What to Know in Washington: Senate Set for Stalemate on Policing

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The Senate is headed toward a standoff on a legislative overhaul of U.S. policing practices, with Democrats poised to block debate on a GOP plan they say is too narrow to adequately address a growing national crisis over racial inequities.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the Republican measure “deeply, fundamentally and irrevocably flawed” as he demanded the GOP negotiate a stronger bipartisan bill.

His announcement that Democrats would withhold support for the GOP plan came just one day after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) locked in a vote today to begin debate on the GOP-drafted measure with promises it could be amended.

President Donald Trump, who has rejected the idea of systemic racism among police and called protesters “terrorists,” told an audience in Phoenix yesterday that “we don’t back down from left-wing bullies.”

“We believe in law and order, we support the men and women of law enforcement, and we stand with the citizens” throughout the U.S. “who wish to live in safety, security, dignity and peace,” Trump said.

Democrats are placing an election-year bet they’ll gain the upper hand in negotiations on a policing bill by blocking it rather than trying to change it on the floor in the Senate. But they risk being blamed for standing in the way of progress on addressing racial bias in policing.

The protests and unrest nationwide that unfolded after the May 25 killing of a Black man, George Floyd, while in custody of Minneapolis police have raised pressure on both parties to act. But with the Senate nearing a two-week July recess with another pandemic stimulus measure likely on the table when they return, the stalemate risks pushing policing off the agenda until after the November elections. Read more from Laura Litvan and Erik Wasson.

For more on the bills being considered in both the House and Senate, see the BGOV OnPoint: House and Senate Policing Bills, Side-by-Side.

Photographer: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg
Schumer at the Capitol on June 16.

Also Happening on the Hill

Agriculture Policy—BGOV Hill Watch Live: Join Deputy Agriculture Secretary Stephen Censky, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Barbara Glenn, and BGOV’s Megan Boyanton for the Spring 2020 Hill Watch Live Part II: A Deep Dive Into the State of Agriculture Policy tomorrow at 1 p.m. Panelists are set to discuss the USDA’s 2020 priorities and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, among other issues. Register here.

Whistleblower Says DOJ Aimed to Give Stone a Break: A federal prosecutor in the case against Roger Stone says improper political pressure was applied to reduce the Justice Department’s recommended sentence in the criminal case of the longtime adviser to Trump. “What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president,” Aaron Zelinsky said in prepared testimony for a hearing today before the House Judiciary Committee.

“Such pressure resulted in the virtually unprecedented decision to override the original sentencing recommendation in his case and to file a new sentencing memorandum that included statements and assertions at odds with the record and contrary to Department of Justice policy,” according to Zelinsky, who joined other prosecutors in withdrawing from the case in February after Attorney General William Barr ordered a reduction in the time the department recommended Stone serve in prison. Read more from Billy House and Erik Larson.

Graham Virus Lawsuits: Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he’ll move forward with a plan to let Americans sue the Chinese government over the coronavirus pandemic by amending a law that protects foreign countries from lawsuits in U.S. courts. Read more from Daniel Flatley and Skylar Woodhouse.

Panel Seeks to Limit Boeing Tankers Over Faults: The U.S. Air Force secretary cannot approve the full production or enter a contract for more than 12 Boeing KC-46A midair refueling tankers until the service certifies all major deficiencies in the aircraft have been fixed, under a provision adopted as part of the annual defense authorization bill in the House Armed Services Committee. Read more from Roxana Tiron.

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee last night released the text of its annual defense authorization bill, Roxana Tiron reports. The legislation would authorize $740.5 billion in national security spending and was approved by the full committee June 11.

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Health Officials Haven’t Spoken to Trump Despite Surge: Top U.S. health officials told lawmakers yesterday that they haven’t discussed the Covid-19 pandemic with Trump for more than two weeks, a period in which cases have surged in some of the most populous states. A spike in infections in Texas, California, Florida and Arizona has ignited fear that hospitals could be overwhelmed and that some of the steps states have taken to re-open for business may need to be rolled back. Trump has blamed the wave of infections on testing and said at a rally in Oklahoma Saturday that he told his administration to rein in screening.

Most of the officials indicated that they have recently had little communication with the president. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, and Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said they haven’t spoken to Trump about the virus in about two and a half weeks. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said it had been “some time” since he spoke to Trump. Robert Redfield, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief, declined to say when he last spoke to the president. Read more from Anna Edney.

  • Newly diagnosed cases of Covid-19 and other indicators of the pandemic’s spread soared in hot spots across the U.S., driving city and state officials to consider slowing or reversing reopening plans. California yesterday broke its record for new cases for the fourth day in the past week. Even in New Jersey, where numbers have been falling, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) warned that the transmission rate is “beginning to creep up.”
  • Coronavirus cases in the U.S. yesterday increased by 35,695 from the same time Monday to 2.33 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The 1.6% gain was higher than the average daily increase of 1.3% the past seven days. Deaths rose 0.7% to 120,913. Read more from Margaret Newkirk and Jonathan Levin.

Manufacturing Trade Group Pushes Masks in Blue Collar States: The National Association of Manufacturers, an influential industry group, is launching an ad campaign to encourage mask-wearing among the public as businesses and states begin to re-open, Megan R. Wilson reports.The ad spot—which will run in states with a large manufacturing sector including Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio—comes amid the increasing politicization of mask wearing, with Trump supporters often hostile to them.

“The virus is spreading in a significant way, and if it continues, that will lead to economic devastation the likes of which we have never seen before,” Jay Timmons, NAM’s chief executive, said in a statement. “If large groups of people refuse to wear masks, they are condemning their fellow citizens to long-term unemployment and our economy to disaster.”

Trump Sued for Threat to Pull Covid Funding Over Indian Blockade: Trump’s chief of staff threatened to garnish federal coronavirus relief funding from a South Dakota Indian tribe if it didn’t remove roadblocks intended to limit the spread of the virus, according to a lawsuit. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe said the threat was one of several federal officials made after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) asked the president for help in getting rid of the checkpoints.

The tribe erected roadblocks on highways that pass through its reservation in early April when the coronavirus began spreading in South Dakota. Indian officers at the roadblocks ask travelers who are not simply passing through the reservation to fill out travel plans that provide contact information and detailed itineraries. The checkpoints have been effective, keeping the rate of infection “significantly” below that of South Dakota, and no one from the tribe has died from Covid-19 to date, the group said. Read more from Robert Burnson.

Elections & Politics

Biden Leads Trump Nationally: Joe Biden leads Trump 50% to 36% in a New York Times/Siena College poll released today, staking out a wide advantage among a broad cross-section of demographic groups. Biden is ahead by 14 points among women, but also 3 points among men. He’s ahead or effectively tied in every age and ethnic group, and he leads by 39 points among independent voters, Gregory Korte reports.

  • Biden won Democratic presidential primaries in New York and Kentucky yesterday, the Associated Press reported, pro forma victories that come more than two weeks after the former vice president accumulated enough delegates to clinch the nomination.

Engel Imperiled by Challenge From Left: Veteran House Democrat Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) risks falling to a strong challenge from progressive newcomer Jamaal Bowman in New York’s primary yesterday, but a deluge of absentee voting triggered by the coronavirus pandemic left the outcome of that race and other key contests unsettled.

Bowman assumed the mantle of victor as he addressed supporters and staff after polls closed last night, while conceding the outcome was not decided. “If the results continue to bear out as they are bearing out this evening, and we get to Congress, it will be our job to hold Donald Trump accountable,” Bowman told the crowd.

Heavy mail-in balloting slowed the count in New York and in Kentucky, where Democrats were choosing a candidate to challenge McConnell in November.

State Senator Chris Jacobs won the special election for New York’s 27th Congressional District, AP reported. Jacobs beat attorney Nate McMurray in the race to complete the term of former Rep. Chris Collins (R), who resigned last September after pleading guilty to insider trading.

Billy House has more on other New York races, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) holding off a primary challenge. Read more.

North Carolina Race: Trump had one defeat on primary night when the candidate he endorsed lost a runoff election in North Carolina to fill the seat vacated by Mark Meadows when he became White House chief of staff. Madison Cawthorn, a 24-year-old real estate executive, easily defeated Lynda Bennett, who Meadows had backed as his replacement. Cawthorn will face Democrat Moe Davis, a retired Air Force colonel, in the general election for the 11th District seat.

Twitter Hides Trump Tweet for Threatening Potential Protesters: Twitter has hidden a tweet from Trump for violating the company’s policies regarding threats of harm. “There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President,” Trump tweeted, referring to an area in Seattle occupied by protesters where police are not operating. “If they try they will be met with serious force!” That threat to use force against protesters was what violated the company’s rules, a spokesperson confirmed. The tweet is still up, though it’s hidden and users must click to reveal it, Kurt Wagner reports.

What Else to Know Today

Trump Faces Aides Turned Adversaries: As Trump’s battle for re-election heats up, he faces an unusual and potent foe: a raft of former top aides and Cabinet members — including John Kelly, James Mattis, and now, John Bolton — who have turned against him. It’s normal to have dissent in the ranks, but the list of Trump advisers turned detractors is striking in its size, the seniority of its members and the vehemence of their critiques — especially for a president known to prize loyalty above all else. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

Duda is First Foreign-Leader to Visit Trump Since March: Trump will meet Polish President Andrzej Duda today in his first encounter with a foreign leader since the coronavirus pandemic prompted global lockdowns in March, in a visit both leaders hope provides a political boost for looming elections. The Polish president is traveling to Washington just days before he seeks re-election in the hope he can secure a fresh commitment from Trump to deploy additional U.S. military forces in his Eastern European nation. Consummating a defense pact may help Duda reverse a narrative that he’s struggled in his quest to get thousands of American troops stationed near the border with Russia. Read more from Marek Strzelecki and Justin Sink.

Correspondents’ Dinner Canceled: The annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has been canceled due to Covid-19-related safety concerns, Jonathan Karl, the association’s president, said in a statement, Elizabeth Elkin reports.

No Black Judges Among Trump’s Appeals Court Confirmations: Trump is on track to be the first president since Richard Nixon to go a full first term without nominating an African American to a federal appeals court. Just one of Trump’s 52 confirmed appeals court judges is Hispanic and none are African American, compared to about 27% of President Barack Obama’s and roughly 15% under President George W. Bush, according to a Bloomberg Law analysis of Federal Judicial Center data. Read more from Madison Alder and Jasmine Ye Han.

States Urge Court to Open Insurance Exchanges: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s refusal to open a special enrollment period for people to buy health insurance on federally operated health exchanges during the Covid-19 pandemic is dangerous, 14 attorneys general told a federal court. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.

Kim Freezes Military Moves Against South Korea: Kim Jong Un ordered the suspension of military actions against South Korea, a move that could ease tensions after North Korea blew up a liaison office built by Seoul and warned of further provocations, Jihye Lee and Jon Herskovitz report.

Trump’s Brother Sues Over Niece’s Book: Trump’s brother sued to block publication of a book by their niece Mary Trump, saying portions of the memoir violate confidentiality provisions of a settlement reached among family members almost two decades ago in a fight over money. Read more from Erik Larson.

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

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