Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today is Friday! TGIF! 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 as of each morning this week: Monday, 577,045; Tuesday, 577,523; Wednesday, 578,500; Thursday, 579,276; Friday, 580,064.
U.S. consumers, investors, businesses and politicians decided on Thursday to celebrate a cheerier picture of the future. is expected to join the optimists today with remarks about a rebounding economy, evidenced later this morning by what experts say should be an encouraging monthly jobs report for April.
Reuters: 1 million jobs likely added to the U.S. economy last month.
MarketWatch: The Dow climbed to a new record on Thursday ahead of today’s monthly jobs data anticipated at 8:30 a.m. A strengthening economic recovery and effective vaccine rollout in this country have been the main focus for bullish investors.
Weekly filings for unemployment benefits have dropped 33 percent since the start of April, seen as “further confirmation that a recovery in the labor market is well underway,” wrote economists Nancy Vanden Houten and Greg Daco from Oxford Economics, in a report on Thursday. They expect today’s data to show a monthly jump in payroll employment of 775,000.
The president points to COVID-19 vaccinations as America’s get-out-of-jail card for a potentially more normal summer. He repeatedly describes new hiring, restaurant dining, enjoyment of sports and summer getaways with relatives as potential payoffs in July and beyond after more than a year of sacrifices, eased by the benefits of $1.9 trillion in stimulus funding he signed into law.
The Hill: U.S. embrace of coronavirus vaccines hit a temporary ceiling, a new poll suggests.
Senate Majority Leader (D-N.Y.) joined in the enthusiasm on Thursday with a ribbon cutting and a slice of cheesecake at one of his favorite eateries, Junior’s restaurant in Times Square, which was closed during the pandemic (pictured below). New York announced this week that capacity limits for most businesses, including restaurants, will be lifted May 19 (New York Daily News).
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) thanked the people of his state for their “hard work” during the pandemic, announcing on Thursday that the state plans to lift all restrictions on businesses by June 15 (WTOP).
Many Chicago restaurants plan to reopen by the summer, accompanying bookings for conventions that will help buoy hotels. Patrick Houlihan, managing partner at Gibsons Restaurant Group in Chicago, said with more convention groups coming, he’s hired back 95 percent of his staff and expects to need even more (ABC7).
The nation’s capital is a major tourist destination, and the city hopes to recover lost revenue this summer with an upsurge in visitors. Mayor (D) eased some restrictions on nonessential businesses, including restaurants, beginning this month.
Washington, D.C., reported on Thursday that between March 2020 and March of this year, visitor spending in the nation’s capital was down 68 percent, or $6.1 billion, according to Destination DC, the city’s tourism marketing arm. The District lost $477 million in tax revenue from visitor spending, down 48 percent. Washington hotel revenue was down 84 percent, or $2.1 billion. In addition, the city lost $603 million in additional economic impact as a result of 61 canceled citywide conventions and major events in 2020 and this year. The pandemic’s effect on tourism also impacted employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42,000 of the jobs lost in the city were in leisure and hospitality. That is 59 percent of all jobs lost to the pandemic last year (WTOP).
Minnesota will lift nearly all its COVID-19 restrictions just before Memorial Day weekend and drop its statewide mask requirement no later than July 1, Gov. (D) announced on Thursday, saying masks could be jettisoned sooner once 70 percent of residents age 16 and older get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine (The Associated Press).
The upbeat news in the world of vaccines this week came from Pfizer and Moderna, which both announced that their COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in teens, considered a plus for the fall school year. Moderna said on Thursday that its COVID-19 vaccine is 96 percent effective in youngsters between the ages of 12 to 17. The biotech company also said it plans to submit data on its vaccine for adults to the Food and Drug Administration for full approval later this month. Sales of its successful vaccine helped lead to Moderna’s first quarterly profit (CNBC).
More coronavirus news: As of Wednesday, 83 percent of U.S. military installations have lifted COVID-19 restrictions. It’s the closest the Pentagon has been to a return to normalcy since the beginning of the pandemic, reports Federal News Network. In the past week, the Defense Department saw 15 percent of its bases lift travel restrictions, and allow unrestricted travel between installations or even let some service members venture farther off base. Out of the department’s 230 bases, 190 are currently in a position where restrictions are no longer needed. However, the Pentagon and base commanders can reinstate restrictions if cases begin to rise again.
The Washington Football Team announced on Thursday that games will be open to 100 percent stadium capacity for home games this fall, pending continued progress against the coronavirus during the pandemic (Yahoo Sports).
> Vaccine patents: Amid the positive news, there is a political battle brewing over Biden’s push to waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines. As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan notes, the pharmaceutical industry blasted the decision as undermining American innovation and not actually solving the complex problem of global vaccine access, with GOP lawmakers echoing a similar sentiment.
However, Biden’s decision was backed up by progressives, who said that the decision showed the pressure campaign they leveled on the administration had worked.
The Associated Press: Explainer: Why patents on COVID-19 vaccines are so contentious.
Reuters: The European Union is “ready to discuss” COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver as drugmakers push back.
The New York Times: Europe signals it may not support Biden’s call to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents.
The Washington Post: Biden’s vaccine patent waiver to battle COVID-19 abroad is unlikely to boost global supply quickly. “I genuinely think it’s pretty marginal,” says one international health analyst.
In Russia, health authorities gave the green light to a single-dose version of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, raising hopes that it could help achieve herd immunity in the country. The shot is called “Sputnik Light,” and is similar to the first dose of the two-dose Sputnik V jab. It remains unclear how effective the shot is as studies of the vaccine only started in January and are ongoing (The Associated Press).
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LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS & POLITICS: While some Republicans try to keep their eyes on the future, the focus over this week has been squarely on the past as the impending ouster of House Republican Conference Chairwoman (Wyo.) is shining a light on intra party rifts, specifically how to handle Jan. 6 and former .
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the handling of Cheney’s situation in the House could not be any more different than how matters in the upper chamber have been dealt with. There’s no comparison for such a dramatic step on the Senate side as there has been little day-to-day change within the Senate GOP caucus, even though lawmakers there might be under pressure back home.
Instead, Senate Republicans have a different attitude and focus these days: to oppose the Biden agenda. That sentiment was on display on Thursday in Kentucky as Senate Minority Leader (R-Ky.) reiterated that he has no reason to look in the rearview mirror despite multiple attacks from Trump aimed in his direction.
“I’m focused entirely on the present and the future not the past. … My view at the moment is we need to turn this administration into a moderate administration,” McConnell told reporters at a stop when asked if Trump’s criticism was a distraction from the infrastructure debate (The Hill).
As for the looming leadership shakeup in the House, Rep. (R-N.Y.) appeared on former White House and Breitbart hand ’s radio show to project unity within the conference’s ranks amid her push to unseat Cheney next week.
“My vision is to run with support from [Trump] and his coalition of voters, which was the highest number of votes ever won by a Republican nominee,” Stefanik said on the “War Room” podcast on Thursday. “This is also about being one team. And I’m committed to being a voice and sending a clear message that we are one team, and that means working with the president and working with all of our excellent Republican members of Congress” (The Hill).
Notably, Stefanik also amplified election falsehoods during the interview, which she has done a number of times since Biden was declared the winner in November (The Washington Post).
Mike Lillis and Scott Wong, The Hill: Loyalty trumps policy in Stefanik’s rise, Cheney’s fall.
Politico: MAGA world pans Stefanik.
NBC News: Twitter suspends account that was posting Trump statements.
The New York Times: Stalled by a partisan split, Federal Election Commission drops its review of Trump’s hush-money payments to women.
> Florida, Florida, Florida: Rep. ’s (D-Fla.) nascent campaign for the Florida governorship is receiving a tepid reception from some within his own party as he runs in the shadow of some other prominent state Democrats.
As The Hill’s Max Greenwood writes, many Democrats in the state are expressing enthusiasm for Rep. (D-Fla.) and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, both of whom are making clear overtures in the race. Crist’s allies, however, have cautioned against underestimating him, noting that he is a strong fundraiser and his high name-ID among Florida voters, having been in the public eye for decades, headlined by his four-year stint as governor.
Other Democrats, though, have expressed frustration about his campaign, complaining that he is leaving his House seat high and dry while the party scrambles after a number of high profile losses in November. Some are also concerned that his bid could garner the retread label as Crist lost his gubernatorial bid in 2014 to then-Gov. Rick Scott (R), leading some to believe a fresh face could be a good thing this cycle.
Reid Wilson, The Hill: Florida Gov. (R) signs election restriction bill.
The Texas Tribune: Texas GOP’s voting restrictions bill could be rewritten behind closed doors after key House vote.
The New York Times: Arizona’s review of the 2020 vote, ordered by Republican state senators, is riddled with flaws, says Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state.
The Hill: Sen. (D-W.Va.) is pleased he has been rated the most bipartisan senator.
The Hill: Eyeing two health care issues — Medicare’s eligibility age and prescription drug prices — that dominated the 2020 elections, Democrats divide about whether to include health care reforms in Biden’s infrastructure agenda.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Atlanta Mayor (D) won’t run for reelection.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: Secretary of State , traveling in Ukraine on Thursday, told Russia to cease its “reckless and aggressive” actions (BBC and Reuters). His visit came just weeks after Russia deployed thousands of soldiers close to the Ukrainian border.
Speaking alongside President Volodymyr Zelensky, Blinken described Ukraine as a high priority for the Biden administration and said the United States was looking to strengthen security cooperation and assistance between the two countries.
“We are aware that Russia has withdrawn some forces from the border… but we also see that significant forces remain there [and] significant equipment remains there,” Blinken said. He added that the administration was “monitoring the situation very, very closely.”
During an interview on Thursday with Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty journalist Olena Removska, Blinken said, “I think the No. 1 one lesson is the absolute need to remain extremely vigilant against the possibility of reckless actions, aggression from Russia, directed at Ukraine.”
Blinken said the United States sought to be clear with Russia to try to prevent Moscow from invading Ukraine or moving against its citizens. “If any action was taken, it would not be without consequences,” the secretary said, declining to discuss reports of Ukraine’s specific requests for U.S. military defenses. “And at the same time, we’re working very closely with our partners here in Ukraine, to make sure that they have the means necessary to defend Ukraine, defend its territory, defend its people.”
> U.S. – China: The Biden administration is expected to proceed with the Trump administration’s China investment ban (Bloomberg News). The president is likely to find broad support in Congress for a tough stance on China.
> Biden, traveling in Louisiana on Thursday, repeated his pitch to Congress to support his $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan. He deployed some local show-and-tell to advocate for the revitalization of an aging, vital bridge in Lake Charles, La. (NBC News).
“I’ve never seen a Republican or a Democrat road: I just see roads,” the president said, speaking in front of the Calcasieu River Bridge, a 70-year-old, hurricane battered structure that is 20 years older than its intended lifespan.
The bridge is part of Interstate 10, a critical east-to-west artery for transportation and commerce and is in the heart of the nation’s energy corridor, connecting Houston to New Orleans, a route lined with petrochemical refineries.
“It shouldn’t be this hard or take so long to fix a bridge that’s this important. It makes no sense. But the truth is, across the country, we have failed to properly invest in infrastructure for half a century,” Biden said.
He was joined at the Lake Charles event by Mayor Nic Hunter, a Republican who recently wrote an opinion piece with Adrian Perkins, the Democratic mayor of Shreveport, La., arguing that the “American Jobs Plan is needed for Louisiana’s future.” At the airport, Biden was also seen in conversation with Louisiana GOP Sens. and .
The Associated Press: In GOP stronghold Louisiana, Biden pushes for his infrastructure plan.
The Washington Post: Is it infrastructure’s moment? Biden’s transformational ambitions face the head winds of politics and history.
> Havana syndrome: More than a dozen CIA officers serving in multiple overseas locations have returned to the United States to seek care this year after reporting symptoms consistent with “Havana Syndrome,” the mysterious, debilitating illness that is thought to have already afflicted scores of U.S. personnel since 2016, according to current and former U.S. officials and people familiar with the matter. CBS News reports the new suspected incidents occurred in the early months of 2021, and at least one happened as recently as March.
The reported cases on three continents are the latest in what lawmakers of both parties have said is an “increasing” pattern of suspected “attacks” on U.S. officials — which have included diplomats, intelligence officers and military personnel — and which have prompted several government investigations at the CIA, State Department and Pentagon.
Late last month, federal agencies said they are investigating at least two mysterious incidents on U.S. soil, described as invisible attacks reported by American diplomats based in Cuba.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committee said they were briefed last month on the investigation. One of the unexplained attacks occurred in November near the White House and the Ellipse. The person who was sickened by the attack was a National Security Council official (CNN, CNBC).
CNN: An April CIA briefing to lawmakers about suspected energy attacks turned contentious.
The Associated Press: The Pentagon is sending more warplanes to protect the U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan.
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We could see a winter comeback of COVID-19 if we don’t get more Americans vaccinated now, by Leana S. Wen, contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3xSAWAd
How adult children affect their mother’s happiness, Arthur C. Brooks, columnist, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3tjLkxm
At Emergent, we make things you never thought you’d need. A treatment to counteract an opioid overdose. Protection from anthrax, smallpox and botulism. And now, we’re in the fight against COVID-19. Learn more.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Members return to legislative work on Tuesday.
The Senate will reconvene on Monday at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of Andrea Palm to be deputy secretary of Health and Human Services.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:30 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks at 11:30 a.m. in the East Room about the April jobs report. The president will have lunch with Vice President Harris at 12:30 p.m. Both will receive a weekly economic briefing at 1:45 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room. Biden and Harris will meet at 3:15 p.m. with members of the Cabinet focused on the U.S. economy and jobs. The president will travel to Camp David at 5:30 p.m., where he will remain for the weekend with family members (Mother’s Day is Sunday).
Harris at 10 a.m. will virtually host President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico for a bilateral meeting to discuss immigration. At noon, the State Department says the vice president will participate in an online outreach event, “Bolstering U.S. COVID Relief Efforts in India: Perspectives from the Diaspora,” organized by the State Department.
Secretary Blinken at 8:30 a.m. will participate virtually in a United Nations Security Council meeting about multilateralism. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi chairs the session. The debate will be live streamed on UN Web TV.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m., to include Treasury Secretary . The administration’s coronavirus briefing for journalists takes place at 10:30 a.m.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. reports on U.S. employment in April. The unemployment rate in March edged down to 6 percent, and analysts anticipate continued improvement last month as Americans lined up for vaccinations, and more COVID-19 restrictions were lifted for businesses and workers in many cities and states.
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: , who is not shy about commenting on global political issues and trends as he perceives them, on Thursday offered annual remarks about migrants and refugees and denounced “aggressive” nationalism. The pope said the church should not distinguish between “natives and foreigners, residents and guests,” The Associated Press reported. He called on Catholics to act “catholic” in the universal sense, adding that migrants and refugees enrich the faith. … Colombia‘s government is facing massive street protests and criticism over its militarized response while the country’s relationship with the United States is hitting its lowest point in decades. U.S. leaders are reluctant to publicly defend President Iván Duque, as international organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union, accuse Colombian police of brutality in attempting to quell protests, reports The Hill’s Rafael Bernal. … In Brazil, a deadly police shootout that continued from Thursday into Friday in Rio de Janeiro prompted authorities to assert the police successfully eliminated two dozen criminals, while residents and activists claimed human rights abuses (The Associated Press).
➔ STATE WATCH: South Carolina’s House voted on Wednesday to add firing squads as a method of execution in the Palmetto State (The Associated Press).
➔ ROCKETS : A SpaceX prototype rocket completed a high-altitude test Wednesday by safely touching down on a landing pad, a successful landing of the model spacecraft that founder and CEO hopes to eventually send to the moon and Mars. The vehicle, dubbed “Starship,” launched Wednesday in the fifth high-altitude test of a prototype from SpaceX’s Starbase in South Texas (The Hill).
And finally … A round of applause for this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners!
Here’s who aced the news coverage puzzle about current events to kick off the month of May: Joseph Webster, Quintin Reid, Ki Harvey, Patrick Kavanagh, Chuck Schoenenberger, Mary Anne McEnery, Joe Erdmann, Richard Baznik, Pam Manges, Donna Nackers, John van Santen, Mari Rusch, Lori Benso, John Donato, Carol Gwin Brill and Daniel Bachhuber.
They knew that Trump, whose ban from Facebook was upheld on Wednesday, is allowed to use Gab, one of the few platforms that has not barred him.
In 2019, Cheney succeeded Rep. (R-Wash.) as House GOP Conference chair.
Tesla founder Elon Musk was prominently criticized this month for his gig this weekend as host of “Saturday Night Live.”
** Bonus! Quizzers nabbed credit if they told us either one or two Major League Baseball teams (Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves) are allowing 100-percent-capacity crowds. The Rangers allowed full capacity for opening day, while the Braves will welcome a stadium full of baseball fans beginning tonight.
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