by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Friday, January 28, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 284 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,012 days away.
Happy Friday! Before heading into the weekend, here’s the latest on the three key stories that drove this week. We’ve been following each one closely at Wake Up To Politics and will continue to — so let’s get caught up on the state of play for each story as the week comes to a close:
The Supreme Court vacancy
— Justice Stephen Breyer made his retirement official on Thursday, submitting a formal letter to President Biden and appearing alongside him at a White House event.
— “I’ve made no decision except one,” Biden said of his nominee to succeed Breyer. “The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity, and that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to United States Supreme Court.”
— Biden said he would announce his nominee by the end of February. Democrats are hoping to move quickly from there: per the Washington Post, the “confirmation process that could be as short as the four weeks it took Republicans” to confirm Amy Coney Barrett in 2020. Breyer will remain on the bench until June, but Democrats hope to have his successor in place well before then.
— Democrats have stayed united on every one of Biden’s judicial picks so far, suggesting his Supreme Court pick should face little trouble receiving the Senate majority needed to be confirmed. Some Republicans such as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) are seen as possible supporters as well, although others in the party have blasted Biden for his pledge to name a Black woman.
The Ukraine crisis
— President Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday as Russia’s troop presence on its border with Ukraine continues to grow. A senior Ukrainian official told CNN that the call “did not go well” and that Biden told Zelensky that a Russian invasion was “now virtually certain.” The White House disputed that account, saying that Biden merely referred to an invasion as a “distinct possibility.”
— As the crisis mounts, the U.S. and Russia have been engaged in a last gasp of diplomacy. U.S. officials sent a written response to Russia’s demands on Wednesday, but the Kremlin said Thursday that there was “little ground for optimism” after the exchange, as the U.S. rejected Russia’s core demands of leaving Ukraine and other Eastern European countries out of the NATO alliance.
— With the threat of a Russian attack looming, Biden has been hurriedly trying to rally NATO allies to stand united behind Ukraine. He has run into some trouble, with some Western countries such as Germany hesitant to break ties with Russia. The U.S. is also putting up something less than a united front domestically, with some Trump-allied Republican lawmakers — urged on by Fox News host Tucker Carlson — expressing more sympathy with Russia than Ukraine.
— The White House celebrated on Thursday as they received some promising economic news: America’s gross domestic product grew by 5.7% in 2021, the biggest one-year increase for the nation’s economy since 1984.
— But a Commerce Department report this morning offered a look at some of the economic indicators yet to improve: consumer spending fell by 0.6% in December, while inflation surged at its fastest pace since 1982.
— President Biden will speak about the economy in Pittsburgh today. Highlighting Biden’s murky political standing, a pair of leading Pennsylvania Democrats are opting not to join him at the event. Meanwhile, in a metaphor Biden will almost certainly seize on as he discusses his infrastructure package, a bridge in the city collapsed this morning ahead of the president’s visit.
Another global threat to watch. “North Korea confirmed launches of four missiles this week, as Kim Jong Un ramped up weapons-testing to a record pace in an effort to signal displeasure with the U.S. over economic sanctions.” Bloomberg
- Kim has now fired as many missiles this month as he did in all of last year.
New polling from a key swing state. “President Joe Biden’s approval rating has fallen off a cliff in Georgia, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released Thursday that showed just one-third of registered voters approve of the Democrat’s job performance.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- Biden’s approval rating in Georgia dropped from 51% in May to 34% this month, a blaring warning sign for Democrats in a state with key Senate and gubernatorial elections in 2024.
Omicron begins to peter out. “As of Wednesday, the United States was reporting more than 650,000 new cases daily, on average, down from more than 800,000 two weeks ago. Deaths continue to rise, at more than 2,300 per day, on average, but hospitalizations seem to be nearing a plateau, at about 155,000 per day, on average.” New York Times
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10:15 a.m. Then, at 11:10 a.m., he will travel from the White House to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, touching down at 12:20 p.m.
- Once in Pittsburgh, at 1:25 p.m., Biden will visit Carnegie Mellon University. At 2 p.m., he will deliver remarks at the university. Biden will speak about “his vision to rebuild America’s economy for the 21st century,” while highlighting the bipartisan infrastructure law and his administration’s efforts to improve American supply chains, manufacturing, and union jobs.
- Biden will then leave Pittsburgh at 3:05 p.m. and return back at the White House at 4:20 p.m.
- White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Pittsburgh.
The House and Senate are both on recess for the week. The House will briefly convene at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session — a quick meeting where one member comes to gavel the chamber in, and then promptly gavels it out. No business is conducted during such sessions, which are only held to fulfill the chamber’s constitutional requirements of meeting every three days.
The Supreme Court does not have any oral arguments or conferences scheduled this week.
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