President Biden announced Wednesday that Vice President Harris will become the point person for the administration in seeking to stem the flow of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. As part of that role, she will work with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as the administration grapples with an influx of asylum seekers.

Later Wednesday, Biden marked Equal Pay Day with Megan Rapinoe, Margaret Purce and other U.S. soccer stars in which he credited them for leading the fight to erase the gender pay gap. Meanwhile, the Senate confirmed Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health, making her the first openly transgender, Senate-confirmed federal official in U.S. history.

Here’s what to know:

12:19 a.m.
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Gun violence, immigration, the filibuster: The many issues facing Biden ahead of his first news conference

When President Biden’s team announced last Tuesday that he would hold his first solo White House news conference this Thursday, they were optimistic that Biden would be able to offer an ebullient update about his early successes, including passage of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and dramatic strides in vaccinations.

But nine days are often more like dog years in the life of a president, and somewhere between planning and execution, reality intruded. When Biden steps behind the lectern Thursday, he does so facing myriad crises and challenges — a reminder of the whack-a-mole nature of governing that may imperil his ambitious agenda.

The nation is reeling from two back-to-back mass shootings, which left a total of 18 people dead — 10 at a supermarket in Boulder, Colo., on Monday and eight last Wednesday during a rampage at three spas in the Atlanta area. In response, Biden on Tuesday waded into a heated cultural debate over the role of guns in society, calling for tighter gun-law restrictions that include an assault weapons ban and the expansion of background checks.

On immigration, Biden is grappling with a crisis at the southern border, where officials are dealing with a growing surge of migrants — many of whom are unaccompanied minors — without the necessary capacity or resources to meet the challenge. On Wednesday, he announced that Vice President Harris will lead the country’s efforts to stem the surge, working with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to enhance immigration enforcement at the border with Mexico.

In addition, Biden is facing intraparty tensions over the lack of Asian American and Pacific Islander representation at the highest levels of his administration; is working to manage another intraparty debate about whether to change the Senate filibuster; and is monitoring the situation in North Korea, which recently fired off a series of short-range missiles.

12:15 a.m.
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Pentagon to house migrant children at vacant military dorm

The Pentagon has agreed to convert a vacant dormitory at Joint Base San Antonio into a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children.

The Defense Department is also allowing the use of land on Fort Bliss, Tex., to build a temporary housing facility for the children.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees housing children who cross the border alone, asked for the assistance from the military as its shelters are at capacity due to the surge of new migrants, many of them children, wanting to come to America.

“DoD will provide HHS officials access to these locations immediately to begin initial actions to prepare for receiving unaccompanied migrant children as soon as preparations are complete,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “HHS will maintain custody and responsibility for the well-being and support for these children at all times on the installation.”

The Biden administration faced scrutiny earlier this week when a Democratic congressman released photos from an overflow facility that showed crowded pods with children sleeping on cots under foil blankets.

10:57 p.m.
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California Gov. Newsom appoints new attorney general to replace HHS Secretary Becerra

California Gov. Gavin Newsom named Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta the new state attorney general to replace Xavier Becerra, who left the job to become Biden’s health and human services secretary.

Bonta, who is Filipino American, is an advocate of criminal justice reform as well as abolishing the death penalty, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision is a blow to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who had reportedly been angling for the job. The high-profile post can propel a politician’s career. The two California attorneys general before Becerra were Kamala D. Harris, who went on to be a U.S. senator and then vice president, and Jerry Brown, who became governor.

10:04 p.m.
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Biden credits Megan Rapinoe and U.S. women soccer players with making him a hero to his granddaughters

Biden welcomed U.S. women’s soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Margaret Purce to the White House for an event on equal pay, thanking them for their advocacy on the issue and for being a hero to so many girls, including his granddaughters.

“Both of you and your entire team, I’m not joking, have inspired our daughters and our granddaughters, who, I might add, are all really good athletes,” Biden said, sounding every bit the proud grandfather. “The fact that Jill and I get to talk with you and your teammates makes us heroes with our granddaughters.”

Rapinoe, who declared in 2019 that she would not visit the White House with then-President Donald Trump in office, described the awe of stepping into the Oval Office. But even with all her championships and success, Rapinoe said, “I’ve been devalued.”

“I’ve been disrespected and dismissed because I am a woman and I’ve been told that I don’t deserve any more than less because I am a woman,” she said. “You see, despite all the wins, I’m still paid less than men who do the same job that I do.”

Biden, before signing a proclamation declaring it Equal Pay Day — the day that denotes how far into the new year a woman must work to make what a man made the previous year — echoed that sentiment.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an electrician, an accountant, or part of the best damn soccer team in the world. The pay gap is real,” Biden said. “And this team is living proof that you can be the very best at what you do and still have to fight for equal pay.”

7:57 p.m.
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GOP Sen. Hyde-Smith says there shouldn’t be voting on Sundays because of God

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) quoted the Bible to defend legislation in Georgia restricting early voting on Sundays during a Senate hearing on March 24. (The Washington Post)

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) said states shouldn’t hold voter events Sundays because it’s the Sabbath.

The issue arose after Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) railed against state legislatures, namely in Georgia, working on new laws that voting rights advocates say disenfranchises communities of color.

“Why did the Georgia legislature only pick Sundays to say there should be no early voting on Sunday?” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “We know why. It’s because that’s the day African Americans vote in the ‘Souls to the Poll’ operation where they go from church to vote. It’s despicable.”

Later, during a Senate committee hearing, Hyde-Smith said she wanted to address the question Schumer raised about Sundays.

“Georgia is a Southern state just like Mississippi, and I cannot speak for Georgia, but I can speak for Mississippi on why we would never do that on Sunday,” she said.

Holding up a dollar bill, she continued: “This is our currency, this is a dollar bill. This says, ‘The United States of America In God We Trust.’ Etched in stone in the U.S. Senate chamber is ‘In God We Trust.’ When you swore in all of these witnesses, the last thing you said to them in your instructions was, ‘so help you God.’ ”

The Bible, she went on, says to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. So that is my response to Senator Schumer.”

Hyde-Smith, who finished the last two years of her predecessor’s term, was sworn in for a full six-year term in January. She took the oath on a Sunday.

7:40 p.m.
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FAQ: What’s in Louis DeJoy’s 10-year plan for the USPS

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released his strategic vision for the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday, an austerity plan designed to save the agency $160 billion over the next decade and position the agency more squarely in the package business.

The blueprint would cut post office hours, lengthen delivery timetables and raise prices, among other measures, and is being pushed forward even as congressional Democrats have clamored for the removal of DeJoy and the agency’s governing board amid step declines in delivery performance. It also comes as President Biden’s three board nominees await their confirmation votes. If they win Senate approval, Democrats and Biden appointees would have the votes to remove DeJoy, if desired.

Here are eight charts that help explain what’s in store for the Postal Service.

6:24 p.m.
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Biden taps Harris to lead efforts to stem the flow of migrants at the southern border

President Biden selected Vice President Harris on March 24 to lead the administration’s efforts stemming flow of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico southern border. (The Washington Post)

Biden has tapped Vice President Harris to lead efforts to stem the flow of migrants at the southern border through working with Mexico and Northern Triangle countries, the president announced Wednesday.

“This new surge that we are seeing with now started with the last administration but it is our responsibility to deal with it humanely and to stop what is happening,” Biden said.

The announcement comes as Biden is scrambling to deal with a significant increase in the number of migrants at the southern border. Biden dispatched officials to Mexico and Guatemala this week to focus on ways to slow the pace at which people are arriving on the southern border.

Harris will have two overarching goals in her new role: She will be working to stem the flow of migrants and establishing a strategic partnership with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The role is similar to a portfolio Biden assumed as former president Barack Obama’s vice president.

“I have asked her, the VP today, because she is the most qualified person to do it, to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border,” Biden said.

Harris said there is “no question this is a challenging situation,” and spoke of the need to enforce laws and also address root causes.

"While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law and that we also -- because we can chew gum and walk at the same time -- must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek as the president has described to come here,” Harris said.

5:43 p.m.
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Psaki defends dismissals of five White House staffers related to marijuana use

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday defended the White House’s dismissals of five staffers due to marijuana use, noting that the substance is still illegal federally and relaying that “other security issues” were also raised with those individuals.

During a White House press briefing, Psaki was asked about the rationale for the dismissals, which resulted from security reviews, given Vice President Harris has acknowledged past marijuana use and said during a 2019 radio interview that the drug “give a lot of people joy” and “we need more joy in the world.”

Psaki, who served in the Obama administration, said the rules “were actually far more stringent then.”

The issue, she said, “isn’t about anyone’s personal point of view.”

“It’s about working through the process, the history and modernizing and taking steps to address the fact that marijuana … is still illegal federally,” she said.

On Friday, responding to a news report in the Daily Beast that said dozens of young staff members had been pushed to resign or had been reassigned to remote work based on their past marijuana use, Psaki tweeted that “of the hundreds of people hired, only five people who had started working at the White House are no longer employed as a result of this policy.”

At Wednesday’s briefing, Psaki added that “other security issues” were raised in these cases.

Asked if Biden would unilaterally say those say that the five people could still work for him, Psaki said: “I think if marijuana was federally legal, that might be a different circumstance.”

5:42 p.m.
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Biden dogs return to White House after stay in Delaware

Major and Champ Biden, the first family’s dogs, have returned to the White House after a two-week stay in Delaware following an aggressive incident that resulted in a minor injury to a Secret Service agent and led to Major spending some time with a trainer.

Michael LaRosa, first lady Jill Biden’s press secretary, confirmed the dogs’ return on Wednesday morning.

Major, the first shelter dog to live in the White House and the younger of the two German shepherds, was spotted by photographers Tuesday being walked on a leash on the White House grounds before Biden left for a trip to Ohio.

After the run-in with the Secret Service agent, White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the dogs as “members of the family” and explained that Major had been “surprised by an unfamiliar person and reacted in a way that resulted in a minor injury to the individual.”

A Secret Service official told The Washington Post that Major nipped at an agent’s hand at the White House, causing a minor injury and leaving a small mark. The skin was not punctured, and there was no bleeding, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive subject. The agent resumed normal duties after the incident, the official said.

Biden later told ABC News that Major was working with a trainer in Delaware.

Asked about the return of the dogs at Wednesday’s news briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Champ and Major had joined the Bidens last weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in western Maryland, and returned with them to the White House on Sunday.

“The dogs will come and go, and it will not be uncommon for them to head back to Delaware on occasion, as the president and first lady often do as well,” she said.

Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.

5:40 p.m.
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McConnell says Biden White House has made ‘no effort whatsoever’ to govern from center, falsely says he hasn’t spoken to the president

During a television appearance Wednesday on Fox News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) castigated the new administration for making “no effort whatsoever” to work with Republicans and said that he had neither been invited to the White House nor spoken to the president on the phone since Biden took office.

“I don’t believe I’ve spoken with him since he was sworn in,” McConnell said of Biden. “We had a couple of conversations before then.”

In fact, McConnell spoke publicly on at least two occasions in early February about having talked with Biden on the phone.

Addressing reporters, McConnell said he “talked to the president yesterday morning” about the status of a coronavirus relief package. And during a floor speech, McConnell said he “spoke with both President Biden and Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken yesterday about the situation in Burma,” also known as Myanmar. He credited them for “approaching this situation in a way that’s bipartisan.”

After the Fox News interview, McConnell’s office acknowledged the conversations with Biden on those two topics, which appear to have been discussed during the same phone call about seven weeks ago.

During the Fox News interview, McConnell argued that the White House had misread the election results and was pursuing a “hard-left” agenda without working with Republicans.

“I haven’t been invited to the White House,” he said. “So far this administration is not interested in doing anything on a bipartisan basis in the political center. They’d be more than happy to pick off a few of our members and do what they’d like to do. But there’s been no effort whatsoever by the president or the administration to do anything in the political center. It’s been trying to jam through everything on the hard left.”

Asked about McConnell’s comments at Wednesday’s news briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was quick to note that McConnell’s office had corrected the record on the phone call.

Biden, she said, “has a long friendship with Leader McConnell.”

“He has spoken with him,” Psaki said. “He speaks with him regularly. We’re obviously not going to read out all of those calls. I expect that will continue.”

4:27 p.m.
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Senate confirms Rachel Levine, historic transgender nominee, as assistant health secretary

The Senate confirmed Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health, making her the first openly transgender, Senate-confirmed federal official in U.S. history.

The vote was 52-to-48. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) joined all Democrats and Independents in voting to support Levine.

Biden’s nomination of Levine, a pediatrician and Pennsylvania’s top health official, was advanced last week on a 13-to-9 vote by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

As Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, Levine rose to national prominence for leading the state’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic, despite repeated attacks on her gender identity.

Serving under Xavier Becerra, Biden’s recently confirmed secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Levine would oversee key health offices and programs across the department, 10 regional health offices nationwide, the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

3:46 p.m.
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Analysis: American whiskey exporters are watching Biden’s European summit

Biden has a chance to cure a Trump-era policy hangover when he meets this week with European heads of state: Tariffs on American whiskey, which have hurt U.S. exporters coast to coast and cost hundreds of millions of dollars as well as untold numbers of jobs.

The president will hold virtual talks Thursday with the European Council, his first such summit since the confirmation earlier this month of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

It’s an opportunity for Biden to follow through on campaign-trail promises to reset the economic relationship with close allies — but also a test of what he will do with the sweeping tariffs he inherited from his predecessor, including those that drew retaliatory tariffs from Europe on products like whiskey. Biden’s opportunity for dram diplomacy comes as the clock is ticking: The E.U. tariffs on American whiskey double to 50 percent come June 1.

3:37 p.m.
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‘Shame, shame, shame:’ Sens. Schumer, McConnell spar over GOP efforts to roll back voting access

The Senate Rules Committee met on March 24 about a bill to combat new voting laws passing through Republican-controlled statehouses. (The Washington Post)

The top two Senate leaders made a rare appearance at a hearing Wednesday morning at which they delivered at-times heated testimony on a sweeping election bill that Democrats have introduced amid a push by Republican-led legislatures across the country to restrict voting.

The legislation under consideration is S. 1, the For the People Act, a version of which passed the House this month with no Republican support. The measure would create uniform national voting standards, overhaul campaign finance laws and outlaw partisan redistricting, among other steps.

Similar legislation passed the House in 2019, but the current push comes as Democrats now control the Senate and White House — and as Republican-controlled state legislatures have moved to roll back voting access in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s 2020 loss and his subsequent campaign to undermine the election results.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Rules Committee, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered impassioned testimony on the Democratic legislation and on the GOP efforts at the state level.

Schumer said the restrictive voting laws introduced by GOP-led legislatures “smack of Jim Crow rearing its ugly face once again.”

“Today, now, in the 21st century, there is a concerted, nationwide effort to limit the right of American citizens to vote and to truly have a voice in their own government. ... I would like to ask my Republican colleagues, Why are you so afraid of democracy?” Schumer said. “Why, instead of trying to win voters over that you lost in the last election, are you trying to prevent them from voting?”

Schumer pointed to one proposal in Arizona that would require absentee ballots to be notarized, asking how poor people would be able to afford to do so. “Is requiring a notary public any different than asking people to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar?” he asked. “I guarantee you the motivation is exactly the same.”

He also condemned legislation in Georgia that would restrict early voting to one Sunday — a move that critics say is aimed at stymieing the “Souls to the Polls” initiative by Black churches to get voters to cast early ballots on Sundays.

“It is shameful that our Republican colleagues are proposing these ideas in 2020 — the same kinds of ‘states’ rights’ that have been used from time immemorial to prevent certain people from voting,” Schumer said. “Shame, shame, shame.”

McConnell countered that Democrats are the ones who should be ashamed. He took aim at several of the legislation’s provisions, including one that would restructure the Federal Election Commission to an odd number of members to break partisan deadlocks.

“Talk about shame,” McConnell said. “If anybody ought to be feeling any shame around here, it’s turning the FEC into a partisan prosecutor, the majority controlled by the president’s party, to harass and intimidate the other side. That’s what you ought to be ashamed about.”

McConnell echoed other Republicans who have argued that most decisions on elections should be left to the states. The legislation is “just not ready for prime time” and would “force every state to rush through big changes,” he argued.

“It’s an invitation to chaos — chaos,” McConnell said. “State-level election officials, including Democrats, are sounding alarms left and right. This messaging bill would create a nightmare [if it] actually became law.

Aaron Blake contributed to this report.

3:27 p.m.
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Trump vaccine leader Moncef Slaoui accused of sexual misconduct, removed from medical company board

Moncef Slaoui, the pharmaceutical industry veteran and vaccine specialist who led president Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, was fired from the board of a medical company Wednesday over allegations of sexual misconduct.

GlaxoSmithKline, the majority shareholder of Galvani Bioelectronics and Slaoui’s former longtime employer where he led vaccine development, announced it terminated Slaoui as Galvani chairman following an investigation triggered by a letter sent last month detailing alleged “sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.’’

The alleged misconduct occurred ``several years ago’’ and was aimed at another employee of GlaxoSmithKline while Slaoui also worked for the pharmaceutical giant, the company said in a statement.

Trump selected Slaoui to lead Operation Warp Speed in May 2020, putting him at the helm of an unprecedented effort to develop multiple vaccines to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The administration trumpeted Slaoui’s expertise as a former chief of vaccine development for GlaxoSmithKline when it picked him to co-lead the initiative.