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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – What now after Zelensky’s speech?

Members of Congress give Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation
The New York Times via AP, Pool
 Members of Congress give Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation before he speaks in a virtual address to Congress in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center Congressional Auditorium in Washington, on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. 

 

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Members of Congress give Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation

 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued an impassioned address to Congress about the grave state of his nation’s fight against Russia as the two sides escalated talks to end the war. 

Zelensky, speaking exactly three weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, took his plea to members of Congress on Wednesday in a bid for increased support for his country as Moscow continues its attacks, including on civilians (The Hill). The Ukrainian leader, who was greeted with a standing ovation, re-upped calls for a no-fly zone over his country, going so far as to invoke Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and to show graphic images of Ukraine’s dead (The Associated Press).  

“Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided, the destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy,” Zelensky said in the virtual address. “Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people.” 

In addition to a no-fly zone, which the U.S. and NATO allies have ruled out, Zelensky pressed for delivery of Soviet-era S-300 air defense systems to try to repel Russian air strikes. 

President Biden responded soon after Zelensky’s speech by unveiling $800 million in additional U.S. military assistance, which includes anti-aircraft defenses, drones and other weaponry (The Hill). The funds are separate from the $13.6 billion in humanitarian and military aid approved by Congress last week.  

The Hill: Biden on Wednesday assailed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal.” The Associated Press explains who gets to decide if Biden’s verdict is correct. 

Although the White House opposes a no-fly zone because of fears it could provoke Putin to dramatically escalate the war, some U.S. lawmakers remain open to the idea. Congress’s action is unclear.   

“It remains my view that putting — if that means putting U.S. troops or pilots in Ukraine, I think the answer is no,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said about a no-fly zone. 

Zelensky, who has appealed to Canadians and Great Britain in similar recent presentations, pleaded with the United States to do more, and lawmakers in both parties say they are receptive to Ukraine’s plight.  

“I think his remarks this morning created further impetus to do more. And so we’re trying to figure out what that more is,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican (NBC News).  

The Hill: Zelensky challenges the conscience of Congress. 

Dan Balz: Zelensky puts Biden on the spot with his emotional speech to Congress. 

Niall Stanage: Five takeaways from Zelensky’s virtual address to Congress. 

Federal News Service text of Zelensky’s speech. 

Across the Atlantic, Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine on Wednesday, including destruction of a theater-turned-shelter for hundreds of people, including children, in port city Mariupol, according to the Ukrainian foreign ministry. According to The Associated Press, hundreds are reportedly trapped in the destruction.  

Negotiators for Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday suggested some progress, including discussion of a tentative 15-point peace plan that would involve a cease-fire and a withdrawal of Russian forces, contingent on Kyiv declaring neutrality, among other items (Financial Times). Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the neutrality stance is being “seriously discussed.” Zelensky reportedly said Moscow’s demands to end the war were becoming “more realistic” (The Associated Press). Those talks continue today.  

The Wall Street Journal: Russia blames global sanctions for pushing the country toward its first default since 1998. 

Axios: Ukrainians fear Russia diplomacy progress is a head fake. 

The New York Times: As Russian troop deaths climb, morale becomes an issue, officials say. 

Reuters: Why isn’t the U.S. accepting more Ukrainian refugees? 

The Associated Press: Berlin train station turns into refugee town for Ukrainians. 

 

A volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces assists a woman to cross the street in Kharkiv, Ukraine

 

While Biden focused on U.S. efforts to help Ukraine, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday signaled it will assertively pull back its support for the economy. 

The Fed warned that rising inflation means “hardship” for Americans for possibly the next few years and requires a series of seven interest rate hikes in 2022 aimed at lowering demand and prices while slowing the economy. The announcement by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell was anticipated by analysts and market watchers but spells political trouble for Democratic candidates who had hoped voters would feel more confident by November about prices that outstrip their wage gains and their economic futures. 

Nonwhite voters are more likely than white voters to say the highest inflation in four decades is triggering major financial strain in their lives, and that appears to be giving Republicans an opening with a growing segment of the electorate that traditionally favors Democrats, the latest Wall Street Journal poll shows. 

The New York Times: Higher interest rates make mortgages, car loans and borrowing by businesses more expensive, which slows consumption and investment, reducing demand in the economy and, it’s hoped, surging prices. 

Risks of rising U.S. unemployment and a slide into recession are not out of the question, according to some experts. However, the chairman said the central bank does not expect a recession this year. Powell described the U.S. economy as well positioned for an inflation-eradication battle waged with monetary weapons. The chairman said while expansion will slow from last year’s 5.8 percent gross domestic product, the Fed’s projection for U.S. growth is “still quite strong” (The Hill). 

CNBC: U.S. stock futures moved modestly higher on Wednesday evening as investors digested the latest Fed projections. The Dow jumped 500 points after the Fed’s move to raise interest rates for the first time since 2018. 

 

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a hearing

 

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LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: Skyrocketing gas prices across the country are putting Democrats in a perilous position only months out from what was already shaping up to be a troublesome midterm election cycle. 

The spike in prices is of particular concern to progressives, according to The Hill’s Hanna Trudo. Specifically, progressive members and activists are worried that the sky-high cost of gas is crippling the country’s more vulnerable populations and doing major harm to inequality, creating tension between those who want a bigger condemnation of the fossil fuel industry and others who are seeking a middle ground amid the Ukraine conflict.  

While progressives argue, companies are starting to hike prices of their own in response to the increased gasoline costs. Lyft announced on Wednesday that it will add a $0.55 fuel surcharge to the price of each ride starting next week in a push to help its drivers offset rising fuel costs. The full amount will go directly to drivers, Lyft told The Hill

The uptick at the pump has also put Democrats on the defensive due to the Biden administration’s recent discussions with Venezuela as it seeks to obtain oil exports from the nation’s vast reserves. 

As The Hill’s Julia Manchester and Max Greenwood note, the political impact will likely be felt hard in Florida, a state where Democrats are increasingly behind the eight ball and reeling from Latino voting defections after the 2020 election. Particularly, Democrats are worried about the GOP’s messaging on socialism, as many Florida voters have ties to Venezuela, Cuba or other Latin American nations that are controlled by socialist regimes. 

 

Gas prices are displayed

 

  Trump worries: Former President Trump thinks he may have himself a Mo Brooks problem. 

The ex-president told the Washington Examiner’s David M. Drucker in a recent interview that he is unhappy with Brooks, the congressman he endorsed in the Alabama GOP primary, to the point where he is considering flipping his support to either Katie Britt or Mike Durant

“Mo Brooks is disappointing,” Trump said in the phone interview. “I’m determining right now, has Mo Brooks — has he changed?” 

“I’m disappointed that he gave an inarticulate answer, and I’ll have to find out what he means,” Trump said, pointing to Brooks’s comments at a rally in August calling for Trump supporters to stop feeling “despondent” about 2020 and to “look forward” to 2022 and 2024. “If it meant what he sounded like, I would have no problem changing (my endorsement) because when you endorse somebody, you endorse somebody based on principle. If he changed that principle, I would have no problem doing that.” 

The three are running to replace Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who is retiring.  

Trump reportedly met with Britt last month at Mar-a-Lago amid her rise in the polls against Brooks. Last summer, Trump derided Britt in a statement as Shelby’s “assistant,” adding that she is “not in any way qualified” for the seat. 

In the same interview, Trump also noted that if he runs again, he will not be choosing former Vice President Mike Pence as his No. 2, saying that he doesn’t “think the people would accept it.” 

Fox News: Mehmet Oz will renounce his Turkish citizenship if elected to the Senate: “I will only be a U.S. citizen.” 

CNBC: Ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) considers running against Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) despite opposition from his own party.

 

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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS: On Wednesday evening, Irish eyes were not smiling in Washington on Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who suddenly departed a gala event in the nation’s capital before he could deliver a speech because he learned he tested positive for COVID-19 (The Independent and The Hill). Martin had interacted with Biden beforehand, but the White House said the president was not considered a close contact in terms of coronavirus exposure (The Washington Post). On Wednesday afternoon, Martin, who is a guest at Blair House across the street from the White House and was said to be feeling well, tested negative using a rapid COVID-19 test but was re-tested after a member of his delegation tested positive, according to the Irish Embassy. That more accurate PCR test was positive. Martin had been scheduled to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day festivities with the president today at the White House for a traditional presentation of a bowl of shamrocks as well as a lunch in the Capitol with members of Congress. 

➤ The White House is easing into yet another phase of its own coronavirus precautions. Hundreds of maskless guests joined for in-person bill signings and events in the past week, while Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Harris who frequently maintains his own schedule to travel on behalf of the administration, tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. Harris has tested negative but she skipped an event with Biden on Tuesday out of “an abundance of caution,” according to the White House (The Hill).  

➤ Scientists continue to explore clues that COVID-19 can leave behind damage not immediately understood after the virus appears to clear. One new question: Is COVID-19 infection linked to cases of diabetes? (The Associated Press).  

➤ Five days after reaching a collective bargaining agreement, Major League Baseball on Tuesday said it will drop regular COVID-19 testing for all but symptomatic individuals while maintaining an ability to move games if the public health situation in an area deteriorates (ESPN).  

➤ Travel restrictions tied to COVID-19 continue to be lifted. In the United Kingdom, travel restrictions end on Friday. London’s Heathrow Airport will no longer require people to wear face masks in its terminals, railway stations or office buildings but will continue to recommend they do so. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are the latest airlines to relax their respective policies on face coverings. Passengers must still wear them on flights if their destination country requires masks (BBC). 

 ➤ The pandemic is not over. Asia is still in the throes of its initial omicron surge, while Europe may see a second wave (The New York Times). In China, by the way, Pfizer’s antiviral pill has been added to its COVID-19 treatment protocol (The New York Times). 

***** 

CONGRESS: Members of the Senate Banking Committee late Wednesday voted to advance Powell for consideration by the full Senate to continue as Fed chairman for another term (Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is opposed); Fed Governor Lael Brainard to serve as vice chair (16-to-8 vote); and professors Lisa Cook (12-to-12 party-line split) and Philip Jefferson (unanimous backing) to serve as Fed board members (The Hill). 

➤ On Tuesday, one political analyst on Bloomberg TV used “Manchined” as a verb, which was preceded last year by the Washington Post’s use of the phrase “Manchine politics.” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) morphs the English language while blocking legislation, putting proposed filibuster changes on ice and hitting the brakes on certain presidential nominees in the interest of what he says voters in his home state want. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton takes another look at Manchin, Biden and the unpredictable political dynamics in the Senate. 

➤ West Virginia’s Republican senator, Shelley Moore Capito, 68, an ally of McConnell, wants to join the Senate GOP leadership in 2023, reports The Hill’s Jordain Carney

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

Russians must accept the truth. We failed, by Ilia Krasilshchik, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3KMOe71  

The lockout was the least of baseball’s problems, by George F. Will, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/34NXY1x 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of Alison Nathan to be a United States Circuit judge for the Second Circuit. 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden’s anticipated bilateral meeting with Martin may be virtual this morning rather than in-person. At noon, the president is scheduled to speak at a Friends of Ireland luncheon, held annually by the House Speaker in the Capitol. The president and first lady Jill Biden had been scheduled to receive a bowl of shamrocks from Ireland’s prime minister at 5 p.m. in the East Room among guests (an event the White House and Irish embassy may modify today).  

The vice president is scheduled to ceremonially swear in Shalanda Young at 11:35 a.m. as director of the Office of Management and Budget.  

The White House press briefing is scheduled at 2 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 & BUSINESS: U.S. airlines are experiencing a consumer demand for travel at the same time that rising fuel prices contribute to higher ticket prices. Domestic carriers are anticipating their best year since the onset of the pandemic (The Hill). … Want a few simple consumer auto tips to get the most from high-priced gasoline? The Associated Press has suggestions.

 

A plane flies past a supermoon

 

TECH: Social media platforms expose wide variations in their handling of information disseminated about and coming out of Russia and Ukraine during three weeks of war (The Hill). … Instagram on Wednesday launched a “Family Center,” handing increased supervisory tools that allow parents to view how much time their children are spending on the app and to set time limits. It also allows parents to monitor their teen’s program use, including being able to view and receive updates on what accounts their teens follow and the accounts that follow their teens (The Hill). 

MORE INTERNATIONAL: North Korea’s latest missile exploded Wednesday in a failed test after liftoff near Pyongyang, according to South Korea. The test was another in a series amid speculation that Kim Jong Un wants to launch his country’s longest-range weapon in the most significant provocation in years (The Associated Press). … A magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit Japan late Wednesday off its Fukushima coast, killing two people and injuring 94 (Reuters). … A judge in Honduras ruled late Wednesday that former President Juan Orlando Hernández should be extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking and weapons charges. Hernández has denied any ties to drug traffickers and the judge’s decision can be appealed (The Associated Press).

 

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 … ☘ It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by St. Patrick’s Day, we’re eager for some smart guesses about bits of Irish trivia in America

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. 

What is the taoiseach of Ireland (a clue is in this morning’s newsletter)? 

  1. Mythical ancient sword
  2. Bowl of shamrocks
  3. Prime minister and head of government
  4. Popular brand of stout

 

Which U.S. president traveled to Ireland and said, “I can’t think of a place on the planet I would rather claim as my roots more than Ballyporeen, County Tipperary”? 

  1. Ulysses S. Grant
  2. Herbert Hoover
  3. Ronald Reagan
  4. Bill Clinton

 

Which member of Biden’s Cabinet was born to Irish parents who separately emigrated to the United States in the 1950s, married and settled in Massachusetts? 

  1. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra
  2. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh
  3. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo
  4. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough

 

Under which presidency was the White House fountain first dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day? 

  1. Dwight D. Eisenhower
  2. John F. Kennedy
  3. George H.W. Bush
  4. Barack Obama

 

The fountain in front of the White House flows with green water
Tags Andrew Cuomo Barack Obama Bill Clinton COVID-19 Denis McDonough Donald Trump Doug Emhoff Elizabeth Warren Gina Raimondo invasion Jerome Powell Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Thune Kathy Hochul Kim Jong Un Marty Walsh Mehmet Oz Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Mo Brooks Morning Report Nancy Pelosi Richard Shelby Russia Shalanda Young Shelley Moore Capito Ukraine Vladimir Putin Xavier Becerra Zelensky address

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