That’s all for today, folks. We’re closing the US politics live blog for today, but please follow along our Ukraine live blog for live updates on the war.
- Barack Obama returned to the White House to celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. As part of the event, Joe Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to do everything in their power to expand affordable and quality healthcare coverage, and make healthcare more affordable for working families.
- The US will announce tomorrow new sanctions against Russian financial institutions and officials, to be taken in coordination with the G7 and European Union. The sanctions come in part in response to the atrocities coming out of Bucha.
- Authorities have captured a fox that has been running around Capitol grounds and biting people, including congressman Ami Bera.
The new sanctions to be imposed against Russia, which will be announced tomorrow, will in part be a response to the atrocities coming out of Bucha, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The sanctions will be imposed in coordination with the G7 and the European Union, Psaki said.
“This will include a ban on all new investment in Russia, increase sanctions on financial institutions and state-owned enterprises and sanctions on Russian government officials and their family members,” she said. “These measures will degrade key instruments of Russian state power and impose acute and immediate economic harm on Russia and hold accountable the Russian kleptocracy that funds and supports Putin’s war.”
Joe Biden called for Vladimir Putin to face a war crimes trial after Ukrainian forces retook the Kyiv region and were met with devastation. Photos coming out of the region showed unarmed civilians who were killed execution-style, with their hands tied behind their backs and hoods over their heads. Human Rights Watch has documented reports of rape, while the mayor of Bucha said authorities have uncovered a hastily buried mass grave of nearly 300 corpses. Among the hundreds of bodies found were those of Olha Sukhenko, the leader of the village Motyzhin, and her family, who were taken by Russian forces on 25 March.
US to announce new sanctions against Russia
The US and its allies will announce tomorrow new sanctions against Russia, its financial institutions and officials, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at today’s press briefing.
“They will target Russian government officials, their family members, Russian owned financial institutions, also state owned enterprises,” Psaki said.
Psaki said the goal of the sanctions is “to force them to make a choice”.
“Russia does not have unlimited resources, especially now, given the crippling sanctions we have put in place,” she said. “They are going to be forced to choose between draining remaining valuable dollar reserves or new revenue coming in or default. The biggest part of our objective here is to deplete the resources that Putin has to continue his war against Ukraine and obviously causing more uncertainty and challenges to their financial system is part of that, but it is forcing them to choose those options and deplete those options, making it more difficult for him longer term to fight his war.”
Earlier today we reported that the US Capitol police had issued a warning of possible fox dens on Capitol grounds and has received reports of people getting bitten by a fox. Punchbowl News has identified at least one of the bitten individuals as congressman Ami Bera, a Democrat from California.
“I expect to get attacked if I go on Fox News, I don’t expect to get attacked by a fox,” Bera told Punchbowl News.
Congressman Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who is under investigation for sex trafficking, tussled with Lloyd Austin, the defense secretary, in today’s House armed services hearing when Gaetz accused the Pentagon of being too focused on “wokeism”.
Gaetz began by focusing in on a lecture from National Defense University on socialism and then arguing that the US military had fallen behind China on hypersonic weapons.
Gaetz then went off on Austin, saying that the Pentagon “got it wrong” with their predictions that Russia would overrun Ukraine within days and that the Taliban would not take control of Afghanistan last year. He blamed critical race theory at West Point and “mandatory pronoun training” for distracting from defense. “You totally blew those calls and maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University actually worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism,” Gaetz said.
“Has it occurred to you that Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done and what our allies have done? Have you ever even thought about that?” Austin responded.
Austin responded to Gaetz’s original question asking Austin to justify the $773bn 2023 budget request by saying, “This is the most capable, most combat critical force in the world, it has been and it will be so going forward, and this budget helps us to do that.”
“Not if we continue down this path. Not if we continue to embrace socialism,” Gaetz said.
“The fact that you’re embarrassed by your country, by your military. I’m sorry for that,” Austin said.
“Oh no, I’m embarrassed for your leadership,” Gaetz responded. “I am not embarrassed for my country.”
Biden: ‘Affordable Care Act is stronger now than it’s ever been’
Joe Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to do everything in their power to expand affordable and quality healthcare coverage, and make healthcare more affordable for working families.
“The bottom line is this, the Affordable Care Act is stronger now than it’s ever been,” Biden said. “Today, we’re strengthening it even further.”
Joe Biden took to the podium to celebrate the return of Barack Obama to the White House. “It feels like the good old days,” Biden said.
He teased Obama that even though Obamacare has become a throwaway term for the Affordable Care Act, it’s “the most fitting”.
“It’s fitting that the first time you return to the White House is to celebrate a law, a law that has transformed millions of lives because of you,” Biden said. “A law that shows that hope leads to change. And you did that. You did it.”
Barack Obama said the Affordable Care Act was an example of”why you run for office in the first place”.
“For all of us, for Joe, for Harry (Reid), for Nancy Pelosi, for others, the ACA was an example of why you run for office in the first place, why all of you sign up for doing jobs that pay less than you could make some place else, why you’re away from home sometimes, why you miss some soccer practices or some dance recitals,” Obama said. “We’re not supposed to do this just to occupy a seat, or to hang on to power. We’re supposed to do this because it’s making a difference in the lives of the people who sent us here.”
Obama compared the ACA to a starter home: “It secured the principle of universal healthcare, provided help immediately to families, but it required us to continuously build on it and make it better.”
“The reason we are here today is because President Biden, vice-president Harris, everyone who has worked on this thing, knew from the start that the ACA wasn’t perfect. To get the bill passed, we had to make compromises, we didn’t get everything we wanted,” Obama said. “That wasn’t a reason not to do it.”
He invoked a famous Biden moment, in which an aside to Obama was caught on a hot mic during the signing of the ACA into law: “This is a big fucking deal!” Biden excitedly whispered to Obama in 2010. “If you can get millions of people health coverage and better protection, it is, to quote a famous America, a pretty – ” Obama paused “ – big deal.
To the side, Biden crossed himself as the crowd laughed.
Obama: I intended to get healthcare passed even if it cost me reelection
Barack Obama took to the podium to speak on the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, charming the crowd with the same congenial ease he has become known for.
He teased Joe Biden, his vice president, for his love of aviator sunglasses and Baskin Robbins, and talked about how happy he was to be back in the White House.
“Coming back here gives me a chance to say thank you and gives me a chance to spend some time with an extraordinary friend and partner who was by my side for eight years,” Obama said. “Joe Biden and I did a lot together. We helped save the global economy, made record investments in clean energy, we put guardrails on our financial system, we helped turn the auto industry around, repealed don’t ask/don’t tell. But nothing made me prouder than providing better healthcare and protections for millions of people across this country.”
Obama spoke about the challenges the Democrats faced in getting ACA passed. “It’s fair to say a lot of Republicans showed little interest in working with us to get things done,” he said, as the crowd laughed.
“But despite great odds, Joe and I were determined because we met too many people on the campaign trail who shraed their stories. Our own families had been touched by illness,” Obama said. “As I said to our dear friend Harry Reid – who is missed, I wish he was here today because he took great pride in what we did – I intended to get healthcare passed even if it costs me reelection. Which, for while, it looked like it might.”
Barack Obama began his remarks on the Affordable Care Act by calling Joe Biden by his old title: “Vice-President Biden.”
“That was a joke,” he said, going in to hug Biden amid laughs from the audience. “That was all set up. My president, Joe Biden.”
- Joe Biden plans visit to New York to discuss gun crime with new mayor – live | US news
- Joe Biden to visit New York to discuss crime and gun violence – live | US news
- Biden under pressure on Ukraine, inflation and more as State of the Union looms – live | US news
- Trump White House aide was secret author of report used to push ‘big lie’ | US elections 2020