The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden gas tax call lands with a thud
President Biden made his latest push to ease prices for Americans on Wednesday by calling for a gasoline tax holiday. But he faces an uphill climb on Capitol Hill to enact it as Democratic leaders gave the proposal a lukewarm reception.
After weeks of deliberations, Biden made his call for a three-month holiday of the federal gas tax through the summer travel season, which has driven already-high prices even higher. The president also made a separate appeal to states to provide similar relief to consumers by suspending their own gas taxes (The Hill).
“It doesn’t reduce all the pain, but it will be a big help,” Biden said. “I’m doing my part. I want Congress, states and industry to do their part as well.”
The federal gas tax is 18 cents per gallon, while state gas taxes average about 26 cents per gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Biden also referred to cuts to the 24 cent federal tax on diesel.
Standing in the way of the president’s wish is a Congress that has not given the idea a positive reception dating back months. Summing up their apprehension was Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who declined to endorse a suspension of the tax.
“Democrats are united in our determination to lower gas prices for families at the pump. … We will see where the consensus lies on a path forward for the President’s proposal in the House and the Senate,” Pelosi said in a statement (The Hill).
In late March, Pelosi indicated that she was cool to a possible suspension, telling reporters that the benefit of such a move “is not necessarily landing in the pocket of the consumer.”
Adding to the trouble, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) declined to say whether he would put the three-month gas tax hold up for a vote. Instead, he noted that Democrats attempted to do so already via unanimous consent and that the “important thing we can do to lower gas prices is crack down on big oil’s manipulation of the oil markets.”
As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Amie Parnes write, the latest snafu marked yet another attempt for Biden to use the bully pulpit to his advantage, only to see it fizzle. Last year, Biden used his bullhorn similarly in a bid to pass the Build Back Better social spending proposal but saw its benefits when he successfully managed to move the COVID-19 relief bill and the bipartisan infrastructure package through Congress.
“Presidents can move public opinion more in areas that are more detached for everyday experience,” said William A. Galston, chairman of the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program. “No matter whether you’re Joe Biden or the ‘great communicator’ Ronald Reagan, you’re going to have a hard time changing people’s basic perspectives.”
Bloomberg News: New Jersey to temporarily suspend sales tax on school supplies.
Biden’s push to lighten the economic burden of Americans came as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that a recession is a “possibility” as the central bank wages war on rising inflation.
The Fed is attempting a high-wire act as it hikes interest rates — including by three-quarters of a percentage point last week, the highest in 28 years — while attempting to avoid pushing the economy into a recession. Powell, appearing before the Senate Banking Committee, said that the bank’s actions could slow the economy enough to halt job gains and economic growth — the two signs of an economy in retreat.
Inducing a recession is “not our intended outcome but certainly a possibility,” Powell said when asked if the Fed could trigger a downturn. “Frankly, the events of the last few months around the world have made it more difficult for us to achieve what we want” (The Hill).
Bloomberg News: Powell says soft landing “very challenging.”
© Associated Press / Manuel Balce Ceneta | Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday.
Finally, the eyes of the political world will be squarely on the Supreme Court as it could release the long-awaited abortion opinion in the coming days.
Justices will release another batch of opinions today and announced that they will also do so on Friday, raising speculation that a ruling on the future of Roe v. Wade could come by week’s end. The court has 13 cases left to decide to release before justices break for the summer (SCOTUS Blog).
▪ Yahoo News: Key cases left on the Supreme Court docket this term.
▪ CNN: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signs bill to strengthen potential abortion ban if Roe is overturned.
▪ John F. Harris: The new battles roiling the left.
LEADING THE DAY
The mobilization effort by House Republicans against the Senate’s bipartisan gun violence package kicked off in earnest on Wednesday as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said they will vote against the proposal.
According to The Hill’s Emily Brooks, McCarthy and Scalise informed House GOP members during a conference meeting on Wednesday of their plan to vote against the bill. Adding to the effort, Scalise will formally whip against the legislation.
The calls follow intense opposition on the part of conservatives in recent days as senators prepared to unveil the bill, which incentivizes states to set up red flag laws, provides funding for mental health services, closes the “boyfriend” loophole and expands background checks for those under 21 with juvenile records. The House Freedom Caucus formally came out against the package on Tuesday, while conservative senators have been banging the drum against it for weeks (The Hill).
One notable House Republican did come out for the bill on Wednesday, however. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) — who represents Uvalde, Texas — said in a lengthy Twitter thread that he is a “yes.”
“As a Congressman it’s my duty to pass laws that never infringe on the Constitution while protecting the lives of the innocent,” Gonzales wrote. “I look forward to voting YES on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) predicted that between 15 and 20 House Republicans would ultimately support the bill (Politico).
When that House vote would take place remains up in the air and depends on when the Senate can clear it. The upper chamber is hoping to advance it by the end of the week.
One Senate vote that will take place after the two-week July 4 recess will be to confirm Steve Dettelbach as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to Schumer.
▪ The Hill: House passes package addressing mental health, 20 Republicans vote “no.”
▪ Politico: Dems vow they’ll do more on gun safety — but it could take years.
▪ Aris Folley, The Hill: Senate Republicans risk blowback from National Rifle Association over gun safety bill.
▪ The Hill: Uvalde, Buffalo underscore issue of gun violence against people of color.
One person who will not be in Washington to take part in any votes through the end of the week is Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who said in a statement on Wednesday that he remains in his home state after suffering a yard-related accident over the weekend. According to the North Dakota Republican, his right hand required immediate surgery and there remains “a high risk of infection and the possible need for amputation.”
“I am alert and in good spirits,” Cramer continued. “I plan to return to Washington, after the Independence Day state work period and expect to be doling out a lot of left-handed fist bumps” (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
The House select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will hold its final hearing of the month today where it will highlight the pressure exerted by former President Trump and those pushing to overturn the 2020 election on the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Three former officials at the department are slated to appear — former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue and Steven Engel, the former assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel.
“We’ll look specifically at how the president was trying to misuse the department to advance his own agenda to stay in power at the end of his term,” an aide to the committee said on Thursday (The Hill).
The hearing is the final one of the month, as the committee postponed its next batch until July. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told reporters it was because the panel had received a “mountain of new information” since the hearings kicked off two weeks ago.
“There’s been a deluge of new evidence since we got started. And we just need to catch our breath, go through the new evidence, and then incorporate it into the hearings we have planned,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters (The Hill).
▪ The Hill: Who is Jeffrey Clark, a key figure in Trump’s pressure campaign against the Department of Justice?
▪ The Washington Post: Lawmakers on Jan. 6 committee ramp up their security as threats increase.
▪ The New York Times: Justice Department issues more subpoenas in Trump electors investigation.
▪ The Hill: Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.): Jan. 6 panel may start sharing info with DOJ next month.
The Jan. 6 spotlight is also shining on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) following the revelation that one of his top aides attempted to hand a former aide to former Vice President Mike Pence a set of fake electors from Wisconsin and Michigan hours before the attack on the Capitol.
Johnson said on Tuesday night that he was “basically unaware of” the effort, but as The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, even fellow Republicans find it hard to believe that Johnson’s aide would be bold enough to give a fake slate of electors to the then-VP without Johnson’s OK.
“My initial reaction was one of shock. Then Sen. Johnson said he was unaware of it. I and others like myself would like to dig into that, find out just who knew what and when,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), adding that attempting to move through a false slate of electors “would strike at the heart of our democracy.”
© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Wednesday.
Adding to Johnson’s troubles were poll numbers that emerged on Wednesday. According to a new Marquette University Law School poll, only 37 percent of Wisconsin voters hold a favorable view of the two-term senator. Forty-six percent view him unfavorably.
Johnson also trails multiple Democratic candidates in head-to-head matchups. Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) and Sarah Godlewski both lead Johnson by a 2-point margin.
The Hill: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) edges past Trump in New Hampshire poll.
■ There it is again, that recession feeling, by Mark Gongloff, editor, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/39GbDu5
■ Did Russian hackers blow up a Texas LNG pipeline on June 8? By Tom Rogan, national security writer and online editor, Washington Examiner. https://washex.am/3zSebzP
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the legislative vehicle for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
The president and first lady Jill Biden welcome wounded warriors and their families for the annual Soldier Ride at 9 a.m. Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend. Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:30 a.m.
The White House daily briefing is scheduled at 3:10 p.m. The White House COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 2:15 p.m.
The Food and Drug Administration is set to order Juul Labs’ e-cigarettes to be taken off of the market. The agency’s move will be the culmination of a two-year review of data from the company, which attempted to secure authorization for its products to remain on the market. Juul’s products came into question four years ago when they led to a rise in vaping by underage individuals (The Wall Street Journal). … British officials are investigating after they detected poliovirus in sewage samples in parts of London. The U.K. Health Security Agency said that finding one to three “vaccine-like” polioviruses in sewage samples is routine, but they have always been “one-off” findings that were never detected again, adding that it found several closely related viruses between February and May (The Hill).
On the COVID-19 front, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has tested positive, a spokesperson said on Wednesday, adding that she is experiencing mild symptoms (The Hill). In addition, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), the No. 4 House Democrat, also tested positive for the virus. As The Hill’s Joseph Choi writes, the news comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that roughly one out of three COVID-19 cases now stem from the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the omicron variant.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,014,835 Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 248, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
➤ BEST IN SHOW
The bloodhound finally got some respect on Thursday night as Trumpet became the first to win Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Wednesday night. Trumpet, a 4-year-old, beat out a French bulldog, a German shepherd, a Maltese, an English setter, a Samoyed and a Lakeland terrier to snag the annual award. “I am so excited for Trumpet,” said Heather Helmer, the pooch’s handler.
© Associated Press / Frank Franklin II | Trumpet, a bloodhound, wins Best In Show at the 146th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Wednesday night.
© Associated Press / John Raoux | A Buzz Lightyear figure stands at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 2018.
It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the release of the new movie “Lightyear,” we’re eager for some smart guesses about the character in question — Buzz Lightyear.
Email your responses 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.
Who did “Toy Story” producers originally want to voice the Buzz Lightyear character before ultimately settling on Tim Allen?
1. Robin Williams
2. Billy Crystal
3. Steve Martin
4. Jerry Seinfeld
In the original “Toy Story,” how does Buzz escape Sid’s house and return to Andy?
1. A revenge ploy by Woody and Sid’s toys
2. He flies from Sid’s to Andy’s on his own
3. A daring rescue by Buster (Andy’s dog)
4. A plot by Pizza Planet aliens
In “Toy Story 3,” Buzz speaks what language for part of the movie after being reprogrammed?
4. Pig Latin
Buzz Lightyear’s character was named after Buzz Aldrin.
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