Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — US expedites Ukraine assistance push

Airmen and civilians from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron palletize ammunition
U.S. Air Force via AP
Airmen and civilians from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron palletize ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Jan. 21, 2022.

Ukraine could soon see another $40 billion in U.S. weapons and humanitarian assistance after President Biden and lawmakers agreed to clear roadblocks to move a major bipartisan bill, perhaps this week.

Lawmakers are moving swiftly to pass the aid package after Biden and congressional leaders agreed to delink the proposal from the effort to pass funding to combat COVID-19. Democrats on Monday unveiled the nearly $40 billion in new assistance for the war-torn nation against Russia’s invasion, an increase from the $33 billion as previously requested by the White House. The financial boost would include an additional $3.4 billion for both military and humanitarian assistance on top of the dollars requested by the Biden administration (The Hill).

The new legislation could hit the House floor for a vote as early as today. The upper chamber could send it to Biden’s desk by the end of the week, depending on whether senators are able to work out a time agreement. 

“The need is also urgent: I have nearly exhausted the resources given to me by a bipartisan majority in Congress to support Ukraine’s fighters,” Biden said in a statement. “We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort. Hence, I am prepared to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the Ukrainian aid bill can get to my desk right away.”

Two of Biden’s top administration officials also chimed in to support giving the bill a speedy greenlight. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in letters to congressional leaders that the U.S. will run out of its current batch of assistance funds for Ukraine by May 19, saying the administration needs the money by then “if we are to continue our security assistance at the current pace” (The Hill). 

Earlier on Monday, Biden signed the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 into law, making it easier for the U.S. to send military equipment to the Eastern European nation as it attempts to ward off Moscow’s advances. The legislation was passed by Congress last month with bipartisan backing.  

“Every day Ukrainians pay with their lives,” Biden said in the Oval Office, where he was joined by Vice President Harris and lawmakers. “The cost of the fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is even more costly. That’s why we’re staying in this” (The Hill).

The actions come as Russia held celebrations in Red Square for Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazis in World War II. 

The Associated Press: Biden signs Ukraine bill, seeks $40 billion aid, in rejoinder to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Reuters: Germany prepares crisis plan for abrupt end to Russian gas.

The Associated Press: Russia pounds Odesa as civilian bodies uncovered elsewhere.

Axios: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urges action against Russia over Ukrainian ports blockade.

© Associated Press / Manuel Balce Ceneta | President Biden signs the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 on Monday. 

Meanwhile, a pending $10 billion COVID-19 assistance package will have to wait even longer. It’s stuck in a battle between the two parties over the future of an immigration policy known as Title 42. Republicans continue to clamor for an amendment vote that would prevent the administration from moving forward with its plan to end the pandemic-era policy adopted by the Trump administration, which bars migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. at the southern border with Mexico.

GOP lawmakers had maintained they would block any bill that would include both COVID-19 funds and Ukraine aid.

The Title 42 issue has also thrown immigration negotiations for a loop on Capitol Hill. The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports that during a recent meeting, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said any bill must deal with the border and, specifically, how to process migrant arrivals — a topic that has long been a sticking point for lawmakers. 

However, the nascent discussions could take a backseat to the fight over the Trump-era policy. Democrats are extremely reluctant to allow a vote, as some centrist members and those up for reelection have criticized the administration’s actions, making Republicans bullish about their efforts.

Related Articles


The New York Times: Biden speeds up military aid to Ukraine, drawing U.S. deeper into war.

Gerald F. Seib, The Wall Street Journal: Putin’s Ukraine adventure unleashes nuclear genies.

The Atlantic: The overlooked reason Russia’s invasion Is floundering.

Reuters: French President Emmanuel Macron suggests new European entity in a wink to Ukraine, Great Britain.  


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LEADING THE DAY

  CONGRESS  

Senate Democrats are poised on Wednesday with public fanfare and speeches to try to surmount GOP (and some Democratic) resistance to a measure that would enshrine the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling in law. The effort will fail (WSHU).

So why are Democratic leaders going this route? Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to put each senator on the record at a time when a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could strike down Roe (The Hill). At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggests his party might move to ban abortion nationwide legislatively, which would contradict conservatives’ argument that abortion should be left to the states to decide.

The Republican Party at the national level is in at times in conflict with public messaging coming from states that have enacted tough abortion restrictions. The Hill’s Emily Brooks writes that a variety of state approaches to limiting or banning the termination of pregnancies have become a web of threats of murder charges or potential jailing of women and their clinicians, no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, and efforts to ban abortion pills and even methods of contraception.

Protests and demonstrations at the homes of Supreme Court justices worry lawmakers in both parties in Congress as well as the president and his senior advisers (The Hill). The Senate passed a security bill on Monday protecting justices’ families (The Hill). 

Nevertheless, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday praised pro-abortion demonstrators across America, saying they had “channeled their righteous anger into meaningful action” after dozens demonstrated outside the homes of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh over the weekend. Pelosi told her colleagues she was “moved” by the outpouring of support for Roe v. Wade since the disclosure of a draft opinion from February written by Justice Samuel Alito with backing from four other justices that could strike down Roe as soon as this summer (New York Post). The abortion battle could cap the Speaker’s long, historic career in the House (The Hill).

Biden “strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism. Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted on Monday.

CBS News: A Madison, Wis., fire on Sunday at an anti-abortion office is being investigated as arson.  

© Associated Press / Alex Brandon | Supreme Court with new fencing, May 5. 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

  POLITICS

Another week, another set of tests for former President Trump’s standing atop the Republican Party as primary voters head to the polls in Nebraska and West Virginia to weigh in on key races.

As The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, a win for Charles Herbster, a leading candidate for the Nebraska GOP’s gubernatorial nomination, would be a major feather in the cap of Trump only a week after he boosted J.D. Vance to victory in the Ohio Senate GOP primary. However, unlike Vance, Herbster has some clear baggage in the form of allegations of sexual misdeeds. 

Eight women have accused Herbster of sexual misconduct, including state Sen. Julie Slama (R), who said he reached up her skirt and touched her inappropriately in 2019, according to the Nebraska Examiner. A second alleged victim, Elizabeth Todsen, went public about her claims after the first accusations were reported. 

However, Trump offered a spirited defense of Herbster at a recent rally in support of his candidacy. 

“He’s been badly maligned, and it’s a shame. That’s why I came out here,” the former president said of Herbster on May 1. “I defend people when I know they’re good. He’s a good man.”

Herbster is facing Jim Pillen, who is backed by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), and state Sen. Brett Lindstrom (R) in the battle for the nomination. 

In West Virginia, all eyes are on a member versus member fight as Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney duel for the GOP nod in the state’s 2nd Congressional District due to redrawn maps. 

Trump has backed Mooney, a member of the House Freedom Caucus and a former Maryland state senator, in part due to McKinley’s support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law last year. In addition, McKinley, who is backed by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), voted to certify the 2020 election results and was among the 35 House Republicans who voted to form a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, both of which have drawn the ire of the ex-president.

West Virginia saw its House delegation shrink from three to two as a result of the 2020 census, and the two lawmakers now find themselves competing for a newly drawn seat that combines territory from both of their current districts.

The Hill: Five things to watch in the West Virginia, Nebraska primaries.

USA Today: West Virginia primary puts Biden infrastructure bill against Trump.

The Associated Press: Groping claims roil Nebraska governor primary.

The Hill: Trump ally slams former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over criticism of Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz

© Associated Press / John Raby | An early voting sign in Cross Lanes, W.Va., on Friday.

  ADMINISTRATION 

Biden today will continue to describe in a speech how Democrats want to help Americans weather rising inflation by offering sharp contrasts aimed at Republicans and what the president dubs their “ultra-MAGA agenda.”

The challenge for the president is that voters in general say they don’t trust Democrats in Washington to ease their inflation woes, and Biden’s job approval numbers continue to be underwater in a midterm year in which Republicans appear likely to gain control of the House and perhaps the Senate.

As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Amie Parnes report, Biden’s series of remarks describing his approach to rising prices and finger-pointing at Republican lawmakers as well as the impacts of Russia’s war are welcomed by members of his party. But the brickbats scramble his years of cheerleading for bipartisanship.

As the administration woos major companies to help the government, including Lockheed Martin, which makes Javelin systems that aid Ukraine, and internet providers that have agreed to lower the costs of broadband in low-income communities (The Hill), the White House is also courting organized labor (The Hill).

The Associated Press explainer: How high are U.S. risks of a recession? Even pessimistic economists don’t expect a downturn anytime soon.

CNBC: Wall Street continued to struggle Monday to find a bottom after last week’s losses. What’s driving the fear? The Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes.

The Associated Press:The average U.S. price per gallon for gasoline jumped to $4.38 as of Sunday. … The average price per gallon in Washington, D.C., according to GasBuddy, rose 48.3 cents in the past month. While accounting for inflation, the daily average cost of gas in D.C. was higher Monday than it has been in the past seven years (WTOP).

West Wing: Biden’s White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice tested positive for COVID-19, she tweeted on Monday. She is not considered a close contact in recent days (Politico). 

​ 

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University: 998,040. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 323, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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OPINION

■  I’m a pro-choice governor, and I’m not going to sit on my hands waiting for Congress, by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). https://nyti.ms/38bxclt

■ Leave the justices alone at home, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/3L0OG17 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 2 p.m.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Ann Phillips to be administrator of the Maritime Administration.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will speak about U.S. inflation at 11:30 a.m. and contrast Democrats’ approach to that of congressional Republicans. He will meet at 2 p.m. with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the White House.

The vice president is in Washington and has no public schedule.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff led the U.S. delegation at the inauguration in Seoul on Tuesday of President Yoon Suk-yeol (Channel News Asia).

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier will speak at 9:30 a.m. about worldwide threats during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will appear before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee at 10 a.m. to testify about the annual report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council. She plans to warn of continued market volatility (The Hill). Stock futures gained overnight on Monday after indexes plummeted to a new low for the year (The Wall Street Journal).

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


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ELSEWHERE  

INTERNATIONAL

In Israel, the Knesset reopened on Monday for a summer session and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s governing coalition staved off a major opposition challenge, seeking to disprove predictions of its imminent collapse despite its hobbled condition (Times of Israel). … In the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., namesake of the exiled former president, won a sweeping presidential victory on Monday (The New York Times) and protests broke out (Reuters). … In Great Britain, for the first time in six decades, Queen Elizabeth II will not attend the opening of Parliament today because of some recent challenges with her walking at age 96, Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Monday. Prince Charles will read her speech, while her grandson Prince William will have an official role in the event for the first time (The Associated Press). … In China, Shanghai officials said on Tuesday they are disinfecting homes of COVID-19-infected citizens and closed all subways in an effort to halt transmission of the coronavirus (The Associated Press). 

  TECH

Here’s a headline hard to ignore: Big tech companies lost $1 trillion in value in three trading sessions through Monday (CNBC). … Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced that the company is cutting back on costs and will slow hiring in response to a “seismic shift” in the stock market. The ride-hailing app’s head told employees in an email that after a “long and unprecedented bull run … this next period will be different” and requires “a different approach.” The move was in response to a downturn in tech stocks over the last few weeks (The Hill).

  PULITZER PRIZES 

The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize in public service journalism Monday for its 2021 coverage of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol (The Associated Press and The Washington Post). The New York Times won the prize for investigative journalism for its coverage of civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, which challenged government claims and revealed facts. The New York Times also won for cultural criticism (The New York Times).

The Tampa Bay Times won the investigative reporting award for “Poisoned,” its in-depth look into a polluting lead factory. The Miami Herald took the breaking news award for its work covering the deadly Surfside condo tower collapse, while The Better Government Association and the Chicago Tribune won the local reporting award for “Deadly Fires, Broken Promises,” the watchdog and newspaper’s examination of a lack of enforcement of fire safety standards.

The Pulitzer Prizes also awarded a special citation to journalists of Ukraine, acknowledging their “courage, endurance and commitment” in covering the ongoing Russian invasion that began earlier this year. Last year, the Pulitzer board granted a special citation to Afghan journalists who risked their safety to help produce news stories and images from their own war-torn country. The awards, administered by Columbia University and considered the most prestigious in American journalism, recognize work in 15 journalism categories and seven arts categories. 

THE CLOSER

And finally … 🦆 Just about every spring, intrepid wild ducks in the nation’s capital opt to nest in some overly trafficked and vulnerable urban locations that melt the hearts of bureaucrats and bystanders. The fate of vulnerable ducklings in a city filled with marauding threats, including wild foxes and rats — and the two-legged versions — is always news in an otherwise jaded metropolis.

Washington swooned in 2005 when a mallard mom set up a mulch nest with nine eggs near the Treasury Department entrance and earned some VIP protection and a deluxe water bowl (pictured below).

Enter news on Monday of a wild mallard, whose decision to nest in construction gravel (tweet here) at the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C., means close to a monthlong delay in construction, ordered by the soft-hearted hard hats at the city’s Department of Transportation (WUSA9).    

© Associated Press / Susan Walsh | Mallard duck nesting at Treasury Department entrance, 2005.


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