The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden, Trump square off on MAGA
A presidential split screen was on display Wednesday.
One one side was President Biden, who offered a preview of coming attractions in the form of midterm attack lines, saying that conservatives who support former President Trump are “extreme” (The Hill). Across the way was Trump, who spiked the football a day after his preferred candidate in the Ohio GOP Senate primary emerged victorious along with the rest of his endorsees on Tuesday (The Hill).
Put together, it offers a glimpse of what to expect as the primary season heats up and the battle for control of Congress hits a crescendo.
The political wind has been against Democrats for months and Biden’s attacks on Wednesday laid bare his party’s strategy: make the 2022 contests a choice between candidates he argues want to improve the lives of average Americans and members of Trump’s team who back policies the president bundled together as the “MAGA agenda.”
“This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in American history, in recent American history,” Biden said during remarks in the Roosevelt Room.
During a trip to Washington state last month, the president noted the art of political contrasts: “Don’t compare me to the almighty. Compare me to the alternative” (AFP).
Trump, reveling in his evident sway with supporters, gloated during a Fox News interview that he needed little more than two weeks to lift J.D. Vance from the middle of the pack in the Ohio GOP primary contest to the party’s nominee on Tuesday night. It was the only competitive race among Trump’s endorsed candidates in Ohio and Indiana contests this week, but that didn’t deter his victory lap.
“I was 22 and 0. … I won every race,” Trump said. “It was a great evening for the Republican Party and we love all of our candidates from Indiana, from Ohio,” he added.
“I think we’re going to have a tremendous season. I think we’re going to win a lot of races with great candidates who are going to go on to big numbers in the fall,” Trump said. “I think JD showed tremendous strength. … It was a great victory for everyone, but I am most happy for the Republican Party because we have great candidates. I think all of them will be winning in the fall.”
Politico: A Biden v. Trump rematch is increasingly likely. But neither side wants to move first.
© Associated Press / Joe Maiorana | Former President Trump on April 23.
Until then though, lawmakers and candidates on both sides of the aisle have a fresh issue to deal with in the form of the leaked draft opinion by the Supreme Court that indicates a majority could soon overturn the 1973 decision that there is a constitutional right to abortion.
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the situation has Democrats asking themselves what’s next. If the draft opinion is the court’s decision, Democrats fret that reproductive health care access could also be altered. Access to birth control and gay marriage could be similarly vulnerable to reconsideration by the court’s conservative majority.
■ Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Alito becomes lightning rod in abortion war.
■ The Hill: Supreme Court leak throws curve into pivotal Texas primary.
■ Politico: Trump reasserts dominance over the GOP.
On the GOP side, the draft opinion and the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade highlighted what could be the culmination of a decades-long, well-orchestrated fight on the right to topple a ruling that has been vilified in conservative corners ever since. As The Hill’s John Kruzel puts it, it’s a sign that that push to secure life-tenured judicial seats for a generation of young lawyers weaned on a steady diet of conservative jurisprudence was coming to fruition.
■ The Hill: Senate GOP ducks questions on federal abortion bans.
■ The Washington Post: Republicans, on cusp of abortion win, seek to change the subject.
■ Reid Wilson, The Hill: Abortion fight puts spotlight on governors.
■ The New York Times: With Roe under threat, Biden is an unlikely abortion rights champion.
■ The Associated Press: Abortion opponents say they will next focus on stopping abortion pills from crossing state lines.
LEADING THE DAY
➤ ECONOMY & FEDERAL RESERVE
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its overnight interest rate by half a percentage point, a move not seen for 22 years, and said it will continue that trend this year and begin next month to shrink its balance sheet in an ongoing battle against rising U.S. inflation (Reuters, The Washington Post and The Hill).
The announcement was widely expected by investors, and markets initially rallied with relief Wednesday following Chairman Jerome Powell’s new assurance that the central bank is not considering a more aggressive hike of three-quarters of a percentage point (CNBC).
“So a 75-basis point increase is not something that the committee is actively considering,” Powell said. “I think expectations are that we’ll start to see inflation, you know, flattening out.”
Moments later, he added, “If higher rates are required, we won’t hesitate to deliver them.”
The chairman said taming inflation will not be rapid given the disconnect between job openings and the difficulty in filling them. Inflation was 8.5 percent for the year ending in March, in contrast with the Fed’s stated target of 2 percent.
Powell spoke directly to American consumers, noting the Fed’s understanding that families are struggling to afford rising prices for the same goods, including rent, fuel and food. He also acknowledged that trying to chill the economy by raising borrowing costs is an unwelcome phenomenon for many businesses and families.
“The process of getting there involves higher rates, so it’s not going to be pleasant, either,” he conceded. “We need to do everything we can to restore stable prices.”
Powell said he believed the Fed could slow economic growth without causing a jump in unemployment, citing the high number of job vacancies and strong household balance sheets.
“I would say we have a good chance to have a soft, or soft-ish, landing,” he said.
He sounded less assured than in earlier remarks about the prospects of recession and more equivocal that the Fed possesses the right tools to counter the current crosswinds and still land the economy without a steep nosedive into the runway.
“We think we have a good chance to do that without … recession,” he told reporters. “The economy is doing fairly well. … It’s a strong economy. … No one thinks this will be easy. No one thinks this will be straightforward.”
Bloomberg News: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday predicted solid growth in the coming year and a possible “soft landing” for the economy as the Fed moves to bring down inflation. “The Fed will need to be skillful and also lucky, but I believe it’s a combination that is possible,” she said.
© Associated Press / Jon Elswick | U.S. currency, 2015.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
For many watching Ukraine’s plight from afar since February, Russia’s strategy there — where Russian President Vladimir Putin initially said liberation was his aim — remains a puzzle. Russia has sustained high casualties, lost heavy artillery and a battleship, made some inroads in the east and south while pounding city structures and small towns to rubble, dropped missiles into Lviv’s rail and power stations near Poland, slaughtered Ukrainian civilians while letting others flee, and conceded that Ukrainian forces are relentless.
May 9 on the Russian calendar is the country’s Victory Day holiday, an annual celebration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Western officials and military analysts think Putin may intensify attacks and mobilize his citizenry for all-out war with Ukraine in a surge of nationalist determination. Russia denies it will formally declare war on Ukraine by Monday (The Hill).
The European Union on Wednesday proposed a phased oil embargo against Russia, its toughest sanctions to date (Reuters). European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, proposed having EU member nations phase out crude imports within six months and refined products by the end of the year. The proposals must be unanimously approved by the 27-nation bloc and are likely to be the subject of vigorous debate.
“We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets,” von der Leyen said (The Associated Press).
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi says the war in Ukraine reveals some of the limitations of the EU, telling the European Parliament this week that “pragmatic federalism” was necessary in key areas such as the economy and defense, and that “a united foreign policy” would make the bloc more effective (The New York Times).
It is perhaps another example of how Putin’s war could wind up strengthening alliances and international institutions Russia has long shunned and hoped to weaken.
Today, the United States has scheduled a United Nations Security Council meeting about the situation in Ukraine, the first such meeting to be led by the U.S. since Russia’s invasion. Biden told reporters on Wednesday he will speak with other leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies this week about potential additional sanctions against Russia.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday defended Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but said he did not anticipate that Moscow’s “operation” in Ukraine would drag on for so long. He asserted during a 90-minute interview with The Associated Press that he was doing “everything” to stop the war. “We categorically do not accept any war. We have done and are doing everything now so that there isn’t a war. Thanks to yours truly, me, that is, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have begun,” he said.
■ The New York Times: Ukraine says it has targeted and killed approximately a dozen Russian generals since February on the war’s front lines. U.S. intelligence has helped.
■ CNN: In the port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, the mayor said Ukrainian forces still pinned down in a steel plant have not been in contact and hundreds of civilians are still trapped inside.
■ BBC: Russian forces for a second day launched assaults on the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials. Russian forces are reported to be inside the large plant’s “territory,” while about 200 civilians are believed to be sheltering inside, including children. The BBC said it was not able to independently verify the information.
■ The Guardian: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a Wednesday national address, said another 344 Ukrainians had been evacuated from Mariupol.
■ With or without Trump, Tuesday’s primaries portend a MAGA year ahead, by Henry Olsen, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3vJ9p5f
■ I just want my kid to learn algebra. Does that make me a culture warrior? by Jessica Grose, opinion writer, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3vJQl6X
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets for a pro forma session on Friday at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 11 a.m., and will resume consideration of the nomination of Kathryn Huff to be assistant secretary of Energy.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host a Cinco de Mayo reception in the Rose Garden at 4:15 p.m.
The first lady will depart this evening at 10:30 p.m. for Romania for a four-day trip to Europe that will also take her to Slovakia. She will meet with U.S. service members, U.S. Embassy personnel, displaced Ukrainian parents and children, humanitarian aid workers, and educators.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 2 p.m.
Twenty-seven months after the U.S. reported its first case of COVID-19, the country recorded 1 million deaths from the virus, according to statistics compiled by NBC News. More people have died from the virus in the U.S. than any other country, with Brazil ranking second with about 664,000 deaths. (As noted below, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University’s tracker have not recorded 1 million fatalities as yet.)
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University: 996,705. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 325 (total 993,341), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. The State Department said in a statement that Blinken is experiencing mild symptoms and will work virtually for a week in accordance with CDC guidelines. Blinken attended the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner on Saturday and delivered remarks to the media for World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday. According to the White House, Blinken and the president are not considered close contacts, as the two have not seen each other “in several days” (The Hill). Blinken has traveled to four countries in the span of the past four weeks.
ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, reporters and staffers from CNN, NBC News, CBS News, Politico and other participating news organizations tested positive for COVID-19 following the Correspondents’ Dinner weekend. Karl shook hands with Biden during the Saturday event (CNN).
In China, Beijing began relaxing quarantine rules and Hong Kong reopened its pools and beaches as part of a rolling back of restrictions from the virus. Deaths in the former British colony had reached 300 in March but fell to zero recently (The Associated Press).
Research: A new study conducted at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London shows that severe cases of COVID-19 may cause cognitive damage, possibly lowering IQ levels by 10 points, or the equivalent of aging 20 years (Forbes). … A large U.S. study undergoing peer reviews finds that omicron is as intrinsically severe as previous COVID-19 variants (Reuters).
➤ STATE WATCH
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) this week asked Biden to declare a national emergency tied to wildfires in her state, a designation that opens the door to federal help (MarketWatch). … In California, voters in November will see a ballot initiative that asks whether they support legalizing online sports betting. Proponents see the trend as a potential bonanza for the Golden State (USA Today).
Intuit’s TurboTax told consumers that e-filing their taxes using its services was “free,” which for some low-income filers was untrue. ProPublica exposed deceptive practices, which sparked investigations and litigation by state attorneys general. The company, which admits no wrongdoing, agreed to pay $141 million to qualifying filers in the U.S. Consumers are expected to receive approximately $30 for each year that they were deceived into paying for filing services and will receive automatic notices and checks by mail (The Associated Press).
Eminem, Lionel Richie and Dolly Parton headline the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 2022 class of inductees, which was rolled out on Wednesday and will be broadcast in November. The Hall of Fame said in a statement that the inductees, who include other heavy hitters such as Carly Simon, Eurythmics, Duran Duran and Pat Benatar, “each had a profound impact on the sound of youth culture and helped change the course of rock ’n’ roll.” Perhaps the most notable inductee is Parton, the country music legend, who in March said she would “respectfully bow out” from consideration from the hall, saying that she didn’t believe she’d “earned that right.” She said on Wednesday that she will accept induction (The Associated Press).
© Associated Press / Wade Payne | Dolly Parton, 2015.
And finally … 🏇 It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Saturday’s upcoming 148th edition of the Kentucky Derby, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the history of the run for the roses.
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
In the last century, which winning horse was the longest shot to take home the derby?
1. Charismatic (1999)
2. Giacomo (2005)
3. Mine That Bird (2009)
4. Animal Kingdom (2011)
Historically, the Kentucky Derby is a 1 ¼-mile race, but it wasn’t always. What was the final year when the derby was a 1 ½-mile event?
The unofficial cocktail of the derby is the mint julep. Which of the following is not an ingredient in a classic mint julep?
2. Simple syrup
3. Cubed ice
4. Mint leaves
The Kentucky Derby is known for glitz, glam and celebrities. Which year did all of those come together with Queen Elizabeth II’s appearance at Churchill Downs?
© Associated Press / Darron Cummings | Kentucky’s Churchill Downs, 2021.
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