Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — Recount looms in Pennsylvania

An election worker counts ballots in the Pennsylvania primary election
Associated Presss/Keith Srakocic
An election worker continues the process in counting ballots for the Pennsylvania primary election on May 18, 2022, at the Mercer County Elections Board in Mercer, Pa.

As Tom Petty once wrote, the waiting is the hardest part. 

That’s the situation in Pennsylvania, where the race between Mehmet Oz and David McCormick for the Senate GOP nomination remains too close to call as counties across the state continue to count ballots of all stripes. 

As of this morning, Oz leads McCormick by 1,240 votes, a 0.1 percent margin, clinging to a lead he has held since he overtook the former hedge fund CEO in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday.

“We have covered all counties to ensure that the ballots are correctly collected,” Oz told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Wednesday, having thanked him in his election night remarks. “This election is ours. We have done well.”

County officials are on the clock to certify their results by Tuesday, meaning that all provisional, overseas and military absentee ballots must be tabulated by then (The Associated Press).

A recount is almost certain, meaning delay in declaring a winner. Former President Trump, who endorsed Oz, did not wait, and he invented a ballot conspiracy. 

“Dr. Oz should declare victory. It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’”  Trump posted on Truth Social on Wednesday, echoing his false and preemptive declaration of victory on election night in 2020 (The Hill).

While the political world awaits a winner in the contest, Trump has already emerged victorious this week. Oz’s performance, coupled with big wins by Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) last night and J.D. Vance in Ohio two weeks ago, has cemented the former president’s standing with GOP voters. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, it also means the Senate Republican Conference next year will be more loyal to him and that lawmakers will seek his favor as the most painless route to a primary win. 

The Associated Press explainer: How mailed ballots slow results in Pennsylvania.

Politico: Inside the last-minute Trump endorsement that enraged Pa. Republicans.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Five takeaways from the Pennsylvania primary election.

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Republican election deniers make gains in primary contests.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made clear on Wednesday that he is more than fine with either Pennsylvania GOP Senate candidate in a general election matchup against Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.  When asked about the race, McConnell pretended to wipe sweat from his brow, indicating his pleasure that Kathy Barnette’s late charge in the polls fell short. 

“My view is that either way this turns out, we are fully competitive in Pennsylvania, and ready to win in November,” McConnell said (CNN).

National Republicans fretted in recent weeks about the possibility of her emerging to a general election due to a number of incendiary tweets and remarks she’s made over the past decade. 

Political attention now turns to next week’s primary contests, featuring a Georgia GOP gubernatorial primary and Trump’s feud with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who is seeking reelection and leading in polls.

A new Fox News survey released on Wednesday showed that Kemp leads with 60 percent support to only 28 percent for former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), the Trump-backed candidate in the race. If that result holds on Tuesday, Kemp would clear the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff.

Related Articles


Julia Manchester, The Hill and The New York Times: Long known for channeling his voters, former President Trump increasingly appears, after Tuesday’s GOP primaries, to be chasing his supporters as much as leading them.

 Politico, The New York Times, Punchbowl News, The Hill: Members of New York’s Democratic House delegation turn against one another.

The Hill: The abortion battle is expected to shift again to the states.

The Daily Beast: Inside Jennifer Carnahan’s scorched-earth GOP bid in Minnesota to win her late husband’s House seat.

The Hill: Is Biden the right Democratic presidential candidate for 2024?

The Hill: A conservative earthquake rocks Idaho as 20 incumbent state legislators either lost their seats or lost races to move from the House to the Senate on Tuesday.

CNN: Chris Wallace says Republicans cannot be happy about Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Mastriano’s victory Tuesday.


LEADING THE DAY

  ADMINISTRATION & CONGRESS

The Senate today is expected to approve President Biden’s major request for tens of billions of dollars in weapons and other funding for Ukraine just as the president makes a significant trip abroad — but not to Ukraine. Instead, he’ll leave today for South Korea and Japan, the first Asia trip of his presidency and a journey under the shadow of China.

As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Laura Kelly report, Biden’s efforts to focus his international attentions on allies and military security in Asia — and on Beijing’s nationalist aims — were overtaken this year by Russia’s war with Ukraine, which experts say virtually guarantees the U.S. will need to devote more resources in the short and medium term to bolstering European security in addition to confronting China.

© Associated Press / Andrew Harnik | President Biden, May 11.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has bolstered Russia’s economy and backed Moscow as a member of the U.N. Security Council amid international sanctioning of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Beijing also provided North Korea with medical supplies this week amid a significant surge of COVID-19 infections in and around Pyongyang.

Biden’s U.S. backing for South Korea and Japan is in many ways framed by his frequent criticisms of Xi, whom he unfavorably compares to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “[Xi] doesn’t think democracies can function in the 21st century,” Biden told Democratic donors last month. “Same attitude with less grace than … Putin has, and many other leaders around the world.” 

NPR: Group of Seven developed nations warn of Ukraine grain crisis, ask China not to aid Russia.  

In the president’s absence from Washington, the 50-50 Senate continues to struggle to gain some legislative traction, even behind the $40 billion Ukraine measure that is backed by the White House and supported by some Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday used the word “repugnant” to denounce the objections last week of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who delayed momentum behind the Ukraine measure (The Hill).   

Separately, the House on Wednesday approved a domestic terrorism measure on a mostly party-line vote (The Hill). The bill calls for establishing a Domestic Terrorism Unit in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Homeland Security Department and a domestic terrorism office at the Justice Department. 

The Senate next week will move to take up its version of such legislation, Schumer said, in response to the hate crimes on Saturday in which an 18-year-old white gunman used an assault weapon at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store to kill 10 people and injure three more, most of them Black. The suspect has pleaded not guilty after surrendering to police (The Hill).

“We hope our Republican colleagues will understand how important this is given what’s going on in the country with replacement theory,” Schumer said, mentioning a racist conspiracy theory circulating among ultra-right conservatives that asserts that Blacks, Latinos and Jews are taking over white America. So much bigoted, bigoted voices on all of our news media,” he added.

Schumer invited Senate Republicans to join with Democrats, but his party needs 60 votes to overcome a filibuster — a decidedly uphill climb.

 The Hill and The Washington Post: After deliberation, Biden on Wednesday invoked the Defense Production Act to try to increase manufacturing of infant formula in the United States to alleviate supply shortages.

The Hill: The House on Wednesday passed a pair of measures that include $28 million in additional funding for the Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory responsibility for the baby formula industry. Members voted 231-192 with 12 Republicans in support of one Democratic measure. A second bill cleared the House with bipartisan backing. 

Axios: A leaked memo shows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is preparing for possible violence following the Supreme Court’s pending abortion ruling.

The Washington Post: The Disinformation Governance Board created in DHS and targeted for criticism by Republicans in Congress has been “paused.”

The Hill: Who benefits most from a decline in IRS audits of tax filings? The Government Accountability Office confirmed the obvious: wealthy taxpayers.

The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Rafael Bernal: Biden is taking steps to engage with Cuba and Venezuela by easing some restrictive policies in a bid to improve relations with those isolated nations.

© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

  UKRAINE CRISIS

The U.S. on Wednesday reopened its Kyiv embassy after it closed three months ago shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced.

“Today we are officially resuming operations at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again,” Blinken said in a statement.

Like many other countries, the U.S. moved its embassy to Lviv in mid-February only days before Moscow launched the war with its western neighbor, having also moved all State Department diplomats to Poland

Noting there are increased security and safety measures, Blinken did not specify how many U.S. diplomats would be operating out of the Kyiv embassy.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russia said on Wednesday that 694 additional Ukrainian fighters surrendered in Mariupol, bringing the total number to 959 as Moscow pushes closer to a long-awaited victory in the port city (Reuters). 

However, what happens next to the fighters who surrendered is unclear. According to The Associated Press, some have already been taken by Russians to a former penal colony in an area that Moscow-backed separatists control, though Kyiv still hopes for their release as part of prisoner swaps.

The Hill: The United States on Wednesday announced $215 million in new emergency food aid to Ukraine, with more expected.

The Associated Press: Red Cross registers hundreds of Ukrainian POWs from Mariupol.  

Bloomberg News: Russian soldier pleads guilty to killing civilian at Ukraine war crimes trial.

The Associated Press: NATO talks with Finland, Sweden falter but will continue.

Reuters: Russia uses new laser weapons in war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr  Zelensky mocks “wonder weapon.”


📝 Introducing NotedDC, The Hill’s curated commentary on the beat of the Beltway. Click here to subscribe to our latest newsletter


OPINION

■ America’s Doug Mastriano problem, by Ross Douthat, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/39zdhgD 

■ Buffalo shooting shows why the media cover Tucker Carlson’s ugliness, by Eric Wemple, media columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3yPfEX0

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the Ukraine Supplemental Aid Package.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8:30 a.m. Biden will host Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at 9:15 a.m. to discuss their countries’ respective NATO applications and European security. All three leaders will make public remarks at 10:30 a.m. The president will depart for Seoul, South Korea.

Vice President Harris will virtually meet with abortion providers at 2:05 p.m.

First lady Jill Biden is in Quito, Ecuador, where she will meet with President Guillermo Lasso and first lady María de Lourdes Alcívar de Lasso at the Carondelet Palace. The two first ladies will also visit a child development center. Biden will deliver remarks at 2 p.m. ET before visiting an elementary school that is hosting a U.S.-supported program that helps Ecuadorian, Venezuelan and Colombian teenagers rejoin the formal school system.

Economic indicator: The National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. will report U.S. existing home sales during April.


🖥  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  

➤ INTERNATIONAL

© Associated Press / Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP | A microscope image of mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, 2003. 

Cases of monkeypox have been detected in Massachusetts, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain, baffling public health sleuths and raising new questions about the path of transmission for a virus usually seen in Africa. “Generally speaking, monkeypox is spread by respiratory transmission, but the characteristics of the 23 suspected cases point towards transmission through mucus during sexual relations,” Spain’s National Microbiology Centre said in a statement. According to the U.K. Health Security Agency, all of the U.K.’s most recent cases affected men who identify as gay or bisexual or other men who have sex with men. Monkeypox infections can produce fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and chills. A rash or lesions that can look like chickenpox or syphilis can also develop and spread from the face to other parts of the body, including the genitals. Most people recover within a few weeks (The Guardian). 

  CORONAVIRUS 

💉 U.S. health officials are considering extending the eligibility for a second COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to people younger than 50 amid a steady rise in cases, with the United States seeing a threefold increase over the past month (Reuters). In some locations, masking is back, and the White House says one-third of Americans should consider wearing masks because of rising COVID-19 infections (The Associated Press).

By autumn, Americans might be able to get a COVID-19 jab attuned to the coronavirus variant in circulation by then, plus a flu shot, or at least it’s a proposal federal scientists will discuss next month (The New York Times). 

🦠 Ashley Biden, 40, whose husband is a physician, tested positive for COVID-19 and scrapped plans to join her mother, first lady Jill Biden, on a trip to Latin America that concludes on Monday, according to the first lady’s spokesman. She is not considered a close contact of the president, her father, or her mother, according to the White House (The Hill). … Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday while traveling in Berlin for a meeting of Group of Seven health ministers. He is vaccinated, is experiencing mild symptoms, and joins the expanding ranks of senior White House and Cabinet officials who have tested positive for the coronavirus (The Associated Press). 

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,001,269. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 273, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

TECH

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) on Wednesday launched an investigation into the role of social media in connection with the mass shooting in Buffalo and alleged radicalization, hate crimes and domestic terrorism by the teenage suspect charged in Saturday’s rampage, which killed 10 people and injured three. The state probe will focus on Twitch, 4chan, 8chan and Discord but will not be limited to those platforms (The Hill). … The Supreme Court may eventually decide whether speech posted by politicians on tech platforms, even dangerous misinformation, can be restricted. Tech industry groups and some civil society organizations want justices to block a Texas law that hinders the ability of social media companies to moderate content from politicians. The backdrop: Some tech giants have not decided whether to fully ban Trump, who could be a presidential candidate in 2024, and free speech advocate and Tesla CEO Elon Musk may or may not become Twitter’s new owner (The Hill). 

  SPORTS

⚽ Equal pay! The U.S. Soccer Federation on Wednesday reached milestone agreements through 2028 to pay its men’s and women’s teams equally, making the American national governing body the first in the sport to promise both sexes matching money. The deals with the unions for both national teams grew partly out of a push by players on the more successful women’s team, including stars such as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, who were at the forefront of the gender equity fight while leading the team to a Women’s World Cup championship in 2019 (The Associated Press). 

THE CLOSER

© Associated Press / Craig Lassig | Al Franken (D-Minn.) when he was senator-elect in July 2009.

Take the Morning Report Quiz

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the likely Pennsylvania Senate primary recount, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the political history of recounts.

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

Who is the only sitting U.S. senator to win a seat following a general election recount? 

     1. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

     2. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

     3. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) 

     4. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)

White House chief of staff Ron Klain served what role as part of the 2000 Florida recount between then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush?   

     1. Gore’s chief of staff in the White House

     2. General counsel with Gore’s recount committee

     3. Senior strategist of campaign

     4. None of the above

Democrat Al Franken defeated Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) in a 2008 Senate contest by how many votes? 

     1. 162

     2. 312

     3. 537

     4. 799

What actor/actress won a Golden Globe for a performance in “Recount,” the HBO film about the 2000 Florida recount?  

     1. Kevin Spacey

     2. Laura Dern 

     3. Woody Harrelson 

     4. Denis Leary 


Stay Engaged

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