The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden talks inflation; House helps Ukraine
Washington can move Javelin missile systems and helicopters to Ukraine but is struggling to get more baby formula to families and is out of new ideas to try to lower gasoline prices, now averaging more than $4 per gallon, a new U.S. record on Tuesday.
On one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Biden told Americans that curbing inflation is his top priority. Simultaneously on Capitol Hill, negotiations with the president helped the House pass $40 billion in additional U.S. assistance to Ukraine while Senate Democrats today focus on a procedural vote in support of abortion rights amid a midterm political battle that will consume months and perhaps years.
The Hill: The House adopted a bipartisan Ukraine assistance measure by a vote of 368-57. The “no” votes came from Republicans.
Around kitchen tables, meanwhile, Americans say they are anxious about the escalating prices of groceries, meat, gasoline, rent and housing and are fed up with supply shortages, of which the latest is infant formula. They hear about a possible recession and the Federal Reserve’s hike in interest rates, and they worry that their retirement savings are trapped in a stock market freefall.
What is Washington doing for them? Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction, a minority say they approve of Biden’s performance as president and 66 percent frown on the job Congress is doing. Not a bright midterm picture.
The president, who said he would not predict how long inflated prices will be a fact of American life, defended his policies during a Tuesday speech and criticized the agenda of what the White House calls “ultra-MAGA” Republicans who in turn blame him for runaway prices (The Hill).
“They don’t want to solve inflation by lowering your costs,” Biden said during his Tuesday speech. “They want to solve it by raising your taxes and lowering your income.”
Biden also pointed fingers at the pandemic’s early economic disruptions and at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war with Ukraine and resulting global sanctions and trade blockades, noting that both have been international events he did not cause.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is a cheerleader for the economy’s fundamental strength while sounding cautious notes about “luck” the central bank will need to curb inflation and avert recession. On Tuesday, she told senators that hedge funds and unregulated cryptocurrency are sources of instability (The Hill).
Republicans this week blamed the nation’s infant formula shortage on Democrats, and by Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration released a lengthy statement saying, “We are doing everything in our power to ensure there is adequate product available.” Supply chain problems, a nationwide recall by a manufacturer and shutdown of one of the largest infant formula supply plants in the country are contributing to a shortage.
“Like we didn’t have enough problems,” a Biden ally told The Hill. “Sure, throw in baby formula.”
■ The Hill’s Niall Stanage, The Memo: Biden plays a weak hand on inflation.
■ The Hill: Senate Democrats open the door to giving Republicans a Title 42 vote.
■ The New York Times: Russia has enormous leverage with the geographic reality that it has gained ground in the Donbas region in Ukraine.
■ The Washington Post: United States, European Union and the United Kingdom accuse Russia of a cyberattack on Ukraine.
■ The Washington Post: U.S. delivers first helicopter to Ukraine.
■ The Washington Post: Matilda Bogner, head of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said Tuesday that civilian casualties to date are “thousands higher” than the 3,381 thus far confirmed. Mariupol’s death toll is unknown but could be more than 20,000.
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LEADING THE DAY
The Senate today will offer a formal response to the leaked draft opinion by the Supreme Court in the form of a doomed vote to codify Roe v. Wade into law as lawmakers continue to figure out how to wade into the waters of abortion.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) today will bring the Women’s Health Protection Act up for a procedural vote in the upper chamber. What is not in doubt is how the vote will go: It will fail. The legislation needs 60 votes to advance.
Assuming all Democrats are present, the bill will win at most 50 votes, and that’s only if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sides with his party. As of Tuesday, Manchin has not said how he will vote. He sided with Republicans when Democrats attempted to codify Roe in late February in a 46-48 vote.
In addition, the two lone pro-choice Senate Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — have said they will vote against the bill, as it doesn’t offer protections for Catholic hospitals that decide not to perform abortions.
■ The Hill: Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) says he will support legislation to codify abortion rights.
■ Emily Brooks, The Hill: Democratic support for SCOTUS expansion grows after leak.
■ The Hill: Schumer says he sees no issue with peaceful protests at houses of Supreme Court justices.
© Associated Press / Jacquelyn Martin | Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer on Tuesday.
If the court goes ahead and strikes down the landmark 1973 abortion ruling, all eyes on both side of the aisle will be tuned to Republican leaders for how they proceed on the topic. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday offered a glimpse of what’s to come, telling reporters that he does not expect the Senate to stampede toward a vote on a national abortion ban, saying that there is “zero sentiment” for the party to create a filibuster carve-out to deal with the subject and that it is exceedingly unlikely the GOP can achieve the needed 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
“It’s safe to say there aren’t 60 votes there at the federal level,” McConnell said about the possibility, or lack thereof, adding that the issue should be dealt with at the state level (The Hill).
Since the leaked draft opinion was released, questions have swirled over how the GOP will handle the issue with less than six months until the midterm elections. However, as Jordain Carney reports, Republicans are bullish in their belief that the opposition to codifying Roe will not push them off the tracks in their effort to retake the upper chamber. Instead lawmakers believe their continued messaging on economic issues, including rising inflation, will be the key to unlocking the majority in the coming weeks and months despite the support for Roe.
“I think it’s hard for them in the long term. It’s pretty extreme,” Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the No. 4 Senate Republican, told The Hill. “I don’t think we see it as a hard vote. I don’t think Collins or Murkowski see it as a hard vote.”
■ The Hill: Five times Congress overrode the Supreme Court.
■ CBS News: Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) pledges $35 million to support abortion providers in New York.
■ The Hill: Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) announces immediate resignation from Congress, had planned to retire at end of term.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
It was a mixed bag for former President Trump on Tuesday night as one of his preferred candidates won and another lost in key primary contests in West Virginia and Nebraska, respectively, and questions continue about his status as kingmaker in the GOP.
In the state John Denver made famous, Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) rode Trump’s support to victory, defeating Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) in a battle for the GOP nomination in the newly-redrawn 2nd congressional district. Mooney, a former Maryland state lawmaker, won with 54.2 percent backing to 35.6 percent for McKinley with almost all of the vote in as of press time.
The member versus member contest was born out of the census bringing the number of the state’s congressional districts from three to two. It also turned into a proxy war between the establishment and conservatives as McKinley, who was backed by Gov. Jim Justice (R) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), was under attack from Mooney and Trump for his support for the bipartisan infrastructure package and the formation of an entity to probe the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“I am honored the voters of West Virginia’s new 2nd congressional district have chosen me to carry the conservative banner as we begin the sprint to November. Tonight is a monumental night for West Virginians & I look forward to being their trusted conservative voice in Congress,” Mooney said in a statement (The Hill).
Meanwhile, in Nebraska, the night did not go as smoothly for the former president as University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen took home the Nebraska gubernatorial GOP nod on Tuesday night. Pillen, who is supported by outgoing Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), defeated state Sen. Brett Lindstrom (R) and Charles Herbster, the Trump-backed candidate who in recent weeks was accused of sexual misconduct by at least eight women.
In recent weeks, Trump had gone all in for Herbster, having headlined a campaign rally for him and defending him against what he deemed “despicable charges.” Pillen pulled 33.3 percent, topping Herbster’s 30.4 percent and 26.1 percent for Lindstrom with 95 percent of precincts reporting (The Hill).
■ The Hill: Five takeaways from the Nebraska, West Virginia primaries.
■ Politico: Trump gets knocked down in Nebraska.
■ The Hill: Biden on Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.): “I think the man has a problem.”
On top of the election night results, it was also a big day for Trump, as Elon Musk, the incoming owner of Twitter, said at a conference on Tuesday that it was a “mistake” for the social media company to ban Trump’s account permanently.
“I do think it was not correct to ban Donald Trump, I think that was a mistake,” Musk said. “I would reverse the perma-ban. I will say that I don’t own Twitter yet, so this is not a thing that will definitely happen, because what if I don’t own Twitter? But my opinion … is that we should not have perma-bans” (CNN).
Musk was not the only one to share that sentiment on Tuesday. Dorsey, the outgoing Twitter CEO, said that banning the ex-president from the site was “a business decision,” adding that “it shouldn’t have been.”
“Generally permanent bans are a failure of ours and don’t work,” Dorsey tweeted.
Reid Wilson, The Hill: GOP state legislators move to police social media.
Elsewhere on the election scene, establishment Republicans are going all out to ensure that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp defeats former Sen. David Perdue (Ga.) next week in the state’s gubernatorial GOP primary and are, in the process, defying the ex-president.
As The Hill’s Max Greenwood points out, various GOP luminaries and outside groups have waded in to ensure Kemp avoids a runoff against Perdue. Headlining the movements, former President George W. Bush is set to host a fundraiser for Kemp and the National Rifle Association recently endorsed the sitting governor who is a top target of Trump. In addition, the Republican Governors Association has spent at least $5 million to boost Kemp.
The outside help comes as polling shows that Kemp may have one of the best shots in the country at taking down a Trump-endorsed candidate in a state that has haunted the former president since 2020.
■ Politico: Senate Republicans decry “unsavory” attacks on Mehmet Oz’s dual citizenship.
■ The Washington Post: Inside the Republican campaign to take down Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.).
■ The Atlantic: How politics poisoned the Evangelical Church.
■ Politics has obliterated the common ground on abortion, by Karen Tumulty, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3w1HxcC
■ Manchin’s plan to tax the rich to ease the deficit misses the point, by Morris Pearl, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3ypAgFa
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Charlotte Sweeney to be a U.S. district judge for the District of Colorado.
The president will travel to Illinois this morning to visit a Kankakee family farm to discuss food prices and inflation during remarks at 1:15 p.m. CDT. In Chicago at 4 p.m., the president will speak to a convention of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International. He will headline a fundraising reception in the Windy City for the Democratic National Committee at 4:50 p.m.
Vice President Harris is in Washington and has no public schedule.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley will testify to the House Appropriations Committee at 10:30 a.m. about the defense budget for fiscal 2023 and issues tied to Ukraine.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics will report at 8:30 a.m. on the consumer price index in April. Analysts expect still-high inflation of 8.1 percent but perhaps a slight dip from a 40-year high of 8.5 percent (The Hill and The Associated Press).
Executives with Emergent BioSolutions’s troubled facility in Baltimore where COVID-19 vaccine doses were manufactured knew of quality control problems kept hidden from Food and Drug Administration inspectors and drug companies in 2021, a House investigatory committee alleged on Tuesday. Lawmakers documented 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine destroyed or wasted because of the company’s “failure to meet or maintain quality standards.” The report alleges that the Trump administration, which awarded Emergent a $628 million contract, was aware of deficiencies beforehand and knew the company’s manufacturing could be impacted by the problems (The Hill).
🔬 With new omicron variants on the rise in the United States and South Africa, populations should be conducting more testing for COVID-19, but testing has plummeted, leaving experts without early warnings about where transmissions begin to spike and where coronavirus mutations first emerge. An influential modeling group at the University of Washington in Seattle estimates that only 13 percent of cases are being reported to U.S. health authorities — which would mean more than a half million new infections every day (The Associated Press).
The Atlantic: The promising treatment for long COVID-19 we’re not even trying.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University: 998,069. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 323, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
➤ ARE THEY OUT THERE?
Unidentified aerial phenomena, previously known as UFOs, are the subject of a House Intelligence subcommittee probe next week, the first such hearing on Capitol Hill in more than 50 years. Reporting by The New York Times and video evidence made public in recent years included intriguing details about Navy encounters with “unknown objects” witnessed by pilots during flights. Two Pentagon officials are expected to be asked about 144 such encounters recorded from 2004 to 2021, as reported in an unclassified government document last year (The Hill and The New York Times). The word “inconclusive” appears a lot. Extraterrestrial, not so much.
© Associated Press / Department of Defense video image | Unexplained aerial object, 2015.
➤ STATE WATCH
Californians in March defied conservation calls by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and other officials by using more water than any month since 2015 despite it being one of the driest months on record. According to state officials, water usage jumped by 19 percent in March, a far cry from Newsom’s call last summer for citizens to do their part to cut the state’s water usage by 15 percent. Since July, California has lowered its water use by only 3.7 percent. Compounding troubles, January and February were also among the driest months recorded (The Associated Press).
And finally … Nevada’s Lake Mead, just a short drive from Las Vegas, harbors secrets — and drought has revealed some intriguing clues.
As a second set of unidentified human remains emerged from the sunbaked sand at the bottom of the reservoir this week, thoughts turned to mobster murders and once-watery graves. One decades-submerged corpse of a man found shot and stuffed in a rusted barrel was discovered last month (The Associated Press).
“If the lake goes down much farther, it’s very possible we’re going to have some very interesting things surface,” said Michael Green, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas history professor whose father dealt blackjack for decades at Las Vegas casinos, including the Stardust and Showboat.
“I wouldn’t bet the mortgage that we’re going to solve who killed Bugsy Siegel,” Green said, referring to the infamous gangster who opened the Flamingo casino in 1946 on what became the Strip. Siegel was shot dead in 1947 in Beverly Hills, Calif. His assassin has never been identified. “But I would be willing to bet there are going to be a few more bodies.”
Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman on Monday told a reporter what many in his city have been thinking: “It’s not a bad place to dump a body.”
© Associated Press / John Locher | Lake Mead, Nev., on Monday.
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