WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday … President Biden, in Europe, pushes allies to ramp up pressure on Russia. … Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing enters its final day (hearing from outside witnesses). … NBC’s Benjy Sarlin looks at Obamacare at age 12. … Speaker Pelosi confirms she’s backing Rep. Henry Cuellar in the Texas-28 runoff. … And Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as secretary of state, passes away at age 84.
But first: When Donald Trump travels to Georgia this Saturday for his latest rally, he’ll arrive in his weakest political position in months — within his own party.
He withdrew his endorsement of Mo Brooks in Alabama’s Senate race, citing Brooks’ words from an Aug. 2021 rally. But the reality is that Brooks had already been losing altitude in this three-way May 24 GOP primary, and Trump takes special pride of his endorsement won-loss record.
In Georgia, where he’ll be on Saturday, polls show the Trump-backed David Perdue trailing incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in the state’s gubernatorial primary, despite Trump appearing in multiple ads for Perdue.
The NBC News poll finds Republicans increasingly considering themselves more as supporters of the GOP rather than as supporters of Trump.
And maybe most stunningly of all is Brooks’ allegation — after the un-endorsement — that Trump asked him to “rescind” the 2020 presidential election and reinstate him as president.
Our colleague Benjy Sarlin puts it well: “It’s a weird moment where Trump simultaneously 1) has never looked weaker, 2) is still the frontrunner for the nomination, and 3) cannot be making it clearer his one guiding issue is re-running 2020 only now rigged in his favor at the state level.”
Tweet of the day
Data Download: The number of the day is … $2.3 million
That’s how much money the conservative Club for Growth Action has spent on ads supporting Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama’s GOP Senate primary. Even though Trump withdrew his endorsement of Brooks yesterday, the group is still backing the congressman.
Brooks himself has been outspent on the airwaves by Britt and Army veteran Mike Durant, who is self-funding his campaign. So far Durant’s campaign has spent $2 million on ads, while Britt’s has spent $1.2 million and Brooks’ campaign has spent $449,000.
Other numbers you need to know today
84: The age at which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve in the post, died yesterday.
23.5: The number of hours that senators questioned Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for over the last two days, per NBC’s Julie Tsirkin.
$275 million: The amount of money philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated to Planned Parenthood, which was the largest donation by a single donor in the organization’s over 100-year history.
$1.8 billion: The amount of Covid stimulus money obtained via alleged fraud, according to an IRS investigation.
17: The number of states where bird flu has been detected in flocks, as America faces its worst outbreak since 2015 (experts say the risk to humans remains low).
80,040,040: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 34,780 more than yesterday morning.)
979,516: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,267 more than yesterday morning.)
Talking policy with Benjy: The Affordable Care Act turns 12
The Affordable Care Act celebrated its 12th anniversary on Wednesday, with tributes pouring in from Democratic politicians, and it comes at an all-time high point for the law.
Enrollment reached a new official peak of 14.5 million through the law’s health care marketplace, and upwards of 15.5 million according to a broader count by ACA analyst Charles Gaba. Another 18.7 million are covered under the law’s Medicaid expansion. Republican political opposition has also plummeted after years of failed repeal efforts and lawsuits.
But the ACA is also at a quiet crossroads this month that could determine whether it will build on its gains even further or start to roll them back. If changes discussed by Democrats this year pass, the U.S. might get close to providing universal coverage (with a large exception for undocumented immigrants, who are ineligible). If they don’t, premiums will likely become unaffordable for some of the newly enrolled.
The recent enrollment surge is powered in part by increased subsidies for premiums that were part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that made it easier to sign up for a plan or upgrade to a new one with lower deductibles. They expire at the end of this year, however.
Democrats hoped to use their “Build Back Better” bill to extend the ACA subsidies, at least temporarily. The House bill also would have offered subsidized private plans to 2.2 million more uninsured in the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid.
But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., killed that bill in December. And even though he’s shown some interest in a newer version that could still include ACA fixes, he’s been slow to start negotiations and the outcome of any future talks is highly uncertain.
Adding more urgency to the conversation, Medicaid has been operating under emergency rules during the pandemic that prevent state programs from dropping people. Once that emergency declaration ends, there could be a flood of newly uninsured people looking for a backstop that only a patched-up ACA might provide.
Midterm roundup: Pelosi backs Cuellar
At an event in Austin on Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that she’s backing the more moderate Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, in his primary fight against the progressive Jessica Cisneros. The two will face each other in a May primary runoff.
South Carolina-01: The State newspaper obtained a number of combative text messages sent from Katie Arrington, a Trump-endorsed candidate for Congress in South Carolina, to former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney in the wake of his public comment disparaging her. Mulvaney, a former congressman from the state who once served as Trump’s chief of staff, told NBC News Arrington was “not the best candidate by any stretch of the imagination.” In the text messages, Arrington responded to the statement by calling Mulvaney a “piece of s–t” twice.
Missouri Senate: Trump hasn’t endorsed any of the GOP Senate hopefuls, but yesterday he put out a statement saying, “Have the great people of Missouri been considering the big, loud, and proud personality of Congressman Billy Long for the Senate? … This is not an Endorsement, but I’m just askin’.”
Wisconsin Senate: Democratic candidate Mandela Barnes released his manufacturing plan.
Wisconsin redistricting: The Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked a Wisconsin state legislative redistricting plan crafted by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Evers’ map would have created a new majority-Black district near Milwaukee. Instead, the court urged Wisconsin officials to move forward with a Republican-backed map that had previously been rejected by the state’s Supreme Court.
Other news from the trail: The Biden administration threatened to remove celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and former football star Herschel Walker from the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition if they don’t step down. Trump appointed both men, now GOP Senate candidates, to the panel, but the White House says they can no longer serve on the council since they are candidates for federal office.
Ad watch: Johnson digs in on inflation
In a new TV ad, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., blasts the Biden administration over rising prices, telling voters, “inflation is the Democrats’ tax on the middle class.”
Johnson also tells viewers that gasoline prices are at record levels because “Democrats declared war on fossil fuels.” He also cites a statistic pushed by Jason Furman, who chaired Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, that alleges costs facing American families have risen by $4,000 in 2021 due to inflation.
Johnson has already spent over $2.6 million on ads so far, according to AdImpact, and isn’t facing a primary challenger. Meanwhile, Democrats running to oust him are still fighting it out in a primary.
ICYMI: What else is happening in the world
The Biden administration is assembling a team to ready contingency plans in case Russia uses chemical weapons, per the New York Times.
Idaho GOP Gov. Brad Little signed a bill into law modeled after the controversial Texas law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports on a conundrum Senate Republicans face as they rail against dark money groups who support Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson but still oppose laws requiring such groups to disclose their donors.
The New York Times reports that a former Manhattan prosecutor investigating Trump believes that the former president was “guilty of numerous felony violations.”
North Korea tested an ICBM for the first time since 2017.