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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 542,359; Tuesday, 542,949; Wednesday, 543,843; Thursday, 545,281; Friday, 546,822.
President Biden used his first formal presidential news conference on Thursday to put major players on notice in ways new chief executives with wins under their belts like to do.
The newsy headlines — he expects to seek a second term; the filibuster needs a major fix (or deep six) — did not quite capture Biden’s equanimity about publicly tangling with adversaries, even those he needs while governing.
Once a smiling, glad-handing creature of the Senate who assured voters he knew how to cut deals and overcome the venom in the Capitol, Biden in the East Room rebuked “my Republican friends” over their lockstep opposition to his $1.9 trillion relief bill, eagerness to “posture for a while” over a surge of migrants at the border, their “un-American” and “sick” moves in some states to try to block voting rights, their “newfound concern” over government spending and what he called the GOP’s tolerance for “feathering the nest of the wealthy.”
“I have not been able to unite the Congress, but I’ve been uniting the country,” Biden said during his hour-long event at which he fielded questions from 10 news outlets.
Riding high on his job approval and the accomplishment of seeing his signature on a mammoth relief law, the president repeated messages that poll well: Americans need help, and if it takes Senate rule changes, executive actions, deficit spending or turning his back on the minority party to deliver that help, it’s worth it. “I got elected to solve problems,” the president said.
Reuters: Biden next week will roll out an ambitious infrastructure and climate plan that could cost as much as $4 trillion. He’ll detail his ideas during a speech in union-friendly Pittsburgh, where he launched his campaign in 2019.
“I think my Republican colleagues are going to have to determine whether or not we want to work together or they’ll decide that the way in which they want to proceed is to … divide the country, continue the politics of division. But I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to move forward and take these things as they come,” Biden added. “Successful politics is the art of the possible.”
It’s also the reality of the impossible.
The president said the recent surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border is not a result of his policies, but rather a continuation of the decades-long flight of Central Americans willing to leave their countries in terror and out of economic desperation. “The truth of the matter is that nothing has changed. It happens every single solitary year,” he said.
The Hill: Biden: Migrants aren’t coming to the United States “because I’m a nice guy.”
Biden may be signaling to Senate Minority Leader (R-Ky.) that he’s willing to back a vote to abolish the filibuster, but in the 50-50 Senate, Republicans are only part of the story. Sens. (D-W.Va.) and (D-Ariz.) say they support the 60-vote threshold and won’t change their minds.
The Hill: Biden warned Senate GOP he could back gutting the filibuster. “If we have to, if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” he said.
On the global stage, Biden campaigned to bring U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, but now concedes it is logistically impossible to accomplish by a May 1 deadline.
The Hill: Biden said he “can’t picture” having U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year.
He reminded reporters that he’s known President Xi Jinping of China for years and recently spoke with him for two hours while emphasizing the United States does not want confrontation, but rather competition in which “China (is) accountable to follow the rules” (The Wall Street Journal).
“They have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world,” Biden said. “That’s not going to happen on my watch because the United States is going to continue to grow and expand.”
How the United States and its allies force China to follow international rules was left unanswered.
The Hill: Biden says Xi sees autocracy as the wave of the future.
The Hill: Five takeaways from Biden’s news conference.
The Washington Post: Four takeaways from the president’s first formal news conference.
The New York Times: Biden makes clear gun control legislation is not his top priority.
More administration: The Social Security Administration on Thursday sent the IRS the data necessary to deliver coronavirus stimulus checks to people receiving government assistance after lawmakers expressed alarm that the payments were delayed (The Hill). … In an obscure but potent bureaucratic step on Wednesday, Transportation Secretary formally rescinded many internal departmental rules and policies put in place under his predecessor, , that were part of the Trump administration’s push to pare back regulations, and in some cases limit their enforcement (The Washington Post). … The administration said there were nearly 5,000 children in Customs and Border Protection custody as of Tuesday and an additional 11,551 at shelters from the Health and Human Services Department (The Associated Press). … Possible White House executive actions to tackle gun violence could include background checks and other initiatives, The New York Times reports.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: “My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation,” Biden told reporters on Thursday amid speculation he may want to serve a single term. He commended Vice President Harris as “a great partner” when asked about a 2024 Democratic ticket. Biden, 78, who lost his first wife and his daughter in a car accident and his son, Beau, to brain cancer, worded his response with care. “I’ve become a great respecter of fate in my life. … I’ve never been able to plan four and a half, three and a half years ahead for certain,” he added (The Hill).
Biden took several sarcastic swipes at former during his news conference, a departure from his studied efforts to avoid calling out the 45th president by name during his campaign and his initial months in office (The Washington Post).
> GOP in 2022: Sensing a political opening heading into 2022 contests, Republican lawmakers are ramping up efforts to squeeze Biden and congressional Democrats on undocumented migrants at the border and questions of border security. Republicans seek to block immigration bills and target incumbents up for reelection (The Hill).
Conservative Senate candidates who back Trump are creating early 2022 headaches for Republican leaders amid the battle over the party’s future. Control of the Senate and the tenor of the nation’s politics are at stake (The Washington Post).
Sen. (S.D.), No. 2 in the Senate GOP leadership and among those incumbents targeted for defeat by Trump, is weighing his political future and whether to seek reelection in 2022 (Politico).
Trump is frustrated with the pace of the ramp-up of a new super PAC intended to further solidify his influence over the GOP, according to two people familiar with the conversations who spoke with The Hill. The former president’s spokesman denied it, reports Brett Samuels.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: Sens. (I-Vt.) and (D-Mass.), both outspoken proponents of filibuster reform, on Thursday applauded the president for what they say was a recognition of “fact” that the filibuster has a racist history. Manchin disagreed with Biden’s news conference characterization that the 60-vote rule is a relic of the Jim Crow era of segregation. The West Virginia Democrat frequently defends the filibuster’s utility in protecting minority views in the Senate. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that the debate over the filibuster has become increasingly entwined with the national debate about race.
Biden answered “yes” when asked Thursday if he believes the filibuster, which he supported as a Delaware senator, is a relic of racial segregation laws, but he said it’s important to try to fix the Senate rule before deciding to do away with it. “Let’s deal with the abuse first,” he told reporters.
Majority Leader (D-N.Y.) filled out his party’s agenda in the Senate beginning later this month, presenting a road map on Thursday. “We will focus on three areas: One, voting rights, civil rights. Two, economic recovery and jobs with an emphasis on climate change and build back better. And three, health and gun safety,” he said from the Senate floor. The Senate returns to work on April 12 and will be in session through May (The Hill).
> Paycheck Protection Program extension: The Senate voted 92-7 on Thursday to pass legislation extending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides loans to businesses impacted by the coronavirus, from March 31 to May 31. The measure now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature. Seven Republicans voted against the bill: (Idaho), (Texas), (Mo.), (Utah), (Ky.), (Idaho) and (Ala.) (The Hill).
> Voting rights: Manchin, whose views carry weight because of his willingness to buck his party on major legislation, said Thursday that any Senate voting rights measure should be bipartisan, even as some colleagues call for the end of the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold when it comes to elections and the financing of campaigns. “We must work toward a bipartisan solution that protects everyone’s right to vote, secures our elections from foreign interference, and increases transparency in our campaign finance laws,” Manchin said in a statement (The Hill).
> Nominations: The Senate by voice vote on Thursday confirmed Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo as deputy Treasury secretary, making him the department’s first Black deputy secretary. Pictured below, he will serve under Treasury Secretary , the first female to lead the department (The Hill).
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!
Biden faces the world’s most dangerous problems in North Korea and Taiwan, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3sqHDWZ
Biden lifts the curtain, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://tinyurl.com/9749aadc
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 2 p.m. for a pro forma session.
The Senate is out of session until April 12.
The president and Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:20 a.m. Biden will receive an economic briefing at 2:10 p.m. in the Oval Office. At 3 p.m., he will participate in a virtual fundraiser for Atlanta Mayor (D), who supported his campaign in a state he narrowly won. The mayor is seeking reelection on Nov. 2 and faces competition (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The president will depart the White House at 6:15 p.m. to spend the weekend with his family in Delaware.
The vice president will ceremonially swear in as secretary of Health and Human Services at 9:30 a.m. Harris will ceremonially swear in Shalanda Young as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget at 9:55 a.m. Harris will fly to New Haven, Conn., to hold a listening session at the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven with Education Secretary and Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and of Connecticut at 2:35 p.m. The discussion will focus on child poverty and education and the impact of the American Rescue Plan Act on both. The vice president at 4:35 p.m. will speak at the West Haven Child Development Center. Harris returns to Washington in the evening.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. The administration’s coronavirus update takes place at 10:15 a.m.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. consumer spending in February, expected to show a lull before a rebound in March and April following consumers’ receipt of newly enacted stimulus checks.
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EST at Rising on YouTube.
➔ CORONAVIRUS: Biden on Thursday announced an updated goal to administer 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, setting a target the White House sees as achievable by the end of April at the current average rate of 2.5 doses of vaccine being administered daily (The Hill). At that pace, about half of the nation’s population would be at least partially vaccinated by mid-May (The New York Times).
The president’s efforts to underpromise and overdeliver are intended to be a contrast with his predecessor in the Oval Office and part of Biden’s mantra that the U.S. government is an effective problem solver.
The administration said Thursday it will spend nearly $10 billion to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines in areas of the country with the highest risks of infection and high caseloads, including communities either hard to reach with health care or those where vaccine hesitancy is evident (CNN).
The New York Times: Mayor (D) announced on Thursday that New York City plans to create a coronavirus vaccination site and mobile vaccination unit on Broadway that will be reserved for theater industry workers in an effort to help theaters reopen for live performances in the fall. “It’s time to raise the curtain and bring Broadway back,” he said.
The Los Angeles Times: Long-term side effects of COVID-19 infection frustrate patients and baffle scientists.
In India, a second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks and variants of the coronavirus have been detected. The country with 1.4 billion people reported its largest single-day record of new cases since October. One suspected contributor: population fatigue with recommended precautions (CNN). India plans to widen its vaccination campaign (Reuters).
➔ TECH: The chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter dueled with lawmakers during a Thursday hearing about online misinformation and whether the powerful social media platforms played a role in the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol. Facebook CEO blamed Trump and a “political and media environment that drives Americans apart” (CNN).
➔ INTERNATIONAL: North Korea on Friday boasted it tested “new-type tactical guided” missile as the United States vowed consequences if Pyongyang escalates tensions amid stalled nuclear negotiations (The Associated Press). … Prime Minister and his right-wing allies fell short of winning a parliamentary majority in Israel’s fourth election in two years, according to a final vote count released Thursday, leaving a political deadlock that put the long-time leader’s future in question (The Associated Press). … Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is expected to visit the White House on April 9, said Friday he expects to invite Biden to the Tokyo Olympics (The Associated Press).
➔ U.S. ECONOMY: Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell last week to 657,000, a decrease of 100,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was the lowest weekly level of initial state claims since the pandemic upended the economy a year ago. The trend line is moving in the right direction but the labor market has lagged behind other measures of recovery (The New York Times).
➔ STATE WATCH: In Georgia, Republican Gov. drew protests as he signed into law behind closed doors a sweeping Republican-sponsored overhaul of state elections that includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run (The Associated Press). Georgia state legislator Park Cannon (D) was handcuffed, arrested and removed from the state Capitol in which she works by state troopers after she knocked on Kemp’s closed door during the signing she opposed (NBC News). … In New York, the state finalized a deal on Thursday to legalize recreational marijuana, paving the way for an estimated $4.2 billion industry and tens of thousands of jobs (The New York Times). … In California, the University of Southern California agreed to pay a staggering $1.1 billion in a combination of three settlements with thousands of victims allegedly abused sexually by a former campus gynecologist (The New York Times). … Also in the Golden State, the endangered condor will return to the redwoods for the first time in 100 years thanks to a new release facility, the National Park Service said this week (Sacramento Bee).
And finally … Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners!
Here’s who aced the news coverage puzzle about March’s madness (including some sidebar headlines): Daniel Bachhuber, Gary Breakfield, Judy Kulczycki, Joseph Webster, Michael Bodaken, Pam Manges, Candi Cee, Patrick Kavanagh, Mary Anne McEnery, Richard Clermont, Chris Bodamer, Lesa Davis, Phil Kirstein, Leon Burzynski, Joe Erdmann and John Donato.
They knew that Miami Beach (pictured below) imposed an 8 p.m. spring break curfew after too many youthful street fights and arrests last weekend.
Canines Major and Champ Biden and veteran Democratic policy adviser Gene Sperling made ballyhooed returns to the White House (physically and virtually) this month after absences both short and long. Thus, the correct answer was “all of the above.”
Disgraced lawyer Sidney Powell, in an attempt to get a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit dismissed, presented an unusual defense to the court. She argued that no reasonable person would believe she made factual statements as part of her efforts to overthrow presidential election results last year.
Finally, in true March Madness fashion, Oral Roberts University became the second 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to reach the Sweet 16, joined only by Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.
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