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PENCE RECEIVES PACEMAKER: Former Vice President Mike Pence is recovering after pacemaker surgery, his office announced Thursday. During the past two weeks, Pence reportedly experienced "symptoms associated with a slow heart rate" (IndyStar). After consulting with his doctors, Pence had the pacemaker installed Wednesday. The procedure was successful, and the former vice president is expected to return to normal activity "in the coming days," according to his office. In 2016, upon being named the Republican vice presidential nominee, Pence disclosed he had an asymptotic left bundle branch block. The procedure took place at Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Virginia, but in a new statement released to USA Today, Pence thanked his Indiana doctors as well. “I am grateful for the swift professionalism and care of the outstanding doctors, nurses and staff at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, including Dr. Brett Atwater and Dr. Behnam Tehrani. I also appreciate the consultation of my longtime Indiana physicians, Dr. Michael Busk and Dr. Charles Taliercio at Ascension St. Vincent. My family has been truly blessed by the work of these dedicated healthcare professionals,” Pence said in a statement.

PFIZER BOOSTER LIKELY: The need for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine between six and 12 months after a person is fully vaccinated will "likely" be needed, the CEO of Pfizer said in comments released Thursday (WTHR-TV). "A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a third dose, somewhere between six and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC's Bertha Coobs on "CVS Health Live." Bourla said the third dose would be necessary to combat coronavirus variants. "It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus," Bourla explained. "The fact that there are people that are protected, this is what creates the new variants."

FATHER OF SLAIN COLUMBUS SOLDIER REACTS TO BIDEN WITHDRAWAL PLAN: Mark Hunter, father of Columbus native, Sgt. Jonathon Michael Hunter, who was killed in Afghanistan, says he is satisfied to see President Biden plan to leave the nation by Sept. 11, but chooses to focus on remembering his son and the sacrifice he made (CBS4). “It makes me happy that they’re finally pulling out, but that’s all I’m going to say about it,” said Mark. “It’s time. It’s time. We’ve lost too many young men and women.” Sgt. Hunter was killed in Aug. 2017 when a suicide bomber rammed a car filled with explosives into a NATO convoy outside Kandahar. The Taliban took responsibility for the attack.

POLICE VIDEO SHOWS CHICAGO BOY HAD NO GUN WHEN SHOT BY COPS: Disturbing bodycam video released after public outcry over the Chicago police shooting of a 13-year-old boy shows the youth appearing to drop a handgun and begin raising his hands less than a second before an officer fires his gun and kills him (AP). A still frame taken from Officer Eric Stillman’s jumpy nighttime body camera footage shows that Adam Toledo wasn’t holding anything and had his hands up when Stillman shot him once in the chest about 3 a.m. on March 29. Police, who were responding to reports of shots fired in the area, say the boy had a handgun on him before the shooting. And Stillman’s footage shows him shining a light on a handgun on the ground near Toledo after he shot him.

U.S. SUICIDES FELL by 5% IN 2020: While nearly 350,000 Americans died from Covid-19, the number of suicides dropped by 5 percent, to 44,834 deaths in 2020 from 47,511 in 2019. It is the second year in a row that the number has fallen, after cresting in 2018 (New York Times). The decline came even as the number of unintentional overdose deaths rose dramatically during the pandemic. Some overdoses are classified as suicides; there is debate among researchers as to how many ought to be included.


YOUNG RAISES $1.2M IN 1Q: The campaign of U.S. Senator Todd Young raised $1.26 million in the first quarter of 2021, with over 9,600 contributions from over 5,000 individual supporters (Howey Politics Indiana). Ninety-three percent of contributions were under $100. Young’s campaign ended Q1 with $3.2 million cash on hand.

VANCE RESIGNS FROM BOARD AFTER TWEETS: “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance has resigned from the board of a company that uses green technology to mass-produce food in Appalachia, days after sending some controversial tweets (ABC News). Vance was an early investor in AppHarvest, a mega-greenhouse company that produced its first tomatoes this year at a 300-employee facility in Morehead, The Herald-Leader reported. But Vance also is being floated in Ohio as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, and he's drawn criticism online for his opposition to corporations that are protesting GOP efforts in multiple states to change voting laws. Vance said in a recent Twitter post that states should “raise their taxes and do whatever else is necessary to fight these goons.” He also praised Fox News host Tucker Carlson, calling him “the only powerful figure who consistently challenges elite dogma — on both cultural and economic questions."

2024 CONTENDERS POST FEC TOTALS: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) led the pack in first-quarter contributions, with totals that dwarfed those of their potential competition. Cruz brought in $3.6 million to his Senate reelection committee, which reported $5.6 million in cash on hand. Hawley’s totals: $3 million in receipts, with $3.1 million on hand (Politico Playbook). [Sen. Rand] Paul raised $1.9 million and has $3.1 million on hand, while [Sen. Marco] Rubio reported a haul of $1.6 million this quarter, with $3.9 million in cash on hand. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who was just elected to his second term, raised just under $130,000 and has $2.1 million on hand. … Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) reported bringing in about $397,000, for a total of $6.5 million in cash on hand, while Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who mostly self-funded his 2018 campaign, raised about $96,000 and has just under $2.2 million in cash on hand.”


QUINNIPIAC SHOWS SUPPORT FOR GUN REFORMS: In the wake of multiple mass shootings in the United States, a majority of Americans (54 - 42 percent) support stricter gun laws in a Quinnipiac University national poll of adults released today. Democrats support stricter gun laws 91 - 8 percent. Republicans oppose these laws 74 - 22 percent, and independents oppose them 51 - 44 percent. Support for stricter gun laws varies widely depending on the measure. Americans: 89 - 8 percent support requiring background checks for all gun buyers; 74 - 21 percent support a so-called "red flag" law, which would allow the police or family members to petition a judge to remove guns from a person that may be at risk for violent behavior; 52 - 43 percent support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons; 51 - 44 percent support a nationwide ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets; 49 - 43 percent oppose repealing a law that gives gun manufacturers broad immunity from being sued by victims of gun violence and their relatives. As to whether gun violence in the United States is a crisis, 45 percent think it is a crisis, 41 percent say it is a problem but not a crisis, and 12 percent say it's not a problem at all.

69% SUPPORT LEGAL MARIJUANA: Nearly 7 in 10 Americans (69 - 25 percent) think the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States, according to Quinnipiac. The numbers among registered voters are similar (70 - 24 percent), and they mark a record level of support for marijuana legalization since Quinnipiac University began polling on this issue in December of 2012. At that time, 51 percent of registered voters supported it and 44 percent opposed it.

56% BACK BIDEN INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: President Biden and his team have been making a simple case for why Republican elected officials should support his roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan: Lawmakers might not like it, but their voters do. Biden and other administration officials have made that case repeatedly, but it is hardly true. While a majority of American adults support his infrastructure proposal — 56% — including 9 in 10 Democrats and half of independents, Republicans overwhelmingly do not, according to the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey.

VACCINE ROLL OUT GIVES BIDEN HIGH MARKS: The American public doesn’t think President Biden deserves sole credit for the widespread availability of Covid-19 vaccines, but it overwhelmingly likes the job he’s doing getting them distributed — and it’s feeding a high job approval rating over all (New York Times). Those are among the results of a Pew Research Center poll released on Thursday that offers a portrait of a country that is increasingly positive about its political leaders. As Mr. Biden nears his 100th day in office, his approval rating stood at 59 percent, according to the poll, with 39 percent of respondents disapproving of his performance in office. That’s a small but meaningful uptick from his 54 percent approval in a Pew poll last month.


BRAUN STATEMENT ON SCOTUS PACKING: U.S. Sen. Mike Braun released the following statement on Democrats’ proposals in the House and Senate to pack the Supreme Court with more seats to appoint liberal justices (Howey Politics Indiana). “Democrats’ proposal to pack the Supreme Court with more seats to gain a liberal majority is a blatantly political move that will destroy the independence of the judiciary as we know it and should be called what it is: changing the rules because they didn’t get their way.”

BAIRD OPPOSES INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN: U.S. Rep. Jim Baird (R-District 4) is opposed to President Joe Biden's recently proposed federal infrastructure program (Paul, WLFI-TV). Biden recently unveiled his $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which outlines billion dollar investments in traditional infrastructure in Indiana and across the nation. But it also includes investments in child care, health care and other areas some people might not consider infrastructure. That's been a big sticking point for Republicans like Baird, who says the plan is too expensive and too wide-ranging. He'd like to see a more targeted approach to government spending. "We're to the point of changing the definition of what infrastructure is," Baird says. "I mean, we're throwing everything in except the kitchen table and the kitchen sink and calling it infrastructure, and I think that's irrational and irresponsible."

HOLLINGWORTH SIGNS ABORTION DISCHARGE PETITION: U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth signed the Born Alive Discharge Petition (Howey Politics Indiana). "Like so many Hoosiers, I firmly believe that every unborn child deserves the chance to live a full life, and I have been a staunch pro-life advocate during my time in Congress," Hollingsworth said. "I believe that whatever your background or political affiliation, people can agree that every baby born deserves protection and care. However, this protection is not granted to newborn babies everywhere. That is why I proudly support the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would ensure that any baby who survives an abortion be guaranteed the same medical care any other baby would receive. Unfortunately, this life-saving bill has been denied a vote on the Floor the past two years, so, yesterday, I signed onto the Born-Alive Discharge Petition, urging Speaker Pelosi to bring the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act for a vote on the House Floor."

PELOSI WON'T CALL SCOTUS EXPANSION BILL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she does not intend to bring a Democratic-backed bill that would add four seats to the Supreme Court to the House floor, stalling the measure just as lawmakers were poised to formally unveil it (CBS News). "I don't know that that's a good idea or a bad idea. I think that's an idea that should be considered, and I think the president is taking the right approach to study such a thing," Pelosi told reporters of the bill to expand the nation's highest court. "It's a big step."

HOUSE PASSES EQUAL PAY BILL; LONG ODDS IN SENATE: U.S. House Democrats approved legislation Thursday that they say would help close the gap between what men and women are paid in the workplace, though the measure faces little chance of overcoming Republican opposition in the Senate (AP). The bill, which is supported by President Joe Biden’s administration, passed 217-210 on a mostly party-line vote. It is the latest salvo in a long-running debate about equality of pay and the government’s role in ensuring it. Despite their past efforts, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 signed into law by President Barack Obama, Democrats say there is still more that needs to be done to close a gap in pay, where white women make on average 82 cents to every dollar earned by men and minority women make even less. “Sadly, equal pay is not yet a reality in America,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “It’s almost sinful.”

THE HOUSE will meet at 9 a.m. THE SENATE is not in session.


WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN SLAPS SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA - President Biden on Thursday announced retaliatory measures against Russia over election interference, the SolarWinds cyberattack and other malign activity, saying he isn’t seeking to kick off “a cycle of escalation” but would take more drastic action if necessary (Wall Street Journal). The sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and other actions, while among the most punitive steps taken against Moscow in years, stopped short of the most drastic and potentially disruptive economic measures the U.S. could have imposed, according to analysts and investors. Mr. Biden, in remarks at the White House Thursday afternoon, appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate and called again for a summit later this year in Europe while defending the punitive U.S. measures. He noted that he spoke with Mr. Putin on Tuesday. “We could have gone further, but I chose not to do so. I chose to be proportionate,” Mr. Biden said. “The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia. We want a stable, predictable relationship. If Russia continues interfering with our democracy, I’m prepared to take further actions to respond.”

WHITE HOUSE: BURNS EXPECTED TO BE NAMED ENVOY TO CHINA - Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat, is in the final stages of vetting to serve as Biden’s ambassador to China, people familiar with the matter tell Axios. Across the administration, there's a consensus the U.S. relationship with China will be the most critical — and consequential — of Biden's presidency. From trade to Taiwan, the stakes are high. Burns could be among the first batch of diplomatic nominees announced in the coming weeks.

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN, HARRIS SCHEDULES - President Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden will host Japanese PM Yoshide Suga for an official working visit at 1:30 p.m. in the Oval Office. The two will hold an expanded bilateral meeting at 2:30 p.m. in the State Dining Room and at 4:15 p.m. will hold a news conference in the Rose Garden. Biden will leave the White House at 5:30 p.m. en route to Wilmington, Del., where he is scheduled to arrive at 6:25 p.m. VP Harris will hold a bilateral meeting with Suga at 11 a.m. in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office. The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 10:30 a.m. Jen Psaki will brief at 11 a.m.

STATE: SWEEPING SANCTIONS V. RUSS ANNOUNCED - The United States on Thursday announced a sweeping series of sanctions against Russia over election interference, cyber hacking, and other “harmful foreign activities,” it said, including reports of Russia offering "bounties" for Taliban attacks against U.S. troops, and Russia’s occupation and alleged human rights abuses in Crimea (ABC News). The moves marked the first actions the United States has announced it has taken against Russia in reaction to last year's massive cyber hack against U.S. federal agencies, known as the SolarWinds breach, and for the "bounties" it had reportedly offered in Afghanistan. The U.S. for the first time formally blamed Russia for the hack, and it also for the first time said its intelligence agencies had determined Russia to be behind the bounties. The White House said the U.S. would expel 10 personnel from Russia’s diplomatic mission in Washington, including, "representatives of Russian intelligence services.” The U.S. also sanctioned "16 entities and 16 individuals who attempted to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government," according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

STATE: BLINKEN VISITS AFGHANISTAN - Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Afghanistan on Thursday for a surprise visit less than 24 hours after President Joe Biden announced the full withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country by Sept. 11 (NBC News). While in Kabul, Blinken met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the country's High Council for National Reconciliation, as well as prominent members of Afghan society. "I wanted to demonstrate with my visit the ongoing commitment of the United States to the Islamic Republic and the people of Afghanistan," Blinken said as he met Ghani in Kabul. "The partnership is changing, but the partnership is enduring."

TRANSPORTATION: BUTTIGIEG CASTS PLAN AS DOWN PAYMENT - Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg presented his department’s budget to lawmakers Thursday as a miniature version of the administration’s mammoth infrastructure plan, with new money for transit, rail and racial justice (Washington Post). Buttigieg cast the spending as a down payment toward the $2.25 trillion infrastructure package President Joe Biden has outlined, calling the budget “a beginning on investments that we know we’ll need to make on a larger order to really meet the moment.” The White House is also proposing a $3.2 billion increase in the Transportation Department’s discretionary budget to $25.6 billion, a boost of about 14%. “The American Jobs Plan will modernize how we travel, how we move goods, and how we live,” he said. “It will make transformative investments, turning shovel-worthy ideas into shovel-ready projects, and seeing them to completion.”

MEDIA: LOCAL NEWS GOING DIGITAL - Local news is moving into the digital era, Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer reports: Substack Local will launch with a $1 million initiative to help 30 independent writers build local news publications using Substack's subscription model. Facebook plans to dedicate a large part of its new newsletter publishing platform to supporting independent local journalists covering communities solo, sources tell Axios. 6am city, a local newsletter company that launched in the Southeast, expects to be in at least 15 markets by the end of the year. Patch, the hyperlocal digital news company, last year launched a program called Patch Labs that lets local reporters publish their own newsletters and monetize them. Axios bought the Charlotte Agenda last year as a part of a new local news push. Axios now publishes local newsletters in five markets — Tampa Bay, Des Moines, Charlotte, Denver and the Twin Cities — and plan to launch next in NW Arkansas.

MINNESOTA: CHAUVIN TAKES THE 5TH - Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin told the court Thursday that he will not testify in his ongoing trial related to the May 2020 death of George Floyd, as the ex-cop’s defense team rested its case (Fox News). Chauvin, 45, told Judge Peter Cahill absent of the jury’s presence in the courtroom that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right and will not testify. It would have been the first time Chauvin publicly told his side of the story.

MICHIGAN: NILES CONSIDERS MUSIC FEST WITH MARIJUANA - A city in southwestern Michigan is considering a buzz-and-beats summer festival (AP). A promoter has applied for a permit to hold a two-day event in Niles with live music and marijuana vendors. Germaine Redding has proposed July 16-17, but September dates would be more likely as Michigan tries to emerge from the pandemic. The Niles City Council discussed the issue Monday but didn't take action. Administrator Ric Huff wants his staff to study the plan and talk to cities that have held similar events, the South Bend Tribune reported.

ILLINOIS: VIDEO OF POLICE KILLING OF BOY RELEASED - Bodycam video, released more than two weeks after the fatal police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago, shows the young boy ditching a handgun during an alley chase before turning toward the officer with his empty hands raised. [T]he city’s focus inevitably turned toward the crucial split second showing the shooting itself — the grainy, graphic end to the life of the youngest person fatally shot by Chicago police in years," the Chicago Tribune reports. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot described the footage as "excruciating," and urged the public to remain calm.

MLB: CLEVELAND DOWNS CHICAGO 4-2 - Slumping José Ramírez connected for a go-ahead, two-run homer off Lance Lynn in the sixth inning and the Cleveland Indians bounced back from being no-hit, beating the Chicago White Sox 4-2 Thursday (ESPN). After Carlos Rodón just missed a perfect game in pitching a no-hitter Wednesday night, there was a different kind of tension this time as the benches emptied in the bottom of the first.

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