“One-hundred percent, I never imagined it was going to be a decisive victory.”
That’s what a Kansas lobbyist told us Wednesday, a day after the state’s residents voted ‘no’ on a measure to lift protections for abortion.
Democrats say the result – nearly 60 percent voted against giving the state legislature more power to restrict the procedure – further crystallized what they already knew: Abortion will energize and sway voters this November.
The abortion rights victory came as a shock to many. Polls had indicated that the vote would go the other way, and Kansas is a more conservative state in the Midwest, despite currently being led by a Democratic governor.
“I could not have dared to predict that,” the lobbyist said, adding that Republicans in the state told her that they don’t want Kansas to be like Alabama or Texas, which enforced near-total abortion bans after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
With fewer than 100 days until midterms, Democrats are likely to try to harness that momentum into other states, where Republicans have downplayed abortion rights as a top issue and a motivator for voters to turn out, our colleague Max Greenwood writes.
“I don’t think that fear of recession and economic security is going to be enough of a driving message to counteract the opportunity Democrats have to expand their reach with new voters who are pro-choice,” Kansas Republican operative Joseph Dozier said.
The vote comes as good news to Democrats in tough reelection races in battleground states like Arizona, New Hampshire and Nevada, where Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto has already made abortion rights a hallmark of her reelection campaign and recent legislative priorities.
“Nevada is a pro-choice state, and we need leaders who will defend our rights – not call them ‘absurd,'” Cortez Masto tweeted on Wednesday about her Republican opponent Adam Laxalt.
While it’s too soon to tell how this will change Republicans’ messaging in tight races – despite their already prominent focus on inflation – officials have suggested they see opportunity in focusing on moderate Republican candidates in blue states.
One race that we’re watching is the battle between Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Republican candidate Joe O’Dea, who is pro-abortion rights.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is launching ads against Bennet, according to Politico, just a month after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he was “all in” to flip the seat red, as reported by Axios.
“I don’t think this vote in Kansas or post-Dobbs decisions changes where they [Republicans] are, but it might change where our elected officials and where our candidates are,” Dozier said about the party’s stance on abortion.
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Meanwhile in Washington…
IN CONGRESS, a bipartisan bill to codify abortion rights into federal law faces an uphill battle after a similar effort failed in May.
The bill, introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), would protect a right to abortion up to viability, or when the fetus could survive outside the womb, though the bill does not define that timeline.
It’s considered a compromise to Republicans since it would allow health providers to opt out of providing abortions for religious reasons, a problem some Republicans pointed out in a previous, unsuccessful Democratic-only proposal.
The filibuster, or the need to achieve 60 votes, still stands in the way of passing the bill. And as our colleague Nathaniel Weixel notes, it will likely get opposition from Democrats for being too conservative.
Who already said they won’t support it: On Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told NBC News that she would vote against the bill because it is “not an obvious improvement of where we stand now.”
AT THE WHITE HOUSE, President Biden signed an executive order directing the directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider using Medicaid to pay for expenses for those who cross state lines to seek abortions, with his powers limited on acting more aggressively.
As our colleague Morgan Chalfant writes, this is the second executive order Biden has signed since the Court overturned Roe, redefining his once-held position, while a senator, of being less open to abortion rights.
It’s unclear what role the White House will play in advocating for the legislation to codify abortion rights, but Biden implored Congress to “restore the protections of Roe as federal law” after the Kansas abortion referendum on Tuesday.
“If Congress fails to act, the people of this country need to elect senators and representatives who will restore Roe and protect the right to privacy, freedom and equality,” Biden said on Wednesday.
Sinema stirs up suspense in the Senate
Sinema broke her silence on the tax reform and climate bill Wednesday afternoon, suggesting changes to the legislation but still staying mum on whether she’ll vote for it.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) signaled to reporters on Tuesday that he would consider her suggestions if it meant she would support the Inflation Reduction Act, and Sinema reportedly wants to toss the provision that closes the carried interest tax loophole.
Her request isn’t that unexpected since she previously opposed closing the loophole, which allows asset managers to use a favorable tax rate on income.
Senators are stuck on Sinema since she could be the single Democrat to derail the bill, like Manchin did last December, throwing away the final chance for what is potentially the Biden administration’s biggest legislative victory.
We also have our eyes on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) after he blasted the bill’s fossil fuel provisions and some of the tax measures in a floor speech Tuesday night, pledging to offer amendments to modify it.
“This is legislation which has some good and important provisions pertaining to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, but, at the same time, provides massive giveaways to the fossil fuel industry whose emissions are destroying the planet,” Sanders said.
The clock cannot tick any faster as senators are itching to leave town for August recess while also dodging an apparent COVID-19 outbreak in the Senate.
(Spoiler alert: They’ll probably be here at least through the weekend.)
WILL THE INFLATION REDUCTION ACT REDUCE INFLATION?
There’s been a lot of discussion about whether the bill would actually reduce record levels of inflation, and you’re likely not going to get the same answer from Republicans and Democrats.
Two key analyses didn’t have great news for Dems:
The Penn Wharton Budget Model (a group that Manchin has previously consulted) found that the bill would “very slightly increase inflation until 2024 and decrease inflation thereafter” and indicated “low confidence” that it would have any real impact.
Moody’s Analytics found that the bill would “modestly reduce inflation over the 10-year budget horizon,” suggesting it would have a “marginal” impact in the next five years.
But another key focus for Dems is how it will reduce the deficit, which is proving to be a more optimistic message:
The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Wednesday that the bill will reduce the deficit by a net $102 billion from 2022 to 2031. As our colleague Aris Folley notes, that amount doesn’t factor in what will come from payfors, so it will be a greater total.
Pelosi leaves a mark on Taiwan
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues her travels across Asia but she’s already done with the most high-profile portion of the trip: her stop in Taiwan.
FlightRadar24, which shows live aircraft flight tracking information, reports that Pelosi’s flight to Taiwan was the most tracked flight in the site’s history.
Pelosi is traveling with a delegation that includes Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.).
They’ve now made it to South Korea after leaving Taiwan Wednesday.
But the trip has ruffled feathers with members of the Chinese government, who view Taiwan as an occupied territory.
“Pelosi is being oblivious to the plethora of problems within her country and does not care about the livelihoods and wellbeing of her fellow Americans, but she has been pulling political stunts and repeating what has been proven by numerous facts to be the lie of the century,” Chinese assistant minister of foreign affairs Hua Chunying said on Twitter.
Hoyer names his social media ‘all stars’
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has revealed the latest list of “all stars” — the members who’ve earned the most social media engagement in the past month — in the chamber’s majority.
Perhaps of little surprise, Democrats on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol saw lots of growth after two primetime, televised hearings.
Behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), who had a prominent role in a hearing last month, saw the biggest growth in her social media presence, according to Hoyer’s tally. She got nearly 50,000 new followers on Twitter and 500 on Facebook.
Committee members Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Pete Agulair (D-Calif.) all saw big spikes in their follower bases.
DEMOCRATS FACE NEW CRITICISM ON MIDTERM STRATEGY
Democrats are facing a round of fresh criticism for meddling in GOP primaries.
One of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, Rep. Peter Meijer (Mich.), became the latest target of the Democrats’ strategy of boosting pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries in the hopes they will be easier to beat in November — and was ultimately defeated on Tuesday.
Our colleague Max Greenwood writes that while the strategy has been employed successfully in other races before this one, it sparks new criticism since some of these candidates, many of whom deny the 2020 presidential election results, could ultimately be elected.
“If Peter’s opponent wins and goes on in November to win, the Democrats own that,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a member of the Jan. 6 House committee, said Tuesday on CNN.
PART OF THE SUCCESS of this strategy in November may be reliant on whether Republican and independent voters believe the Jan. 6 House committee’s probes tarnished the reputations of former President Trump and his endorsed candidates.
And as our colleague Rebecca Beitsch reports, the Justice Department’s investigation into Jan. 6, as well as the House committee’s probe, isn’t winding down anytime soon.
Press Club to honor CNN’s Ward
JUST IN: CNN’s Clarissa Ward, the chief international correspondent based in London who has documented Russia’s attack on Ukraine, among other assignments, is being honored by the National Press Club this year with a D.C. gala in honor of her selection for its prestigious Fourth Estate Award.
The dinner is a fundraiser for the National Press Club Journalism Institute. Tickets are $150 for National Press Club members and $300 for non-members. It’ll take place at the National Press Club headquarters in DC on Dec. 7.