The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden heads to Ohio for union support
News this week: another grisly mass shooting; a recession could be here — or on its way; turmoil over state abortion laws; new Russian victories in Ukraine.
Those headlines are midweek reminders that President Biden’s executive sway in an uncertain world is limited. Today, he’ll fly to Cleveland to boast about a more upbeat story he wants his union backers to appreciate: He’ll say he helped save their pension checks.
The Hill: Frustrated Democrats express alarm over Biden’s powerlessness.
Biden will announce that part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan law affecting multiemployer pension plans, to be published as a final rule in the Federal Register today, will help roughly 2 million workers and retirees avoid benefit cuts as steep as 70 percent and keep union pensions solvent through 2051, according to the White House (Cleveland.com).
At a Cleveland high school today, the president is expected to say that an estimated 100,000 Ohioans participate in affected pension systems that cover pools of union members employed by different companies in industries such as trucking, mining and construction.
In a state he lost by 8 points to former President Trump in 2020, and where there’s a neck-and-neck open-seat Senate race in November, Biden will be joined today by union retirees, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Democratic Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Rep. Shontel Brown of Ohio and others.
Gene Sperling, former White House national economic adviser under former President Obama and current Biden coordinator for the American Rescue Plan law, told Cleveland news outlets that the president will refer to the “overall economic challenges” the nation faces, including U.S. inflation, COVID-19 and the situation in Ukraine.
Economists, investors and corporate leaders are increasingly persuaded that the United States is headed for recession — and might already be in one. That forecast, somewhat dismissed a few months ago and pushed off to the far horizon, is now almost conventional wisdom in news coverage about the economy.
Oil prices tumbled on Tuesday as those recession fears spark worries that an economic slowdown will cut demand for petroleum products. The U.S. oil benchmark fell below $100 per barrel (CNBC).
Biden has indirectly discounted worries about a recession by saying the U.S. economic fundamentals and job growth are strong enough to reckon with inflation. But the question has become more about now than the future.
“We do not believe that we are in recession,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.
Forbes: Already in recession? Close enough to be worried, but not quite July 2022, at least as of Wednesday.
The Hill’s Tobias Burns explains why some economists say inflation is worsened by companies’ pricing and hunger for profits.
▪ The Hill: July 4th violence leaves Democrats frustrated that Biden is not doing more about gun control.
▪ The Associated Press and NBC News: Robert “Bobby” Crimo III, 21, was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder in the sniper killings of seven people at an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago. He legally purchased two high-powered rifles and three other weapons despite authorities being called to his home twice in 2019 after he threatened suicide and violence, police said Tuesday.
▪ The Hill: The alleged Highland Park shooter said in 2019 that he would “kill everyone” at his house, according to law enforcement officials.
▪ The Associated Press: In Chicago between Friday and Monday nights, 68 people were shot and eight died, according to Chicago Police.
▪ NewsNation: The strain that mass shootings are putting on America’s police.
▪ NewsNation: Experts outline challenges to preventing mass shootings.
LEADING THE DAY
If Trump decides to mount another campaign for the White House and unveil his candidacy this summer well before 2024 — as some allies speculate he might do to create a potential shield against allegations stemming from his efforts to retain power after his 2020 defeat — the ripple effects could be instantaneous in the GOP political world, report The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Max Greenwood.
“I think there are people pulling him in that direction, and he’s open to it,” one former adviser said of Trump.
In a sign that Trump’s problems cascade beyond the House Jan. 6 committee, a Georgia prosecutor and grand jury on Tuesday subpoenaed seven of the former president’s allies in an ongoing criminal investigation, including Rudy Giuliani, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and lawyer Jenna Ellis (The New York Times, The Hill and The Associated Press).
If Trump makes a campaign announcement, it could help him paint Congress’s investigation as politically motivated while he seeks to dominate the GOP field as a nominee-in-waiting, sources told The New York Times. However, an official Trump candidacy this year would complicate a carefully constructed plan by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to try to wrest the upper chamber’s majority from Democrats, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.
“If Trump were to announce this summer, I think it definitely causes problems for Republicans,” former Rep. Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.) said. “It’s not going to bring Republicans out this election, but what it may do is motivate Democrats.”
© Associated Press / John Minchillo | Trump supporter, March 2021.
CNN analysis: Here’s why Democrats could keep the Senate: One model indicates that Republicans have a roughly 3-in-5 shot at the Senate majority in 2023. Recent state-level polling in swing states favors Democrats in places such as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Headwinds for Democrats: Biden’s low approval rating and the tendency for the opposition party’s lead to grow during midterm elections.
The New York Times “The Morning”: Journalist Blake Hounshell analyzes Senate races in which some Republican candidates have had a rough few weeks, introducing vulnerabilities eagerly exploited by Democrats. “If the election were held today, polls suggest that Democrats would be narrowly favored to retain Senate control,” Hounshell reports.
The Hill: Why some aren’t buying Democrats’ “go vote” message on abortion.
The Hill: The Department of Justice on Tuesday said it is suing the state of Arizona seeking to block a law that would force residents beginning in January to provide proof of citizenship in order to vote in federal elections. The law could remove tens of thousands of people from Arizona voting rolls.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ UKRAINE & RUSSIA
Russia has intensified its shelling in Ukraine’s Donetsk region after capturing the Luhansk province in the east (The New York Times). Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk province, said on Tuesday that getting as many as 350,000 Ukrainians to evacuate is necessary to save lives and enable the Ukrainian army to better defend towns from Russia’s continued advance (The Associated Press).
As the Times reports, Russia makes slow-motion and incremental gains backed by withering artillery fire while Ukrainian forces withdraw from bombed-out cities and towns rather than risk further casualties
“The destiny of the whole country will be decided by the Donetsk region,” Kyrylenko said. “Once there are less people, we will be able to concentrate more on our enemy and perform our main tasks.”
The New York Times: Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.), during a telephone interview, said the advanced long-range artillery supplied to Ukraine by the U.S. will be a critical weapon in halting Russia’s gains.
Russia’s ability to continue to grind out conquests in Ukraine could be hampered following months of sustained bombardment and heavy casualties (The Associated Press). Nevertheless, Ukraine has lost 20 percent of its territory and continues to warn Western leaders that it is being outgunned by Russia 10-to-1 in artillery.
U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Scott Miller during a Ukraine Recovery Conference held in Lugano, Switzerland, on Tuesday urged Ukraine’s allies to help the war-ravaged country meet its “immediate and urgent” needs — not only longer-term rebuilding (ABC News).
The Wall Street Journal: Russian army turns Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, located in southern Ukraine, into a base.
Legislative approval by NATO’s 30 member states will be the next step to expand the bloc to include Finland and Sweden, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who on Tuesday heralded the signing of accession protocols, which he called “historic” for the two nations (CBS News and The Associated Press).
WNBA star Brittney Griner, detained in Russia since February, on Monday sent Biden a handwritten letter asking for his help to end her imprisonment and trial, which is scheduled to resume on Thursday. “This is an issue that is a priority for this president,” Biden’s spokeswoman told reporters on Tuesday. Griner is accused of possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, appearing on Tuesday on CBS Mornings, said Brittney Griner told the president, “I’m terrified I might be here forever” (The Hill). … The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes about Griner’s case and Biden’s limited options.
@ Associated Press / Alexander Zemlianichenko | WNBA player Brittney Griner was escorted to a courtroom for her trial outside Moscow on Friday.
■ Here’s what the Highland Park mass murder tells us. Will anyone listen? by Sheldon H. Jacobson, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3P1IZm0
■ The GOP knew Trump was dangerous — why did they nominate him? by Lawrence R. Jacobs, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3uqAZDd
■ Biden’s missing trade policy, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3yhOciR
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at noon on Thursday for a pro forma session. Lawmakers return to work in the Capitol on July 11.
The Senate convenes Thursday for a pro forma session. Senators return to Washington on July 12.
The president receives the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will fly to Cleveland to speak about union pension solvency and his economic agenda at 3:15 p.m. EDT and return this evening to the White House.
The vice president will have no public events today in Washington.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Bali, Indonesia, to attend the Group of 20 foreign ministers’ meeting, where he has no plans to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (The Hill). Blinken will also visit Bangkok, Thailand, before returning to Washington next week.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at 10 a.m. will convene multilateral development banks representatives to discuss financing focused on climate change adaptation.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra is in Connecticut today for an event and press conference at Fair Haven Community Health Care to promote COVID-19 vaccination for children under age 5. Joining Becerra will be House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). The secretary will also join Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) later in the day at Family and Children’s Aid in Connecticut for a roundtable discussion about gun violence and the new federal gun safety law.
🎂 Former President George W. Bush celebrates his 76th birthday today!
In the United Kingdom today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vows to fight for his political survival (The Associated Press) following the abrupt resignations on Tuesday of his government’s ministers for finance and health, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid in a public rebuke of his leadership (Reuters). The Guardian reported that the mood in the Conservative Party is against the prime minister, who is blamed for crushing chances for future Conservative victories.
Reuters analysis: Can Johnson be forced out, and how would a successor be chosen?
© Associated Press / Justin Tallis | British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, who resigned, on Tuesday.
In Nigeria, the secretary-general of the Vienna-based Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, 63-year-old Mohammad Barkindo, died suddenly on Tuesday, Nigerian officials announced today (The Associated Press).
A cousin of the omicron version of COVID-19 known as BA.5 is so highly transmissible that it is now the dominant subvariant responsible for a majority of confirmed cases of the virus in the United States, according to data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Human immune systems are having a harder time warding off the newest variants, although people vaccinated and boosted against the original strain of COVID-19 who contract the subvariants are still less likely to land in hospitals or to suffer severe illness than those who are unvaccinated. “We are also seeing early hints that Omicron subvariants BA.4 & BA.5 may be more virulent (causing more severe disease) than the original Omicron,” tweeted Celine Gounder, an infectious disease expert at New York University (The Hill).
Between March 2020 and October 2021, COVID-19 was the No. 3 cause of death in the United States, according to a National Cancer Institute analysis of death certificates. The coronavirus accounted for 350,000 fatalities — 1 in every 8 — during that 20-month period. The leading U.S. cause of death was heart disease, followed closely by cancer (The Hill).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,018,364. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 295, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of today, 77.5 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 66.3 percent is “fully vaccinated,” according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker and the government’s definition. The percentage of Americans who have received third or booster doses is 31.6.
© Associated Press / Darron Cummings | Naturalization ceremony in May in Indianapolis.
And finally … 👏👏👏 Just a reminder that on the Fourth of July across the country, thousands of immigrants celebrated their new status as Americans, applauded by U.S. officials who presided over naturalization ceremonies among beaming families capturing hands over hearts on smartphones and somewhat more somber gatherings in COVID-19-cautious courtrooms.
Under blue skies at Mt. Vernon in Virginia on Independence Day, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen did the honors during an event for 52 naturalized immigrants, some of whom are members of the U.S. armed services (see Washingtonian magazine photos HERE. Another example — 32 new citizens gathered in a Las Vegas U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office — as photographed by The Nevada Independent HERE).