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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday! 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 each day this week: Monday, 607,156; Tuesday, 607,400; Wednesday, 607,771.
President Biden, sounding a call to arms for Democrats in 2022, blasted Republicans on Tuesday for promoting changes in more than a quarter of the states that would restrict the mechanics of voting in ways he called “election subversion.”
After weeks of urgent pleas from civil rights groups and Democratic members of Congress, the president flew to Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center to deliver a forcefully worded speech that described threats to American democracy and voting rights. Biden said the legislative trend in states since GOP losses in 2020 is the most significant “test” of democracy since the Civil War — but he stopped short of embracing his party’s most obvious federal remedy, a change in the filibuster, which at least two Senate Democrats want to keep as is.
The Associated Press: Biden blasts “un-American” voting limits.
The Washington Post: President calls passing voting legislation a “national imperative.”
Reluctant since January to wade deeply into controversies that might erode his political capital without clear victories, the president did not mince words. He said the GOP efforts are rewinds of racist Jim Crow laws and unabashed attempts to suppress Democratic and independent votes, and ballot tallies, in order to boost conservatives’ chances in battleground states. The GOP legislative changes, he said, have been rejected by courts and will be tested anew in elections next year.
“Hear me clearly,” Biden said. “There’s an unfolding assault taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote and fair and free elections. An assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are.”
Biden blamed former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE for stoking a “big lie” that he was cheated out of a second term by massive ballot fraud — a claim Trump’s former attorney general and FBI director refuted. “With recount after recount after recount, court case after court case, the 2020 election was the most scrutinized ever,” Biden said. “The ‘big lie’ is just that: a big lie!” (The Hill).
As the president was preparing to speak in Pennsylvania, Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLouisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in McConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill MORE (D-N.Y.) met in his Capitol office (pictured below) with Texas state Democrats who exited Austin on Monday for Washington in a dramatic quorum-busting blockade of a GOP voting rights bill. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has threatened to arrest the state legislators when they return (The Hill).
Vice President Harris is scheduled to meet later this week with the visiting Texans. During an interview with NPR, Harris said that if Congress does not act, Democrats will continue to mobilize support and invest resources in talking “about what's at stake and what is actually happening in terms of these threats to their rights. It's about turning out voters,” adding, “Even though this doesn't, maybe, feel for some like an election year, it is.”
The Hill: Texas Democrats under new pressure to break voting rights stalemate.
The Hill: Acknowledging few options at home, Texas Democrats urge congressional action.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: On voting, public has a more nuanced view than partisans.
More administration headlines: Government inflation data released Tuesday was the highest since August 2008, complicating ongoing legislative and economic debates (The Hill). … Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers (D), who is persistently and publicly outspoken about the risks of rising inflation and Democrats’ big-ticket agenda, met at the White House Tuesday with the president’s top economic policy adviser and the Council of Economic Advisers chairwoman (The Hill). Is Summers correct? (Politico). … The State Department and the White House are navigating a historic cascade of political disarray in the Americas (The Hill). … Biden will name former West Virginia health official Rahul Gupta, an ally of Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Biden, Xi talk climate at UN forum Election reform in the states is not all doom and gloom Manchin presses Interior nominee on leasing program review MORE (D-W.Va.), as the next director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (The Washington Post). … The president plans to nominate former Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (R-Ariz.), a Trump critic, to serve as ambassador to Turkey (Arizona Republic). … Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), David Chipman, has run into Senate turbulence among some Democrats (The Hill). … First lady Jill BidenJill BidenFirst Lady visits schools to discuss COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden travels west as Washington troubles mount MORE, as expected, will lead the U.S. delegation to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which begin July 23 (The Hill).
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: After weeks of haggling, Schumer and Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday night moved Biden’s safety-net agenda forward with a proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package the majority says it will try to pass with only Democratic votes.
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, Schumer emerged from an hours-long meeting with committee Democrats, announcing agreement for a budget process that could bypass the filibuster with just 51 votes. The majority leader does not yet have backing for the committee’s framework from all Senate Democrats, and the narrow House majority also is expected to weigh in.
“The budget committee has come to an agreement. The budget resolution with instructions will be $3.5 trillion,” Schumer said, speaking to reporters alongside Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war MORE (I-Vt.) and other members of the committee. “Every major program that President Biden has asked us for is funded in a robust way.”
For the first time as president, Biden today will join Senate Democrats in the Capitol for lunch to urge their support.
Sanders — who days ago said a $3 trillion package would be too small — endorsed the committee agreement reached on Tuesday. It would expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing for seniors and would tackle climate change. The deal also includes language that would protect small businesses and individuals who earn less than $400,000 annually from tax increases to cover the costs of Democrats’ expanded spending initiatives. But details about how new spending would be offset were sparse, to be drafted later, The New York Times reported.
“What this legislation says among many, many other things ... is the wealthy and large corporations are going to start paying their fair share of taxes so that we can protect the working families in this country,” Sanders told reporters.
The Associated Press: Senate Democrats reach $3.5 trillion budget agreement.
The Washington Post: Senate Democrats announce plans for $3.5 trillion budget package to expand Medicare, advance Biden priorities.
Centrist Democrats ultimately will determine the fate of the Democrats’ deal; they need 51 votes and Senate Republicans say they are opposed. Earlier Tuesday, Manchin made waves by telling reporters that he does not want the reconciliation package or a proposed bipartisan infrastructure measure to add to future deficits.
“I think everything should be paid for now. I think we’ve put enough free money out,” Manchin said, a declaration that even centrist House Democrats have yet to make (The Hill).
Schumer said identifying hundreds of billions of dollars in offsets acceptable to Democrats is “doable” (The Hill).
Senate Democrats want a $1.2 trillion bipartisan measure for traditional infrastructure investments to reach the floor on Monday, ahead of the reconciliation deal they said they forged. However, some Senate Republicans who initially endorsed the approach to new spending for roads, bridges, airports and broadband now suggest they could still oppose it (Politico).
The Hill: Bipartisan Senate group to finalize infrastructure bill this week.
The New York Times: Lawmakers grapple with nagging infrastructure detail: How to pay for it.
> Police reform: After blowing through an initial end-of-June deadline, Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Lobbying world As Biden falters, a two-man race for the 2024 GOP nomination begins to take shape MORE (R-S.C.) is eyeing the end of the month to strike a police reform deal.
“I don't think we can do this, after this month, if we're not finished,” Scott told reporters.
When pressed if the upper chamber needs to pass a bill with bipartisan support before August, Scott responded, “That’s what I would hope” (Axios).
Talks between Scott, Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Bass says she is 'seriously considering' running for LA mayor MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (D-N.J.) have stalled out in recent weeks as the negotiators have yet to agree on contentious issues such as qualified immunity, which protects state and local government officials, including law enforcement, from liability in civil suits unless they violate individuals’ clearly established constitutional rights (The Hill).
The New York Times: In a milestone, Schumer will propose federal decriminalization of marijuana.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: If the past few months are any indication, Republicans are building up a race-centric playbook as they approach the 2022 midterm elections and attempt to retake both houses of Congress.
As The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis point out, a number of key issues — critical race theory, the border wall, allegations that China covered up a COVID-19 lab leak, inner-city crime and “defunding the police” — are set to highlight parts of the GOP line of attack over the next 16 months. The party is betting that those issues, part of the Republican culture war, can bring out the voters needed to spring the party back to power.
“They’re going to absolutely use that playbook from the 1980s and try to scare the mess out of their voters. And they’re going to use Black and brown people as the foil. There’s just no question about that,” said Rep. Marc VeaseyMarc Allison VeaseyOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Manchin: key energy provision of spending package 'makes no sense' Six moderate Democrats raise concerns about spending bill's energy measures House panel approves B boost for defense budget MORE (D-Texas), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “It was successful for Trump, but it’s always worked for them, before Trump.”
Amie Parnes, The Hill: Biden takes big break from habit of avoiding Trump talk.
The Hill: Republican are treating Harris as a more vulnerable political target than Biden, who enjoys healthy job approval ratings.
The Associated Press: House Republicans post record fundraising ahead of 2022 race.
> Energy politics: Staring down GOP attacks on rising gas prices, Democrats are looking to highlight job gains and wage growth over the opening months of the Biden administration heading into the 2022 elections.
As The Hill’s Rachel Frazin writes, a gallon of gas averaged nearly $3.15 as of Tuesday, with a steady increase in prices expected as the summer plows ahead, leading to constant Republican attacks against the majority party. However, Democrats are going all in with the bet that individuals and families are doing better than they were amid the pandemic and that voters will not hold them responsible for the gas price rise.
“I think the Democratic message ... is going to be: Look at how fast we're growing; look at the number of jobs that are available; look at how fast wages are growing; look at how much money we’ve pumped into the economy,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee.
> Virginia’s debate dust-up: GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin says he will not participate in this month’s anticipated debate with Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, which was going to be moderated by PBS’s Judy Woodruff. Youngkin says he objects to Woodruff because of her $250 donation in 2010 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, an earthquake relief fund supported by former Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. McAuliffe, a former governor seeking a second but non consecutive term, has agreed to participate in five debates. Youngkin has said he is willing to do up to three. PBS’s “NewsHour” defended Woodruff, saying the respected anchor has never contributed to a candidate or political party (The Washington Post).
> Books books books: The summer of 2021 is filled with new releases about the final days of the tumultuous single term of the 45th president of the United States, as CNN’s Chris Cillizza explains. On Tuesday, two Trump books — Michael Bender's “Frankly, We Did Win This Election” and Michael Wolff's “Landslide” — went on sale, and a third selection, “I Alone Can Fix It,” by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, is scheduled for release next week. Also ahead: Bob Woodward’s newest (title under wraps) due out on Sept. 21, with co-author Robert Costa (CNN).
CORONAVIRUS: COVID-19 vaccine booster shots and a determination about their necessity is a hot topic inside the Biden administration, while global advocates fear booster shots would deepen huge gaps between developed and low-income countries, where populations are still waiting for initial doses of vaccines (The Hill).
The Hill: Cruise line sues Florida over COVID-19 vaccine passport ban.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Joe Biden, Jim Crow and Texas voting, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3hyW9ci
Angela Merkel’s political career has been more complicated than American fans may appreciate, by Charles Lane, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3yULbUl
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m. on Friday for a pro forma session. Members return for legislative business on Monday.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to consider the nomination of Jocelyn Samuels to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a term expiring July 1, 2026.
The president and the vice president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will join Senate Democrats for lunch in the Capitol to discuss legislative plans. The president will meet at 3 p.m. at the White House with a bipartisan group of governors and mayors to discuss his support for a pending infrastructure measure in the Senate. Today he will also meet teen pop phenom Olivia Rodrigo, 18, who, along with Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in Pfizer results offer hope amid worsening pandemic for children The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will record video messages to promote COVID-19 vaccines for young people (CNBC). We say: Good 4 U. (See what we did there?)
The vice president at 11:45 a.m. will discuss voting rights with advocates for people with disabilities. She will join the president this afternoon for his meeting with governors and mayors, which will also include Labor Secretary Marty WalshMarty WalshBoston set to elect first female mayor Democrat Michelle Wu advances in Boston mayoral election Biden steps into legal fight with vaccine mandates MORE, former mayor of Boston.
Second gentleman Douglas EmhoffDoug EmhoffBush calls out domestic extremism in 9/11 speech Bush urges Americans on 9/11 to embrace unity, reject politics of 'fear' Harris in Shanksville honors heroism, courage of Flight 93 passengers MORE will travel to New Orleans to visit a YMCA summer camp at 11:15 a.m. to showcase safe play and the Agriculture Department’s Summer Food Service Program for children, and he will visit a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic organized at a New Orleans church at 1 p.m.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at noon will appear before the House Financial Services Committee to deliver his semiannual monetary policy report to Congress. (Inflation questions, anyone?)
INVITATION: The Hill’s Virtually Live event, “The Future of Human Connectivity,” TODAY 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.
ALSO: “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.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Pope FrancisPope FrancisBiden meets with leaders of Australia, Iraq before departing UNGA Pope says some critics wanted him to die in surgery Are COVID-19 vaccine mandates a strategy to end the pandemic? MORE on Wednesday was seen leaving Gemelli Polytechnic hospital in Rome on Wednesday morning 10 days after undergoing surgery to remove half of his colon, the first major procedure since becoming pontiff in 2013. Francis was initially expected to spend a week in the hospital after the planned surgery (The Associated Press).
➔ AIR TRAVEL: Major U.S. airlines are experiencing delays and cancellations, despite receiving $54 billion from taxpayers under federal relief legislation to help them retain employees and resume more normal operations this year. Industry executives have blamed poor weather, such as Tropical Storm Elsa (below), and a shortage of pilots, but union leaders say many passenger delays could have been avoided (The Hill).
➔ TECH: Color of Change is a civil rights group that seeks to hold social media giants accountable. The Hill’s Rebecca Klar profiles the organization’s president, Rashad Robinson, who for a decade has taken aim at platforms’ power. Color of Change recently called on tech giants to conduct racial equity audits (Bloomberg News).
➔ ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS: The Emmy nominations are out, and “The Crown” and “The Mandalorian” have taken the cake in the battle for television supremacy. The two shows topped all others on Tuesday with 24 prime-time Emmy nominations ahead of the Sept. 19 award show that will honor programming released between June 2020 and the end of May. All things streaming clearly dominate on America’s smaller screens: Just one network TV program, NBC’s “This Is Us,” received a nomination in any of the top categories of drama, comedy or limited series (The Associated Press). … Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, canceled last year because of COVID-19, was a winning night for the American League. They won the “Midsummer Classic,” 5-2, taking home the victory for the eighth straight year in the process.
And finally … The Washington Monument, with its spectacular 555-foot view of the nation’s capital, reopens to the public beginning at 9 a.m. today after six months of pandemic-prompted closure. Visitors are asked to obtain tickets online at recreation.gov; no tickets are available on site.
New requirement: The National Park Service, heeding federal guidance, requires all visitors to wear masks inside the monument “regardless of vaccination status” (The Washington Post).