Feb 26, 2021

Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome back to Sneak. It was a sneaky-busy week!

🚨 Breaking: The U.S. carried out an airstrike tonight against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group.

  • The Senate parliamentarian ruled tonight the $15 minimum wage cannot be included in President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package.

Situational Awareness: The D.C. temperature climbed to 64 degrees this week, so Kadia switched her after-work cocktail to a springtime favorite.

  • Hans is drinking a PBR outside the Tune Inn, with a side of cheese fries.

Today's newsletter — edited by Glen Johnson — is 679 words, a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Scoop - Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials today the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios' Stef Kight.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

  • "We’re seeing the highest February numbers than we’ve ever seen in the history of the [Unaccompanied Alien Child] program," a Department of Health and Human Services official told Axios.

What to watch:

  • The scandal-ridden shelter in Homestead, Florida, is expected to be opened in April, according to a source familiar with the call. CBP Chief of Staff Lise Clavel provided the border-crossing projection.
  • HHS, which oversees the child shelter network, is talking with the Pentagon about finding additional overflow sites, which often resemble big tents.
  • There was no discussion of U.S.-based policies or practices that would work to deter migrants, such as reinstating the use of an emergency public health order to quickly deport migrant kids. Deterrent strategies were preferred by the Trump administration.

The background: The National Security Council hosts near-daily calls about a range of topics. Today's 1pm call focused on the growing number of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. It included several senior-level officials at HHS, Homeland Security, State and other departments.

Go deeper.

2. Scoop: Schumer wants to freeze stimulus changes

Chuck Schumer. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is privately saying he can pass Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus package but wants to avoid any last-minute changes jeopardizing its trajectory, three sources familiar with the talks tell Hans and Axios' Alayna Treene.

Why it matters: While the president hoped to enlist Republican support for the measure, Schumer has worked to ensure he has a solid 50 votes to muscle it through if necessary. Tonight's ruling by the Senate parliamentarian improved his chances.

What we're hearing: Schumer met with a group of moderate Democratic senators this morning. They pushed for some changes in the bill — including moving pots of money around, more funding for broadband and rural hospitals and extending unemployment benefits beyond August.

  • The leader is wary of rocking the boat right now, the sources said, and expects the measure will remain relatively unchanged in its final version.
  • The parliamentarian's ruling that a $15 minimum wage provision cannot be included in the package was significant because Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said they were opposed to including it, potentially costing the Democrats critical votes.

Go deeper.

3. Boehner goes off script, tells Cruz to "go f**k yourself"

John Boehner in 2010. Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call Photos

John Boehner has been going off script while recording the audio version of his new memoir, using expletives and asides not in the book — such as the former Republican House speaker saying, “Oh, and Ted Cruz, go f**k yourself," Alayna and Axios' Jonathan Swan report.

Why it matters: The book is appropriately titled, “On the House: A Washington Memoir." It promises to share “colorful tales from the halls of power, the smoke-filled rooms around the halls of power and his fabled tour bus.” Two sources familiar with the tapings told Axios about the asides.

  • The audio version, which includes an even heftier price tag of $39.99, will be sprinkled with Boehner's unfiltered, baritone, inner monologue.

What they're saying: “I can confirm there were some off-script moments during his recording of the audiobook," Boehner spokesman David Schnittger said. "He pretty much just let it fly, as he did when he was working on the book itself. He’s not really interested in being anything other than himself these days. That is kind of the spirit of the entire project.”

Go deeper.

4. Confirmation traffic jam
Expand chart

Biden has submitted more nominees to the Senate— but received fewer confirmations — than recent presidents, according to data from the Partnership for Public Service's Center for Presidential Transition provided to Stef.

Why it matters: The new president is facing a pandemic without a surgeon general or head of the Department of Health and Human Services, he confronts an economic crisis without his leaders at Labor or Commerce and domestic terrorism is on the rise with no attorney general, said Max Stier, the partnership's president and CEO.

The big picture: The Georgia runoffs, a delayed Senate power-sharing agreement and former President Trump's second impeachment trial all contributed to the Senate slowdown.

  • Cabinet-level confirmations have also become more contentious, while Senate majorities have narrowed.

What they're saying: The president, a longtime senator who wants to work with his former colleagues, targeted Trump instead.

  • "I blame it on the failure to have a transition that is rational,” he said Wednesday.
5. Sign of the times

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris today (virtually) swore in Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

🙏 Thanks for reading. Have a good weekend! We'll be back Sunday evening. If you find this newletter useful, please relay this link to your friends and colleagues.