Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden to warn Xi against arming Russia

President Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping
Associated Press/Susan Walsh
President Biden meets virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, on Nov. 15, 2021.

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Friday! 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!


President Biden today will tell Chinese President Xi Jinping that any military assistance China extends to Russia during its war with Ukraine will result in tough U.S. consequences for Beijing (The Hill). 

The warning from the president, publicly previewed by top advisers, underscores concerns within the administration that President Vladimir Putin’s reported appeals for weaponry, lethal materiel and economic aid from China could escalate the Ukraine crisis into uncharted territory among the world’s most powerful nations (The Wall Street Journal). 

The United States and the European Union would like Xi to help persuade Putin to walk back from a dangerous ledge. But China has refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and some in Europe believe the West’s openings with Beijing may have passed (South China Morning Post). 

China has worked both sides of the conflict: Xi initially approached Putin’s invasion of Ukraine with support for an ally. There have also been official Chinese statements of neutrality and even support for “sovereign” Ukraine as Putin’s “special military operation” became a month of full-fledged war with global economic consequences and thousands of civilian fatalities. 

Biden’s gamble, in effect, is to tell a rival superpower that a military friend to Ukraine’s enemy is not a U.S. friend. Time to choose, or suffer what the White House says are the “costs.” 

“We believe China in particular has a responsibility to use its influence with President Putin and to defend the international rules and principles that it professes to support,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Thursday. “Instead, it appears that China is moving in the opposite direction by refusing to condemn this aggression while seeking to portray itself as a neutral arbiter.”  

Biden, too, presents two narratives: He revels in his reputation for off-screen diplomacy, patience, consensus building and peacemaking. He also publicly assails Putin using denunciations and name-calling while previewing the Kremlin’s alleged military strategies. A day after describing Putin as a war criminal, Biden on Thursday called the Russian president a “murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine.”  

Last year, Biden during an interview called Putin a “killer,” which sparked a furious reaction from the Russian president. “It takes one to know one,” he replied with some finger wagging. 

Putin “is not relenting and in fact may be growing more desperate,” Blinken added on Thursday. He warned that Moscow might be preparing to use chemical weapons in the war, could redirect private mercenary groups in battle zones elsewhere to Ukraine, and had begun to kidnap local officials in Ukraine and replace them with Putin’s allies (The Hill). 

David Sanger, The New York Times: “Personal condemnation has become policy.”

The Hill: Establishing war crimes through fact-finding and investigation involves an international legal process that can take decades before justice is served. Public condemnations, however, move swiftly and can stick. 

The Hill: The House voted 424-8 on Thursday to suspend normal, favored trade relations with Russia.

The Hill: Echoing Biden’s repeated resistance to proposals for a U.S.-NATO defended no-fly zone over Ukraine, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected repeated pleas from President Volodymyr Zelensky. “We are not going into Ukraine,” Pelosi told reporters on Thursday. “It is not an Article 5 situation,” she added, referring to the fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO. “We are, however, prepared to supply Ukraine with very sophisticated equipment.” 

The Hill: The U.S. earmarked $180 million for military assistance to Baltic states that are NATO members. 

Elsewhere in Ukraine, first responders were able to pull survivors from the rubble of a theater in Mariupol that served as a shelter for civilians who had fled their homes. The structure was shelled by Russian forces, and according to Lyudmila Denisova, Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman, individuals were “emerging from there alive.” Reports had indicated that up to 1,000 Ukrainians had been inside the theater (The New York Times). 

However, the positive developments are vastly outweighed by the heartbreaking scenes taking hold across the country. As The Times notes, civilian casualties are increasing as Russians struggle to overtake cities, forcing them to fire missiles and bombs instead. 

“Our hearts are broken by what Russia is doing to our people, to our Mariupol,” Zelensky said in his nightly address. 

That was the case near Lviv on Friday as at least three missiles struck an area near the airport this morning. However, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy said that those strikes hit an aircraft maintenance facility and reported no casualties (Reuters). 

ABC News: British military said Russia is “stalled on all fronts.” 

The Wall Street Journal: How Russia’s revamped military fumbled the invasion of Ukraine. 

As for Zelensky, he continued his appeal to allied nations on Thursday with an address to German lawmakers, imploring them for help after thousands of Ukrainians have died, including 108 children (The Associated Press). 

The heartbreak is not limited to Ukraine as Blinken on Thursday confirmed that a U.S. citizen was killed in the fighting. James Whitney Hill, 67, died in Chernihiv while trying to help his partner with medical issues (The Hill).  

Yahoo News: Poland feels the strain of the Ukrainian refugee crisis. 

Bloomberg News: Broke Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman says sanctioned billionaires can’t sway Putin.


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CORONAVIRUS: A COVID-19 spring surge in Europe has the White House worried. Is another spike of infections heading toward the U.S., and are masks and coronavirus precautions and restrictions on their way back? (Politico).

The administration wants Congress to approve new funding for federal COVID-19 response and preparedness, pointing to funds stripped out of the recent omnibus budget bill in order to snag enough votes in both parties to avert a government shutdown. At issue is the ongoing debate about whether another round of COVID-19 funding should be added to deficits and debt or be paid for through existing resources.  

Pelosi said Thursday she advised the White House to request $45 billion in emergency COVID-19 funding to meet federal testing, vaccine and therapeutic needs (The Hill).

“I think they should be double what they asked for, because even when they were asking for like 20-some (billion dollars) it was only going to get us to June,” Pelosi told reporters. 

On Thursday, Moderna asked the Food and Drug Administration to greenlight a fourth shot of its COVID-19 jab as a booster for all adults. The request is more wide-ranging than the one made earlier in the week by Pfizer, which covers people 65 and older (The Associated Press). 

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The Hill’s Niall Stanage in his latest Memo asks whether U.S. leaders, riveted by the crisis in Ukraine, have averted their gaze from COVID-19, to the nation’s risk. He points to COVID-19 infection surges in China and Europe (especially in the United Kingdom), and the VIP reminders in the U.S. that breakthrough infections, hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths have not gone away.

At the White House, COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients and his deputy, Natalie Quillian, will depart the administration next month, the White House announced Thursday. They will be replaced by frequent television news and Twitter commentator Ashish Jha, an internist and dean of the Brown University School of Public Health (The Associated Press). 

Politico: Canada ditches COVID-19 testing for vaccinated travelers.



CONGRESS: To keep or not to keep proxy voting. That is the question facing House Democratic leaders surrounding a tool that has been employed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“I think it is not an unreasonable discussion to have if somebody cannot be here in person, should their vote be precluded,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said about keeping the practice in place. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has vowed to eliminate proxy voting next year if Republicans capture the majority. However, members of McCarthy’s caucus have readily used the voting mechanism out of convenience, reports The Hill’s Cristina Marcos.

The Hill: Progressive Caucus presses Biden for executive action on student loans, immigration.


POLITICS: Senate Democrats believe a strong political talking point against Republicans is a proposal to tax oil companies’ “windfall profits.” Prospects may be less than 50-50 to pass any such measure because of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a supporter of coal and other energy companies, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.  

➤ The Republican National Committee’s convention site selection committee for 2024 has winnowed applicants to Nashville and Milwaukee, Politico scooped. Salt Lake City was eliminated from 2024 contention last week but will be considered for 2028, according to Playbook. 

➤ Republicans are working to drive a political narrative that Biden is a weak leader (The New York Times). Zelensky’s video message to Congress on Wednesday challenged Biden personally and in English to do more for Ukraine’s defense. His words could be used against the president and the Democratic Party by GOP candidates during the midterm contests. “You could easily see Republicans making hay out of it,” one Democratic strategist told The Hill.  

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Legislative leaders head for the exits.  

The Associated Press: Ohio candidates realize endorsement by former President Trump may never come.


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The stock market liked the Fed’s plan to raise interest rates. It’s wrong, by Lawrence H. Summers, contributing columnist, The Washington Post.  

On Ukraine, history is listening, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. 

This is why autocracies fail, by David Brooks, columnist, The New York Times. 



The House meets at 9 a.m. 

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of the America COMPETES Act. 

The president will speak by phone with China’s president at 9 a.m. in the White House Situation Room. Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 11 a.m. The president at 1:30 p.m. will speak with researchers and patients to discuss ARPA-H, a new health research agency focused on cures for cancer and other health innovations. Biden will depart the White House at 5:10 p.m. for Rehoboth Beach, Del. 

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

The National Cherry Blossom Festival begins Sunday and extends through April 17 in Washington, D.C. Information HERE.  

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



MORE INTERNATIONAL: American basketball star Brittney Griner, 31, arrested in Moscow in February and held by Russian authorities on drug charges reportedly related to cannabis oil, will continue to be held without trial until May 19 as her case proceeds, according to a Moscow court ruling reported by Tass. Griner since 2015 has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason (CNN and The Associated Press). The White House National Security Council and the State Department are working through diplomatic channels on Griner’s case to seek her release (The Grio).    

SPACE RULES: The laws governing national and commercial conduct in space are reaching a breaking point during a brisk period of space exploration and commercialization. “We need rules about how human beings are going to govern themselves in space,” says Timiebi Aganaba-Jeanty, a professor of Space and Society at Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative (The Hill). 



And finally … Kudos to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners, who knew enough Irish trivia and history to become 2022 St. Patrick’s Day champions. 

☘️ Here are the lucky champions: Paul Harris, Daniel Bachhuber, Lou Tisler, Terry Pflaumer, Randall S. Patrick, Jonathan Scheff, Ron Golden, Margo Lomax, Mary Anne McEnery, Harry Strulovici, Jeremy Serwer, Patrick Kavanagh, Anton Crane, Len Jones, Steve James, Martin J. Murphy, Jack Barshay, John Donato, Luther Berg, Robert Bradley, Jaina Mehta and Jeanne Kosch. 

They knew that the taoiseach of Ireland is the prime minister and head of government.

Former President Ronald Reagan traveled to Ireland in 1984 and said, “I can’t think of a place on the planet I would rather claim as my roots more than Ballyporeen, County Tipperary.” 

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, among the Cabinet members, was born to Irish parents who came to the U.S. in the 1950s, married and settled in Boston. 

The White House fountain was first dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day when former President Obama, who has Irish ancestors, backed an idea dreamed up by former first lady Michelle Obama, who recalled St. Patrick’s Day revelry in Chicago, her hometown (Newsweek).

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Tags Antony Blinken Barack Obama conflict COVID-19 Donald Trump Jeff Zients Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kevin McCarthy Marty Walsh Michelle Obama Morning Report Nancy Pelosi Russia Steny Hoyer Ukraine Vladimir Putin
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