What to Know in Washington: Lawmakers at Odds on Policing Revamp

Congressional Democrats and Republicans broadly agree chokeholds should be prohibited in most circumstances, but differ over shielding police from lawsuits and the federal government’s role overseeing police departments.

At stake in negotiations over legislation are legal changes to address public demands raised during weeks of unrest following the death of George Floyd.

A policing overhaul bill will “transform the culture of policing to address systemic racism by holding police accountable and increasing transparency,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement yesterday. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the House Democrats’ bill to the Senate floor.

The House measure, introduced June 8, “is going nowhere in the Senate” because it is just another attempt to “federalize” every issue in front of Congress, McConnell told reporters yesterday.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will introduce the Senate GOP’s own bill this morning at 9:30 a.m. The measure is expected to address choke-holds, no-knock warrants, and how to prevent officers fired for misconduct from getting rehired by other police forces. The legislation is likely to include some of the priorities President Donald Trump stressed in an executive order signed yesterday.

McConnell left it up to Democrats how to proceed on the Republican bill, which would require at least 60 votes to pass the Senate.

“They could either shoot it down as insufficient or be willing to take the risk to go to the bill and see what changes, if any, we can all agree to in order to get to 60,” he said. Shaun Courtney has the latest.

  • Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) joined calls for law enforcement reform yesterday with a declaration that “every Black man in America” fears being stopped by a police officer. He reflected a bipartisan urge to act, as McConnell raised the prospects of expediting legislation to the Senate floor as early as next week, Laura Litvan, Chris Strohm and Steven T. Dennis report.
Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Bloomberg
Scott attends Trump’s signing of an executive order on policing at the White House on Tuesday.

Black Soldiers More Likely to Face Discipline: The U.S. military has failed to examine causes that lead Black servicemembers more likely to be investigated or face military justice and disciplinary action than their White counterparts, the government’s top watchdog, lawmakers, and representatives of military services said. The Air Force alone has found that Black airmen were likelier than Whites to be subject to courts-martial and nonjudicial punishment from fiscal 2013 through 2017, the Government Accountability Office’s Brenda Farrell told the House Armed Services personnel panel. Roxana Tiron has more.

Also Happening on the Hill

Trillions in Stimulus Go Unchecked: The U.S. has spent more than half of $3 trillion in economic rescue funds passed by Congress — with little of the oversight intended to ensure the money goes to the right places.

Three new oversight bodies are barely functional: A special inspector general was only recently sworn in, a congressional panel still lacks a chairman and staff, and President Donald Trump quickly removed the official who was going to lead a separate accountability committee. At the same time, about $2 trillion in stimulus money has already been distributed, according to an estimate from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group focused on fiscal policy.

The sheer size of the pandemic response means there’s a wide swath of issues to investigate. But mistrust in Washington is so deep that the oversight groups’ investigations are already mired in politics. Leaders of both parties have failed to agree on a chairman to lead the congressional oversight panel. And Democrats are already voicing concerns on whether Trump’s hand-picked special inspector general for the stimulus can be independent from his former boss. Read more from Laura Davison.

  • Trump’s family real estate company sought relief from lenders earlier this year for a retail property it owns in Manhattan. The stretch of storefronts at the base of the Trump Plaza on the Upper East Side, whose tenants have included a vitamin shop and a Mephisto shoe outlet, is a minor part of the Trump Organization’s portfolio of hotels and resorts. But it provides a glimpse into how the president’s own U.S. businesses are handling the coronavirus pandemic that has battered retailers and the economy. According to investor disclosures filed in May, the Trump Organization asked its lenders for Covid-19 related relief on the loan against the retail space. Read more from Caleb Melby.

U.S. Plans a Reset of WTO Tariff Commitments: Trump’s trade chief, Robert Lighthizer, will tell U.S. lawmakers today the time has come to renegotiate America’s fundamental tariff commitment at the World Trade Organization. “Currently, outdated tariff determinations are locked in place that no longer reflect members’ policy choices and economic conditions,” Lighthizer said in prepared remarks for the Senate Finance Committee starting at 3 p.m. He’s scheduled to testify earlier in the day to the House Ways and Means Committee.

“Many countries with large and developed economies maintain very high bound tariff rates, far above those levied by the United States,” the trade representative said. “The United States must ensure that tariffs reflect current economic realities to protect our exporters and workers.” Read more from Bryce Baschuk.

Trump Nominee Vows to Back ‘Objective Science’ in Consumer Job: Trump’s nominee to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission promised senators yesterday to champion policies “supported by objective and transparent science,” but Democrats accused her of doing the opposite in her work as a chemical industry lobbyist and at the EPA. Nancy Beck, a toxicologist and former chemical industry executive and lobbyist, in 2017 was named principal deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, which oversees chemical regulations. Beck is currently detailed to the White House, where she reviews EPA chemical regulations. Read more from Adam Allington.

FTC Scrutiny of Google Sought Over Scams: Two Democratic lawmakers urged the Federal Trade Commission to probe Google over online ads that perpetuate alleged frauds regarding stimulus aid checks of up to $1,200. “While advertisers bear the primary legal responsibility for deceptive ads, Google should also face scrutiny over the continued failure to address the known problem of fraudulent actions,” wrote Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in a letter to the agency. Read more from Ben Brody and Rebecca Kern.

  • Separately, Alphabet’s CEO Sundar Pichai, whose company runs Google, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg are willing to testify before a congressional panel investigating competition issues in the technology industry, according to two people familiar with the matter. Apple hasn’t yet guaranteed it would make Tim Cook available to the House antitrust panel, the people said. Ben Brody and Mark Gurman have more.

Targeted Relief Urged for Clean Energy: Renewable energy backers called on Congress to make the fourth time a charm by ensuring that relief to wind, solar, and energy efficiency, which was lacking in the first three coronavirus recovery packages, makes it into the next one. The coronavirus’ deep impact on the U.S. energy sector, which has lost 1.3 million jobs, was the focus of dueling hearings in the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Energy and Natural Resources committees yesterday. Read more from Dean Scott and Kellie Lunney.

Pompeo Urged to Boost Support for Yemen Peace: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators asked Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to pressure Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s president to accept a UN envoy’s push for a broad cease-fire and move toward political negotiations to end the conflict. In a letter to Pompeo yesterday, the nine senators said the U.S. is uniquely positioned to bring together all sides for talks given its influence with Saudi Arabia, where Yemen leader Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is now based. Read more from Nick Wadhams.

Economic Outlook

Partisan Gap Could Limit U.S. Recovery: Democrats and Republicans hold starkly diverging views of the U.S. economy and the gap is widening as the pandemic persists, casting a shadow over Trump’s hopes for a V-shaped recovery powered by pent-up demand as nationwide lockdowns ease.

One closely watched metric, the University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment, reveals the political divide over the economy. Overall, the index rebounded from 72.3 in March to 78.9 in May on the strength of better-than-expected May jobs numbers. But it only ticked up 0.7 points for Democrats while surging 11 points for Republicans. That gulf could expand as Election Day approaches and political sentiment becomes more entrenched closer to the vote. Read more from Gregory Korte.

Kaplan Says U.S. Recovery Faces Risks: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert Kaplan said it’s possible the U.S. economy recovers faster than expected, but the performance will depend on public health. “There’s downside risk to the recovery and there’s upside,” Kaplan said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Kathleen Hays. Which one will prevail “is going to have less to do with monetary and fiscal policy and a lot more to do with how effectively we execute the healthcare policies. How well we do that will determine how fast we grow,” he said. “But there’s certainly an upside case.” Read more from Catarina Saraiva.

Fed’s Jobs, Inflation Mandates Blur ‘70s Law Aimed at Inequality: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is testifying before Congress this week in hearings mandated by a 1978 law that was meant to prevent mass joblessness and dissolve racial inequality. Neither has happened. The Humphrey-Hawkins Act is instead mostly known for giving the U.S. central bank its “dual mandate” of maintaining full employment and price stability. But the legislation, championed by the late Rep. Augustus Hawkins (D-Calif.), was originally conceived as a great equalizer, one that would carry forward the legacy of the civil rights movement by ensuring that every American who wanted a job would be able to have one.

Four decades of ever-widening inequality later, a pandemic that has induced the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is shining a spotlight on problems with how the legislation was implemented and the lack of political will to correct it. Read more from Matthew Boesler.

Study Finds Trump Tax Break Fails to Deliver for Communities: Trump recently highlighted the “opportunity zone” tax breaks he signed into law in late 2017 as a reason his administration “has done more for the Black Community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.”

A new analysis by the left-leaning Urban Institute questions if the program is meeting its goal of spurring development and creating jobs in “undercapitalized communities,” many of which of are majority Black. “It was sobering for us in terms of how hard it is to do impact projects under the program,” said researcher Brett Theodos, one of the authors of the study. It’s “not impossible, but it’s harder than it might seem, and certainly than it should be, for a program purporting to help neighborhoods.” Read more from Noah Buhayar.

Elections & Politics

Oklahoma Says Rally Goers Will Face Risk: People who plan to attend Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday should get tested for the coronavirus before the event and consider getting tested afterwards, Oklahoma State Health Department Commissioner Lance Frye said in a statement yesterday. Attendees should follow public health guidance including wearing cloth face coverings and those in vulnerable groups and age 65 and older should stay home, Frye said in the statement, Elizabeth Elkin reports.

Trump Campaign Asks Donors to Convention With $1M Package: Trump’s presidential campaign is enticing big-spending donors to the Republican Party’s convention in August by offering packages that cost almost $1.2 million dollars per couple. Trump Victory, the joint effort of the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, sent out invitations Tuesday with details of the perks available at the convention in Jacksonville, Florida, from Aug. 24-27. The invitations, obtained by Bloomberg News, offer various tiers of support, all with different levels of access to Trump as well as RNC and campaign officials. Read more from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.

Biden Ties Climate Change to Racial Equality: Democratic nominee Joe Biden linked climate change and pollution to the struggle against racial inequality, vowing to fight as president for environmental justice. In remarks yesterday webcast by the League of Conservation Voters, Biden said he would defend communities of color “where people, in fact, tend to be victims of being put in spots where the water is not clean, the air you can’t breath.”

“Climate change is not just an environmental issue,” Biden told the environmental group, which has endorsed him. “They now look at it as a health issue and a jobs issue and an equity issue.”

Poor people and people of color often face higher exposure to pollutants, according to the American Lung Association. Pollution sources tend to be located near disadvantaged communities, increasing exposure. Read more from Ari Natter.

Facebook Wants to Register 4M Voters: Mark Zuckerberg hopes Facebook’s social networks will spur 4 million Americans to sign up as new voters before the 2020 U.S. election, double the number the company claims to have helped register before the 2016 election and 2018 U.S. midterms. “Voting is voice. It’s the single most powerful expression of democracy, the best way to hold our leaders accountable, and how we address many of the issues our country is grappling with,” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive officer, wrote in an op-ed published yesterday by USA Today. “I believe Facebook has a responsibility not just to prevent voter suppression — which disproportionately targets people of color — but to actively support well-informed voter engagement, registration, and turnout.” Read more from Kurt Wagner.

What Else to Know Today

Trump Signs Suicide Bill, VA Spending Bill: Trump yesterday signed into law a pair of measures, according to a statement: S. 2746, which establishes the Law Enforcement Officers Suicide Data Collection Program to collect data on the suicides and suicide attempts of federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement, and S. 3414, which authorizes $2.27 billion in medical facility construction projects for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

U.S. Sues to Block Bolton’s Tell-All Book: The U.S. government sued to block the publication of a tell-all book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who claims Trump was willing to endanger the nation in order to be re-elected. Bolton’s book — “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” — is due out on June 23 and has been touted by publisher Simon & Schuster as “the book Donald Trump doesn’t want you to read.” Read more from Erik Larson and David Yaffe-Bellany.

U.S. Backs Trump Aide for Latin America Bank: Trump’s administration plans to nominate a U.S. adviser to head the top development bank for Latin America, seeking to break the organization’s six-decade tradition of choosing a chief from the region. The Treasury Department says it is backing Mauricio Claver-Carone, senior director of the National Security Council for Western Hemisphere Affairs, to head the Inter-American Development Bank. Ben Bartenstein and Eric Martin have more.

South Korea Warns Kim Jong Un Against Provocations: South Korea warned North Korea against further provocations, after Kim Jong Un’s regime pledged to dismantle the last remnants of President Moon Jae-in’s legacy of rapprochement and move troops into disarmed border areas. Jihye Lee and Shinhye Kang have more.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; 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