The Hill’s Morning Report — Finger pointing threatens debt limit deal
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Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle are accusing the other party of “extremism” in rhetoric and action, drawing blistering contrasts at a time when the country’s fiscal future hinges on bipartisan cooperation.
As the debt ceiling deadline looms, both Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) must find a way to overcome ideological and fiscal differences to avoid the country defaulting on its $31.4 trillion debt and avert a historic economic downturn. Though the two reportedly have a professional working relationship (The Hill and The Washington Post), in public, “extremism” is talking point number one.
Democrats and Republicans have latched onto education as a conduit for frustrations with the opposing party. House Republicans last week narrowly passed legislation that would fulfill a campaign promise to give parents a role in what’s taught in public schools. While the bill has little chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled Senate, critics have said it would further a far-right movement that has led to book bans and restrictions aimed at transgender students (NPR and PBS News).
But McCarthy in a recent news conference contended that “Democrats are too extreme to believe that parents should have a say” in their children’s education. Jeffries, meanwhile, accused “extreme MAGA Republicans” of wanting “to jam their right wing ideology down the throats of students, teachers and parents throughout America.”
▪ Reuters and Bloomberg News: House Republicans are readying debt ceiling “term sheet” conditions.
▪ Business Insider: Americans could lose $20,000 in retirement savings and private student-loan borrowers could see their payments surge if Republicans don’t raise the debt ceiling, a new report says.
On Friday, Jeffries warned that incendiary rhetoric by former President Trump, who is under investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) regarding hush money payments to an adult film actress, could spark violence. Trump wrote on his social network Friday that if charges are brought against him in the Stormy Daniels investigation, it could lead to “potential death & destruction” (The Hill).
“The twice-impeached former president’s rhetoric is reckless, reprehensible and irresponsible,” Jeffries said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “It’s dangerous, and if he keeps it up, he’s going to get someone killed.”
As Trump faces possible indictment in New York — among a number of ongoing probes into the former president — Republican lawmakers acknowledge there’s something of a leadership vacuum atop their party, which is divided as Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and McCarthy are all moving to the beats of their own drums.
As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, lawmakers are split over whether Trump or DeSantis is a de facto political leader of the Republican Party. But the escalating war between Trump and DeSantis has further confused the picture, which may not clear up until the party has a nominee. Meanwhile, McConnell, who has been the party’s steadying hand in Congress for more than a decade, is absent from the Senate as he recovers from a concussion, and McCarthy is preoccupied by the difficult task of keeping the House GOP conference unified and his own precarious leadership role secure.
Over in the House, Republicans know that they’re not one big happy family, but they’re embracing it — and trying to make it work for them, writes The Hill’s Emily Brooks. House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) joked in an interview that McCarthy calls the slim GOP majority a dysfunctional family. “Barely functioning,” Emmer shot back. But as majority whip, a large part of Emmer’s job is to help make that family function and get members with far-flung viewpoints to vote in lockstep, at least enough to tackle the legislative priorities and must-pass bills on the horizon.
“It doesn’t matter whether anybody gets along or likes each other or socializes together. Everybody has to feel as though their voice matters, and that they have input and that they’re able to do the things that they came here to do for the people that elected if you do that,” Emmer said.
That job was evident at the recent House GOP retreat in Orlando, which included multiple sessions revolving around teamwork, including a talk from the author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and former NFL quarterback Drew Brees.
▪ The New York Times: A Trump rally, a right-wing cause and the enduring legacy of Waco. Thirty years ago, a fiery federal raid on a doomsday sect turned the city into a symbol of government overreach. Trump spoke there on Saturday, and some supporters — and critics — said it was no accident.
▪ The Atlantic: Trump begins the “Retribution” tour. At the first rally of his 2024 campaign, the former president vowed vengeance. His fans loved it.
▪ NBC News: Bragg received death threats after Trump referred to “death and destruction” if he’s indicted.
▪ Politico: The Senate’s new budget boss is also a climate hawk. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a soundbite machine and intra-party agitator, brings his own flavor of Democratic politics to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) old committee.
LEADING THE DAY
Republican candidates since the 2022 midterm elections have urged voters to see America’s opioid crisis as a political issue involving crime, drug cartels, Mexican-made fentanyl using chemicals from China and problems spawned by porous U.S. borders.
The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch and Rafael Bernal today report on how the GOP turned a deadly fentanyl crisis in the United States into a border issue.
In a February Axios-Ipsos poll, 37 percent of Republicans said the greatest threat to U.S. public health was opioids and fentanyl, ranked higher than cancer, obesity and guns. More than a third of Democrats, in contrast, put guns or firearm access at the top of public health threats, with 17 percent listing fentanyl and opioids.
Conservatives’ narrative about illegal drugs and where to place blame worries some drug policy experts (NPR). The drugs also worry the White House: President Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget, unveiled March 9, proposed $40 million to combat fentanyl trafficking and to disrupt transnational criminal organizations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently raised with his counterparts from Group of 20 nations the chemical supply chains to Mexico that allow its cartels to lucratively manufacture fentanyl for sale in the United States.
The Dallas Morning News: How does fentanyl get to Dallas? Federal investigation reveals the pathway. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid initially created as an anesthetic that’s 100 times more potent than morphine. An amount that fits on the tip of a sharpened pencil can be lethal. Chinese chemical companies sell the outlawed “precursor” ingredients for the drug online at relatively inexpensive prices, U.S. prosecutors have alleged.
Anti-China furor with bipartisan backing on Capitol Hillis behind pending legislative action to ban the popular app TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, compela sale of the company or perhaps encourage the next generation of a U.S.-owned app for short videos that could draw away some of the 150 million active TikTok users in this country. Many lawmakers view TikTok as a national security threat and privacy risk for adults and children, with China pulling the strings.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Sunday that the administration favors legislation to give the Commerce Department the authority to ban TikTok. “I think the White House is very in favor of this bill,” Warner told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We give the secretary of Commerce the tools to ban, to force a sale [and] other tools” (The Hill).
McCarthy tweeted on Sunday that the House will take up TikTok legislation in some form. “The House will be moving forward with legislation to protect Americans from the technological tentacles of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said (CNBC). House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) on Sunday called TikTok an “immediate threat” from the Chinese Communist Party (The Hill).
▪ The New York Times: Twitter says parts of its source code were leaked online. The company wants to know who’s behind it.
▪ The Hill: Republicans say DeSantis will need to revamp his strategy if he’s going to be a GOP presidential primary candidate.
▪ The Hill: Trump will be interviewed tonight from Mar-a-Lago by Fox News’s Sean Hannity. The former president is battling various local, state and federal investigations while Fox is challenging defamation litigation brought by Dominion Voting Systems.
▪ The Hill: Will it be New York, Chicago or Atlanta? Cities angle for 2024 Democratic convention.
▪ The Hill: Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) will not seek the Senate seat next year now held by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). He endorsed the campaign of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) in the crowded race.
CBS News “Sunday Morning”: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), “that woman” to watch.
➤ ECONOMY, ADMINISTRATION & BANKING
Biden on Tuesday will visit Durham, N.C., and semiconductor manufacturer Wolfspeed to tout legislation enacted on his watch and showcased by Democrats ahead of 2024 campaigns. The president is calling it the “Investing in America” tour with plans for top officials to appear at events in 20 states over the next several weeks (CBS17).
Jitters in the banking sector are not over, nor is the search for answers about what might have prevented Silicon Valley Bank in California and Signature Bank in New York from collapsing this month. The Hill’s Tobias Burns and Karl Evers-Hillstrom unpack various legislative proposals aimed at reform. The plans range from targeted punishments for incompetent executives to a broad-based rehabilitation of the post-financial-crisis Dodd-Frank Act. Other proposals in the pipeline, such as one coming from Senate Banking Committee chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is up for reelection, have yet to be formally announced.
Brown and his committee will grill federal regulators on Tuesday, hoping to get some answers as multiple investigations get underway, including inside the Federal Reserve. The House Financial Services Committee goes next with a Wednesday hearing.
From the Fed and Treasury, there are echoes about a “strong and resilient” U.S. banking sector. Joining that chorus on Sunday was Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, who describes himself as a free-market Republican. “The banking system has a strong capital position and a lot of liquidity and has the full support of the Federal Reserve and other regulators standing behind it,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation”. “Now, I’m not saying that all of the stresses are behind us, I expect this process will take some time.”
Federal regulators are trying to work out how to reassure small and regional bank depositors that their accounts would be backstopped should there be a run on financial institutions not normally treated as eligible for “systemic risk” protections. The flight of deposits out of smaller banks into mega-banks has been evidently tied to worries about the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $250,000 cap on insured accounts.
Deposits estimated at $550 billion have moved to large banks and money market funds in the two weeks since Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failed, according to an analysis by JPMorgan Chase (The Washington Post).
Analysts are looking ahead this week to Thursday’s report on gross domestic product for the fourth quarter of 2022 and Friday’s report on personal income and spending in February.
▪ The Hill: Bank failures become flashpoints in emerging 2024 campaigns.
▪ The Hill: How Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s economic moves put pressure on Biden.
▪ The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal: First Citizens to acquire Silicon Valley Bank to become one of the top 25 banks in the country.
Separately on Sunday, Biden offered federal emergency help to Mississippi in response to the deaths of 25 people after catastrophic tornadoes ripped through that state and killed another person in Alabama (The Hill and The Guardian).
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell on Sunday said responders in Mississippi were in “life-saving” and “life-sustaining” mode. “The first responders on the ground are doing such an amazing job, some of which probably have lost some of their homes themselves,” she told ABC’s “This Week” (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
NATO on Sunday criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for what it called “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric, a day after Putin said he planned to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Putin on Saturday compared the move to the U.S. stationing its weapons in Europe, while insisting that Moscow would not violate its nuclear non-proliferation promises.
The plan, which was not unexpected, is one of the Kremlin’s clearest nuclear signals since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine 13 months ago. Kyiv called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in response (Reuters).
▪ NPR: On the border with Belarus, Ukrainian troops prep for a long war — and the front line.
▪ CNN: Preparations for “de-occupation”: Annexed Crimea not forgotten by Ukraine.
▪ The New York Times: Stolen valor: The U.S. volunteers in Ukraine who lie, waste and bicker. People who would not be allowed anywhere near the battlefield in a U.S.-led war are active on the Ukrainian front, with ready access to American weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has considered a delay in his judicial overhaul plan after demonstrations escalated overnight, local media reported, while the country’s main trade union began a strike affecting departures from the international airport (Bloomberg News and The Washington Post). The potential delay comes after Netanyahu on Sunday fired his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, barely a day after Gallant became the first minister to call for a stop to the government’s contentious plan. The firing intensified an already dramatic domestic crisis — one of the most severe in Israeli history — set off by Netanyahu’s proposal to give the government greater control over the selection of Supreme Court justices and to limit the court’s authority over Parliament (The New York Times).
▪ Politico: Israel’s leaders must find compromise on legislation that is tearing the country apart, White House says.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Israeli judicial overhaul pits secular and religious communities against each other.
▪ The Washington Post: Netanyahu’s political touch eludes him as Israel spirals into chaos.
▪ NBC News: Israel passes law protecting Netanyahu as protests continue.
King Charles III this weekend postponed his first state visit to France as protests continue to rock the country following President Emmanuel Macron’s raising of the retirement age and pensions overhaul. The cancellation was described by critics as a blow to Macron’s image as he contends with country-wide unrest.
Lavish meetings at the Versailles palace would hardly have been a good look for either figure while union workers flooded the streets in protest of a policy Macron has framed as unpopular but necessary. Police violence in response to the demonstrations has drawn international scrutiny, and videos circulated on social media last week showing riot police beating protesters (The Washington Post).
▪ The Guardian: King Charles’s France visit could have had echoes of 1789, says ex-ambassador.
▪ The Daily Beast: Why does Charles and Queen Camilla’s coronation already feel like a bust?
▪ Reuters: Largest strike in decades brings Germany to a standstill.
▪ CNN: North Korea launches at least one unidentified ballistic missile into waters off the eastern Korean peninsula.
▪ Al Jazeera: Saudi Arabian, Iranian foreign ministers to meet during Ramadan.
■ Why Medicaid expansion will overcome Florida politics, by Jonathan Bernstein, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3FT5YNP
■ Ukraine smolders as Europe comes slowly awake, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/42FNryp
WHERE AND WHEN
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The House will convene at noon.
The Senate meets at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of a measure to repeal authorizations for use of military force against Iraq.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will host the SBA Women’s Business Summit at 2:30 p.m. in the East Room.
Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are in Ghana. Harris will participate in a bilateral meeting with President Nana Akufo-Addo followed by a joint press conference. The vice president will visit the Freedom Skate Park and Vibrate Space, a co-working space and community recording studio, to meet with local artists and entertainers. In the evening, Harris and Emhoff will attend a state banquet at Jubilee House hosted by Akufo-Addo and first lady of Ghana, Rebecca Akufo-Addo (Politico). Separately on Monday, Emhoff will join actors from the Ghanaian television series “You Only Live Once” (YOLO) for a town hall discussion with students about women’s empowerment, health and combating peer pressure. Emhoff will join Mustapha Ussif, minister of Youth and Sports, for the first-all girls Junior NBA basketball clinic in Ghana. Emhoff will join a legal aid panel hosted by Ghana’s Legal Aid Commission and deliver remarks.
Secretary Blinken delivers opening remarks at the U.S.-Colombia High-Level Dialogue at the State Department at 10 a.m. He will meet with Colombian Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva at 10:25 a.m. The secretary will meet at 3:30 p.m. with Foreign Minister Julio César Arriola of Paraguay.
First lady Jill Biden at 1:30 p.m. will speak to the National League of Cities Congressional Cities Conference in Washington, D.C..
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments beginning at 10 a.m. in Amgen Inc. v. Sanofi Oral, a patent law case, and at 11 a.m., United States v. Hansen, an immigration case (SCOTUSblog).
🏀 The 2023 NCAA March Madness final four have been determined. In the men’s tournament, the University of Connecticut Huskies play against the University of Miami Hurricanes while the San Diego State Aztecs compete against the Florida Atlantic University Owls. The Final Four games will be aired on CBS at 6:09 p.m. ET (SDSU vs. FAU) and 8:49 p.m. ET (Miami vs. UConn), with the championship game scheduled April 3 (CBS Sports). In the women’s tournament, Louisiana State University and University of Iowa have made it to the final four, and they await their opponents ahead of the final on April 2 (ESPN).
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m.
➤ HEALTH & PANDEMIC
Drug-related deaths are spiking among high-school students in an era when drug use by adolescents is declining, writes The Hill’s Daniel de Visé. The main reason is fentanyl, added to counterfeit pills that resemble prescription drugs to boost the black-market high. They wind up in the hands of children, who take them — not realizing the presence, let alone the danger, of a drug 50 times more potent than heroin.
▪ CNN: What makes fentanyl so dangerous and how can people prevent overdoses? Our expert explains.
▪ The New York Times: You may need that procedure. But do you really need an escort?
Tennessee has rejected $8.8 million in federal grant money, which for more than a decade has been distributed among nonprofit groups, county health departments and healthcare organizations for HIV prevention efforts. The state plans to use state funds, which a spokeswoman for Gov. Bill Lee (R) said would be more efficient than receiving federal dollars. But some HIV prevention organizations are concerned they will be cut off if they don’t align with his conservative politics (The New York Times).
▪ The Hill: Idaho Republicans block “woke” free tampons in schools proposal.
▪ The Washington Post: For trans people, medical visits can be more traumatizing than healing.
▪ Vox: Why don’t we have vaccines for fungal infections?
▪ NPR: Why the COVID-19 death rate varies dramatically across the U.S.
Information about the availability of COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots can be found at Vaccines.gov.
Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,060 for the most recent week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Data is reported on Fridays.)
And finally … 🪐 🔭 Hobby astronomers can typically spot a smattering of a few planets in the sky, but this week, they’ll be able to catch a stunning display — or a planetary parade — when five planets line up beneath the moon. Onlookers will be able to catch the best glimpse of the alignment — which will put into view Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Uranus — on Tuesday evening, just after sunset (ABC News).
These kinds of alignments appear every few years, Cameron Hummels, a computational astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology, told CNN. Much of the phenomenon will be visible to the naked eye, even in urban areas with significant light pollution. To spot the display, Hummels suggests finding a place with a good view of the western horizon just after sunset, when colorful streaks of sunset still remain and the sky has turned dark blue but not yet black.
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