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

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: New White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks to reporters in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2022. (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post)
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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.

Your daily dashboard

  • 11:45 a.m. Eastern: Biden awarded Public Safety Officer Medals of Valor in the East Room of the White House. Watch here.
  • 2:30 p.m. Eastern: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre briefed reporters. Watch here.
  • 3:30 p.m. Eastern: Biden held a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Got a question about politics? Submit it here. In the afternoon, we’ll address what’s on the mind of readers.

4:24 p.m.
Headshot of Eugene Scott
National political reporter on The Washington Post's breaking news team
Press secretary reiterates Biden’s commitment to representation — The significance of diversity at the highest levels of government has been a frequent topic of conversation as demographic changes in America reshape the makeup of the country’s population.Following the killing of 10 people and wounding of three others at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo on Saturday, much attention has been paid to the “great replacement theory,” which is rooted in the belief that an increase in the non-White population will eradicate White and Western civilization.Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black, openly gay and immigrant woman to be White House press secretary, said during her first news briefing in that job that her history-making role is proof of Biden’s commitment to making sure America’s various groups are represented in his administration.“Representation does matter,” she said. “You hear us say this often in this administration. And no one understands this better than President Biden — which is why his administration is not only the most diverse in history, it is filled with barrier-breaking women and men, from the vice president to the Cabinet secretaries to his Supreme Court nominee to senior staff throughout this administration.”
1:56 p.m.
Headshot of John Hudson
National security reporter focusing on the State Department and diplomacy.
Harris touts ‘friendship’ with UAE after its president’s death — Vice President Harris touted the United States’ enduring “friendship” with the United Arab Emirates on Monday during a visit to the oil-rich monarchy after the death of its president, Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, 73.The trip represents the highest-level visit to the country since President Biden took office and is widely seen as an effort to restore troubled relations with the Persian Gulf ally.Harris — joined by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA Director William J. Burns — told reporters she was there “to reaffirm the shared commitment we have to security and prosperity in this region and also how the American people have benefited from this relationship in terms of security and prosperity.”“For months, U.S. officials have been asking the UAE and Saudi Arabia to pump more oil in the hopes of lowering gas prices, easing inflation and curbing oil revenues for Russian President Vladimir Putin, but have been rebuffed,” she said.The gulf partners have expressed frustration about the Biden administration’s decision to lift a terrorism designation on Houthi rebels in Yemen who have deployed missiles and drones against them in retaliation for their military intervention in Yemen’s civil war.They have also expressed reservations about the Biden administration’s efforts to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.Blinken, who cut part of his trip to France short to travel to the UAE, had dinner with his UAE counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, during the visit.
12:27 p.m.
Headshot of Paul Kane
Senior congressional correspondent and columnist
What’s ahead on the Hill this week — By week’s end, Congress is poised to approve $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, with a big vote in the Senate.But it’s increasingly unclear how long that bipartisan support can last, particularly among Republicans who are under the “America First” banner of former president Donald Trump.Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who opposes the legislation and delayed its quick passage last week, could have a few GOP allies given the high price tag, in stark contrast with the virtually unanimous support every Ukraine-related bill has had in the Senate since Russian forces invaded in late February.Rep. Thomas Massie, Paul’s Kentucky compatriot, has led the Republican opposition to all 16 Ukraine-related bills in the House, but the opposition there has gone beyond the fringes of right-wing nationalism in the GOP caucus.Perhaps no one better illustrates the Republican movement than Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis of Florida, who for more than 14 years has been a low-profile lawmaker representing the St. Petersburg region — which his father, Michael Bilirakis, had represented for the previous 24 years.Gus Bilirakis once interned in the Reagan administration, served stints working for House Republicans and was the Pinellas County chair for Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign.He supported the first 15 Ukraine-related measures, but in a weekly statement issued over the weekend, Bilirakis explained his vote opposing new Ukraine relief in a manner that fit with Paul and Massie’s nativist world views: “We simply cannot keep providing blank checks for a war that may continue to drag on indefinitely, without any regard for the negative impact that doing so would have on our already troubled economy.”
10:03 a.m.
Headshot of Annie Linskey
National reporter covering the White House.
The ad budget for a top-tier candidate is typically a big secret. Not so in North Carolina, where the Club for Growth, which is backing Rep. Ted Budd in Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary, has posted its ad buys by market online.The group planned to pay for about 50,000 ads on network and cable starting in March and going through May, according to the document. In March, the group planned to run a 50-50 mix of positive spots about Budd and negative spots attacking former governor Pat McCrory (R). Then, for the last six weeks, all of the ads would be negative.The group’s document starkly lays out how valuable they considered Trump’s endorsement to be: Among North Carolina GOP voters aware that Trump backed Budd, Budd was leading by nearly 30 percentage points, according to the group. But he was losing by 33 percentage points among those who were not aware of the endorsement, the document said. (The document is not dated, though the URL suggests it could have been uploaded in February.)A spokeswoman for the Club for Growth did not respond to a request for comment.
9:00 a.m.
Headshot of Seung Min Kim
White House reporter
The week ahead at the White House — This week was supposed to be a relatively quiet one for President Biden, as he prepares to embark on the first trip to Asia of his term. He is still on track to leave Thursday for South Korea, and then continue on to Japan.But the tragedy in Buffalo — in which a White man, allegedly motivated by a racist ideology, killed 10 people at a grocery store — has changed all that. On Tuesday, Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit the city to “grieve with the community that lost 10 lives in a senseless and horrific mass shooting,” according to the White House.The visit — and his message to the nation — will be particularly critical for Biden, who has repeatedly spoken about how the violence at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017 motivated him to run for the presidency.
8:30 a.m.
Headshot of Eugene Scott
National political reporter on The Washington Post's breaking news team
Cheney says GOP leadership enables white nationalism — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — once one of the most powerful Republicans in the House — has now emerged as one of the most outspoken conservatives in Congress on the impact of white nationalism on the GOP.After a gunman killed 10 people and wounded three others at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo on Saturday, attention turned to the role that conservative media figures and GOP lawmakers — including Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who replaced Cheney as the GOP conference chair last year — have played in stoking racial anxiety among many White Americans.Cheney addressed the issue directly Monday on Twitter, partly blaming Republican leadership in the House for the prevalence of this worldview.“The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism,” she tweeted. “History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”The focus in the wake of the Buffalo shooting is the “great replacement theory.” The 18-year-old man accused of the Buffalo killings is believed by authorities to have written a document that embraces the belief that an increase in the non-White population will eradicate White and Western civilization.Nearly half of Republicans agree to at least some extent with the idea that there’s a deliberate intent to “replace” native-born Americans with immigrants, according to a December 2021 Associated Press and NORC poll.