Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today is Thursday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 555,001; Tuesday, 555,615; Wednesday, 556,528; Thursday, 559,116.
President Biden on Wednesday invited lawmakers to join him in enacting a sweeping infrastructure plan, including proposed tax hikes on corporations that have become a flashpoint among Republicans and some Democrats.
In a Wednesday speech designed to publicly frame arguments expected to be center stage this spring and summer, the president said he’ll begin to confer with lawmakers next week when they return to Washington. Biden wants to spend $2.3 trillion over eight years on a catalog of U.S. projects, programs and infrastructure that he says can create jobs, reduce greenhouse gases, compete with China and lift Americans into the middle class.
The Hill: Biden backs compromise on infrastructure plan.
“Debate is welcome. Compromise is inevitable. Changes are certain,” he said. “I am open. … I’m prepared to work. I really am.”
The president defended his embrace of investments in a “care industry” — health facilities, and medical services for the poor, elderly and veterans — which he says are key to “the infrastructure of the nation.” Biden emphasized he wants to revive U.S. economic competitiveness. “I don’t know why people don’t get this,” he said. “Do you think China is waiting around to invest in its digital infrastructure or research and development?”
Biden said he is open to compromise on tax changes but will not agree to raise taxes on Americans earning less than $400,000 a year. He challenged critics to explain why it’s acceptable that 91 of the largest U.S. corporations paid no federal taxes in 2018. “It’s just not fair,” Biden said. “Damn it. … I’m sick and tired of ordinary people being fleeced.”
The president wants Congress to make significant progress on a bill by Memorial Day, according to his advisers. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman (D-Ore.) said Tuesday his panel aims to complete its part “probably” in the third week of May (Bloomberg News).
Sen. (D-Del.), a close Biden ally, told Punchbowl News in an interview on Wednesday that the infrastructure plan likely will be smaller than the president has proposed and the spending may not be fully offset (The Hill).
The Washington Post: House Democrats have little room for differences when it comes to passing Biden’s infrastructure plan.
> Joe vs. Joe: Sen. (D-W.Va.) penned an op-ed for The Washington Post describing his objection to using reconciliation for the infrastructure plan and his defense of the Senate filibuster. He has also split from Biden on a proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent to pay for infrastructure (the red-state senator says 25 percent would be his ceiling) (The Hill).
> Parliamentary muddle: Befuddlement surrounds the Senate parliamentarian’s opinion that Democrats can use the budget reconciliation process to move infrastructure proposals, among others. The confusion carries major consequences for the Democratic agenda. The parliamentarian’s decision this week could give Democrats at least three more opportunities to steer bills past Republican opposition before the midterm elections without trying to do away with the Senate filibuster, but if the complex ruling sets up new constraints, the legislative hurdles could be less appetizing for Democratic leaders (Politico).
Greg Ip, The Wall Street Journal: How Bidenomics seeks to remake the economic consensus.
> Guns: Biden today will direct the administration to begin a process of requiring buyers of so-called ghost guns — homemade or makeshift firearms that lack serial numbers (pictured below) — to undergo background checks. He will announce six executive actions focused on curbing gun violence and nominate David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The president is expected to be joined at the announcement by Attorney General (The Washington Post, Politico and The Hill).
More Congress and White House: Sens. (D-Mich.) and (R-Ohio) say a recent account by The Associated Press about the SolarWinds hack of government agencies “raised the troubling possibility that some federal agencies did not fully report” the extent of the breach to Congress. They want more information from the Biden administration. … The U.S. has not discussed a joint boycott with allies and partners involving the 2022 Olympics and China, White House Press Secretary said on Wednesday to counter State Department comments and reporting this week. … Biden spoke on Wednesday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II amid a rift in the royal family (The Hill). … The Biden administration plans to provide at least $235 million in U.S. aid to the Palestinians, restarting funding for the United Nations agency supporting refugees and restoring other assistance cut off by the previous administration (Reuters). … Causes of death for four people who died during the Jan. 6 Capitol siege include natural causes, amphetamine intoxication and gunshot/homicide, according to the D.C. medical examiner’s office (The Washington Post). … The Biden administration’s migrant situation at the U.S. southern border will likely remain a chronic crisis (The Hill). … The president prefers to spend weekends working and with family at his Delaware home and Camp David. His summer R&R is likely to involve a favorite Biden family getaway: Rehoboth Beach, Del. (The Hill).
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: The hits for AstraZeneca kept rolling in on Wednesday as the European Union’s regulatory agency said there is a possible link between the company’s COVID-19 vaccine and rare blood clots, with British officials adding that alternative shots should be given to individuals under age 30 due to the finding.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) described the clots as a “very rare” side effect, adding that there should be no new restrictions placed on the shot as its benefits outweigh the risks presented by the jab. Sabine Straus, chair of the EMA’s Safety Committee, noted that there was one report of the clots for every 100,000 doses given according to data out of Germany.
“The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects,” said Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director.
AstraZeneca said in a statement that regulators in the EU and U.K. have requested that doses of the vaccine include labels to warn of “extremely rare potential side effect(s).”
Jonathan Van-Tam, Britain’s deputy chief medical officer, said at a news conference that the AstraZeneca news is a “course correction” for the British vaccination program. However, he argued that it will move on unimpeded, as the National Health Service is expected to receive deliveries of shots produced by Moderna and Pfizer (The Associated Press).
According to Reuters, new guidance is telling recent recipients of the AstraZeneca jab that they should receive their second dose. Overall, more than 20 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses were administered in the U.K. by March 31. There have been 79 reports of the clotting side effect and 19 deaths, all after first doses of the shot.
The Associated Press: French Open postponed by a week because of pandemic.
> Variants: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director said on Wednesday that the U.K. variant of COVID-19 has become the most common strain in the U.S.
“Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common lineage circulating in the United States,” Walensky said at a briefing of the administration’s COVID-19 response team.
According to the CDC, there are 16,275 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in the U.S. (CNN). The U.K. strain is considered more contagious and deadly than the original COVID-19 virus.
The Washington Post: “A moment of peril”: Biden sees infections climb on his watch.
The Associated Press: Summoning seniors: Big new push to vaccinate older Americans.
ABC Buffalo: CDC: Avoid travel to Canada, even if you’re vaccinated.
The Hill: : Safely attending events with masks “depends on the level of virus in the community.”
The Washington Post: Under the Federal Emergencies Management Agencies, the administration will offer to pay up to $9,000 for funeral expenses tied to U.S. COVID-19 deaths, regardless of income.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: After months of laying low, former Vice President began to publicly reemerge on Wednesday as he launched a new policy and advocacy organization and revealed that he is writing a memoir, all setting the stage for a potential 2024 presidential bid.
As The Hill’s Brett Samuels writes, Pence launched Advancing American Freedom, a group he said would defend conservative values while opposing the Biden administration’s agenda.
“Advancing American Freedom plans to build on the success of the last four years by promoting traditional Conservative values and promoting the successful policies of the Trump Administration,” the former VP said in a statement. “Conservatives will not stand idly by as the radical Left and the new administration attempt to threaten America’s standing as the greatest Nation in the world with their destructive policies.”
The group, a nonprofit, will be advised by several high-profile former Trump administration officials and conservative leaders. Headlining the group are , , Russell Vought, Seema Verma, , and David Bernhardt.
Previously, Pence announced that he was joining the Heritage Foundation as a distinguished visiting fellow.
Elsewhere, Simon & Schuster announced that Pence signed on to pen two books through the publishing house, including a memoir set to be released in 2023. It is unknown what the second book will be about. Simon & Schuster Vice President and Publisher Dana Canedy labeled the coming book as “revelatory” (The Associated Press)
One main question surrounding the memoir is how much Pence will delve into the nitty gritty of his time as vice president, headlined by his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, where some Trump supporters chanted “Hang Mike Pence.”
Despite inciting the furor of Trump backers by not attempting to overturn the election results, Pence remains a front-runner for the GOP’s 2024 nod. According to polls that do not feature former as a candidate, Pence and Florida Gov. (R) are among the candidates in the top tier, with others such as Sen. (R-Texas), former Ambassador to the United Nations and former Secretary of State also considered potential heavy hitters.
If Trump runs again, it is highly unlikely he would select Pence to be his running mate and if he doesn’t run, there is little chance Trump would back Pence in the GOP primary. So, despite current polls, the former VP faces an uphill climb to a nomination. It’s still Trump’s party.
The New York Times: GOP group warns of ‘defector’ list if donors uncheck recurring box.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Former Speaker ‘s blasts don’t move today’s GOP.
The Hill: Arkansas Gov. (R) quietly bucks the GOP’s dive into culture wars.
The New York Times: Georgia Gov. (R) seizes on voting law to try to win back Trump and his base.
> 2022: Rep. (R-Ala.), a candidate for the open Alabama Senate race, won the Trump endorsement on Wednesday, giving him a boost in the push to replace retiring Sen. (R-Ala.) next year.
Brooks won the endorsement over Lynda Blanchard, Trump’s former ambassador to Slovenia, who is also seeking the GOP nod. Democrats are not expected to be competitive in the general election, meaning that whichever Republican wins the primary will likely win next November (The Hill).
Politico: Andrew Giuliani talked with Trump about a New York gubernatorial run.
Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Senate Minority Leader (R-Ky.) in tricky spot with GOP, big business.
The Hill: Trump-era grievances could get a second life at Supreme Court.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected] We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
The strategy Biden needs to pass his infrastructure plan, by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3muITGv
A bold fix for US international taxation of corporations, by Philip G. Cohen, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3uArUFl
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 3 p.m. for a pro forma session. No votes are expected until Tuesday.
The Senate will hold a pro forma session at 5:30 p.m., and return for legislative business on Monday.
The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:45 a.m. Biden, Harris and the attorney general, accompanied by first lady will announce executive action to curb gun violence at 11:45 a.m. in the Rose Garden. The president and vice president will have lunch at 1 p.m. Biden and Harris at 4:15 p.m. will receive a COVID-19 briefing with an update on the pandemic and the state of vaccinations.
The White House press briefing will take place at 12:30 p.m., including Energy Secretary .
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. reports on claims for unemployment benefits filed in the week ending April 3. Such jobless claims have been falling this month, and analysts expect that trend to continue.
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Group of 20 finance chiefs, encouraged by new U.S. proposals to overhaul and harmonize corporate taxes, pledged on Wednesday to reach a consensus on new rules by mid year. The finance ministers and central bank governors said they’re committed to “reaching a global and consensus-based solution” on a minimum global corporate rate and how to levy the profits of multinational technology giants (Bloomberg News). … A lawyer for Alexei Navalny, the leading opposition figure to Russian President , said on Wednesday that he is suffering from two spinal hernias and a spinal protrusion and is starting to lose sensation in his hands. News of Navalny’s condition comes after he reported that he is suffering from severe back and knee pain while in prison and started a hunger strike last week to protest the lack of medical care within the Russian prison system. The graffiti below was photographed in Moscow on Tuesday (The Associated Press).
➔ U.S. TROOPS: In Afghanistan, Biden appears ready to leave 2,500 U.S. forces in place beyond a May 1 withdrawal deadline. Despite the president’s campaign vows to end the U.S. presence there, current and former military officers have argued that leaving Afghanistan now, with the Taliban in a position of relative strength and the Afghan government in a fragile state, would risk losing what has been gained in 20 years of fighting (The Associated Press).
➔ SPORTS: Excessive speed was deemed the cause of Tiger Woods’s car crash in late February that resulted in compound fractures and a shattered ankle, leaving his golf career in doubt. Woods was behind the wheel, and officials noted that there were no signs of driver impairment (The Associated Press).
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Major League Baseball moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta, we’re eager for some smart guesses about Atlanta all-stars (and sporting heroes) of past and present.
Email your responses to [email protected] and/or [email protected], and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Centennial Olympic Stadium, home to the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics, is now the sporting home to the ______?
- Atlanta Braves
- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
- Georgia State University Panthers
- Atlanta Legends
Who is the only athlete to participate in both a Super Bowl and a World Series?
- Bo Jackson
- Deion Sanders
- Brian Jordan
- All of the above
In his 20-year MLB career, how many All-Star Games did longtime Braves star and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron appear in?
- None of the above
How many NHL teams have called Atlanta home?
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