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Axios AM

🐫 Happy Wednesday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,196 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Zachary Basu.

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1 big thing: Liz Cheney's game plan

Rep. Liz Cheney on the House floor last night: Screenshot: CNN

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, Jonathan Swan reports.

  • 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.

Cheney, who today faces a 9 a.m. confrontation with the conference she chairs, views Trumpism in general — and election denial specifically — as an ongoing threat to democracy.

  • And she will not accede to her colleagues’ desires to please shut up.

Last night, at 8:06 p.m., Cheney — the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress — said so on the House floor.

  • "Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar," Cheney declared from her lectern, to a near-empty chamber.
  • "I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law, and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy."

I'm told Cheney will take her case to the public with speeches and other appearances. Cheney and her team have been intentional about painting the stakes as higher than a squabble about a leadership job, but instead about truth and the future of the Republican Party.

  • Look for the congresswoman to be active in midterm races and other elections, as she works to mold a future Republican Party that looks more like a Cheney party and less like a Trump party.

With House Republicans on the brink of replacing Cheney with Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, watch for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to argue that a conference with unified leaders can now turn to fighting President Biden and Speaker Pelosi.

  • Look for McCarthy to stress food and gas prices, jobs and school reopenings.

Reality check: Cheney has her work cut out for her. Polling shows it's still Trump’s party — and it’s not a close call.

2. Breaking: Biden plans to send envoy to Israel
Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

Above ... Over the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepts a rocket launched yesterday from the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Axios from Tel Aviv author Barak Ravid reports this morning:

With Israel and Hamas engaged in their most destructive fight in seven years, the Biden administration is considering plans to dispatch a State Department official to join the de-escalation efforts, according to five Israeli officials and Western diplomats.

  • The Biden administration is trying to work with Egypt to push for de-escalation, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Barak.
  • Deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs Hady Amr is expected to travel to Tel Aviv today.

Keep reading.

Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

Above, smoke billows yesterday from an Israeli air strike on the Hanadi compound in Gaza City.

🧠 Context: The fighting is the worst since the devastating 50-day Gaza War in 2014.

3. Employees grapple with reentry anxiety

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pandemic anxieties are entering a new phase as more employers start to call vaccinated workers back into their offices, Axios' Tina Reed writes.

  • Why it matters: Some workers are struggling to rearrange their routines yet again; some don't have that flexibility. Everyone — employers and employees alike — is figuring it out on the fly.

Lucy McBride, a primary-care physician in Washington, told us: "More and more employers are saying, 'If you've been vaccinated and we have all the safety precautions in place, it's time to come back to work.' That's causing a lot of anxiety."

Younger workers may be surprisingly skittish about going back, said Gregg Miller, the chief medical officer of Vituity, a firm that staffs hospital emergency departments.

  • Heading back to the office could bring unique stressors for women, who are more likely to shoulder the burden of parenting and household chores at the same time.

What we're watching: OSHA doesn't yet have a federal standard for workforces. "To date, it has been sort of a patchwork of incomplete guidance, unfortunately," National Safety Council CEO Lorraine Martin told Axios.

  • Simple matters of socialization, such as how to dress and whether we'll return to handshakes, will require their own adaptations.

🛍️ One indicator that we're headed out of the house: Sales of Spanx and other shapewear brands spiked in the past month, the WashPost reports.

4. Hopes — and prices — rise
Expand chart
Data: NFIB. Chart: Axios Visuals

Small business owners' optimism improved in April, even as many struggled to fill open positions, Axios business editor Kate Marino writes from NFIB's Small Business Optimism Index.

  • Why it matters: The uneven recovery has shown that business owners still face a mountain of uncertainty.

NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg: "Small business owners are seeing a growth in sales but are stunted by not having enough workers."

🔨 Inflation watch: Businesses are raising prices at a rate not seen since the early '80s. NFIB's index shows a seasonally-adjusted net 36% of small business owners are hiking prices, up 10 points over March.

5. Cover du jour
Boston Herald. Hat tip: CNBC's Carl Quintanilla
6. Listening to swing voters

Rep. Liz Cheney arrives at the Capitol for a vote yesterday. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/AP

Swing voters in Axios' Engagious/Schlesinger focus group last night held a near-unanimous view that House Republicans are making a mistake by ousting Rep. Liz Cheney from leadership, Sarah Mucha writes.

  • "It seems like you need to conform to be a leader in the Republican Party," said Rosie F., 53, of Pennsylvania.
  • "They're followers," said Jimmy S., 41, from Maricopa County, Ariz. "It's all about trying to please one person."

Engagious president Rich Thau, who moderated the focus group, said swing voters themselves tend to be non-conformists: "When they see a political party punishing a person like them, it rubs them the wrong way."

7. WashPost goes outside for new leader

Sally Buzbee in Jersey City yesterday. Photo: Celeste Sloman for The Washington Post

The Washington Post named AP executive editor Sally Buzbee as executive editor, effective June 1 — the first woman to lead the newsroom in The Post's 144-year history, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Buzbee expanded the AP’s digital storytelling and increased its commitment to visually compelling investigative work, The Post said in its announcement.

Buzbee was AP’s Washington bureau chief from 2010 to 2016.

Via Twitter
  • In a footnote to his footnote, the WashPost's Paul Farhi noted that the above list is "obviously incomplete" — also a big deal.
8. 📺 Musk's millions
Colin Jost, Michael Che and Elon Musk, as "financial expert" Lloyd Ostertag, during SNL's "Weekend Update." Photo: Will Heath/NBC

Elon Musk drew 7.3 million viewers as host of "Saturday Night Live," making it the season's third most-watched episode, behind the ones hosted by Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, AP reports from Nielsen data.

9. VW tests self-driving shuttles in Europe

VW ID. Buzz AD

Pittsburgh-based Argo AI will begin testing self-driving VW vans in Germany this summer — its first test market outside the United States, Axios' Joann Muller reports.

  • Why it matters: It's the first step toward launching an autonomous ride-pooling service in Europe by 2025 — and eventually, in the U.S.

The self-driving vans could arrive in the U.S. just in time to serve boomers who popularized the VW Microbus in the 1970s, but don't drive anymore!

10. 1 fun thing: Why the bear crossed the road
Photo: Bruce Whetten/Sierra Vista Herald via AP

A bear ambled into downtown Douglas, on the Arizona border.

  • Bolder than your average bear, the animal climbed two utility poles and even sat on the wires at one point, AP reports.

State wildlife officials, Douglas police, the Cochise County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Border Patrol closed U.S. Hwy 191 and tried to get the bear to leave during the Sunday standoff.

  • The bear eventually climbed down the pole and scampered off, sending about two dozen onlookers scattering.

👀 Arizona Game & Fish officials say this is the time of year when people in the area need to watch out for bears.

Photo: Bruce Whetten/Sierra Vista Herald via AP

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