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Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse. Biden will visit the site today.

Biden heads to Baltimore as Congress faces a trio of big tests

News: President Joe Biden is heading to Baltimore today in the wake of the Francis Scott Key Bridge disaster. And Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent a new letter to key lawmakers urging Congress to authorize “a 100 percent Federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge.”

Notably, the Biden administration doesn’t spell out how much money Congress needs to approve in response to the crisis, although it could run into the billions of dollars.

The letter is addressed to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and ranking Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.), plus Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) and ranking Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.).

Biden will get a tour of the accident site and meet with the families of the six workers killed in the bridge collapse. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hopes to partially reopen access to the port by the end of April, while an array of federal agencies has responded to the disaster with tens of millions of dollars in emergency aid.

Washington x The World: The House and Senate will return from recess next week facing an increasingly volatile geopolitical climate. There are three issues that lawmakers will have to contend with right away — Israel, Ukraine and the renewal of Section 702 of FISA, the federal statute that oversees how U.S. intelligence agencies conduct surveillance on foreign targets outside the country.

But there are some dynamics that could derail the congressional response on all three matters.

First, congressional support for Israel is no longer the slam-dunk it once was. And second, Speaker Mike Johnson is staring down a series of potential floor votes that afford him no political wins.

On Israel: The deaths of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza from an Israeli airstrike has become a turning point for the Biden administration’s posture toward Jerusalem.

When the White House first unveiled Biden’s foreign aid request back in October, the Israel piece was the sweetener destined to help overcome GOP opposition to new Ukraine funding. Now it’s unclear if aid to Ukraine and Israel will even move together in the House.

Fast-forward six months. Biden is openly clashing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Gaza war and the unending wave of Palestinian casualties. Senior White House officials and top Hill Democrats are floating placing conditions on U.S. aid, something that would’ve been unthinkable immediately after the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks. Even former President Donald Trump says Israel is “losing the PR war.”

Per a White House readout, Biden told Netanyahu Thursday that U.S. policy on the Gaza war will be determined by Israel’s “immediate action” to reduce civilian harm and expand humanitarian aid access. By Thursday night, Israel said it was opening new aid routes into Gaza. But Johnson and other Republicans hammered Biden over the Netanyahu call.

Biden’s political challenge on Israel is vital to his reelection bid. Biden is now in a position where there’s nothing he can say on the subject that will satisfy every element of the Democratic coalition.

Consider the fact that the Senate-passed foreign aid bill back in February had only one Democratic “no” vote. If the Senate were to vote on a House-passed Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan bill, would there be additional Democratic defections?

Couple that with the fact that Ukraine is still dividing the GOP. Is there a large enough universe of votes now for a Ukraine-Israel package, no matter what else is added to the measure? Given progressive anger with Israel, can Johnson get enough Democratic support to overcome the GOP anti-Ukraine bloc? We’re not so sure.

Johnson: The world is waiting for Johnson’s next move on Ukraine. David Cameron, the British foreign minister, urged dignitaries at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels to call Johnson and urge him to pass a Ukraine aid bill, an extraordinary statement from a key ally.

Johnson has said he plans to pass a Ukraine aid bill once Congress returns from the Easter recess. But it’s not clear that Johnson can remain speaker if he does that.

Johnson is hoping to load up any Ukraine funding package with provisions designed to help ease its passage — the REPO Act, lifting the ban on new LNG sales and converting any Ukraine aid into a loan, mostly at Trump’s behest.

But this doesn’t change Johnson’s fundamental problem. More than half of his conference will oppose any new aid for Kyiv, and some conservative hardliners may seek his ouster over it. Johnson has a call today with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) over his handling of the latest government spending bill. MTG has filed a motion to replace Johnson, although she hasn’t formally demanded a vote yet.

The prevailing thinking among Democrats is that Johnson will eventually fold and put the $95 billion Senate foreign aid bill up for a vote. But we find that improbable in the short term. Johnson will probably have to fail on his own bill before falling back on the Senate-passed package. And doing that could endanger his hold on the speaker’s chair.

Also: House Republicans have released their FISA reauthorization proposal today. It’s the Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Fla.) bill from February that extends FISA for five years with some Section 702 reforms. The Judiciary Committee opposed this plan and it was eventually pulled from consideration.

Next Wednesday — April 10 — there will be an all-House member briefing on FISA that’s expected to be led by officials from ODNI, CIA, NSA, DOJ, FBI and the Pentagon.

— Andrew Desiderio, Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.