Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — Pennsylvania Senate race goes to overtime

Pennsylvania will have to wait a little longer to find out who the GOP’s Senate nominee will be this fall. Candidates Mehmet Oz and David McCormick todayare deadlocked in the Keystone State and the winner is pending as a potential recount looms. 

As of press time, Oz leads McCormick by a margin of 2,672 votes (0.2 percent) with 94 percent of precincts reported. Both campaigns told supporters late Tuesday night that they are standing by and awaiting a result.

“We’re not going to have a result tonight. … “When all the votes are tallied, I am confident we will win,” Oz told attendees at his election night event in Newtown, Pa. “Get some rest. We’ve got a lot to do,” he added.

For the entire night, McCormick led the race until Oz finally overtook him shortly after midnight when a batch of outstanding votes from Bucks County put him into the lead. However, who ultimately wins remains very much up for grabs as there is still a significant amount of mail-in ballots that have not been counted. 

A recount is also an increasingly real possibility. One would be triggered immediately if the margin is 0.5 percent or less, meaning there might not be a nominee for the foreseeable future.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: What to know about Pennsylvania’s election recount rules. 

Heading into the evening, much of the attention was focused on Kathy Barnette, an unvetted, MAGA-inspired candidate who surged in the polls in recent weeks. However, her momentum was seemingly halted in the days leading up to Election Day after former President Trump — who had endorsed Oz — criticized her in multiple statements, having argued that she wasn’t a candidate who would “put America first” and a number of her incendiary comments and tweets emerged. 

As far as some national Republicans are concerned, they are more than fine with either Oz or McCormick and are relieved they will not have to worry about Barnette playing spoiler come November. 

“Totally good with either,” one GOP operative involved with Senate races told the Morning Report when asked if they preferred one candidate over the other in November.

Across the aisle, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) overwhelmingly took home the Senate Democratic primary nomination, defeating Rep. Conor Lamb (Pa.) with 59.2 percent support to only 26.2 percent for the centrist lawmaker. Fetterman won the race on the same day he underwent a procedure to implant a pacemaker days after he suffered a stroke (The Hill). 

The Pennsylvania gubernatorial contest is also set in stone as state Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) will square off with state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), a leading proponent of Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud. Mastriano, who Trump endorsed over the weekend, topped former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) by more than 24 percentage points (The Hill).

The Associated Press: Tight Pennsylvania GOP Senate race; Mastriano wins governor nod.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania Republicans tried to stop Mastriano. But first they followed him.

While Trump awaits the fate of Oz in Pennsylvania, he saw one of his endorsed candidates fall in North Carolina as Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) lost his bid for reelection on Tuesday to state Sen. Chuck Edwards (R). 

Cawthorn came under fire from a number of key state Republicans, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who considered him an embarrassment. That sentiment only grew with every negative news story: he was twice stopped at an airport for carrying a gun, was accused of insider trading, called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and leveled claims that GOP lawmakers were participating in cocaine-filled orgies. 

However, the problem was simpler, operatives say.

“Primary voters turn on you when they feel like you don’t care about their problems. In a veteran-heavy N.C. district, Cawthorn phoned in constituent services and openly brushed off legislating, one GOP strategist with North Carolina ties told the Morning Report. The videos and scandals were the icing on a cake of bad decisions.”

Cawthorn is the second incumbent lawmaker to lose their primary this year so far, joining Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) in those ranks. 

The Hill: Five takeaways from the Pennsylvania, North Carolina primaries.

© Associated Press / ​​Nell Redmond | Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C. in Hendersonville, N.C., on Tuesday night. 

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The Hill: Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), endorsed by Trump, wins Republican Senate primary, will face Democrat Cheri Beasley.

Niall Stanage, The Memo: Winners & Losers in Tuesday’s primaries.

The Associated Press: Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) turns back Trump-backed challenger.

Politico: How Trump-backed candidates fared on the busiest primary day.

OPB: In Oregon’s 5th District primaries, Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner leads Rep. Kurt Schrader in a potential upset, while the GOP contest remains tight. 

The Hill: Tina Kotek (D) wins Democratic governor’s primary in Oregon.

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Governor’s races spoil Trump’s once-unblemished endorsement record.


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LEADING THE DAY

  ADMINISTRATION

President Biden on Tuesday called white supremacy a “poison” in the United States and called on Americans to reject the racist “great replacement theory” believed to have inspired an 18-year-old white gunman charged in Saturday’s mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., in which 10 people died and three were wounded, most of them Black. The suspect, who surrendered to police wearing body armor and armed with an assault rifle, has pleaded not guilty.

“I call on all Americans to reject the lie,” Biden said in emotional remarks Tuesday after meeting with grieving families and community leaders in Buffalo. “I condemn those who spread the lie for power, for political gain and for profit.” 

The president, who broadly faulted the news media, American politics and social media platforms for helping to fuel the radicalization that motivates some racist mass killers, described Saturday’s attack as domestic terrorism and a hate crime, The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels report.The murders at a Tops supermarket in east Buffalo remain under investigation by the FBI and state and local authorities.

The Associated Press: Buffalo shooting suspect: lonely, isolated, nerdy. A detailed online collection of diary postings has been attributed to him.

The president briefly revived a long-running appeal for federal gun legislation, including a ban on assault weapons, and he urged action to “address the relentless exploitation of the internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism.”

The Associated Press: Several mainstream GOP Senate candidates openly promote a conspiracy theory about a plot to “replace” the influence of white people in America, considered part of a white nationalist creed.

© Associated Press / Andrew Harnik | Bidens on Tuesday at a makeshift memorial to victims of a Buffalo supermarket mass shooting.

Enactment of gun control legislation this year is unlikely at best. Republicans oppose additional federal gun restrictions, and Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to vote with them in the Senate to overcome any legislative filibuster to pass most legislation. 

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that the events in Buffalo motivate Senate Democrats to respond legislatively, but centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), a swing vote in the caucus, favors a pared-down proposal frowned on by his colleagues that he helped negotiate in 2013 with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Manchin’s position on a gun control measure puts Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the spot if the goal is to respond to public calls for action in Washington.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans said legislating gun rights is not the answer. “I think I heard a Black person from Buffalo on television say that guns don’t kill, people kill. So, what do you hope to accomplish by gun control?” Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said (The Hill).

Grassley received an A-plus rating from the NRA Political Victory Fund in 2016. He is campaigning this year for another six-year term at age 88. Iowa state Sen. Jim Carlin, who promotes Second Amendment rights as part of his campaign platform, is challenging Grassley in Iowa’s June 7 GOP primary (WeAreIowa). 

The Hill: The Denver City Council passed a ban on concealed guns in city buildings and parks on Monday. 

The Hill: U.S. seeks to reset its relationship with oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

  CONGRESS

The House Select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is not expecting to call Trump to testify before the panel, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters Tuesday. 

“We’ve looked at talking to a lot of people. We’ve not canceled out anything, but there’s no feeling among the committee to call him as a witness at this point,” Thompson said of the ex-president. 

“We’re not sure that the evidence that we received can be any more validated with his presence. … I think the concern is whether or not he would add any more value with his testimony,” he added.

As The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch points out, Thompson’s remarks raise questions about how aggressively the investigatory panel is seeking interviews with other high-ranking Republicans and Trump officials. He did add that the committee is still seeking an interview with former Vice President Mike Pence, adding that conversations with his legal team are ongoing. 

House Democrats also made moves legislatively on Tuesday, headlined by a move to address the nationwide baby formula shortage as House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) filed a $28 million supplemental funding bill to help the Food and Drug Administration address the issue (The Hill). 

Speaking at a press conference unveiling the proposal, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested there could be indictments for those responsible for deaths of two infants who consumed baby formula that may have been contaminated.

“When it comes to babies, it’s the here and now and in this moment. … I think that when all of this is done … I think there might be a need for indictment,” Pelosi said (The Hill).

Finally, lawmakers on Tuesday warned that UFOs pose a “potential national security threat” to the U.S. and need to be treated as such during the first congressional hearing on the topic in more than 50 years. 

Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation Subcommittee, made the remark during the event, which featured top Pentagon intelligence officials, adding that the department swept the issue “under the rug” for years (The Hill).

Reid Wilson, The Hill: The Supreme Court makes another campaign finance slice in McCain-Feingold’s “death by 1,000 cuts.”

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

  UKRAINE CRISIS

Finland and Sweden on Tuesday plowed ahead with their plans to join the NATO alliance despite an eleventh-hour attempt by Turkey to derail the process over their alleged backing for Kurdish fighters. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s opposition to the nonaligned nation’s potential entrance surprised the two Nordic nations, particularly after Erdoğan told Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in early April that he was “supportive,” according to the Finnish leader. 

“Turkey’s statements have changed very quickly and hardened in recent days. But I am sure that we will resolve the situation with constructive talks,” Niinistö said Tuesday in Stockholm. “He said that the Finnish membership should be assessed favorably. Now it seems that there are different opinions. We must continue to discuss.”

To further discuss the NATO move, Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson are also set to visit  Washington to meet with Biden on Thursday, the White House announced (The Hill).

Reuters: Finland and Sweden hold out hope Turkey’s NATO objections can be overcome.

© Associated Press / Martin Meissner | Finnish Parliament on Monday. 

Russia moved a step closer to defaulting on its debt after the Biden administration indicated that it would fully block Moscow’s ability to pay U.S. bondholders beyond next week’s deadline. 

Shortly after issuing a batch of sanctions against Russia in February, the U.S. also rolled out a waiver to allow Moscow the ability to pay its debts through May 25. However, the U.S. indicated that it would not extend that waiver further, meaning the Russians could be on the verge of their first default on foreign debt in more than a century  (Bloomberg News). 

The decision reportedly came after the Treasury Department and State Department determined that a default would not have a significant economic impact (The New York Times). Russia’s next two bond payments are set for May 27 and June 24. 

“This is something that we are actively examining right now,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing last week about the possibility of a default. “We want to make sure that we understand what the potential consequences and spillovers would be of allowing the license to expire.”

Meanwhile, the Russian parliament on Tuesday discussed a proposed law to ban prisoner exchanges with Ukraine after more than 200 soldiers who were part of the Azov Regiment in Mariupol surrendered to Russian forces. The soldiers surrendered after dozens were wounded and required medical treatment and could not escape.

One member of Russian parliament, in a translated video, described the group as a “Nazi” militia and denounced a prisoner swap with the soldiers (The Hill).

The Associated Press: Ukraine hopes to swap steel mill fighters for Russian POWs.

Reuters analysis: Russian President Vladimir Putin takes Mariupol, but a wider Donbas victory is slipping from reach.


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OPINION

■ Bill Clinton’s recipe for economic growth, by William A. Galston, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3a7rOAl 

■ The long game of white power activists isn’t just about violence, by Kathleen Belew, author and opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3PlLWPn

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at noon. The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. about Roe v. Wade and “revoking your rights.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of Jennifer Rochon to be district judge for the Southern District of New York.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Biden and the first lady will depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews, where the president will receive a briefing from advisers about hurricane preparedness at 1:45 p.m. Biden will return to the White House.

The first lady will depart Joint Base Andrews today for upcoming itineraries in Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica through Monday in advance of the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas planned in Los Angeles in early June. Her first stop today is in Quito, Ecuador. Upon arrival, she will meet with U.S. embassy staff.

Vice President Harris will deliver the keynote address during the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s commencement ceremonies in Connecticut, which begins at 11 a.m. (CBS News).

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in New York where he meets with Pakistani Foreign Minister Bhutto Zardari at 10 a.m. Blinken meets with foreign ministers from Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Senegal at 11 a.m. He meets at 1:30 p.m. with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the first such meeting in three years between the two NATO members. The secretary at 3 p.m.participates in a food security ministerial meeting.

Yellen will hold a news conference at 9 a.m. EST near Bonn, Germany, at ​​Schloss Drachenburg in advance of the Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors meetings.

The White House daily briefing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. National security adviser Jake Sullivan will join press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at the podium. The White House coronavirus response team will brief journalists at 10:45 a.m.


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


ELSEWHERE  

  CORONAVIRUS 

Healthy children ages 5 to 11 are expected to soon be eligible to receive booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to refortify their immune systems, a step authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday and subject to final approval by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which meets on Thursday (The Associated Press).

The Hill’s Joseph Choi reports that diagnosis and treatment for “long COVID” and even a sense of how prevalent long-term effects from COVID-19 infection may be in the population are unclear. While recent reports and the CDC indicate there are factors that describe symptoms and that certain underlying health conditions could predispose some individuals to the condition, the National Institutes of Health wants to dig deeper.

🦠 Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) announced through her staff on Tuesday that she tested positive for COVID-19 and was fully vaccinated and boosted. She participated in a Saturday event with parents and children in Houston and was masked throughout, according to local media coverage (The Hill).

Antigua, Barbuda, Lesotho in South Africa and Taiwan have been added by the CDC to the U.S. COVID-19 travel destination warning list (The Hill).

North Korea is experiencing a serious COVID-19 problem in a country with poor health care, inadequate medical testing, food shortages, no safety net for those who are ill and desperate to work, and a government that has refused international offers of vaccines and other pandemic assistance. Without help from China or other international sources, “North Korea may end up with the pandemic’s worst death and infection rates in the world for its population size,” said Kim Sin-gon, a professor at Korea University College of Medicine in Seoul (The Guardian).

Days after confirming COVID-19 infections for the first time last week, North Korea said it sent three aircraft to China to pick up medical supplies on Monday, according to media reports (Reuters). The country with 25 million people reported a total of 1.48 million people with fever symptoms as of Monday evening, including 56 reported deaths, according to the North’s official KCNA news agency. There was no information about how many North Koreans may have tested positive for the coronavirus in a country without a massive testing infrastructure (The New York Times). 

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,000,205. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 274, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

STATE WATCH

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on Tuesday during a phone call with Biden about devastating wildfires in her state emphasized a partnership with the administration for recovery assistance, which Biden affirmed, according to a White House statement. … In California, U.S. authorities on Friday discovered an underground drug smuggling tunnel stretching from Tijuana to San Diego. The subterranean route, disclosed on Monday, featured rail and ventilation systems, electricity, and reinforced walls. Six people, ages 31 to 55, were charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine. All are Southern California residents (The Associated Press). … Traffic fatalities across the country in 2021 hit a 16-year high and were up more than 10 percent over 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday. Multiple vehicle crashes, crashes on urban roads and accidents involving drivers older than 65 were to blame for much of the surge (The Hill). … Here’s another way U.S. lives could be saved through vehicular changes: If the U.S. eliminated auto emissions, it could prevent approximately 11,700 premature deaths per year, with local and regional health benefits, according to an air quality health study published on Monday (NBC News).

THE CLOSER

© Associated Press / Nam Y. Huh | Fan seeks autograph at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. 

And finally … justice is served for a young baseball fan. 

Elyjah Blankenberg, an 11-year-old Yankees fan and autograph enthusiast, suffered heartbreak during a March spring training game when a binder full of baseball cards, autographed and not, was either stolen or lost, including one signed card featuring his favorite player, Yankees star D.J. LeMahieu.

After his mother posted a shot-in-the dark plea on Facebook in an attempt to retrieve the missing card binder and a local reporter aired a story on the situation (and left an address for anyone to either return the binder or help Elyjah rebuild his card collection), the card and autograph collectors of America sprung to action. In the weeks following the reporter’s piece, dozens of packages arrived at the address featuring signed balls and memorabilia of sports stars, including a number of Baseball Hall of Famers and even famous teams, and full baseball card sets.

In addition, LeMahieu himself sent an autographed ball made out to Elyjah directly. And that is the magic of baseball (ESPN). 


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