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BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Happy Monday morning.
Congress is out for the Easter recess, but the news keeps coming.
President Joe Biden has another hectic week that includes the Ukraine crisis, guns and crime, the latest monthly inflation report and quick trips to Iowa and North Carolina.
Biden will hold a high-profile video call this morning with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India has emerged as a key player in enforcing economic sanctions imposed on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. India has stepped up its purchase of Russian oil despite calls from the United States and other Western nations to end such imports. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “will continue our close consultations on the consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine and mitigating its destabilizing impact on global food supply and commodity markets.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also begin a “U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial” meeting today in Washington with Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh. India is seen as a critical counterweight to growing Chinese power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Then in the Rose Garden this afternoon, Biden will announce that he’s nominating Steve Dettelbach, a former U.S. attorney in Ohio, to take over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to two senior administration officials.
This comes as the Justice Department moves to finalize a federal rule on “ghost guns,” untraceable, privately made weapons that don’t have serial numbers. The new rule, which goes into effect in four months, requires manufacturers who sell “Buy-Build-Shoot” kits for such guns to obtain federal licenses and include serial numbers on the parts. Purchasers of these kits will also have to undergo a background check, just as if they’d bought a gun from a federally licensed gun dealer.
We’re expecting some vocal Republican pushback on this, especially from potential 2024 GOP hopefuls.
Biden’s previous nominee for ATF director, David Chipman, was withdrawn seven months ago in the face of opposition from Senate Republicans and some moderate Democrats. So Dettelbach will have to navigate his way through that political trial in order to become the first Senate-confirmed ATF director since B. Todd Jones stepped down in 2015.
Dettelbach, who lost the 2018 race for Ohio attorney general, was backed by gun-control groups during that campaign. Dettelbach supported universal background checks, barring domestic violence abusers from having guns, and reinstatement of the assault-weapons ban.
Dettelbach, currently a partner at the law firm BakerHostetler, was a longtime DOJ official in the civil rights division. He also served a six year-plus stint as U.S. attorney. In 2001 to 2002, Dettelbach was detailed as a counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Laura Barron-Lopez and Chris Cadelago at Politico first reported last week that Biden was looking at Dettelbach for the ATF post.
DOJ’s ghost gun rulemaking process has been closely watched by both pro gun-control and gun-rights groups. Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland have repeatedly promised action on this issue. ATF initially proposed a new rule for ghost guns in May 2021. Technically, ATF is updating the definition of a firearm – including two critical parts, the “frame” and “receiver” – for the first time in decades.
According to ATF, “there were approximately 20,000 suspected ghost guns” recovered by law-enforcement agencies during criminal investigations last year, “a tenfold increase from 2016.” The new rule will allow ATF to trace an additional 1,000-plus guns per year, the agency asserts.
Yet as with anything gun-related, what’s being announced today is going to be controversial. During the rulemaking process, “ATF received more than 290,000 comments, the highest number of comments submitted to a proposed rule in ATF’s history.”
Some Republicans question whether DOJ and ATF should be expending so much effort on gun-control initiatives, including ghost guns. “This is a distraction from the reality that the explosion of crime in blue cities is directly attributable to those same cities implementing de-policing, installing progressive prosecutors, and enacting disastrous bail reform policies,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, claimed in a Feb. 14 letter to Garland.
Gun-control advocates, however, have been complaining for months that Biden isn’t doing nearly enough to reduce gun violence, which has spiked since 2020. Legislation to expand background checks on gun sales has been stalled for months in the Senate, with zero chance that it can be passed unless the filibuster is eliminated – and that’s not happening. Chipman’s withdrawal further upset gun-control advocates, some of whom blamed the White House for not pushing hard enough on the nomination.
Rising crime – especially soaring homicide rates in major cities – has become a serious political liability for Biden as well. A CBS News Poll released over the weekend showed crime as the No. 3 issue behind the economy and inflation. And Biden’s numbers on the issue are terrible. Only 39% of respondents approve of Biden’s handling of crime, while 61% disapprove.
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WASHINGTON AND THE WORLD
Hoyer, McCarthy and Scalise in Eastern Europe
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise are all in Eastern Europe this week for trips focused on the war in Ukraine.
McCarthy visited Poland over the weekend, including a trip to the border of Ukraine, he told us Sunday afternoon. The bipartisan group – which includes Scalise, Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Republican Mike McCaul (Texas) and Intelligence Committee Ranking Republican Mike Turner (Ohio) – was in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday evening. The above photo, from McCarthy’s Instagram, is the group with U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski.
Hoyer and retiring Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) are leading a separate bipartisan trip this week to Germany, Denmark, Poland and Greenland. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is close to Hoyer, is also on the trip. The group started in Berlin, meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other top officials in the country.
The group will then travel to Copenhagen to meet with officials about the war in Ukraine. Hoyer, who is of Danish descent, is kind of a big deal in Denmark. He was even knighted there several years ago. The group will meet with Ukrainian refugees in Poland and end the trip with a stop in Greenland focused on climate change.
Also: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), a former U.S. ambassador to Tokyo, is leading a bipartisan trip to Japan this week. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) posted a photo on Instagram from Japan. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had to cancel a trip to Asia because she contracted Covid-19.
THE MONEY GAME
Abbott sends fundraising appeal touting plan to send migrants to D.C.
Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans last week to send migrants to D.C. The plan, as the Texas Tribune reported here, is voluntary and would come after the migrants are processed by the Department of Homeland Security. From the Texas Tribune:
The governor’s office clarified that the program is completely voluntary for migrants and would happen only after they had been processed and released by the Department of Homeland Security. And in addition to buses, Abbott also ordered the state to charter flights to transport migrants to the nation’s capital. The migrants would have to show documentation that they had already been processed by DHS. Many immigration advocates have noted that providing transportation services for asylum-seekers to reach their final destination is something the state should invest in.
On Sunday, Abbott’s political team sent out a fundraisng appeal to tout the plan. The subject line: “Texas is delivering Illegal Immigrants to Biden.” Here’s the email.
What we’re watching
→ Monday: The House Administration Committee has a hearing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, entitled: “Voting In America: Access To The Ballot In New Mexico.” The House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth has a hearing at the University of Wisconsin-Kenosha called – “Pathways to Opportunity: Lessons from Kenosha.”
→ Tuesday: The Economic Disparity select committee will have a hearing in Milwaukee on housing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the Consumer Price Index for March at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning. This report will be very widely watched in Washington, Wall Street and across world financial markets.
President Joe Biden’s week: Tuesday: Biden will go to Menlo, Iowa, to “discuss his Administration’s actions to lower costs for working families, reduce the impact of Putin’s Price Hike, and Build a Better America with Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments in rural communities.”
Thursday: Biden will fly to Greensboro, N.C., to “discuss his Administration’s efforts to make more in America, rebuild our supply chains here at home, and bring down costs for the American people as part of Building a Better America.”
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→ Claire Wirth is running in a GOP primary against Rep. Tom Massie (R-Ky.). Massie, as you probably know, frequently bucks his party and found himself on the wrong side of former President Donald Trump on more than one occasion. Wirth is positioning herself as a “builder” just like Trump. “It’s time we send another builder to Washington, and that’s why I’m running for Congress,” Wirth said in closing out the spot. Thanks to AdImpact.
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8:55 a.m.: President Joe Biden will leave Delaware for D.C. He’ll arrive at the White House at 9:50 a.m.
10 a.m.: Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
11 a.m.: Biden will hold a virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
1 p.m.: Jen Psaki will brief.
2:15 p.m.: Biden will speak about gun crime in the Rose Garden. Vice President Kamala Harris will speak. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will offer remarks as well.
4:15 p.m.: Harris will “announce new actions by the Administration to reduce the burden of medical debt on American families.”
→ “Macron to Face Le Pen for President as French Gravitate Toward Extremes,” by Roger Cohen in Paris
→ “Before Giving Billions to Jared Kushner, Saudi Investment Fund Had Big Doubts,” by David D. Kirkpatrick and Kate Kelly
→ “Crypto Industry Helps Write, and Pass, Its Own Agenda in State Capitols,” by Eric Lipton and David Yaffe-Bellany
→ “As war enters bloody new phase, Ukraine again calls for more weapons,” by Taylor Telford, Annabelle Timsit, Bryan Pietsch and Julian Duplain
→ “Elon Musk Reverses Decision to Join Twitter’s Board, CEO Says,” by Salvador Rodriguez and Ginger Adams Otis
→ “Ukraine, Russia Gear Up for War’s Biggest Battles,” by Yaroslav Trofimov
→ “With COVID mission over, Pentagon plans for next pandemic,” by Lolita Baldor
→ “5 crucial decisions as Jan. 6 investigation reaches final stage,” by Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu
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Blackstone is partnering with the leaders of these companies, providing the resources they need to help accelerate their sustainable growth. They take a long-term approach to investing because building successful, resilient businesses can lead to better returns for investors, stronger communities, and economic growth that works for everyone. Learn more.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
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