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Wake Up To Politics - April 4, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: A historic week
Wake Up To Politics - April 4, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Monday, April 4, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 218 days away. Election Day 2024 is 946 days away.

Today marks 54 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis. If still alive today, King would be 93 years old; he was only 39 when he was assassinated.

What to watch this week: Ketanji Brown Jackson moves towards confirmation

If everything goes as expected, the first Black woman to join the Supreme Court in its 233-year history will be confirmed this week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to vote today to advance the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was tapped by President Biden to fill the seat being vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer.

The panel’s vote is expected to be tied 11-11, along party lines, which means the full Senate will also vote today on a motion to discharge Jackson’s nomination from the committee. That will put the chamber on track to hold a final confirmation vote on Jackson on Thursday or Friday.

With Democrats in control of the Senate, the only suspense is how many Republicans will vote for Jackson’s confirmation.

So far, only one Republican — Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — has announced plans to support Jackson.

Many others who were viewed as possible “yea” votes have signaled their opposition, including Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

Several of the Republicans who have announced plans to oppose Jackson have praised her qualifications and history-making status, but raised objections to her judicial philosophy or other parts of her record.

Blunt, for example, called it a “high point for the country to see her go on the court” in an interview with ABC News this weekend, but said he doesn’t think “she’s the kind of judge that will really do the kind of work that I think needs to be done by the court.”

“I won't be supporting her, but I’ll be joining others in understanding the importance of this moment,” he added.

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is poised to be confirmed this week. (Senate Judiciary Committee)

Who are the Republicans to watch?  

The big two are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT). Both are moderate senators known for breaking with their party; neither have said how they plan to vote on Jackson.

In courting Romney’s vote, Democrats have stressed Jackson’s rulings on religious freedom, per the Washington Post. Meanwhile, Murkowski — up for re-election this November — faces a different set of political considerations.

As the New York Times notes, Alaska’s new election system (where candidates of both parties compete in an open primary, and then the top four vote-getters advance to a ranked-choice general election) scrambles the calculus for Murkowski. In the ranked-choice system, candidates are incentivized to put together broad coalitions — meaning she has to weigh whether it makes more sense to attract Democrats and Independents with a “yea” vote, or conservative Republicans with a “nay.”

Although Romney and Murkowski can vote differently on the discharge motion than the final confirmation vote, today’s procedural vote will offer a clue as to whether the two senators will ultimately come down on Jackson’s nomination.

Catch up

What else you should know this morning.

Ukraine: After weeks of fighting, Russia appears to have (at least temporarily) given up on its goal of capturing Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. As Russian forces retreat from the area, and Ukraine retakes the territory, the full extent of horrors Russia has rained down on the region have moved into fuller view.

  • In particular, the atrocities in the town of Bucha — a Kyiv suburb — have received global attention. According to the town’s mayor, around 270 local residents were found buried in two mass graves; 40 more civilians were lying dead in the street, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
  • The ghastly images from Bucha have led to calls for war crimes investigations and more Western sanctions of Russia. “This is genocide,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said bluntly on CBS News on Sunday.
Dead bodies laying in the streets of Bucha, Ukraine. (Mykhailo Podolyak / Twitter)

January 6 probe: Democrats are growing increasingly impatient with Attorney General Merrick Garland as he oversees the Justice Department probe into the January 6 attack, an investigation some hope will ensnare former President Donald Trump and his close allies.

  • According to the New York Times, President Biden himself confided to advisers as recently as late last year that he believed Trump “was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted.” Biden did not communicate those beliefs to Garland, and the White House said the president plays “no role in investigative priorities or decisions.”

Alaska special election: Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has jumped into the special election to succeed the late Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Palin has already landed a major endorsement: former President Trump, who announced his backing on Sunday.

Policy brief

Every morning, WUTP’s team of contributors rotate to offer a briefing on the latest news in a different policy area.
   It’s Monday, so Davis Giangiulio is here with the week’s top economic headlines:

The U.S. economy added 431,000 jobs in March, continuing its streak of growth. Compared to February 2020, before the pandemic wrecked America’s longest economic expansion, the economy is now just in a hole of 1.5 million lost jobs. A year ago that number was more than 8 million.

The jobs report, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, revealed an unemployment rate of 3.6%, only 0.1% away from the 50-year-low hit before the pandemic. The labor force participation rate, which measures those employed and actively looking for work, only rose slightly in March, demonstrating that people are still returning to the workforce slowly.

For the first time, workers at Amazon have unionized. Amazon employees at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, voted to unionize on Friday  It’s a huge blow to the company, which has fought hard to stop unionization efforts, and just under a year ago defeated another high-profile unionization effort in Alabama.

One union organizer said their goal now is to expand into other warehouses, including another on Staten Island, according to the Associated Press. The win is a bright light for labor, which continued to lose union members in 2021 despite high-profile organizing efforts.

An Amazon warehouse, the new unionization battleground. (Maryland governor’s office)

Is another Covid aid package on the way? After the Biden administration announced last month it would need $30 billion to be able to weather a new variant, Senate negotiators said last week they were close to a deal that could garner enough support to become law. The deal would appear to give a third of that requested figure, just around $10 billion.

Half of the funds would go to therapeutics while the other half would be distributed by the administration. President Joe Biden said in a speech on Wednesday that “we can’t surrender” the progress made against the virus. “Congress, please act,” he pleaded. “You have to act immediately.”

Look ahead

How your leaders in Washington are spending their time today. (All times Eastern)

Biden’s day: Leaving for Washington from Delaware, where he spent the weekend (9:25 am); touching down in Washington (10:20 am); receiving his daily intelligence briefing (11:30 am); delivering remarks on his administration’s investments in the trucking industry (1:45 pm).

  • At the trucking event, Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will highlight the progress made on their “Trucking Action Plan,” which was unveiled in December to strengthen supply chains by expanding the number and quality of American trucking jobs.
  • According to a Biden spokesperson, “there will be some big trucks at the White House” for the event.

Harris’ day: Delivering remarks at a D.C. elementary school to announce the Biden administration’s plans to upgrade American public schools with energy efficient facilities and transportation (5:20 pm).

Also at the White House: Press secretary Jen Psaki will hold the daily press briefing (2:45 pm).

President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg will both speaking at an event on truckers today. (Adam Schultz / Biden campaign)

On the Senate agenda: Most likely, considering a motion to discharge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination from the Judiciary Committee.

  • The chamber can debate the motion for up to four hours — meaning the discharge vote would likely to be held no earlier than 5:30 pm.

On the House agenda: Voting on H.R. 1218, the Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act; H.R. 2501, the Spectrum Coordination Act; H.R. 5657, the Medical Marijuana Research Act; and H.R. 1916, the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act.

Congressional committees to watch: Senate Judiciary will convene (10 am) to debate Jackson’s nomination and vote on whether to send it to the floor.

At the Supreme Court: The justices will release orders on petitions before the court (9:30 am) and opinions on cases they have already heard (10 am).

Links to watch for yourself: Biden speech Psaki briefingSenate sessionHouse sessionSenate Judiciary vote

Before I go...

I always like to close the newsletter on a lighter note. Today, I want to share something fun I was able to do recently:

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of high school students from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who were visiting the nation’s capital.  

I really enjoyed being able to tell them a bit about Wake Up To Politics, and I was very impressed by their sharp questions about the state of politics and media. I mean, one of them even asked me a question about Section 230!

So here’s a shoutout to Ms. Everett’s Political Science class. And here’s a picture of our chat at the Library of Congress:

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe