Post Politics Now: Ukraine aid, baby formula shortages, high gas prices on agenda for Congress – The Washington Post

On our radar: It’s primary day (again)
Noted: Divisions emerge between Trump and a group that used to be a close ally
The latest: Senate votes to advance Ukraine aid package
Our questions, answered: Could Republicans oust Cawthorn in Tuesday’s primary?
On our radar: Congress will hold a hearing on UFOs for first time in decades
The latest: Schumer accuses Fox News, Carlson of ‘spewing’ the ‘poison’ of ‘replacement theory’
On our radar: FDA will announce plan on Abbott baby formula plant today
This just in: Harris’s chief economic adviser to fill in at NSC
The latest: Karine Jean-Pierre gives first White House news briefing
Noted: Bezos spars with the White House over inflation
On our radar: Democrats are calling for a new law on domestic terrorism. What does it entail?
The latest: Biden pays tribute to retired officer killed in Buffalo attack
Noted: GOP Senate candidate Kathy Barnette won’t endorse her rivals if she loses primary
Analysis: Democrats in Congress show remarkable unity on Ukraine
Noted: Why Ketanji Brown Jackson thinks ‘Survivor’ is the best show
On our radar: It’s primary day (again)
Noted: Divisions emerge between Trump and a group that used to be a close ally
The latest: Senate votes to advance Ukraine aid package
Our questions, answered: Could Republicans oust Cawthorn in Tuesday’s primary?
On our radar: Congress will hold a hearing on UFOs for first time in decades
The latest: Schumer accuses Fox News, Carlson of ‘spewing’ the ‘poison’ of ‘replacement theory’
On our radar: FDA will announce plan on Abbott baby formula plant today
This just in: Harris’s chief economic adviser to fill in at NSC
The latest: Karine Jean-Pierre gives first White House news briefing
Noted: Bezos spars with the White House over inflation
On our radar: Democrats are calling for a new law on domestic terrorism. What does it entail?
The latest: Biden pays tribute to retired officer killed in Buffalo attack
Noted: GOP Senate candidate Kathy Barnette won’t endorse her rivals if she loses primary
Analysis: Democrats in Congress show remarkable unity on Ukraine
Noted: Why Ketanji Brown Jackson thinks ‘Survivor’ is the best show
Today, the Senate returns to Washington with leaders of both parties hoping to move forward on a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine that was stalled last week by the objections of a single senator, Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Over the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) became the latest high-profile U.S. political figure to visit the war-torn country and offer assurances of U.S. support. The House has teed up legislation this week on two issues that hit close to home: baby formula shortages and high gas prices.
Meanwhile, President Biden will travel on Tuesday to Buffalo to pay tribute to the victims of what police are calling a racially motivated massacre that has rattled the nation. Congressional Democrats have renewed calls for gun-safety legislation in the wake of the episode that resulted in 10 deaths, but few on Capitol Hill expect movement on the issue.
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It’s primary day yet again tomorrow, with major contests expected across the country that will (again) test former president Donald Trump’s influence on the Republican Party. The president and Congress, meanwhile, will remain focused on Ukraine and the shooting in Buffalo. Here’s what we’re keeping an eye out for:
The influential conservative group Club for Growth is challenging former president Donald Trump’s picks in key Senate races as Republicans nationwide set their bids for the MAGA mantle.
David McIntosh, the group’s president, used to be a close Trump ally. Until recently, the two would meet at Mar-a-Lago to coordinate endorsements in Republican primaries and even urge others to leave races. The Club for Growth backed up those decisions with millions of dollars in campaign ads.
But now, they’re not speaking, Trump advisers told Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf:
The shift further highlights the divisions within the GOP over who gets to claim the “Make America Great Again” title in their campaigns.
Read more about this division here.
The Senate voted 81 to 11 on Monday evening to advance a bill that would secure nearly $40 billion in additional military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
The chamber invoked cloture, capping further debate on the bill and setting up a final vote that is likely to come later this week. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have stressed the importance of securing the aid this week, given that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned that the previous funding the United States sent to Ukraine will run out by Thursday. It also comes on the heels of a surprise trip over the weekend to Ukraine by McConnell and a group of Republican senators.
A bipartisan group of 81 senators voted in favor of advancing the measure. Eleven Republicans, including Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and John Boozman (Ark.), voted against it.
President Biden had expected the measure to land on his desk last week, but the Senate’s move to quickly advance the bill was delayed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who demanded a provision be added establishing an inspector general to oversee the disbursement of the funds. While Schumer and McConnell told Paul he could have a vote on the addition, he declined.
On the Senate floor Monday, Schumer alluded to the Paul impasse, accusing him of “needlessly” delaying the help for the people of Ukraine.
“I urge him to drop his opposition so we can reach an agreement to get this package passed through the Senate as soon as we can,” Schumer said.
The Senate, Schumer said, has a “moral obligation” to pass the assistance quickly.
While Paul could again delay advancing the bill this week, he cannot block final passage of the legislation, as he made clear in a tweet Friday.
“They’ll eventually pass the spending without me, as they always do, but at the very least they need to include oversight,” he wrote.
There’s another round of primaries on Tuesday, and while much of the national attention will be centered on the Pennsylvania GOP Senate race — where Trump-endorsed TV host Mehmet Oz is virtually tied against both a billionaire and a far-right favorite — here at Post Politics Now we are also keeping an eye on the fascinating North Carolina 11th District race. There, the state’s establishment Republicans have turned their backs on incumbent Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R), who still has Trump’s support.
So, our question is: Could voters oust Cawthorn on Tuesday?
Well, first you have to consider primary rules in North Carolina. Cawthorn is facing a packed primary — he’s running against seven Republicans, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who has the support of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Per the AP, if the top vote-getter on Tuesday does not receive more than 30 percent of votes, they will advance to a runoff against the second leading candidate. That election would happen in July.
Republicans seeking to unseat him are thus counting on both their support of Edwards and the ability of the other candidates to split the vote to keep Cawthorn from garnering the 30 percent of the votes he needs to advance to the November election, during which he’ll face one of six Democrats.
Congress will hold its first public hearing on unidentified flying objects in over 50 years on Tuesday.
The House Intelligence Committee’s subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence and counterproliferation will hear from officials about “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.” The open morning hearing will be followed by a classified briefing.
The hearing comes nearly a year after the intelligence community released a report on the unexplained sightings of more than 140 unidentified flying objects. Many of these objects were reported by Navy aviators, and the government was unable to determine whether the objects were atmospheric events playing tricks on sensors or crafts piloted by foreign adversaries, or whether the objects were extraterrestrial in origin.
“The American people expect and deserve their leaders in government and intelligence to seriously evaluate and respond to any potential national security risks — especially those we do not fully understand,” said Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), the subcommittee’s chair. “[This hearing] will give the American people an opportunity to learn what there is to know about these incidents.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) concurred, saying in a statement that the purpose of the hearing “is to give the public an opportunity to hear directly from subject matter experts and leaders in the intelligence community on one of the greatest mysteries of our time, and to break the cycle of excessive secrecy and speculation with truth and transparency.”
Witnesses will include Ronald S. Moultrie, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security, and Scott W. Bray, deputy director of naval intelligence.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) directly accused Fox News and host Tucker Carlson of fomenting hate in the nation by “spewing” the “poison” of the racist “great replacement theory.”
Schumer, in an emotional Senate floor speech, also accused Republicans beholden to former president Donald Trump of spreading rhetoric echoing the baseless “replacement” concept that appears to have inspired the alleged Buffalo shooter.
Schumer said “hard-right MAGA Republicans” are arguing “that people of color and minority communities are somehow posing a threat … to the American way of life.”
“Not long ago, views like replacement theory were only found in the darkest places, in deranged minds,” Schumer said. “[But] replacement theory and other racially motivated views are increasingly coming out into the open, and given purported legitimacy, by some MAGA Republicans and cable news pundits.”
Schumer said it is clear that this messaging has found a “special home in several right-wing outlets, and on one cable news channel in particular — Fox News.” Specifically, he said, Carlson’s show.
“If organizations like Fox News truly want to condemn this weekend’s violence,” Schumer said, “they need to stop spreading ideas like replacement theory on their shows.”
Schumer will join President Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on a visit Tuesday to Buffalo, where they will meet victims’ families and local officials.
The Food and Drug Administration will announce a plan later Monday to reopen the Abbott Nutrition facility in Michigan that produces much of the nation’s supply of infant formula, which is in shortage.
“The FDA is working closely with Abbott to bring the facility back online safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday. “That’s the key here — safely.”
The factory in Sturgis, Mich., has been shut down for 3½ since the FDA began an inspection following allegations of unsanitary conditions. The closure drastically reduced the availability of baby formula across the country.
“We’re also moving as quickly as possible to safely bring in additional product from other countries,” Jean-Pierre said. She said that as soon as Monday evening, the administration will “make an announcement on the expedited process to bring additional safe product to the American stores.”
She said the White House spent the weekend working with manufacturers and retailers “to identify transportation and logistical needs to increase the amount and spread of FDA-approved formula” across the country.
Vice President Harris’s chief economic adviser, Mike Pyle, will temporarily leave her office to fill in as acting deputy national security adviser for international economics at the National Security Council, according to a person familiar with the personnel move.
The Post’s Tyler Pager reports that Pyle will fill in for Daleep Singh, who is taking an extended leave of absence beginning at the end of May because of family reasons. Singh, who has dual roles on the NSC and the National Economic Council, has overseen the Biden administration’s sanctions response against Russia.
White House officials declined to comment.
Before joining the White House, Pyle worked at BlackRock as the global chief investment strategist. He also worked in the Obama administration.
Harris has had significant turnover in her office, as her chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, national security adviser, communications director and press secretary have all departed in recent months.
Karine Jean-Pierre kicked off her first briefing as White House press secretary by noting the historic nature of her appointment.
“I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts,” Jean-Pierre said. “I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman, the first of all three of those to hold this position. I would not be here today if it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me. I stand on their shoulders.”
Representation, she said, “does matter,” adding that no one “understands this better” than Biden.
Jean-Pierre said she is committed to transparency, echoing her predecessor Jen Psaki, who made the same vow on her first day on the podium.
“Jen did a great job at that, and I will work every day to continue to ensure we are meeting the president’s high expectation of truth, honesty and transparency,” Jean-Pierre said.
The new press secretary told reporters that she has “tremendous respect for the work that you all do.”
“The press plays a vital role in our democracy, and we need a strong and independent press now more than ever,” she said. “We might not see eye to eye here in this room all the time, which is okay. That give-and-take is so incredibly healthy, and it’s a part of our democracy.”
“I look forward to engaging with all of you on that,” she concluded.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is sparring with the White House on Twitter over Biden’s economic policies.
As our colleague Jeff Stein writes:
Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said inflation “is a regressive tax that most hurts the least affluent. Misdirection doesn’t help the country.”
The White House didn’t hold back, noting that Bezos’s criticism came after Biden met with labor leaders behind Amazon’s unionization drive, which the company has vehemently opposed. White House spokesman Andrew Bates also emphasized that Bezos would pay substantially higher tax burdens under the plans the administration has introduced.
“It doesn’t require a huge leap to figure out why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda for the middle class that cuts some of the biggest costs families face, fights inflation for the long haul, and adds to the historic deficit reduction the President is achieving by asking the richest taxpayers and corporations to pay their fair share,” Bates told Jeff in a statement. “It’s also unsurprising that this tweet comes after the President met with labor organizers, including Amazon employees.”
Bezos then accused the administration of deflecting.
“Look, a squirrel!” he tweeted, in response to the White House statement.
Meanwhile, prominent economists criticized Bezos for misconstruing Biden’s economic agenda, given that the White House has always claimed that its $3.5 trillion in proposed spending as part of the Build Back Better plan would be fully paid for by higher taxes on the rich and corporations, thus offsetting its impact on fueling additional inflation.
Read more on the sparring here.
Following the mass shooting in Buffalo, which has been described as an act of domestic terrorism, Democrats in Congress drew attention to a House bill that would create new offices within the federal government that would specifically tackle domestic terrorism.
The bill, known as the Terrorism Prevention Act, was passed by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee last month. It would fund three new offices — one each in the Homeland Security Department, the Justice Department and the FBI — dedicated to monitoring and prosecuting domestic terrorism. It would also codify into law a committee tasked with coordinating U.S. attorneys and other public safety officials to share information on domestic terrorism, and it would require the three aforementioned agencies to provide training to state, local and tribal agencies in detecting, deterring and investigating acts of domestic terrorism and white supremacy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement Sunday that the House would soon take up measures “to strengthen efforts to combat domestic terrorism.”
Democrats, who have faced overwhelming Republican opposition to their measures to tighten gun laws, hope that this bill could fill some gaps in the nation’s monitoring of gun violence threats. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urged his colleagues Saturday to pass the measure in light of the attack.
While a similar bill passed the House last year with unanimous support, the latest version was boycotted by all Republicans in the Judiciary Committee, who claim that the legislation would allow the FBI and the Justice Department to target conservatives, including parents who protest at school board meetings, individuals who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and other Americans exercising freedom of speech.
Biden on Monday paid tribute to Aaron Salter Jr., a retired police officer who was killed while working as a security guard when a gunman began a deadly barrage inside a Tops supermarket in Buffalo.
Salter tried taking down the gunman and fired at him multiple times — but the bullets struck the shooter’s bulletproof vest.
“We pay tribute to all law enforcement officers and families who understand what it takes, what’s at risk to save and protect all of us,” Biden said during the White House’s Medal of Valor ceremony held for National Police Week. “That includes paying tribute to the Buffalo police officer, Aaron Salter, … who gave his life trying to save others when a gunman shot and killed 10 innocent people in a grocery store in Buffalo.”
Biden told the crowd of police officers, other public safety officials and their families that “no one understands more than all of you here today the pain and anguish those families in Buffalo feel.”
“You’re part of a special community … because the firefighters and police officers will always be there for you,” Biden said. “I know it’s a small consolation, but they’ll always be there for you and your family, and your children and your grandchildren.”

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