with Tobi Raji

Good morning. It's Tuesday. Tips, comments, recipes? You know the drill. This is the Power Up newsletter – thanks for waking up with us. 

The policies

ABOUT FACE ON REFUGEES: President Biden reversed course and lifted the annual limit on the number of refugees who can be admitted to the U.S. to 62,500 after fierce backlash from Democrats over his previous decision to keep the Trump record-law cap in place.

Biden acknowledged that refugee admissions would not fill the new 62,500 slots, blaming former president Donald Trump for dismantling the refugee system: 

  • “The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year,” he said. “We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years. It will take some time, but that work is already underway.”
  • Biden also vowed to hit his goal of raising the cap to 125,000 in the next fiscal year starting in October but also cautioned there are challenges ahead: “That goal will still be hard to hit. We might not make it the first year. But we are going to use every tool available to help these fully-vetted refugees fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries.”

With problems growing at the southern border, Biden's about face came after last month announcing he would retain Trump's 15,000 refugee cap. Biden overruled some of his top foreign policy and national security aides to keep that number, despite his campaign promise to raise it.

  • As The Post's Sean Sullivan points out: “The inaction underlined the political and policy concerns about immigration that Biden and some of his top advisers have been feeling in the early days of his presidency. The border surge has prompted strong criticism from both Democratic and Republican elected officials, and polls show the public is also worried about his handling of the situation.”

By the numbers: Ffity-three percent of adults say they disapprove of the way Biden has handled the immigration situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week. 

  • While there are significant differences in his approval ratings on this issue among Democrats, Republicans and independents, the falloff from [Biden's] ratings on the pandemic are sizable among all three groups. For example, there is a 28-point drop among Democrats in rating Biden on the pandemic versus the border. Among Republicans, the falloff is 23 points, and among independents, 31 points,” our colleagues Dan Balz, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin noted. 
  • A CNN poll released last week also found Biden weak on immigration, with his approval rating dropping even among Democrats to 72 percent. 
  • However, “most Americans, 64%, say they favor allowing refugees from central American countries to seek asylum in the United States, similar to the share who felt that way in 2019,” according to CNN's Jennifer Agiesta. “There has been little change in the partisan split on this question: 82% of Democrats and 68% of independents favor allowing them to seek asylum, but just 32% of Republicans agree.”

On the right: Republicans were quick to respond to the issue that's showed staying power as a political cudgel for the GOP going into 2022 midterms — and accused Biden of capitulating to his party's left flank:

  • “'Increasing the refugee admissions cap will put American jobs and safety at risk,' [Sen. Tom] Cotton [R-Ark.} tweeted, despite multiple studies showing that immigrants work jobs that employers historically struggle to fill. ‘The Biden administration should be focused on getting Americans back to work,’” the New York Times's Michael Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs noted. 
  • “They are very concerned about the border,” Sarah Chamberlain, the CEO of Republican Main Street Partnership, told Power Up last week of GOP suburban women whose support in part helped Biden defeat Trump. “These are the women that did not vote for Trump and are watching [Biden] closely.”

On the left: Democratic lawmakers and refugee advocates hailed Biden's decision but quickly noted the implications of his delay in raising the cap. 

  • “Biden’s hesitancy had real-world consequences, refugee advocates said,” per Sean. “They noted in recent weeks that it meant canceled flights for refugees ready to travel. Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill urged Biden to fulfill his promise, but for a time, they were unsuccessful.”
  • In a sign of the White House’s desire to repair frayed relations with refugee advocates, administration officials held a call with them after Monday’s announcement, on which they reinforced the themes Biden underscored in his statement, according to two people with knowledge of the conversation,” Sean reports. 

On the Hill

CHENEY VS. TRUMP, NEW ROUND’: Rep. Liz Cheney made clear Monday that she will continue to publicly denounce [Trump] over his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, imperiling her position in House Republican leadership as GOP members continue to rally around Trump,” our colleagues Marianna Sotomayor, Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis report.

  • “House Republican leaders as well as some rank-and-file members have said that Cheney’s statements in recent weeks about Trump are a distraction and that she should focus on issues that unite the party.”
  • “But Cheney (R-Wyo.) brushed aside those warnings Monday after Trump issued a statement attempting to commandeer the term ‘Big Lie,’ commonly used to refer to the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, by asserting that the term should now refer to President Biden’s election victory. Cheney quickly condemned Trump’s comment as well as anyone who supports his statements about the election.”
  • “Hours later, Trump released another statement, this time attacking Cheney by calling her a ‘big-shot warmonger’ and claiming that people in Wyoming ‘never liked her much.’”

Cheney affirmed her position during an off-the-record interview with former House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), per CNN’s  Jamie Gangel and Michael Warren.

  • “We can't embrace the notion the election is stolen. It's a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy,” Cheney said, speaking at the annual retreat for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “We can't whitewash what happened on January 6 or perpetuate Trump's big lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on January 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.”

Cheney’s criticisms continue to draw ire from Republicans. “Cheney’s detractors argue she should focus on promoting a united GOP front on policy and against the Biden administration as the party seeks to win back the House majority in 2022, instead of taking on Trump and his false election claims,” per Sotomayor, Itkowitz and DeBonis.

  • And Cheney, the House GOP conference chair, has become “increasingly isolated from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who defended her when her leadership post was challenged earlier this year but is not expected to do so again.”

From the courts

U.S. TRUSTEE DEALS BLOW TO NRA BANKRUPTCY PETITION: “A U.S. bankruptcy administrator asked a federal judge Monday to dismiss the National Rifle Association’s efforts to declare bankruptcy or appoint a trustee or examiner to oversee the gun rights organization — a setback for the group at the close of a federal court hearing to consider its petition,” our colleague Tom Hamburger reports

  • “The recommendation bolstered the arguments of New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), whose office has fought the NRA’s attempts to relocate from New York to Texas.”
  • “The NRA began considering bankruptcy last year after James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the gun rights organization, alleging that senior NRA executives used the organization to benefit themselves and their friends.”

At the Pentagon

DAY ONE OF THE END OF THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: “A gray American transport plane taxied down the runway, carrying munitions, a giant flat screen television from a C.I.A. base, pallets of equipment and departing troops. It was one of several aircraft that night removing what remained of the American War from this sprawling military base in the country’s south,” the Times’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff writes.

  • “Biden has said that the United States will withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, ending the country’s longest war on foreign soil — but the pullout has already begun.”

Outside the Beltway

FDA TO AUTHORIZE PFIZER-BIONTECH VACCINE FOR ADOLESCENTS NEXT WEEK: “The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years old by early next week, opening up the nation’s vaccination campaign to millions more Americans,” the New York Times’s Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere and Apoorva Mandavilli report.

  • “The biotech company Moderna is conducting a similar trial of its vaccine in teens, with results expected in the summer. Moderna is also testing its vaccine in younger children,” our colleague Carolyn Y. Johnson reports.
  • “Johnson & Johnson is planning pediatric trials of its single-shot vaccine.”

THE CORONAVIRUS VACCINE SKEPTICS WHO CHANGED THEIR MINDS: “Kim Simmons, a 61-year-old small-business owner in Illinois, vividly remembers the moment she went from vaccine skeptic to vaccine-ready: watching a Johns Hopkins University doctor on C-SPAN make the case for why the shots are safe,” our colleague Dan Diamond writes

  • “For Lauren Bergner, a 39-year-old homemaker in New Jersey, it was when she realized it would make it easier for her family to attend New York Yankees games, after the team announced fans would need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test or that they had been vaccinated.”
  • “And for Elizabeth Greenaway, a 34-year-old communications consultant in Pennsylvania, it was the sudden fear that if she got sick, she wasn’t sure who would take care of her 2-year-old daughter, who has a rare health condition.”
  • “Thinking about herd immunity, thinking about my daughter, thinking about all of that, I just realized — it’s about being a part of something bigger than yourself,” Greenaway told our colleague.
Participants in an April 29 focus group describe what made them decide to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. (Courtesy of Frank Luntz and de Beaumont Foundation)

“Simmons, Bergner and Greenaway are among the growing number of vaccine skeptics turned vaccinated Americans, a sign of hope amid the slowing pace of vaccinations nationwide. Almost half of all adults have yet to receive a first shot although they are now eligible, and the rolling rate of new shots has dropped to its lowest level since mid-March.”

  • “Their conversions — along with those of 16 other former skeptics who joined a focus group last week — have drawn intense interest from White House officials and public health experts, hoping to re-create those moments for the tens of millions of Americans who remain in the ‘no’ camp.”

Global power

‘#CARRIEANTOINETTE’ AND THE U.K.’S DECORATING SCANDAL: “Of all the unsavory ethical questions swirling around Prime Minister Boris Johnson these days, the one that has stuck is how he paid for the costly makeover of his apartment in Downing Street. And it has put his 33-year-old fiancee, Carrie Symonds, under a particularly scorching spotlight,” the Times’s Mark Landler and Stephen Castle report

  • “Johnson, 56, has been accused in news reports of secretly using funds from a Conservative Party donor to supplement his public budget for redecorating the apartment — a charge that, although Johnson says he has repaid the money, has prompted an investigation by Britain’s Electoral Commission.”
  • “But it is Symonds and her purportedly expensive taste in wallpaper and designer furniture that has become a running theme on social media and in British tabloids.”
  • “For Symonds, it is the latest trial in a year overstuffed with dramatics: the near-fatal illness of Johnson after he contracted the coronavirus; the birth of their son, Wilfred; and the bitter purging of Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, in which she is reported to have played a behind-the-scenes role.”

“It all has put Symonds at the heart of a familiar narrative, one replete with sexism and double standards: the grasping, manipulative politician’s partner. She joins a parade of women, from Hillary Clinton to Cherie Blair, the wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose murmurings to their men were the subject of fevered suspicion.”

  • “The fact that her relationship with Johnson coincided with the breakup of his 25-year marriage, and that she became the first unmarried partner to move into Downing Street, only adds to Symonds’s tabloid portrayal as a libertine Lady Macbeth or an upwardly mobile Marie Antoinette — choose your cliche.”


💔: “Bill and Melinda Gates, who run one of the world’s largest philanthropies, are divorcing after 27 years of marriage,” our colleague Jay Greene reports