Today at 7:19 a.m. EDT|Updated today at 9:07 a.m. EDT
Today at 7:19 a.m. EDT|Updated today at 9:07 a.m. EDT
Today, President Biden appears poised to preside over a new phase of U.S. involvement in the war between Russia and Ukraine, with plans to dramatically expand the scope of weapons being provided to Ukraine and Biden standing by his characterization of Russia having committed “genocide,” a term U.S. officials had avoided using.
Biden’s comments on “genocide” came during a visit to Iowa on Tuesday, part of his effort to manage the fallout of the war back home, including higher gas prices. He’ll be back the road on Thursday, heading to North Carolina, but has no public appearances planned Wednesday.
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Noted: With a new ad, DNC seeks to turn the tables on Sen. Rick Scott
Back in February, when Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.) released an “11-point plan to rescue America” that included a proposal for all Americans to pay some form of income tax, fellow Republicans quickly sought to distance themselves.
A new digital ad released Wednesday by the Democratic National Committee helps explain why.
The ad asserts that Republicans would raise taxes on half of Americans and links to a website that highlights groups of Americans who would pay more. The ad targets voters in the battleground states of North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada.
Scott has argued that Democrats are mischaracterizing his plan.
But it clearly states: “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”
It’s true that roughly 50 percent of Americans on the bottom half of the income distribution do not pay federal income taxes because they do not earn enough to have income tax liability and because many receive tax credits. (Millions of these Americans do pay federal and state government taxes in the form of payroll taxes, sales taxes and other levies.)
It’s all but certain that the new DNC ad won’t be the last of its kind heading into the midterm elections.
Noted: Pence’s stop by Heather Heyer memorial provokes strong reactions
Former vice president Mike Pence, who spoke at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on Tuesday night, provoked strong reactions for an earlier stop in the city at a memorial for Heather Heyer.
Heyer was killed in a car attack during the infamous 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville as she participated in an anti-racism counter-demonstration.
Donald Trump’s characterization of the deadly gathering became one of the enduring flash points of his presidency. In its aftermath, he asserted that there were good people among the white supremacist demonstrators, and that there was blame on “both sides.”
Pence, who has sought in recent months to distance himself in some respects from Trump as he weighs his own presidential bid, was derided on social media overnight by those who saw his visit to Heyer’s memorial as too little, too late.
Asked at a 2017 news conference whether he agreed with Trump, Pence largely sidestepped the issue.
“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy, and the president has been clear on this tragedy, and so have I,” Pence said at the news conference in Santiago, Chile. “I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia, and I stand with the president, and I stand by those words.”
On our radar: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vs. Disney
In this midterm election year, culture wars are being waged across the country by leading Republicans on issues important to their base, including abortion rights, medical care for transgender youth and the impact on the United States of teaching about race.
Among the marquee battles: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a potential 2024 White House contender, vs. the Walt Disney Co. for its opposition to a Florida bill banning the teaching of gender-related issues to kids younger than third graders — dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill by its foes.
The Post’s Lori Rozsa writes:
This particular clash features a pair of Florida’s most powerful behemoths: the governor, who has made a name for himself with slash-and-burn Trump-style politics; and Disney, the entertainment giant that is one of the state’s largest and most influential employers. Under pressure from its employees, Disney denounced the bill — but has disappointed some by not pushing back further and sooner.
Lori notes that DeSantis’s crusade against Disney could win him points among national conservatives as he considers a presidential run, but Florida observers — some of them Republicans — say DeSantis runs a risk by taking on Disney on its home turf. You can read Lori’s full story here.
New U.S. military assistance reflects evolving war — The Biden administration is preparing to amplify its military assistance to Ukraine with what is potentially shaping up to be another $750 million package, including new systems that could augment the Ukrainians’ current capabilities.The preliminary plans circulating among government officials in Washington include Mi-17s — Soviet-origin helicopters that could be used to attack Russian vehicles — as well as armored Humvees. They also include howitzer cannons, coastal defense drones, and gear to safeguard personnel in the event of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack.While the details are subject to change, they paint a picture of an evolving war. The sea drones seem to anticipate that Russia could be planning more amphibious assaults, while the biological, chemical and nuclear safety gear is a signal that Ukrainians fear Russians may launch such attacks going forward. Mi-17s and howitzers, meanwhile, would increase Ukraine’s firepower against Russian forces from air and land.All of these could prove important as the war in Ukraine enters a critical phase, as Russia regroups its forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, and both sides brace for a long and bloody fight for its control. U.S. leaders have expressed urgency about supplementing Ukraine as this shift is underway.
Pentagon, Capitol Hill, foreign affairs
On our radar: W.Va. congressional race has two GOP incumbents but only one endorsed by Trump
Among the many races in which former president Donald Trump factors in this year is a Republican congressional primary in West Virginia that pits two incumbents, Reps. David B. McKinley and Alex Mooney, against each other as a result of redistricting.
Mooney has been proudly touting his endorsement by Trump while McKinley talks often about the bipartisan infrastructure law and what it is bringing home to the newly redrawn 2nd Congressional District.
Writing in The Trailer, The Post’s David Weigel says the race comes down to a choice between whether to keep a congressman skilled at bringing federal dollars home or one who will vote for the position Trump takes. Dave writes:
The primary, the first this year that pits two incumbents against each other due to redrawn lines, will show what Republican voters are willing to give up or look past if Trump urges them to do so. Despite Mooney facing a House Ethics Committee investigation, and district lines that favored McKinley, polling from both camps shows a very competitive race.
You can read Dave’s full piece here.
On our radar: Iowa Supreme Court to consider whether Grassley challenger can appear on ballot
Iowa’s seven-member Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Wednesday on whether Abby Finkenauer, who had been the leading Democratic candidate seeking to topple Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) this year, can be on the ballot.
A judge ruled late Sunday that Finkenauer, a former congresswoman, cannot appear on the June 7 Democratic primary ballot because she did not submit enough valid signatures on her nominating petitions. A state panel came to the opposite conclusion last month.
Finkenauer criticized the judge’s ruling as “deeply partisan” and a “massive gift to Washington Republicans” in a statement Monday.
If the ruling holds, Democrats would be left with lesser-known candidates in the party’s bid to defeat Grassley, who at 88 is the oldest Republican senator in Washington. With the Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, any election this year could tip the balance of power.
Election administrators are eager for a quick ruling from Iowa’s Supreme Court so they can start printing primary ballots.
Noted: Rep. Axne stands to benefit from Biden’s Iowa visit
Biden’s visit to Iowa on Tuesday was not billed as a campaign event, but it could provide a boost to the congresswoman whose district in which it was held: Rep. Cindy Axne, one of the most vulnerable House Democrats. Biden used the event to announce the administration’s decision to allow a gasoline blend known as E15, which is 15 percent ethanol, to be sold over the summer — a move that will help Iowa corn farmers.
The Post’s Annie Linskey, Tyler Pager, Jeff Stein and Evan Halper report that Biden heaped praise on Axne, who attended the event, and signaled that she has a direct line to the White House.
“There was no fence at the White House high enough to keep her out,” Biden said.
From The Post’s dispatch:
Although Biden is not popular in Iowa, even some Republicans said Tuesday’s event — with the president announcing a move that will help the state’s farmers — could boost the congresswoman.
“This is a big deal especially for Cindy Axne,” said Lance Lillibridge, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Lillibridge, a Republican farmer from Vinton, cheered Biden’s announcement Tuesday as a victory for farmers and consumers, saying it would inject more stability into the corn market and ease farmers’ ability to plan for the year ahead.
You can read the full piece on Biden’s visit here.
Noted: Pence makes light of controversy surrounding U-Va. appearance
Word of Mike Pence’s planned appearance at the University of Virginia had roiled the Charlottesville campus, with an editorial in the student newspaper arguing the former vice president did not deserve a platform there and others saying it was a case study in how liberal colleges are intolerant of conservative views.
Upon his arrival on Tuesday night, Pence made light of it all.
Hawes Spencer in Charlottesville and The Post’s Susan Svrluga report:
Pence was greeted by a standing ovation in the hall Tuesday, laughter at his jokes, and repeated applause during his speech. The crowd chuckled when Pence said he had heard there was a “little controversy” preceding his visit.
The event included questions, including one about whether Pence plans to run for the White House in 2024.
“I’ll keep you posted,” he said.
The last student to stand up asked Pence what he would do if one of his children came out to him as gay.
Pence said, to loud applause, that he’d look them in the eye, and tell them, “I love you.”
He went on to say that he believes marriage is between a man and a woman. But we live in a pluralistic society, he said. And the way we come together as a country “is when we respect your right to believe, and my right to believe, what we believe,” he said.
You can read Hawes and Susan’s full story here.
Noted: 2021 was not a good year for human rights and democratic norms
While much of the world’s attention has been focused in recent weeks on Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, respect for human rights and democratic norms eroded elsewhere around the world as well in 2021, according to a Biden administration report issued Tuesday.
The Post’s Missy Ryan has details:
Secretary of State Antony Blinken described what he called a continued “recession” in basic rights and the rule of law over the past year as he unveiled the U.S. government’s annual assessment of the global human rights situation.
“Governments are growing more brazen, reaching across borders to threaten and attack critics,” Blinken said, citing an alleged effort by Iran’s government to abduct an Iranian American journalist from New York; efforts by the Assad regime to threaten Syrians cooperating with German steps to try former regime officials; and Belarus’s diversion of a commercial flight to seize a journalist.
You can read Missy’s full story here.