LIVE – Updated at 18:18
President also announces ‘Unite for Ukraine’ program for refugees – follow all the latest news.
Black Democrats have staged a sit-in protest in the Florida legislature to disrupt approval of Republican governor Ron DeSantis’s congressional redistricting plans, which they say seeks to eliminate representation for Black voters.
According to the Miami Herald, the special legislative session called by DeSantis was adjourned just before lunchtime Thursday as the Black lawmakers began chanting, and were joined in the protest by White colleagues.
The Herald reports: “The House was halfway through a three-hour debate on the map when Rep Yvonne Hinson, a Gainesville Democrat, was cut off because she had exceeded the five-minute time limit set for member debate.
“As her microphone was silenced, Rep Angie Nixon, a Jacksonville Democrat, walked on the floor with a T-shirt under her suit jacket that read ‘Stop the Black Attack’ and held a sign in protest.
“As Black Democrats started chanting and white Democrats joined the protest, House Speaker Chris Sprowls ordered the House in recess and stunned Republicans slowly walked off the floor.”
DeSantis has proposed his own redrawn map for Florida’s congressional districts, which the Republican-controlled legislature has said it will pass without change, despite it being lawmakers’ responsibility to draw up boundaries.
The governor’s proposal would chop up the fifth congressional district into four new ones where Black voters would comprise a much smaller share of the vote. Critics say his “racist” plan would eliminate the seats of two Black congress members.
Joe Biden must act to reduce mounting economic pressure by ditching “woke advisers”, Mitt Romney said.
The Utah senator and former Republican presidential nominee made the demand in a column for the Wall Street Journal.
“A new set of priorities requires a new set of principals,” Romney wrote. “President Biden needs to ditch his woke advisers and surround himself with people who want to get the economy working again.”
Romney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about what a “woke adviser” was or who might qualify for the title. The White House did not comment.
As midterm elections approach, the Biden administration faces strong economic headwinds. Inflation is at long-term highs, adding to a cost-of-living crisis fueled by the coronavirus pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Biden’s favourability rating has plummeted as polling shows disapproval of his handling of economic affairs.
Today so far
- Joe Biden announced that the US would be providing another $800m military assistance package to Ukraine, in addition to $500m in economic assistance. He acknowledged that he had nearly exhausted the drawdown authority authorized by Congress in a bipartisan spending bill last month, and that he would be making a supplemental budget request in order to continue funding Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia.
- In this same address, Biden announced the creation of Unite for Ukraine, a humanitarian parole program to expedite the migration of Ukrainian refugees from Europe to the US through sponsorship.
- In addition to more sanctions announced yesterday, Biden announced that Russian-affiliated ships are now banned from American ports.
- Ukraine prime minister Denys Shmyhal is in Washington, and met briefly with Biden and some of his cabinet members before Biden gave his remarks. Shmyhal then went on to Capitol Hill, where he met with House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
A new book by reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns has new details of the days following the 6 January attack on the US Capitol in which Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, the two top Republican leaders in Congress, privately told associates that they believed Donald Trump should be held responsible for the insurrection.
McCarthy has come out strongly against the New York Times report on the book’s findings, calling it “totally false and wrong”.
Read more here:
Delta Airlines will restore flight privileges to the 2,000 customers who were barred from flights for failing to comply with the federal mask mandate, Reuters is reporting.
Now that a federal judge has ruled the mandate unlawful and the Biden administration will no longer enforce it on public transit – though the justice department appealed the ruling yesterday at the request of public health officials – Delta said it will restore passengers “only after each case is reviewed and each customer demonstrates an understanding of their expected behavior when flying with us.”
“Any further disregard for the policies that keep us all safe will result in placement on Delta’s permanent no-fly list,” Delta said.
This will not affect the 1,000 or so passengers “who demonstrated egregious behavior and are already on the permanent no-fly list.”
Delta joins United Airlines in overturning a ban on passengers who had been banned for not wearing masks on a “case by case basis.”
Here’s the White House readout of the meeting between Joe Biden and Ukraine prime minister Denys Shmyhal:
Video: Biden announces additional $800 million military aid package for Ukraine (NBC News)
Now Ukraine prime minister Denys Shmyhal is on Capitol Hill with House speaker Nancy Pelosi. Earlier, Shmyhal spoke with Joe Biden, which delayed his remarks.
After providing an update on Ukraine, Joe Biden is now off to Portland, Oregon to talk about infrastructure and attend a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.
Here are some more details from the defense department on the new $800m military assistance package to Ukraine:
For those keeping track on how much the US has provided Ukraine so far in military assistance:
In addition to new sanctions against Russia announced yesterday, Joe Biden said any Russian-affiliated ships are now banned from entering American ports.
Biden announces expedited humanitarian immigration program for Ukrainian refugees
Joe Biden announced the creation of “Unite for Ukraine,” a humanitarian parole program that will expedite the migration process from Europe to the US for Ukrainian refugees.
Biden has promised that the US will take 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.
“This new humanitarian parole program will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians including immigrant visas and refugee processing,” Biden said. “It will provide an expedient channel for secure legal migration from Europe to the United States for Ukrainians who have a US sponsor such as a family or an NGO. This program will be fast, it will be streamlined and it will ensure the United States will honor its commitment to the people of Ukraine and need not go through our southern border.”
Biden has nearly exhausted drawdown authority for Ukraine spending
Joe Biden acknowledged today that with the latest $800m military assistance package to Ukraine, he has “almost exhausted the drawdown authority” authorized by Congress in a bipartisan spending bill last month.
“In order to sustain Ukraine for the duration of this fight, next week I will have to send to Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption, to continue delivering economic assistance to the Ukrainian people,” Biden said. “My expectation is that Congress will act and move quickly.”
He said this continued support of Ukraine is necessary in sending a message to Vladimir Putin.
“Our unity at home, our unity with our allies and partners, our unity with the Ukrainian people is sending an unmistakable message to Putin: He will never succeed in dominating and occupying al of Ukraine,” Biden said. “That will not happen.”
In addition to military assistance, the US is also sending $500m in economic assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total economic assistance sent to Ukraine in the last two months to $1bn.
Joe Biden spoke of everything the US has provided Ukraine in the past two months, a “record speed”: “We have sent thousands of anti-armor and anti-missile helicopters, drones, grenade launchers, machine guns, rifles, radar systems,” he said. “More than 50m rounds of ammunition has already been sent.”
“We are not sitting on the funding that Congress has provided for Ukraine,” Biden said. “We are sending it directly to the front lines of freedom, to the fearless and skilled Ukrainian fighters.”
He said he was amazed “at the courage of this country, at the resolve that they are showing.” “Not just their military but their average citizen, men and women, young men, young women as well,” he said.
“The sustained and coordinated support of the international community, led and facilitate by the United States, is a significant reason why Ukraine is able to stop Russia from taking over its country thus far,” Biden said. “Every American taxpayer, every member of our armed forces, can be proud of the fact that our country’s generosity and the skill and service of our military helped arm and repel Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and beat back Putin’s savagery that tried to seize Ukraine’s capital and wipe out Ukraine’s government.”
Biden announces another $800m military assistance package to Ukraine
Joe Biden took to the podium today to announce that the US will provide another $800m military assistance package to Ukraine to “to further augment Ukraine’s ability to fight in the east, in the Donbas region.”
“We’re in a critical window of time now where (Russian forces are) going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” Biden said. “The United States and our partners and allies are moving as fast as possible to continue to provide Ukraine with the equipment it needs, its forces need, to defend its nation.”
This package will be in addition to the $800m package announced last week by Biden. This package will include “heavy artillery weapons, dozens of Howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition to go with those Howitzers,” Biden said. “It also includes more tactical drones.”
It looks like we have a lot of Ukraine news coming out of the US this morning. In addition to speaking about providing more military assistance, it appears Joe Biden will be speaking momentarily about at new program that will allow US citizens to directly sponsor the immigration of displaced Ukrainian refugees in Europe, to speed up the travel process.
Ukraine prime minister Denys Shmyhal is in Washington today. As we reported yesterday, he will be meeting with House speaker Nancy Pelosi and other bipartisan congressional leaders later, but it appears he will also be meeting with defense secretary Lloyd Austin:
After we closed the blog down yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked the justice department to file an an appeal seeking to overturn a judge’s order that voided the federal mask mandate on planes and trains and in travel hubs.
Biden administration officials had said they were awaiting the guidance of health officials before determining whether to file an appeal of the ruling made by Florida district court judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, the youngest Donald Trump appointee to the federal bench, and minutes after the CDC asked, notice of appeal was filed in federal court in Tampa.
As you can imagine with this highly politicized ruling, reaction to the appeal was staunchly bipartisan, with conservatives rallying against the appeal and Democrats supporting it.
More to come.
Biden to provide an update on Ukraine and Russia
Howdy, live blog readers. Let’s get to it.
Joe Biden is scheduled to take to the podium today at the White House at 9.45am ET to provide an update on Ukraine and Russia.
An anonymous official told the Associated Press that Biden is planning to detail his plans to build on the roughly $2.6bn in military assistance that his administration has already approved for Ukraine.
This new package should be similar in size to the $800m package that Biden announced last week, and will include much needed heavy artillery and ammunition for Ukrainian forces in the escalating battle for the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Yesterday, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters that five flights with military assistance have arrived in the region over the last few days, with more than half a dozen flights from the US scheduled to arrive shortly with even more equipment.
Biden yesterday lauded military officials for “exceptional” work arming Ukraine as he gathered the nation’s military brass for their first in-person group meeting at the White House of his presidency.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to Ukraine a number of times before the war … and I knew they were tough and proud but I tell you what: they’re tougher and more proud than I thought,” Biden told military commanders. “I’m amazed at what they’re doing with your help.”
More to come.