NotedDC — Climate fight moves to White House

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President Biden is weighing a climate emergency declaration amid pressure from Democrats as chances of congressional action become slimmer.

Sources told our colleague Rachel Frazin that Biden is mulling a declaration. The White House said later Tuesday that an announcement isn’t expected this week.

Biden is considering the declaration after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) signaled last week he would block a sprawling budget package that would fund new clean energy technologies and programs.

It is not clear what is being considered as part of a potential executive order, but Biden said last week that his order would “protect us from oil and gas price hikes in the future.”

The opportunity to act comes as Biden’s approval ratings are at an all-time low, especially with young voters, ahead of a possible 2024 reelection bid. As The Hill reported this month, climate activists “believe Biden hasn’t done nearly enough.”

Still, the White House has shied away from taking direct aim at Manchin, who made a deal with Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to lower prescription drug prices, a hallmark piece of the reconciliation bill.

A similar dynamic has emerged in the Senate, where our colleague Alex Bolton reported on Tuesday that Democrats fear pushback against Manchin would torpedo any part of the reconciliation bill from being passed.

One senator to watch: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) told reporters on Tuesday that it wasn’t fair for Manchin to “string people along for a year” after he questioned Manchin’s position as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Welcome to NotedDC: Your guide to politics, policy & people of consequence in D.C.

In today’s issue: Anthony Fauci signals he plans to stay involved in public health, even after he leaves his current government role.

Plus: The House responds to Clarence Thomas, and a new awards gala is coming to D.C.

Fauci says he’s not retiring

Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, told The Hill that we haven’t seen the last of him yet after he suggested earlier this week he would retire by the end of Biden’s current term.

“I’m not going to retire,” Fauci told contributing editor Steven Clemons during The Hill’s Future of Health Care summit. “I may step down from my current position at some time.”

To be clear, that time will come before January 2025, Fauci said, noting his decision isn’t being made over the potential of former President Trump making another White House bid.

“What happens between now and then I have not decided, but the one thing I do know is that I have other things that I want to do in a professional way that I want to have the capability, while I still have the energy and the passion to do them,” he said.

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE HILL’S SUMMIT

The Hill’s Future of Health Care event touched on topics ranging from the White House’s COVID-19 response to the expansion of Medicaid.

Here are three takeaways from the summit: 

1. White House sees new treatments, vaccines as way forward

White House officials reaffirmed their commitment to next-generation vaccines and the increased availability of treatments as coronavirus cases rise across the country.

  • “What we need now is…a rapid acceleration of development of the next generation of vaccines,” said Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

  • But the lack of funds from Congress is causing the process to lag. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said “we desperately need a vaccine to prevent acquisition and transmission.”

2. Funds for global response depend on congressional action

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) global coronavirus response will run out of money if Congress doesn’t act in the coming weeks, as some countries still struggle with high death rates from the virus, officials warned.

  • Atul Gawande, USAID assistant administrator for global health, told contributing editor Steven Clemons that the agency has been lobbying Congress for a minimum of $5 billion since December.

  • “We’ve gotten through three of the four quarters in this football game, and we can’t give up the game now on COVID,” Gawande said. “We still have surges that will come.”

3. Congress feeling pressure to expand Medicaid, lower drug costs

As the Senate moves forward with a slimmed-down budget package that includes lowering prescription drug costs and extending health care subsidies, medical experts said it is one of the more pressing issues Congress and the White House faces.

  • “Trying to figure out how to get a handle on drug pricing is really one of the challenges that we have,” said Jack Hoadley, a professor at Georgetown University.

  • However, expanding Medicaid — premium-free health care for low-income people — isn’t included in the package, despite Democrats’ wishes.

  • “Medicare benefits and Medicaid benefits do have a challenge in keeping up,” said Mark McClellan, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, noting that medical technology is rapidly evolving.

New awards gala coming to Washington

FIRST IN THE HILL: A New York gala is making its debut in Washington this Wednesday, honoring six “trailblazing women.”

Here’s who will be receiving awards at the Cafe Milano soiree:

  • Caroline Edwards, a Capitol Police officer who served on Jan. 6, 2021

  • Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States

  • Christine Grady, the chief of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institute of Health and wife of Anthony Fauci

  • Denyce Graves, an opera star

  • Sheila Johnson, an entrepreneur and philanthropist

  • Melora Hardin, an actor nominated for her role in “Transparent”

PAY PUSH HEADS TO SENATE

Congressional aides are now leading an effort for the Senate to implement a pay floor for staff after the House set one in May.

  • The Congressional Progressive Staff Association is circulating a petition for a $45,000 pay floor in hopes that it will gain enough signatures to send an official letter to Senate leaders.

  • “We can’t leave [the Senate staff] behind,” a House aide told NotedDC. “We need to set the standards in place now so that we normalize paying people far closer to a living wage.”

Worth noting: A Legistorm data analysis recently found that nonwhite staffers on the Hill make 86 percent of what white staffers make, or about $9,000 less per year.

  • The aide said a pay floor is seen as more of an uphill battle in the Senate since “there’s just sort of an anti-progressive movement that so many members have been sticking to.”

  • It comes on the heels of eight House offices announcing the formation of unions, a movement that has also yet to reach the Senate.

House claps back at Clarence Thomas

The House is debating whether it should pass legislation to protect same-sex and interracial marriages, after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that granted a constitutional right to abortion.

  • Democrats argued on the floor that marriage equality should be a permanent law, while some Republicans argued the bill is unnecessary and irrelevant to other issues facing the country, like inflation and supply-chain issues.

  • The roll call gives Democrats a new political angle, forcing all members to go on the record with views on gay rights.

“Imagine telling the next generation of Americans, my generation, we no longer have the right to marry,” Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who said he was one of nine openly gay House members, said on the floor.

“Marrying the person you love is not abnormal … It is none of your business. Abnormal is your obsession of what other people do in their private lives and in their homes. Love is love.”
– Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas)

The bill passed the Democrat-controlled House on Tuesday, but it likely will be shot down in the Senate, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority and are unlikely to get the support of 10 Republicans they would need to stop a filibuster.

  • Gay marriage is overwhelmingly popular in public polls, but has been a religious wedge issue.

  • A June Gallup poll found 70 percent of U.S. adults think same-sex marriage should be recognized, with majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in support.

The Supreme Court in June struck down the decades-old Roe v. Wade ruling, prompting some concern that the more conservative leaning court would also strike down Obergefell v. Hodges, which paved the way for same-sex marriage nationally.

MARYLAND MOVES

Former President Trump has denounced Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) as a “RINO” on the eve of the state’s gubernatorial primary.

Republicans backed by both men are fighting for the GOP’s nomination to succeed Hogan, who is term limited and possibly considering a run for president in 2024.

Primary battles for the governor’s mansion will pit both party’s establishment wings against insurgent forces, but there’s a lot more down ballot.

The Hill’s Max Greenwood has details on five races to watch in the state Tuesday.

STATES STEP UP

Even if President Biden takes unilateral action on climate change, The Hill’s Rachel Frazin writes that blue states are still likely to pick up the pace on reaching clean energy goals.

  • How some cities are already acting: “Madison, Wis., Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway (D) told The Hill that her city was working on initiatives including subsidizing solar energy, requiring buildings to report their energy use in the hopes of improving efficiency and partnering with a local utility to put chargers in public parking garages.”

  • But state laws might stand in the way of cities: “A recent analysis by CNN found that as some liberal cities try to ban natural gas, 20 states have laws that would prevent them from doing so.”

The congressional stalemate is also giving governors like California’s Gavin Newsom (D) a chance to show how they would be prepared to act in the White House. Our colleague Zack Budryk reports:

  • “California leading the way on green issues is nothing new, but Newsom has a unique chance to carve out a role for himself at a time when Democrats are increasingly looking for choices beyond President Biden.”

VIRTUAL EVENT INVITE

The Hill’s Latina Leaders Summit, Wednesday, July 20 at 1 p.m. ET

Join The Hill Virtually Live on Wednesday, July 20th for our 5th annual Latina Leaders Summit. Our standout lineup of guests will discuss Latina empowerment and building equal spaces and representation across all sectors. Featuring: Rep. Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), vocalist and “Encanto” voice actor Adassa, Maria Teresa Kumar, Pepsico’s Esperanza Teasdale and more. RSVP here

One last thing: Ukraine first lady addresses Congress

Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska will make a speech in the congressional auditorium of the Capitol Visitor Center on Wednesday.

She’s already been busy in Washington, meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday and first lady Jill Biden on Tuesday. She also accepted the Dissident Human Rights Award on behalf of the people of Ukraine.

Our colleague Laura Kelly notes that Zelenska has largely remained behind the scenes while her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has become the face of the nation during its war against Russia.

Have some news, juicy gossip, insight or other insider info? Send us tips: Elizabeth Crisp and Kelsey Carolan. And encourage friends to sign up here: thehill.com/noted.

We’ll see you tomorrow!

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