COVID politics sour for Biden: The Note

The Biden administration faces tough political and legal maneuverings.

April 29, 2022, 6:04 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Following the science is leading the Biden administration in some confusing directions just as the pandemic edges closer to the Oval Office.

Start with the awkward timing: As President Joe Biden wants to signal a return to relative normal, he plans to attend Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, while Vice President Kamala Harris remains in self-quarantine after having tested positive for COVID-19.

Stay for the awkward politics: The White House’s contention that the economy is doing much better than people think looks much different in light of economic reports suggesting a recession could be near.

Cue the awkward legal maneuverings: The administration is in court to try to lift a Trump-era border restrictions because the threat of the pandemic is receding and also to be allowed to reinstate the mask mandate covering public transportation -- all based on guidance from the CDC.

There’s little to no consistency to Republican critics who want Biden and Democrats to stay away from public gatherings and jettison all mandates, while also insisting that COVID is enough of a threat to warrant immediate deportation of migrants arriving at the border.

Still, the critiques from Democrats sting more -- particularly those in tough reelection races who say the Biden administration still has no plan for dealing with a border surge if Title 42 restrictions are lifted. And while economic jitters are seen as a strong reason for more COVID-19 relief funding and a whole lot more by some in the party, a familiar group of moderates doesn’t agree.

It’s easy to see this weekend, with the president expected to engage in some self-deprecating fun in a dressed-up Washington, as some kind of pivot point in Washington’s relationship with COVID-19. But what direction things are turning in isn’t clear just yet.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

An answer on student loan debt forgiveness could be announced in the coming weeks, according to President Joe Biden. Details, however, are scant.

When asked about if he was considering $50,000 in student debt cancellation -- an amount that progressives like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer have urged the president to forgive per borrower -- he said no, but he left open the possibility of other debt reduction measures.

"I am considering dealing with some debt reduction," Biden said. "I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction, but I'm in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness."

PHOTO: President Joe Biden gestures as he gives remarks on providing additional support to Ukraine's war efforts against Russia from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 28, 2022.
President Joe Biden gestures as he gives remarks on providing additional support to Ukraine's war efforts against Russia from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 28, 2022.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

It follows a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus during which Biden said multiple times that he was prepared to extend the loan repayment moratorium and potentially issue executive actions to cancel a portion of borrowers' student loan debt, sources told ABC News.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration extended the pause on federal student loan payments. Borrowers do not have to make payments until after Aug. 31, and interest will remain at 0% through that time. Payments were supposed to resume in May. The new summer date would have payments start up just a couple of months before the high-stakes midterm elections.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t offer any further clarity later in the day when asked during a press briefing.

"Stay tuned and we'll see," she said.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The race for Indiana's first congressional district may not be the most high-profile political contest of the season, but that doesn't make it any less significant. The outcome of Tuesday's Republican primary could serve as a weathervane for potential Republican inroads in longtime blue strongholds.

Over the last three presidential elections, Democratic candidates have won the district -- but have done so with gradually weakening margins. Following former President Barack Obama's 60-point win in 2012, Hillary Clinton's and Joe Biden's victories dropped to narrower margins that hovered around 54%.

PHOTO: A voter walks to a booth to fill out their ballot in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Nov. 3, 2020.
A voter walks to a booth to fill out their ballot in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Nov. 3, 2020.
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images, FILE

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Frank Mrvan won his 2020 race with 57% of the vote and is expected to win again on May 3, but while Democrats have held the Gary, Indiana, area district since 1931, the crowded Republican primary field indicates a potential shift that could be in line with national political aftershocks.

Out of the seven Republicans running in Tuesday's primary, the two leading candidates -- Jennifer-Ruth Green and Blair Milo -- are both veteran women who are making economic progress the central pillar of their campaigns.

Milo touts her experience as the youngest mayor of LaPorte, Indiana, having flipped the Democratic office in 2011 at age 28. Meanwhile, Green has the support of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which featured her as an "On The Radar" candidate ahead of the primary and gave her the designation of a "quality candidate" by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Sen. Tom Cotton's endorsement of Green is yet another sign of Republicans making a serious play at flipping the district come November.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

41. That’s the percentage of Americans who have a favorable opinion of Elon Musk, according to a recent Momentive poll. (31% said they didn’t know.) In that same poll, 53% said they thought Twitter was headed in the right direction as a company, with a plurality of adult Twitter users in the U.S. (43%) saying Musk would have a positive effect on the platform’s direction. But as FiveThirtyEight’s Monica Potts writes, there are a number of reasons why Twitter is unlikely to become the "digital town square" Musk envisions.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Friday morning with the growing drought crisis in the West and the emergency measures some communities are implementing to conserve water. ABC's Ginger Zee leads us off. Then, ABC's Mireya Villarreal breaks down the Biden administration's immigration policies and Title 42. And, a Russian professor discusses how anti-war protests have evolved in Moscow since the early days of the Ukraine invasion. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

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