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The state of the U.S. economy came under closer examination on Sunday as Biden administration officials attempted to quell talk of a looming recession as they look into potential remedies for skyrocketing costs for Americans.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday maintained that an economic downturn is not “inevitable,” but conceded that the administration is looking into instituting a temporary gas tax holiday to provide relief, albeit on a temporary basis (The Hill).
“Gas prices have risen a great deal and it’s clearly burdening households,” Yellen told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “That’s an idea that’s certainly worth considering.”
The potential move is one that the White House has examined more and more in recent weeks. As The Hill reported last week, President Biden’s economic team has met to broach the subject, which has gained steam in recent weeks as more states have taken similar steps. Maryland, Georgia and Connecticut (to name a few) are among those that have done so in recent months after already high prices increased precipitously mid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and as the summer travel season begins (The Wall Street Journal).
According to AAA, the average cost of a gallon of unleaded fuel is $4.98 — a significant uptick from $3.07 one year ago.
However, support behind the idea is by no means universal. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers — who reiterated his prediction of a recession in the coming months — panned the idea as “kind of a gimmick,” adding that “eventually you have to reverse it.”
Instead, the Clinton-era Treasury chief argued for a series of economic reforms he says would be beneficial at this stage, including the lowering of drug prices by giving Medicare the ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies and the cutting of U.S. tariffs on China that were imposed by the Trump administration.
Biden told reporters on Saturday that he expects to talk soon with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the future of the tariffs squarely on the agenda. He added that he is “in the process of making up my mind” regarding what to do about the tariffs (The Associated Press).
© Associated Press / Evan Vucci | President Biden in the Oval Office on Thursday.
▪ Morgan Chalfant, The Hill: How much does Biden’s $1.9 trillion law have to do with inflation?
▪ The Associated Press: How much for gas? Around the world, pain is felt at the pump.
Amid all the doom and gloom, the White House attempted to paint a rosier picture of the ongoing economic woes (The Hill). Yellen referenced last week’s action by the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point — the largest increase since 1994 — and said that she expects the economy to “slow” as a result. However, she and other officials also noted that consumer spending remains high.
“Not only is a recession not inevitable, but I think that a lot of people are underestimating those strengths and the resilience of the American economy,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told “Face the Nation” (The Hill).
▪ The Associated Press: Inflation taking bite out of new infrastructure projects.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Biden’s long deliberations over some key policy decisions frustrate Democrats.
▪ Sylvan Lane and Alex Gangitano, The Hill: The big flaw in Biden’s plan to fight inflation.
▪ The Hill: Deese says new legislation is White House’s “single most impactful” avenue on inflation.
LEADING THE DAY
The House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will reconvene for hearings this week as it weighs issuing a subpoena for testimony from former Vice President Mike Pence and awaits a possible sit-down with Ginni Thomas.
Multiple members of the committee have said in recent days that they remain hopeful they will hear directly from Pence in the course of their probe.
“We’re not taking anything off the table in terms of witnesses who have not yet testified,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that a subpoena to hear from Pence is “certainly a possibility.” “We would still, I think, like to have several high-profile people come before our committee” (The Hill).
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the panel, recently said that discussions were ongoing with the former VP’s lawyers. However, he also cautioned that Pence may not be pushed to appear given the testimony received from some of his top aides (The Associated Press).
The nine-member committee is also awaiting possible talks with Thomas, a longtime conservative activist and the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas. Ginni Thomas is known to have emailed then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and John Eastman, a lawyer advising former President Trump at the time, about overturning the 2020 election. The justice’s wife also emailed state lawmakers in Arizona about the possibility, an issue that will likely come up at Tuesday’s hearing that will feature state Rep. Rusty Bowers (R) the Arizona House Speaker.
“We have questions for her and we may have questions for him as well,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told “Face the Nation” about Ginni Thomas and Bowers.
Tuesday’s hearing will focus on state officials who were contacted by the ex-president and his allies as part of the bid to reverse the electoral results (The Hill).
▪ Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill: As Jan. 6 chair, Thompson builds on a lifetime of defending the vote.
▪ The New York Times: Despite growing evidence, a prosecution of Trump would face challenges.
▪ The Hill: Jan. 6 committee is telling a story, but plenty of gaps remain.
▪ Paul Kane, The Washington Post: Rep. Pete Aguilar’s (D-Calif.) rising star status meets the moment at Jan. 6 hearing.
▪ NBC News: For Jan. 6 rioters who believed Trump, storming the Capitol made sense.
© Associated Press / Jeff Dean | Former Vice President Mike Pence in Cincinnati on Thursday.
While the Senate faces a crucial week ahead to secure a final deal on a gun violence bill, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) experienced a dose of blowback in his home state over the weekend.
Cornyn was met with loud boos on Friday during an appearance at the Texas GOP Convention in Houston when he attempted to explain the pending legislation. The proposal would incentivize states to set up red flag laws, boost funding for school safety and mental health services, and beef up background checks to include juvenile records for those younger than 21 (The Texas Tribune).
The Senate is out of town today to commemorate Juneteenth and will return to work on Tuesday. Negotiators have only days to strike a deal on legislative text before Congress breaks for two weeks for the July 4 recess.
▪ The Texas Tribune: Caught between an A+ NRA rating and a nation reeling from shootings, Cornyn is key to whether gun safety deal advances.
The Wall Street Journal: Gun industry group National Shooting Sports Foundation tries to shape Senate talks.
▪ USA Today: “Upset no matter what happens”: Senate gun deal leaves voters on both sides unsatisfied, frustrated.
▪ Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Lawmakers say new Iran nuclear deal unlikely.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ POLITICS & CORONAVIRUS
The 2024 political jockeying is very much underway, but it is not exclusive to potential candidates. A trio of Midwestern states are battling to win promotion to the early part of the primary calendar.
As The Hill’s Hanna Trudo and Julia Manchester write, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois — two critical battleground states that backed Biden in 2020 over Trump and a deep blue heavyweight — are attempting to make a big leap from their slots on Super Tuesday to become among the crucial first four nominating contests.
In sum, the hope for Democrats in the two states is to increase diversity into the initial quartet of early states and to wield more influence.
“I think there needs to be a Midwest state. We’re the heart of the country,” Rep. Debbie Dingell(D-Mich.) told The Hill.
The Democratic National Committee has announced 17 finalists to be among the first four or five, including those three Midwest states and the four that currently comprise the early primary calendar. State party officials began drafting proposals earlier this year and are set to make their cases to the body’s regulatory committee later this month.
▪ Niall Stanage: Seven presidential contenders for the GOP in 2024.
▪ The Atlantic: Does the Jason Kander story have a third act?.
On the GOP side, there’s a brewing battle ahead of the 2024 nominating process between two figures who may never face each other head-to-head: Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
DeSantis escalated his public brouhaha with the White House last week when he told reporters that the state is not devoting any resources to vaccinating infants and young children. Florida is the only state that did not place a preorder from the initial batch of 10 million vaccines the White House made available to states. States that placed orders will be able to start administering shots almost immediately after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives the jab the green light.
“Doctors can get it. Hospitals can get it. But there’s not going to be any state programs that are going to be trying to get COVID jabs to infants and toddlers and newborns,” DeSantis said.
Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, told reporters on Friday that the Sunshine State “intentionally missed multiple deadlines” regarding the acquisition of doses and accused the governor of denying parents the ability to get their children vaccinated (The Hill).
▪ The Hill: Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb predicts slow start for kids’ vaccines.
▪ Politico: DeSantis draws huge cash haul from Trump donors.
▪ The Hill: The seven Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,013,414. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 266, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
■ The Federal Reserve hasn’t fixed its worst blunder since the 1970s, by Niall Ferguson, columnist, Bloomberg News. https://bloom.bg/3OrQcLK
■ Here’s what voters will get if they cast their ballots based on gas prices, by Catherine Rampell, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3n04WFV
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets on Tuesday at noon.
The Senate convenes on Tuesday at 3 p.m.
The president and first lady Jill Biden will return to the White House from Rehoboth Beach, Del., at 9:10 p.m.
Vice President Harris has no public events scheduled.
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview published on Sunday that it is possible the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia could “last for years,” adding that “nobody knows” how long the battling will continue. Compounding the issues, the four-month-old war is taking its toll on soldiers for both sides, according to the British defense ministry. “Combat units from both sides are committed to intense combat in the Donbas and are likely experiencing variable morale,” the ministry said in its daily assessment of fighting (The Associated Press). … While the fighting in the field grabs the headlines, the cyber combat is serving as a prime example of what’s to come in the world of cyberspace in future conflicts (The Hill).
© Associated Press / Natacha Pisarenko | Ukrainian soldiers attend a funeral for a fellow soldier in Kyiv on Saturday.
French President Emmanuel Macron is on the verge of losing control of his national agenda as his centrist Ensemble alliance is set to lose its absolute majority in the National Assembly as projections indicated that Sunday’s elections will result in a hung parliament. Any party needs 289 seats in the lower chamber to hold an absolute majority. Polls show Macron’s party will likely control between 200 and 260 seats; the left-wing Nupes bloc is expected to take home between 149 and 200 (Reuters).
© Associated Press / Charlie Riedel | Matthew Fitzpatrick celebrates with his caddie after winning the U.S. Open in at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., on Sunday.
And finally … A new major champion winner has been crowned.
Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a 68 on the final round of the U.S. Open and 6-under-par to take home his first major title at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., on Sunday. The Briton topped two Americans by a single stroke: Will Zalatoris, who missed a putt on the 72nd and final hole to send the pair into a playoff,and Scottie Scheffler, who won The Masters Tournament in April.
Fitzpatrick’s victory was also a homecoming of sorts as he won the U.S. Amateur championship at the same course in 2013, making him only the second golfer ever (alongside Jack Nicklaus) to do that.