What to Know in Washington: Rebuke Unites Dems, Energizes GOP

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The Democratic-led House responded to Donald Trump’s sustained attacks on four female Democratic lawmakers by taking the extraordinary step of rebuking the president for racism.

The resolution — backed yesterday by all 235 Democrats, four Republicans and one independent – accused the president of having “legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color,” a serious accusation that sharply draws the battle lines going into the 2020 elections.

Trump had egged Democrats on, issuing his tweets and incendiary remarks for three straight days. “It’s my opinion they hate our country,” he said yesterday during a cabinet meeting at the White House, speaking of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

Republicans voting for the measure were Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Fred Upton (Mich.), Will Hurd (Texas), and Susan Brooks (Ind.). Justin Amash (I-Mich.), until recently a Republican, also backed the resolution. Six Republicans didn’t vote.

For each side, the moment played to their party’s base. Democrats, under pressure to begin impeachment proceedings for a polarizing president, took a strong, but symbolic, swipe at Trump. Republicans and Trump, who decried the House vote as partisan politics, tried to tie all Democrats to the progressive – and at times controversial – group.

Relations between the White House and Congress have tumbled to a new low, just as the clock is ticking on important negotiations on the debt ceiling, government spending and trade. The conflict risks not only coloring the rest of this Congress, but also setting a fraught tone for 2020 campaigns when Trump and every member of the House will be up for re-election. Read more from Billy House.

Pelosi Runs Afoul of House Rules: Before the House vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was called out by Republicans for violating a House rule that prohibits calling the president a racist or saying his statements were racist. “These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting and those comments are racist,” Pelosi had said on the House floor during debate on the resolution.

After an objection by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said her remarks were not in order.

“I stand by my statement,” Pelosi told reporters as she returned to the House chamber during the vote, adding that she is “proud” of the attention being brought to the matter, Billy House reports.

Pelosi_House_Floor
Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
Pelosi walks to the House floor.

Al Green to File Impeachment Articles: Meanwhile, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) said yesterday he’ll file articles of impeachment against Trump in an effort to force a procedural vote on the articles by tomorrow. The articles will be focused on race and not on former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings, he said, Jack Fitzpatrick and Billy House report.

Also Happening on the Hill

Pelosi, Mnuchin Speak Again on Debt Limit: Pelosi said yesterday she sees “forward motion” after yet more talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to negotiate higher spending levels in a budget deal that congressional leaders want to attach to a bill raising the debt limit before Congress’s August recess. “We have a clear idea of what we want to agree to and that’s progress,” Pelosi said yesterday evening. She spoke with Mnuchin twice during the day, and plans to speak again this morning. Recent phone calls between Pelosi and Mnuch in have focused on whether a broader budget deal will be possible before the House is scheduled to leave July 26 for its six-week recess. Read more from Erik Wasson.

Democrats Spotlight Health Care Tensions: The House is set to repeal a tax Wednesday intended to fund the Affordable Care Act, a move that will help preserve tax breaks for private insurance favored by large corporations. And this time, it’s Democrats leading the charge.

The levy, commonly known as the “Cadillac tax,” is a 40% excise tax on the most generous and expensive employer health-insurance plans. It was included in Obamacare as a measure that economists said would help curb health costs. But Congress kept delaying its implementation so the tax has never actually been collected. The vote to repeal the tax highlights the conflicting forces pulling at Democrats when campaigning versus legislating. Read more from Laura Davison.

Big Tech Takes Bipartisan Beating: Facebook, Google and Amazon grappled with multiple attacks across Washington from lawmakers and Trump over a range of grievances that underscored the kind of reckoning the companies could face.

House Democrats yesterday grilled Amazon over perceived conflicts of interest on its platform, while senators from both parties slammed Facebook over its plan to introduce a cryptocurrency, saying the company can’t be trusted. Google got broadsides from Senate Republicans who complained of anti-conservative bias and from Trump, who said he wants the Justice Department to look into its work in China.

The pressure isn’t going away. Facebook Vice President David Marcus is facing another day of testimony today answering questions about its Libra cryptocurrency project from the House Committee on Financial Services. David McLaughlin and Ben Brody have the broad overview of tech’s week in Washington so far.

Senate Ratifies Spain Tax Protocol: Senators yesterday ratified a tax protocol that would amend a tax treaty with Spain, the first success after years of stalled efforts. The vote on the amendment was 94-2 with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) voting no. Votes are expected today on three protocols that would amend existing tax treaties with Japan, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. Read more from Kaustuv Basu.

Sharp Rise in Immigration Application Backlog: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree backlogs and lengthy processing times for immigration applications are a problem, though they diverged during a House subcommittee hearing on the likely cause. The backlog at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stood at 2.4 million cases as of May 2019, representing applications for a variety of immigration benefits like H-1B specialty occupation visas, work permits, green cards, and citizenship. That’s resulted in mounting wait times for decision s on those applications, which advocates say are creating uncertainty for businesses to the detriment of the U.S. economy. Read more from Laura D. Francis .

Transit Grant Changes Weighed by Panel: Lawmakers charged with writing the next surface transportation bill floated simplifying the biggest federal transit grant program and questioned the Transportation Department’s management of it. The Capital Investment Grant program is the largest discretionary transit grant program at the Federal Transit Administration, accounting for about 20% of the agency’s budget, according to testimony yesterday by K. Jane Williams, acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. The program fund s projects such as commuter rail and bus rapid transit in transit systems small and large across the country. Read more from Shaun Courtney.

NDAA Targets Burn Pit Toxin Exposure: Service members exposed to burn pits and airborne toxins in Iraq and Afghanistan would receive more attention under defense policy legislation moving through Congress, as both advocates and lawmakers attempt to get ahead of what they call “this generation’s Agent Orange.” The Pentagon would be required to make sure that all periodic health assessments provided to service members include an evaluation of whether an individual was around toxic airborne chemicals and record that information in a Burn Pit Registry under the fiscal 2020 defense authorization bills passed by the House (H.R. 2500) and Senate (S. 1790). Read more from Megan Howard.

Democrats Slam Trump for Fossil Fuel Zeal: House Democrats called out the Trump administration’s energy agenda yesterday for ignoring climate change in its zeal to expand fossil fuels development on federal land. The administration’s oil and gas drilling agenda is worsening climate change—”the greatest public health challenge of the 21st Century,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) said at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing. The hearing was the latest in a series of hearings House Democrats have held in 2019 on the White House’s disregard for climate science and its contributions to global warming through expanding fossil fuels development and rolling back emissions-cutting regulations. Read more from Bobby Magill.

Elections & Politics

Harris Says Trump Threatens Social Security: Democratic 2020 candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said yesterday that a second term for Trump would endanger Social Security due to rising deficits. “To have four more years of this administration means to really put Social Security in jeopardy,” she said at a forum in Davenport, Iowa, hosted by AARP and the Des Moines Register. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Biden Wants Stronger Farm Antitrust Laws: Former Vice President Joe Biden called for the strengthening of antitrust enforcement to protect farmers and ranchers as part of a broader plan targeting voters in rural areas, which have largely become Republican strongholds. Biden, who is leading in most polls for the Democratic presidential nomination, released a “plan for rural America” as he campaigned in Iowa yesterday. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

New Hampshire Polls Split on 2020 Lead: A new poll of New Hampshire voters shows Biden leading the Democratic field with 24% of likely voters. The poll by CNN and the University of New Hampshire showed Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 19% each. But the trend line may be notable: She’s up by 14 points since April and he’s down by 11 points since then. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Sanders Says He’d Meet With Dictators: Sanders said that as president he’d sit down with authoritarian leaders like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un or Russia’s Vladimir Putin even though he remains critical of Trump’s “respect and affection for” dictators around the world. “Should we sit down and negotiate with them? Absolutely,” he said at a Washington Post event yesterday. “Should we praise them as a great leader? I don’t think so.” Sanders also said that he would directly engage with leaders of Iran to try to improve strained relations and quell risks of conflict that have been escalating under Trump. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Sanford Is Mulling a Challenge to Trump: Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) is considering a primary challenge to Trump, according to The Charleston Post and Courier. Sanford told the newspaper in a story published yesterday that he will decide whether to run over the next month. He said he would focus on sparking a debate about the debt, the deficit and spending, Max Berley reports.

Movers & Shakeups

Retired Justice Stevens Dies: John Paul Stevens, who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by a Republican president only to become a leading liberal voice on presidential powers, the death penalty and individual rights, has died. He was 99. The retired justice died yesterday at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale of complications following a stroke he suffered on Monday, the Supreme Court said in a statement.

“He brought to our bench an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom, and independence,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement yesterday. “His unrelenting commitment to justice has left us a better nation.”

Stevens was selected to join the federal bench in 1970 by Richard Nixon and nominated to the Supreme Court in 1975 by Gerald Ford. He retired June 2010 at age 90 as the second-oldest justice in American history. Greg Stohr has more.

Planned Parenthood Fires President: Planned Parenthood yesterday abruptly removed its president after less than a year as the group faces threats to funding from Trump and abortion opponents in several state houses. “I just learned that the @PPFA Board ended my employment at a secret meeting,” Leana Wen wrote on Twitter. Wen, a physician and former Baltimore health commissioner, was named president of the organization last September. In a statement, Planned Parenthood announced Wen would be immediately replaced by Alexis McGill, a former member of the board. Read more from Jarrell Dillard.

Trump Taps Crowley for Treasury Post: Trump formally announced his pick of Monica Crowley to be the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, the White House said in a statement yesterday. Crowley is currently senior adviser for public affairs to Mnuchin, the statement said, Kim Chipman reports. Bloomberg in April reported Mnuchin planned to hire Crowley as his top spokeswoman. Trump planned to appoint Crowley to a position at the National Security Council in the White House, but she withdrew her name from consideration in Jan. 2017 after CNN reported she plagiarized portions of her 2012 book and Politico reported she plagiarized portions of her 2000 Ph.D. thesis.

Republicans Defend EPA Appointments: House Republicans defended the EPA during an oversight hearing yesterday over the membership of the agency’s scientific advisory committees, in the wake of a government watchdog’s report criticizing the agency’s efforts. The hearing also served as a preview of a broader fight over the role of science in U.S. decision-making. Democrats on the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight vowed to convene more hearings on the issue in coming months. Read more from Stephen Lee.

What Else to Know

Trump On China Tariffs: Trump reiterated that he could impose additional tariffs on Chinese imports if he wants, after promising to hold off on more duties in a trade-war truce he reached with China’s Xi Jinping last month. “We have a long way to go as far as tariffs where China is concerned, if we want. We have another $325 billion we can put a tariff on, if we want,” Trump said. “So, we’re talking to China about a deal, but I wish they didn’t break the deal that we had.” Read more from Justin Sink.

French Digital Tax at G7: A French-U.S. clash over digital taxation overshadowed the start of a Group of Seven finance chiefs meeting as France refused to flinch on its plan to impose levies that will hit American tech giants. Just hours before an encounter with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin at the G-7 near Paris, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire pledged to forge ahead with a 3% levy on digital revenues of large companies. France hopes its drive will pressure the U.S. to be more constructive in talks on creating a similar tax globally on profits. “What I will try to explain to Mnuchin is that it is the U.S. interest to put in place such a taxation for the new economic model, based on data,” Le Maire said on French radio France Inter. Read more from William Horobin and Helene Fouquet.

Census Weighs Waiving Citizenship Requirement: The U.S. Census Bureau is exploring the use of waivers to allow non-citizens to apply for Census 2020 jobs in communities requiring specific language skills spoken by a relatively small number of people, Ron Jarmin, the Deputy Director of the Census Bureau, said at a National Association for Business Economics event in Washington. “In those instances we would look for a waiver for that,” he said. “But so far we have been very relieved by the response to our recruiting activities.” The bureau currently requires all applicants to be U.S. citizens. This prevents those with paperwork that allows them to otherwise work in the U.S. from applying, Jeff Kearns and Reade Pickert report.

U.S. Accused of Fraud in Census Litigation: A group that successfully sued to block a citizenship question on the 2020 census claimed senior Commerce Department officials “repeatedly engaged in litigation conduct that is nothing less than a fraud on the court,” aided by lawyers from the Justice Department. The New York Immigration Coalition asked U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman to allow it to demand evidence about the government’s conduct in the case and to impose sanctions. Furman earlier yesterday signed an order permanently blocking the U.S. from asking about citizenship on the survey. Read more from Bob Van Voris.

White House Sued Over Asylum Changes: The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sued to halt a Trump administration rule that would bar most Central American migrants from seeking asylum at the border. The complaint, filed yesterday in federal court in San Francisco, called it the “administration’s most extreme run at an asylum ban yet.” The change “clearly violates domestic and international law, and cannot stand,” ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said, Edvard Pettersson reports.

U.S. Plans Maritime Security Briefings: The U.S. plans to brief foreign diplomats based in Washington this week on a new maritime security initiative to protect shipping in the Middle East, following a spate of attacks on tankers in recent months. U.S. Central Command has been working on a plan to deter threats to shipping in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman, according to Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran. Stephen Cunningham has more.

Air Force Starts ICBM Replacement: The Air Force has released a request for proposals as it launches its engineering and manufacturing competitive phase for a ground-based strategic deterrent missile designed to replace the Minuteman III nuclear missile. Boeing and Northrop Grumman both have previous “risk reduction, technology maturation contracts” and will compete for a winner-take-all work order to be awarded between July and September of next year. Minuteman III ICBM silos are based in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakot a and Wyoming. The Air Force plans to spend as much as $11 billion through 2024 on the program, a service document says, Tony Capaccio reports.

To contact the reporter 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

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