12:30 Report

The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Xi, Putin to hold high-stakes meeting in Russia next week

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–> A midday take on what’s happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.* 

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha–breaks down crying hysterically.

TALK OF THE MORNING 

Xi, Putin to meet in Russia next week

Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to travel to Russia next week to meet with President Vladimir Putin — the latest signal of escalating tensions as Moscow continues to wage its war against neighboring Ukraine. Beijing, so far, has sought to position itself as a neutral arbiter in the conflict. 

The visit scheduled for Monday through Wednesday, per China’s foreign ministry and the Kremlin, will be Xi’s first trip to Russia in nearly four years. 

Why it matters: Tensions between China and the United States have been growing, and Putin has portrayed the U.S. assistance to Ukraine in the war as serving a proxy war against Russia. American leaders already have suspected China of aiding Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, which has stretched more than a year. 

CNN reports that customs records show defense contractors in China and Russia have continued their years-long relationships, despite sanctions from the U.S. and other countries. 

Remember: Last month, the U.S. signaled that it would target Chinese firms and people who assist with lethal aid to Russia as it wages its unprovoked war against Ukraine. 

“China can’t have it both ways,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an appearance in Kazakhstan in late February. “It can’t be putting forward peace proposals on the one hand, while actually feeding the flames of the fire that Russia has started with the other hand.” 

It’s Friday, and we’ve made it through the week. 🍀 Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀 I’m Elizabeth Crisp, filling in for Cate today, with a quick recap of the morning and what’s coming up. Did someone forward this newsletter to you? Sign up here. Send me your tips, scoops and funny animal videos to ecrisp@digital-stage.thehill.com

In Congress 

Tryin’ to flip the script: 

It’s probably not coming down to a viral video set to Drake’s “Nonstop,” but Republican lawmakers are desperately trying to flip the switch script on Social Security rhetoric as campaigns prepare for 2024.  

The Hill’s Aris Folley reports that after months of being hammered by Democrats over threats to popular entitlement programs, Republicans want to reclaim the message. 

“The dynamic was on full display in a pair of hearings this week that saw Republicans criticize White House officials and key in on the absence of a plan to shore up Social Security in the 2024 budget proposal the president released last week,” Folley reports.  

The Congressional Budget Office reported last month that the program is spiraling toward a shortfall in 2032. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) got into a spat over the issue and its urgency during a hearing this week. 

Cassidy said a bipartisan group of senators has repeatedly asked to meet with Biden about a plan for shoring up Social Security for current beneficiaries.  

“We have not heard anything on our request,” he said.

❄️ In the White House 

More assistance available to aid low-income households with heating, cooling bills: 

The Biden administration is preparing to provide more assistance for low-income Americans to cover their heating and cooling bills in the coming months. 

Nexstar Washington Correspondent Basil John reports that more than $500 million will be made available to cover the costs of the low-income home energy assistance program, commonly known as LIHEAP. LIHEAP served more than six million U.S. households in the past year. 

Why it matters: Severe weather has hit several states this winter, with more extreme temperatures anticipated this summer. 

The Biden administration already has dedicated funds to making homes energy efficient. 

As recently as Wednesday, parts of New England and New York were still digging out of a nor’easter that caused massive power outages and dangerous road conditions. 

The Associated Press reports the latest winter storm dumped as much as 3 feet of snow on the region through Tuesday.

WHITE HOUSE VISIT:

Biden on Friday hosted Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for St. Patrick’s Day at the White House, a holiday celebration close to the president’s heart that is expected to precede his own visit to Ireland.

🏃 2024 

Poll: Florida men in tight battle for GOP presidential nod: 

Former President Trump leads Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by just 3 percentage points in a new 2024 poll conducted in their shared home state. The new Emerson College poll of Florida voters is the latest sign that the battle for the GOP presidential nomination is quickly become a two-way race between two Florida men. 

The poll found that in a hypothetical nine-candidate primary, GOP voters surveyed in Florida favored Trump with 47 percent. DeSantis, who hasn’t announced a 2024 campaign but has been making early moves toward a run, closely trails him with 44 percent. 

Florida, a bellwether state that has been trending to the right, could be crucial to the presidential election. No other candidate, declared or potential, scored in the double digits there in the Emerson poll.  

“Nearly one year out from the Florida Presidential Primary, DeSantis and Trump are in a two-way race for the Republican nomination, statistically even with one another,” said Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College polling.  

The Hill’s Max Greenwood has more on the poll and what it means heading into a GOP showdown for the nomination. 

😴 In other news 

Things that make you go Zzz … : 

Sweet Dreams are made of … crispy flakes, oat clusters and almonds — gussied up with lavender, chamomile and other natural sleep-enhancing ingredients, apparently. 

Post Consumer Brands, the cereal company known for Raisin Bran, Honey Bunches of Oats and Corn Flakes, wants to send you off to slumber with a new line of night-time cereals dubbed “Sweet Dreams.” 

The company is touting the new product as “the first ready-to-eat cereal designed to be part of a healthy sleep routine while still satisfying those nighttime food cravings.” 

Here’s how Post describes the first two flavors being released: “Blueberry Midnight contains natural and delicious flavors of blueberry, lavender and chamomile. Honey Moonglow contains notes of honey, vanilla, lavender and chamomile.” 

There’s more: The Washington Post reports that the Sweet Dreams line is part of a larger trend of “nighttime snacks marketed to a large segment of sleep-deprived consumers in search of better shut-eye.” 

SNAP benefits cut as food prices rise 

NPR recently took a deep dive into the struggle many people are now facing as food stamp benefits fall back to pre-pandemic levels after a major boost since 2020. 

According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SNAP individual recipients will see benefits drop by $90 a month on average and families are out $250 or more a month. 

The impact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 30 million people have been impacted by the drop in benefits this month. More than 42 million people received food stamp benefits in November, the most recent figure available. 

“You know, buying a gallon of milk — a lot of people don’t really give it another thought,” one Colorado woman told NPR. “But there are lots of us out here who can’t buy a gallon of milk when we need it. I’m just going to have to go back to not eating very much, about a meal a day.” 

🐥 Notable tweets 

‘We like to have a little fun’: 

C-SPAN’s Howard Mortman (always a great Twitter follow!) dove deep into the archives for this throwback of then-House Speaker Tip O’Neill‘s (D-Mass.) cheeky St. Patrick’s Day dinner address in 1986 – just months before his retirement. 

“On St. Patrick’s night we like to have a little fun. I understand there’s some bars back there,” O’Neill quipped at one point during the dinner. 

Read more about the star-studded retirement bash (via The Los Angeles Times archive). 

RELATED:

Check out this photo of then-Rep. John Shelley (D-Calif.) and former Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas) celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at the Capitol in 1951 (via U.S. House History Twitter feed). 

Biden’s bracket busted by basketball blindside:

President Biden tweeted his March Madness bracket Thursday afternoon. Like millions of other college basketball fans, Biden’s bracket was busted just hours later when Princeton upset Arizona in the first round, 59-55. Biden had Arizona, the No. 2 seed in the South regional, going all the way to win the championship. 😬 

On tap 

The House and Senate are out until next week. President Biden is in D.C. until he heads to Delaware this evening. Vice President Harris also is in D.C.  

  • 8:45 a.m.: The Senate met for a brief pro forma session. 
  • 10:30 a.m.: President Biden hosted Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for a bilateral meeting at the White House. 
  • 11 a.m.: The House met for a brief pro forma session. 
  • 12 p.m.: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is hosting Biden and Varadkar for the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the Capitol’s Rayburn Reception Room. Vice President Harris also is attending. 
  • 5 p.m.: Biden and Varadkar take part in the traditional Shamrock presentation and reception at the White House. 
  • 7:30 p.m.: Biden departs the White House en route to Delaware for the weekend. 
  • Sunday – Tuesday: House GOP holds its retreat in Orlando, Fla. 

All times Eastern. 

📺 What to watch 

  • 5 p.m.: President Biden and Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar take part in the Shamrock presentation at the White House. (Watch here) 
  • Next week: Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) fills in as guest host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” all week. Check local listings for time and channel. 

☘️  In lighter news 

Hope you are wearing green! Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Fittingly, it’s also National Corned Beef and Cabbage Day, celebrating the popular Irish American St. Patrick’s Day staple. 

And because you made it this far… Your St. Paddy’s Day isn’t complete without watching this video of the cutest four-legged leprechaun. 🌈 

Tags 12:30 Report China Joe Biden Russia st. patrick's day Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin Xi Jinping Xi Jinping

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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