The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden challenges GOP to act on guns
President Biden used a rare evening address to the nation from the White House on Thursday to speak to Americans while urging Congress to send him legislation to ban assault weapons and respond to America’s epidemic of mass shootings, including recent incidents in New York, Texas and Oklahoma (The Hill).
“Enough, enough,” the president repeated in hushed tones while standing amid two lines of burning white candles to represent victims of recent shooting sprees. “The question now is, what will the Congress do?”
Biden used the brief speech to repeat a list of legislative restrictions and responses long proposed by Democrats and rejected by many Republicans over the years.
“My God! The fact that a majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or to come up for a vote, I find unconscionable,” the president said after offering support for bipartisan talks in the Senate.
“I’ll never give up, and If Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won’t give up, either,” he continued. “I believe a majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote. Enough, enough, enough.”
Earlier on Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee began considering several gun measures, including a call to renew the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, while across the Capitol, a bipartisan band of senators continued to weigh a modest collection of proposals that would require at least 60 votes to advance amid calls for Washington to act.
The phrase “cautiously optimistic” was repeatedly used this week by lawmakers and governors who support gun restrictions but are experienced with the pro-guns lobby, the politicization of guns in America and many voters’ concerns about abridging Second Amendment rights.
Elected officials in both parties have said they are unsure that any federal changes considered this summer would prevent more mass shootings but that saving even one life would be a triumph.
Among ideas: stronger background checks, a federal “red flag” law, raising the legal age from 18 to 21 to buy weapons, federal support for tougher school security and more funding for mental health assistance. Many Democrats, including Biden, advocate banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, although they know the odds are long that the House or Senate would adopt such legislation anytime soon.
At the House committee meeting on Thursday, Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), who was participating remotely from his home, pulled out a collection of handguns, prompting an interjection from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who said, “I hope the gun is not loaded.”
Steube shot back (and tweeted), “I’m in my house, I can do whatever I want with my guns” (The Hill).
The Hill: Twenty-one Democrats ask leaders to split up the House guns package.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said an assault weapons ban would be brought to the House floor “if we have the votes” (The Hill). Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has endorsed renewing a federal ban on assault weapons and last week said the House would “mark up” such legislation.
So, do House Democrats have the votes? It’s close. One leading piece of legislation has 207 cosponsors and has picked up support since the shooting in Texas. Democrats may need a handful of GOP votes to pass the measure.
Austin American-Statesman: Fact check: Did the number of mass shootings triple after the assault weapons ban ended?
Meanwhile, authorities in Tulsa on Thursday offered new details about a gunman who killed four people and then shot himself on Wednesday at an Oklahoma hospital. Michael Louis, 45, of Muskogee, Okla., targeted his surgeon after complaining of continued pain after recent back surgery. Louis bought an AR-style semi-automatic rifle on the afternoon of the shooting and a handgun on Sunday and carried a letter explaining his intent, police said. Shot and killed on the campus of Saint Francis Health System in Tulsa were physicians Preston Phillips and Stephanie Husen, receptionist Amanda Glenn and patient William Love (The Associated Press).
▪ Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Lawmakers make last ditch bid for Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) vote as time ticks before the election.
▪ The New York Times: Biden calls for a ban on assault weapons and new red flag laws.
▪ The Hill: A shooting on Thursday in a Racine, Wis., cemetery injured at least two people. Racine’s mayor is implementing a curfew requiring everyone under the age of 18 to be home by 11 p.m. this weekend.
LEADING THE DAY
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), 52, the state’s Democratic nominee for Senate, suffered a stroke three weeks ago and does not have a schedule for a return to the campaign trail and has not been transparent about his health status since receiving a pacemaker.
Some Democrats say they’ve grown “very nervous” about the high-profile Senate contest. Pennsylvania is widely viewed as Democrats’ best pickup opportunity in a midterm election cycle in which control of the Senate hinges on the outcome of a handful of races. And his absence from the campaign trail has robbed Democrats of a head start toward the general election.
Fetterman communications director Joe Calvello said the candidate is “on the path to a full recovery” and will be “back at full strength” (NBC News).
The Republican primary is mired in a recount, with fewer than a thousand votes separating Mehmet Oz — the celebrity TV doctor with a background in cardiothoracic surgery — and former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick.
■ The Hill: Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) agrees to an interview with the Jan. 6 House investigative panel.
■ The Associated Press: Can Pennsylvania GOP candidate make voters re-register?
■ Bloomberg News: Jan. 6 panel sets prime-time hearing to detail effort to overturn election.
■ The Wall Street Journal: Former Attorney General William Barr appears before Jan. 6 committee.
© Associated Press / Gene J. Puskar | Card for Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) on May 17 following his stroke.
Elsewhere on the campaign scene, former President Trump on Thursday finally made his play in Arizona by endorsing Blake Masters in the state’s GOP Senate primary, handing the venture capitalist a major boost in his push to win the party nod.
In a lengthy statement, Trump praised Masters, who is also backed by PayPal founder Peter Thiel, as a “great modern-day thinker” and “one of the most successful businessmen and investors in the Country.” He also noted another reason for throwing his support behind Masters: because the candidate backs Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him via widespread voter fraud.
“Arizona is a State where the 2020 Election was Rigged and Stolen, and a very thorough audit proved it,” Trump said. “Blake knows that the ‘Crime of the Century’ took place, he will expose it and also, never let it happen again.”
The winner of the August 2 primary will take on Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) in November. Masters is vying for the nomination against businessman Jim Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who Trump has panned for not doing enough to swing the 2020 election in his favor.
“It’s the straw that breaks Brnovich’s back and gives Masters the momentum just as early ballots are about to hit,” one Arizona GOP strategist told the Morning Report, noting that early voting starts on July 2.
■ David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner: Katie Britt and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) point fingers after Alabama GOP Senate debate canceled.
■ The New York Times: A Georgia mystery: How many Democrats voted in the GOP primary?
■ The Associated Press: Democrats, Republicans fight to a redistricting stalemate.
■ The Hill: The Great Resignation hits state legislative chambers.
The Biden administration has a baby formula problem, and it’s not making life easy.
The White House compounded its problems on the high-profile shortage this week when Biden indicated that he was not aware of the issue until months after a recall of Abbott Nutrition products.
As The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Amie Parnes write, the struggle to lay out a clear timeline of who in the administration was working on the issue in February and March and Biden’s admission he wasn’t aware of the gravity of the situation until April has opened the administration up to scrutiny and gives Republicans yet another potent line of attack months away from the midterm election.
“I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” one Democratic strategist told The Hill. “He has to show that he’s on top of these situations. The last thing they want is to be the subject of another Republican talking point.”
The administration has scrambled to bring in formula from other countries in recent weeks, and Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act in a bid to increase supply.
Meanwhile, the White House is preparing for a consequential meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, marking a notable about-face for a president who sought to isolate a leader the U.S. called a killer. The administration is seeking alternatives to Russian oil to ease supplies and rising prices. Biden’s trip, which would take place following a Group of Seven summit in Germany and a NATO summit in Spain later this month, has been confirmed but not yet announced (The Washington Post).
As The Hill’s Laura Kelly writes, tensions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are reaching a crescendo over a number of topics, including Riyadh’s repression of opposition and its role in the killing of a Washington Post opinion journalist, to the nation’s actions in the war in Yemen. Adding to the issues, the administration is under pressure from families of victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks who are deeply suspicious of the Saudi government and have sought to bring lawsuits against Riyadh.
■ The New York Times: Biden to travel to Saudi Arabia, ending its “pariah” status.
■ The Hill: Progressives slam the Health and Human Services Department’s decision to stick with higher 2022 Medicare premiums.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
After 100 days of war, Russia controls 20 percent of Ukraine, despite Ukraine’s success in pushing Russian forces out of Kyiv and other cities and terrain (The Hill).
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday said that fighting rages from Kharkiv in the northeast to the city of Mykolaiv in the south. “If you look at the entire front line, and it is, of course, not straight, this line is more than a thousand kilometers (more than 621 miles),” Zelensky told the Luxembourg parliament in virtual remarks. “Just imagine! Constant fighting, which stretched along the front line for more than a thousand kilometers” (The New York Times).
Ukrainian forces are struggling to hold onto territory along the war’s eastern front, even as officials said its forces were making progress in limited counterattacks in the south, trying to take advantage of Moscow’s decision to concentrate its campaign — and its forces — in the east. Expected in Ukraine soon are more sophisticated medium-range artillery systems and weapons shipped by the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, which Zelensky believes can help turn the tide.
Ukraine has lost some long-held areas in Donbas, the eastern region that is now the war’s epicenter, the Times reports. Russia’s strategy in the war may have been flawed, but its forces have maintained a relentless barrage and regrouped when necessary.
Both sides have suffered heavy casualties, and Ukrainian civilians are the collateral damage as well as direct targets of Russia’s invasion, prompting war crimes investigations and the collapse of Ukraine’s economy as cities and towns are reduced to rubble and ghosts. The United Nations estimates nearly 7 million Ukrainians have fled across the country’s borders since February and 8 million may be displaced inside Ukraine.
During a Thursday interview with The Washington Post, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine may face a long war of attrition with Russia, and that its allies need to find a way to make their support “sustainable” over the long term.
▪ Pravda: Putin last month dismissed five generals and a police colonel.
▪ The Washington Post: Putin thinks the west will blink first in war of attrition, Russian elites say.
▪ Reuters: Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the heads of U.S. media outlets to a Moscow meeting on Monday to notify them of tough measures in response to U.S. restrictions against Russian media.
As Russian oil supplies recede with continued sanctions, OPEC agreed on Thursday to pump more crude (CNBC). The oil exporters’ cartel said it would increase supply by 648,000 barrels per day in July and August, 200,000 barrels per day more than scheduled under a supply agreement with other producers, including Russia, known as OPEC+. The Biden administration welcomed the “important decision from OPEC+,” and highlighted Saudi Arabia’s role as the group’s largest producer in achieving consensus.
Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, 44, said during an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Ukraine should not forfeit parts of the country to Russia in hopes it might bring peace. “You just can’t concede … parts of your territory. It’s like conceding a freedom,” she said Thursday. “Even if we would consider territories, the aggressor would not stop at that. He would continue pressing, he would continue launching more and more steps forward, more and more attacks against our territory.”
© Associated Press / Bernat Armangue | Ukrainian servicemember in the Donetsk oblast region on Thursday.
■ Trump is finally boring, by Rich Lowry, columnist, Politico Magazine. https://politi.co/3902eNA
■ “Sensible” gun reform that Republicans could get behind, by Ron Sievert, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/38YA8Cl
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 1 p.m. for a pro forma session. Lawmakers will return to work on Tuesday.
The Senate convenes at 4:30 p.m. for a pro forma session. Senators return to Washington on Monday.
The president is in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (it is first lady Jill Biden’s birthday). Biden will speak about the government’s May jobs report, released this morning, during remarks at 10:30 a.m. at Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.
Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff leave for Reno, Nevada, at 9:20 a.m. Harris will speak at midday at the 90th annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the Peppermill Resort. Harris and Emhoff will travel to Los Angeles in the afternoon.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will release a U.S. employment report for May. The Dow Jones forecast is for 328,000 more jobs added last month (following a gain of 428,000 in April) and an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent (CNBC). The Hill’s Sylvan Lane explains why a strong jobs market could push inflation higher and threaten Biden’s progress against rising consumer prices.
👑 The United Kingdom is celebrating a long Platinum Jubilee weekend to mark 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth II’s unprecedented 70 years on the throne. She delighted crowds on Thursday by appearing on a Buckingham Palace balcony with her family and great-grandchildren and she took part Thursday night in lighting a chain of ceremonial beacons at Windsor Castle as planned.
It was the same balcony and the same pomp she recalled from her coronation parade in 1953, when she stood with her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died last year at age 99, and waved to similarly cheering throngs as jet planes of the Royal Air Force flew overhead in in tight formation (History.com).
The monarch will not attend today’s planned Jubilee service at St. Paul’s Cathedral because of some “discomfort,” according to the palace (The Associated Press).
Bloomberg News describes Elizabeth’s long reign and experience with 14 different prime ministers.
Newsweek published an archival slideshow (3:08 minutes) HERE.
© Associated Press / Paul Grover | Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Charles; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and great-grandchildren on Thursday.
➤ SPELL W.I.N.N.E.R.
🏆 History was made Thursday night when Harini Logan, 14, won the first-ever spell-off at the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The San Antonio, Texas, native received a trophy and a check for $50,000. Harini went head-to-head with Vikram Raju, 12, in the spell-off, a format that tested the contestants on how many words they could correctly spell within 90 seconds. Harini spelled 21 out of 26 words correctly, while Vikram got 15 out of 19 words right (CNN). This year began with 234 contestants, an increase from 2021 (two years of COVID-19 precautions made for a few format changes). Of those teens who started, only 12 participated in Thursday’s final competition.
➤ POX & PANDEMIC
Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles all announced their first monkeypox cases Thursday and await final confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the presumed cases. The cases in Chicago and Los Angeles both emerged after an individual traveled to Europe. The health departments from all three cities added that the risk of transmission to local residents is low (The Hill).
More than half the members of Biden’s Cabinet have contracted COVID-19 in recent months, describing their experiences as breakthrough cases, according to individual announcements. The Hill’s tally of those cases is HERE.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,008,031. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 244, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And finally … 👏👏👏 It’s the end of the week! That also means it’s time for a rousing standing ovation for all of our quiz masters who knew (or at the very least, were extremely savvy Googlers) when it comes to their NBA Finals trivia.
Here is everyone who scored 4/4 this week: Patrick Kavanagh, Len Jones, Pam Manges, Harry Strulovici, Lou Tisler, Robert Bradley, Walker LaVancha, Steve James and Stephen Delano.
They knew that the Golden State Warriors (including their previous years as the Philadelphia and San Francisco Warriors) have made the most NBA Finals appearances — 12 — after the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
The Sacramento Kings have gone 72 years (last winning in 1951 as the Rochester Royals) without an NBA championship, marking the longest current NBA championship drought.
The Boston Celtics won the 1969 NBA title, but Jerry West of the defeated Los Angeles Lakers took home NBA Finals MVP honors — the only player to win the award on a losing team.
Finally, Robert Horry’s seven NBA championships is the most collected by any player that wasn’t on the 1950s or 1960s Celtics teams.