by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Monday, March 28, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 225 days away. Election Day 2024 is 953 days away.
Three stories driving the week
Here are three key stories that will be driving action in Washington this week. And, no: none of them are about Will Smith and Chris Rock.
1. Biden’s speech in Warsaw. President Biden touched down in Washington on Sunday after four days of meetings and speeches across Europe. But all the political world will be talking about this week is one line from his Saturday address in Warsaw, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
According to the Washington Post, the provocative line — which went beyond the rhetoric generally used by U.S. presidents in referring to their adversaries — was ad-libbed and caught Biden administration officials by surprise. The White House rushed to clarify that the president was not calling for regime change in Russia. Still, reverberations from the speech are likely to continue in the days ahead as lawmakers and foreign leaders continue to condemn his language, scrambling Biden’s diplomatic efforts.
The presidential slip of the tongue comes as Russia and Ukraine prepare for another round of negotiations in Turkey this week. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky signaled Sunday that he would be willing to agree to stay out of NATO as part of a peace deal. Meanwhile, stymied in its goal of retaking Kyiv and other major cities, Russia announced that it is scaling back its ambitions in Ukraine.
2. Ginni Thomas’ texts. Last Friday, the Post and CBS News set Washington ablaze by revealing a tranche of text messages showing Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, urging Trump White House officials to push forward with overturning the results of the 2020 election.
Fallout from the text messages continued this weekend, as NBC News added new reporting on Ginni Thomas’ contacts with Republican lawmakers after the election.
What should you watch for this week? More Democrats calling for Thomas’ husband to recuse himself from cases related to January 6. More pressure on Republicans to comment. More scrutiny of some of the zany theories in Thomas’ texts. And maybe even a subpoena for Thomas to appear before the January 6 committee, a possibility that has created a rift on the panel, per the New York Times.
3. The White House’s new budget. After a week focused on the Ukraine crisis, President Biden’s attention will return to domestic affairs today as he unveils his budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year.
The main piece of news from Biden’s budget announcement is expected to be his proposal of a 20% minimum tax on households worth than $100 million, a new effort to target the richest Americans that Biden hopes will lead to a decrease in the federal deficit of $1 trillion.
Presidential budget proposals are routinely discarded by lawmakers and often bear very little resemblance to the final budget passed by Congress. Still, it will be worth paying attention to how lawmakers respond to Biden’s requests, particularly his proposed tax on the wealthy.
Plus, it will be revealing to see how Biden talks about some of his signature domestic spending plans, many of which have been stalled by opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Biden’s deficit reduction messaging is a clear attempt to placate Manchin; if he outlines a more moderate spending package, it could serve as a starting point for negotiations with Manchin now that the centrist Democrat has expressed interest in coming back to the table on spending talks.
What else you should know this morning.
Congress: “Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) announced Saturday he is resigning from Congress after being convicted of three felonies related to a federal probe of illegal campaign contributions.” Politico
Trump: “Former President Donald Trump rallied in Commerce, Georgia on Saturday, where he touted his hand-picked slate of Republican candidates, ramped up his war of words with one-time ally Gov. Brian Kemp, and doubled down on unfounded conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election.” Peach State Politics
Covid: “The Biden administration is planning to give Americans age 50 or older the option of a second booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccine without recommending outright that they get one, according to several people familiar with the plan.” New York Times
Polls: “Biden’s job approval falls to lowest level of his presidency amid war and inflation fears” NBC News
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 economics headlines:
The effects of higher interest rates are already kicking in. Mortgage rates are currently on track for their fastest 3-month jump since 1994. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has risen nearly a full percentage point since the beginning of the month, and is nearing the 5% mark. Some of the surge could just be tied to inflation, but a particular jump has occurred since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates.
With higher rates, forecasts for home sales are getting cut. Sales were already expected to decline this year, as pending home sales declined for a fourth straight month in February, but the situation is only expected to worsen. A low supply of open homes combined with sky-high demand has already kept prices high, but higher interest rates may cool off that demand. Mortgage refinance demand is also collapsing, down 14% in merely a week.
Meanwhile, Fed Chair Jay Powell hinted that rates will move higher, and possibly at a faster pace. “There is an obvious need to move expeditiously to return the stance of monetary policy to a more neutral level,” Powell said last Monday to the National Association of Business Economists. He added, “if we conclude that it is appropriate to move more aggressively by raising the federal funds rate by more than 25 basis points at a meeting or meetings, we will do so.”
Powell also said global conflict is hurting supply chains and worsening inflation too. The aggressive language in Powell’s speech made Goldman Sachs revise estimates to forecast higher rate hikes at the May and June fed meetings.
After a temporary fall, oil prices are on the rise once again. Brent Crude oil prices fell nearly $30 a barrel, or about 23%, earlier this month as resurgent Covid cases in China resurgent pandemic made some believe the oil importer wouldn’t have as much demand. It made some question why if oil was falling, gas prices weren’t falling too (although gas prices generally lag behind oil prices).
But now the prices of Brent Crude oil are are nearly back to their early March highs. Prices are just under $121 a barrel again, as the European Union considers a ban on Russian oil imports and Saudi Arabian oil production sites were attacked last week. Any hope that there would be relief at the pump soon is quickly fading away.
What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
- President Biden and Vice President Harris will receive their daily intelligence briefing (11:30 am). Later, Biden will deliver remarks (2:45 pm) announcing his Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal.
- First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Bakersfield, California (11:45 am) and deliver remarks at a naturalization ceremony (12:45 pm) in honor of César Chávez Day.
- Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates will deliver the daily White House press briefing (3:30 pm). He will be joined by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Shalanda Young, Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) chair Cecilia Rouse, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
- Bates is standing in for his two bosses — press secretary Jen Psaki and principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, both of whom have tested positive for Covid. CONGRESS
- The Senate will convene (3 pm) and resume consideration of the America COMPETES Act, the House-passed bill to increase U.S. manufacturing of semiconductors in order to boost competition with China.
- The chamber will hold a vote to replace the House-passed text with the Senate version of the measure (5:30 pm), followed by a vote on final passage of the legislation. Because the House and Senate will have passed different versions of the bill, the two chambers are planning to hold a conference committee to craft a compromise bill.
- The House will convene (2 pm) and vote on five pieces of legislation: the Better Cybercrime Metrics Act, the Homicide Victims’ Families’ Rights Act, the Prohibiting Punishment of Acquitted Conduct Act, the COVID-19 American History Project Act, and a Senate-passed resolution authorizing the placement of statues of Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg — the first two female Supreme Court justices — at the Capitol.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet (3 pm) to consider Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination. Republicans on the committee will make a motion to postpone the panel’s vote on her nomination for one week, which will be granted, per committee rules.
- The House January 6 Committee will meet (7:30 pm) to vote on recommending former Trump advisers Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino be held in contempt by the House. Navarro and Scavino have both ignored subpoenas from the panel; if the full House agrees to hold them in contempt, the chamber will have approved contempt citations against four Trump allies as part of the January 6 investigation.COURTS
- The Supreme Court will release orders (9:30 am) and then convene for an argument session (10 am). The court will hear arguments in LeDure v. Union Pacific Railroad Co. and Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon.
Before I go...
Something to make you smile: Troy Kotsur became the first deaf man ever to win an Oscar last night, taking home the statue for his role in the film “CODA.” The movie’s title is an acronym for “child of deaf adults”; it tells the story of a teenage girl who is the only hearing member of her family.
You can watch his acceptance speech by clicking the image below; in it, Kotsur thanked his father (“You are my hero”) and dedicated his victory to the deaf community (“This is our moment”).
The Oscars audience gave Kotsur a silent standing ovasion, signing applause with their hands. Even his ASL interpreter was crying during the speech.
And in case you thought there wasn’t a political angle: Kotsur also thanked “President Joe and Dr. Jill” for hosting the “CODA” cast at the White House last week. Per the Los Angeles Times, Biden told the cast, “I assume you understand the impact you had on the whole country. It helped so many people.”
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