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Happy Monday morning.
The House and Senate are both in session this week as Congress tries to finish the $40 billion Ukraine aid package and takes on the baby formula shortage and soaring gas prices. Covid-19 aid is stalled, and Congress will need to begin to wrestle with that too.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will address a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, the first in-person speech by a foreign leader to lawmakers since the Covid-19 pandemic began. And it’s the first time a Greek leader has done it as well.
→ Saturday’s horrific mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket – which left 10 people dead and three more wounded – will lead to new calls for congressional action on gun control, but there’s no chance that anything passes in this Congress. GOP opposition to any new restrictions on gun sales is overwhelming. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), during an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart,” acknowledged this reality. Murphy is one of the leading Senate Democrats on gun control:
“I’ve been trying to try to get 60 votes for an expansion of background checks in this country, which frankly, would have the biggest impact on gun violence, and I’ve been unsuccessful. But in the wake of this Buffalo shooting, it may be that we have to put a vote up in the Senate or in the House to show the American people where folks stand.”
The 18-year-old gunman was reportedly motivated by white supremacist ideology, including the “Great Replacement theory,” a claim that white people are being “replaced” by non-white immigrants. This once fringe theory has been elevated on the right, particularly by conservative media including Tucker Carlson, whose Fox News show is the most popular on cable TV.
Eleven of the 13 victims in the shooting were Black. President Joe Biden, who will visit Buffalo Tuesday with first lady Jill Biden, called it a “racially motivated hate crime” and an “act of domestic terrorism.” New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) described the attack as “white supremacy terrorism,” while Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said it was a “racist hate crime.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the “the House will continue to consider additional measures to strengthen efforts to combat domestic terrorism.”
Last month, House Democratic leaders had to shelve a vote on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act due to opposition from the Squad. Democrats are trying to revive the bill, which would create units inside the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and FBI focusing on domestic terrorism, including white supremacist threats. But some senior Democratic aides are skeptical it can get done this week before the upcoming recess due to timing issues. A House vote on the legislation could slip until the first week of June, the aides said.
→ Ukraine: This weekend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and three other Senate Republicans joined the growing list of lawmakers and top Biden administration officials who have made the trip to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Pelosi led a group of House Democrats to Kyiv two weeks ago, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have traveled there to meet with Zelensky.
McConnell spoke with reporters on Sunday while in Sweden, which is joining NATO along with Finland. He predicted that the $40 billion Ukraine aid package will pass the Senate with overwhelming support this week. There’s a cloture vote on the legislation today. If cloture is invoked as expected, that would set up a final vote on Wednesday.
“What I assured [Zelensky], since this was an all Republican delegation, was that support for Ukraine in the war against the Russians is bipartisan. An overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress support the effort. This naked aggression must not stand.”
McConnell played down the GOP opposition to the aid package. Former President Donald Trump – echoing a line taken by a number of Republicans – said on Friday that “the Democrats are sending another $40 billion to Ukraine, yet America’s parents are struggling to even feed their children.” Fifty-seven House Republicans voted against the bill last week, and several GOP Senate candidates – Adam Laxalt in Nevada, J.D. Vance in Ohio and Kathy Barnette in Pennsylvania – have come out against the funding.
Here’s more McConnell:
“There’s always been isolationist voices in the Republican Party. There were prior to World War II. That’s perfectly alright. This is a debate worth having, it’s an important subject. I think one of the lessons we learned in World War II was not standing up to aggression early is a huge mistake.”
The GOP leader also said he’d support listing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
→ Baby formula and “price gouging”: The House will take up legislation related to two major issues rippling across the country right now: the baby formula shortage and record-high gas prices.
The House is expected to vote on two bills addressing the formula shortage this week. One, from House Education Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) would loosen the restrictions on what type of formula can be purchased through the WIC (Women, Infant and Children) program. About 50 percent of formula sold nationwide is purchased with WIC benefits.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is also preparing an emergency supplemental for funds to immediately purchase baby formula available from Chile, Mexico, Ireland and the Netherlands. On Thursday, an Appropriations subcommittee will hear from FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on the shortage.
A source familiar with the issue said appropriators held talks this weekend on “legislation to meet the immediate needs of parents who cannot find formula to feed their infants.” The bill could come to the floor as early as this week.
Pelosi said on Sunday that Democrats are doing everything they can to address the shortage but believes that Congress would have to change current law to allow Biden to implement the Defense Production Act to manufacture more formula.
“We certainly should,” Pelosi said on CNN’s State of the Union with Dana Bash. “But … as the law is now, it is not possible to do that.”
In addition, the House will take up a bill to address price gouging by allowing Biden to issue a national emergency to prohibit selling gasoline or fuel for homes at an “unconsciously excessive” price. The bill would authorize the Federal Trade Commission to penalize bad actors, particularly large corporations.
Both issues – the formula shortage and gas prices – are major priorities for Frontliners as they desperately try to change the narrative heading into what’s shaping up to be a ruthless political climate for Democrats going into the midterms.
→ One more thing: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced Sunday that he has suffered a “mild stroke.” Van Hollen said he hopes to be back in the Senate “later this week.” Here’s the full statement from his office:
“This weekend, I was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after experiencing lightheadedness and acute neck pain while I was delivering a speech in Western Maryland. At the recommendation of the Attending Physician, I sought medical attention upon my return home. Earlier today, an angiogram indicated that I had experienced a minor stroke in the form of a small venous tear at the back of my head. Fortunately, I have been informed that there are no long-term effects or damage as a result of this incident, but my doctors have advised that out of an abundance of caution I remain under observation for a few days. I look forward to returning to work in the Senate later this week and thank the medical team for their excellent care.”
The 63-year-old Van Hollen is the second Senate Democrat to suffer a stroke this year. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) had a stroke on Jan. 27, but he recovered rapidly and returned to the Senate by early March.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the leading Democratic Senate candidate in that state’s primary, also suffered a stroke on Friday. Fetterman said he’s “well on my way to a full recovery” in a statement released by the campaign on Sunday.
– John Bresnahan and Heather Caygle
PRESENTED BY PHRMA
Did you know that only three insurance company pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) control 80% of patients’ medicines? They decide what medicines are covered, what medicines aren’t and what you pay for them, regardless of what your doctor prescribed. Meanwhile, they get tens of billions in rebates and discounts meant for you. PBMs are putting their profits before your medicine. Tell Congress savings belong to patients.
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What we’re watching
→ Monday: The House Rules Committee will meet at 3 p.m. to set the procedure for floor debate for a number of bills, including legislation designed to stop oil companies from price gouging.
→ Tuesday: The following administration officials will be in front of the House Appropriations Committee separately: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and Army Secretary Christine Warmouth, ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson and OMB Director Shalanda Young. The House Intelligence Committee will have a hearing on “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci and other NIH officials will be in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss their budget request. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown and Chief of Staff of Operations Gen. John Raymond will be in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Michael Regan, the EPA administrator, will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the agency’s budget. The Senate Intelligence Committee will have a closed hearing.
→ Wednesday: FTC Commissioner Lina Khan and SEC Commissioner Gary Gensler will be in front of the House Appropriations Committee. The House Intelligence Committee will have a hearing on the intelligence community’s budget. TSA Administrator David Pekoske will be in front of House Appropriations to discuss his agency’s budget. EPA Administrator Michael Regan will be in front of Senate Appropriations.
Senate Foreign Affairs will consider a number of ambassadorial nominations, including Elizabeth Frawley Bagley to be ambassador to Brazil. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig will be in front of the House Appropriations Committee. Senate Intelligence will have a closed briefing. The House Judiciary Committee will have a hearing on access to abortion services. House Appropriations will hold a hearing on the Navy and Marine Corps budget.
→ Thursday: CIA Director William Burns, DNI Avril Haines and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie will be in front of House Appropriations in a closed hearing. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf will testify before House Appropriations. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will be in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Senate Banking will have a hearing on Michael Barr’s nomination to be Vice Chair for Supervision at the Federal Reserve and two SEC nominees. Senate Rules will have a hearing on election administration.
– Jake Sherman
Who we’re watching this week
→ Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.): The chair of the House Appropriations Committee is putting together an emergency funding package to address the baby formula crisis. The package will include money to purchase FDA-approved baby formula from overseas. Frontliners and other vulnerable Democrats are getting pummeled by worried constituents back home, as well as in the media and online.
→ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: McConnell took a group of Republican senators to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. With the $40-billion Ukraine supplemental on the floor, we’ll be interested to hear McConnell talk about the stealth trip. At the same time, we expect Congress will begin to wrestle over the Covid preparedness package, which has been stalled for months. McConnell will be key there too.
– Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY PHRMA
Insurance companies and their PBMs threaten patients’ access to medications to make a profit. Tell Congress those savings belong to patients.
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→ Russell Fry, who is running against Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), has an ad saying that voters can’t trust the incumbent. The primary is June 14.
→ Our American Century has a tough ad running against Kathy Barnette, who is seeking the GOP nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania. The spot calls her a “Never Trumper,” and details all the times she’s spoken out against the former president. Our American Century has gotten $350,000 from casino magnate Steve Wynn.
– Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY PHRMA
Vice President Kamala Harris is en route to Abu Dhabi, where she will meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Harris will offer condolences following the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Harris is scheduled to be on the ground in Abu Dhabi for a total of three hours.
9:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
11:45 a.m.: Biden will award medals of valor to public safety officers.
2:30 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
3:00 p.m.: Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a photo op with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland on the Speaker’s balcony.
3:30 p.m.: Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
5 p.m.: Biden will host a reception for Mitsotakis.
The week ahead: Tuesday: The Bidens will go to Buffalo to “grieve with the community that lost ten lives in a senseless and horrific mass shooting.” The Bidens will host a reception to celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the Rose Garden.
Thursday: Biden will leave for Seoul. He will also visit Tokyo on this trip.
→ “The Little Red Boxes Making a Mockery of Campaign Finance Laws,” by Shane Goldmacher
→ “NATO Leaders Say They Will Speed Finland and Sweden Membership Bids,” by Edward Wong and Anatoly Kurmanaev in Berlin
→ “A Fringe Conspiracy Theory, Fostered Online, Is Refashioned by the G.O.P.,” by Nick Confessore and Karen Yourish
→ “Buffalo shooting suspect was investigated for earlier threat,” by Jacob Bogage, Annie Gowen and Devlin Barrett in Buffalo
→ “Massacre suspect said he modified Bushmaster rifle to hold more ammunition,” by Craig Whitlock, David Willman and Alex Horton
→ “Pay Packages for CEOs Rise to Record Level,” by Theo Francis
→ “China’s Economic Activity Collapses Under Xi’s Covid Zero Policy,” by James Mayger, Lin Zhu, Fran Wang, Yujing Liu, Wenjin Lv, Shikhar Balwani, and Jing Li
→ “Democrats’ moderate vs. progressive brawls draw record cash in primaries,” by Elena Schneider
PRESENTED BY PHRMA
This may come as a shock, but did you know that only three insurance companies and their pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) control 80% of patients’ medicines? They sure act like it. They use their market power to get tens of billions in rebates and discounts on medicines – rebates and discounts that should be going to patients. They decide what medicines are covered, what medicines aren’t and what you pay for them. Regardless of what your doctor prescribed. That’s too much control, and it leaves you fighting them for your medications, instead of fighting your illness. PBMs are putting their profits before your medicine. It’s time we do better than that for patients. Tell Congress those savings belong to patients.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads are courtesy of AdImpact.
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