Morning Report — A frenzied sprint to fund the government


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Congress has one day left to avert a government shutdown, and this morning’s expected vote in the House is set to kick off the whirlwind process to make sure the lights stay on in Washington.

Congressional leaders rolled out a sprawling $1.2 trillion legislative package to fund swaths of the government in the wee hours of Thursday morning. The Hill’s Aris Folley breaks down the highlights of what is in the 1,012-page, six-bill funding package.

The Hill: Major health bills fail to make the cut in Congress amid competing priorities.

NOW, LAWMAKERS ARE RACING to pass the legislation before a Friday midnight deadline to prevent a lapse in funds for more than half the government, including the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. The bills, which cover fiscal 2024, are already six months behind schedule because of recurring funding and policy disputes. And lawmakers have further incentive to avoid weekend work: their planned two-week recess, which kicks off this weekend.

Because of a set of arcane procedural rules, work on passing the legislation could slip into the weekend. But House Republican leaders scheduled a vote on the package for this morning, bypassing a self-imposed chamber rule that would have required them to give members at least 72 hours to review the text before calling for a vote (The New York Times).

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said he was confident the legislation would pass Friday and downplayed the significance of any conservative backlash.

“I mean, on any bipartisan agreement, you have some Democrats and some Republicans that drop off,” Scalise said about the criticism from the right flank of his party.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Thursday he expects most Democrats to support the funding package and noted the draft did not include most GOP policy riders. Asked at a press conference how many Democrats he expected to vote for the bill — and whether it could be more than 200 — Jeffries replied, “A substantial majority.”

Amid the efforts to get government funding over the finish line, Democrats are accusing Republicans of politicizing the effort to provide aid to Israel in its war against Hamas. Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have in recent days and weeks levied criticism at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his handling of the war and the ensuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In response, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) announced Thursday he was inviting Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress — which would require a signoff from Schumer (Politico).

▪ The Wall Street Journal: Schumer said he criticized Netanyahu to save Israel.

▪ NBC News: While Netanyahu spoke to congressional Republicans on Wednesday, Schumer declined his request to address Senate Democrats.

A sticking point for progressives in the sprawling deal is restrictions on funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main agency that provides shelter, food and water in Gaza. Israel has accused several UNRWA members of colluding with Hamas, prompting a withdrawal of funding for the agency from various countries (The Hill).

IN THE UPPER CHAMBER, senators are hopeful they can pass the funding legislation tonight, looking to avoid weekend work to get the so-called minibus across the finish line. Even if a temporary lapse in federal funding were to occur, it would likely have only a limited impact on government operations if funding were to be restored before the end of the weekend (CNN).

Senators have several amendments to consider as they tackle their end of the spending package — including those proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and a couple others related to the border. And while some Senate conservatives are angry about deal, they’re stopping short of any threats to slow its eventual passage in their chamber (Politico and The Washington Post).

“This funding agreement between the White House and congressional leaders is good news that comes in the nick of time: When passed, it will extinguish any more shutdown threats for the rest of the fiscal year, it will avoid the scythe of budget sequestration, and it will keep the government open without cuts or poison pill riders,” Schumer said Thursday on the Senate floor. “It is now the job of the House Republican leadership to move this package ASAP.”

3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

▪ ⚖️ The Justice Department and 16 state and district attorneys general on Thursday sued Apple Inc. for alleged iPhone antitrust violations, which the company denies. Here’s how prosecutors say the company created a smartphone monopoly. In addition, Apple and Google will face European Union investigations under a new law reining in the power of Big Tech.

▪ 💡 Medicare says it will cover obesity drugs, but not for weight loss treatment. 

▪ 📿 In a first for medicine, a genetically engineered pig kidney that was transplanted into a 62-year-old Black man produced urine immediately last weekend. If the procedure ultimately is a success, a breakthrough could make dialysis “obsolete” and help minority patients who have kidney disease and kidney failure access life-saving transplants.

LEADING THE DAY

Biden Trump 011224 Illustration CourtneyJonesGregNashandAdobeStock

© The Hill / Courtney Jones; Greg Nash; and Adobe Stock | President Biden has outraised former President Trump in campaign and national party contributions reported to the Federal Election Commission to date.

POLITICS 

President Biden and the Democratic National Committee are outraising by 2-to-1 former President Trump and the Republican National Committee, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The chasm is significant between two presumptive nominees who have clear vulnerabilities in the eyes of many voters in an election that could turn on a few thousand votes in a handful of neck and neck swing states. It is expected to be the most expensive presidential election cycle in history. Donations bankroll state campaign organizations and staff, door-knocking and persuasion, travel and candidate advertising (here’s the Biden campaign’s latest ad bashing Trump’s handling of the pandemic).

Biden’s team raised roughly $53 million in February, giving his bid for a second term $155 million in cash on hand entering March. Trump’s team brought in $10.9 million last month, while his joint fundraising committee raised nearly $11 million. The former president, battling 91 criminal indictments, is burning through millions of dollars in contributions to pay his legal bills. His operation overall had about $42 million in cash on hand entering March, The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Amie Parnes reported.

“If Donald Trump put up these kinds of numbers on ‘The Apprentice,’ he’d fire himself,” Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement.

“It’s piss poor,” one GOP strategist told The Hill, referring to the fundraising. “I still think he could win regardless, but they’ve got to keep this competitive, and it’s not right now.” 

GOP donors are apprehensive in part because of Trump’s legal troubles, said Doug Heye, a former RNC spokesperson and Trump critic. “Money doesn’t determine everything, but the lack of cash in the coffers — along with the [RNC] field staff being laid off and the still existing fear that RNC funds will be used to pay Trump’s lawyers — are scaring off” some donors, he added. 

Trump’s new joint fundraising agreement with the RNC directs donations to his campaign and a political action committee that pays the former president’s legal bills before the RNC gets a cut, according to a fundraising invitation obtained by The Associated Press and reported Thursday.

2024 ROUNDUP

▪ Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) will not seek reelection as a Democrat this year, suggesting he might decide to compete as an independent. Some Democrats want him to step down as he prepares for a May trial while under indictment for allegedly accepting bribes. He says he’s not guilty. I will not file for the Democratic primary this June,” the senator said in a video Thursday. “I am hopeful that my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an independent Democrat in the general election.”

▪ Republicans in Congress are not of like mind about raising the Social Security retirement age, let alone publicly pushing the controversial idea during an election year. Democrats, practiced for decades with “third rail” politics, hope the GOP will walk right onto thin ice with the electorate. 

▪ An organized Biden protest effort at the ballot box in key states resonates with young voters.

Dennis Kucinich, a former eight-term Ohio Democratic House member, former mayor of Cleveland and a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, filed this week to run as an independent House candidate for Ohio’s 7th Congressional District. He was a campaign manager for independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. until October. On the November ballot for that House seat are Rep. Max Miller (R) and Democratic challenger Matthew Diemer.

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at 9 a.m.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will depart the White House at 4:40 p.m. to head to New Castle, Del.

Vice President Harris will travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she will visit a home in Canóvanas to talk at 2:55 p.m. about the administration’s ongoing disaster recovery assistance. Also attending in Canóvanas: Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Adrianne Todman and Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi. The vice president at 3:50 p.m. will visit a San Juan community center for a tour and visit with center staff and community leaders. About 90 minutes later, Harris will headline a campaign fundraiser in San Juan before departing Puerto Rico to fly to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where she will remain overnight.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Tel Aviv to meet this morning with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the situation in Gaza. Blinken will meet at 12:10 p.m. local time with members of the Israeli war cabinet.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff heads to Utah’s City Creek Treatment Plant in Salt Lake City to speak beginning at 1:30 p.m. local time about administration investments in clean water infrastructure. Biden adviser Tom Perez, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs, will participate. Emhoff will join a roundtable discussion at 2:15 p.m. MT at the Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County Building about the impact of climate change on the Great Salt Lake.

First lady Jill Biden will fly to Los Angeles to speak in the evening at a Biden-Harris campaign fundraiser.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m.

ZOOM IN

Photo—-Trump World – Mt.Kisco property:

Mt.Kisco property

© The Associated Press / John Minchillo | A Trump-owned property in Mount Kisco, N.Y., is potentially vulnerable to seizure if the former president cannot post bond for a court-ordered penalty in a civil defamation case.

TRUMP WORLD

The New York attorney general’s office has filed judgments in Westchester County, where Trump’s golf resort and private estate, known as Seven Springs, is located. The judgments represent a first step toward seizing the asset, following Judge Arthur Engoron’s multimillion-dollar judgment in Trump’s civil fraud trial. Engoron ruled that Trump, the Trump Organization and top executives were liable for fraud after conspiring to alter the former president’s net worth for tax and insurance benefits. He ordered them to pay $464 million, plus interest, in total.

Trump has just three days to find the cash to post a surety bond for his portion of the judgment — a whopping $454 million, plus interest — before New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) can begin seizing his assets. James has said that if Trump does not have the funds to pay off the judgment, her office intends to seek “judgment enforcement mechanisms in court” (The Hill).

But a big potential windfall has emerged. The former president could potentially resolve his financial difficulties pending a vote today by shareholders of Digital World Acquisition Corp., a publicly traded shell company seeking to merge with the former president’s media business. The deal’s approval would open the door for Trump Media & Technology Group, whose flagship product is the social networking site Truth Social, to soon begin trading on the Nasdaq stock market in Digital World’s place. If the deal goes through, Trump’s stake could exceed $3 billion.

Meanwhile, effective Thursday, Trump’s namesake family real estate company has a babysitter. Barbara Jones, a retired federal judge, has been overseeing the Trump Organization’s finances since November 2022 as part of a preliminary injunction. Engoron has now installed her for the next three years (ABC News).

▪ USA Today: What happens if Trump can’t pay his bond on time?

▪ The Hill: The Manhattan district attorney’s office prosecuting Trump’s hush money case indicated in a court filing Thursday that no further trial delays were warranted after new documents punted what was supposed to be the start of the criminal proceeding.

ELSEWHERE

International Blinken

© The Associated Press / Amr Nabil | Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday.

INTERNATIONAL

A U.S.-backed resolution is expected to be voted on today at the United Nations calling for an “immediate cease-fire” in Gaza tied to the release of Israeli hostages, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday. The language in the U.N. resolution is the strongest to date by the Biden administration (NBC News and The New York Times).

Blinken will meet today with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and Israel will send a delegation to the U.S. next week, including Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer. Amid strained relations with the White House and some lawmakers, Netanyahu told GOP senators this week that the Gaza war will continue (Reuters).

The Times of Israel: During Israel’s war with Hamas, the U.S. has vetoed three draft U.N. Security Council resolutions, two of which would have demanded an immediate cease-fire. The Biden administration justified its veto by saying such action could jeopardize efforts by the U.S., Egypt and Qatar to broker a pause in the war and the release of hostages.

Explainer: Why is Israel so determined to launch an offensive in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city?

HAITI: The State Department is trying to assist hundreds of U.S. citizens to evacuate the violence-torn country as gang-fueled violence escalates. The chaos has forced the closure of the airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Approximately 5.5 million people in Haiti are in need of humanitarian help as governance crumbles (Axios).

Suspected gang members were killed during an attack on the southern outskirts of Haiti’s capital as a clash with police and locals pointed to a resurgence of vigilante justice (NBC News).

▪ NPR and CNN: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is prepping his state, home to more than 270,000 people born in Haiti, for migrants who may flee the impoverished nation.

▪ ABC News: Human rights activists are calling on the Dominican Republic’s government for a temporary reprieve in deportations as neighboring Haiti’s crisis spirals and people attempt to flee over the closed border from a surge in deadly gang violence.

▪ The Hill: The U.N. General Assembly approved its fists resolution on artificial intelligence Thursday, giving global support to an international effort to ensure the powerful new technology respects human rights and is “safe, secure and trustworthy.”

OPINION

■ Who lost the budget deal? by The Wall Street Journal editorial board.

Why Trump can’t escape his appellate bond dilemma, by Neil P. Pedersen and Adam Pollock, opinion contributors, The Hill.

THE CLOSER

Quiz Cherry blossoms

© The Associated Press / Pablo Martinez Monsvais | Tourists flocked to the Tidal Basin in Washington on Wednesday to see the cherry blossoms in peak bloom.

And finally … 👏👏👏 Congrats to winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! With a spring in their steps, they tackled a puzzle about the change of seasons.

Champs who used expert guesses or googling: Richard E. Baznik, Tim Abeska, Tom Chabot, R. Milton Howell, Nicholas Genimatas, Harry Strulovici, Phil Kirstein, Jerry Leonard, Lynn Gardner, Linda L. Field, Peter Spofera, Bill Moore, Susan Reeves, Randall S. Patrick, Kathleen Kovalik, Mark Williamson, Laura Rettaliata, Mark Roeddiger, Robert Bradley, Terry Pflaumer, John van Santen, John Trombetti, Jaina Mehta Buck, Lou Tisler, Jim Hay, David Tapley, Cheryl Peters, Tom Werkema, Gary Kalian, R. Travis de Grouchy, Blair Marasco, Stan Wasser, Chuck Schoenenberger, Luther Berg, Jack Barshay, Pam Manges, Bill Bachman and Steve James.

They knew that tourists and locals flock to Washington’s Tidal Basin for the annual peak bloom phase of cherry blossom trees.

The first day of spring this year was accelerated by 24 hours (according to the calendar) because it’s a leap year.

During the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, we get 12 hours of daylight.

The U.S. practice of moving clocks forward for daylight saving time was originally introduced as a measure to save on fuel costs during World War I.

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