Biden’s diplomats are flooding the zone on Russia. But even some allies aren’t convinced.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been talking to all the usual suspects as the United States rallies other countries to stare down a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Britains, Frances and Germanys of the world are, of course, on that list. But Ukraine’s plight also has come up in Blinken’s conversations with some less obvious countries: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for instance. Brazil, too. Blinken and other Biden administration officials have even raised Ukraine with countries like India, Japan and South Korea. The outreach…

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Eff-ing Right: How S— Talk Can Save Biden’s Presidency

As a political communicator, President Joe Biden’s most effective moments often come spontaneously, when he is overcome with feeling, or by accident, when words that are intended to be private instead become public. Biden’s bristling comment this week about Fox News reporter Peter Doocy was an entertaining example on both counts. “What a stupid son of a bitch,” the president muttered, as though to himself, even as a hot mic assured that this sulfurous thought bubble did not stay with himself. Biden later called the Fox correspondent for a conversation…

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Schumer gives Senate’s new bipartisan gang breathing room on post-Jan. 6 reform

Chuck Schumer is quietly stoking bipartisan talks about updating the Electoral Count Act, according to multiple people familiar with the matter, marking a shift from his party’s single-minded focus on broader election reform legislation. The Senate majority leader hasn’t committed to backing the work of a growing bipartisan coalition of senators that’s interested in modernizing the very law that directly influenced the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. He’s waiting to see what deal, if anything, the group comes up with before gaming out whether legislation could win 60 votes on the…

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Biden’s signature legislation expired. Recipients are wondering: WTF happened?

Madisen Williams drives a 2008 Hyundai with over 100,000 miles on it and a leaky hose. A 33-year-old mother of two, the car allows her to move around Los Angeles to teach private youth dance lessons after Covid-19 forced schools to go remote. And when her next-door neighbor was murdered, the assurance of having a car convinced her to find a safer neighborhood — one without convenient public transportation — to raise her two kids. As the car broke down in recent months, Williams leaned on the extra $500-a-month in…

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Conservatives unlikely to go scorched earth over Breyer replacement fight

The conservative movement has, for decades, prioritized Supreme Court fights over nearly all other forms of political battle. But a survey on Wednesday of some of the top officials and activists in that universe indicates that they aren’t planning a vicious political fight over President Joe Biden’s pick to replace retiring Justice Steven Breyer. At least not yet. Top officials at conservative judicial groups said they viewed the current landscape as less than conducive to a successful bare-knuckled confirmation fight. A Breyer retirement was long expected, Republicans do not control…

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Supreme Court confirmation fight to make history in 50-50 Senate

Democrats’ razor-thin majority will have to make history to confirm Stephen Breyer’s successor to the Supreme Court. A 50-50 Senate has never done it before. As the White House considers candidates to replace the retiring justice, they’ll need a judge who is guaranteed to garner support from every member of the Democratic caucus. That raises the stakes for the confirmation battle, but also provides some comfort for Democrats: as long as they stay unified, Republicans can’t stop Breyer’s successor from being confirmed. Republicans scrapped the 60-vote threshold on high court…

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Biden’s Supreme Court shortlist

Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement plans have quickly created an expectation that President Biden will nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, as he promised during his campaign. There are comparatively few Black women in the highest reaches of the federal judiciary, though Biden has been active in bolstering those numbers as part of a broader emphasis on diversifying the courts, both in terms of demographics and professional background. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the president “certainly stands by” his campaign commitment. Here are some of the people…

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Breyer retirement hands Biden open Supreme Court seat

The Supreme Court’s oldest member — Justice Stephen Breyer — plans to retire, a person familiar with the process said Wednesday, giving President Joe Biden his first, highly coveted opportunity to nominate a member of the nation’s top court. Breyer, 83, informed the president last week of his intention to retire and indicated he would follow up with an official letter, the person briefed on the justice’s plans said. Breyer’s move comes after more than a year of pressure from liberal legal activists who urged the appointee of President Bill…

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‘She was Zoom’d out:’ Harris tries to navigate the D.C. bubble

Sitting among some of the most influential Black women in America last month, Vice President Kamala Harris confessed to a stifling sensation that had fallen over her while in office. She was struggling to escape the D.C. bubble, Harris confided to the group, which had gathered in person and virtually for the private audience, according to multiple attendees. Harris has grumbled at times about the customs of a town where she remains a relative newcomer. She is prone to lament the Beltway’s obsession with familiarity, the routine groupthink of its…

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How Senate Dems reaped the benefits from 2 little-known GOP maneuvers

Senate Democrats lost their fight to weaken the filibuster, but they’re capitalizing big on another rules change — that the GOP pushed. After an Obama administration marked by Democratic frustration over the pace of judicial confirmations, the party is making notable progress on approving President Joe Biden’s picks for the federal bench thanks to a 2019 Republican move to speed up the confirmation of most presidential nominees. Although the change benefited Republicans at the time, it has allowed Democrats to confirm judges during Biden’s first year at a pace that…

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Governors enjoy cash deluge right before they face the voters

Governors across the country are sitting on mounds of cash just when they need it most: election season. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wants to spend $500 million on expanding broadband access in underserved areas. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz hopes to send $350 payments to residents that he’s dubbing “Walz checks” — a move Republican leaders have attacked as a reelection ploy. And New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is looking to give out property tax rebates and health care worker bonuses from her state’s $7 billion surplus, an enviable position of…

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Will There Be a War Over Ukraine? 13 Putin Watchers Weigh In

Russian President Vladimir Putin sought a confrontation with the West and he got one. So now what? Diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis appear to have stalled. In the past month, Putin has escalated his long proxy war in two eastern provinces and accelerated a massive Russian troop buildup that now surrounds Ukraine on three sides. The United States, in response, has put thousands of troops on high alert, while European allies are sending weapons and ammunition to Ukraine and NATO’s eastern flank. President Joe Biden is weighing a range…

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Dr. Oz stumbles out of the gate in Senate race

PHILADELPHIA — Mehmet Oz’s introduction to GOP grassroots politics is a code-red crisis. In his first three unofficial tests as a candidate in Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary, the celebrity physician known as Dr. Oz has been handily rejected by party activists. It’s a disappointing start for a cash-flush, top-tier candidate in one of the most important Senate races in the country. A little over a week ago, Oz met with GOP state committee members and answered their questions alongside other Republican Senate candidates at a hotel just outside Harrisburg. Afterward,…

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GOP say Democrats’ virus drug guidance is anti-white

Republicans are accusing the Biden administration of racism — against white people. The administration’s recommendation that race and ethnicity be considered when deciding who gets the limited supply of new Covid drugs is the latest political cudgel with which Republicans are hammering Democrats, looking to energize their base ahead of the midterm elections. And Democratic strategists say these attacks, while baseless, may prove effective, further hampering the party’s efforts to retain its slim congressional majorities. “There will always be people susceptible to cries of ‘reverse racism,’” Brad Woodhouse, a former…

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DeSantis opens new battle with Biden over Covid treatments

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis has picked a new fight with the Biden administration over Covid treatments. DeSantis shut down the five state administration sites he opened last week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday cut Florida’s weekly allotment of monoclonal antibody cocktails. DeSantis fired back at the Biden administration for pulling the medicines, claiming the federal government withdrew the treatments without evidence. “We’re going to fight back against this because this is just wrong,” DeSantis said Tuesday at a news conference in Crawfordville, about 20…

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‘We have a sacred obligation’: Biden threatens to send troops to Eastern Europe

President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the United States would deploy thousands of troops to Eastern Europe if Russia continues its military buildup along Ukraine’s border or mounts a renewed invasion of the country. But the American president also said he would not send troops into Ukraine, even as the White House warned that Russia was likely to move its forces across the border at any moment. Speaking during a previously unannounced stop at a gift shop in Washington, D.C., Biden told reporters…

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Hoyer: Voting rights bill, BBB ‘very much alive’

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer remains optimistic that Democrats will pass the voting rights legislation and the Build Back Better bill despite roadblocks but offered few details about how that could happen. “I do not buy your characterization of the Voting Rights Act being ‘dead’ in the Senate,” Hoyer told POLITICO Playbook co-author Rachael Bade in a livestreamed interview on Tuesday. “It certainly is not in the shape I’d like it to be in, but we’re not going to forget about that.” Hoyer was similarly bullish about the fate of…

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Meet the mild-mannered progressive who’s breaking the filibuster

Republicans may capitalize first on Democrats’ plan to weaken the filibuster. That’s OK with Jeff Merkley. “Yes!” the Oregon progressive says when asked if he’d back a future GOP effort to chip further at the 60-vote threshold that’s become a totem of the Senate. “The test of whether this is fair is whether you will support it when you’re in the minority. Put those shoes on. How would you feel?” It’s not typical for a Democrat to insist he’d feel quite comfortable if the GOP adopts what his party fell…

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Texas primary showdown bursts open after FBI raid

The bitter rematch between Rep. Henry Cuellar and his former-intern-turned-progressive-challenger was riveting South Texas even before the March 1 Democratic primary. Then came an FBI raid of the congressman’s home. While Cuellar hasn’t been charged with a crime, law enforcement officials’ extraordinary move on the congressman’s home and campaign headquarters 26 days before early voting begins has upended the race. The raid is directing a groundswell of money, momentum and powerful endorsements to Democratic rival Jessica Cisneros, a 28-year-old attorney who lost to Cuellar by less than 3,000 votes two…

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Trump conquered Ohio. Now his followers want the governorship.

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — GOP governors across the country are staring down a wave of Trump-inspired primary challengers. Former Rep. Jim Renacci hopes to be a success story for them in Ohio. The former congressman is challenging Gov. Mike DeWine, a mainstay of Ohio Republican politics for decades who is seeking reelection to a second term in November, more than 30 years after his first run for statewide office. Renacci is pouring his own money into the race against the incumbent, trying to push DeWine out in favor of a candidate…

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Virginia’s education wars emerge in Florida governor’s race

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida is learning the political lessons of Virginia. Democrat Rep. Charlie Crist, fearing the new culture wars over education could strain his bid for Florida governor, is appealing directly to parents over an issue that has rattled Democrats across the county. “Parents for Crist,” a group he unveiled last week, will shape his campaign in coming months. The group will be an “organizing force for our campaign in our mission to protect education,” said Crist, a former Republican governor in Florida, as he announced the approach. Crist’s…

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The filibuster’s archnemesis

Republicans may capitalize first on Democrats’ plan to weaken the filibuster. That’s OK with Jeff Merkley. “Yes!” the Oregon progressive says when asked if he’d back a future GOP effort to chip further at the 60-vote threshold that’s become a totem of the Senate. “The test of whether this is fair is whether you will support it when you’re in the minority. Put those shoes on. How would you feel?” It’s not typical for a Democrat to insist he’d feel quite comfortable if the GOP adopts what his party fell…

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Cisneros lassos new momentum in battle with bruised Cuellar

The bitter rematch between Rep. Henry Cuellar and his former-intern-turned-progressive-challenger was riveting South Texas even before the March 1 Democratic primary. Then came an FBI raid of the congressman’s home. While Cuellar hasn’t been charged with a crime, law enforcement officials’ extraordinary move on the congressman’s home and campaign headquarters 26 days before early voting begins has upended the race. The raid is directing a groundswell of money, momentum and powerful endorsements to Democratic rival Jessica Cisneros, a 28-year-old attorney who lost to Cuellar by less than 3,000 votes two…

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U.S. puts 8,500 troops on alert as Russia tensions ramp up

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed roughly 8,500 U.S. military personnel on heightened alert to potentially deploy to Eastern Europe, the Pentagon announced Monday. The move comes as NATO weighs a possible activation of its response force to beat back a Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the West fears is imminent. Austin “has placed a range of units in the U.S. on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the [NATO Response Force] or if other situations develop,” Pentagon spokesperson John…

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Capitol Police examines backgrounds, social media feeds of some who meet with lawmakers

After the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Capitol Police’s intelligence unit quietly started scrutinizing the backgrounds of people who meet with lawmakers, according to three people familiar with the matter. POLITICO also viewed written communications describing the new approach, part of a host of changes that the department implemented after the Capitol attack. Examining the social media feeds of people who aren’t suspected of crimes, however, is a controversial move for law enforcement and intelligence officials given the civil liberties concerns it raises. Among those who have been subject to new…

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Army of millionaires fuel Senate primary spending spree

Months before the first Senate primary vote will be cast this year, there’s a spending spree unrivaled by any election cycle in history. In Ohio, where a handful of millionaires are chasing the GOP nomination, two Senate hopefuls have each already plowed $10 million into their campaigns — and the primary isn’t until May. In neighboring Pennsylvania, a political strategist involved in the open Senate race anticipates $110 to $130 million in spending on TV advertisements in the Republican primary alone — nearly as much as both parties combined spent…

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