Wake Up To Politics - March 16, 2022
by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 237 days away. Election Day 2024 is 965 days away.
Happy Wednesday. The format of the newsletter is just a little different this morning. Email me with your likes and dislikes.
But it still includes what you always expect from WUTP: the main news to know from the day before, and what to watch in the day ahead. Plus, read until the last section to see something new that I’m hoping to include more often, in response to reader demand: a story from the news that made me hopeful today.
Today’s story is about two teenagers who created an amazing website to help Ukrainian refugees. I’m definitely hoping to highlight more stories like that of young people making a difference — but I also want to hear from you. What are you reading that’s brightening your day? Send me a link, and it might get featured in the newsletter.
What Zelensky will tell Congress
As Russian bombs rain down on his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will virtually address Congress at 9 a.m. Eastern Time today.
Zelensky, a comedian-turned-politician who has gained worldwide admiration for his leadership during Russia’s invasion of his country, is expected to thank the U.S. for its support throughout the war. But his speech is also expected to include an impassioned plea for more.
Specifically, the Ukrainian leader is likely to push lawmakers to support two steps that President Biden has resisted so far: enforcing a no-fly zone above Ukraine and aiding the transfer of Polish fighter jets to the country.
The Biden administration has pushed back against calls for a no-fly zone, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki noting on Tuesday that it “essentially means us shooting down Russian planes and them potentially shooting back at us.” (A no-fly zone would prohibit any Russian aircraft from flying over Ukraine; if one were to be installed by the U.S., it would require the American military to be prepared to fire at Russian warplanes to enforce it.)
“That’s called ‘World War Three,’” Biden himself pointedly said of the idea last week.
The U.S. has also rejected Poland’s offer to oversee the transfer of the country’s Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, similarly viewing the step — which would require the U.S. military to directly fly equipment into the war zone — as too escalatory.
In pushing back on those fears in his speech today, Zelensky could get personal. That’s what he did in a virtual address to the Canadian parliament on Tuesday, calling out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by his first name.
“Justin, can you imagine you and your children hearing all these severe explosions, the bombing of the airport, the bombing of the Ottawa airport?” Zelensky asked. “Cruise missiles are falling down and your children are asking you ‘What happened?’”
“Please, close the sky,” he begged, calling for a no-fly zone.
Zelensky will similarly “name and shame” in his address today, an adviser told Politico, while issuing a call for lawmakers to “wake up before it’s too late.”
Biden will also deliver remarks on Ukraine today, although he won’t deliver on Zelensky’s requests. According to the Wall Street Journal, the president will announce plans to send about $1 billion in military assistance to Ukraine. The new funds will come from the $13.6 billion aid package he signed into law on Tuesday, which also included humanitarian and economic assistance for the country.
Per the Journal, the $1 billion Biden will announce is slated to fund military equipment such as “antiarmor and antiair systems, including portable air defenses such as Javelins and Stingers.” ($200 million of the $1 billion was already announced this weekend.)
There are no signs, however, that Biden will announce plans to step in to set up a no-fly zone or transfer the Polish fighter jets Zelensky is calling for.
Here’s what happened yesterday.
- The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia traveled to Kyiv in a show of solidarity with Ukraine. The visit came as as Russian missiles have continued to strike closer to NATO territory.
- President Biden announced plans to travel to Brussels, Belgium next week for a special NATO summit to discuss the Russian invasion.
- Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky expressed tepid hope for peace talks with Russia, saying there was “definitely room for compromise.” Zelensky also acknowledged that Ukraine will likely never join NATO; one of Russia’s chief demands has been that Ukraine remain out of the alliance.
- The U.S. announced new sanctions against Russian officials and the president of Belarus, who has aided the invasion. In response, Russia announced retaliatory sanctions against President Biden and top members of his Cabinet, as well as his son Hunter.
- Fox News announced that two journalists working for the network — cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and freelancer Oleksandra Kuvshynova — were killed while covering the war in Ukraine. A third Fox employee, correspondent Benjamin Hall, was also injured; another American journalist, Brent Renaud, was also killed in a separate incident in Kyiv over the weekend.
— By Miles Hession, global contributor
- Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff tested positive for Covid-19. Vice President Kamala Harris — who was with President Biden earlier in the day — has so far tested negative. Meanwhile, nine House Democrats (many of whom were with Biden at a party retreat last week) have tested positive in the five days.
- Pfizer and BioNTech requested emergency authorization for a second Covid-19 booster shot for people 65 and older. The effort to boost immunity among more vulnerable Americans comes as case levels spike in Europe and Asia.
- The White House is making an aggressive push for Congress to authorize $15.6 billion in new Covid-19 funding, after money to combat the pandemic was stripped out of a spending bill passed last week. Biden aides says that without the money, the government’s ability to fund Covid tests and treatments will be significantly impaired. Republicans have opposed the request.CONGRESS
- The Senate voted by unanimous consent to pass the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make Daylight Saving Time permanent. The House has yet to act on the measure, but if it’s passed there as well, the practice of changing our clocks twice a year would end. “Americans want more sunshine and less depression,” Sen. Patt Murray (D-WA) said approvingly.
- The upper chamber also voted 57-40 in favor of a resolution by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to eliminate the federal mask mandate on public transportation and unanimously for a resolution condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin for “crimes against humanity.”
What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
- President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9:30am), deliver remarks on new security assistance to Ukraine (11:45am), deliver remarks at an event celebrating the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (1:45pm), and deliver remarks at The Ireland Fund’s annual gala (7:45pm).
- Vice President Harris will deliver remarks on “making communities safer,” with an emphasis on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs (3pm). Many HBCUs across the country received bomb threats last month.
- First Lady Jill Biden will attend a meeting of her husband’s new “Cancer Cabinet,” as part of the Biden administration’s “Cancer Moonshot” effort (4:15pm).
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing (2:30pm).
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will virtually address Congress (9am).
- The Senate will hold cloture votes to advance four district judge nominees.
- The House will vote on H.Res. 979, which will allow for consideration later in the week of the FAIR Act (which would prohibit forced arbitration for employment, consumer, or civil rights claims) and the CROWN Act (which would prohibit discrimination based on hair appearance).
- Later in the day, the House may also vote under “suspension of the rules” on the Save the Liberty Theatre Act, the Japanese American WWII History Network Act, and a measure creating the El Paso Community Healing Garden National Memorial.
- The Supreme Court is not in session.
- The trial of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) will kick off at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Fortenberry has been charged with lying to the FBI about donations his campaign illegally received from a foreign donor.
- Fortenberry will be the first sitting member of Congress on trial since then-Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) in 2016. The trial is being held in Los Angeles because the donations in question were tied to a fundraising event held in the city.
In Monday’s newsletter, I misstated the amount of new military aid President Biden announced the U.S. would be sending to Ukraine. The correct amount was $200 million.
My apologies for the error, and thanks to all of you who pointed it out!
Before I go...
One fact that stuck with me: Every minute since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, 55 more children have become refugees, according to UNICEF.
One thing that caught my eye: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — who has blocked his party’s social spending and voting rights packages — recently met for a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, per Axios. The duo reportedly “reset their strained relationship,” but Schumer was unable to prod Manchin to bend on his positions.
One story that gave me hope: Two Harvard teens created a “super fast, stripped-down version of Airbnb” that matches Ukrainian refugees with people around the world offering them places to stay. The website is UkraineTakeShelter.com. Read more from the Washington Post.
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Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.