President Joe Biden pitched his economic agenda to union workers in Ohio today, while there were further developments in the January 6 committee’s investigation as well as jostling within states ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Here are the highlights:
The president finished up his speech in Cleveland by drawing a contrast between his administration and the Republicans who are waiting in the wings, hoping to take over the House of Representatives and Senate following the November midterm elections.
Remarking on Republicans’ previous efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act and accusing them of wanting to privatize social security, Biden told unionized workers, “Folks, this is a different world where they live.”
Biden said he was “fighting like hell” to try to lower costs for Americans, and accused Republicans of obstructing his efforts, including his proposal to lower taxes on gasoline – though several Democrats are also lukewarm towards that idea.
“I’m asking Congress to eliminate the federal gas tax for… however long this crisis goes on, lower food prices lower health care costs, hopefully soon, lower your prescription drug costs,” he said, eluding to a recent proposal from Democratic senators.
Biden is telling union workers about his efforts to get the Butch Lewis Act passed, which allowed the Treasury to assist unions’ pension plans that were financially struggling, and was included in the America Rescue Plan Biden enacted in March 2021.
He’s also attacking former president Trump, saying the economy was in shambles when he left office.
“Y’all remember what the economy was like when I was elected? A country in a pandemic, with no real plans how to get out of it. Millions of people out of their jobs. Families and cars, remember, backed up for literally miles, to wait for a box of food to be put in their trunk,” Biden said.
“The previous administration lost more jobs in his watch than any administration since Herbert Hoover. That’s a fact. All based on failed trickle-down economics that benefit the wealthiest Americans,” Biden said. “We came in with a fundamentally different economic vision, an economy that grows from the bottom up in the middle out. It’s good for everyone because when the middle class does well the poor have a ladder up in the wealthy still do very well.”
Biden has started his speech to union workers in Cleveland, and while the address is mostly about the economy, he began with brief remarks about the police shooting of Jayland Walker in nearby Akron.
“The justice department’s civil rights division, the FBI and the local US attorney’s office are closely viewing what happened,” the president said. “If the evidence reveals potential violations of federal criminal statutes, the justice department will take the appropriate action.”
Walker, who is Black, sustained more than 60 wounds after multiple officers opened fire at him following a car chase.
Biden has arrived in Cleveland and is expected to shortly begin giving remarks on the economy, focused on the American Rescue Plan spending bill he won passage of near the beginning of his term last year.
Also speaking at the event are Ohio’s Democratic senator Sherrod Brown, and two of the state’s Democratic House representatives, Marcy Kaptur and Shontel Brown. However, two notable Democrats won’t be in attendance: Tim Ryan, the party’s nomination for US Senate, and Nan Whaley, its nominee in the governor’s race.
With Joe Biden so unpopular, and Donald Trump ensnarled in investigations centering on the January 6 insurrection and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, the question must be asked: is it possible that neither man will be on the ballot in 2024?
There would be many contenders to fill the vacuum created if neither man stands in the next presidential election, and Politico has a look at one possible matchup: California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom against Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis:
The governors for California and Florida have hurled insults about each other’s leadership and policies during most of the Covid-19 pandemic. But now Newsom has ratcheted up the conflict by taking almost daily pot-shots at his Republican foils such as DeSantis and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Most recently, Newsom dropped more than $100,000 on a new ad airing on Fox News that tweaked DeSantis in his home state. On Tuesday, he started fundraising off the ad and conflict with DeSantis.
Fox-watching Floridians won’t likely switch their voter registration or move to California after seeing a TV spot in which Newsom warned them “freedom is under attack in your state.” But the ad is producing a frenzy of national coverage that boosts Newsom’s profile while allowing DeSantis to sharpen his attacks on Democrats ahead of a possible 2024 White House bid.
The fight highlights how two young governors have captured the attention of their respective parties: On one side is Newsom, a progressive and telegenic leader who survived an attempted recall. On the other is DeSantis, who is often heralded as a more disciplined Donald Trump but who also has a penchant for populism and a refusal to back down from a fight.
“Most politicians operate best when they have somebodyor something to contrast against, and there’s no bigger contrast to Gavin Newsom and California right now than Florida and Ron DeSantis,” said Jim Ross, a Democratic consultant who ran Newsom’s first mayoral campaign.
Newsom has in fact just put out a statement to supporters explaining why he purchased ads in Florida:
Arizona was one of the states where Trump attempted unsuccessfully to convince officials to work with him to overturn the results of the 2020 elections. As Sam Levine reports, its elections are under scrutiny again, this time by Biden’s justice department:
The Department of Justice is challenging a new Arizona law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship for presidential elections, among other new restrictions, saying the measure was a “textbook violation” of a federal law meant to protect voters.
The challenged Arizona measure, HB 2492, was signed into law by the Republican governor, Doug Ducey, in March, requires anyone who wants to vote in a presidential election, or vote by mail in any election, to provide proof of citizenship.
The law was among several pushed by the Arizona legislature following the 2020 election in a state where Donald Trump and his allies have spread baseless claims of fraud. Voting by mail is widely used in Arizona, a key battleground state, and Republicans in the state have made numerous attempts to make it harder to cast a ballot that way.
The Guardian’s Hugo Lowell has more details about what to expect from Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone’s testimony to the January 6 committee:
The former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone is expected to testify to the House January 6 select committee on Friday after reaching an agreement over the scope of his cooperation with a subpoena compelling his testimony, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The testimony from Cipollone is expected to be a transcribed interview and recorded on camera, the source said, and the former top White House lawyer is expected to only answer questions on a narrow subset of topics and conversations with the former president.
Among the topics Cipollone could discuss include how he told Donald Trump that pressuring Mike Pence, the vice-president, to refuse to certify Joe Biden’s election win was unlawful, and Trump’s plot to coerce the justice department into falsely saying the 2020 election was corrupt.
The dispute over USICA and the Democrats’ potential reconciliation bill has now spilled on to Twitter.
It began when John Cornyn, a Republican senator from Texas, criticized Democrats’ move to pass a spending package unilaterally via the reconciliation procedure, accusing them of giving up on the USICA technological competitiveness bill:
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not take kindly to his accusation:
Prompting this retort from Cornyn:
Whether on Twitter or in Congress, expect the broader dispute to play out in the months to come.
Meanwhile, the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell has given Democrats an ultimatum: if they proceed with their reconciliation package, his lawmakers won’t support a bill to enhance US industries’ technological competitiveness.
The United States Innovation and Competition Act, known as USICA, has been bargained over in Congress for months. According to Punchbowl, the prospects for the Senate’s democratic majority pulling off both the reconciliation package and USICA are not good:
There are 1,015 outstanding items in the USICA package and GOP sources tell us that party leaders have only come to agreement or agreed to drop 127 of them. That means nearly nine-tenthsof the bill is open and unresolved.
Democrats take issue with this characterization. They say the two sides have actually closed out many more issues, but Republicans have withheld final confirmation on several hundred items until bigger-picture topics have been resolved.
In negotiations like this, it’s often difficult to totally discern where talks stand because both sides have incentive to show that the other is slow walking the talks or otherwise acting in a capricious manner.
But let’s put it this way:Any way you slice it, the two sides can’t even agree on which phase of the negotiation they’re in.
Politico has details of Senate Democrats’ efforts to find agreement on a major piece of legislation that they can pass, likely without Republican support.
The negotiations come after the collapse of Biden’s Build Back Better proposal last year, which was meant to spend potentially trillions of dollars on fighting climate change, expanding social services and other Democratic priorities, but collapsed amid infighting in the party, particularly with senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
Democrats have been quietly trying to come up with a new proposal that could make it through the chamber using its reconciliation procedure, and Politico reports that they’ve reached an agreement on a measure to lower prescription drug costs:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will submit text today to the Senate parliamentarian on a 50-Democrat agreement (yes, that includes Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)) to allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug costs for Medicare, according to two sources familiar. That will kick off the so-called “Byrd Bath” where the parliamentarian reviews the proposed text to make sure it abides by the Senate’s reconciliation rules. The bath is supposed to purge extraneous provisions that don’t align with the reconciliation instructions.
But drug price negotiation is just one piece of the puzzle. The rest of the party-line package is still in flux and isn’t ready for its Byrd Bath. Schumer and Manchin have been meeting regularly about what might make it into the bill, talking about tax reform and climate provisions.
Biden holds call with the wife of Brittney Griner
Joe Biden, joined by Kamala Harris, spoke today with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, the US basket ball star detained in Russia. Griner was detained by Russian Federal Customs Service in February after they said they found vape cartridges that contained hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.
In a readout of the call, the White House said: “The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible.”
It added: “The President directed his national security team to remain in regular contact with Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and with other families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad, to keep them updated on efforts to secure the release of their loved ones as quickly as possible.”
Brittney Griner recently wrote a letter to Biden appealing for his assistance in getting her released from prison.
The day so far
Congress may be in recess but there’s been plenty of political news this morning, from the ongoing work of the January 6 committee to jostling within states ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Here’s what has happened so far:
Speaking together in Britain, the heads of the FBI and MI5 have issued a joint warning about China’s behavior, saying Beijing is stealing western technology and studying from the war in Ukraine, particularly when it comes to evading sanctions.
Illinois parade shooter confesses, says planned second attack
The shooter at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb has admitted to the attack and told police he contemplated opening fire at a second Fourth of July gathering, the Associated Press reports:
The man charged with killing seven people at an Independence Day parade confessed to police that he unleashed a hail of bullets from a rooftop in suburban Chicago and then fled to the Madison, Wisconsin, area, where he contemplated shooting up an event there, authorities said Wednesday.
Robert Crimo III turned back to Illinois, where he was later arrested after deciding he was not prepared to pull off a shooting in Wisconsin, Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said.
An Illinois judge ordered Crimo to be held without bail. Police found the shells of 83 bullets and three ammunition magazines on the rooftop that he fired from, Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Dillon said in court.
The Georgia Senate race is another closely watched election this year, where the Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock will face off against Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
Walker has had multiple complaints leveled against him of breaking rules governing electioneering, but Politico is reporting that Warnock also may have violated campaign finance laws:
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) used campaign money to cover legal expenses for a lawsuit relating to his time as a church minister — transactions that raise questions about whether the spending runs afoul of federal rules governing personal use of campaign funds.
The case, first filed in 2019 by Atlanta resident Melvin Robertson, involved baffling and seemingly baseless allegations against Warnock that date back to 2005 when he was a pastor. It was dismissed by a federal district court judge in Georgia without any of the defendants being served.
But Robertson refiled a similar lawsuit in April 2021, outlining the same allegations against Warnock while also suing Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he has long served as senior pastor, and other public figures.
This time, Warnock was serving in the Senate. And he enlisted his campaign attorneys from Elias Law Group to represent him in the case, along with an Atlanta firm, Krevolin & Horst, which assisted ELG.
The issue for Warnock is whether this was a proper use of campaign funds.
Federal Election Commission guidance states that campaign money can be used on “litigation expenses where the candidate/officeholder was the defendant and the litigation arose directly from campaign activity or the candidate’s status as a candidate.”
Warnock was one of two Democrats elected to represent Georgia in the Senate last year, giving the party control of the chamber by a one-vote margin. Walker, meanwhile, is a rare Black Republican politician, and looking to reclaim a seat held by the GOP for the past 15 years.