The Hill’s Morning Report – Sweating Democrats ponder: What if?

In Washington, call it a summer of chaos. At nearly every turn, Democrats are stymied while trying to declare progress in an election year.

Eager to nudge President Biden’s domestic wish list through the Senate? Not enough Democrats.

Fortify marriage and contraception rights in statute to checkmate a conservative Supreme Court? The House began taking action on Tuesday, but the 50-50 Senate is a question mark.

Executive action? In courts, opponents challenge federal authority and the president’s pen.

Congressional investigations — are they seismic or a sideshow? The public is impatient, distracted and in some cases assertively skeptical about headlines and news coverage.

“Democrats start with the question of, ‘Are we allowed to do this or not?’ And I think Democratic voters will forgive you if you try, and later on it turns out a court strikes it down,” former Republican-turned-Democratic-adviser Kurt Bardella told The Washington Post. What they won’t forgive is if you keep asking them to keep you in power, but you don’t do anything with it, or at least try to do something with it.”

On the theory that reacting to perceived setbacks is a form of offense, the House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved legislation that would protect same-sex and interracial marriages amid concerns that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe could jeopardize other constitutional precedents. The vote was 267-157, and 47 Republicans crossed the aisle to join every Democrat (The Hill and The Associated Press). Among GOP members who voted yes: Liz Cheney (Wyo.) Tom Emmer (Minn.), Burgess Owens (Utah), Scott Perry (Pa.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Ann Wagner (Mo.) and Michael Waltz (Fla.).

The Hill: Analysis of the 47 House Republicans who supported Tuesday’s marriage equality protection measure.

It was a direct response to a separate opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas last month that advocated rescinding high court decisions that prohibit states from banning gay marriage and contraception rights.

It is unclear whether the House-passed measure will come to a vote in the Senate, where at least 10 Republicans would need to join every Democrat to overcome a filibuster. The bill calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which former President Clinton signed into law in 1996. Still on the books, it recognizes marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The law defines a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday that the chamber should vote on enshrining those two rights (NBC News). On Tuesday, he said marriage protections and access to contraception were Democratic priorities, but “we have more priorities than we have time” (The Wall Street Journal).

Meanwhile, the White House wants to salvage what it can of Biden’s reform agenda after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he wants to wait before considering climate and tax provisions. The president, short on votes and time, has urged House and Senate allies to try to pass remaining pieces to send to his desk before the fall (The Hill).

Biden will be in Massachusetts today to talk about climate change at the site of a former coal-fired power plant that shuttered in 2017 but has since been reborn as an offshore wind power facility. He will not declare a national climate emergency during his trip, as had been urged by climate activists and Democrats, but the idea remains under consideration, according to the White House (The Hill and The Associated Press).

Amid Democrats’ frustrations and recriminations about major policy promises that some now declare “dead,” Biden’s Senate allies are reluctant to say that the president or Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) bungled the overall legislative strategy, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton. The public second-guessing may grow louder this summer.

Related Articles

The Hill: Republicans want to rein in the president’s power to cancel student loan debt, arguing such plans are “wildly inflationary.”

The Hill: The Senate on Tuesday voted to take up legislation to provide $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for the computer chip industry to boost semiconductor competition with China.

The Associated Press: Most major nations lag in action on climate-fighting goals. 

LEADING THE DAY

MORE CONGRESS

The back-and-forth between the Secret Service and the Jan. 6 committee reached a crescendo on Tuesday as the law enforcement agency revealed that messages shared by agents around the attack were purged and that it has no new texts to hand over to the panel for its probe.

The development prompted the National Archives to call for the U.S. Secret Service to investigate the erasure of messages by agents on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6. According to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security, the messages were replaced “as part of a device replacement program” (The Washington Post).

The agency is now tasked with looking into if the erasing of those messages was done for nefarious purposes.

“If it is determined that any text messages have been improperly deleted (regardless of their relevance to the OIG/Congressional inquiry of the events on January 6, 2021), then the Secret Service must send NARA a report within 30 calendar days of the date of this letter with a report documenting the deletion,” Laurence Brewer, chief records officer for the U.S. government, wrote in a letter to the custodian of records at DHS (The Hill).

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday during an Aspen Security Forum interview that “the Secret Service remains committed to cooperating fully with the committee.”

The protective service, responsible for former President Trump’s movements throughout Jan. 6, was subpoenaed by the committee for text messages, which could also shed light on testimony made by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who told investigators that Trump physically attempted to grab the wheel of his motorcade car upon hearing it would not be going to the Capitol following the rally on the Ellipse.

The New York Times: Secret Service says some missing Jan. 6 texts are unlikely to be recovered.

The committee was thrown for another loop on Tuesday, as Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) tested positive for COVID-19 and will not appear in-person at this week’s prime-time public hearing that will feature two former Trump White House aides.

According to the panel, Thompson has mild symptoms and is working remotely. Thursday’s hearing is set to go ahead as planned (Axios).

Elsewhere on the committee’s radar, the jury of 12 individuals and two alternates was set for Stephen Bannon’s contempt of Congress trial, which finally got underway and allowed the prosecution to lay its case against the former White House chief strategist’s defiance of a congressional subpoena.

“It wasn’t optional, it wasn’t a request, and it wasn’t an invitation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn said in her opening statement about the subpoena, adding that Bannon “decided he was above the law” (The Washington Post).

M. Evan Corcoran, a Bannon lawyer, maintained that the former Breitbart News CEO was still negotiating with the House committee when the contempt charge came down and the House voted on it. Bannon himself denounced the proceedings as a “show trial” upon exiting the courthouse.

The Hill: Senate confirms J. Michelle Childs, possible future Supreme Court pick, to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Financial Times: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to lead a congressional delegation to Taiwan in August, a rare event for a House leader and unsettling to Beijing.

Bloomberg News: China warns U.S. ahead of Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, says move would have “grave impact.”

POLITICS

Trump on Tuesday earned a big intraparty win on Wednesday night as Dan Cox, a first-term state delegate, won the Maryland GOP gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, defeating Kelly Schulz, who was supported by outgoing Gov. Larry Hogan (R).

With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Cox pulled 56 percent backing to just 40 percent for Schulz, who was Mr. Hogan’s secretary of commerce (The Hill). Cox is perhaps best known for having attended the infamous Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse and labeled former Vice President Mike Pence a traitor on Twitter at the time.

Now, he is the GOP standard-bearer in the deep blue state and enters the general election as the underdog against the to-be-determined Democratic nominee.

As of this morning, political neophyte Wes Moore leads the Democratic race for governor over Tom Perez, the former Labor secretary and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, taking 36.7 percent to 27.4 percent for Perez. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot sits in third with 19.1 percent. Sixty-one percent of precincts have reported.

However, a potential winner will not be known for days or potentially weeks as mail-in ballots cannot start being tabulated until Thursday morning. More than 200,000 mail-in ballots remain outstanding on the Democratic side (The Washington Post).

The Hill: Early takeaways from the Maryland primaries.

The Washington Post: Who is Dan Cox?

The Hill: Maryland state Del. Neil Parrott was projected to win the GOP primary for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District on Tuesday, setting up a rematch with incumbent Rep. David Trone (D-Md.).

The Baltimore Sun: Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) wins Democratic nod for Maryland attorney general, defeating former Judge Katie Curran O’Malley.

On the 2024 scene, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted on Tuesday that Trump will face GOP competition if he seeks the presidency in 2024.

“I think we’re going to have a crowded field for president. I assume most of that will unfold later and people will be picking their candidates in a crowded primary field,” he told reporters (The Hill).

Until then, the former president is attempting to keep hold of his grip on the GOP through a number of key endorsements. The Hill’s Julia Manchester lays out the seven foremost examples in the coming weeks that will serve as a test of Trump’s standing in the party, headlined by a number of those taking place in Arizona and Alaska.

Axios: McConnell pledges he’s “all in” on Colorado Senate race.

The New York Times: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Tuesday posted a Twitter video saying he is abandoning his bid for a House seat after a poor showing and is leaving electoral politics.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION

The Justice and Treasury departments point to U.S. banking, investment and tax laws as impediments to U.S. efforts to seize assets of Russian oligarchs as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Justice Department told senators on Tuesday that the government wants to amend the definition of racketeering under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to add violations of sanctions and export controls because existing laws allow owners of assets such as trust funds to remain anonymous and can obscure the wealth and holdings of Russian elites. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the U.S. is vulnerable to being the money laundering capital of the world because of its finance and tax laws (The Hill).

U.S. and Africa: Biden on Wednesday announced the United States on Dec. 13-15 will host the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington with representatives from the African continent.

White House turnstile: Anita Dunn, Democratic communications adviser to the president, is interviewing candidates who could help overhaul the West Wing messaging and press operations, including hiring a new communications director, reports NBC News. The White House is preparing for evolving political imperatives next year if Republicans do well in the midterms, as analysts expect, and ahead of the 2024 presidential contest.

📝 Introducing NotedDC, The Hill’s curated commentary on the beat of the Beltway. Click here to subscribe to our latest newsletter.

OPINION

■ In a nasty era, insisting on basic politeness is a revolutionary idea, by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3RL97Ue

■ What abortion sanctuaries can learn from the immigrants’ rights movement, by Julie Dahlstrom and Katie Watson, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3OmgQW1

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at 10 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Gregory Williams to be district judge for the District of Delaware.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will travel to Somerset, Mass., to speak at 2:45 p.m. about the climate crisis and clean energy. Somerset is a community along the coast of Massachusetts with a growing sector for wind energy. Biden will return to the White House this evening.

The vice president has no public events scheduled.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo co-host a virtual supply chain ministerial forum at 9 a.m. at the State Department.

First lady Jill Biden will be in New Haven, Conn., to visit a Horizons National summer learning program at Albertus Magnus College that uses American Rescue Plan funding. She will be joined by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona (NBC NECN).

Economic indicator: The National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. will report on existing home sales in June. Analysts want to gauge how much the housing market is cooling amid rising mortgage rates and higher 2022 home prices.

🖥  Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.

ELSEWHERE  

INTERNATIONAL

Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first trip outside of the former Soviet Union’s borders to Iran on Tuesday, where he was met by a notable delay prior to a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Upon entering their sit down, Putin was left alone for 50 seconds in front of the cameras and was seen fidgeting and looking uneasy. Reuters and other media outlets noted the maneuver was similar to what Putin has done to world leaders in the past, including in 2020 in Moscow when Erdoğan was left waiting for about two minutes by the former KGB officer.

Putin also met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, as part of his travels to Tehran.

The Wall Street Journal: Putin says Russia will honor gas commitments, but warns of new Nord Stream curbs.

Russia plans to annex additional Ukrainian territory, according to “ample evidence” gathered by the U.S., White House spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday. Russia’s annexation timeline is unclear, he added (The Hill).

The White House on Tuesday welcomed Ukrainian first lady ​​Olena Zelenska, the spouse of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelenska and Jill Biden met to discuss how the U.S. could provide help with mental health issues faced by women and children living through Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The discussion came on the eve of Zelenska’s scheduled speech to Congress later today where she is expected to update lawmakers on the security, economic and humanitarian conditions in the war-torn nation (The Washington Post).

Niall Stanage, The Hill’s The Memo: Cracks grow in U.S. response to Ukraine.

David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post: There are too many wild cards to forecast the Ukraine war.

PANDEMIC & POX  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday endorses Novovax’s COVID-19 vaccine for adults, calling the new vaccine an “important tool” in the ongoing pandemic that “provides a more familiar type of COVID-19 vaccine technology,” compared with messenger RNA vaccines, such as those made by Pfizer and Moderna (The Hill and The New York Times).

The Wall Street Journal: How long will a prior COVID-19 infection protect you as BA.5 spreads? The window between infections might be shrinking.

🦠 Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and is experiencing mild symptoms. Pritzker recently attended a Florida Democratic Party convention in Tampa. Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), who’s running for the Senate, also tested positive for the virus following the conference (CBS News). … The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it is ending its monitoring program for COVID-19 cases on cruise ships. In a brief statement published on its COVID-19 guidance for cruise ship travel, the agency said its “COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect” (The Hill).

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,024,900. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 352, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

TECH 

A judge on Tuesday fast-tracked Twitter’s lawsuit attempting to force Elon Musk to complete his $44 billion purchase of the company, setting up the five-day trial for October. Lawyers for the social media giant argued in Delaware Chancery Court that Twitter is being harmed daily without a resolution to the dispute with the Tesla founder. Musk’s legal team argued the expedited timeline would not give him enough time to evaluate data they’ve received about the prevalence of fake accounts on the platform (The Hill).

ECONOMY

The U.S. is being buoyed by one key marker against continued rising inflation abroad: a stronger dollar. While Americans are experiencing less bang for their buck domestically, the increased strength of the dollar means that foreign goods have become more affordable and travel internationally is currently cheaper. As The Hill’s Sylvan Lane details, the short-term benefits for many consumers also come with longer-term threats of lower corporate profits, fewer U.S. exports and a global economic slowdown that could bounce back to the U.S. … Amid increased fears of a recession, thousands of small-business owners are descending on Washington this week seeking congressional support for the futures of mom-and-pop stores across the country (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

And finally … Comic-Con International in San Diego kicks off with a preview today. Gizmodo published a deep-dive slideshow about the famous comic book convention (which formally starts on Thursday and runs through Sunday) and reports the celebrities scheduled to make appearances (Dwayne Johnson, Keanu Reeves, William Shatner), upcoming film and streaming series teasers, industry reveals, and panels of insiders scheduled to dissect entertainment details that fans savor during the lively extravaganzas.

Conventiongoers, who come from all over the world, must show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test and wear masks. It’s one gathering where mask wearing fits the moment (Gizmodo).

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