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The Hill’s Morning Report — Washington’s week of maybes

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Washington’s week of maybes 

The most decisive decision so far this week may have been the evacuation of U.S. diplomatic personnel from battle-ravaged Sudan by dramatic special forces helicopter flights to Ethiopia.

Is President Biden finally going to kick off his reelection with a video on Tuesday? Could be. He has a busy schedule ahead, including a Tuesday speech to building trade unions and a Wednesday state visit to the White House by the South Korean president. 

Has Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) rounded up enough GOP colleagues to help him pass a House debt ceiling and budget-slashing bill this week? Bloomberg News reports he was still searching for backing over the weekend ahead of a Tuesday procedural vote.

“We will hold a vote this week and we will pass it,” McCarthy said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” sidestepping whether he has 218 votes lined up.

Do most Americans say they want Biden and former President Trump on their 2024 presidential ballots? Not so much, according to recent polling, described below.

When the U.S. public health emergency for COVID-19 officially ends in a few days, as scheduled by the federal government, is the coronavirus in retreat? Good question.

“Cautious relief, cautious optimism,” Virginia Department of Health Epidemiologist Laurie Forlano said of the May 11 end date (WSLS10). “It’s definitely been quite a journey as a public health professional.”

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The Associated Press: Biden’s reelection campaign has been hiding in plain sight. He’s essentially been campaigning since November.

CBS News and The Associated Press: Biden is expected to tap senior White House adviser Julia Chávez Rodriguez, granddaughter of labor leader Cesar Chavez and labor activist Helen Fabela Chávez, to manage his day-to-day reelection campaign from Wilmington, Del., or Philadelphia. Top Biden advisers currently in the White House will split their time between official and campaign duties.

The Washington Post, Paul Kane: McCarthy, House Republicans have learned to like backroom deal making despite vows of open, transparent legislating. 

The Hill: Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) explains why he fears that only a financial market crash could resolve the ongoing debt limit impasse in Washington.

The Hill: Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) on whipping up support as 2024 heats up for the House GOP.

The New York Times: Biden opens up a new back door on immigration.



Amid increased fighting across Sudan, the United States, Britain, France, Canada and other Western nations have recalled their diplomatic personnel from the country. All U.S. embassy personnel and dependents under American security were evacuated from Khartoum over the weekend, the State Department and Biden administration announced (NBC News). The U.S. embassy was “temporarily suspending operations,” the president said late Saturday, adding, “our commitment to the Sudanese people and the future they want for themselves is unending.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has said it is trying to help the estimated 16,000 Americans living in Sudan, most of whom are dual citizens, although only an estimated 60 have left the country (The New York Times). Other countries, including Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Greece, Ireland and Jordan, have organized rescue efforts, while Ghana said it’s working to evacuate its citizens through Ethiopia (Bloomberg News). 

The evacuations come after more than a week of clashes, concentrated in Khartoum, are unfolding as two rival generals — Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, leading the Sudanese Army, and Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), respectively  — turn the capital into their own personal battlefield. According to the United Nations, at least 420 people have been killed in the clashes and 3,700 injured; two-thirds of the country’s hospitals have closed. Food is becoming scarce as prices soar, and the situation is likely to worsen as the country’s largest flour mill was destroyed in fighting this weekend. Even supplies of cash are running low.

Locals and foreigners alike are fleeing the battle zones if they can; evacuations of diplomatic staff and the United Nations have been stepped up over the weekend. But some in Sudan say foreign officials went too far to appease the generals — treating them almost as statesmen when they in fact seized power in a coup and have long records of abuses and deception — and fear that now, the exit of foreign diplomats might allow for an even more brutal turn in the conflict.

“You put us in this mess and now you’re swooping in to take your kinfolk (the ones that matter) and leaving us behind to these two murdering psychopaths,” Dallia Mohamed Abdelmoniem, a Sudanese former journalist and commentator, said on Twitter (The New York Times).

The Associated Press: How special forces swiftly evacuated U.S. embassy staff from Sudan.

The Hill: What to know about the emerging crisis in Sudan.

Reuters: Foreign states rush high-risk Sudan evacuation, some foreign citizens hurt.

CNN: Evidence emerges of Russia’s Wagner Group arming the militia leader battling Sudan’s army.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will visit Washington this week for a summit with Biden as the two countries grapple for ways to handle the challenge posed by North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile arsenal. His trip will mark the first state visit to the United States by a South Korean leader since 2011 and coincides with the 70th anniversary of the countries’ alliance. Yoon will attend a state dinner at the White House on Wednesday, and he address a joint session of Congress Thursday.

Since the conservative Yoon took office in May last year, replacing a liberal president who had tried to promote negotiations with North Korea, tension has flared on the peninsula. “It will be an opportunity to further solidify the combined defense posture and operate extended deterrence between the two countries in a more concrete manner, while deepening economic security cooperation,” deputy national security adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, told reporters (Reuters).

USA Today: “Embarrassing wrench”: How the Pentagon leak complicates the South Korean president’s state visit with Biden.

As Ukrainian military forces successfully established positions on the eastern side of the Dnieper River, according to a new analysis, speculation rose Sunday that the advances could be an early sign of Kyiv’s long-awaited spring counteroffensive. After more than a year since the Russian invasion, recent fighting has become a war of attrition, with neither side able to gain momentum, but Ukraine has recently received sophisticated weapons from its Western allies, and new troops freshly trained in the West, increasing hopes for a counteroffensive against Moscow (The Associated Press).

Bloomberg News: French President Emmanuel Macron’s push to get China’s help on Ukraine is unraveling fast.

Politico: Russia running the U.N. Security Council is going about how you’d expect. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a visit this week.


Democrats have watched in dismay as voters in rural and old industrial strongholds say they want what the Republican Party is offering, resisting the establishment’s approach to win them back and raising questions about their party’s strategy. But one progressive — a suited up, camera-ready congressman from California — is determined to try something new across the country. The Hill’s Hanna Trudo spoke with Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) about his hopes to connect with communities daring to ask for something they say the party’s not delivering.

“One of the things that is a stereotype in my view against rural Americans is this view somehow that they don’t understand what’s happening in the world,” Khanna told The Hill. “They get it. They understand what’s changing the economy. They understand we’re in an economy where technology really matters.”

Axios: Food stamps emerge as a major Democratic talking point.

Meanwhile on the Hill, progressive Democrats and the MAGA wing of the Republican party found common ground last week on one key issue: United States strategy on the war in Ukraine. A letter sent to Biden by 19 GOP lawmakers criticized “unlimited arms supplies in support of an endless war” in Ukraine and urged the Biden administration to “advocate for a negotiated peace between the two sides.”

It echoed an ask made back in October by 30 progressive lawmakers, who sent a similar letter to Biden expressing a desire to “avoid a prolonged conflict” and to “pair the military and economic support” for Ukraine with a “proactive diplomatic push.” That letter, however, was quickly retracted amid backlash — including from fellow Democrats. 

The common ground between the two opposing ends of both parties illustrates that the political spectrum is a “circle,” particularly when it comes to foreign policy, Danielle Pletka, a senior fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Hill. “The far left and the far right are far more similar to each other than the people in the center on the left and right,” she said, noting they share skepticism over U.S.-Israel relations and foreign conflicts.

Foreign Policy: Congress calls on the pro-Russian government in the country of Georgia to release political prisoners.

Senate Democrats finally broke the logjam in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week by advancing seven judicial nominees for confirmation votes — the first time since mid-February that nominees were advanced to the full Senate. As The Hill’s Al Weaver reports, it only happened with GOP help, giving Democrats some hope the panel can operate effectively in the absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). But how long that goodwill can last remains an open question, as there is no sign that four partisan nominees will be going anywhere without movement on Feinstein’s part in one way or another.

“We still have a measure of bipartisanship,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “There’s a common interest in having judges on the bench in both red and blue states, and I think it bodes somewhat well, but still, we need to do a lot more.”

The Washington Post: A look under the hoodie: Inside Sen. John Fetterman’s (D-Pa.) first week back.



Recent polls hint that the 2024 election cycle could throw doors open to the unexpected. The cycle will stretch an exhausting two years. It’s projected to be the most expensive presidential race in history. And it could feature familiar, aging contenders most Americans say they’re not thrilled to see on the ballot again. 

What seems the same could change the picture.  

“The president needs to reflect the age group in the country. They should both retire,” one Democratic poll respondent from Washington State told NBC News, referring to Trump. “It is someone else’s turn.”

“President Biden’s numbers are not where they need to be at this stage,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research, who conducted NBC’s survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff and his team at Public Opinion Strategies. Horwitt pointed to the president’s struggles with independents, adding, “Yes, Joe Biden has work to do, but he still is viewed less negatively than Donald Trump.”

The Hill: Majorities in an NBC News survey said they do not want a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024.

What are some known unknowns? The possible entry of an independent presidential candidate who theoretically could tip the balance in narrowly divided battleground states; candidates so intent on base politics, they change the terrain of the general election; reactions to potential recession, misinformation and conspiracy theories, rising mistrust in government and the impact of a national security threat to the U.S.

Oh, and health: Biden is 80; Trump is 76.

Biden is (tentatively, per sources) poised on Tuesday to launch his reelection bid with a video and fundraising appeals. He spent the weekend at Camp David sorting out some of the details. The Hill’s Niall Stanage poses five important questions about his reelection bid.

One wild card is whether the incumbent president has voter support based on issues, even if his age is a hurdle. Democrats say anti-abortion fervor in red states and court deliberations tied to the Food and Drug Administration’s abortion drug approval process are among prominent developments that should help their party, particularly among younger voters, suburban women and independents.

New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Sunday told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the GOP platform on abortion risks alienating voters in the post-Roe, post-Dobbs era. The governor is pondering a 2024 presidential bid and says Trump is positioning himself to be a four-time loser (The Hill). “If we stay in our traditional lanes, we’re going to lose. There’s no doubt about it,” he said, pointing to voters under age 45 for whom banning abortion is not the uppermost priority.

2024 Watch: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will meet this week in his country with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis during an itinerary that also will take the much-watched potential presidential contender to Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom (Politico). … GOP senators warn that Trump’s legal problems create a “bad look” for the party in 2024 (The Hill). … Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley returns to New Hampshire this week for three town hall events (New Boston Post). … FormerArkansasGov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday will announce he’s officially competing in the GOP presidential primary (KARK). 


The Biden administration has approved three new liquefied natural gas terminals for the Texas coast, bolstering natural gas exports as a way to both help allies decarbonize and maintain U.S. influence in global energy markets. But The Hill’s Saul Elbein writes that local communities say they’re being sacrificed for geopolitics, and environmental organizations argue the Biden administration is putting the need for rapid climate action on the back burner.

“It doesn’t matter what mitigation Rio Grande LNG does, we are against it,” Jim Chapman of local group Save RGV [Rio Grande Valley] told news site this month, referring to one of the two projects. “There’s no mitigation that will make up for the harm that it’s going to do. Other than construction jobs, which go away, Rio Grande LNG is bringing nothing good to the Valley.”

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a deal to step up enforcement in Pennsylvania to ensure that it meets targets for reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The proposed agreement would settle litigation brought in 2020 by D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Anne Arundel County, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others, alleging the Trump administration failed to use its powers under the Clean Water Act to make sure that Pennsylvania lived up to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint (The Washington Post).

Nationally, the EPA is planning to roll out aggressive new rules to regulate planet-warming pollution from natural gas power plants. If implemented, the proposal would set limits so stringent that fossil-fuel-burning power plants probably would have to use technology to capture their carbon dioxide emissions from their smokestacks or switch to other fuels to comply. The electricity sector generates a quarter of all planet-warming pollution in the U.S., according to the EPA, and slashing that pollution quickly is key for the country to achieve net-zero climate emissions by 2050, as Biden has pledged to do. The proposal is still under final analysis at the White House and could change before the EPA completes and announces it (CNN and The Washington Post).


■ Republicans are playing into the hands of Putin and Xi, by Hillary Clinton, guest essayist, The New York Times.

■ House Republicans are holding the federal workforce hostage, by Kevin Owen, opinion contributor, The Hill.

■ The violence in Sudan is partly our fault, by Jacqueline Burns, guest essayist, The New York Times. 


📲 Ask The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.

The House will convene at 11 a.m.

The Senate meets Tuesday at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Joshua Jacobs to be under secretary for benefits at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden and Vice President Harris will have lunch at the White House. Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona at 2 p.m. will honor the Council of Chief State School Officers 2023 Teachers of the Year in the Rose Garden. Biden at 3:15 p.m. will welcome Tennessee Democratic State Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson and their colleague, Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), to the Oval Office. The three state lawmakers recently demonstrated on the Tennessee House floor for gun safety restrictions, receiving punishment from their GOP colleagues while attracting national fame (CBS News).

Harris will have lunch with Biden at noon.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet at 9 a.m. with Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Alfred Mutua and the two will hold a press conference at the department at 10:15 a.m. ET. Blinken will meet at 3:30 p.m. with Turkmenistan Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov. The secretary will participate in a working dinner at 7 p.m. with members of the Foreign Affairs Policy Board.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will ceremonially swear in Brent Neiman as assistant secretary for international finance.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:15 p.m. and will include White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan



💉 The era of free COVID-19 vaccines is coming to a close as the federal government wraps up its public health emergency for the pandemic on May 11. But, as The Hill’s Joseph Choi reports, the Biden administration and manufacturers are taking steps to maintain vaccine accessibility, particularly for the uninsured, as the shots transition toward commercialization. While manufacturers of the vaccines expect the prices to increase up to fourfold as the emergency ends, the White House launched a new $1.1 billion program this week specifically aimed at giving uninsured people access to both coronavirus vaccines and treatments, such as Paxlovid. According to the administration’s announcement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to purchase vaccines at a discount and distribute them through state and local health departments.

“I do think this federal initiative to ensure that uninsured people have access to vaccines and, and treatments is actually really important,” Jennifer Tolbert, Director of State Health Reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Hill.

Vox: What the new COVID-19 vaccine guidance means for you.

NBC News: Possible links between COVID-19 shots and tinnitus emerge. People who have developed life-altering ringing in their ears following a COVID-19 vaccine demand deeper investigation into this potential side effect.

🍷 Does moderate drinking have slight health benefits, or is it still risky? As The Hill’s Daniel de Visé reports, a massive meta-analysis of alcohol studies, the latest in a series of increasingly comprehensive reports, shows both nominal benefits and nominal risks associated with modest consumption. Bottom line: One or two alcoholic drinks a day ever so slightly increases your risk of contracting various diseases, but the same quotient of drink also confers very mild health benefits, especially in heart health among older people. 

And speaking of alcohol, binge drinking has been suggested as a risk factor for colon cancer among young adults, a rising trend, although still rare. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. It starts as a polyp, or an abnormal growth, in the large intestine, which over time may become cancerous and potentially spread to other parts of the body. “I don’t want people to panic,” said Nancy Baxter, a colorectal surgeon and head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne. Fewer than 15 in 100,000 people between the ages of 20 and 49 had the condition diagnosed between 1998 and 2019. “Age still has the strongest influence on your risk of colorectal cancer,” she added (The New York Times). Upshot: Know the symptoms. Learn family history. When in doubt, see a physician and get screened.


Student loan servicers are in a tough bind, dealing with reduced staff as they prepare for the unprecedented situation of 44 million borrowers returning to payments later this summer. As The Hill’s Lexi Lonas reports, student loan payments are expected to restart at the end of August at the latest, including for many borrowers who graduated during the pandemic and have never made such payments before. 

“I think the real challenge is the resource constraint, right? That’s really on the customer service side,” said Scott Buchanan, executive director for Student Loan Servicing Alliance (SLSA). “Systemically, we can handle this, but that customer service component is going to be constrained, and that’s because the department has continued to make cuts to the customer service funding for student loan servicers.”

CNBC: Supreme Court will rule against Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, legal experts predict.

Yahoo News: Student loan forgiveness and payment pause end top budget cuts in the GOP debt ceiling plan — will you need to start paying your loans now?

USA Today: Student debt repayment plans for certain jobs offered in 47 states and D.C.

Fox News has settled Dominion Voting Systems’s blockbuster case, but the network still faces another major defamation lawsuit for its coverage following the 2020 election, write The Hill’s Dominick Mastrangelo and Zach Schonfeld. The lawsuit from voting systems company Smartmatic similarly accuses Fox of maliciously giving Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani a platform to air false claims about the election. But unlike Dominion, Smartmatic is also suing multiple hosts and Giuliani as individuals in addition to the network. The company wants at least $2.7 billion in damages, more than three times the size of Fox’s recent $787.5 million settlement.

“Dominion’s litigation exposed some of the misconduct and damage caused by Fox’s disinformation campaign,” Erik Connolly, an attorney for Smartmatic, said in a statement shortly after the agreement with Dominion was announced. “Smartmatic will expose the rest. Smartmatic remains committed to clearing its name, recouping the significant damage done to the company, and holding Fox accountable for undermining democracy.”


And finally … 🌼 California’s flower power, the result when prolonged drought cedes to rain, looks like a dream sequence from “The Wizard of Oz.” Under brilliant blue skies, visitors are flocking this month to carpets of impossibly vivid blooms in the Golden State.

Selfie stops, walks with pets, romps with children, sweetly scented air: It’s glorious.

So-called “super blooms” occur when large amounts of precipitation in natural landscapes mash up with years of drought-starved earth, according to California’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

“The seeds hang out for years and years in the soil. And when you get a good rain, they’re like, ‘Oh, okay, great, time to come out,’” Valerie Eviner, a plant sciences professor at the University of California Davis, told The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.

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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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