by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Thursday, March 31, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 222 days away. Election Day 2024 is 950 days away.
The top stories you should know this morning.
Biden’s gas announcement: President Biden is planning to release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to increase the global oil supply and lower prices at the pump. Gas prices have skyrocketed amid supply disruptions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
- Biden is expected to announce the move in a speech later today. According to Bloomberg, the president may release as much as 180 million barrels in total from the reserve.
Changes to immigration policy: The Biden administration is also preparing to lift Title 42, the pandemic-era order issued in March 2020 to immediately turn away migrants requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.
- More than 1.7 million migrants have been blocked from crossing the border due to Title 42. According to NBC News, the expiration of the order will take effect on May 23. After that, the U.S. will go back to processing asylum claims instead of turning away migrants automatically.
- Immigration activists applauded the move, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — including the two Democratic senators from Arizona — warned that the U.S. may not be prepared for the influx of migrants who are expected to stream across the border as a result.
The latest in the January 6 probe: According to the New York Times and the Washington Post, the Justice Department is expanding its January 6 investigation beyond just prosecuting those who entered the Capitol during the riot.
- Now, the DOJ is also investigating the finances and organization of the Trump rally that preceded the attack, as well as the broader efforts by Trump and his allies to block the Electoral College certification of Biden’s victory.
- Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that Trump did use an official White House phone to make at least one call during the January 6 attack — despite the 7-hour gap in recorded conversations on White House logs from that day. All presidential calls from official phones are supposed to be recorded on the logs.
Another high-profile investigation: The federal probe into Hunter Biden’s business activities has “gained steam in recent months,” per CNN. The network reported that “a flurry of witnesses” have recently been called to give testimony in the investigation.
- The Justice Department has been investigating whether the president’s son and his associates “violated money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying laws, as well as firearm and other regulations,” according to the network.
- Investigators are reportedly eying the younger Biden’s work in both China and Ukraine; the Washington Post reported Wednesday on new documents outlining his multi-million dollar deals in China.
A Biden nominee goes down: David Weil, who had been tapped to lead the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, became the first Biden nominee to be defeated on the Senate floor on Wednesday.
- Weil was rejected in a 47-53 vote, with opposition from Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly (AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), and Joe Manchin (WV). The nominee faced criticism from his time holding the same post in the Obama administration, particularly for his push to require “gig workers” — such as Uber and Lyft drivers — be classified as full employees and not “independent contractors.”
Cawthorn gets a talking-to: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) sharply criticized Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) on Wednesday, after the freshman lawmaker claimed in a podcast interview that unnamed members of Congress had invited him to an orgy and to use drugs with them.
- McCarthy told reporters that Cawthorn admitted to him in a meeting that the claims were “exaggerated.” Labeling Cawthorn’s comments “unacceptable,” McCarthy added: “I just told him he’s lost my trust, he’s gonna have to earn it back.”
- Cawthorn, the youngest member of Congress at age 26, is also facing trouble back home as he stares down seven primary challengers. Frustrated with the Trump ally’s antics, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) endorsed Cawthorn’s main opponent on Wednesday, a rare rebuke from a U.S. senator against a home-state House member of his own party.
The Supreme Court agreed this week to hear two new cases next term. In one of the cases, it will reconsider a California law that requires in-state pigs to have roaming space if they will later be sold as pork. The justices will determine whether the law violates the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause, something which the state of California and animal rights activists strenuously deny.
The court also agreed to hear a copyright dispute over Andy Warhol’s paintings of Prince, which the Wall Street Journal describes as “a closely watched appeal in the art world.” The case involves a long-running dispute between the Andy Warhol Foundation and photographer Patricia Goldsmith over a series of pop art paintings that Warhol made based on her images. Though Goldsmith feels that he infringed her copyright, his foundation argues that his paintings constituted a permissible “fair use.”
The Colorado Supreme Court struck down part of a state cyberbullying law on Monday for violating free speech, reports the Denver Post. Known as “Kiana Arellano’s Law” after a teenager who attempted suicide in 2015, the statute had made it a misdemeanor to “intend to harass” someone online. Though the justices acknowledged that this provision was written with good intentions, they ruled unanimously that it infringed on free speech protections in both the state and federal constitutions.
“The primary concern here isn’t the invasive medium the government seeks to regulate — omnipresent electronic communication — but how much the statute impinges on or potentially chills speech,” wrote Justice William Hood in his opinion. The court left the rest of the cyberbullying statute intact, including a section that forbids online communication that “threaten[s] bodily injury or property damage.”
A few more headlines:
— Ketanji Brown Jackson seems to be on track for Supreme Court confirmation by the end of next week, according to the Washington Post.
— A national survey released Wednesday by Marquette Law School found that 66% of American adults support Jackson’s confirmation.
— Planned Parenthood has urged the Idaho Supreme Court to block a new law banning abortions after six weeks, calling it “both unconstitutional and unwise.”
How your leaders in Washington are spending their time today. (All times Eastern)
Biden’s day: Receiving his daily intelligence briefing (10:15 am), delivering remarks on his efforts to lower gas prices (1:30 pm).
Harris’ day: Joining Biden for his intel briefing (10:15 am).
Also at the White House: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will meet with Amy Schneider, the first openly transgender “Jeopardy!” champion, in honor of Transgender Day of Visibility.
- Plus, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield will hold the daily press briefing (3 pm).
On the Senate agenda: Voting to confirm two Biden judicial nominees... Sarah Geraghty (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia) and Georgette Castner (to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey).
- Also, the chamber will hold a procedural vote on H.R. 4373, which will be used as the legislative vehicle for the as-yet-completed Covid relief package if the two parties are able to ink a compromise.
On the House agenda: Kicking off debate on H.R. 6833, the Affordable Insulin Now Act. The bill would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 a month for all Americans with health insurance.
- As the House begins debate on its bill, a bipartisan group is working in the Senate to craft a deal on a parallel measure to lower insulin prices.
- Also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference (10:45 am).
Before I go...
Here’s something cool: The Hubble telescope has spotted the most distant star that’s ever been observed.
The star — nicknamed Earendel, derived from the Old English word for “morning star” or “rising light” — is 28 billion light-year away. Per CNN, astronomers believe the star “could be between 50 to 500 times more massive than our sun, and millions of times brighter.”
Earendel existed within the first billion years after the universe’s birth in the Big Bang. That makes it 8.2 billion years older than the sun and 12.1 billion years older than Earth’s first animals, The Verge notes.
Here’s a pic snapped by Hubble of the star system, via NASA:
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