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Two big questions dominate Washington’s week: How will the White House and House Republicans prevent U.S. default, and will chaos erupt at the U.S. southern border after Thursday, when migrants caught at the border seek asylum?
First, the debt ceiling: Observers from Wall Street to Main Street wonder whether months of talking points and scoring-settling about the need to borrow to pay U.S. bills will finally give way to some problem solving. President Biden and GOP leaders plan to meet Tuesday at the White House where everyone will agree that default, estimated as early as June 1, would be unprecedented and economically disastrous. That’s about the extent of their consensus as talks begin primarily between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
As first reported by The Hill, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and more than 40 GOP colleagues warned in a letter last week that they will not back any debt ceiling bill without “budget cuts and structural budget reforms.”
Americans say they want both parties to lift the statutory limit on the nation’s borrowing, and 58 percent say the impasse about the debt limit and federal spending should be de-linked. Only 26 percent in a Washington Post-ABC News poll early this month said Congress should condition payment of the government’s current debts through more borrowing with Republican demands that Biden acquiesce to the party’s favored budget cuts.
McCarthy, who views House passage of a debt ceiling bill as a Republican victory (and a boost for the future of his speakership), now aims to extract agreement for spending cuts and policy reforms, which Biden and Democrats oppose (The Hill).
Biden called the GOP bill, which is dead in the Democrat-controlled Senate, “extreme” during a Friday interview with MSNBC.
“I think that we have to make it clear to the American people that I am prepared to negotiate in detail with their budget. `How much are you going to spend? How much are you going to tax? Where can we cut?’” Biden said.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen repeated on Sunday that Congress must lift the cap on borrowing to avoid calamity. “What to do if Congress fails to meet its responsibility? There are simply no good options,” she told ABC’s “This Week.” She said suggestions that the administration could turn to the 14th Amendment to solve the problem without involving the legislative branch risked a “constitutional crisis,” but she did not rule it out after several opportunities.
Asked about that potential strategy, Biden on Friday said, “I’ve not gotten there yet.”
Yellen’s version on Sunday: “It’s Congress’ job to do this. If they fail to do it, we will have an economic and financial catastrophe that will be of our own making, and there is no action that President Biden and the U.S. Treasury can take to prevent that catastrophe,” adding, “I don’t want to consider emergency options.”
The Hill: 14th Amendment emerges as a last-ditch fix to ward off default.
Another House Democratic fallback is seen as a longshot. The minority in the House has set up a discharge petition plan to attempt to force a vote on raising the debt ceiling. But that scenario would need support from at least four Republicans to break ranks with the majority. “This proposal is just a distraction from Biden’s failures to negotiate in good faith about the debt ceiling,” Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.), whose district broke for Biden in 2020, told The Hill.
NOTE: Morning Report’s Kristina Karisch is off today and returns Tuesday.
▪ The Hill: Ten things Americans should know about the debt limit.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Biden, lawmakers seek to break the impasse on the debt ceiling.
▪ The Washington Post opinion: What would a U.S. default actually look like? “Financial Armageddon,” by columnist Catherine Rampell.
LEADING THE DAY
Barring a last-minute legal challenge, a policy known as Title 42 will expire at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, which means that a policy put in place under the Trump administration to prevent migrants from entering this country, ostensibly tied to the pandemic, will be replaced by a new regulation in which migrants will be presumed ineligible for asylum if they passed through another country en route to the U.S. without seeking protection or if they failed to use other legal pathways to the United States (Reuters).
The lifting of Title 42 has sparked preliminary blame-setting if there’s a migrant surge. It’s also inflamed already deep political divisions and sparked new calls for Congress to tackle reform legislation. Critics who claim the end of Trump’s policy means “open borders,” as well as those who are happy to see the policy expire, agree that U.S. resources at the southern border are seriously strained (The New York Times).
▪ Reuters: What is Title 42 and what happens now?
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Biden’s new immigration policy cements the end of liberal asylum rules.
▪ The Hill: The end of Title 42 dominates.
▪ Fox News Sunday: Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a minute after calling for ways to “reunite Americans,” accused Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of “a flat-out lie or total ignorance” for saying the border will be “closed” after Title 42 ends.
The Hill: Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness program, now before the Supreme Court, looms large over the president’s reelection campaign. Might Biden and Democrats win on the issue among some key voting blocs even if the conservative majority on the high court rules against it?
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) told reporters last week that House Republicans will tackle border security with a measure that blends two GOP bills and aim for a vote on Thursday as Title 42 expires. Scalise described it as the “strongest border security package that Congress has ever taken up” (Politico and Axios).
The Hill’s Mychael Schnell this morning presents a closeup report about Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), a two-term lawmaker who is critical of the Republican Party’s approach to abortion and the GOP’s messaging on firearms in the wake of mass shootings, issues that have come to define her on the national stage. “I often joke that I live on an island back home,” Mace told The Hill in a brief interview at the Capitol. “I would say this experience in stepping out and not toeing the party line is a very — it’s a very lonely experience in the environment that we’re in today.”
The Washington Post found a Republican state lawmaker in Nebraska, Rep. Merv Riepe, who expressed similar assessments after blocking a bill that would impose a near total abortion ban in his conservative state. “I’ve told the party this: My vote belongs to the people of my district, not to the Republican Party,” said Riepe, who describes himself as “pro-life.”
Axios: Extinction of the moderates: It’s very possible that we won’t be seeing many bipartisan dealmakers left in Washington after 2024.
Former President Trump will try to broaden his appeal during a CNN town hall performance on Wednesday, while elsewhere he’s consolidating GOP support, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton. In the Senate, Trump has picked up more endorsements for his presidential bid before Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis formally declares his intentions.
The Hill’s Brett Samuels reports that Trump is giving his advisers headaches with his suggestion he might skip the first GOP primary debate in August. “He thinks he has this insurmountable lead and it’s to everyone else’s benefit but not his to show up,” said David Urban, who advised Trump’s 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. “The other people on that stage will do nothing but whack on the person that’s not there,” he added.
Senate races in the spotlight this week are in California, where an open seat has more than its share of drama ahead for 2024, and in Texas, where incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R) faces a Democratic challenger who can raise money and attract media attention.
In California’s contest, where Democrats are jockeying to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Barbara Lee (D) received a boost after Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a leading establishment Democrat on Capitol Hill, endorsed her. At the same time, California Senate candidate Rep. Katie Porter (D) captured Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) backing, while former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), also a candidate to succeed Feinstein (The Hill).
In Texas where conservative Cruz seeks reelection, Democratic challenger Rep. Colin Allred (Texas) could turn the 2024 contest into one of the most expensive, hard-fought races on the map. Cruz tells The Hill’s Al Weaver that he’s eager to win the race going away and to make his narrow win in 2018 the exception and not the rule. “I feel very confident about this election,” Cruz said in a brief interview. “I fully expect for the Democrats to spend $100 million in nasty attack ads because today’s Democrat Party is angry and they want to express that rage. But for my end, I’m going to keep the race about our substantive records and our visions for the state of Texas.”
📉 More 2024 watch: Here’s data that indicates why Biden and his campaign advisers want the 2024 presidential contest to be a choice and not a referendum: He trails Trump by 7 points in a hypothetical matchup and his overall approval rating has fallen to 36 percent, a new low, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll. His approval is underwater among segments of the electorate that supported him by wide margins in 2020. … The president’s mental sharpness and physical health are doubted, according to the Post-ABC poll. … Black voters support the president — but not with the same enthusiasm they had in 2020 (The Associated Press). … Biden is still easing into campaign mode (The Hill). … Strategist and former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile warned on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that her party and its leaders need to “wake up” to Biden’s poor polling numbers (The Hill). … “My career of 280 years”: Biden jokes about his age as he launches his 2024 campaign (The Associated Press).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ STATE WATCH & TRENDS
👉 The frightening 2023 trend seen in many states continues: In the 127 days since the year began, the U.S. has experienced 201 mass shootings (meaning at least four victims shot) as of Sunday, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The Associated Press and Northeastern University maintain a mass shootings tracker that recorded 22 mass shooting incidents this year, as of Sunday.
Mass shootings have occurred in a shopping mall, a medical office, a private elementary school, two dance studios, numerous private residences, a city bank, a convenience store, a university campus, a Metro station and two farms, according to a partial list compiled by The New York Times and another published by The Associated Press.
”Republican Members of Congress cannot continue to meet this epidemic with a shrug. Tweeted thoughts and prayers are not enough,” the president said on Sunday in a statement while reacting to the deaths of eight shooting victims and the shooter on Saturday at a Dallas outlet mall (The Hill).
The Hill, The Dallas Morning News, Fox News, The Associated Press, The New York Times: What’s known about the 33-year-old suspect in Saturday’s Dallas outlet mall mass shooting. He was killed by law enforcement.
Employment: Many states let you check to see if your company is planning layoffs or closures. Here’s how (Nexstar). Plus, check out three job categories AI won’t take yet (BBC).
Savings: Some states require employers to offer retirement accounts. Experts say that rule ought to be everywhere because nearly half of older Americans have no retirement savings, according to the Census (The Hill).
Judiciary: Democrats are newly focused on state Supreme Court elections in 2024. Here’s why (The Hill).
New York: Following the Empire State’s passage of a ban on natural gas stoves because of harmful air emissions, activists have declared momentum. However, a city-level gas ban in California was struck down in court recently, raising questions about the prospects of such laws (The Hill).
California: It’s called the Golden State, don’t forget. Following a wet winter and torrents of fast-moving snow-melt ripping down gorges and canyons, gold is let loose by the water. A “generational flood” could foreshadow “Gold Rush 2.0” (The Hill).
■ How to overhaul the CDC, by Tom Inglesby and J. Stephen Morrison, guest essayists, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3M4VG0A
■ Bill Barr’s warning on Trump: The former attorney general says his one-time boss lacks the ability to deliver on his policy priorities, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3LKNOjG
■ A No Labels presidential candidate can’t win — but could determine who does, by Al Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3pft9MY
WHERE AND WHEN
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The House will convene at noon on Tuesday.
The Senate meets on Tuesday at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of L. Felice Gorordo to be the U.S. alternate executive director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will speak at 1:45 p.m. about protections for travelers faced with flight delays or cancellations (The Hill). Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will join the president. Biden will host a screening of the Disney film “American Born Chinese” in celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at 7:45 p.m. in the East Room.
Vice President Harris is in Washington and has no public schedule.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken at 3:30 p.m. meets with North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski at the State Department.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 2:30 p.m.
Russia on Sunday night bombarded Ukraine with drone, missile and air strikes aimed at Kyiv and other cities, although Ukraine said it shot down all drones. At least five people were wounded (Reuters, BBC). Ukraine officials say Russia wants to capture Bakhmut in time for its Victory Day holiday on Tuesday, which marks the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany (Reuters).
In Russia’s war against Ukraine, the chief of the Kremlin-backed Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, on Sunday appeared to backtrack from his announcement last week that he would pull his struggling, out-manned fighters from Bakhmut, Ukraine’s war-torn eastern city, by Wednesday (The New York Times).
“We have been promised as much ammunition and armament as we need to keep going,” Prigozhin said in an audio statement released Sunday on the Telegram messaging app. There was no immediate comment from Russia’s defense ministry.
BBC: Russia sparked a “mad panic” over the weekend as it evacuated a town near the contested Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Russia told people to leave 18 settlements in the Zaporizhzhia region ahead of Ukraine’s anticipated spring offensive. The Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, said there were five-hour waits as thousands of vehicles left. The International Atomic Energy Agency warned in a statement that the situation at the plant was “becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.”
South China Morning Post: After Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thrilled many in Europe, now comes a new take: calm down.
Some 5.5 million Ukrainians who fled their country as the war began more than a year ago have returned to big cities as well as small towns. They are resigned, and home is home. “The war is here. There is no safe place in Ukraine. So you might as well get on with it,” said Natalia Medvedieva, a family doctor who tried living in a safer place in western Ukraine with her son but returned to Pokrovsk near the front lines a few months later (The New York Times).
Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan was in Saudi Arabia Sunday to meet with counterparts from the Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and India to discuss a massive rail and port project (Times of Israel). He met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and “thanked the Crown Prince for the support Saudi Arabia has provided to U.S. citizens during the evacuation from Sudan,” according to a White House readout.
And finally … In case you missed it on Saturday, Great Britain threw a big party in London. Morning Report selected one photo that seemed to say it all.
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