On the Hill
MORE BLOWBACK ON ISRAEL WEAPONS SALE: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) will be sending a letter to the Biden administration requesting a delay of the $735 million sale in precision-guided weapons to Israel, three sources confirmed to me and my colleague John Hudson.
The letter, first reported by Vox's Alex Ward, comes less than 24 hours after we broke the news of the administration's approval of a weapons sale to Israel that includes Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMS) — kits that transform so-called “dumb” bombs into precision-guided missiles — and Guided Bomb Unit-39s (GBU-39), both of which are used against Palestinians, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose sensitive information.
Meeks called a virtual emergency meeting Monday evening with House Democrats on the committee to discuss the sale and the conflict more broadly, according to three people familiar with the meeting. He told lawmakers and staff on the call he was caught unaware of this weapons sale to Israel, the people said.
Congress was officially notified of the proposed sale on May 5 — nearly a week before hostilities intensified between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East. Tensions flared among Democratic lawmakers on Foreign Affairs caught off guard over the weekend when they first learned of the sale and criticized the committee for a lack of transparency on arms sales, my colleagues Karoun Demirjian, John and I reported on Monday.
- Notable: Meeks is “a fixture at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC,” per the New York Times's Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson.
Democratic infighting: The Biden administration called for a cease-fire on Monday evening after stopping short of doing so earlier in the day. It has said Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas — a position that a majority in Congress has previously supported.
The intraparty backlash against the proposed sale further highlights the growing divide among Democrats on U.S. policy toward Israel. Democrats on Capitol Hill ramped up pressure on President Biden throughout the day to do more to rein in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 212 Palestinians in Gaza.
- “The U.S. has thus far stood by Netanyahu’s airstrikes, even vetoing United Nations Security Council resolutions calling for a cease-fire,” Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.
- “I’m troubled by it,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told Desiderio of the U.S. vetoes. “I just can’t remember a shooting war where kids are being killed on both sides where the U.S. hasn’t aggressively pushed for a cease-fire.”
- “I just think it’s a no-brainer for the United States to be pushing for a cease-fire,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Middle East. “If Israel doesn’t believe a cease-fire is in their interest, that doesn’t mean we have to accept that judgment. We have enormous persuasive power.”
The big picture: “On the whole, the comments from Biden and his top advisers reflected their determination to cautiously navigate the ongoing conflict,” our colleagues Anne Gearan, John Hudson and Sean Sullivan report. “The administration had declined to weigh in earlier Monday on whether Israel’s military assault against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip is proportionate to the risk posed by Hamas rocket fire, as behind-the-scenes efforts to bring conflict to a close continued.”
- “The muted tone reflects a decision by the Biden administration that heavy public pressure on Israel is likely to backfire. Multiple U.S. officials are applying some pressure and offering advice behind the scenes, with the goal of winding down the conflict, ideally within days. It is not clear whether either Israel or Hamas would agree to a formal cease-fire, but U.S. and some Arab officials have signaled that a de facto agreement to end hostilities may suffice.”
Where things stand: “More than 60 Israeli fighter jets bombarded targets in Gaza in the early hours of Tuesday morning, as Israel showed little sign of easing up its campaign despite growing international pressure and President Biden’s call for a cease-fire,” our colleagues Loveday Morris, Miriam Berger, Hazem Balousha, and Michael E. Miller report.
- “Hamas also fired volleys of rockets into southern Israel overnight, but their attacks have slowed in recent days as the Israeli military has pummeled their underground tunnel networks and launch sites. The Israeli military said 62 fighter jets had dropped 110 ‘guided armaments’ on 65 targets, including Hamas commanders, rocket launchpads and the militant group’s tunnel network. Neither side reported casualties.”
- “Netanyahu on Monday night said that he would ‘continue to take whatever action necessary to restore quiet’ even as President Biden expressed support for a cease-fire during a phone call.”
D.C. LIFTS MASK MANDATE FOR FULLY VACCINATED PEOPLE: “D.C.’s broad mask order, which has required residents for months to wear masks almost every time they leave their houses, will no longer apply to fully vaccinated people, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Monday,” per our colleagues Julie Zauzmer, Michael Brice-Saddler and Emily Davies.
- “Vaccinated or not, all residents still must wear masks on public transit, in schools (even outdoors on the playground), in medical offices and hospitals, and inside any business that chooses to require masks.”
- “But Bowser’s order means people who have waited two weeks past their final dose of coronavirus vaccine now have the ability to exercise, socialize, shop and worship maskless for the first time in months.”
From a Ward 4 councilwoman:
MCCARTHY’S DISTRICT BENEFITS FROM THE SAME ‘SOCIALIST’ SPENDING HE CRITICIZES: “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has spent months accusing President Biden of pushing excessive government spending, denouncing it as ‘socialism.’ But a Washington Post analysis finds that McCarthy’s constituents are among those who have benefited most from the very programs he’s decried, with high poverty levels and a younger population creating acute needs for individual and family aid,” our colleagues Erica Werner, Andrew Van Dam and Yeganeh Torbati report.
- “An unusually large share of children in McCarthy’s district stand to benefit from the expanded child tax credit included in the American Rescue Plan he opposed — more than 93 percent, the seventh-highest proportion in California.”
- “With high levels of poverty in the district, McCarthy’s constituents have also relied heavily on stimulus checks sent out under the American Rescue Plan and earlier coronavirus relief bills. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the poverty rate of 15.6 percent in McCarthy’s district was well above California’s 11.8 percent rate and the national rate of 12.3 percent.”
“The figures highlight the tension between McCarthy’s rhetoric in Washington and the realities on the ground in the 23rd Congressional District, which sits at the southern end of California’s Central Valley.”
At the White House
BIDEN BOOSTS GLOBAL VACCINE DONATIONS: “Biden announced Monday that his administration will send at least 20 million doses of U.S.-authorized coronavirus vaccines abroad by the end of June, a decision that comes amid criticism that the United States has hoarded doses and done too little to fight the pandemic beyond its borders,” our colleagues Tyler Pager and Dan Diamond report.
- “The announcement marks the first time the United States has said it will share vaccines authorized for domestic use. The shipments will include doses from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.”
- “Biden’s move is a watershed moment that signals the U.S. is turning a corner, with vaccine supply now sufficiently outpacing demand. Biden said he would work with international agencies to decide which countries receive U.S. doses, and that he wouldn’t use the shots for diplomatic leverage, accusing China and Russia of doing so,” Bloombeg’s Josh Wingrove and Nancy Cook report.
MARICOPA COUNTY OFFICIALS SLAM 2020 RECOUNT: “The Republican-dominated Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Monday denounced an ongoing audit of the 2020 election vote as a ‘sham’ and a ‘con,’ calling on the GOP-led state Senate to end the controversial recount that has been championed by former president Donald Trump,” our colleague Rosalind S. Helderman reports.
- “In a fiery public meeting and subsequent letter to state Senate President Karen Fann, the board members said the audit has been inept, promoted falsehoods and defamed the public servants who ran the fall election.”
- “Calling the process a ‘spectacle that is harming all of us,’ the five members of the board — including four Republicans — asked the state Senate to recognize that it is essential to call off the audit, which officials have said is only about one-quarter complete.”
- “The pushback by Maricopa County officials amounts to their most vehement protest yet of the recount, which began in late April and is being conducted in Phoenix by a private Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, whose chief executive has previously echoed Trump’s false allegations that fraud tainted the 2020 election.”
FYI: “The review has no formal electoral authority and will not change the results in Arizona, no matter what it finds. Biden would have won the national election even if Trump had earned Arizona’s 11 electoral votes,” the New York Times’s Michael Wines reports.
From the courts
SCOTUS TAKES UP MISSISSIPPI ABORTION LAW, IMPERILING ROE V. WADE: “The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will review a restrictive Mississippi law that provides a clear path to diminish Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of a woman’s right to choose an abortion,” our colleague Robert Barnes reports.
- “Abortion opponents for months have urged the court’s conservatives to seize the chance to reexamine the 1973 precedent. Mississippi is among many Republican-led states that have passed restrictions that conflict with the court’s precedents protecting abortion rights, hoping for a chance to get a case before a Supreme Court that they think is more amenable to their arguments.”
- “The court has now accepted two issues dear to conservatives: gun rights and the ability of states to restrict abortion. And it could add a third: race. Conservative activists have teed up a case challenging Harvard’s use of affirmative action in admission decisions.”
- “It is the kind of agenda the right has hoped for since the court reached a 6-to-3 conservative majority with the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.”
TROUBLE LOOMS FOR MATT GAETZ: “A Florida politician considered key to the investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz formally pleaded guilty Monday to sex trafficking of a minor and a host of other crimes, agreeing to cooperate fully with prosecutors and testify in court in hopes of leniency for himself,” our colleagues Lori Rozsa and Matt Zapotosky report.
- “His plea and deal to cooperate is a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz (R-Fla.) because it signals prosecutors have lined up a critical witness while they continue to investigate the congressman. Gaetz has vigorously denied wrongdoing.”
Outside the Beltway
CUOMO TO RECEIVE $5.1 MILLION FOR HIS BOOK ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC: “New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) will receive a total of $5.1 million for his book on the coronavirus pandemic, a contract driven by his national profile during the worst days of the virus and now seen through the prism of an investigation into his use of advisers to write the book,” our colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey report.
- “The book, ‘American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic,’ proved a lucrative endeavor for the governor, but since its publication, it has become a minefield for him and his publisher, Crown,” the New York Times’s J. David Goodman, Alexandra Alter, Rachel Abrams and Luis Ferré-Sadurní report.
- “The publisher canceled promotion and any plans for a paperback version in March, after the Times reported that Cuomo’s most senior aides had rewritten a state Health Department report on nursing home fatalities to hide the number of actual deaths, just as Cuomo was starting to write his book.”
AT&T’S HOLLYWOOD ENDING ERASED BILLIONS IN VALUE: “Three years ago, AT&T Inc. executives were in a federal courthouse fighting the Justice Department to defend their takeover of Time Warner Inc., a more than $80 billion foray into the entertainment business,” the Wall Street Journal’s Drew FitzGerald, Joe Flint and Benjamin Mullin report.
- “AT&T won the court battle, but lost in the marketplace. Now, at the behest of Chief Executive John Stankey, the telecom giant is giving up its dreams of marrying media content and distribution — one of the biggest about-faces in corporate deal history.”
- “Now, the company will stick to what it knows — the wireless and broadband business.”
From kooky conspiracy theory to object of congressional inquiry: “In the next six weeks, a report is due that is required to make public everything the government knows about UFOs,” our colleague Reis Thebault reports.
- “The report, which will be released sometime in June, requires the director of national intelligence to work with the secretary of defense on a ‘detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence.’”