The Hill’s Morning Report — Graham steals GOP’s inflation thunder with abortion ban
Inflation, inflation, inflation. That’s the message Republicans have been begging and pleading to talk about for months. But don’t tell that to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Graham stole the spotlight from the biggest news in GOP circles — that the consumer price index report showed that inflation rose 0.1 percent in August — by rolling out legislation that would ban abortion nationally after 15 weeks, creating headaches for a party that has been on its heels for much of the past month.
The move effectively kneecapped messaging by Republicans, who have centered their midterm arguments on what they describe as shaky economic stewardship under President Biden. Adding to the economic issues, the inflation report reverberated significantly on Wall Street as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all suffered their worst day of losses this year (CNBC).
Hours after the inflation news, Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, officially rolled out his bill, which had been teased late Monday. The Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, sending abortion decisions to all 50 states.
“I think we should have a law at the federal level that would say after 15 weeks, no abortion on demand except in cases of rape, incest and save the life of a mother. And that should be where America’s at,” Graham said during a press conference on Capitol Hill, adding a line sure to be featured in Democratic campaign ads in the next two months.
“If we take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill. If the Democrats are in charge, I don’t know if we’ll ever have a vote on our bill,” he added.
The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel reports that the measure would retain state laws that are more restrictive about abortion while replacing laws in blue states that protect abortion. It also includes exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother if she is in danger from a physical condition. The bill also carries a potential five-year jail sentence for any abortion provider in violation of a ban.
The announcement bewildered a number of leading Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) quickly tossed cold water on Graham’s bill, saying abortion decisions should be left to the states (The Hill). Reactions by other Senate GOP members were less charitable.
“I don’t think there’s an appetite for a national platform here. My state, today, is working on this. I’m not sure what he’s thinking here. But I don’t think there will be a rallying around that concept,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). “I don’t think there’s much of an appetite to go that direction” (Politico).
The topic did not come up during the Senate GOP’s weekly luncheon on Tuesday.
▪ Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Graham creates unwelcome political problem for McConnell, GOP.
▪ CNN: Graham proposes 15-week abortion bill, dividing Republicans ahead of midterm elections.
▪ The Wall Street Journal editorial board: Graham’s 15-week abortion ban: It’s constitutionally dubious and risks misreading the politics.
▪ The Washington Post: West Virginia becomes the second state to pass strict abortion ban post-Roe.
Reaction to Graham’s legislative rollout among Republicans who are focused on midterm contests was “disbelief,” according to one GOP operative.
“He basically handed them —,” the operative said, trailing off in laughter. “I just can’t believe this happened. I cannot believe this happened. Surely Democrats are high-fiving across the country. Imagine how much money they’re going to raise, and they didn’t even have to talk about inflation. They had a press conference on inflation today, and they didn’t even have to talk about it!”
“In the history of unforced political errors, this is a first ballot hall of famer,” the GOP operative told the Morning Report of Graham’s timing.
Across the Capitol complex, House Republicans are releasing a 15-week national abortion ban of their own. According to CNN, more than 80 House GOP members have signed on, including Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 3-ranked House Republican.
According to a recent poll by The Wall Street Journal, 57 percent of Americans oppose a ban on abortion after 15 weeks.
▪ Politico: Graham saves Biden’s big day.
▪ The New York Times: How a proposed 15-week abortion ban compares with state laws
▪ The Hill: White House blasts Graham abortion bill as “wildly out of step.”
However, the government’s inflation report coupled with faltering stocks on Wall Street provided a gloomy backdrop for the White House on Tuesday as it held an event celebrating the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage. Biden, in remarks to a crowd of more than 1,000 people, hailed the package as the “single most important legislation passed in the Congress to combat inflation, and one of the most significant laws in our nation’s history, in my view.”
“With this law, the American people won, and special interests lost,” Biden declared. He added to a reporter following a last-minute trip to Delaware to vote that he isn’t worried about the inflation uptick “because we’re talking about one tenth of 1 percent.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration was faced with another thorny issue on Tuesday as it seeks to stave off a rail strike that could have a major impact on commuter rail services and prices.
Administration officials told The Hill’s Brett Samuels that Biden and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, a former union leader, have reached out to rail companies and worker unions to help broker a deal between the two sides. A White House official added that the president was involved Monday in outreach to unions and freight rail companies and was updated again Tuesday on the situation.
“All parties need to stay at the table, bargain in good faith to resolve outstanding issues, and come to an agreement,” the Department of Labor spokesperson told The Hill. “The fact that we are already seeing some impacts of contingency planning by railways again demonstrates that a shutdown of our freight rail system is an unacceptable outcome for our economy and the American people, and all parties must work to avoid that.”
▪ The Hill: Congress prepares to act on rail strike amid fears of “economic catastrophe.”
▪ CNN: Amtrak suspends long-haul freight routes in case of strike.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Inflation infighting: Honey, do we really need those pine nuts?
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Inflation report keeps the Federal Reserve on an aggressive rate-rise path.
LEADING THE DAY
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicts a private deal he cut with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will survive. During the summer, Schumer blessed changes Manchin seeks to the federal construction permitting process and says proposed changes will gain sufficient backing later this month when he attaches a measure to a short-term government funding bill that must be enacted before Oct. 1 in order to avoid a partial shutdown.
“I’m going to add it to the CR and it will pass,” he said on Tuesday, referring to his intention to use a continuing resolution as a vehicle to both prevent the government from running out of funds on Sept. 30 and make good on a promise to Manchin.
It’s a controversial move, one that’s triggered turmoil on the left and the right because until recently, few lawmakers were aware of the Schumer-Manchin deal. It’s far from clear that such a bill can pass the Senate and the House. Senators in both parties say they await legislative details and more negotiations and will gauge the uproar among progressives and some conservatives, including in the House.
Manchin nabbed a sweetener from Schumer, which progressives say would benefit the fossil fuel industry to the detriment of the environment. It was part of his leverage before supporting Democrats’ sweeping climate, health policy and tax bill, which was enacted as the Inflation Reduction Act. The president and Democratic candidates are wooing voters ahead of Election Day on the basis of provisions in the new law.
▪ Fox News: Schumer-Manchin energy permitting deal teeters in the Senate.
▪ Vox: The Democratic infighting over Manchin’s “side deal,” explained.
In the House on Tuesday, Republicans who are eyeing a potential majority next year began locking in colleagues’ support (and blocking out competitors) for posts in the leadership come January. Stefanik announced she will seek another term as Republican Conference chairwoman, ending months of speculation that she might seek the majority whip position if Republicans gain control of the chamber. Her decision set off a cascade of revised speculation about Republicans who may want to climb the House leadership ladder, The Hill’s Emily Brooks reports.
▪ The Hill: The House Jan. 6 committee met Tuesday to discuss future hearings and next steps.
▪ The Hill: Justice Department pressure allegations lead to newest political quagmire facing Trump.
▪ Mike Lillis, The Hill: Democrats in final push to mold midterm message.
Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former security chief, told the Senate Judiciary Committee during testimony on Tuesday that there was “at least one agent” from China’s intelligence service on Twitter’s payroll and that the company knowingly allowed India to add agents to the company roster, potentially giving those nations access to sensitive data about users. Twitter has denied his allegations, and Zatko has provided little supporting documentation or corroboration (The Associated Press).
The New York Times: A records analysis found that 97 lawmakers or their family members bought or sold financial assets over a three-year span in industries that could be affected by their legislative committee work.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ POLITICS & INVESTIGATIONS
As primary season draws to a close, all eyes are on New Hampshire, one of three states with a contest on Tuesday, and one of four states that will determine the Senate majority next year (alongside Arizona, Georgia and Nevada), writes The Hill’s Niall Stanage. Tuesday primaries will also be held in Rhode Island and Delaware.
For Trump, the primaries thus far have delivered mixed results: He’s suffered losses in key races, including in Georgia and South Carolina, with some of his preferred candidates facing perilous general election contests. In New Hampshire on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu is projected to win the Republican primary the gubernatorial race, setting him up for a likely fourth term, The Hill reports. Gov. Dan McKee (D) of Rhode Island also won his primary, and Tuesday night saw several key wins for Trump-aligned candidates.
▪ The Hill: Five takeaways from the last primary night of the year.
▪ The Hill: Sununu prevails in New Hampshire GOP primary, setting up likely fourth term
▪ Politico: What to watch in the last primaries: A Senate GOP brawl and a Democratic governor in peril.
▪ NBC News: Five ads that define Tuesday’s primaries.
The Hill’s Julia Manchester points to midterm clues and outlooks for the 2024 presidential election.
Trump’s hold on the GOP has not loosened since he left office, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade, along with the ensuing national conversation about abortion rights, has proved a “powerful force for galvanizing Democrats and potentially some swing voters.”
▪ The New York Times: Why things may really be different for this midterm election.
▪ The Hill: Karoline Leavitt wins GOP nod to face Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.).
▪ The Hill: Rhode Island’s Democratic governor survives competitive primary.
The Justice Department on Monday sought to disprove Trump’s statements about declassifying the records the FBI found at Mar-a-Lago and criticized his legal team for “insinuating — but failing to fully assert — the claim,” The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch reports.
The statement follows repeated assertions earlier in the week by Trump’s lawyers that the former president had the power to declassify the records. There is no evidence or documentary record of such action before he left office.
“Plaintiff principally seeks to raise questions about the classification status of the records and their categorization under the Presidential Records Act (‘PRA’). But plaintiff does not actually assert — much less provide any evidence — that any of the seized records bearing classification markings have been declassified,” the Justice Department wrote in its brief. “Such possibilities should not be given weight absent plaintiff’s putting forward competent evidence.”
Presidents have broad powers to declassify records, but once a decision is made, it sets off a chain of events in which intelligence agencies take steps to record the completed process.
▪ Bloomberg: DOJ says Trump undercuts himself in Mar-a-Lago documents arguments.
▪ Insider: DOJ points out that Trump’s legal filings don’t align with his public statements about the Mar-a-Lago records.
▪ CNN: Biden flew to Delaware (and back to the White House) on Tuesday to vote in the state’s primary.
▪ The Hill: Why Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is sparking 2024 chatter.
▪ Mississippi Today: Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) helped Brett Favre secure welfare funding for University of Southern Mississippi volleyball stadium, texts reveal.
■ This might not be a Cold War, but it feels like one,Jane Perlez, foreign correspondent, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3Lflup2
■ Abortion, polling and other Republican midterm troubles, by Jason L. Riley, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3BFtvjy
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of Laura Montecalvo to be U.S. Circuit judge for the 1st Circuit.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8:30 a.m. Biden will travel to Detroit to speak at 1:45 p.m. at the Detroit Auto Show about U.S. manufacture of electric vehicles. The president will attend a Democratic National Committee event at 3:10 p.m. in Detroit and then return to the White House.
Vice President Harris will fly to Buffalo, N.Y., this morning to tour the GROW Clean Energy Center at the State University of New York at 12:15 p.m.. She will speak at 2 p.m. about the Inflation Reduction Act before departing at 4 p.m. to return to Washington.
Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, 76, who famously investigated former President Clinton, probed an Arkansas land deal and detailed Clinton’s sexual relationship with a White House intern, died on Tuesday in Houston following an undisclosed illness, hospitalization and surgery (The New York Times).
Clinton, who was accused of lying under oath and obstructing justice, was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate. He left office at the end of his second term with a job approval rating of 66 percent.
Starr, like many of Clinton’s detractors, softened with familiarity and over time. “I think Bill Clinton is a good person who’s a flawed person,” he told Vice in 2018, two decades after what the nation at the time thought would be a rare presidential impeachment.
Starr, a former dean of Pepperdine University’s law school in California and former president of Baylor University in Texas, died at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center of complications from surgery, according to a former colleague, attorney Mark Lanier. He said Starr was treated in an intensive care unit for about four months (The Associated Press).
The Waco Tribune: A memorial service for Starr is scheduled next week in Austin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin may try to exploit cold weather as a weapon in the fight against Ukraine by aggravating an energy crisis in Europe (The Hill). … Ukrainian officials said Wednesday that their next objective was to recapture the city of Lyman, a gateway to Luhansk Province, where Russia gained control through fierce fighting in spring and summer (The New York Times). … The United States says Russia spent $300 million to covertly influence world politics (The Associated Press). … Reuters reports that as the war with Ukraine began, Putin rejected an aide’s recommendation for a peace deal.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday began his first trip abroad since the outbreak of the pandemic with a stop in Kazakhstan ahead of a Thursday summit in Uzbekistan with Putin and other leaders of a Central Asian security group (The Associated Press).
Italylooks poised to elect its first female prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, a far-right candidate who has earned “a level of power that’s been out of reach for her counterparts in Germany and France, and doing so even after the forces propelling nationalism on the continent — a migration backlash and Euroskepticism — have waned,” according to The Washington Post.
“In a political world where everyone’s saying one thing and doing another, our [party’s] system of values is pretty clear,” Meloni told the Post. “You may like it or not, but we aren’t misleading.”
Reuters reported on Sept. 9 that Meloni’s party, the Brothers of Italy, which dominates the country’s conservative alliance, is set to be the largest single party at the Sept. 25 vote — widening its lead over the center-left Democratic Party.
Meloni is a NATO supporter and opposes Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Under her leadership, “the country, she says, won’t take some authoritarian turn,” the Post reports. “What will surely change, though, is Italy’s tone.”
➤ POLIO & PANDEMIC
The World Health Organization added the United States to its list of countries with circulating polio, according to a Tuesday announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It now joins roughly 30 other countries with outbreaks, including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Yemen, Israel, and the U.K.,” Fortune reports.
“We cannot emphasize enough that polio is a dangerous disease for which there is no cure,” José Romero, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement.
A case of polio was confirmed in New York in July in an unvaccinated 20-year-old man living in Rockland County (The Hill). Since then, the virus has been detected in wastewater in multiple locations in the state, suggesting “tip of the iceberg” local circulation. Polio, once thought to be almost eradicated in the United States, is highly transmissible through person-to-person contact with infected stools or droplets from infected individuals’ coughs and sneezes. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) last week declared a state of emergency to urge vaccination in her state (The New York Times).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,051,303. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 358, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Twitter shareholders voted on Tuesday to authorize Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to purchase the social media giant. The move comes amid the continued legal fight between Twitter and Musk, who is trying to back out of his deal over the company not being sufficiently forthcoming about the number of fake accounts and bots (CNBC).
🐝 And finally … The British royal beekeeper had to convey an important message to his colonies: Her Majesty the Queen was dead. Queen Elizabeth II, that is, not the hive’s queen bee.
The tradition puzzled many, The New York Times reported Tuesday, but it turns out, it’s been around for centuries, “with potentially grave consequences if not followed.”
“It’s a very old and well-established tradition, but not something that’s very well-known,” Mark Norman, a folklorist and the author of a book about folklore and rural crafts, told the Times.
According to tradition, bees are considered members of the family and should thus be informed of major life events in the family, including births and deaths. Historically, beekeepers would knock on the hive and deliver the news, sometimes even covering it with a black cloth to observe a mourning period.
“In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was believed that neglecting to tell the bees could lead to various misfortunes, including their death or departure, or a failure to make honey,” the Times reports.