles as a top White House official and three more lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. 

According to the White House, second gentleman Doug Emhoff tested positive for COVID-19. Vice President Harris has tested negative, but was held back from participating in an Equal Pay Day event on Tuesday night “out of an abundance of caution.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Harris and Emhoff were together on Tuesday morning. 

Harris will continue to test for the virus in the coming days, having been alongside Biden at Tuesday’s spending bill signing ceremony. 

On Capitol Hill, Reps. Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) all tested positive for COVID-19. Kim said in a statement that he feels “miserable,” with the other two lawmakers saying that they are experiencing “mild symptoms.” 

News of their infections also follows positive test results for at least five other House Democrats in recent days, some of whom had attended the House Democratic retreat in Philadelphia late last week (The Hill). Kim and Golden both said in statements that they were not at the retreat (The Hill). 

The new high profile cases coincide with reports that the “stealth” omicron variant is becoming more prevalent among reported COVID-19 infections. As of March 6, the BA.2 strain had comprised 33 percent of the cases in the U.S., with that figure likely increasing in the past 10 days. Some European nations are already experiencing an uptick in case loads, with the U.S. historically lagging behind by a few weeks in virus trends. U.S. daily infection totals have dwindled down to their lowest point since last summer before the delta variant took hold. 

The Hill: White House warns it has to cut back virus response due to lack of funds. 

> Vaccines: Pfizer is expected to issue an authorization request with health officials this week to greenlight a fourth COVID-19 booster shot for individuals aged 65 and older. 

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are required to OK the fourth dose. The news comes days after Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that a fourth jab would be “necessary” for individuals. 

“We’re continuing to collect and assess all available data and we’re in continuous, open dialogue with regulators and health authorities to help inform a COVID-19 vaccine strategy as the virus evolves,” Jerica Pitts, a Pfizer spokeswoman, said in a statement (The Associated Press).

 

Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sit in a cooler

 

> Reopening: The White House on Tuesday rolled out plans to resume public tours beginning next month, a change after they were largely paused during the pandemic. 

The White House said that free public tours will begin on April 15 (Good Friday) and be available between 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, except for federal holidays (The Hill). 

The Hill: Senate votes to nix mask mandate for public transportation, including eight Democrats.

 

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

We’re making investments in safety and security—and seeing results

 

 

Facebook has invested $13 billion over the last 5 years to help keep you safe. Over the last several months, we’ve taken action on: 

    • 62 million pieces of explicit adult content
    • 51.7 million pieces of violent and graphic content

See how we’re working to help you connect safely.

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS & POLITICS: Sarah Bloom Raskin on Tuesday withdrew from consideration to a top Federal Reserve post, officially asking Biden to withdraw her nomination in a letter amid “relentless attacks by special interests” (The New Yorker). 

Her request comes a day after Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) all announced their opposition to her nomination, effectively ending any chance of her winning the requisite 51 votes needed for confirmation. Raskin, who was nominated to serve as Federal Reserve vice chair of supervision, came under heavy criticism for her past comments about the oil and gas industry, remarks that ultimately led Manchin to declare his opposition (The Hill). 

“There is hard and urgent work ahead for the Federal Reserve. If I step away from this confirmation process, there can be no excuse left for a continued boycott of the Constitution’s ‘advice and consent’ process and the Senate’s corresponding refusal to attend to our nation’s real economic needs,” she wrote in the letter. “With a heavy heart, I therefore hereby withdraw my candidacy.”

Raskin was referring to the GOP’s decision to boycott a Senate Banking Committee hearing that would have advanced five Fed nominees, including hers and Chairman Jerome Powell’s renomination, due to Raskin’s past work and remarks. 

The Hill: Senate unanimously approves making Daylight Saving Time permanent. 

The Hill: A movement is underway to ban lawmakers from trading stocks in office. 

 

Sarah Bloom Raskin speaks at a confirmation hearing

 

> On the road again: The vice president, fresh off her trip to Poland and Romania last week, is ramping up her travel across the country and plans to hit the road more frequently in the coming weeks. 

Sources familiar with the plans told The Hill’s Amie Parnes that Harris plans to appear at events to tout the work of the administration, headlined by their legislative efforts with regard to infrastructure and expanded broadband access. 

The Associated Press: Proud Boys leader charged in Jan. 6 plot jailed until trial.

 

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

Can Germany break Up with Russian gas? By Paul Krugman, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3tYel3V 

Biden should bring these two key messages to NATO, by Tom Rogan, national security writer, Washington Examiner. https://washex.am/3JfIhPB 

Our moral obligation to help Ukraine against Russia, by William A. Galston, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3q8zaZw

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. and will resume consideration of Jacqueline Corley to be district judge for Northern California. 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks on U.S. assistance to Ukraine at 11:45 a.m. He will also do so at an event celebrating the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act at 1:45 p.m. The president will also speak at The Ireland Funds 30th National Gala at 7:45 p.m. 

First lady Jill Biden will attend a cancer cabinet meeting at 4:15 p.m. 

The White House press briefing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.

ELSEWHERE

➜ ECONOMY: The Federal Reserve is set to hike interest rates for the first time since slashing them to near-zero levels early on in the pandemic, and the central bank is hoping to cool off rising inflation without denting several months of strong job growth. The Hill’s Sylvan Lane takes a look at how the Fed’s rate hikes will start to affect the economy. … Prices for goods increased 2.4 percent in February, marking the biggest jump since data for the metric was first calculated more than a decade ago. The jump is due largely to a spike in energy prices, which noted a 14.8 percent rise in the index for gasoline (The Hill). … The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that 10 states have set new record low unemployment rates during the beginning of 2022. 

➜ TECH: The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday it has begun implementing rules requiring broadcasters to report when foreign governments have been leased airwave time. Under the rule, new leasing agreements are subject to the mandate. Existing ones have up to six months of the Federal Register publication date to comply with the rule (The Hill).

 

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

We’re making investments in safety and security—and seeing results

 

 

Facebook has invested $13 billion over the last 5 years to help keep you safe. Over the last several months, we’ve taken action on: 

    • 62 million pieces of explicit adult content
    • 51.7 million pieces of violent and graphic content

See how we’re working to help you connect safely.

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … We have an Iditarod champion. 

Brent Sass and his team of 11 dogs prevailed in the 50th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday as they crossed the finish line in Nome, Alaska, just before 6 a.m., giving him his first victory in the race. The team completed the event in eight days, 14 hours, 38 minutes and 43 seconds. 

“It’s awesome, it’s a dream come true,” said Sass, whose beard and mustache were reportedly covered in ice. “When I started mushing, my goal was to win the Yukon Quest and win the Iditarod. Checked them both off the list now.” 

A wilderness guide and kennel owner, Sass’s previous best finish was third last year (The Associated Press).

 

Dogs pull a sled in snow
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