The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Democrats lean into midterm strategy as Senate returns to work

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported today: 607,156.


As of this morning, 55.5 percent of the U.S. adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 48 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.

At both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in the nation’s capital and in congressional districts and states from coast to coast, the hand wringing in sizzling July is about what happens in the chill of November more than a year from now.


President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE is betting that managing the economy and jobs, a pandemic and vaccines and enacting the bulk of a massive domestic legislative agenda would help his party defy history by retaining Democratic control of one or both chambers of Congress after the midterms. Former President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE, on the other hand, is intent on working to elect GOP friends and defeat enemies next year, and his dominance over his party and in swing states is undeniable.


Every public policy issue, event and recorded vote is being weighed as a plus or minus leading up to November 2022.


“Democrats are at risk of losing their control of Congress in the 2022 midterms,” Democratic political adviser Douglas SchoenDouglas SchoenWinners and losers in the mini-war between Israel and Hamas Sunday shows - Focus shifts to Judiciary impeachment hearing Bloomberg pollster: Candidate's campaign will focus on climate change, guns, education and income inequality MORE stated bluntly in a recent column in which he recommended his party’s candidates talk to voters about delivering on health care promises (The Hill).


Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent last month wrote that Democrats are being told to launch their midterm strategy now and remind suburban female voters about details that may have escaped them that were included in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law Biden signed this year. 


Josh Kraushaar, National Journal: New polling shows Democrats alarmed about crime, too.


New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel reported that Democrats’ congressional finance committee identified 24frontline” incumbents in swing districts in 2022, with about two-thirds located in suburban areas. “The limits of the anti-Trump vote were already glimpsed last year, when half of the 14 House seats that Democrats lost, to their shock, were in suburban or exurban districts,” he wrote. The party also failed to defeat vulnerable Republicans in districts Biden won.


Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) would like to tether Republican candidates to Trump’s divisive behavior, and to GOP opposition to proposals for gun safety, expanded health care access and climate change. He’s also intent on raising tens of millions of dollars for Democrats in the second half of this year, and more beyond (The Hill).


Democratic analysts use words such as “difficult” and “challenging” when talking about the odds of the party in power in the White House maintaining control of the House and the 50-50 Senate after next year’s elections. History suggests that if a president’s job approval falls below 50 percent, House midterm losses average 37 seats. A more popular president — above 50 percent, which is where Biden is at the moment — can trim the shellacking to an average of 14 seats, according to Gallup.


The Hill: Biden has visited Democratic swing and Republican-held districts in the past month, hinting at a midterm strategy.



President Biden walks toward Marine One



The Hill: Gubernatorial candidates who support Trump have launched campaigns in key states ahead of the midterm contests, testing Trump’s influence with voters — and their own.


The Hill: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a Trump ally, asserts that drive-thru election options would allow passengers in vehicles to have a “coercive effect” on voters and ballot choices.


CONGRESS: The Senate returns from its July 4 recess today with the Biden agenda hanging in the balance as lawmakers prepare to move ahead with a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework and Democrats also debate the future of a multi-trillion-dollar package of priorities assembled separately.


The Senate is expected a week from today to bring the bipartisan infrastructure package to the floor. A budget resolution to kick off a reconciliation process is expected before lawmakers break for the month-long August recess.


“I think it’s going to be pretty hectic,” said Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal Democrats brace for battle on Biden's .5 trillion spending plan Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan MORE (D-Ill.), about the pre-August stretch.


While the bipartisan bill’s future remains fairly certain, the same cannot be said for the massive reconciliation package that Democrats need to pass with only their own votes. Questions continue to crop up surrounding the price tag of any potential bill as progressives continue to push for a gargantuan, all-encompassing bill.


Headlining that crowd is Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Democrats urge Biden to commute sentences of 4K people on home confinement Briahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' MORE (I-Vt.), who continues to insist that any reconciliation bill be in the vicinity of $6 trillion, arguing that any blueprint in the $2 trillion or $3 trillion range is insufficient.


“That’s much too low,” Sanders told The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd in a recent interview.


By contrast, Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBriahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (D-W.Va.) has floated a $2 trillion price point as a figure he’d be comfortable with. According to Axios, the Senate Budget Committee’s package is expected to check in at $3.5 trillion, though that figure could get trimmed based on demands from centrists as they push to keep all members on board with the bill.


The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers to determine fate of infrastructure, anti-poverty plans.


Dan Balz: Congressional Democrats face hard bargaining and no mistakes to pass Biden’s agenda.


As The Hill’s Jordain Carney notes, rank-and-file Democrats are drawing up a laundry list of demands for what they want included in the larger bill as it could be the last chance for a long time to get something passed that is not subject to a GOP filibuster. Among the items liberals want included are new spending provisions to expand access to child care and address climate change, along with the possibility of addressing immigration issues.



Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) outside the Capitol



As for the bipartisan package, the pay-fors remain the key sticking point as moderates continue to be concerned about possible tax hikes. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, key centrists, including Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Biden goes after top 1 percent in defending tax hikes MORE (D-Ariz.), and Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job MORE (D-Mont.), have largely avoided questions about Biden’s tax agenda, which is focused on raising hundreds of billions of dollars from corporations and wealthy Americans.


Axios: Racing against Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) clock.


The Hill: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol 'Justice for J6' rally puts GOP in awkward spot MORE (R-Calif.), GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee.


ADMINISTRATION: Biden is heading into a rough period in which he wants to move his legislative agenda into law while juggling pressures to manage the economy, vaccination rates, the end of a 20-year war, Russia’s backing of cyber extortion, state legislative changes to voting rights and his own party’s acute anxieties about losing majorities in Congress next year.


On Tuesday, the president will travel to Philadelphia to try to reassure Democrats that he will use his bully pulpit to assail GOP legislative efforts in the states to make it harder for some Americans to vote in the next cycle. The White House, which in June released a list of actions on the issue, says Biden will again outline steps his administration is taking to “protect the sacred constitutional right to vote.” It is unclear how much the White House can do at the federal level after Republicans in Congress recently blocked sweeping efforts by Democrats to pass voting rights legislation (CNN).


“I'll have much more to say … because I plan on speaking extensively on voting rights as well as going on the road on this issue,” the president told reporters early this month.


The New York Times: Biden’s oratory with out-of-town audiences can be heavy on Washington Speak and minutiae. He cheerfully labeled one of his recent speeches “boring” immediately after delivering it.


The Associated Press: One of the president’s old-school oratorical techniques is to lean over his podium to lower his voice and whisper into the mic in order to emphasize a point.


> Afghanistan: There is no shortage of second-guessing, including among Democrats, about Biden’s decision to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by August to end a nearly 20-year war and hand the country’s future to the Afghan people, despite widespread worries that the Taliban will overrun the government.


Today, Army Gen. Austin Scott” Miller, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, will symbolically end the nation’s involvement there by relinquishing responsibility during a Kabul ceremony after overseeing the war for nearly three years, The Washington Post reports. Virtually all other troops, contractors and equipment already have departed.


Former Democratic Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta (interview HERE) said over the weekend that Biden should have coordinated more clearly with Afghans before emptying the Bagram air base (pictured below). Jeh Johnson, former Homeland Security secretary, said Biden could have left 2,500 U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “If I were advising the president, I probably would have recommended that we keep in place, in-country, [a] highly trained force of about 2,500 or so for counterterrorism purposes,” Johnson told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”


The Hill: Pentagon spokesman John Kirby argued that U.S. troop withdrawal does not automatically mean the United States has lost all leverage against the Taliban.


Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake MORE (D-R.I.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that Biden made “the best of many poor choices” that were available to the United States in Afghanistan after two decades (The Hill).


> Child tax credits: On Thursday, the IRS will begin to send monthly payments to U.S. families as part of the expanded child tax credit signed into law as part of the coronavirus relief measure, reports The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda. Parents with an income of less than $150,000 (married and filing jointly) will get a maximum of $300 for each child under the age of 6 and $250 for each child ages 6 to 17 in monthly advance payments through the end of the year. The other half of the money will be a part of filers’ tax refunds in 2022. Families with higher incomes or with older dependents will get smaller payments.


CNET: See if you’re eligible.


CBS News: Who will need to opt out?


> Criminal justice reform: Biden is under pressure from his left flank to select a new breed of federal prosecutors, reports The Hill’s Harper Neidig.



Safety bunkers inside the Bagram US air base





CORONAVIRUS: Health officials on Sunday pushed back against the need for Americans to receive a booster vaccination in the coming months to boost protection against COVID-19 and variants of the virus that have caused case totals to spike in recent days.


Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Journalist Zaid Jilani describes removal of animal rights ad that criticizes Fauci Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that it is currently unnecessary for individuals to receive an additional shot. The comments came days after Pfizer indicated that it will seek emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming months for the booster jab.


“Well, certainly they theoretically could. What the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the FDA were that right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot, a boost superimposed upon the two doses you get with the mRNA and the one dose you get with [Johnson & Johnson],” Fauci said, adding that that research is ongoing to determine whether that will change.


“This isn't something that we say, ‘No, we don't need a boost right now. The story's ended forever,’” Fauci said. “No, there's a lot of work going on to examine this in real time to see if we might need a boost” (The Hill).


According to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, a potential booster shot is unlikely to be recommended for the masses if it becomes recommended at all. Gottlieb told “Face the Nation” that the most likely recipients will be older and immunocompromised individuals who received their vaccinations more than seven to eight months ago.


“It’s not going to be a general recommendation for the entire public because for most people … who are younger, have intact immune systems, they’re probably going to have sufficient protection from their original vaccination and they’re not going to need a booster,” Gottlieb said.


Pfizer is scheduled to brief health experts today about its plans, according to The Washington Post, though that meeting could be delayed until another day this week.


The Sunday Shows: Fauci in the spotlight.


The Hill: Gottlieb: “We've probably missed a window” for providing booster shots for the delta variant.


Politico: Vaccines will get full FDA approval, Fauci predicts.


The Hill: U.S. turns corner, but the world is way behind on COVID-19.


While the U.S. stands pat and focuses on reaching people still hesitant to get vaccinated, especially in Republican-leaning states, Israel is taking a different approach. Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced Sunday that adults with compromised immune systems who had already received two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine could receive a booster shot, adding that the decision was effective immediately.


The development comes as Israel has seen cases rise over the past month after experiencing single digit totals in June. The country reported a high of 528 new cases on July 6, the highest since late March (The Hill).


The Hill: Fauci: Delta strain is a “nasty variant.”


The Associated Press: South Africa ramps up vaccine drive, too late for this surge.


Reuters: Australia's COVID-19 Delta outbreak worsens despite Sydney lockdown.


The Associated Press: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to roll back all England lockdown restrictions on July 19.


> Military: Panetta, who was Defense secretary during the Obama administration, told Greta Van Susteren on “Full Court Press” on Sunday that Biden should order all U.S. military to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses. The Army has said it is preparing to administer such inoculations in the fall if vaccines are no longer under emergency authorization and are instead licensed for regular use by the FDA (Army Times). Public health specialists have argued that in the case of COVID-19, emergency use and licensed use is a distinction without a difference. 


“I frankly think the president ought to issue an order requiring everybody in the military to get a COVID-19 shot, period,” Panetta said. “That's an issue involving our national security. The last damn thing you need is to have those in the military that are our warriors unable to respond to a mission because they've gotten COVID-19. There's no excuse for that. When I was in the Army, I got every shot required by the military, shots in both arms, as well as everywhere else. There is no reason we should not require a COVID-19 shot for everyone in the military, period.”


The Hill: Fauci: There should be more COVID-19 vaccine mandates at the local level.


The Hill: United CEO: Guess is that the airline mask mandate will expire in September.

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Tossing around “Nazi” and “fascist” as insults is reckless and historically illiterate, by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), contributing columnist, The Washington Post.


The joyride era of space travel is here, by Marina Koren, staff writer, The Atlantic.


The House meets on Tuesday at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session. Members return for legislative business on July 19. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublicans caught in California's recall trap Raise the debt limit while starting to fix the budget   'Justice for J6' organizer calls on demonstrators to respect law enforcement MORE (D-Calif.) will address the National Association of Counties annual conference beginning at 9:30 a.m. Her remarks will be live streamed HERE.


The Senate convenes at 3 p.m., and will resume consideration of Uzra Zeya to be under secretary of State.


The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will meet at 1:15 p.m. with Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Durham seeking indictment of lawyer with ties to Democrats: reports Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' MORE and others to discuss efforts to reduce gun crimes.


Harris will travel to Detroit to hold a voting rights listening session at 2 p.m. She will speak at 3:25 p.m. at a COVID-19 vaccine mobilization event. Harris will headline a finance event for Democratic Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Protesters crash former Detroit police chief's gubernatorial announcement event Former Detroit police chief launching gubernatorial campaign vs. Whitmer next week MORE at 5:25 p.m. before departing Michigan at 6:30 p.m. to return to Washington.


The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:15 p.m.


INVITATIONS: The Hill’s Virtually Live on Tuesday at 1 p.m., “Small Business Recovery: Minneapolis,” featuring Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Minneapolis Mayor Jacob FreyJacob FreyMinneapolis voters to decide on agency to replace police department Minnesota officials push for targeted small business grants The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Texas Dems flee to Washington MORE (D) and more. Information is HERE.


“The Future of Human Connectivity,” on Wednesday at 1 p.m., with Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (D), San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D) and more to discuss the future of an ultra-connected world. Information is HERE.


“Revitalizing America’s Cities,” on Thursday at 1 p.m., with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D); Montgomery, Ala., Mayor Steven Reed (D); Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D); Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley (D); and more for a conversation about how microbusinesses could reenergize cities. Information is HERE.


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


➔ HEAT: The temperature in Death Valley, which reached 130 degrees on Sunday, nearly set a new record. Journalists flocked to bear witness (The New York Times). … Fires raged in several states over the weekend as the heat wave broiled Western regions (Mercury News). … Along Canada’s Pacific Coast, a “heat dome” in the past few days killed an estimated 1 billion marine animals, according to experts. Mussels essentially “cooked” along the shore (The Guardian). … June this year was the hottest it has ever been in North America (AccuWeather).


➔ INTERNATIONAL: In Haiti, where the United States last week offered help to investigate the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, a group of Colombians and Haitian Americans suspected of shooting him told investigators they were there to arrest the president, not kill him, the Miami Herald and a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday (Reuters). The New York Times reports the mystery deepens about why Colombian military veterans were in Haiti. Haitian authorities said Sunday they had arrested Christian Emmanuel Sanon, 63, a Florida-based Haitian-born doctor who is said by Haitian police to have hired a private Florida security company that in turn recruited at least some of the Colombians. … Pope FrancisPope FrancisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Pope Francis challenges vaccine skeptics Pope on Biden communion debate: Bishops shouldn't 'go condemning' MORE, 84, made his first appearance in public on Sunday following major surgery on July 4 as he greeted well-wishers from the balcony of his hospital in Rome (The Associated Press). … In Cuba on Sunday, thousands of people took to the streets to protest their economic plight while police used tear gas to break up the demonstrations and President Miguel Díaz-Canel used a national televised address to blame conditions on the communist-run island on U.S. trade sanctions (CNN and Reuters). Some Cuban police joined the largest such protests in decades, according to reports on social media.


➔ SPACE: Virgin Atlantic founder and British billionaire Richard Branson (pictured below) on Sunday flew from a New Mexico runway along with five crewmates to pierce Earth’s atmosphere 53.5 miles up and then returned aboard his winged Virgin Galactic rocket ship, which he hopes will begin an era of space tourism and commercial flights to rewrite the definition of “astronaut” and change the world’s vision of space transport. “The whole thing, it was just magical,” a jubilant Branson, 70, said on his return aboard the space plane named Unity. Before Sunday’s flight, Branson’s company already had 600 travelers signed up for flights at $250,000 each and will charge more to take scientific experiments aloft (The Associated Press). On July 20, billionaire Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosSpaceX launches first all-civilian orbit crew into space Tucker Carlson says he lies when 'I'm really cornered or something' Feehery: Not this way MORE, founder of Amazon, plans to take his company’s Blue Origin craft into space. Bezos sent his congratulations to rival Branson, adding, “Can’t wait to join the club!



Richard Branson tweets a video from space



➔ SPORTS: Unfortunately for the British, football isn’t coming home. Italy defeated England in the Euro 2020 final in a penalty shootout, at Wembley Stadium in London. Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma stopped three penalty kicks, sealing the victory for the Azzurri after the two sides played to a 1-1 draw over the first 120 minutes (ESPN). … Across town, Novak Djokovic took home his sixth Wimbledon men’s singles championship, defeating Matteo Berrettini in four sets. The victory was his 20th major championship, putting him even with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most in men’s tennis history. Next up for Djokovic: an attempt to win his first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, as The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay points out (ESPN).


And finally … On Saturday, Scripps National Spelling Bee champ Zaila Avant-garde, 14, the first African American contestant to win the competition, was offered a full college scholarship to Louisiana State University by its president, who tweeted the commitment. Avant-garde, who is from New Orleans, won the bee on Thursday (The Hill).


Her winning word? “Murraya,” referring to a flowering plant, which she spelled correctly in the 18th round.



Zaila Avant-garde competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals