Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Tuesday, 605,567; Wednesday, 605,905.
If millions of Americans have been unwilling to get free doses of vaccine to build immunity to COVID-19 over the past few months, what difference can President BidenJoe BidenCalifornia event center drops plans to host Gaetz, Greene's ‘America First' tour Xi, Kim vow to strengthen North Korea and China's friendship, cooperation Sunday shows preview: Biden defends troop withdrawal in Afghanistan; COVID-19 impacting unvaccinated pockets MORE’s latest entreaty on Tuesday make?
Perhaps Biden’s words this week as a Democrat and a politician will persuade few who have hesitated. But the government’s kitchen-sink approach — work to surmount every objection, rejection, fear, hurdle, mistrust and myth with practical solutions — keeps on keeping on.
As The New York Times reports, “It is unclear what else the administration can do.”
On Tuesday, the president repeated the cheerleading and optimism about throttling the coronavirus he’s uttered since the spring. He endorsed techniques his administration has already tried: micro community outreach to encourage vaccination; use of mobile clinics and workplace vaccine drives; moving vaccine doses to patient-trusted primary care doctors; and a focus on inoculating adolescents through pediatricians, and young adults through other care providers.
As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels report, Biden cautions Americans against being overconfident about the coronavirus and the delta variant while also sounding gung-ho himself; he urges Americans not to wait to act while displaying a president’s patience; he understands that partisanship in red states has a lot to do with vaccine hesitancy and mistrust about Washington’s advice yet insists that science and federal experts will guide the nation.
“It’s never been more important,” Biden said. “Do it now for yourself and the people you care about — for your neighborhood, for your country. It sounds corny, but it’s a patriotic thing to do.”
The Hill: Risks rise as vaccination gap widens, as measured by study of counties won by former President TrumpDonald TrumpCalifornia event center drops plans to host Gaetz, Greene's ‘America First' tour Murkowski: Trump has ‘threatened to do a lot' to those who stand up to him Alaska GOP endorses Murkowski primary challenger MORE.
The Hill analysis: COVID-19 cases are up in nearly half of the states.
Axios: America is hitting its vaccination ceiling. Now what?
Citing June data collected in Maryland, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted why the state believes COVID-19 vaccinations saved lives during the last month: “100% of COVID-19 deaths in Maryland occurred in people who were unvaccinated; 95% of new COVID-19 cases in Maryland occurred in people who were unvaccinated; 93% of new COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland occurred in people who were unvaccinated.”
Maryland is one of six known states where the highly transmissible delta variant of the pathogen is circulating.
The New York Times: Coronavirus infections are rising inside U.S. migrant detention centers.
Outside the United States, COVID-19 headlines on Tuesday underscored the optimism of countries lifting restrictions while worrying that precautions may need to return.
The Associated Press: Canada and the United States are easing pandemic border-crossing restrictions.
The Wall Street Journal: In Canada, a study points to amino acids as the potential link to the blood clots seen in some patients who received AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses.
The New York Times: In Luxembourg, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, 48, is in “serious but stable” condition in a hospital after contracting COVID-19. He had one dose of AstraZeneca vaccine in May and was due to get a second dose this month.
The Hill: Israel and South Korea agree to a vaccine exchange, considered a first. South Korea on Wednesday reported 1,212 new cases, a steep rise in coronavirus infections unseen since the winter outbreak as it slips into another surge while most of its people are still unvaccinated (The Associated Press).
The Washington Post: In Great Britain (pictured above), the health secretary warned that daily COVID-19 infections could rise to 100,000 this summer. Nonetheless, the United Kingdom says it plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions beginning July 19.
The Hill: In Australia, which boasts a low COVID-19 infection rate, a lockdown in Sydney was extended for another week.
The Associated Press: In Tokyo, which plans to host the Summer Olympics from July 23 through Aug. 8, almost no one sounds confident about how a highly transmissible virus will impact competitors from around the world and the Japanese people.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: Eric Adams, the president of Brooklyn borough, took home the New York City mayoral Democratic primary on Tuesday, narrowly defeating Kathryn Garcia and cemented himself as the favorite to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Morning Report – Biden renews pleas as US COVID-19 vax rate slows NYC comptroller sues de Blasio over coronavirus emergency purchasing powers Democrats should campaign on actually funding the police MORE (D) in November.
According to a new batch of results released Tuesday afternoon, Adams held on in the final batch of ranked-choice ballot counting with 50.5 percent support to 49.5 percent for Garcia. In the previous tabulation from last week, Adams led with 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent for Garcia. The Associated Press called the race shortly after the New York City Board of Elections released the latest update (The Hill).
Adams, a former police officer, will face off in the general election against GOP candidate Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels (The New York Times).
The New York Times: Why New York’s election debacle is likely to fuel conspiracy theories.
> Florida Man: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report: Afghanistan's future now up to Afghans, Biden says Virginia school appealing reinstatement of teacher suspended over gender pronoun policy Rubio, Demings rake in cash as Florida Senate race heats up MORE (R) is on helium watch among Republicans, having seen a boom of support for his handling of COVID-19 in the state, which puts him on a collision course with Trump’s White House ambitions.
In recent weeks, DeSantis has found himself front and center in news cycles, for a number of issues ranging from his signing of a voter restriction bill to the recent collapse of the Surfside condominium building in South Florida and now turbulent weather heading toward the center of the state. Coupled with his 2022 reelection efforts, chatter surrounding a 2024 presidential bid has reached a crescendo, as The Hill’s Max Greenwood and Tal Axelrod write, raising eyebrows within Trump World in the process.
Just like any other potential 2024 contender, DeSantis can count Trump as the key impediment. The former president continues to tease a third White House bid, forcing the governor to proceed with extreme caution so as not to appear to be big footing the former president.
“As a DeSantis supporter, I worry that he may peak too early,” said GOP donor Dan Eberhart, who backed DeSantis in his 2018 gubernatorial bid prior to Trump endorsing his bid, cementing him as the primary favorite.
“I think that these things are incredibly important in trying to thread the needle to become president,” Eberhart added. “So DeSantis has got to win reelection in 2022 — that's a must — and he's got to continue to court favor with the Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityHannity tells fans to ‘take their sports back' by singing national anthem Stephen Miller contends no president dealt better hand than Biden The Hill's Morning Report – Biden renews pleas as US COVID-19 vax rate slows MORE crowd, and build his chits in the party, but he's got to do all this without angering Trump specifically or Trump's base and the other bigwigs in the party. And I think it's really hard to stay on top of that beach ball for too long.”
While DeSantis has been a longtime supporter and ally of the former president, the same cannot be said for others in the party who are in the news this week. Headlining that crowd is J.D. Vance, the newly christened candidate to replace outgoing Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOn The Money: Business, labor groups endorse bipartisan infrastructure deal | Conservatives oppose IRS funding | Jobless claims rise, stocks fall Business, labor groups endorse bipartisan infrastructure deal JD Vance: Trump views people who ‘kiss his a– all the time' as ‘weak' MORE (R-Ohio).
The Hill’s Niall Stanage takes a look at the “Hillbilly Elegy” author in his latest memo, exploring how he went from a Trump skeptic who notably voted for Evan McMullin in 2016 to a more sympathetic supporter of the ex-president today who has earned the financial backing of Peter Thiel and Robert Mercer.
Los Angeles Times: GOP policy adviser Lanhee Chen is running for California comptroller.
The Hill: “Eye of fire,” Exxon lobbyist's comments fuel renewed attacks on oil industry.
Axios: Oklahoma GOP chair backs Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordTrump-allied GOP chairs turn on fellow Republicans The Hill's Morning Report – Biden renews pleas as US COVID-19 vax rate slows Lankford on GOP chairman supporting his primary opponent: ‘Unheard of' MORE’s (R-Okla.) primary challenger.
Tulsa World: Lankford responds to “unheard of” lack of neutrality from state GOP chairman.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS & ADMINISTRATION: The Pentagon on Tuesday canceled a $10 billion cloud computing project after it was tossed in jeopardy by a legal battle involving Amazon and Microsoft.
“Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) canceled the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud solicitation and initiated contract termination procedures,” the Department of Defense said in a statement, pointing to “evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy, and industry advances” for why it nixed the project. The Pentagon added that JEDI no longer meets the department’s “needs.”
However, as The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell notes, the two tech behemoths are expected to win deals from a new, multibillion-dollar, multivendor effort to create the Defense Department’s cloud capability. For more than a year, Amazon had been contesting the 2019 decision to award Microsoft the $10 billion contract to build out the cloud.
“JEDI, conceived with noble intent and a baseline now several years old, was developed at a time when the department’s needs were different and our cloud conversancy less mature,” Pentagon acting Chief Information Officer John Sherman told reporters. “In light of new initiatives along with changes in DOD and user requirements to leverage multiple cloud environments for mission needs, our landscape has evolved and a new way ahead is warranted.”
Defense One: Pentagon cancels JEDI cloud contract.
> Jan. 6 aftermath: The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) revealed on Tuesday that it will open new field offices in California and Florida in an effort to investigate threats to lawmakers as part of enhanced security measures in response to the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol.
Noting the six-month anniversary of the attack on Tuesday, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said in a statement that the addition of the offices came in response to the uptick in threats against members of Congress and calls for more protection to be put in place for lawmakers.
“The USCP has enhanced our staffing within our Dignitary Protection Division as well as coordinated for enhanced security for Members of Congress outside of the National Capitol Region,” Pittman stated. “The Department is also in the process of opening Regional Field Offices in California and Florida with additional regions in the near future to investigate threats to Members of Congress.”
In May, the Capitol Police said that threats against members of Congress have more than doubled — increasing 107 percent — since 2020 (The Hill).
Politico: Sober inquiry or slash-and-burn? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyInvestigating the Jan. 6 insurrection will resurrect democracy Few companies stick with pledge to shut off funding for GOP objectors Tucker Carlson claims NSA leaked private emails to journalists MORE (R-Calif.) at a Jan. 6 crossroads.
Aaron Blake, The Washington Post: Benghazi looms large over GOP and the Jan. 6 committee.
The Atlantic: What does Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump tells GOP lawmakers to halt infrastructure push: You're ‘being played' Biden fires head of Social Security Administration American freedom is on the line MORE (R-Ky.) do now?
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Biden needs to save the infrastructure bill, by former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3dREqdU
It’s time for Biden to make the case for vaccine requirements, by Leana S. Wen, contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2SRqbhP
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets Friday at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The Senate convenes a pro forma session on Thursday at noon.
The president and Vice President Harris will meet with leaders across the administration in the Situation Room at 9:30 a.m. to discuss recent ransomware attacks and the administration’s strategy to combat such attacks. Biden will travel to Crystal Lake, Ill., near Chicago to promote his proposed spending for a wide range of programs he calls the American Families Plan (ABC7 Chicago and The Associated Press). He plans to tour McHenry County College there at 1:30 p.m. and speak at 2:05 p.m. Biden returns to the White House this evening.
First lady Jill BidenJill BidenPhotos of the Week: Therapy dog, Surfside memorial and Chinese dancers Zaila Avant-garde becomes first African American Spelling Bee winner The Hill's Morning Report – Biden renews families plan pitch; Senate prepares to bring infrastructure package to floor MORE will join the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) TEACH Conference at Payne Elementary School in Washington, D.C., at 11:30 a.m. with union President Randi Weingarten. They will tour the school and visit students enrolled in a summer program. The first lady will speak at 12:15 p.m.
➔ FLORIDA: The death toll at the collapsed condominium site in Surfside, Fla., rose to 36 on Tuesday as searchers sound increasingly grim about what’s ahead for victims’ families who still hold out hope for survival of loved ones (The Associated Press). Meanwhile, Elsa briefly became a hurricane and then weakened again to a tropical storm overnight, serving to remind Floridians that people (and structures) are at increased risk from the effects of climate changes and rising sea levels along coastal areas. With heavy rain and wind, Elsa was forecast to make landfall along the central coast of the state near Tampa this morning (The Associated Press). … As The Hill’s Zack Budryk writes, three to five major hurricanes are expected this season, with an unknown number expected to affect the Sunshine State. In the past 170 years, 157 hurricanes have pummeled Florida, or about 16 percent.
➔ CYBERSECURITY: The recent cyberattack on software company Kaseya, potentially impacting up to 1,500 businesses, exposes threats posed by Russian cyber criminal syndicates and ransomware attacks. The international attack occurred less than a month after Biden met with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUkraine says Russian-linked hackers attacked its navy's website Overnight Energy: Newsom asks Californians to cut personal water consumption to fight off drought | John Kerry to visit Moscow officials to discuss ‘global climate ambition' | EPA bans sale of COVID-19 disinfectant authorized under Trump Hillicon Valley: Biden warns Putin on Russian ransomware attacks | Biden signs sweeping order to boost competition| TikTok updates automated takedown system MORE and warned there would be consequences if Moscow did not pull up its welcome mat for cyber extortionists and hackers (The Hill).
And finally … U.S. scientists, including marine biologists on both coasts, are busy tracking, listening to and mapping whales, sharks, dolphins and sea lions, to name some of the larger aquatic creatures humans suddenly notice as we gaze into their liquid habitats.
Off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., researchers are using drones to study sharks that hunt seals (Boston Herald). In Maryland, scientists track and listen to whales using a special monitoring buoy 22 miles east of Ocean City, Md. (website is HERE and examples of the recorded whale songs, clicks and whistles are HERE).
Ocearch, a data-centered organization that assists researchers, shows where it tracks and maps up-to-date movements of wild animals in waters around the world, including tagged alligators in Georgia, fur seals off the coasts of California and Washington, and gargantuan sharks feeding off the Atlantic Coast and in the South Pacific Ocean — swishing through inky depths, including during the past few days (interactive map is HERE).
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