Lacking votes, Dems plot message on abortion
In politics and beyond, the phrase is “best of the bad options.” That’s where House and Senate Democrats find themselves as they gauge how to deal with the Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion that could strike down 49 years of abortion rights.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday teed up a vote next week on a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade, a move Democrats have widely called for. However, the bill is certain to fail because it needs 60 votes to advance, making it a show vote and something the party will use in messaging to supporters.
“Next week the U.S. Senate is going to vote on legislation to codify a woman’s right to seek abortion into federal law,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
In late February, the Senate rejected a similar bill, 46-48, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voting with the Senate GOP. The new bill includes a couple of changes made to address concerns to win support of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus, including striking a nonbinding “findings” section that referred to abortion restrictions as perpetuating “white supremacy” and called it a “tool of gender oppression” (The Hill).
In essence, the effort by President Biden and Democratic lawmakers these days is wholly rhetorical and, as The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Morgan Chalfant report, lacks a cohesive plan. Since the draft opinion was leaked, Democrats argue that little has been offered in terms of a path forward.
“Why are we so behind the curve on this? Where is the plan? We knew this was coming in theory since [Justice Amy Coney Barrett] joined the court, and in practice since December,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer, who attended an Emily’s List dinner this week that featured Vice President Harris. “I don’t want to hear empty rhetoric about how ‘we won’t go back,’ I want to hear that there is a legislative or federal plan to change things.”
Where that plan could take shape is at the state level where Democratic governors of big states, including California and New York, are promising to protect access to abortion. As for the Biden administration, officials are investigating whether there are ways to help women travel to other states to terminate pregnancies if Roe falls in the coming months (The Hill).
Politico: Vulnerable Senate Democrats campaign as last hope against abortion ban.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday said the individual or those behind the leaked internal draft must be “foolish” if they believe it will affect the court’s work. He spoke during a meeting of lawyers and judges at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference.
The justices will reconvene on Thursday during a closed-door meeting following a brief recess (CNN).
Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters when asked about the future posture of the Justice Department as it relates to abortion, “If the law changes, we will address appropriate next steps at that time. But what will not change is our commitment to defending the rights of women and all Americans” (NBC News).
© Associated Press / Alex Brandon | Supreme Court security on Thursday.
Liberal advocates within the Democratic Party are wondering how to stay relevant in the lead-up to elections this fall amid legislative gridlock, a roadmap from conservatives on the Supreme Court and a win by centrist Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan in Ohio’s Senate primary on Tuesday, reports The Hill’s Hanna Trudo. Ryan easily defeated left-leaning primary challenger Morgan Harper.
Reuters and Fox News: Security has been tightened at the Supreme Court this week following the publication of a draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito on behalf of a conservative majority to overturn Roe v. Wade. Fences went up. A leak investigation is underway at the court. And Alito canceled a planned appearance at a judicial conference on Thursday. Liberal activists reportedly plan demonstrations at some justices’ homes on Wednesday, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has introduced legislation that would bolster security for the members of the high court and their families.
The Hill: New technologies could make it easier for law enforcement across the country to identify and prosecute people providing abortion services in states where it could become illegal.
Paul Kane, The Washington Post: Voters increasingly credit Democrats for a pandemic turnaround, although Americans have shifted their attention to inflation and economic trends that are less positive for Democrats, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. 👉Here’s a new data point to watch: The average mortgage rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan climbed to 5.27 percent, the highest level since 2009 (The Wall Street Journal).
The Hill, The Daily Beast and The Washington Post: Questions about professional standards for House members are back in the headlines because of freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and his pileup of eyebrow-raising controversies. His personal behavior in a nude video clip unearthed by detractors is the latest. The 26-year-old Cawthorn, who has received no disciplinary rebuke from within his caucus, says he was “blackmailed” and will not resign.
■ The New York Times: Draft opinion overturning Roe raises a question: Are more precedents next?
■ Politico: Former President Trump set the stage for Roe’s demise. For now, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
■ NBC News: Former Vice President Mike Pence praises draft opinion that would overturn Roe.
LEADING THE DAY
There have been great and not-so-great press secretaries during the modern era at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Former White House press secretaries Marlin Fitzwater, who served former Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Mike McCurry, who worked for former President Clinton, earned high praise. Sean Spicer, however, struggled during Trump’s first six months in office and soon quit.
A press secretary is tasked to speak for the president, reflect the American people and advocate for the party in power. The job is a high wire mix of offense and defense, a bit of tap dancing and a lot of sword play, and it requires a sophisticated understanding of government, plus the 24/7 news and social media environments.
It is considered one of the toughest jobs in Washington and turnover is expected. Biden on Thursday confirmed that press secretary Jen Psaki will step down May 13 to transition to an on-air role with MSNBC, to be succeeded by her deputy, Karine Jean-Pierre (NBC News).Jean-Pierre, who is well known to members of the White House press corps, will be the first Black woman and the first openly gay person to hold the position.
“Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration,” Biden said while thanking Psaki for “communicating directly and truthfully to the American people and keeping her sense of humor while doing so.”
© Associated Press / Andrew Harnik | White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, 2021.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
There is another effort underway to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials (Reuters). Roughly 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are fighting from tunnels underneath the Azovstal Steel Plant in the war-torn city in a last gasp attempt to keep Russia from seizing Mariupol where hundreds of civilians are still hiding, The Associated Press reports.
The European Union is tweaking its plan for collective oil sanctions against Russia in a bid to win over reluctant states (Reuters).
Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent erroneous claim that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had “Jewish blood,” the Bennett’s office said following a call between the two leaders.
Lavrov had leveled the false statement in an attempt to justify labeling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish,a Nazi, setting off a diplomatic crisis between Moscow and Tel Aviv after the Russian foreign ministry accused Israel of backing Ukrainian “neo-Nazis.”
In total, Putin’s apology is a surprising about-face as the fighting rages on in eastern Ukraine, as Axios points out.
“The Prime Minister accepted President Putin’s apology for Lavrov’s remarks and thanked him for clarifying the President’s attitude towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust,” Bennett’s office said in a statement.
One day earlier, Bennett spoke to Zelensky, who condemned Lavrov’s remarks and gave the Israeli leader an update on the efforts to evacuate Ukrainians out of Mariupol, the port city that has been under siege for weeks.
For now, all eyes are on Monday, which is “Victory Day” in Russia, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany — the biggest patriotic holiday on the Russian calendar. Officials and experts expect Putin to either issue a declaration of war against Ukraine or to herald a battlefield victory, which Mariupol would serve as.
Reuters: Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agree to not acknowledge Russian territorial gains.
Axios: Former President George W. Bush meets virtually with Zelensky, praises him as the “Winston Churchill of our time.”
■ Justice Alito’s invisible women, by Linda Greenhouse, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3FjOFUQ
■ The end of Roe v. Wade will be good for America, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3yiudSF
■ To understand life after Roe v. Wade, look to Texas, by Elizabeth Sepper and Kari White, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/38Ugw1E
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets for a pro forma session at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes Monday at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Ann Phillips to be administrator of the Maritime Administration.
The president heads to United Performance Metals in Hamilton, Ohio, to meet at 3 p.m. with manufacturing leaders while urging Congress in remarks at 3:45 p.m. to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act and support a voluntary compact between large, iconic manufacturers and their smaller U.S.-based suppliers (WCPO ABC9). Biden will fly from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Delaware this evening.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will report at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. employment in April. FactSet data firm projects that employers added 400,000 more jobs last month with an unemployment rate remaining at 3.6 percent (The Associated Press). Analysts will watch today’s report carefully following the Federal Reserve’s decision on Wednesday to raise interest rates to slow the economy and try to calm inflation. Stocks plunged Thursday amid deepening concern about the impact of rising interest rates and global economic headwinds, erasing a massive rally from the previous day (The Hill).
First lady Jill Biden will arrive in Romania at 10 a.m. ET. She will meet with U.S. and NATO military leadership at Mihail Kogălniceanu (MK) Air Base and meet with U.S. troops assigned to the base and participate in a reading event as part of “Joining Forces,” a White House initiative to support military families. About two hours later, Dr. Biden will leave the air base and fly to Bucharest.
Almost 15 million worldwide deaths resulted either directly or indirectly from COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, according to a surprising estimate by the World Health Organization released on Thursday. The new tally is more than double the previously estimated 6 million global fatalities (The Hill). … Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University: 996,964. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 334, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Food and Drug Administration found “no evidence” that prolonging and repeating doses of Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid is more effective against COVID-19. Extending courses of the drug to 10 days or beginning a second round for patients with “recurrent COVID-19 symptoms” has not been shown to have added benefit (The Hill).
The U.S. travel industry, including major airlines and travel groups, urged the White House in a letter on Thursday to abandon COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers traveling to the United States (Reuters). The arguments? High costs; unnecessary.
➤ STATE & CITY WATCH
In Texas and Oklahoma, continued storms on Thursday added to Wednesday night’s tornado damage. There were no reports of serious injuries but the storm system caused flooding in parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas (The Associated Press). … In New Mexico, fire crews worked on Thursday to try to save homes from a massive wildfire. The fire has marched across 258 square miles of high alpine forest and grasslands at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains (The Associated Press). … Boeing will move its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, Va., a Virginia state official confirmed to The Hill. The official noted that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has a relationship with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun from his years in business before entering government, adding the two men discussed the possibility for several months. The announcement is expected next week and there will be state incentives for Boeing (The Hill). … The latest U.S. Census data shows that the homogenous rural areas of the past are growing and diversifying. But in big cities, in the Rust Belt and in the Northeast, diversity has been slower, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson.
➤ THAT WAS THEN
In a 2022 world in which passenger air travel is about as exotic as taking a bus and private-sector rockets travel to the edge of space (and onward to the International Space Station and back), many can still recall the Hindenburg disaster on this day in 1937. Captured on film and viewed by millions worldwide through newsreels and heard on radio during a broadcast that made history, a hydrogen-filled dirigible from aviation’s first airline became a roaring inferno above a New Jersey air field when it encountered a fateful spark. Decades of airship travel came to a fiery end in 32 seconds. Thirty-six people died, but incredibly, many passengers survived (History.com).
© Associated Press / Murray Becker | Hindenburg airship, May 6, 1937, Lakehurst, N.J., U.S. Naval Station.
And finally … 👏🏇👏🏇👏 Morning Report is donning its derby best and giving a standing ovation to grade-A quizzers who knew their Kentucky Derby trivia ahead of the 148th “run for the roses” this weekend.
Riding into the winners circle:Mary Anne McEnery, Ki Harvey, Kevin Greenfield, Patrick Kavanagh, Robert Bradley, John Donato, CJ Horn and Steve James.
They knew that Mine That Bird, who went off at 51-1, who rallied from last to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby, is the longest shot winner of the event in the past century (just ahead of Giacomo’s 50-1).
The final Kentucky Derby raced at the 1½-mile length took place in 1895.
A mint julep relies on bourbon whiskey, simple syrup, mint leaves and crushed ice — not cubed ice (yes, there is a big difference!).
Finally, Queen Elizabeth II, a noted equine fanatic, ventured to Kentucky’s Churchill Downs in 2007.
© Associated Press / Rob Carr | Elizabeth II at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs, 2007.