Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — Angst over ’24 compounds Democrats’ midterm anxiety

In 2024, if not President Biden, then who? 

Democrats are openly asking that question, despite the president’s assurances that he intends to seek a second term. And some are polishing their profiles. The Hill’s Niall Stanage notes today that California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) professes not to be focused on a presidential bid (while buying ad time in Florida, giving speeches and getting press coverage for vacationing in a red state).  

“To be clear, as the president has said repeatedly, he plans to run in 2024.” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in June.

Other names in circulation beyond Vice President Harris, whose job approval numbers are about as dismal as Biden’s, include women: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

Los Angeles Times reporter Erin Logan last week trailed Harris to events around the country and reported the vice president was strategically deployed to speak to key Democratic supporters and was scripted in her mission to increase midterm turnout.

The whispers, conjecture and Democratic handwringing appear more agitated as November nears, and that includes inside the West Wing. 

Associated Press / Charles Rex Arbogast | Vice President Harris spoke Tuesday in Highland Park, Ill., near the site of a mass shooting. 


Related Articles

The Hill: Republicans in the House and Senate are weighing whether to pursue national abortion restrictions in Congress, as advocated by some abortion opponents. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told CNN he would support a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said “it’s possible” when asked in May by USA Today about the prospects of a federal abortion ban

The Hill and Bloomberg News: Biden in Ohio on Wednesday touted his economic agenda amid sinking poll numbers. Two top Democrats competing for statewide offices in November, Tim Ryan in the Senate race and Nan Whaley for governor, both had other places to be during the president’s event.


EVENT INVITATION
Securing America’s Retirement, Wednesday, July 13 at 8:00 AM ET—WASHINGTON, DC and Livestreaming 

A recent Gallup poll shows that 63% of Americans are “worried about having enough for retirement.” In this moment of anxiety, retirement officials have increasingly turned to investment in private equity in an effort to bolster funds. How might diversifying portfolios to include private equity affect retirement security? And what policies will truly ensure a secure retirement for Americans? Contributing editor Steven Clemons sits down with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), BPC chief economist Jason Fichtner, Ohio School Employees Retirement System’s Farouki Majeed and more. RSVP today.

 LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS & INVESTIGATIONS

Lawmakers return to Washington next week while the House Jan. 6 committee continues its investigation on Friday. 

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone agreed this week to testify under subpoena behind closed doors. Members talked to him off the record in the spring and want him to go on the record in response to testimony last week from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson in which she described conversations with Cipollone about former President Trump’s actions and remarks before, during and after the attack on the Capitol. 

“The Select Committee’s investigation has revealed evidence that Mr. Cipollone repeatedly raised legal and other concerns about President Trump’s activities on January 6th and in the days that preceded,” the committee’s chairman and vice chairwoman said in a statement last week (NBC News).

The committee will also hold a hearing on Tuesday focused on how the Capitol mob was organized and assembled on Jan. 6 (USA Today).    

The Fulton County, Ga., district attorney is investigating whether Trump broke the law when he attempted to overturn Biden’s Georgia victory. The prosecutor wants Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to testify under oath (The Hill). Graham plans to challenge the subpoena, which he called “all politics” and “a fishing expedition” (The Hill). 

Members of the Secret Service deny Trump became physical with his security detail on Jan. 6 while seeking to be driven to the Capitol. The former president previously said publicly that he wanted to head to the Capitol after his controversial speech on the Ellipse. He was driven instead to the White House (The Hill). 

Looking ahead to summer legislating, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has begun a delicate process to bring a budget reconciliation bill to the floor. Democrats want to move on priorities that could potentially secure at least 50 votes, such as changes that would allow Medicare to negotiate lower-cost prescription drugs. Possible climate, energy and tax provisions are still being negotiated by Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), in consultation with the White House (Punchbowl News and Politico Playbook).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION

West Wing turnstile: White House communications director Kate Bedingfield — a longtime Biden aide and head of a messaging team experiencing heavy turnover halfway through the president’s term and before critical midterm elections — will depart in late July, The Hill’s Amie Parnes reported and the White House confirmed in a statement on Wednesday. Former Biden press secretary Jen Psaki left in May after accepting an offer to work for MSNBC. Other communications and press staff have moved to positions in the private sector and into agency and department jobs.

© Associated Press / Patrick Semansky | White House podium in 2020. 

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Wednesday unveiled proposed changes to the federal student loan system, including measures that help discharge loans for physically and mentally disabled borrowers, limit interest capitalization rates, and help borrowers who are public service employees to earn forgiveness on their loans. Since October, the Biden administration has approved about $8.1 billion in student loan relief for 145,000 borrowers. The administration has weighed canceling $10,000 per student loan borrower amid calls from progressives to cancel $50,000 or more. Biden’s next official step on student loan forgiveness is unclear (The Hill).

The office of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, reversed course Tuesday and turned over a June 23 White House email that shows that Biden was poised on the morning the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime appointment as a federal district judge in Kentucky. The governor’s office also released a follow-up email from a White House official sent June 29 — five hours before The Courier-Journal first broke the story on the pending nomination of attorney Chad Meredith. A White House official said the original email was “pre-decisional and privileged information.” Meredith’s nomination did not occur (Courier-Journal). 

RUSSIA

The trial in Russia of basketball star Brittney Griner resumes today in a courtroom near Moscow. Biden and Harris on Wednesday spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, to assure her the administration is working to secure the Olympic athlete’s release, as well as the release of other U.S. prisoners. Biden read Cherelle Griner a letter he wrote in response to Brittney Griner’s Monday letter to the president requesting his help (The Hill and PBS NewsHour).


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OPINION

■ The economy is already cooling, so why is the Fed dousing it with cold water? by Peter Coy, opinion writer, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3yKa73I

■ Democrats are livid — why isn’t Biden? by Michael Starr Hopkins, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3P64su3

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at noon for a pro forma session. Lawmakers return to work in the Capitol on Monday.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators return to Washington on Tuesday.

The president and Harris receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Biden at 2 p.m. in the East Room will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people, including actor Denzel Washington, Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), retired Air Force Gen. Wilma Vaught, and posthumous awards for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Apple’s Steve Jobs andthe AFL-CIO’s longtime president Richard Trumka. Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend the event.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is participating in the Group of 20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on claims filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 2.

The White House press briefing is scheduled at 3:10 p.m. 


🖥  Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.


ELSEWHERE  

MASS SHOOTINGS

On Wednesday, the accused 21-year-old Fourth of July sniper confessed to randomly shooting participants at a parade near Chicago, killing seven people and injuring more than 30. After that mayhem, he fled to the Madison, Wis., area, where he contemplated shooting people during an event there, authorities said. Robert Crimo III returned instead to Illinois, where he was later arrested. He has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder and could receive a mandatory life sentence if convicted (NewsNation).

CBS News reported that it was the suspect’s weapon, dropped at the scene and traced by state and federal authorities on Monday, that led to Crimo’s arrest. 

The Independence Day massacre near Chicago exposed loopholes in federal and state gun laws that allowed Crimo to legally slip past Illinois’s red flag restrictions, some of the country’s strictest, and purchase a high-powered rifle similar to an AR-15 (The Associated Press analysis). 

The recently enacted federal bipartisan gun law provides millions of dollars to help states implement red flag laws that allow for temporary detention and assessments of individuals seen as potential hazards to themselves or others. The Hill’s Alex Gangitano reports on whether provisions of the bipartisan law recently signed by the president, the first gun measure enacted in three decades, could slow or stop a future shooter with a history similar to Crimo’s.

The Associated Press: In an example of “hear something, say something,” police in Richmond, Va., revealed on Wednesday that they thwarted a planned July Fourth mass shooting in the city after a “hero citizen” provided a crucial tip that led to the arrest of two men and the seizure of multiple guns.  

The Associated Press: A Texas police officer armed with a rifle watched the gunman in the Uvalde elementary school massacre walk toward the campus on May 24 but did not fire while waiting for permission from a supervisor to shoot, according to a 26-page report released Wednesday.

  INTERNATIONAL

****  BREAKING ****  After three years of controversy about his leadership and days of calls from within parliament and among allies that he quit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today will step down as Tory leader but reportedly seeks to remain as prime minister until the fall, BBC and The Guardian report. 

Downing Street said Johnson plans to make a statement to the country today. Buckingham Palace, as of this writing, would not comment on whether Johnson had spoken to Queen Elizabeth II to request her assent to form a new government.

Labor leader Keir Starmer welcomed the decision to leave, but some former ministers said Johnson could not stay on until October. 

Enough is enough. … We need a fresh start for Britain,” Starmer said, according to BBC.

A senior Tory source, interviewed anonymously by The Guardian, said he had been with Johnson this week during a raucous period when the prime minister publicly lost confidence within the Conservative Party. “His behavior in the last 48 hrs [has] been reckless and erratic. He cannot be trusted to lead the country until the autumn. God knows what he will do,” the source said.

More than 50 government ministers and aides quit this week in London.

The New York Times: On Thursday, Johnson is expected to resign. His decision follows a rebellion within his cabinet, a wave of government resignations and a devastating loss of party support prompted by his much-criticized handling of a sex-and-bullying scandal within his party.  

The New York Times and The Guardian: What happens next? 

PETROLEUM 

Gasoline futures fell more than 10 percent on Tuesday, down more than 22 percent since June. Crude prices are below $100 a barrel and analysts suggest consumers could continue to see some relief in pump prices this month (The Hill).

  PANDEMIC & POX

Pharmacists will be able to prescribe the antiviral pill Paxlovid, the Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday. The agency expanded a previous limited authorization so that pharmacists in addition to physicians and other medical professionals can help patients sooner with the drug in response to some confirmed COVID-19 infections. Paxlovid has been shown to be effective in patients who are most at risk for hospitalization and serious illness after contracting COVID-19. It does not prevent infection with the current highly transmissible subvariants of omicron, however (The Hill).

The Hill: Norwegian Cruise Line on Wednesday announced it dropped a pre-boarding requirement for negative COVID-19 test results. The company requires guests 12 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at least two weeks before boarding. Major cruise destinations including the United States, Canada, Greece and Bermuda still require pre-boarding test requirements. Norwegian will not require the tests in those countries if their governments drop such requirements.

On some Alaska cruises, masks are making a comeback (The Points Guy).

© Associated Press / Marta Lavandier | Norwegian Pearl in Miami in January.

CNN: The World Health Organization on Wednesday said scientists will reassess whether monkeypox is a public health emergency of international concern. WHO experts decided in June that the disease transmitted outside of Africa did not meet that criteria, but the global spread continues and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wants scientists to take another look at data. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention count more than 600 monkeypox cases confirmed in the United States, according to the government’s tracker map HERE.

NBC News: Lesions, headaches, debilitating pain: Gay men with monkeypox share their stories.

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,019,083. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 267, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


THE CLOSER

Try Our Morning Report Quiz

© Associated Press / Kent Rocks, U.S. Army Signal Corps | U.S. infantrymen, Wakde Island, Dutch New Guinea, during World War II, 1944.

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Alert to recent headlines in which less was not always more, we’re eager for some smart guesses about things that fell.

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

In Great Britain, Johnson’s political stock plummeted this week when what occurred (big hint in this newsletter)? 

  1. He vacationed in Spain
  2. A cascade of ministers resigned and urged him to step down
  3. On a hot mic, he took a swipe at the queen
  4. He suggested Brits could avoid high fuel prices by bicycling  

And speaking of gasoline costs, average U.S. pump prices fell slightly. Analysts pointed to which explanation this week?

  1. European nations lifted sanctions imposed on Russian oil
  2. Congress approved a federal gas tax holiday
  3. Saudi Arabia agreed to pump more oil to help the U.S.
  4. Recession fears, lower summer demand and rising oil stockpiles affected benchmark crude prices

What fell recently and revealed a long-hidden World War II “Higgins boat”? 

  1. Water level in Lake Mead
  2. Roof of storage barn in Normandy, France
  3. Dock at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii
  4. Garage adjacent to New Orleans’s National World War II Museum

Domestic and worldwide box office sales fell for “Lightyear,” released by Disney and Pixar, outpaced by which rival summer juggernaut movie over the weekend, according to news reports? 

  1. “Top Gun: Maverick”
  2. “Minions: The Rise of Gru”
  3. “Hotel Transylvania: Transformania”
  4. “Jurassic Domination”

Stay Engaged

We want to hear from you! Email: Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. Follow us on Twitter (@alweaver22 & @asimendinger) and suggest this newsletter to friends!

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