The Hill’s Morning Report — Under fire, Biden urges Congress to act on abortion
President Biden on Thursday said the Supreme Court’s decision to turn abortion law over to the states was an “outrageous” move that threw more than women’s rights and medical decisions into limbo. Privacy, he argued, is a cherished constitutional shield that the conservative court could erase by nullifying other rights, including contraception and “who you can marry.”
The president called on Congress to correct the court’s ruling by passing a law that embodies the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade to safeguard abortion and privacy as federal rights. Under pressure within his party to speak loudly and come up with an action plan, Biden urged the Senate to adopt an exception to the 60-vote filibuster threshold under these circumstances.
“I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law, and the way to do that is to make sure the Congress votes to do that,” Biden said. “And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights, it should be we provide an exception for this, requiring an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision.”
The problem for Democrats is that Congress doesn’t have the votes to codify Roe. All 50 Democrats would need to support the change, and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) don’t want to change the filibuster (The Hill and The New York Times).
Biden appeared to concede it will be voters, not Congress, with the power to check the Supreme Court, albeit as a potential slow-motion remedy. The president’s broad defense of privacy rights on Thursday could help shape a political narrative that appeals to some Republican women in the suburbs, independents worried about prosecutorial overreach and Big Brother, even some Catholics and Latinos.
Biden urged Americans who support abortion rights to vote against lawmakers who support the court’s ruling.
“If the polling data is correct and you think this decision by the court was an outrage or a significant mistake, vote, show up and vote,” Biden said during a news conference at the end of a NATO summit in Madrid. “Vote in the off-year and vote, vote, vote. That’s how we’ll change it.”
He said he will confer virtually today with a group of seven Democratic governors (representing Connecticut, New York, Illinois, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington) about efforts to protect privacy and abortion rights (The Hill). Vice President Harris, a former California attorney general and former member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, conferred with select state attorneys general more than a week ago.
“I feel extremely strongly that I’m going to do everything in my power, which I legally can do in terms of executive orders, as well as push the Congress and the public,” Biden added, dismissing criticism from within his party that the White House response to the court’s opinion has been, as one advocate described it, “milquetoast.”
“I’m the only president they’ve got,” he said with a chuckle.
▪ Niall Stanage, The Hill: The Memo: Biden leans into the abortion fight.
▪ The Hill: Senate Democrats press the Pentagon on abortion access.
▪ The Hill: Five takeaways from Biden’s Group of Seven, NATO meetings.
▪ The Associated Press: A Florida judge said Thursday that he will temporarily block a state ban on abortions beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy, but his bench ruling won’t take effect before the ban becomes law today.
▪ NBC News: A Kentucky judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the state’s near-total ban on abortions, allowing pregnancy terminations to proceed. A judge will continue to hear the case next week.
▪ The Associated Press: Alabama on Thursday cited the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling to argue it can ban gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender youths. Critics of the high court’s opinion have warned that the ruling could lead to a rollback of gay marriage, contraception and parental rights.
▪ The Associated Press: Today a Connecticut law goes into effect to protect abortion providers and patients from other states’ bans on abortion. It also expands the pool of providers in the state who can perform abortions in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy using a suction procedure known as aspiration.
▪ The Associated Press: In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) preemptively issued a directive instructing the Washington State Patrol not to cooperate “in any manner” with out-of-state abortion investigations.
▪ Reuters: The Supreme Court, with its abortion ruling last week in mind, on Thursday threw out lower court rulings that invalidated three abortion laws at the state level.
▪ The Associated Press: Eyeing last week’s high court opinion with concern about what’s to come, same-sex couples are updating legal status, wills and designations to try to protect marital status and their children.
LEADING THE DAY
➤ SUPREME COURT
Justices on the final day of the term limited the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to curb emissions from power plants. The ruling represents a major blow to the administration and to a worldwide battle against climate change.
By a 6-3 vote, with conservatives in the majority, the court said that the Clean Air Act does not give EPA broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming. Power plants account for roughly 30 percent of carbon dioxide output, the culprit in greenhouse gas that warms the planet.
Nineteen mostly Republican-led states and coal companies led the fight at the high court against broad EPA authority to regulate carbon output (The Associated Press).
READ: The full EPA ruling.
Separately, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 5-4 in support of the Biden administration in a clash over the disputed Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy. The justices returned the case to lower courts for additional proceedings (The Hill).
Ketanji Brown Jackson was officially sworn in as a Supreme Court justice on Thursday, cementing her as the nation’s first Black woman to serve in the position. She replaced Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, whose retirement took effect at noon on Thursday (The Hill).
© Associated Press / Provided by the Supreme Court | Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in on Thursday.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) complicated the Democratic plans for July on Thursday with a threat to tank a bipartisan bill aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness with China if the party in power moves ahead with an economic package via budget reconciliation.
McConnell issued the warning on Thursday afternoon, saying plainly that Democrats can only have one or the other, with the GOP leader effectively putting the future of the U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness Act (USICA) in limbo.
“Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill,” McConnell said.
© Associated Press / Susan Walsh | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) looks over the shoulder of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), June 8.
The White House and Democratic leaders responded angrily to the Kentucky Republican’s latest salvo. Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement accused McConnell of protecting the pharmaceutical industry and siding with China.
“This takes loyalty to special interests over working Americans to a new and shocking height. We are not going to back down in the face of this outrageous threat,” she wrote, later echoed by the spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Passing the USICA bill was a top Democratic priority for what is expected to be an intense three-week work period before the month-long August recess. Negotiations are nearing the final stages to reconcile the bill with the House-passed America COMPETES Act. McConnell was one of 19 Senate Republicans who voted last summer for the USICA bill, which would include $50 billion to increase domestic semiconductor production and $100 billion for the National Science Foundation.
The move also throws the future of a pared-back Build Back Better bill in fresh doubt. According to Bloomberg News, Senate Democrats have discussed scaling back tax increases in any reconciliation bill in order to strike a deal with Manchin in order to get it across the finish line by the start of August.
As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton notes, the Supreme Court’s EPA ruling also heaps pressure on Democrats to push through a bill with 50 votes. Schumer on Thursday said the court’s opinion puts the onus on Congress to get something done to limit carbon emissions.
▪ Politico: Why Biden’s climate push might not be doomed.
▪ The Hill: House negotiators advance final appropriations bills.
Separately, Senate Democrats could be forced to confront yet another health issue after the July 4 recess as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is third in line for the presidency, broke his hip and underwent surgery on Thursday. He is “comfortably” recovering after a hip replacement, according to his spokesman (The Hill). According to his office, Leahy, 82, fell Wednesday evening at his home in McLean, Va. (The Associated Press).
If Leahy misses time, it would create troubles for Schumer to shepherd through nominees and other bills that require support from all 50 Senate Democrats (The Hill).
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
Biden on Thursday hailed the work of NATO as the alliance is set for expansion in Scandinavia in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the U.S. prepares to send more in military aid to the war-torn nation.
The president argued on Thursday that the invasion has strengthened the sprawling alliance, especially as Sweden and Finland took a step closer to joining. He also maintained that Ukraine will not fall to the Russians, going so far as to promise it will not happen.
“Putin thought he could break the transatlantic alliance,” Biden told reporters. “He tried to weaken us. He expected our resolve to fracture. But he’s getting exactly what he did not want. He wanted the Finland-ization of NATO. He got the NATO-ization of Finland.”
“We are going to stick with Ukraine, and all of the alliance is going to stick with Ukraine as long as it takes to, in fact, make sure that they are not defeated,” Biden said, adding that another $800 million in military assistance will go to Ukraine. “[Russia] cannot, in fact, defeat Ukraine and move beyond Ukraine. This is a critical, critical position for the world” (Politico).
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday issued his own warning to the two Nordic nations, saying that while he has no problem with them joining, Moscow will respond if there is a NATO military buildup in the region (Insider).
Earlier in the week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg revealed that the alliance is ramping up the number of troops set for rapid deployment from 40,000 to 300,000 (CNBC).
▪ The New York Times: Ukraine drives Russian forces from Snake Island, a setback for Moscow.
▪ Reuters: Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says sanctions could be justification for war.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Russian missiles kill 18 in residential area in Odessa region, Ukraine says.
▪ The New York Times: Patient and confident, Putin shifts out of wartime crisis mode.
Meanwhile, WNBA star Brittney Griner arrived in a Moscow court today to begin her trial on drug charges after being imprisoned without bail since February. Legal experts said her trial was all but certain to end in a conviction despite the insistence in the United States that she be released. The State Department and the White House have protested her treatment, now officially categorized as “wrongful detention,” during a fraught period for U.S.-Russian relations (The New York Times).
“Brittney has been classified as wrongfully detained since April 29, which means that the U.S. government has determined she is being used as a political pawn and as a result, is engaging in negotiations for her release, regardless of the legal process,” Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, said Wednesday. “As such, our expectation — Brittney’s family included — remains that President Biden get a deal done to bring her home.”
The New York Times: Russia hints at linking Griner’s case to Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States. He is known as the “Merchant of Death.” Because of the disparity between the alleged charges against Griner — possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil) and Bout’s crimes of selling arms to those intent on killing Americans — the Biden administration, reluctant to create an incentive for the arrest or abduction of Americans abroad, may be hard-pressed to justify a swap with Bout.
■ Is Biden handling Putin better than he’s handling Trump? by Susan B. Glasser, staff writer, The New Yorker. https://bit.ly/3OWfuBQ
■ 🚴 He’s the best cyclist in the world. He’s only getting better, by Jason Gay, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3yuhKLt
WHERE AND WHEN
🇺🇸 A programming note: The Morning Report wishes readers a happyFourth of July holiday. Find The Hill’s Tipsheet early next week, and our newsletter returns bright and early to inboxes on Wednesday.
The House will meet at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session and will resume votes on July 12.
The Senate convenes at 8:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators will return to Washington on July 11 following the July 4 recess.
The president receives the President’s Daily Brief at 9:45 a.m. Biden will consult virtually with a group of seven Democratic governors at 1 p.m. about the repercussions of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The president will depart the White House for Camp David at 2:30 p.m.
The vice president is in Los Angeles and has no events scheduled.
First lady Jill Biden arrives at 12:30 p.m. in Richmond, Va., and will visit and deliver remarks at a Richmond and Henrico County Health District’s vaccination clinic. She will urge parents and guardians to vaccinate their children younger than 5 against COVID-19.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday left the safe confines of the mainland, arriving in Hong Kong for the first in-person travel he’s made in 29 months to survey part of a tightly scripted, two-day anniversary celebration aimed at reinforcing his authority over the city (The New York Times).
During a Friday keynote address, Xi asserted that true democracy in Hong Kong began with the handover. “After its return to the motherland, Hong Kong compatriots became masters of their own affairs, Hong Kong people administered Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy, and that was the beginning of true democracy in Hong Kong,” Xi said (CNN).
Xi declared that Hong Kong had “put an end to chaos and violence,” and was ready to “break new ground and take a new leap forward” in the next five years. He said the city of more than 7 million people must be governed by “patriots,” shorthand for those loyal to the ruling Communist Party.
His visit marked exactly two years after Beijing imposed a sweeping national-security law on Hong Kong, paving the way for authorities to end a wave of dissent that had drawn millions of people onto the streets and alarmed the Communist Party leadership with what they saw as a direct challenge to their authority (The Wall Street Journal).
The Hill’s Laura Kelly reports on why Hong Kong matters to the U.S., noting the Western campaign to support its independence faces a grim future on the 25th anniversary of its handover from the United Kingdom back to the Chinese Communist Party.
The New York Times: Everything in Hong Kong has changed.
Pfizer on Thursday announced that it submitted an application to receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration for Paxlovid, its COVID-19 antiviral, for use in high-risk individuals. The agency greenlighted it for emergency use in December to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children over the age of 12 who are at a high risk of developing severe symptoms (The Hill).
The World Health Organization on Thursday reported that COVID-19 cases are rising nearly everywhere in the world. The largest weekly rise in new COVID-19 cases was seen in the Middle East, where they increased by 47 percent, according to the report released late Wednesday. Infections rose by about 32 percent in Europe and Southeast Asia, and by about 14 percent in the Americas, WHO said (The Associated Press).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,017,266. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 317, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Commerce Department reported on Thursday that a key inflation gauge remained high at 6.3 percent in May, year over year. The report also said that consumer spending rose at a sluggish 0.2 percent rate from April to May. Consumer spending is beginning to weaken in the face of high inflation, which some analysts believe could be a favorable omen for the Federal Reserve’s goal to tame rising prices without triggering a recession. The Fed meets again on July 26-27.
“It should really come as no surprise that U.S. consumers are paring their spending due to the high costs of, well, almost everything,” Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a research note. After adjusting for inflation, she noted, consumer spending actually fell 0.4 percent from April to May (The Associated Press).
U.S. employers say they see signs of a cooling market for job hunters (Reuters).
Retailers, manufacturers and farmers hope for a quick resolution to a labor dispute with port workers that could lead to significant supply chain disruptions. Both sides in the clash say they will not allow work stoppages. Today is the contract deadline. Businesses say they worry that the risk of walkouts climbs if labor talks drag on (The Hill).
Cities and states can now apply for federal grants over a span of five years to rectify harm caused by roadways that were placed primarily through lower-income and Black communities after the 1950s commitment to the interstate highway system.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday launched a $1 billion first-of-its-kind pilot program aimed at helping reconnect cities and neighborhoods racially segregated or divided by road projects. Proponents of the administration’s effort say the grant funds under the infrastructure law are far less than the $20 billion Biden initially proposed (The Associated Press). Some conservative officials, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a possible 2024 presidential contender, have derided the effort as the “woke-ification” of federal policy.
© Associated Press / Susan Walsh | Biden briefly drove a Jeep Wrangler on the South Lawn last summer.
And finally … 👏👏👏 Congratulations to our Morning Report Quiz winners!
With Tuesday’s Jan. 6 congressional testimony in mind, we sought some smart guesses about thehistory of presidential transport, especially around Washington, D.C.
In our winner’s circle this week: Pam Manges, Mary Anne McEnery, Paul Harris, Patrick Kavanagh, Ki Harvey, Lou Tisler, Luther Berg, Terry Pflaumer, Jack Barshay, Robert Bradley, Jose Ramos, Stanley Wasser, Amanda Fisher, Lesa Davis, Len Jones, Joe Erdmann, Jaina Mehta, Candi Cee and Steve James.
They knew that the gleaming black limousine that serves as a fortified security bunker to drive presidents around is known as “The Beast.”
Former President William Henry Harrison insisted on riding his own horse to his inauguration at the Capitol in 1841. (His decisions that day proved perilous; he died of pneumonia 31 days later.)
Former President Ulysses S Grant was a speed demon. While serving as the leader of the free world, Grant raced his horse-drawn coach down M Street N.W. and was pulled over by an intrepid Washington, D.C., police officer, who fined the president (DCist).
It is true that current and former presidents since Lyndon Johnson have been strongly discouraged by the Secret Service from driving themselves anywhere on public roads (CNBC).