The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden heads back to US to homegrown angst

·13 min read

President Biden returns today from an uneasy Europe to confront domestic U.S. confusion about states’ abortion restrictions, unrest over inflation and uncertainty within the president’s party about its political future.

At every turn, the administration finds federal options for action constrained or contested.

During gatherings this week in Germany among the Group of Seven most developed nations and among NATO allies, the U.S. wrestled with Russia’s war with Ukraine and threats posed to European nations. Months of ratcheting up global economic sanctions have squeezed Russia’s economy but cost the U.S. and Europe, too.

The United States will establish its first permanent presence in Poland to try to bolster regional security against Russia, Biden said on Wednesday from Madrid. The president also said the U.S. will send two additional F-35 fighter jet squadrons to the United Kingdom and more air defenses and other capabilities to Germany and Italy (The Associated Press). Russia and China slammed NATO in response to the summit (The Associated Press).

The U.S. intelligence community believes President Vladimir Putin still wants to seize most of Ukraine but will be hampered, at least in the near term, by Russia’s combat-sapped forces (Reuters).

On the sidelines of the NATO meeting on Wednesday, Biden also turned his attention during a meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts to security risks posed by North Korea. Pyongyang has staged 17 missile tests in 2022.

“Our trilateral cooperation, in my view, is essential to achieving our shared objective, including a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the president said after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol (NHK).

Waiting for Biden at home are abortion rights advocates and state and local officials who view as a crisis last week’s decision by the Supreme Court to let 50 states decide abortion restrictions — a shift in fundamental rights that demands to be met with bold administration action, if not rhetorical clarity from the Oval Office. Some want to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court or a push for term limits for justices or even impose a code of ethics (The Hill).

The administration is wary of embracing steps that could create more adverse conditions for people seeking abortions and reproductive health services amid the tangle of new state restrictions and court challenges (see New York Times tracker map HERE).

Officials want to consult widely and vet proposed responses as well as state legislatures’ vows to head off exceptions and adaptations embraced by abortion rights advocates. The White House and the Health and Human Services Department anticipated the court’s ruling to overturn Roe but have reacted with caution (The Hill). Reuters reports the White House is unlikely to take up bold recommendations voiced by some Democrats since Friday, including a suggestion to allow abortion services on federal property.

Among legal and administrative deliberations: how abortion pills, once shipped by mail, can be obtained by women in states where abortion is now banned or restricted. 

© Associated Press / Allen G. Breed | Boxes of the drug mifepristone in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in March.

The high court’s ruling to rescind the constitutional right to abortion triggered a surplus of significant, unresolved legal questions.

A top anti-abortion lobbying group, the National Right to Life Committee, recently proposed model legislation for states that would make it a crime to pass along information “by telephone, the internet or any other medium of communication” if it is used to terminate a pregnancy. The New York Times explained how First Amendment free speech rights could run headlong into states’ efforts to regulate speech.

You have the right, ostensibly, to talk about abortion,said Will Creeley, legal director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “The question then becomes whether that talk can be regulated if it aids and abets or encourages others to have an abortion.”

Related Articles

The Associated Press: Clinics scramble to divert patients as states ban abortions.

The Washington Post: State lawmakers who oppose abortion rights want to block patients seeking abortions from crossing state lines. The Justice Department has warned states that such laws would violate the right to interstate commerce and would be challenged.

Politico: State lawmakers are shaping the future of abortion. Watch these names.

The New York Times: In states banning abortion, a growing rift over enforcement.

USA Today: Telemedicine abortions could face legal challenges post-Roe.

CNBC: Women in states that ban abortion will still be able to obtain abortion pills ordered online from overseas, although the legal situation is murky and carries potential risks.

LEADING THE DAY

SUPREME COURT & POLITICS

In Washington, the Supreme Court’s term ends today, capping the career of Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, who will officially retire at noon today as the court’s tumultuous term ends.

Breyer, appointed by former President Clinton, has served on the high court for nearly 28 years and will be succeeded in October by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed by the Senate in April and will be sworn in today. “It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the rule of law,” Breyer wrote (The Hill).

The court on Wednesday issued two more opinions, ruling that Oklahoma authorities can prosecute certain crimes on Native American lands, narrowing a victory tribes in the state had won only two years ago. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the decision for a 5-4 majority, ruling that both state and federal law enforcement have jurisdiction to prosecute certain crimes committed in tribal territory (The Hill).

Justices also ruled that a U.S. Army reservist who was injured during the Iraq War can file a job discrimination lawsuit against Texas. In a 5-4 opinion, the court blocked Texas’s attempt at claiming immunity from suits brought under a federal statute giving veterans returning from war the right to reclaim their jobs with state employers (The Hill).

Court watchers are also awaiting the justice’s final opinions of the term — rulings that will determine the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to issue major rules, and whether Biden must enforce the “Remain in Mexico” policy (Fox News). The Trump-era directive required some asylum seekers who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border to be sent back to Mexico to wait out their immigration proceedings. The two opinions are set to be handed down this morning.

E&E News: “Stomach-churning mornings”: Lawyers await Supreme Court climate case.

© Associated Press / Evan Vucci | Justice Stephen Breyer in February.

On the political side, former President Trump will rally supporters in Alaska this weekend in a show of support for Sarah Palin in her push to replace the late Rep. Don Young (R) and to further his effort against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

Trump will stump for Palin, Kelly Tshibaka (Murkowski’s opponent) and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) during the Saturday afternoon rally in Anchorage. Murkowski is one of seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 attack last year, and is the only one of those seven up for reelection this fall (The Hill).

As for Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee is one of four candidates vying to replace Young in a ranked-choice election on Aug. 16.

Max Greenwood, The Hill: Five takeaways from the finalized House maps.

The chatter surrounding the House select committee continued on Wednesday as the Secret Service pledged to respond “formally and on the record” to under-oath testimony to the panel by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson a day earlier.

Hutchinson, a former top aide to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, described what she says she was told by then-deputy White House chief of staff Tony Ornato about Trump’s remarks and behavior on Jan. 6 as he was driven back to the White House instead of to the Capitol.

“The Secret Service has been cooperating fully with the select committee since its inception in spring of 2021 and we will continue to do so by responding formally and on the record to the committee regarding new allegations that surfaced in today’s testimony,” the agency said in a statement (The Hill).

The Hill: The House Jan. 6 panel on Wednesday subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

The New York Times: Hutchinson’s testimony highlights legal risks for Trump.

The Wall Street Journal: How Hutchinson went from Trump loyalist to testifying against him.

Amie Parnes, The Hill: Enter Hillary Clinton? Trump, Roe v. Wade prompts muted talk of a White House run.

▪ ​​The Associated Press: About half say Trump should be charged for Jan. 6: poll.

The New York Times: Testimony paints Meadows as unwilling to act as Jan. 6 unfolded.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

MIDDLE EAST

*** THIS JUST IN ***  In Israel today, the country’s experiment with a coalition government ended when the parliament voted to dissolve, setting an early election — the fifth in four years — on Nov. 1. Yair Lapid, a former TV host and Israel’s foreign minister, will become the country’s caretaker prime minister just after midnight on Friday (The Associated Press and Axios).

Biden is scheduled to visit Israel next month and Congress has weighed in with a list of security concerns ahead of his trip (Haaretz). The president is scheduled to meet with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Times of Israel). Biden’s Middle East itinerary July 13-16 will include meetings in Saudi Arabia and a visit to the Palestinian territories.

CONGRESS

A smaller version of Biden’s proposed tax hikes from the moribund Build Back Better plan could be revived if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) agrees — or at least, that’s one idea being weighed by Democrats in search of possible legislative strides that could mobilize base voters this fall, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.

A group of governors wrote to Congress on Thursday urging the extension of expiring enhanced subsidies for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act before the end of the year. Notices announcing steep premium increases could arrive in October, weeks before the midterm elections (Punchbowl News). Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently raised the issue with Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

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OPINION

■ Democrats must stop promoting Republican extremists, by The Washington Post’s editorial board. https://wapo.st/39ZMASR

■ The dumbest coup attempt, by Graeme Wood, staff writer, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3yDYviN

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet on Friday at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session and will resume votes on July 12.

The Senate convenes on Friday at 8:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators will return to Washington on July 11 following the July 4 recess.

The president has begun his day in Madrid where he will speak to a third session of a NATO summit, followed by a press conference before returning to Washington.

Vice President Harris will speak at 3:35 p.m. PDT to a Democratic National Committee finance reception in Los Gatos, Calif. She will repeat the outreach at 6:15 p.m. PDT for a DNC reception in San Francisco. The vice president will fly this evening to Los Angeles at 7:20 p.m., and remain overnight.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff is in Manila to lead the U.S. delegation at today’s inauguration of Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. as president. Emhoff and the delegation will meet with President Marcos and first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos at 2 a.m. EST. Emhoff will depart the Philippines and make brief stops in Tokyo and Honolulu before arriving in Los Angeles.

Economic indicators: The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. consumer spending in May. The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on claims for unemployment benefits filed in the week ending on June 25.

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ELSEWHERE  

  ECONOMY


Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday said the central bank believes it has the tools to tame record high inflation to 2 percent, but there are “no guarantees” about sparing jobs, and the monetary effort involves “more challenging” terrain (Bloomberg News and The Associated Press). Speaking at a European Central Bank forum in Portugal, he said the global economy has entered “a new world” (The Hill).

  PANDEMIC & POX

The U.S. government struck a $3.2 billion deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for the companies to supply the country with 105 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which could include those targeted at the omicron variant, subject to clearance by the Food and Drug Administration. The doses are expected to be delivered by late summer and continue into the final three months of this year (Bloomberg News). The agreement comes as the two companies revealed they will start tests during the second half of this year on a second generation of jabs that would provide protection against a number of coronaviruses (Reuters).

The Hill: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, 81, said he experienced a “rebound” of COVID-19 symptoms following Paxlovid antiviral treatment prescribed for his breakthrough infection.

The New York Times: Fauci said during an interview that he believes the drug made by Pfizer kept him out of the hospital after he first tested positive for the coronavirus on June 15. “I think there is understandable confusion when people hear about people rebounding,” he said. “Don’t confuse that with the original purpose of what Paxlovid is meant for. It’s not meant to prevent you from rebounding. It’s meant to prevent you from being hospitalized. I’m 81 years old, I was at risk for hospitalization and I didn’t even come close to being sick enough to be hospitalized.”

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,017,467. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 321, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  ENVIRONMENT

A cadre of environmental groups on Wednesday filed suit against the Biden administration for giving the green light to oil and gas lease sales in Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Utah. The sales in the four Western states mark the first since Biden officials issued a temporary freeze of such moves on federal lands from the outset of the administration. The plaintiffs argued the sales violate the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which they say prevents “unnecessary or undue degradation” of public lands (The Hill).

© Associated Press / Sue Ogrocki | An oil rig in El Reno, Okla., 2022.

 CLERGY SEX ABUSE

The FBI opened a sweeping probe in New Orleans of allegations of sex abuse spanning decades in the Roman Catholic Church there. The federal investigation is looking at whether priests took children across state lines to molest them, according to The Associated Press, a crime that could be prosecuted as sex trafficking under the Mann Act, which has no statute of limitations. Some of the New Orleans cases under review allege abuse by clergy during trips to Mississippi camps or amusement parks in Texas and Florida. The FBI declined to comment, as did the Louisiana State Police, which is assisting in the inquiry. The Archdiocese of New Orleans declined to discuss the federal investigation. “I’d prefer not to pursue this conversation,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond told the AP.

  RIP

Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last remaining recipient of the Medal of Honor awarded for World War II heroics, died at age 98 on Wednesday. Williams, who survived heavy fire during the Battle of Iwo Jima, died at the Veterans Affairs medical center that bears his name in Huntington, W.Va., according to his foundation. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hailed Williams as “an important link to our Nation’s fight against tyranny in the Second World War” (The Associated Press).

THE CLOSER

Take Our Morning Report Quiz

© Associated Press / Andrew Harnik | Secret Service agents surround the presidential limo.

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for our Morning Report Quiz! Prompted by this week’s headlines about how the 45th president wanted to be driven to the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (but was not), we’re eager for some smart guesses about the history of how presidents traversed Washington, D.C.

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

Contemporary presidents are often transported for blocks as well as miles in a gleaming black limousine that essentially serves as a fortified security bunker riding on Kevlar-reinforced tires. What is the 22,000-pound vehicle’s nickname?

  1. Ground Force One

  2. Sumo

  3. Force Field

  4. The Beast

Which president-elect, with a PR nod to his military derring-do, chose to ride his own horse to his inauguration at the U.S. Capitol?

  1. William Henry Harrison

  2. Theodore Roosevelt

  3. Calvin Coolidge

  4. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Which sitting president, while driving himself in a horse-drawn coach down M Street N.W. in Washington, was halted by a police officer who grabbed the horse’s bridle and fined the speeder, whom he was embarrassed to discover he did not immediately recognize?

  1. John Adams

  2. Andrew Jackson

  3. Ulysses S Grant

  4. Woodrow Wilson

All current and former presidents since Lyndon Johnson surrendered their vehicular independence for good: They are not permitted to drive themselves on public roads because of Secret Service security restrictions.

  1. True

  2. False

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