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The Hill’s Morning Report – GOP trio to back Jackson for high court


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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson cemented her impending confirmation to the Supreme Court as Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced their support for her nomination on Monday. Their votes later this week will help seat the first Black woman nominated to the high court. 

The GOP pair revealed their respective backing for Jackson within minutes of each other on Monday evening, bringing the total number of Senate Republicans crossing the aisle to at least three. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) threw her weight behind Jackson last week (The Hill).

“After multiple in-depth conversations with Judge Jackson and deliberative review of her record and recent hearings, I will support her historic nomination to be an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Murkowski, who is in a tough race for reelection. “My support rests on Judge Jackson’s qualifications, which no one questions; her demonstrated judicial independence; her demeanor and temperament; and the important perspective she would bring to the court as a replacement for Justice [Stephen] Breyer.”

Romney — who was the only Senate Republican to vote in favor of former President Trump’s second impeachment after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — called the nominee “a well-qualified jurist and a person of honor.” His term ends in 2024.

“While I do not expect to agree with every decision she may make on the Court, I believe that she more than meets the standard of excellence and integrity,” he said.

A narrowly split confirmation vote shaping up for President Biden’s nominee holds important implications for both parties. For Democrats, the show of support is a big win for the president. His White House confirmation team had targeted Murkowski, Romney and Collins as the most likely Republicans to cross party lines in the Senate. 

Last year, Collins and Murkowski voted for Jackson to join the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals. While Romney voted in opposition, he offered hints in recent weeks that he could back Jackson when her Supreme Court nomination reached the floor. Shortly after Biden tapped the judge to succeed the retiring Breyer, Romney said her nomination represented “a historic occasion and merits careful review” (CNN).

For Republicans, the implications are purely political. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sought to keep GOP defections to a minimum. There is a good chance 47 other Senate Republicans will vote against Jackson’s nomination. But they understand she will win enough votes for a lifetime appointment at age 51, make history but not alter the conservative makeup of the 6-3 court as Breyer retires.  

The bottom line: The decisions by Murkowski and Romney give any other Senate Republican a pass to vote against Jackson because she appears to be a shoo-in to succeed Breyer.  

The one-two step by the senators occurs shortly after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11 to 11 on Jackson’s nomination, the first time the panel has tied on a Supreme Court selection since Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. The deadline necessitated a formal discharge of her nomination from committee by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), marking the first such move for a high court pick since 1853 (The Hill).

The New York Times: Two more Republicans back Jackson as Senate moves toward confirmation.

The Hill: Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), top Republican on Senate Judiciary Committee, opposes Jackson nomination.

The Hill: Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who is running for reelection, said he will vote to confirm Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Politico: Former Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) got Jackson to the Supreme Court precipice. He’s also sherpa-ing himself.

It was also a busy Monday on the legislative side as Senate negotiators struck a deal on an elusive $10 billion COVID-19 relief package that will allow the U.S. to expand the national capacity for tests, vaccines, therapeutics and other supplies. 

As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan ever so eloquently notes, the White House has long clamored for new funds to combat the virus, having initially requested $30 billion in relief, a total that was nearly chopped in half but subsequently dropped from the year-end omnibus spending bill after a revolt by House Democrats over how repurposed funds would have been clawed back and redistributed (The Hill). 

Most notably, the package unveiled by Schumer and Romney on Monday does not include $5 billion intended for the global virus response because of disagreements about how to pay for help for poor countries. The lack of funds is a blow to efforts to vaccinate the world, which experts say is key to preventing new mutations of the coronavirus, which, in turn, can spread to the United States.

Biden supports the relief bill, Schumer noted in a statement. The majority leader said he is preparing a second supplemental measure that could deal with continuing COVID-19 response needs as well as increased assistance to Ukraine.

“It is my intention for the Senate to consider a bipartisan International appropriations package that could include additional aid for Ukraine as well as funding to address COVID-19 and food insecurity globally,” Schumer said. 

Included in the $10 billion proposal is at least $5 billion to develop and procure therapeutics and roughly $750 million to fight future variants and build up vaccine manufacturing (The Washington Post).

CORONAVIRUS DATA: Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week, according to Johns Hopkins: Monday, 982,565.; Tuesday, 997,129.The Centers for Disease Control reports that U.S. fatalities from COVID-19 have gradually fallen to an average of 572 a day.

© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, March 29.


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LEADING THE DAY

UKRAINE CRISIS: Biden on Monday pinned “war criminal” to RussianPresident Vladimir Putin’s résumé, alongside other descriptors he’s used, including “autocrat,” “killer” and “thug.”

Horrified, like many of his global counterparts, after viewing images of murdered Ukrainian civilians lying in the streets of Bucha, a Kyiv suburb, many of them bound and allegedly shot by Russian forces, Biden said the United States is preparing more sanctions aimed at Moscow and is assisting the international probe of alleged war crimes carried out during Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian president should be held responsible, Biden told reporters, vowing to continue to supply weapons to Ukraine. “This guy is brutal and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it,” he added. “He is a war criminal” (The Associated Press).

The president stopped short of saying Putin is guilty of genocide, although that legally complex and exceedingly rare charge against a head of government is part of the discussion underway behind closed doors at the International Criminal Court. Moscow does not recognize the international tribunal at The Hague. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, “We have not yet seen a level of systematic deprivation of life of the Ukrainian people to rise to level of genocide.”

Reuters explainer: How could Putin be prosecuted for war crimes in Ukraine? 

The U.S. also said it will ask the United Nations this week to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is yet another move to isolate Moscow (NPR). Germany, France and Denmark said they will expel Russian diplomats because of the Bucha atrocities (Axios, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters).   

Alarm about the reported wanton killing of noncombatant children and adults, which Russia denies, reinforced calls to countries to squeeze Russia anew where the pain of sanctions is most keenly felt in Moscow — with its exports of oil and natural gas. 

“We are the first [European Union] country among Gazprom’s supply countries to gain independence from Russian gas supplies,” Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys said in a statement. It’s unclear if Lithuania’s success can be replicated quickly elsewhere in Europe (The Hill).

Biden’s repeated condemnations of Putin as a war criminal raise the stakes for any future talks about Ukraine’s future that might also involve tacit agreement among NATO members.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a CBS interview with “Face the Nation” broadcast on Sunday that as much as he recoils from the idea of negotiating with Putin after seeing the destruction and Bucha carnage, which he labeled as genocide, he has no choice as president other than to pursue a dialogue to end the war. Talks between Zelensky and Putin are not imminent.

“It’s difficult to say how, after … what has been done, we can have any kind of negotiations with Russia. That’s on the personal level. But as a president, I have to do it. Any war has to end. Just end. I’m not talking about ending this with peace, because peace in this situation, when there are thousands of people killed, is something that I’m not fine with. But there is no … other way,” Zelensky said. “It’s important to have the agreement between the two sides and understanding or at least the desire to understand that we need to have a dialogue, because we’re going to stand until the end.”

Zelensky on Monday left his fortified bunker in Kyiv to travel to the city’s apocalyptic suburb, where civilians apparently fell where they stood after being shot, and mass graves witnessed by CNN contained hundreds of dead. Zelensky, surrounded by Ukrainian security and wearing a flak jacket but no helmet, told journalists with him that “the longer the Russian Federation delays” talks with Ukraine, the worse the situation becomes (CNN).

Reuters: Zelensky said he will address the U.N. Security Council today.

The Hill: Atrocities raise pressure on U.S. to hold Putin accountable. 

© Associated Press / Efrem Lukatsky | Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bucha near Kyiv on Monday.

******

MORE IN CONGRESS: Biden’s migration policies and acceptance of more asylum-seekers shine a spotlight in the Senate on immigration issues, which is another sign the president is looking past the midterms and to his own reelection, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has called for immigration reform legislation, an endeavor that has failed in the Senate through multiple administrations. Schumer has shown no interest in diving into immigration ahead of the November elections. 

Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri, all GOP-led states, on Monday announced they filed suit to try to stop the Biden administration’s planned May 23 lifting of a public health immigration order known as Title 42, which was implemented during the Trump administration during the outset of the COVID-19 emergency. The order has been used to expel a majority of migrants at the U.S. southern border because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and other health risks. 

The three states argue the Biden administration is acting unlawfully with potentially damaging repercussions for states, including what Republicans term “a lawless surge” at the border (Fox News and The Hill). 

How the administration handles migrants and asylum-seekers remains a prominent theme among Republican candidates facing voters next fall. As The Hill’s Emily Brooks and Julia Manchester report, this is one of the rare instances where Republicans want to keep a COVID-19-induced restriction in place.

The Hill: The House on Monday passed legislation to support medical marijuana research.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Trumpis setting up a new test of his power in the party, and that test’s name is Sarah Palin.

Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and ex-Alaska governor, shocked much of the political world by throwing her hat into the ring to replace the late Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) minutes before the filing deadline on Friday. Trump endorsed her candidacy two days later, a callback to Palin’s endorsement ahead of the Iowa caucuses six years ago that helped boost his conservative bona fides. 

However, Trump’s track record so far this year demonstrates that his endorsement is not a field-clearer. Some candidates supported by the former president have struggled to gain traction. As Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, their experiences in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and Pennsylvania fuel doubts about the former president’s political judgment and sway.

Headlining that list is former Sen. David Perdue’s (R) gubernatorial primary bid against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), Rep. Ted Budd’s (R-N.C.) Senate campaign in North Carolina and Rep. Mo Brooks’s (R-Ala.) efforts that led Trump to rescind his endorsement in the Alabama Senate race. In addition, Trump backed Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania, only to see Parnell drop out months later due to a custody battle. 

Palin is one of 51 candidates running for the at-large seat. The first round in the special election takes place on June 11, with the top four candidates, regardless of party affiliation, moving on to a runoff on Aug. 16 (The Hill).

The Associated Press: Stock tied to Trump social firm drops on report of turmoil.

The Hill: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), state Democrats reach redistricting deal.

The Hill: Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host their granddaughter’s wedding reception at the White House in November. 

OPINION

The end of the COVID emergency could mean a huge loss of health insurance, by Elizabeth Rosenthal, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3NPcHej

What do cities lose when they lose pro sports? by Dan Moore, contributing writer, The Ringer. https://bit.ly/3LD5Lin 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of Julia Gordon to be an assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The president and Vice President Harris receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Biden, Harris and former President Obama will speak at 1:30 p.m. in the Rose Garden about a new administration rule to help 5 million people obtain a premium tax credit to cover the purchase of affordable family coverage under Affordable Care Act benefits. (Obama, who signed Obamacare into law in 2010, remains popular with the base of his party at a time when Biden is struggling to boost his approval amid rising inflation. “I think this comes at the right moment,” one Democratic strategist told The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Brett Samuels. “We need a jolt of energy right now and no one brings that more than Obama.”)  

© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Former President Obama signs the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act with then-Vice President Biden and guests, March 23, 2010.

The vice president at 10:15 a.m. will receive the President’s Daily Brief. She will join the president in the Rose Garden this afternoon to speak about the value to families of lower cost health-insurance coverage under Obamacare. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Brussels today for a NATO foreign ministers meeting.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 3:30 p.m. and the White House COVID-19 response team will brief journalists at 3 p.m.

📺 Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://digital-stage.thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.

ELSEWHERE 

TECH: When Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Monday was identified as Twitter’s largest outside shareholder with a 9.2 percent stake in the company — at a time when Musk is questioning the social media platform’s dedication to free speech and the First Amendment — market analysts immediately said the billionaire (and frequent Twitter user) does not see himself as a passive investor. Twitter shares soared 29 percent (The Associated Press and CNBC).

MASS SHOOTINGS: Many Americans say they are alarmed about a 30 percent rise in murders since 2019, want change but are unsure what could end the trend. Americans are no longer shocked when they learn of another mass shooting and hear reports of deaths from “stray bullets.” The month of April is five days old, and already officials have recorded eight mass shootings in seven states, according to the Gun Violence Archive. On Monday, Sacramento, Calif., police arrested a 26-year-old suspect in the Sunday mass shooting downtown in which 76 gunshots were fired in 54 seconds, killing six people and injuring at least 12 (The Associated Press and Fox40). It was the second mass shooting in Sacramento within weeks. … On March 19, a suspected 22-year-old gunman injured 26 people, including five children in Dumas, Ark., and killed a man after opening fire during a festival attended by about 1,500 people. Authorities said they found 17 spent shell casings compatible with a .40 caliber Glock handgun belonging to the suspect (The New York Times). … Jury selection began Monday in the trial of Nikolas Cruz, now 23, set to stand trial four years after he gunned down 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school. The question for the jurors is whether Cruz, who confessed and was convicted, will get life in prison or the death penalty.  

🌎 SLOW BOIL: A United Nations climate change panel on Monday warned that in eight years, greenhouse gas emissions on Earth must be reduced by at least 43 percent — a stunning goal as damage continues to compound — in order to prevent the worst kind of warming phenomenon by the end of the century. “We have a really, really stark task ahead of us,” said Stephanie Roe, a lead author of the report and global climate and energy lead scientist at the World Wildlife Fund (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

And finally … a comeback for the ages.

Kansas University toppled the University of North Carolina on Monday night, 72-69, to take home its fourth national championship, having pulled off the biggest comeback in NCAA men’s basketball title game history to do so. 

The Jayhawks trailed by 16 points in the first half, and were down by 15 at halftime. However, David McCormack led the way after the intermission, knocking down two baskets to put Kansas on top and extend its lead in the waning moments. North Carolina had multiple cracks at tying the game in the final seconds, but couldn’t find the bottom of ht net

Overall, McCormack tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds, with Ochai Agbaji taking home Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four honors for his performances in New Orleans (ESPN).


Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@digital-stage.thehill.com and aweaver@digital-stage.thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

Tags Bucha Confirmation Lisa Murkowski Mitt Romney ObamaCare russia SCOTUS Supreme Court Susan Collins ukraine

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