The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 599,769; Tuesday, 599,945; Wednesday, 600,285; Thursday, 600,680; Friday, 600,934.

The Supreme Court on Thursday voted 7-2 to turn aside a third major challenge brought before justices by Republicans seeking to kill the 2010 Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare.  

The law remains intact after the high court ruled that Texas, other GOP-led states and two individuals had no standing to bring their lawsuit in federal court (The Associated Press, The Hill and The New York Times).

The Supreme Court did not tackle a larger issue posed in the suit, that is, whether the bulk of the law could stand without a provision that initially required most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty. Because a third challenge failed, a larger Supreme Court majority joined forces this time, and the law is deeply woven into the U.S. health system after more than a decade, many analysts believe the signature legislative hallmark of the Obama era appears to be a constitutional survivor. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) assailed the GOP for attempting to scuttle the Affordable Care Act in the midst of a global public health crisis. “We will never forget how Republican leaders embraced this monstrous suit to rip away millions of Americans’ health care in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” she said in a statement. 

A record 31 million Americans have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, according to the Health and Human Services Department. A majority of all U.S. adults favor the law, according to the latest tracking poll published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, consistent with support since at least late 2019. 



The Hill: Five takeaways from the Supreme Court case.

The Hill: “It's still a BFD”: Democrats applaud ruling upholding ObamaCare.  

The Atlantic, Jonathan Cohn: The real reason Republicans couldn’t kill Obamacare (adapted from the book, “The Ten Year War: Obamacare and the Unfinished Crusade for Universal Coverage”). 

The Washington Post: Both parties have been spurred to new strategies following the Supreme Court decision. 

The Associated Press: GOP needs new health care target. ObamaCare survives again. 



Meanwhile, in the healthcare battlefield, the progressive-backed public option insurance concept is on the shelf for now. Left-leaning Democrats are concentrating on tucking other health goals into pending Biden-backed legislation this year, such as ensuring affordable drug pricing and lowering the eligibility age for Medicare. "Crafting a public option is much more difficult than lowering the Medicare eligibility age, and expanding benefits," House Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalAngst grips America's most liberal city Congress must lower the Medicare Age to save the lives of older Americans House Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate MORE (D-Wash.) says (The Hill).  

The Hill: Separately, the Supreme Court on Thursday sided with a Catholic adoption agency that turned away same-sex couples. 

Politico: Decisions handed down on Thursday revealed an emerging rift among conservative justices on the Supreme Court.


CONGRESS: Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday teed up a vote early next week on a package to overhaul voting rights and elections, giving Democrats limited time to cobble together a deal to unify their 50 members behind a bill. 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports, the Democratic leader informed his caucus of the plan during a closed-door huddle on Thursday, according to a Senate Democratic source familiar with the meeting. The For the People Act has zero shot of garnering the needed 60 votes to break a filibuster, but the main Democratic goal is to unify behind a singular blueprint in an attempt to highlight the expected unanimous GOP opposition rather than their own internal divisions. 

The lone holdout on the Democratic side remains Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (W.Va.), who opposes the package in its current form. The West Virginia moderate has outlined to Schumer and his colleagues what he does and doesn’t support, joking to reporters that he “spoke a lot” during the Thursday meeting. 

“It was a very good, constructive dialogue,” Manchin said, adding that his colleagues were “very receptive” to his suggestions. 

Despite his opposition, Manchin’s decision to come to the table has Democrats optimistic ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

“We're all constructively engaged on the substance. It was a serious and constructive conversation,” said Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzGyms, hotels, bus companies make last-ditch plea for aid On The Money: Stocks fall as COVID-19 fears rattle market | Schumer sets infrastructure showdown | Dems struggle to sell agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics MORE (D-Hawaii). 

Carl Hulse, The New York Times: Manchin and the magic 50th vote for Democrats’ voting rights bill.

The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) shoots down Manchin's voting compromise. 

The Hill: Stacey Abrams says she “absolutely” supports Manchin’s voting rights compromise.



> Big spending: While bipartisan infrastructure talks move forward, Senate Democrats are discussing passing a spending bill in the neighborhood of $6 trillion via budget reconciliation and with only support on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersAngst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure MORE (I-Vt.), on Thursday said the proposal builds on Biden’s American Jobs Plan ($2.25 trillion) and American Families Plan ($1.8 trillion), and would include a large expansion of Medicare and move to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Sanders said when asked whether Democrats are discussing going it alone on a proposal as big as $6 trillion, a huge sticker price that has already attracted nervous pushback. “The president has given us a framework, I think it’s a comprehensive and serious framework. It is the function of the Congress now to take that framework and go with it,” the chairman said. 

“Everything is in movement. This is a proposal, it’s a draft, it’s going to change every day,” Sanders added (The Hill).

NBC News: Democrats face a divide over how to craft a multi-trillion-dollar bill without the GOP.

Politico: Senate Democrats weigh $6 trillion infrastructure bill, without GOP. 

The Associated Press: Back home: Biden has a daunting to-do list after his European tour. He was briefed on Thursday about the status of his domestic legislative plans and next week will gauge the likelihood of a bipartisan deal.

The new Democratic push comes amid signs of momentum for the bipartisan infrastructure plan, which saw its support level grow to 21 senators on Wednesday. However, as The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, there remains potential stumbling blocks for the group, including whether the pay-fors assembled by the group would actually cover the cost of the plan.  

The New York Times: A draft outline of the newest bipartisan proposal in circulation: $110 billion in new funding for roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband, $25 billion for airports and $55 billion for water infrastructure.

Another concern continues to center around repurposing $120 billion in unspent pandemic relief and a potential provision that would index the gas tax to inflation — which Biden has said he does not support. As The Hill’s Hanna Trudo reports, Biden’s stance on the gas tax is being backed by both liberals and centrist Democrats.

“This is not the way to go,” Jayapal told The Hill.  

The Hill: Pelosi rejects gas tax to cover infrastructure costs.

Morning Consult: Voters back corporate income taxes over targeted gas, mileage taxes to pay for infrastructure investments.  

The Hill: Schumer vows he “will not pass” an infrastructure measure that excludes Biden’s climate provisions.  

The Hill: Lawmakers rally around cyber legislation following string of attacks. 

Politico: Senate confirms Chris Inglis as Biden's top cyber adviser. 



CORONAVIRUS: A $3.2 billion federal program is underway to support the development of antiviral pills to help people with COVID-19, medication that could start arriving by the end of this year, reports The New York Times

“I wake up in the morning, I don’t feel very well, my sense of smell and taste go away, I get a sore throat,” Anthony FauciAnthony FauciIsraeli president receives COVID-19 booster shot AstraZeneca CEO: 'Not clear yet' if boosters are needed St. Louis official says he was targeted with racist slurs over mask promotion MORE told the Times while describing the concept. “I call up my doctor and I say, ‘I have COVID and I need a prescription.’” 

Fauci’s support for research on antiviral pills stems from his experience fighting AIDS three decades ago. In the 1990s, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he heads, conducted research that led to some of the first antiviral pills for HIV, “protease inhibitors,” which block an essential virus protein and can keep the virus at bay for a lifetime. 

In the early 2000s, researchers found that an antiviral called sofosbuvir could cure hepatitis C close to 100 percent of the time. Tamiflu, an over-the-counter pill for influenza, can cut the time it takes to recover from an infection, and reduce the chances that a bout of the flu will land someone in the hospital.

> July 4 vaccination goal: Biden set an ambitious vaccination goal of 70 percent for at least one dose among adults in the United States by the Fourth of July, hoping to encourage Americans to view the economy and their everyday lives as more normal by Independence Day if they were safely on their way to being fully vaccinated. A 70 percent goal would approach herd immunity and would provide some protection against the highly infectious coronavirus variants circling the globe. In mid-June, about 53 percent of U.S. adults have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, yet millions of Americans say they remain hesitant or are refusing to be vaccinated. On Thursday, White House officials would not venture a prediction about whether the president’s goal can be met by the Fourth of July (The Hill).

The New York Times: High hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine have fizzled in the U.S. 

> Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerBiden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former longtime Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87 Reporter: FBI involvement in Whitmer plot similar to sting operations targeting Islamic extremists MORE (D) on Thursday said all COVID-19 restrictions would end in her state on Tuesday. About 55 percent of the Michigan population has had at least one dose of vaccine and COVID-19 positive test results have dropped, according to state’s data (The Hill). Whitmer has been under intense political pressure for much of the past year based on the tough COVID-19 restrictions she imposed. In April, she described four benchmarks that had to be met to lift Michigan’s restrictions. 

> United Kingdom surge in cases: The delta variant of COVID-19 in Great Britain has worried scientists for months. Coronavirus cases have climbed to their highest level in the U.K. since February, despite an adult vaccination rate there of more than 80 percent. The variant, first detected in India, is expected to become the dominant strain in the United States in three to four weeks, according to some researchers, which is one of the reasons Biden, Fauci and other federal officials are publicly urging Americans to get doses of vaccine as soon as possible (Axios). 

Medical News Today: What do we know about the delta strain of coronavirus? “We’ve seen that when the delta variant spreads among unvaccinated people, it can become dominant very, very quickly,” Fauci has said. 

> Middle East: Israel says it will share 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. The doses are soon to expire and the agreement is a swap with doses the Palestinians expect to receive later this year (The Associated Press).


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Could the Southern Baptists be tiptoeing away from Trump? by Karen Tumulty, columnist, The Washington Post. 

Supreme Court’s ACA ruling is a win for common sense, by Noah Feldman, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. 


Most of the federal government today observes a new holiday, Juneteenth (ABC News7). 

The House meets on Monday at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session. 

The Senate meets on Monday at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Christopher Fonzone to be general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The president receives the President’s Daily Brief at 10:30 a.m. He will speak about the U.S. COVID-19 response and vaccination program at 2:15 p.m. from the State Dining Room.  Biden will depart the White House at 3 p.m. to spend the weekend in Wilmington, Del. 

Vice President Harris will travel to Atlanta for events designed to urge people to get COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube


INTERNATIONAL: The results of Iranian presidential elections today are set to pose a new challenge for the United States as it pursues indirect negotiations with Tehran to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal. Favored to win the contest is hardline-candidate Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran’s judiciary and sanctioned by the United States in 2019 (The Hill). 

➔ STATE WATCH: Connecticut on Thursday passed legislation that will make it the 18th state to allow residents to use marijuana for recreational purposes. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is expected to sign the bill (WTNHNews8, The Hill and … Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill into law on Wednesday making concealed carry without permits legal in the state. At a signing ceremony, Abbott said that the new law will help turn the Lone Star State into a “Second Amendment sanctuary” (The Texas Tribune).



POLITICS: Hmmm, who are they emulating? Abbott has announced he is building a wall at the Texas border with Mexico. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida coronavirus cases jump 50 percent in one week Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' Publix will require employees to wear masks MORE (R) announced on Thursday that he is pardoning people in his battleground state who were arrested or fined for mask- or other COVID-19 violations (CBS Miami). Former Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNoem to travel to South Carolina for early voting event Poll: Trump leads 2024 GOP primary trailed by Pence, DeSantis Pence v. Biden on China: Competing but consistent visions MORE is talking tough about China’s role in the pandemic and announced a political action group this week to keep his hand in the 2022 midterms. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioBreak glass in case of emergency — but not for climate change Democrats join GOP in pressuring Biden over China, virus origins Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand foreign aid partnerships MORE (R-Fla.) takes repeated aim at the administration’s approach to China and Cuba, appealing to conservatives in South Florida. Former Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceOfficers' powerful Capitol riot testimony underscores Pelosi's partisan blunder RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Want to improve vaccine rates? Ask for this endorsement MORE is reaching out to Christian conservatives this summer. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (R-Texas) this week bashed Fauci as “political and not scientific.”  

➔ DRINK UP: Scotch single malt whisky makers applauded on Thursday after the United States agreed to suspend tariffs on one of Scotland’s main exports in the wake of the resolution of a long-standing trans-Atlantic trade row over subsidies to aircraft companies Boeing and Airbus. Former President TrumpDonald TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' MORE imposed the 25 percent tariffs in 2019 on certain whisky products from the European Union. The tariffs applied until this week, when the U.S. and the EU reached an agreement that lifts the punitive levies for five years (The Associated Press). 




And finally … A big round of applause for this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners!  

Here’s who knew their trivia about the lengthy history of U.S.-Russia (and Soviet Union) relations on the heels of Wednesday’s summit in Geneva: Patrick Kavanagh, DIck Baznik, Mary Anne McEnery, Pam Manges, Daniel Bachhuber, Candi Cee, Michel Romage, Chuck Schoenenberger, Lesa Davis, Luther Berg and John Donato. 

They knew that the 2001 summit where former President George W. Bush said that he was able to “get a sense” of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDemocrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections MORE’s “soul” was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia. 

As was chronicled in the wonderful ESPN 30 for 30 “Of Miracles and Men,” the Soviet Union first allowed a player to sign with the National Hockey League in 1989 (Viacheslav Fetisov with the New Jersey Devils). 

Edward Snowden spent 39 days in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport before he was granted asylum by Russia in 2013.

Finally, in by far the most important answer in today’s quiz, cinema’s Rocky Balboa improbably earned $0 for his trek to Moscow to fight Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV.”