by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Friday, March 18, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 235 days away. Election Day 2024 is 963 days away.
Congratulations on making it to the end of the week. This morning, I have updates for you on Ukraine, Covid, and other top stories; a look at what’s going on in Washington today; and then a more positive news story to start your weekend.
The top news you should know to start your day.
- After mostly refraining from attacking western Ukraine throughout its invasion, Russia launched a series of missiles at the western city of Lviv this morning. According to the New York Times, Lviv had served as a “harbor for Ukrainians fleeing violence” until the city’s “relative peace” was shattered this morning.
- The State Department confirmed on Thursday that an American citizen was killed in Ukraine this week. Minnesota native James Hill was one of several people killed while waiting for bread in the northern city of Chernihiv; he was bringing food back for patients at a nearby hospital where his partner was being treated for multiple sclerosis.
- Hill was the second U.S. citizen confirmed to be killed in the bloodshed in Ukraine, following journalist Brent Renaud.CORONAVIRUS
- In Tuesday’s newsletter, I gave you the scoop on the surge in Covid cases across Asia and Europe, and warned that a similar wave could soon arrive in America. Now, Politico is reporting that the situation abroad is starting to spook Biden health officials, who are having “urgent conversations” about “the potential of the U.S. experiencing another wave this spring.”
- According to the Politico report, White House aides have even discussed “the possibility of recommending communities reinstitute mask mandates indoors,” less than a month after the CDC shelved most of its masking recommendations.
- Meanwhile, the Biden administration is launching a full-court press to urge Congress to pass a new Covid aid package, insisting that federal programs offering Americans tests, treatments, and vaccines will end soon without new funds. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she was “very heated up” about the issue, upset at rank-and-file House Democrats who refused to include the aid in the recent spending package because it was paid for by clawing back unused Covid funds from the states.
- The possibility of a new surge and the legislative fight over pandemic aid comes amid a flurry of high-profile positive tests in Washington, including for several lawmakers and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff. The prime minister of Ireland also tested positive shortly after spending time with both Biden and Pelosi, raising new questions about the president’s testing regimen and health protocols.
- The House voted 424-8 on Thursday to pass a bill stripping Russia and Belarus of their “most favored nation” trade status. The status guarantees a country will receive the best possible trading terms; revoking it would pave the way for President Biden to slap high tariffs on imports from the countries.
- North Korea and Cuba are the only two countries currently not given “most favored nation” status by the U.S. The bill still has to pass the Senate, where Republicans are insisting it be paired with a ban on Russian oil imports. President Biden has already instituted such a ban by executive order; Democrats would prefer not to go beyond that, to give Biden flexibility to rescind the ban unilaterally when he sees fit.
- Also: Do you remember the item in Wednesday’s newsletter about the Senate quietly voting to make Daylight Saving Time permanent? Were you curious about how that happened so quickly and easily? BuzzFeed News has the answers, and it turns out even some senators didn’t realize the bill was being passed.CAMPAIGNS
- Here are two names to add to your 2024 watch: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA). Per BuzzFeed, Cotton is appearing more than any other Republican in the early primary states; per Politico, Khanna is being urged by former aides to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to seek the Democratic nod if Biden doesn’t run for another term.
- In Senate campaigns: Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is considering a run for the open seat in Oklahoma this year, while state Attorney General Sean Reyes is preparing to announce a challenge against Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) for the 2024 cycle. Reyes is a top Trump ally; Romney is on of the former president’s fiercest critics in the GOP. SUPREME COURT
- Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson has met with 44 senators as of today, according to former Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), the White House “sherpa” guiding her nomination. Jackson has sat down with every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that will kick off her confirmation hearings on Monday.
- According to the Washington Post, Senate Republicans have “not agreed on a strategy for questioning” Jackson, leading to a wide mix of messages on the nominee from different GOP senators. The Post reported that some Republicans believe it’s best not to put up a fight against Jackson, fearing it could backfire politically to vociferously oppose the first Black female Supreme Court nominee.
What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
- President Biden will speak with Chinese president Xi Jinping on the phone (9am). It will be their first conversation since Russia invaded Ukraine; China is Russia’s top global ally. Later in the day, Biden will hold an event (1:30pm) to promote ARPA-H, the health research agency that was created in the spending package signed this week.
- Finally, Biden will travel to Rehoboth, Beach, Delaware (5:10pm), where he will spend the weekend.
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing (2:30pm).CONGRESS
- The Senate is not in session.
- The House will convene (9am) and consider the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (CROWN) Act, which would prohibit discrimination “based on a person’s hair texture or hairstyle if that style or texture is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.” The chamber will hold an hour of debate on the measure and then vote on its final passage.
- The Supreme Court will hold its weekly conference to discuss pending cases and petitions.
- The United Nations Security Council will meet to discuss the war in Ukraine (10am).
- Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-NH), a potential 2024 presidential contender, will speak at a local GOP event in Concord, New Hampshire (6pm). It will be her first visit of the cycle to the key presidential primary state.
Before I go...
A story to lift your spirits: This NPR report is on the scores of Ukrainians who have refused to leave their pets behind, and on the sense of peace and calm that pets can bring in the darkest of times.
This story was sent to me by a WUTP reader. Have you seen a story in the news that made you feel hopeful or upbeat? Send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org and it might get featured in the newsletter.
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