What to Know in Washington: GOP Pennsylvania Race Deadlocked

  • Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania too close to call
  • Trump-backed incumbent Cawthorn fails to keep House seat

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Pennsylvania’s bitterly fought Republican US Senate primary was too close to call early Wednesday with celebrity physician Mehmet Oz holding the slimmest of leads over former Bridgewater Associates Chief Executive Officer David McCormick.

Oz, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, had 31.3% of the vote to McCormick’s 31.1%, with 95% of the votes counted, according to the Associated Press. Conservative firebrand Kathy Barnette, who roiled the campaign with a surge in its closing days, lagged with 24.8%.

Pennsylvania law doesn’t allow counties to begin processing and counting mail-in and absentee ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day, and there were 636,305 ballots returned across the commonwealth at the end of the day Monday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. Read more from Mark Niquette and Gregory Korte.

  • Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman easily won the Democratic primary for US Senate on Tuesday from a hospital bed. Fetterman defeated two other candidates with 59% of the vote as of Tuesday night. But he was unable to attend election night events while he recovers from a stroke. Earlier on Tuesday, he said he received a pacemaker. Mark Niquette and Gregory Korte have more.
Republican Senate candidate David McCormick Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race, Trump-endorsed state Senator Doug Mastriano, a staunch supporter of the former president’s false 2020 election claims, won the Republican primary with 42.6% of the vote. Democrat Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, ran unopposed in the primary. Shapiro announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, Mark Niquette and Gregory Korte report.

  • Mastriano wants to throw out existing voter registrations in the state—all 8.7 million— meaning Trump’s false claims about his 2020 defeat and proposals to shake up the way voting’s handled will be central issues this fall as Pennsylvania picks its next governor. President Joe Biden won the swing-state by just over 1 percentage point, and Mastriano would be in charge of appointing a secretary of state responsible for making sure all valid votes are counted and accurately reflected in the Electoral College, Jennifer Kay reports.

Scandal-plagued Madison Cawthorn narrowly lost his bid for a second term despite Trump’s last-minute plea to North Carolina voters to give Cawthorn a “second chance.” State Sen. Chuck Edwards won the GOP primary for the Republican stronghold after winning endorsements of nearly every major state party leader, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R). Cawthorn’s defeat reflects the power that party leaders still hold in their home states. Read more from Emma Kinery.

  • But Trump-backed Ted Budd won the GOP primary for the Senate seat being vacated by Richard Burr, according to the Associated Press. Currently a House lawmaker, Rep. Budd defeated a crowded field of competitors including Pat McCrory, a former governor of the state, and former Rep. Mark Walker. Budd will face Cheri Beasley, a former state chief justice who won the Democratic primary. Read more from the AP.

In Idaho, incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson defeated conservative lawyer Bryan Smith in the Republican primary for Idaho’s 2nd district, AP reported in a tweet. An anti-Simpson effort came from America Proud PAC, which called Simpson a “career politician” who was critical of Trump during the 2016 presidential election and voted for a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the Capitol, Megan Howard reports.

Also Happening on the Hill

CONGRESS’ SCHEDULE:

  • The House meets at 11 a.m. with votes on domestic terrorism and baby formula legislation.
  • The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to vote on several of Biden’s nominations.

Executives from Abbott Nutrition and other major baby formula companies have agreed to testify May 25 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the root causes of the nationwide formula shortage. Abbott, which has been at the center of the firestorm over the shortages due to a contamination-triggered shutdown of its main plant in Michigan after the deaths of two babies, will be represented by President Chris Calamari. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Energy and Commerce Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) floated the possibility of indictments, without any providing details. Read more from Erik Wasson.

Three federal agencies would be tasked with rooting out domestic terrorism threats within the government and across the US under a bill slated for House consideration Wednesday. The measure (H.R. 350) would authorize domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the FBI. It would also require officials to assess White supremacist and neo-Nazi threats in the US and inside agencies, Ellen M. Gilmer reports.

Senate Democrats are weighing a push for supplemental border security funds, a move that could alleviate concerns within the caucus and defuse a potentially divisive vote attached to a Covid-19 aid package. Democrats are divided on plans to end Title 42, which has allowed US officials to quickly expel migrants at the border since 2020. An alternative amendment, such as the prospective border supplemental, could give centrist members a chance to show that they’re committed to border security without tying the White House’s hands on Title 42. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

Sen. Joe Manchin says he’ll support Michael Barr’s nomination to be vice chair of supervision at the Federal Reserve, adding a critical vote for the Treasury Department veteran as Biden continues working to fill central bank vacancies. Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he spoke with Barr last week. Read more from Laura Litvan.

The House approved a multibillion-dollar expenditure to reauthorize funding for job training programs such as those catering to dislocated and formerly incarcerated workers. The bill would reauthorize funds for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (H.R. 7309), which was authorized in 2014. Read more from Paige Smith.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s success in securing the biggest global corporate-tax reform in decades risks flopping in her own country’s legislature, potentially sowing the seeds for renewed international tensions in coming years. Heralded as a “historic agreement” when the two-part deal was reached last October, the framework would set a global 15% minimum tax rate and rewrite the rules for how countries divvy up taxing corporate profits, Laura Davison reports.

Elections, Politics & Influence

The Department of Justice has requested access to transcripts of interviews conducted by the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. The committee and department officials haven’t yet struck an agreement that could help advance a long simmering federal investigation into efforts to prevent the certification of Biden’s 2020 election victory, according to Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said. Read more from Chris Strohm and Billy House.

Former Wynn Resorts CEO Stephen Wynn lobbied Donald Trump in 2017 on behalf of the Chinese government, which sought the return of an exiled businessman, the US said in a suit seeking to force Wynn to register as an agent for China. Wynn engaged in the efforts to protect operations of his casinos in Macau, the Department of Justice said in the complaint. Read more from Malathi Nayak.

Removing “gayborhoods”—areas where LGBTQ residents live and frequent—through redistricting is a tactic that dilutes the electoral power of these communities, advocates say. Without protection under the Voting Rights Act, gay neighborhood advocates must take the extra step to prove that residents share unique political and cultural issues that deserve recognition by those in charge of redistricting. Read more from Ayanna Alexander.

Defense & Foreign Affairs

The US deal with the Taliban—forged under Donald Trump and implemented under Biden—was “the single most important factor” in the rapid collapse of Afghanistan’s forces as American troops pulled out last year. As in Vietnam, the US spent billions to train and equip Afghan soldiers “only to see them quickly collapse in the face of far less-equipped insurgencies” once US support was pulled, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report Wednesday. Tony Capaccio has more.

Biden’s administration plans to ease sanctions on Venezuelan oil in a bid to bring more of the country’s crude to Europe. The U.S. will allow European companies still operating in Venezuela to divert more oil to the continent immediately while Chevron will be allowed to negotiate a resumption of operations in the country, according to a person familiar with the matter. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs, Daniel Flatley, and Fabiola Zerpa.

Taiwan must gird itself against possible Chinese aggression with military deterrence, including acquiring the right weapons and proper training, America’s chief naval officer said Tuesday. “That is a big lesson learned and a wakeup call, particularly with respect to not only having the right kit but are people trained to use it the right way,” Admiral Michael Gilday said Tuesday at an event on knowledge gleaned from Russia’s war in Ukraine. Daniel Flatley has more.

North Korea is seen preparing for another ICBM test, although it’s unlikely that Pyongyang will conduct a nuclear test during this weekend when Biden visits Seoul, Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy national security adviser of South Korea, said in a briefing on Wednesday. Jeong-Ho Lee and Shinhye Kang outline the full briefing here.

World leaders are again racing to achieve dominance in outer space, but this time around the world’s top superpowers can’t even agree on basic principles to govern the next generation of space activity. The lack of cooperation between the US and China on space exploration is particularly dangerous. Read more from Bruce Einhorn.

The US will ramp up criminal prosecutions of migrants as the country faces unprecedented challenges at the southern border, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. Ellen M. Gilmer has more.

Companies new to federal procurement will have an easier path to contracts awarded by the Defense Department as part of ongoing efforts to speed up US military adoption of emerging technologies. At the Nexus 22 Summit on Tuesday, DOD Defense Innovation Unit Director Michael Brown cited the US Navy Task Force 59’s effort to create the largest uncrewed fleet in the world as an example of how the new system should work. Read more from Patty Nieberg.

What Else to Know Today

PRESIDENT’S SCHEDULE:

  • At 10:45 a.m., Biden’s Covid response team delivers a public health briefing.
  • At 1:45 p.m., Biden receives a briefing on preparations for the hurricane season.

Supplies of key Covid therapies are in danger of running out as soon as the summer, a senior health official said, as the Biden administration seeks more funds to fight the pandemic. Stocks of Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody are expected to be exhausted by July, the official said, and new omicron strains have rendered other monoclonal treatments ineffective. Read more from Madison Muller.

The recent collapse of the TerraUSD stablecoin forces policymakers to rethink just how close they want other stablecoins to get to the federally insured banking system. Lawmakers and others have been urging increased regulation of stablecoins since TerraUSD lost its peg to the dollar and cost investors billions of dollars. Read more from Evan Weinberger.

The Justice Department proved that its drafts and almost all of its emails over a letter to request the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census aren’t public records that can be accessed under the Freedom of Information Act, a federal appeals court said Tuesday. Read more from Janet Miranda.

The Supreme Court’s soon-to-be newest member, Ketanji Brown Jackson, has hired a full complement of law clerks for her first term on the bench—including two who previously served in her lower court chambers. Read more from Lydia Wheeler.

David Tatel has stepped down from his role as an active judge on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, leaving a pair of open seats for Biden to fill on the powerful court. Read more from Madison Alder.

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; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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