The Hill's Morning Report - Dem lawmakers put guns, hate groups on fall agenda
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Both chambers of Congress will be back at work in little more than two weeks, and Democrats are chomping at the bit to tackle issues now center stage in the political sphere.
Chief among them is guns, which remain a preeminent issue nearly a month after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where 31 individuals were killed. While discussions have cooled in recent weeks, Democrats and some Republicans are looking to September and beyond as an opening to measures to respond to gun violence, particularly legislation to strengthen background checks and allow law enforcement authorities to confiscate weapons using state “red flag” laws.
As Jordain Carney reports, Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Biden decides on pick for secretary of State Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses MORE (D-Conn.) is heading up negotiations with the White House to expand background checks, which he admits is a tall task given that the Connecticut Democrat has been through this song and dance before. Murphy, a former House member, was elected only weeks prior to the fatal shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but nothing was done in the aftermath.
However, Murphy senses an opportunity after talks with the White House and President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE but recognizes the steep climb ahead as skepticism runs rampant in Democratic circles. He puts chances at striking a deal at less than 50-50.
The White House has “made it clear to me that they are very open to legislation that would expand background checks. That’s what the president told me personally. That’s what the White House reiterated to me,” Murphy told The Hill in an interview.
Murphy isn’t the only one who thinks there’s a chance to pass legislation. Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (R-Pa.), who pushed a limited background check bill alongside Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinVoters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE (D-W.Va.) following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013, told Politico that this is the best chance in the last six years to pass a bill of this kind, even though it may be a more narrow background check so it could pass a GOP-held Senate.
However, the legislation will likely live or die based on Trump’s druthers, and his political cover for GOP lawmakers has been scattershot.
“The sweet spot is whatever President Trump is willing to support. If President Trump endorses a background checks bill, we will be able to get to 60 votes in the Senate,” Murphy said.
Over in the House, House Democrats want to go a step further and tackle the rise of white nationalism and domestic terrorism, largely in response to the El Paso shooting. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonTrump tells GSA that Biden transition can begin Hillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Democrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win MORE (D-Miss.) has been holding field hearings this month, and will have a formal hearing in September.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDemocrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win Barr sparks DOJ firestorm with election probes memo Marijuana stocks see boost after Harris debate comments MORE (D-N.Y.) is marking up a hate-crimes bill next week to bar gun sales to those convicted of misdemeanor hate-crimes. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has a bill that would provide state-based grants to bolster the reporting of hate crimes, strengthen support services for victims and train local law enforcement in managing bias-based cases, which he wants brought up immediately. Adding fuel to the fire, outside liberal groups are clamoring for something to be done on the issue.
"Some of us have had this concern for quite a while, that [domestic terrorism] was always second fiddle to Islamist terrorism to the homeland. And we had a difficult time getting the documentation," Thompson told The Hill’s Mike Lillis in a phone interview.
"Ultimately we finally got an admission from the FBI that domestic terrorism was on the rise, but more importantly, it was tied more to radical right-wing extremists than it was any other group,” Thompson said.
Separately, chatter about impeachment continues to dribble out from within the House Democratic caucus. Rep. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterWorking together to effectively address patient identification during COVID-19 Britain to infect healthy individuals with coronavirus for vaccine trials Pelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal MORE (D-Ill.) became the latest to announce his support for opening an inquiry against the president, making him the 132nd House member to do so, according to The Hill’s whip count.
The Wall Street Journal: Swing-district Democrats push for vote on North America trade pact.
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: With Wednesday’s pre-debate polling and fundraising deadline looming, 11 Democratic presidential candidates could be set for exclusion from the next round of debates in mid-September, leaving some to openly complain about the rules set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Ten candidates have already qualified for the debate, set for September 12 in Houston. For those on the outside looking in, the clock is ticking as they prepare for life without making the debate stage.
However, some may still have a chance on Wednesday to reach the needed four polls with 2 percent support. At least two polls are set to be released that could stretch the debate stage to 11 or potentially 12 candidates — one by USA Today and Suffolk University, and another by Quinnipiac University.
Among those with a chance are Tom SteyerTom SteyerLate donor surges push election spending projections to new heights New voters surge to the polls Trump leads Biden in Texas by 4 points: poll MORE, the multimillionaire environmentalist, who needs only one more poll to qualify, having already reached the donor prerequisite, and Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSix people whose election wins made history Next Congress expected to have record diversity Native Americans elected to Congress in record numbers this year MORE (D-Hawaii), who needs two more polls. She has also hit the DNC’s donor benchmark.
The candidates have until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to meet the DNC’s requirements for participating in the debate. For those who miss out, they still have the October debate to look ahead to as the polling and donor requirements remain the same (The Hill).
Politico: Dems who miss debate take aim at DNC.
The New York Times: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit Protect our world: How the Biden administration can save lives and economies worldwide MORE extols his black support: “I think they know me.”
The Daily Beast: Dems sound alarm: Trump is “carpet-bombing” us in key battlegrounds.
Robert Draper, The New York Times Magazine: How ‘Medicare for All’ went mainstream.
> Nevada: Nevada Democrats are struggling to make their caucuses relevant in an early state window dominated by first-in-the-nation contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
As Reid Wilson reports, candidates are venturing West more than they have in previous years, but not a lot more. In total, the candidates still in the race have held a combined 64 events in the Silver State, according to a running tally maintained by The Nevada Independent. That's the same number of events Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte wins Montana governor's race Senate control in flux as counting goes forward in key states MORE (D) has held in Iowa alone. It is two more than the number of events candidates have collectively held in Iowa City, Iowa.
Even more telling, the 64 events equals roughly one-sixth of the events candidates have held in South Carolina, a state that will vote a week after Iowa does.
“People feel like it's not enough,” Teresa Benitez-Thompson, the Democratic majority leader of the Nevada Assembly, said in an interview in her Reno district. “Being present and being here is very meaningful.”
Another group that isn’t paying a ton of attention to the Western state? Pollsters. Only four surveys of potential Nevada caucus goers have been conducted this year. Elsewhere, 10 have been conducted in Iowa, 17 in New Hampshire and eight in South Carolina. Tellingly, more polls have been conducted in California, a state that won't vote until Super Tuesday, than in the state that was “battle born.”
One candidate who did announce plans to campaign in the state is Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharFormer Minnesota Democratic leader quits party Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump Lawmakers question tech CEOs about content moderation in first post-election hearing MORE (D-Minn.). The senator will hold a press conference today on gun violence as Murphy and other lawmakers negotiate legislation with the White House.
The Hill: The New York Times takes hits from all sides.
The Washington Post: Six women seeking Colorado Senate seat ask Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to reconsider endorsement of former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats frustrated, GOP jubilant in Senate fight Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord MORE.
Politico: Trump, GOP fret loss in bellwether House special election.
Elsewhere on the political scene … Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) took home the GOP nomination for governor on Tuesday night, setting up a general election matchup with state Attorney General Jim Hood in November. Reeves defeated retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. in a GOP primary runoff with 54 percent support (The Associated Press).
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump unleashed a torrent of Twitter grievances aimed at familiar targets on Tuesday. He skewered GOP presidential primary challengers William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldRalph Gants, chief justice of Massachusetts supreme court, dies at 65 The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden visits Kenosha | Trump's double-voting suggestion draws fire | Facebook clamps down on election ads Biden picks up endorsements from nearly 100 Republicans MORE and Joe Walsh, denied for a second day that he ever suggested halting hurricanes with nuclear weapons, as reported by Axios, and revisited his obsession with crowd size (arguing his rallies are larger than Democratic candidate Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Biden to nominate Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary: report Bottom line MORE’s events). The president also mentioned former South Carolina Gov. and former House member Mark SanfordMark SanfordLive updates: Democrats seek to extend House advantage 10 bellwether House races to watch on election night On The Money: Business world braces for blue sweep | Federal Reserve chief to outline plans for inflation, economy | Meadows 'not optimistic' about stalemate on coronavirus deal MORE (R), who is considering entering the GOP primary to challenge Trump. The president branded Sanford, former Massachusetts Gov. Weld and former Illinois Rep. Walsh as “Three Stooges.”
Trump also spent time Tuesday throttling the Federal Reserve, blaming the central bank for a slowdown in manufacturing. The president campaigned in 2016 to increase U.S. manufacturing jobs and bring back plants that moved overseas. As global growth slows, automation and labor costs shift industry practices and the administration’s tariffs dig in, the manufacturing sector is feeling the effects (The Hill). IndustryWeek reported this month that 37 out of the 38 manufacturing industries are declining as measured by the number of plants and employees, according to government data.
> The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency diverted $271 million in disaster relief funding to the U.S. southern border to deal with migrant conditions and new policies to stem the pace of immigration. Combined with existing facilities to hold immigrants, the funding would make it possible for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain nearly 50,000 people at one time (NBC News).
> The wall: The administration plans to build 20 additional miles of barriers along the U.S. southern border in Arizona and California (Bloomberg). Trump has repeatedly promised to complete 500 miles of border wall by the time voters go to the polls and he has directed aides to aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules to hasten construction before next year’s election, The Washington Post reports. The president has assured federal officials he would pardon them if they break the law, dismissing worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying “take the land,” according to officials present at the meetings. “Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you,” he told them.
> Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects Federal judge strikes down Trump's cuts on food stamps for unemployed MORE is hearing from a growing number of farmers who say they are losing patience with the president’s approach to tariffs and a trade war with China and suggest it will not take much to lose their votes, as well (The New York Times). “We’re not starting to do great again,” Brian Thalmann, the president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, told Perdue at a recent event. “Things are going downhill and downhill quickly.”
> Environment: Trump’s assertion during the Group of Seven (G-7) summit in France that he’s an environmentalist prompted critics to argue the opposite, asserting that the president undermines environmental protections and thwarts U.S. contributions to the global fight against climate change (The Hill).
> Tech regulation: Faced with expanding regulatory scrutiny in Washington focused on companies’ privacy practices and market power, major tech firms are tapping into a revolving door between employees with experience in the Federal Trade Commission and top law firms that help the regulated community. The federal turnstile is not new, but the coziness between the FTC and its counterparts outside government raises questions about developments in Silicon Valley (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
INTERNATIONAL: Brazil’s president chafed at accepting $20 million offered by G-7 nations to help save expanses of burning and defoliated Amazon rainforest, an ecosystem that straddles nine Latin American nations (The Hill). Jair Bolsonaro and French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronTrump addresses virtual G-20 summit, heads out before session on pandemic G-20 leaders stress importance of united response to coronavirus pandemic Czech president says Trump should quit after election loss and 'not be embarrassing' MORE bickered on Tuesday, complicating hopes for swift, cohesive global action (The Associated Press). The Brazilian president has mocked Macron’s wife and accused the French leader of disrespecting Brazil’s sovereignty, and his chief of staff skewered the French for the fire that heavily damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Macron has called Bolsonaro a liar and said Brazilian women are probably ashamed of their president (Reuters). Trump weighed in on Twitter to salute Bolsonaro. “He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil,” the president wrote.
> Russia: Moscow denied a travel visa to a second U.S. senator who, like the first, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a critic of President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden rolls out national security team The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Putin not ready to recognize Biden win MORE and a proponent of tougher U.S. sanctions on Russia. Connecticut’s Murphy said on Tuesday that Russia denied him a visa. Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.), said on Monday that his visa request was rejected. The Russian Embassy in Washington called Johnson “russophobic” on Twitter. It is uncommon for U.S. lawmakers to be denied travel visas, although Russia has made that decision before (Reuters).
> Indonesia: To tackle man-made problems with sinkage, pollution and overcrowding, Indonesia is constructing a new capital to replace Jakarta. The country chose a 450,000-acre site on the wildly rugged island of Borneo for its new capital city, not yet named (The Washington Post).
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The Fed shouldn’t enable Donald Trump, by Bill Dudley, former New York Federal Reserve president, opinion contributor, Bloomberg. https://bloom.bg/2zotQGD (Dudley’s opinion piece stirred plenty of discussion, and The Hill’s Sylvan Lane has coverage HERE. The central bank formally rejected Dudley’s advice in a statement on Tuesday: “The Federal Reserve’s policy decisions are guided solely by its congressional mandate to maintain price stability and maximum employment,” a spokeswoman said. “Political considerations play absolutely no role.”)
Duty, Democracy and the Threat of Tribalism, by Jim Mattis, The Wall Street Journal opinion contributor. https://on.wsj.com/2Hunha6
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economist for Biden, to discuss fears of an economic recession; Trita Parsi, a professor at Georgetown University and founder of the National Iranian American Council, to talk about a potential Trump meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani; and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, national co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign, who weighs in on the 2020 Democrats’ policies on poverty. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.
The House gets back to work on Sept. 4 to begin consideration of legislation to respond to mass shootings.
The Senate returns to Washington on Sept. 9.
The president will have lunch today with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
Vice President Pence returns to his home state today and speaks at 1 p.m. to the American Legion National Convention in Indianapolis, then participates in a law enforcement roundtable at 2:15 p.m. at the Indianapolis State Police Museum. The vice president and wife Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceSpaceX capsule arrives at International Space Station The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - World reacts to news of second COVID-19 vaccine with 90 percent efficacy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down MORE fly back to Washington in the evening.
Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump administration pulls out of Open Skies treaty with Russia The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE will be joined by Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to brief the press at 1:30 p.m. at the Pentagon. Dunford is retiring next month.
The 76th annual International Venice Film Festival begins today through Sept. 7 in Italy. The cinema celebration lays down a red carpet for a global awards season that stretches toward the 92nd annual Academy Awards in February (The New York Times).
➔ Brexit: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth II to suspend Parliament in order to push through Brexit. In a letter released Wednesday, the prime minister said that he “spoke to Her Majesty The Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session.” The move will squeeze lawmakers who want to push new legislation to block a no-deal Brexit ahead of the planned Oct. 31 departure (The Associated Press).
➔ Epstein’s victims: One by one, women stepped up to a podium in a packed federal courtroom in Manhattan on Tuesday and described how Jeffrey Epstein abused them and then leveraged his power and wealth to silence them, sometimes for years. The financier killed himself in jail two weeks ago, but more than 16 of his accusers showed up at a routine court hearing about the former financier’s indictment on sex trafficking charges, some of them urging prosecutors to continue investigating Epstein’s employees and associates, who they allege abetted his years of coercion of young women and girls (The New York Times).
➔ Opioids: Purdue Pharma offered $10 billion to $12 billion on Tuesday to settle opioid cases. The lawsuits allege the company and the Sackler family are responsible for starting and sustaining the opioid crisis (NBC News).
➔ State Watch: One day before a Missouri law banning abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy was to take effect, a federal judge blocked it on Tuesday. Opponents argue the law, signed in May, amounts to an outright abortion ban because many women are unaware they’re pregnant within eight weeks. Similar laws in Mississippi and Kentucky have also been blocked by courts this year (The Hill). … Utah health officials this week are reviewing 21 cases of severe vaping-related illnesses, about a week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warned of a cluster of lung disease cases that appear to be linked to e-cigarettes (The Salt Lake Tribune). … A New Jersey state appeals court ruled in favor of an assisted suicide law allowing terminally ill patients to seek life-ending drugs (The Associated Press).
➔ Hurricane: Dorian, the fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, forced Puerto Rico on Tuesday to declare a state of emergency as officials anticipated landfall today. “Practically the entire island will be under sustained tropical storm force winds,” predicted Roberto García, director of U.S. National Weather Service San Juan (NBC News). Trump on Tuesday signed an emergency declaration for the island, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, a deadly Category 5 storm that devastated the U.S. territory nearly two years ago. Pete Gaynor, the acting administrator of FEMA, named James Russo, a 17-year-veteran as federal disaster operations coordinator, to take the lead in affected areas.
And finally … What aspirations do children describe while living in encampment tents on the Mexican side of a bridge that stretches to Brownsville, Texas? BuzzFeed News journalist Adolfo Flores, reporting from Matamoros, Mexico, heard this from asylum-seeking young people:
“I want to be an American,” 7-year-old Ilich said. “I also want to be a police officer. ... I like their uniforms and want to protect people.”
“I want to study and have a better life,” Christopher, 8, said. “I’d like to be an engineer because they make a lot of money and get to fix cars and machines.”
Genessy, who is 7, said she wants to be a doctor. “They help people and save lives.”
Hilary, 14, talks about becoming a mechatronic engineer because it combines mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. “It’s considered new even though it’s not, and it’s really useful,” she said. “In my country, it’s hard to dream like that. You have to leave in order to reach your dream.”