1 🌱 thing
Today’s top stories
Tel Aviv — With Israel and Hamas now engaged in their most destructive fight in seven years, the Biden administration is dispatching a State Department official to join the de-escalation efforts.
The latest: The Israeli air force attacked a meeting of senior Hamas military leaders on Wednesday in Gaza and reported it had killed the Gaza City Brigade commander and the heads of Hamas’ cyber arm and weapons research and development department, along with at least three other senior officials.
House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as conference chair in a voice vote Wednesday, capping months of growing backlash over her criticisms of former President Trump, according to two sources in the room.
Why it matters: The stunning removal of the No. 3 House Republican over her condemnation of Trump's election lies reflects the influence the former president still retains over the GOP.
1 🌱 thing
An advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12-to 15-year-olds, following the FDA's emergency use authorization.
Why it matters: Approval from the CDC panel was the final step needed before inoculations could be offered at any vaccination site for this age group.
- Pfizer has said its vaccine is 100% effective at protecting against COVID-19 in a trial of more than 2,200 children between the ages of 12 and 15.
Republican members of Congress sought to minimize the Capitol insurrection at a House hearing on Wednesday, with statements calling pro-Trump rioters "patriots" and other lawmakers falsely denying demonstrators were supporters of the former president at all.
Driving the news: The hearing comes shortly after House Republicans voted to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from leadership over her criticism of former President Trump's actions leading up to and on Jan. 6.
The top Republicans in the House and Senate told reporters after meeting with President Biden at the White House that "there is a bipartisan desire to get an outcome" on an infrastructure package, but stressed that revisiting the 2017 tax cuts is a "red line."
Why it matters: Wednesday marked the first time that Biden has hosted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the White House.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was asked Wednesday whether he was concerned about elevating Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to GOP leadership after she has promoted baseless claims about the election. He responded: "I don't think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election."
Why it matters: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was ousted as House GOP conference chair earlier Wednesday — in a vote that McCarthy supported — over her continued criticisms of former President Trump and his lies about election fraud.
Former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller told the House Oversight Committee Wednesday that he limited the deployment of National Guard troops at the Capitol ahead of Jan. 6 in part due to media "hysteria" about "the possibility of a military coup."
Why it matters: William Walker, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, previously testified that a three-hour delay in approval for National Guard assistance during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack was exacerbated by "unusual" restrictions on his authorities by Pentagon leadership.
Efforts to form a new Israeli government and oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have come to an almost complete halt amid the escalation with Hamas.
Why it matters: Opposition leader Yair Lapid is six days into a 28-day mandate, and seemed on track to strike a coalition deal with Naftali Bennett, a right-wing kingmaker. But the latest crisis could make those efforts nearly impossible.
Gas stations in several states are out of fuel and AAA reports the nationwide average price breached $3-per-gallon for the first time in six years amid the cyberattack-induced shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline.
Driving the news: The ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, the nation's largest refined fuel pipeline that extends from Texas into the Northeast, is creating a scramble as the outage persists into its sixth day.
"If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from," Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told House Republicans before they voted to remove her as the party's conference chair on Wednesday.
Why it matters: In her address, Cheney promised that she "will be leading the fight to restore our party" and make it "worthy again of being the party of Lincoln," signaling that she doesn’t plan on going anywhere soon and will continue to be a voice of dissent in the party.
President Biden on Wednesday announced a new slate of nominations for federal judges, with the president now having put forward 20 names to fill judicial vacancies.
Why it matters: The administration described the most recent picks as an embodiment of "the diversity of our nation," and said that Biden is continuing a trend of announcing judicial nominees at a record pace.
The latest gauge on inflation released Wednesday morning showed that prices rose 4.2% over last year, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Why it matters: The gains were highest since September 2008, stoking new fears of inflation. Prices jumped significantly compared to the start of the pandemic last year, when lockdowns drove down demand.
China released its census report on Tuesday, showing that the number of births in the country last year dropped 18% from 2019. And China isn't alone — populations have been stagnating globally for decades, including in the U.S.
Why it matters: China has long relied on its large population — the biggest in the world — as a core engine for economic growth. The way that it, and officials across the globe, deal with changing demographics will lead to shifts in the economy and geopolitics.
As she faces a vote to be thrown out of House Republican leadership, Rep. Liz Cheney has told associates she doesn’t plan on going anywhere — and plans to run for re-election.
What to watch: In the meantime, as she sees it, she will aggressively pursue a fight for the soul of the Republican Party, after an expected vote to strip her of her role as GOP conference chair, the party's No. 3 House post.
As House Republicans meet to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post for criticizing Donald Trump, swing voters in Axios' latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups hold a near-unanimous view that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his caucus are making a mistake.
The big picture: Nine of 14 voters said they could vote for a Republican for U.S. House or Senate races next year. All but one ruled out backing any candidate who clings to the former president's lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Pandemic-related anxieties are entering a new phase as more employers start to call vaccinated workers back into their offices.
Why it matters: Some employees simply don't want to go back to the office; some are desperate to. Some are struggling to rearrange their routines yet again; some don't have that flexibility. And everyone — employers and employees alike — is figuring out on the fly how to make it work.
At least 35 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed as fighting between Israel's military and Hamas entered a third day Wednesday, per Reuters.
The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 come after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.
Reports of fuel shortages across the U.S. emerged on Tuesday as the national average for gasoline prices soared to its highest level since 2014 amid a key fuel pipeline shut down, per Bloomberg.
What's happening: Operator Colonial Pipeline aims to have service restored by the week's end following last Friday's ransomware attack that shut down some 5,500 miles of pipeline from Texas to New Jersey. The governors of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency Tuesday due to shortage concerns.
More than 100 Republicans will sign a letter Thursday threatening to create a third party if the GOP doesn't "break" with former President Trump, Reuters first reported.
Why it matters: Per Axios' Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Trump's grip on the GOP has gotten stronger since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Republican Party's "allegiance to Trump" as he continues to make false claims about his 2020 election loss has "dismayed" the group, according to Reuters.
Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is planning to announce a campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in early June, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.
Why it matters: Murphy is a proven fundraiser. Jumping in now would give her an early start to build her case for the Democratic nomination and potentially force Rubio and allied GOP groups to spend heavily to retain a seat in a state that’s trending Republican.
Top Republican senators are hoping the White House will make some sort of counteroffer to their infrastructure proposal when they meet with President Biden on Thursday, lawmakers and their aides tell Axios.
Why it matters: This is a sign of how serious the negotiations are, they say. In advance of the meeting, some of the senators are already publicly signaling the areas in which they have flexibility.
While Republicans are giddy about their chances for regaining the House next year, GOP prospects for taking the Senate remain more uncertain, data reviewed by Axios suggests.
By the numbers: At least five Republican senators are retiring after the midterms, and four of their seats are in battleground states. That makes a simple Republican-for-Republican election exchange all the more difficult.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) spoke on the House floor Tuesday evening, emphasizing the 2020 election was not stolen and saying that former President Trump's baseless claims of election fraud pose a threat that “America has never seen before.”
Why it matters: Much of the GOP establishment has turned on Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, due to her criticism of Trump and her vote to impeachTrump for a charge of inciting an insurrection at the Capitol.