The Hill’s Morning Report — Big week: Guns; Jan. 6 hearings; Abortion?
It’s crunch time in the nation’s capital this week as the Senate looks to lock down a deal on gun violence legislation, the Jan. 6 committee holds its next set of hearings and Washington braces for a potential Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights.
After some struggles late last week toward clinching a deal, Senate negotiators on Monday indicated that they were on the verge of an accord, with legislative text set to be unveiled imminently (PBS NewsHour).
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the lead GOP figure in talks, said on Friday that senators were “getting very close” to a deal, with sources indicating to various outlets that the ball has indeed been advanced from there. According to Punchbowl News, two of the main issues holding up a final bill — directing funds to states that do not set up red flag laws, but have crisis intervention programs instead, and closing the “boyfriend” loophole — have been resolved, with Democrats offering concessions.
As negotiators have discussed for weeks, the hope is to vote on a final package by the end of this week. The Senate is expected to be out of town starting on Friday for a two-week recess over the July 4 holiday.
ABC News: Clock is ticking on the Senate’s gun deal: Negotiators stuck on two issues as recess looms.The Associated Press: Facebook: Former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’s (R) “RINO hunting” video violates standards.
Across the Capitol, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack will hold its next set of hearings today and Thursday, with panel members set to delve deeper into the pressure campaign by former President Trump and his allies against political figures in certain states.
“We’ll be taking a close look at how the president and his allies came up with these schemes to pressure Republican-controlled legislatures and other state officials to reverse the certification of his electoral loss,” a committee aide told reporters on Monday.
Election officials and lawmakers from Georgia and Arizona will appear before the committee for testimony, headlined by that of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), who defeated a pro-Trump primary challenger last month. Trump infamously called Raffensperger days before the Jan. 6 electoral vote certification, asking him to “find 11,870 votes” that would have put him over the top in the battleground state.
Joining Raffensperger will be his deputy, Gabe Sterling, former Georgia election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R), who will address the push by Trump and Rudy Giuliani to reverse the results in the Grand Canyon State.
As The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch details, the pressure campaign by Trump and his backers included a plan to create false election certificates claiming the 45th president had won in key states he had actually lost. It was all predicated on the hope that former Vice President Mike Pence would seat rogue electors from seven states.
As the hearings plow on, Trump has started to air one of his main grievances about the committee: There are no Republicans on it. In an interview last week, Trump took issue with “a bad decision” made by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) not to assign any GOP members on the panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused to seat Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.).
“This committee, it was a bad decision not to have representation on that committee,” Trump said. “That was a very, very foolish decision because they try to pretend like they’re legit, and only when you get into the inner workings you say ‘what kind of a thing is this?’ Just a one-sided witch hunt.”
▪ Alexander Bolton, The Hill: GOP senators downplay Jan. 6 panel’s importance.
▪ Los Angeles Times: House Jan. 6 committee to reveal Mark Meadows’s pressure on Georgia election officials.
▪ The Hill: Trump ratchets up attacks amid questions about his presidential viability.
▪ The Hill: Challengers against pro-impeachment Republicans smell blood in the water.
Finally, the countdown is on as the country awaits a ruling by the Supreme Court on abortion rights that, no matter which it goes, will have major political and real-life reverberations across the country.
The court will issue new batches of opinions today and Thursday, raising the possibility that a ruling in a Mississippi abortion case that could overturn Roe v. Wade may take place this week. As SCOTUS blog notes, 18 cases are still to be decided.
Additional days could be tacked on in the coming weeks before the justices depart on their annual summer break, after which they will not reconvene until the fall.
© Associated Press / Manuel Balce Ceneta | The Supreme Court on Wednesday.
▪ Politico: What a Chief Justice John Roberts-led compromise on abortion could look like.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court still to rule on guns, religion and Roe v. Wade’s fate.
▪ The Hill: Ginni Thomas’s close ties with husband’s law clerks highlighted in new book.
▪ Politico: Inside the Democratic strategy sessions planning the post-Roe campaign.
▪ The New York Times: Inside one abortion clinic, signs of nationwide struggles.
LEADING THE DAY
President Biden on Monday announced that he will decide by the end of the week whether to order a gasoline tax holiday in an attempt to give temporary relief to Americans who continue to see rising prices at the pump.
“Yes, I’m considering it,” Biden told reporters after finishing a walk along the beach in Rehoboth Beach, Del. “I hope to have a decision based on the data — I’m looking for by the end of the week.”
The move would come in response to skyrocketing gas prices the administration has been unable to corral. Costs started to increase in the latter half of 2021 and have only ticked upward in recent months due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, most recently, the start of the summer travel season. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gas is $4.98.
According to The Hill’s Brett Samuels, Biden did not rule out sending gas rebate cards to Americans, though administration officials have sounded cool to the idea in recent days. A federal gas tax suspension would require an act of Congress.
According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model earlier this year, a federal gas tax holiday from March to December would reduce average per-capita gasoline spending by between $16 and $47 for that period. The action could possibly save consumers as much as 18.4 cents per gallon (The Associated Press).
The Washington Post: Why gas is so expensive in some U.S. states but not others.
Biden on Monday also maintained that an economic recession is by no means an inevitability despite continued chatter from economists who fear one might be in the offing. Headlining that group is former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who Biden said he spoke with earlier in the day.
“No, I don’t think it is,” Biden said when asked if a recession is more likely than ever. “I was talking to Larry Summers this morning and there’s nothing inevitable about a recession” (The Hill).
© Associated Press / Manuel Balce Ceneta | President Biden on Monday.
Nevertheless, an economic downturn would likely be politically ruinous for a president that has struggled to prop up his approval ratings, as The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo.
The president is also facing a separate difficult decision over whether to nix some of the Trump-imposed tariffs on China, a decision economists say would help on the inflation front.
As Morgan Chalfant and Alex Gangitano note, Biden has not set a timeline to decide one way or another. But if he sides with economists, he is likely to anger labor unions — a group that stands firmly behind keeping the tariffs in place.
▪ The Hill: Economists look past Federal Reserve to fight inflation.
▪ The Hill: Why high housing costs could keep climbing.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Primary season rages on tonight with runoff contests taking center stage, including in Alabama, where Trump is finally trying to put all things concerning Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) in the rearview mirror and put Katie Britt over the top.
Britt is the heavy favorite heading into tonight’s duel with Brooks, who has had a roller coaster of a political relationship with Trump dating back to the end of 2020 after the then-president’s loss to Biden. The Alabama congressman swiftly won Trump’s endorsement last year after announcing a bid to replace Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), but Trump spurned him in March after a downturn in the polls.
Now, Trump is looking to put a potential end to Brooks’s political career, having endorsed Britt earlier this month shortly after she pulled 45.2 percent of the vote against Brooks (28.2 percent) and Mike Durant (23.3 percent). According to The Hill and Emerson College’s poll released last week, Britt leads with 59 percent backing to just 41 percent for Brooks.
Elsewhere on the slate tonight are runoffs in Georgia and Arkansas and primaries in Virginia and the District of Columbia, where Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) is seeking a third term in office. After skating to a 2018 reelection win, Bowser is facing a primary challenge from two members of the D.C. City Council — Robert White and Trayon White — both of whom are attacking her from her left.
If Bowser wins tonight, which all but guarantees her a third term, she would become only the second mayor of the District to win a third term (joining longtime Mayor Marion Barry).
The Hill: 7 races to watch Tuesday, from Alabama to Georgia and beyond.
From the states voting tonight to one that is not, the Texas Republican Party is drawing concern from some within the GOP after it passed a new platform over the weekend that rejects Biden’s 2020 electoral victory and criticized homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice.”
As The Hill’s Julia Manchester writes, the move comes as the party projects optimism about making gains in southern Texas — an area of the state that has leaned left until recently. The new platform is also a far cry from the GOP’s national platform, which is focused on economic issues, crime and immigration.
■ Prosecute Trump? Put yourself in Merrick Garland’s shoes, by Jack Goldsmith, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3zPqdtH
■ Texas Republicans want to secede? Good riddance, by Dana Milbank, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3OberOy
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at noon.
The Senate convenes at 3 p.m.
The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:30 a.m., and will have lunch together at 12:45 p.m. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit a D.C. Health vaccination clinic to promote COVID-19 vaccinations for infants and young children at 2:30 p.m. The president will deliver remarks on the topic at 3:45 p.m.
The White House daily briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m.
Israel is set to hold its fifth election in three years after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced the dissolution of parliament and his government, setting up the possibility of more political gridlock or the potential return of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bennett’s government, based on a coalition of a broad range of parties from across the political sphere, splintered in recent months, having lost his majority earlier this year. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, head of the largest centrist party, is now set to become caretaker prime minister until new elections are held and will likely be the main opponent of Netanyahu, who insisted that the political “winds have changed” (The Associated Press). … The Hill’s Laura Kelly reports on the Ukraine-Russia invasion from near the Georgian-South Ossetian boundary where she accompanied European monitors on a patrol over the weekend to see how Russian troops operate in a region they have occupied since invading in 2008.
© Associated Press / Maya Alleruzzo | Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on Monday.
➤ PANDEMIC & POX
New Jersey on Monday reported its first probable cases of monkeypox, an announcement that follows similar ones by Missouri and Indiana over the weekend. The three states bring the total of those that have reported monkeypox cases to 23 states and Washington, D.C., although health officials continue to stress that the risk to the public remains low (The Hill).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,013,493. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 266, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
American Airlines will eliminate service to three cities following the Labor Day holiday weekend due to a pilot shortage as cancellations continue to plague the air travel industry. According to a company spokesperson, service to Toledo, Ohio; Ithaca, N.Y.; and Islip, N.Y., will be dropped on Sept. 7 in response to a “regional pilot shortage” (The Hill).
© Associated Press / Eduardo Munoz Alvarez | Dmitry Muratov and his 2021 Nobel Prize on Monday.
And finally … A Nobel Peace Prize that does a world of good — literally.
Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov on Monday night auctioned off his 2021 Nobel Peace Prize — which he won for his “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression” — for $103.5 million, with the proceeds being directed to Ukrainian child refugees.
The total shatters the previous record for an auctioned Nobel ($4.76 million in 2014 for James Watson’s 1962 prize earned for the co-discovery of DNA structure). The identity of the buyer is unknown, but thought to be from overseas.
“I was hoping that there was going to be an enormous amount of solidarity, but I was not expecting this to be such a huge amount,” Muratov said after the auction was completed in New York (The Associated Press).
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