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Policy priorities divide Senate Republicans

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 7, 2022.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... The U.S. is expected to announce Russian oil import ban as soon as today, per NBC’s Kristen Welker and Peter Alexander. ... A proposal to provide Ukraine with fighter jets hits a snag. ... President Biden heads to Fort Worth, Texas to speak about veterans affected after exposure to burn pits. ... U.S. gas prices jump to all-time high. ... The Supreme Court rejects GOP efforts to block redistricting maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. ... And is Biden getting a bounce after his State of the Union, or not?

But first: Is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seeing dissent in his Senate GOP ranks?

First came the 2022 policy proposals from NRSC Chair Rick Scott, R-Fla., after McConnell’s insistence that Republicans wouldn’t be offering a legislative agenda ahead of the midterms (which Biden and Democrats could attack).

When McConnell rejected Scott’s 11-point plan, the Florida Republican penned this Wall Street Journal op-ed: “Why I’m Defying Beltway Cowardice.”

Now comes an interview in which Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. — who’s up for re-election this year — talks about possibly repealing and replacing Obamacare.

On Monday night, Johnson released a statement saying he wasn’t suggesting that repealing and replacing Obamacare should be a GOP priority. But he also applauded Scott’s 11-point plan.

“I think it’s important for elected officials to tell their constituents what they are for, and I support Sen. Scott for doing so,” Johnson said.

This is hardly a full-scale Senate GOP rebellion, and McConnell enjoys support from his rank-and-file, particularly when compared with the situation in the House GOP.

But depending on what happens in November, it will be fascinating to see if McConnell continues his hold on the Senate GOP.

Especially with a former president who wants to end that hold.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 2 million

That’s the number of Ukrainian refugees who have fled the country in the wake of Russia’s attack on the country, according to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees.

The situation remains dire in the country almost two weeks into the Russian assault — the two sides recently struck an agreement for a cease-fire and evacuation corridor from the city of Sumy, a deal that came after Russia originally said that evacuees could escape other areas, but on routes that led them to Russia or Belarus.

Other numbers you need to know today:

38 percent: That’s Biden’s approval rating in a new national Quinnipiac poll, which was conducted after the State of the Union. (It was 37 percent the week before.)

45 percent: Biden’s approval rating in a new Morning Consult poll out Tuesday. (It was 41 percent the week before.)

$137,183: How much Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz spent from his campaign to support his former aide, Cassy Garcia, in her race for the state’s 28th Congressional District (Garcia is advancing to a runoff).

43 percent: That’s the decrease in average daily Covid hospitalizations over the last two weeks, according to NBC data as of Monday.

79,513,595: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 67,639 since yesterday morning.)

964,847: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far.

Tweet of the day

Midterm roundup

The Supreme Court handed Democrats two redistricting wins in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, rejecting emergency appeals from Republicans in both states to block the court-imposed maps. The Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman noted that the high court’s decision “ensures the 2022 House map will be much less skewed towards Republicans.”

Legislators in two states that have yet to finish their new congressional maps are clashing with their GOP governors. Yesterday New Hampshire state senators approved a map passed by the state House, which Gov. Chris Sununu opposes, although WMUR reports that Sununu has not threatened a veto. Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., has said he will veto the congressional map that state legislators passed on Friday.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., appears to be launching the first TV ad of her hotly contested re-election race, spending $291,000 on a TV ad buy that starts today and runs through March 14, per AdImpact.

The first Senate debate in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary is set for April 3, per the Philadelphia Inquirer, but Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s participation is still TBD. And there may not be a debate in the GOP Senate primary in Georgia, as frontrunner Herschel Walker said Monday he’s focused on the general election.

Fetterman just released another version of a biographical TV ad Tuesday morning. And a group backing Georgia Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath is up with a new biographical spot promoting the congresswoman ahead of her post-redistricting member-on-member primary.

Ad watch: 'Complete and total endorsement'

Former Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue’s gubernatorial bid is focused squarely on former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. Perdue is out with another ad featuring “A message from President Trump.” The latest commercial is out just over two months before the state’s primary election.

Perdue is facing incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump has blamed for his loss in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election. In this latest ad, Trump tells viewers, “Brian Kemp let us down. We can't let it happen again.”

Trump goes on to say, “David Perdue is an outstanding man. He's tough, he's smart, He has my complete and total endorsement.”

So far, all of Perdue’s ads tracked by AdImpact are slight variations of the same idea — Trump talking directly into the camera to tout his support.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister has penned an op-ed in the Washington Post where he said that the country will need more support from the international community — more sanctions, more weapons, and more monetary aid.

Top lawmakers in the House and Senate have a deal on banning Russian energy imports, but it’s unclear whether President Biden would sign it.

Congress has passed a law, named after Emmett Till, that makes lynching a federal crime.

The pandemic is magnifying literacy issues among children, particularly in low-income areas.