What to Know in Washington: Biden Faces Bipartisan Border Angst

  • SCOTUS immigration case could threaten Biden agenda
  • House tees up action on Ukraine defense, terrorism bills

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President Joe Biden faces political peril as a showdown at the Supreme Court on immigration coincides with widespread criticism of his plan to end pandemic-related border controls.

Justices on Tuesday will consider whether Biden can end former President Donald Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which has forced tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to stay south of the border while their applications are processed. A federal trial judge ordered the Biden administration to restart the program.

A ruling against the administration would further complicate Biden’s handling of immigration—an issue on which voters already give him low marks, polls show. Republicans are preparing to highlight the migrant surge at the southern border in the November elections, while a growing number of Democratic lawmakers are distancing themselves from the administration’s plan to scrap the separate, pandemic-driven Title 42 border controls, fearing the influx will only worsen.

“Republicans smell blood,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the liberal immigrant-rights group America’s Voice. Democrats are “getting division in the ranks.”

There are no easy answers for the president. His Democratic base has vented frustration at the slow progress of rolling back his predecessor’s policies. At the same time, near-record border apprehensions have fueled Republican accusations that Biden’s desire for more welcoming policies are to blame. Read more from Greg Stohr and Jordan Fabian.

Photographer: Moriah Ratner/Bloomberg
Biden speaking in Portland, Oregon, on Thursday.

Concerns that the White House lacks adequate plans to manage an influx in migrant arrivals when Title 42 ends has emerged as both a political cudgel and a source of anxiety for charities on the ground. The U.S. relies on scores of faith-based and humanitarian organizations to do relief work at the border. Many support ending Title 42 but say they need the White House to provide more information on logistics to ensure their teams are up to the task. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

McConnell Bullish on GOP Retaking Senate, Blocking Biden Agenda

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) told officials in Kentucky this week he’s increasingly confident his party will regain the majority, paving the way for him to become the longest-serving Senate leader.

During several appearances back home during the spring recess, McConnell was optimistic about the party’s prospects to pick up a seat and take control of the chamber, which would position Republicans to be able to block Biden’s legislative priorities and nominations. Read more from Nancy Ognanovich.

Any hope Democrats had of limiting Republican gains in the House in 2022 through redistricting were all but dashed with the Florida Legislature’s approval of the map made to order for Gov. Ron DeSantis. That alone would have made yesterday a big redistricting day for Republicans. Then New York piled on.

A panel of five mid-level appellate judges ruled 3-2 the Democrats in charge in Albany engaged in unconstitutional gerrymandering. If that ruling’s upheld by New York’s highest court, those new congressional district boundaries with their pro-D tilt won’t be used in November. Read more in BGOV’s Ballots & Boundaries newsletter.

  • Voting rights and civil rights advocates filed suit Friday challenging Florida’s congressional redistricting plan just before it became law. League of Women Voters of Florida President Cecile Scoon said the intention is to stand up to “a rogue governor and a complicit state Legislature” who want to silence Black voters, Jennifer Kay reports.
  • DeSantis’s move against Disney this week shows he’s willing to take the Republican Party’s culture war to new heights—with a frontal assault on one of his state’s biggest and most iconic employers—as he jockeys for position in a potentially crowded 2024 presidential field. Read more from Mark Niquette and Nathan Crooks.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says her party could be “in real trouble” in the 2022 midterm elections if more isn’t done to help American families deal with 40-year-high inflation. “We’ve got less than 200 days until the election, and American families are hurting,” Warren (D-Mass.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think we’re going to be in real trouble if we don’t get up and deliver. Then I believe the Democrats are going to lose.” Read more from Victoria Cavaliere.

Donald Trump’s last White House chief of chief, Mark Meadows, was warned by the Secret Service that violence could occur when a Joint Session of Congress gathered on Jan. 6, 2021 to certify Joe Biden’s election victory, new court filings show. Meadows and several Republican members of Congress also were advised by a White House lawyer that a fringe plan to create “alternate” slates of presidential electors to block Biden’s victory was not “legally sound,” but pressed on, the filings Friday night from the House Select Committee probing the U.S. Capitol riot show. Read more from Billy House.

  • The House panel probing the Jan. 6 attack asked a judge to throw out a lawsuit by Meadows against challenging a subpoena for his testimony. Lawmakers said his testimony was warranted more than ever due to information gleaned form interviews or depositions with dozens of witnesses who interacted directly with Meadows, either in the White House or in connection with Trump’s effort to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. Read more from Erik Larson.
  • Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP was on full display this week as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy sought to make amends after a leaked audio revealed he considered urging Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 insurrection. McCarthy (R-Calif.)’s rapid outreach to the former president and House colleagues in the hours after the New York Times dropped the recording reveal a complex and often tortured relationship with Trump and a lingering fear gripping many in the GOP of crossing him. Billy House and Mario Parker have more.
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene spent Friday at a hearing saying she (R-Ga.) couldn’t recall specific events, including whether she advocated advising Trump to invoke martial law. The hearing is based on a complaint by Georgia voters who argued that the 14th Amendment, which prohibited those who fought against the U.S. during the Civil War from holding office, applies to any member of Congress who supported the riot, John Holland reports.

MORE ON TRUMP:

  • Trump defended his endorsement of JD Vance in Ohio’s GOP Senate primary at a rally in the central part of the state, as some state Republicans bristle at his backing the venture capitalist who once was a self-described “never-Trump guy.” Trump acknowledged that Vance has said some bad things about him, using an expletive, and said he likes a lot of other candidates running in the race. But he said he endorsed someone he thinks has the best chance to help Republicans reclaim control of the Senate. Read more from Mark Niquette.
  • Two of Trump’s endorsed candidates for Michigan government positions won endorsements at the state’s GOP convention to challenge Democrats in November, another sign that the former president still has sway with voters. Secretary of State candidate Kristina Karamo and Attorney General hopeful Matthew DePerno got the party’s approval to run on the ticket against incumbent Democrats Jocelyn Benson and Dana Nessel. Read more from David Welch and Mark Niquette.

Ukraine Defense Support, Terrorism Bill Set for House Votes

House leaders intend to provide more aid to Ukraine when the chamber returns Tuesday from a two-week recess, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a letter to the Democratic Caucus.

Hoyer (D-Md.) said the House will vote next week on a bill (S. 3522) that would make it easier to send Ukraine defense systems to defeat Russia’s invasion. The “Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act” would temporarily waives certain requirements for lending defense items. The Senate passed it by voice vote on April 6. Hoyer said the House will also “stand ready to act” on a forthcoming request from Biden for additional aid to Ukraine.

The House also plans to vote on legislation that would authorize dedicated domestic terrorism offices in the Justice and Homeland Security departments and the FBI (H.R. 350). Read more on the House schedule this week from Emily Wilkins and Ellen M. Gilmer.

  • The U.S. announced additional military aid for Ukraine as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Washington wants to see Russian forces ground down so they can’t attempt a repeat of the war. Speaking to reporters in Kyiv on Monday during the highest-level U.S. visit to the Ukraine since Russia invaded two months ago, Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken committed a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries. Some $322 million of that sum is earmarked for Ukraine. Read more from Jordan Fabian and Alan Crawford.

Congress comes back Monday for a five-week stretch, with Democratic leaders under heavy pressure to deliver on key priorities before the midterm elections. Those include additional supplemental spending plans to address pandemic relief and Russia’s war on Ukraine, legislation to enhance U.S. competition with China and support domestic chip manufacturing, and confirming Biden’s picks for federal agencies and courts. Democrats plan to make an all-out push to get these and other must-dos finished before lawmakers head for the campaign trail this summer. Nancy Oganaovich breaks down the agenda.

CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE:

  • The Senate returns at 3 p.m. to consider a Federal Reserve nominee
  • The House returns Tuesday, with action eyed on legislation to aid Ukraine

ALSO ON LAWMAKERS’ RADAR:

  • White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy says she is ‘pretty confident’ that Congress will pass climate legislation in the months ahead with the help of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). “I know he’s interested in significant investments that will advance climate, and so I’m hoping that there will be a meeting of the minds,” McCarthy said of Manchin. Read more from Ari Natter.
  • The White House announced five new chief federal prosecutors Friday, including nominees to head the U.S. Attorney’s offices based in Philadelphia and Sacramento. The Biden administration has now tapped 48 U.S. attorney nominees, just more than half of the 93 overall chief federal prosecutors, Ben Penn reports.
  • The evacuation of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday night occurred after aviation officials failed to provide advance notice to police about a fly-over at a baseball game in Washington, they acknowledged Friday evening. The Federal Aviation Administration apologized for the episode, Alan Levin and Billy House report.
  • Watch for tributes this week to the late former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who died Saturday at 88 in Salt Lake City. Representing the state from 1977 to 2019, he was the longest-serving Republican senator in U.S. history and a steadfast conservative who also crossed the aisle to work on legislation with liberal Democrats, Patrick Oster reported.

Join our webinar for insights on the key policy items Congress plans to tackle as it returns from its spring recess. Bloomberg Government’s analysts Wednesday will discuss what House and Senate leaders plan to prioritize for the remainder of 2022, with an eye on what can be accomplished before the midterm elections or possibly left to a lame-duck session. They’ll talk about the latest on bills to boost U.S. manufacturing to compete with China, proposals to reauthorize key programs that committees are exploring, and whether there’s any chance for a budget reconciliation. Register here .

Around the Administration

BIDEN’S SCHEDULE:

  • Biden at 2 p.m. will host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the White House to celebrate their 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup victories.
  • Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 3 p.m.

Biden accepted an invitation from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to visit Israel and will travel there in the coming months, the White House said in a statement. The trip would be Biden’s first to the Jewish state as president. The two leaders spoke Sunday to discuss ongoing clashes between Israelis and Palestinians around holy sites in Jerusalem, and Biden noted efforts by officials on both sides “to lower tensions and ensure a peaceful conclusion to the holy season of Ramadan.” Read more from Jordan Fabian.

The U.S. government is finishing plans to make Pfizer’s Covid pill available at any pharmacy across the country, with supply increasing as the BA.2 sub-variant drives an uptick in cases and hospitalizations. The administration will outline a plan this week aimed at getting the pill, Paxlovid, to additional people who would otherwise face a more serious case of Covid-19, an administration official said on Friday, Josh Wingrove and Fiona Rutherford report.

The U.S. will “respond accordingly” should Beijing’s security pact with the Solomon Islands lead to a permanent Chinese military presence in the Pacific nation. While the U.S. respects the rights of countries to make decisions in the best interests of their people, there are potential regional security implications of the accord for the U.S. and its allies, the White House said in a statement. Read more from Matthew Burgess.

Biden had the power to fire the National Labor Relations Board’s top lawyer during the Trump administration, an appeals court in New Orleans ruled. The Fifth Circuit on Friday rejected business software firm Exela Enterprise Solutions’s challenge to the unprecedented Inauguration Day termination of NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb. The company argued that general counsels enjoy the same removal protections that the National Labor Relations Act grants to board members. Read more from Robert Iafolla.

Less than a year into their new jobs, Biden’s competition regulators are infuriating the legal establishment they’ve wrested power from. “The current rhetoric is terrifying,” said Jonathan Jacobson, a lawyer whose clients include Google and other large technology companies. For decades, regulators took a laissez-faire approach to mergers and sharp-elbowed competition. But a new generation of U.S. antitrust thinkers has taken charge in Washington and is eager to return to the trust-busting vigor of the early 20th century, Brody Ford reports.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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