What to Know in Washington: Biden Intensifies Midterm Messaging

  • After string of policy wins, Biden shifts into campaign mode
  • Redacted Mar-a-Lago affidavit ordered to be released by 12

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President Joe Biden cast Republican congressional candidates as committed to “destroying America,” and said he had no respect for adherents of former President Donald Trump, as he kicked off his midterm campaign push with a rally in Maryland’s suburbs.

In critiques of the GOP that were sharper than those in the past, Biden touted a recent stretch of legislative achievements during a rally in Rockville, Md., a solid blue suburb of Washington, D.C., and told voters they needed to turn out in this year’s elections to protect those policies.

“I want to be crystal clear about what’s on the ballot this year: your right to choose is on the ballot this year. The Social Security you paid for from the time you had a job is on the ballot. The safety of your kids from gun violence is on the ballot,” said Biden. “No hyperbole, the very survival of our planet is on the ballot.”

His speech—a day after Biden unveiled a sweeping student loan relief package aimed at wooing progressives and younger voters—allowed the president to test his political message ahead of what White House aides say will be an active two months of touting achievements and aiding Democratic candidates.

Democrats’ prospects for retaining their slim House and Senate majorities have been boosted by a string of policy victories this month, including passage of a massive climate, health care and tax package aimed at combating high inflation, a major political liability for the party. And widespread backlash to the Supreme Court’s ruling in June overturning Roe v. Wade has strengthened Democrats’ chances of limiting their losses in congressional races.

“MAGA Republicans don’t have a clue about the power of women,” Biden said. “Let me tell you something, they are about to find out.” Read more from Jordan Fabian and Nancy Cook.

  • Biden told Democratic donors that the philosophy espoused by Trump supporters was “like semi-fascism” at a fundraiser Thursday night in Maryland. “It’s not just Trump—it’s the entire philosophy that underpins,” Trump’s wing of the Republican party, Biden said. “I’m going to say something: it’s like semi-fascism.” Read more from Justin Sink and Nancy Cook.

Photo by Bryan Dozier/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Biden delivering remarks in Rockville, Md., on Thursday

Happening on the Hill

CONGRESS’ SCHEDULE

  • Both chambers are on recess.

Colorado Democrats are calling on Biden to ban mining, oil, and gas production on hundreds of thousands of federal lands in the state, as local and state supporters of a bill (S. 173) from Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) pressed lawmakers to pursue every avenue available to accomplish the measure’s objectives as it stalls in the Senate.

A Senate committee in May deadlocked 10-10 on the CORE Act, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) needs to file a petition to get it out of committee. Biden can use his authorities under two federal statutes from 1976 and 1906 to bypass Congress to make the changes. But either move would court controversy, and likely litigation. Kellie Lunney has more.

Taiwan welcomed its third US congressional visit this month, as Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) began a three-day trip to the island nation that’s likely to further test Washington’s tense ties with Beijing. Blackburn, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday morning. Read more from Sarah Zheng.

Climate activists have developed plans to foil a provision Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) wedged into the new climate law that ties renewable energy projects to more oil and gas drilling, saying there may be enough ambiguity to allow the federal government to keep new drilling in check. Jennifer A. Dlouhy has the story.

  • A provision tucked into the climate law valued at just 0.05% of the total price has the potential to trigger big changes in one of the world’s most carbon-intensive processes: making cement. The law gives the EPA $250 million to help companies measure and report the carbon content of the construction materials they make. Read more from Stephen Lee.

A House report detailing attempts by Trump administration officials to influence the FDA’s Covid response underscores the need for more transparency, experts say. The House Select Coronavirus Crisis panel said this week that Trump’s advisers sought to build support for hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment. Celine Castronuovo and Jeannie Baumann have more.

  • Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci expected the country would have moved past the Covid-19 pandemic after the first year of the Biden administration, but the disruption from the virus has lingered longer than the infectious disease expert anticipated, he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Jeannie Baumann and John Tozzi have more.
  • The CDC says that almost 40% of people hospitalized in the US with the Covid subvariant that circulated this spring were vaccinated and boosted, highlighting how new strains have mutated to more readily escape immunity provided by current shots. Read more from Madison Muller.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal was asked to address whistle-blower allegations that the company didn’t do enough to address security gaps and privacy vulnerabilities, in a letter dated Thursday from House Democrats Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Yvette Clarke (N.Y.). Read it here.

Sen. Ted Cruz called on the Department of State to impose sanctions against Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner for corruption allegations brought forward by a local prosecutor. The accusations against Kirchner, who was Argentina’s president from 2007 to 2015, are “backed by Argentina’s judicial system,” Cruz (R-Texas) said. Patrick Gillsepie has more.

Elections, Politics & Probes

A federal magistrate judge in Florida has ordered the Justice Department to release a redacted version of the affidavit laying out the government’s case for executing a search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago this month. US Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart accepted the DOJ’s request to keep secret details about “the investigation’s strategy, direction, scope, sources, and methods.”

The judge gave the DOJ until Friday at noon Eastern time to file the redacted affidavit on the court’s public docket. Reinhart said the US government had “met its burden of showing that its proposed redactions are narrowly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate interest in the integrity of the ongoing investigation.” Read more from Zoe Tillman.

  • The GOP is now acting like a party in search of itself with three months before elections that once favored Republicans to retake both chambers of Congress. Should the party fumble as surveys increasingly suggest, August will have been a pivotal month—starting with the FBI search and Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) primary defeat. Read more from Mario Parker.

With less than three weeks to go until Sept. 13, candidates and political observers alike think voters are just starting to tune in to the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary. That late attention will decide who takes on Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), who faces one of the most competitive re-election races this fall. Zach C. Cohen takes a look the contest.

After years of refusing to approve derivatives for betting on elections, regulators are privately weighing a plan that could let people place as much as $25,000 on which political party will control the US Congress, and may begin taking public feedback on the proposal as soon as this month. Lydia Beyoud has more on the plan.

Around the Administration

PRESIDENT’S SCHEDULE

  • At 11 a.m., Biden is set to meet with state and local officials to discuss reproductive health care.

Biden‘s move to forgive billions in student loans is drawing the same sort of scrutiny he’s received for policy changes he made without permission from Congress. The plan relies on the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act and permits the agency to waive federal student loan requirements to support borrowers in an emergency, such as a natural disaster or war.

In this instance, the White House is claiming that the coronavirus pandemic is such an emergency—even as deaths and infection rates drop considerably. “One question is whether Covid-19 is a national emergency for the purposes of this statute,” said Daniel Rodriguez, a law professor at Northwestern University. Kaustuv Basu and Courtney Rozen have more.

  • The billions in student loan debt forgiveness will be exempt from federal taxation but may be taxable at the state level in more than a dozen states—a hiccup many states are expected to quickly handle. Legislatures and state revenue offices are currently comparing their tax codes against Biden’s plan. Michael J. Bologna and Erin Slowey have more.
  • The plan would cancel up to $10,000 of student loan debt for individuals making less than $125,000. Pell Grant recipients will receive up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness. The administration also proposed a rule to overhaul income-driven plans to cut borrowers’ monthly payments. Lauren Turenchalk and Seemeen Hashem break down the plan in an OnPoint.
  • Over a third of older Gen Z-ers—those aged 20 to 25—have student loan debt, compared to 31% of millennials (now 36- to 41-years-old) when they were around that age, according to a regional Fed memo. The average student loan balance for the younger set was also 13% higher at $20,900. Read more from Alex Tanzi.

Immigration advocates are taking aim at the White House, saying its latest bid to offer protections to undocumented young people doesn’t go far enough. The White House unveiled a rule this week to help bolster a legal defense against an onslaught of opposition that’s plagued DACA since its inception. But there’s a caveat. Ayanna Alexander and Ellen Gilmer have more.

The Biden administration’s efforts to ensure access to abortions in medical emergencies notched a win and a loss in courts in the span of a single day, pointing to hotly contested court battles ahead over state limitations after the US Supreme Court in June overturned a federal right to abortion. Read more from Joel Rosenblatt and Robert Burnson.

  • Biden’s options without congressional action are sorely limited. Without the votes to pass legislation, his team turned to regulation and federal guidance on reproductive health-care at hospitals, pharmacies, and physicians’ offices that receive federal funding. Read more from Courtney Rozen and Allie Reed.

WHAT ELSE TO KNOW TODAY

  • Biden signed an executive order to fast-track implementation of a law aimed at boosting domestic semiconductor manufacturing and helping the US compete with China’s dominance in the industry, Akayla Gardner reports.
  • The Federal Trade Commission should prioritize work on a pending update to its rules for protecting children’s privacy online, according to Commissioner Christine Wilson (R). Andrea Vittorio has more.
  • The Transportation Security Administration is testing new technology around Los Angeles International Airport that can detect, track, and identify drones better, officials announced. Read more from Lillianna Byington.
  • The White House’s science office issued guidance Thursday to make results of taxpayer-supported research immediately available to American citizens free of charge. Read more from Alexis Kramer.
  • Pay for top executives at US companies is about to get more scrutiny from investors under a new Securities and Exchange Commission rule, Lydia Beyoud reports.
  • An independent federal consulting office wants to engage labor unions as it shepherds bidders through the nation’s byzantine environmental permitting process, but it can only do so much, Stephen Lee and Paige Smith report.
  • The government’s main measures of US growth pointed in different directions in the first half of 2022, adding to the ongoing debate on the health of the economy. Reade Pickert has more.

With assistance from Katrice Eborn and Andrew Small

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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