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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday! 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 each morning this week: Monday, 637,539; Tuesday, 638,711; Wednesday, 640,108; Thursday, 642,081.
The Supreme Court late Wednesday decided not to block Texas’s “fetal heartbeat” law, allowing it to stand as legal challenges make their way through the judicial system.
The court’s five core conservatives — Justices Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoA politicized Supreme Court? That was the point Locked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE, Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasA politicized Supreme Court? That was the point Locked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Two conservatives resign from Biden's Supreme Court commission MORE, Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchLocked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Justices weigh request for information on CIA's post-9/11 torture program Supreme Court declines to hear dispute over DC representation in Congress MORE, Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughLocked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment Why Latinos need Supreme Court reform Feehery: A Republican Congress is needed to fight left's slide to autocracy MORE, and Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettBiden's 'Come on, man' defense will not fly on religious freedom A politicized Supreme Court? That was the point Solid majority believes Supreme Court rulings based more on politics than law MORE — let stand the Texas statute that bars abortions from six weeks after a woman’s last period. The law has no exceptions for incest or rape (The Washington Post). Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's three liberal justices who would have blocked the state statute, calling its enforcement “not only unusual, but unprecedented.”
That means that the second-most populous state has the country’s most restrictive abortion law, curtailing access for millions of women.
The New York Times: The four dissenting justices filed opinions. “The court has rewarded the state’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state’s own creation,” Justice Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSupreme Court agrees to review Texas's 6-week abortion ban The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle Sotomayor says recent changes were made because male justices interrupted female colleagues MORE wrote, calling the court’s order “stunning.”
The New York Times: The Texas abortion law explained.
As The Hill’s Justine Coleman writes, reproductive rights advocates are sounding the alarm, warning of a domino effect in other states as anti-abortion groups spike the football. Inaction from the Supreme Court comes ahead of the its impending review of a Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks, which poses a direct challenge to the landmark 1973 ruling.
“Today, Texas law SB8 went into effect. This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century,” President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE said in a statement. “The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes” (The Hill).
Later this year, the court is scheduled to hear arguments about a Mississippi law that if allowed to take effect would ban nearly all abortions after 15 weeks. Twelve states have passed “trigger” laws with stringent abortion restrictions that could go into effect immediately, or soon after, if landmark Roe v. Wade is overturned. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that women have the constitutional right to an abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus could survive outside the womb. Although there’s no universal agreement on when that happens, most experts estimate it to be around 24 weeks (The Washington Post).
The abortion issue is expected to play a role ahead of next year’s midterm elections. As The Hill’s Julia Manchester reports, Democrats and abortion rights activists are gearing up to go on the offensive in the coming months.
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: The U.S. saw a glimmer of positive COVID-19 news when hospitalizations dipped for the first time in more than two months on Wednesday, a sign that the pandemic may have peaked as the nation continues to race to vaccinate more Americans.
The national seven-day average of new coronavirus-related hospitalizations dropped 2.4 percent from one week earlier, marking the first such drop since June 27, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.
Declining numbers of infections that require hospitalization have been tallied in some hot spots, including Florida, Texas and a number of Southern states that have had trouble containing the delta variant (Bloomberg News).
The nation is far from out of the woods, however. U.S. regions have yet to reach their peaks of infection, including states with lagging vaccination rates. The school year is just beginning with classroom instruction and battles over masks and other mitigation strategies, which could mean COVID-19 case loads surge this year in younger people.
Axios: COVID-19 cases are up 14 percent.
> Moderna on Wednesday announced it started to submit data to the Food and Drug Administration for approval of a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the company, antibodies from the two-dose regimen waned “significantly” before a booster dose was administered roughly six months after individuals received a second dose. After a third dose, a similar level of neutralizing was achieved across age groups, notably in adults ages 65 and above, the company said (The Hill).
Axios: Israeli coronavirus vaccine booster data gives the U.S. hope.
Reuters-Ipsos poll: Most vaccinated Americans want COVID-19 booster shots.
NBC News: At least 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been wasted in the United States since March, new data shows.
> Variants: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday issued a warning that a new strain — titled the mu variant (B.1.621) — could prove more resistant to vaccine protection than other variants. The WHO said the strain is emerging in Colombia and Ecuador, with “sporadic reports” of cases and outbreaks in South America and Europe. The strain is responsible for 39 percent and 13 percent of the infections, respectively, in Colombia and Ecuador (Forbes).
The Washington Post: Massive randomized study is proof that surgical masks limit coronavirus spread, authors say.
> Corporate America: Apple on Wednesday said that it has asked its employees in the U.S. to “voluntarily” report their vaccination status but has yet to follow in the footsteps of a number of other companies that have issued vaccination mandates. Apple asked its staff to report their vaccination status by mid-September no matter whether they were working in an office or remotely (Bloomberg News).
Insider: Costco has reintroduced purchase limits as evidence of COVID-19 stockpiling mounts.
Oregonlive.com: Oregon school superintendent followed state law and got fired by the Adrian School Board on Tuesday for enforcing a mask mandate.
The New York Times: Amid Arizona ban on school mask mandates, sick kids and angry parents.
The Hill: Brazilian viper venom shows promise as drug to combat COVID-19.
ADMINISTRATION: The White House is trying to move past the chaotic and deadly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by turning its attention back to Biden’s domestic legislative agenda amid his sagging job approval numbers and ahead of next year’s midterm contests.
Biden will travel to Louisiana on Friday to support victims of Hurricane Ida and repeat his administration’s pledges of federal assistance. He’s also expected to comment Friday on what the White House anticipates will be evidence of U.S. employment progress in August (The Hill).
The Hill: Advocates “demoralized” as 100,000 U.S. allies remain stranded in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press: Some American citizens and green card holders left in Afghanistan complain of broken U.S. promises.
The Associated Press: “It looked like one of those zombie movies”: In interviews, U.S. service members describe final U.S. military flights out of Afghanistan.
The U.S. government on Wednesday said it is looking at all possible options and routes out of Afghanistan for Americans and legal permanent residents who want to leave the country (Reuters).
“It’s possible” the United States and the Taliban could coordinate against ISIS-K, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyPoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Republicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' We've left Afghanistan — but its consequences are just starting to arrive MORE said Wednesday (seen below) (The Hill).
> Housing: The administration on Wednesday announced federal initiatives to “create, preserve and sell” nearly 100,000 additional “affordable” homes to individual buyers and nonprofits over the next three years, focused on low- and middle-income opportunities for the purchase and rental markets (Yahoo News). It’s a drop in the bucket nationwide for consumers who are priced out of home ownership and struggling to find affordable rentals in a soaring market that seems oblivious to millions of Americans who took economic hits since the pandemic began.
The administration is unhappy with a recent economic trend in which investors buy up housing stock to flip or rent for profitable turnover. “Large investor purchases of single-family homes and conversion into rental properties speeds the transition of neighborhoods from homeownership to rental and drives up home prices for lower cost homes, making it harder for aspiring first-time and first-generation home buyers, among others, to buy a home,” officials said.
The median sales price of U.S. single-family homes jumped in the second quarter to $357,900, an increase of $66,800 or 22.9 percent from the year before. Double-digit price gains were seen in 94 percent of markets, according to the National Association of Realtors.
> U.S. and Ukraine: President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine met with Biden in the Oval Office on Wednesday, the culmination of a years-long struggle that at one point put Zelensky center stage amid U.S. impeachment politics during the Trump era, CNN reported.
Zelensky on Wednesday had some significant requests, including U.S. input on Ukraine's chances of joining NATO, suggesting a potential U.S. role in reaching a settlement in the Donbas region of Ukraine and requesting assistance to free hundreds of people imprisoned in Donbas. Biden said his administration will “continue to support Ukraine as it advances its democratic reforms agenda and movement toward being completely integrated in Europe.”
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: Publicly debated since the 2020 presidential campaign is the aim among progressive Democrats to enact legislation to hike taxes on wealthy individuals and big companies that could pour new revenues into ambitious social support and other spending priorities.
As the Senate’s summer drama over a bipartisan infrastructure bill demonstrated, Republican lawmakers remain loath to increase taxes on big corporations and wealthy individuals. But Democrats could theoretically push their tax plans to Biden’s desk without that hurdle, and this fall they hope to approve a $3.5 trillion collection of major social policy expansions as well as tax hikes to foot the bill.
The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda reports that progressive advocacy groups have begun a campaign to argue for their ideas during what will be a fractious autumn within the party.
Business groups, practiced at defeating calls to tax the rich and big corporations, are poised for an all-out battle against key elements of the Democrats’ agenda. Progressive groups argue most Americans like the idea of corporations and wealthy individuals paying more in taxes (Gallup, ALG Research and Hart Research), and they say they will work to keep Democrats united.
CNBC: House vote on $3.5 trillion budget in August raises prospect of higher taxes on the rich.
The Hill: Progressives push Senate Democrats to nix the filibuster ahead of a fight this fall over voting rights legislation.
The Hill: Industry lobbies Congress to extend to three days the notification timeline after cybersecurity incidents.
- Where is Rep. Markwayne MullinMarkwayne MullinGOP lawmaker says he did not threaten US Embassy staff in Tajikistan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Defiant Biden defends US exit from Afghanistan MORE (R-Okla.)? On Wednesday, he said on Instagram that he was “safe” and was heading home. That was after The Washington Post reported that the lawmaker sought to get Americans out of Afghanistan with plans he shared with disapproving State and Defense officials that reportedly involved a lot of cash and his proposed clandestine travel out of Tajikistan or Greece. While Mullin posted an Instagram photo of himself without pinpointing his location, he encouraged followers to believe he “went dark for a little, yes because it wasn’t safe to be communicating” (KJRH Oklahoma).
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Judge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November MORE (D-Calif.) has publicly admonished House members twice not to travel to Afghanistan because of the risks.
MORE POLITICS: Former President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE on Wednesday issued two key endorsements as he attempts to put his stamp on the GOP primary process ahead of the 2022 midterm elections next year.
In Pennsylvania, Trump threw his support behind Sean Parnell, a veteran and top ally of Donald Trump Jr., in the state’s jam-packed primary to replace retiring Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.). In a statement, the former president called Parnell a “great candidate” who will fight for a number of Trump-backed priorities if elected.
Along with Parnell, the top-tier group of contenders for the GOP nomination includes Carla Sands, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Denmark, and Jeff Bartos, an eastern Pennsylvania businessman who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018.
The winner will square off with the victor of an equally crowded Democratic field, which is headlined by Rep. Conor Lamb (Pa.), who defeated Parnell for his House seat in November, and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (The Hill).
Across the country, Trump also announced his support for Joe Kent, a Republican who is challenging Rep. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerHouse passes bill to expand workplace protections for nursing mothers The 9 Republicans who voted to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress House votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress MORE (R-Wash.) in the state’s 3rd Congressional District. Herrera Beutler is one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January over his role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
In a statement, Trump said he first met Kent, an Army Special Forces veteran, in 2019 after Kent’s wife was killed fighting ISIS. Trump praised Kent’s service and added that Kent would be a loyal fighter for his agenda.
“Joe served his country proudly for many years and understands the tremendous cost of America's wars in the Middle East, and elsewhere. In Congress, Joe will be a warrior for the America First agenda, unlike Jaime Herrera Beutler who voted, despite the facts, against the Republican Party and for the Democrats' Impeachment Scam,” Trump said.
The endorsement is another move for Trump to gain retribution against the group of Republicans who voted to impeach him. Trump has already backed former top aide Max Miller against Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezThe 9 Republicans who voted to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress House votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress Colin Powell's example to the GOP — and to America MORE (R-Ohio) in the Buckeye State and is currently weighing who to endorse in his push to unseat Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney'You're a joke': Greene clashes with Cheney, Raskin on House floor The 9 Republicans who voted to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress Cheney reveals GOP's Banks claimed he was Jan. 6 panel's ranking member MORE (R-Wyo.) (The Hill).
The Wall Street Journal: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE Urges GOP voters to focus on Midterms, not Biden impeachment
The Hill: DOJ issues warning to states ahead of redistricting.
The Hill: Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDemocratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse First senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List MORE (D-Calif.) says she is “seriously considering” running for Los Angeles mayor.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
The government can but also can’t but can tell you what to do with your body here in Texas, by Alexandra Petri, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2Vd4euW
COVID-19 vaccines: Public health before personal liberty, by Marc Siegel, M.D., opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3mV7IxI
The war is over — the imperative to protect Afghans isn't, by Susan Yoshihara of the American Council on Women Peace and Security, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2WLHGCe
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at noon on Friday for a pro forma session. The full House will not be active until Sept. 20.
The Senate convenes on Friday at 1:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators are expected back in Washington on Sept. 13.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will speak at 11:30 a.m. about federal efforts to help the Gulf Coast recover after Hurricane Ida. He will speak at 1:45 p.m. with rabbis from around the country in a virtual event to commemorate upcoming Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).
Vice President Harris will ceremonially swear in Ken Salazar as U.S. ambassador to Mexico at 3 p.m. Harris, Labor Secretary Marty WalshMarty WalshThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - White House tackles how to vaccinate children ages 5+ Policymakers see retraining older Americans as key to combating labor shortage Harris, Labor secretary encouraging federal workers to join unions MORE and staff will meet to discuss the White House task force on worker organizing and empowerment at 4:25 p.m.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending Aug. 28. Analysts hope to see a continued downward trend in filings.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. The administration’s COVID-19 response team will brief the news media at 3 p.m.
➔ LETHAL WEATHER: The remnants of Hurricane Ida moved up the Atlantic coast, leaving behind record-setting emergency situations. At least eight people perished in New York and New Jersey. As of this morning, rain, wind and flooding left behind damage in states and crippled parts of the New York region, including New York City, which is under a state of emergency this morning. Central Park saw more than 3 inches of rain in an hour on Wednesday. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency in New York City for the first time (The New York Times). The storms prompted a string of tornado warnings across parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, including a warning for Philadelphia after the Weather Service said a “large and extremely dangerous” tornado had been observed south of the city.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: The Biden administration on Wednesday issued a one-year extension to the ban on travel to North Korea by those with U.S. passports. The initial move was made in 2017 by former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE following the death of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was seriously injured while under arrest in the dictatorial state (The Associated Press).
➔ TECH: Amazon Chief Executive Andy Jassy told Reuters the company is preparing to hire 55,000 people for corporate and technology roles worldwide in the next few months, potentially expanding the Amazon’s workforce by more than a third.
➔ NATURE: The tiny snail darter, once powerful enough to block a federal dam, has been removed from the endangered species list (The Associated Press), but a new hazard, LED street lights, may harm insects (Science News). It’s hard to keep up!
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Tuesday marked the 24th anniversary since the death of Princess Diana, which sparked our little gray cells. Send us your smart guesses and expert Googling!
Email your responses to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
What was the Kensington Palace tribute that Princess Diana’s sons William and Harry unveiled outdoors in July to honor their mother?
- Special rose in her name
- Grove of oak trees
- Playground and gazebo
- Sculpture of Diana
Inspired by the late princess, which of these heads to Broadway in November?
- “Diana The Musical”
- “The Crown”
- “The Diana Chronicles”
Which former U.S. president was identified as Princess Diana’s 11th cousin, twice removed?
- John F. Kennedy
- Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBill Clinton shares video update after release from hospital Biden, Democrats risk everything unless they follow the Clinton pivot (they won't) Giuliani picks Abe Lincoln filter for attack against McAuliffe MORE
- George W. Bush
- Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaGlasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Obama gives fiery speech for McAuliffe: 'Don't sit this one out' Obama looks to give new momentum to McAuliffe MORE
What did Diana, then 24, share with a famous U.S. actor in 1985 that was later described by him as “a storybook moment”?
- Charitable appearance to benefit HIV/AIDS patients
- Kiss at a Hollywood movie screening
- Amusement park ride with their respective children
- Dance at the White House
** Bonus point: Who was the actor?