The Daily 202: Filibuster fight looms over Biden speech on voting rights

with Mariana Alfaro

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Welcome to The Daily 202 newsletter! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1973, Senate Watergate Committee staff learn for the first time about President Richard Nixon’s secret White House taping system.

President Biden travels to Philadelphia today to make his highest-profile speech yet on the importance of safeguarding voting rights and thwarting GOP efforts to rein in electoral practices they blame for their 2020 White House loss. 

But yesterday’s White House briefing highlighted why progressives have voiced growing impatience with how Biden has tackled voting rights since taking office: His team’s rhetoric verges on apocalyptic, conjuring up a once-in-a-century threat to American democracy, but he doesn’t favor scrapping the filibuster to address it. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the coast-to-coast Republican drive to rewrite voting rules “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War,” an “authoritarian and anti-American” efforts to disenfranchise millions of people. 

But Psaki went on to allude to the current political reality in Congress, where Democrats don’t have the votes to change the filibuster because of a handful of hold-outs in their party. She firmly stated Biden won’t call for its “elimination.”

“The filibuster is a legislative process tool, an important one, that warrants debate, but determination about making changes will be made by members of the Senate, not by this president or any president, frankly, moving forward,” she said. 

Psaki also declined to take a position on carving out a filibuster “exemption” for voting rights legislation to enable passage with only Democratic votes.

© Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg President Biden has repeatedly attacked the Republican effort to restrict voting access, even calling Georgia’s new voting law “Jim Crow on steroids.” (Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg)

The gap between how the president describes the threat to voting rights and what he proposes to do about it has left Biden in something of a political no-man’s-land with progressives who express growing alarm at what Republicans are doing at the state level. It could also endanger his ambitious infrastructure efforts in which he needs Democrats to hold the line. 

Psaki was responding to a new appeal from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) for Biden to pressure reluctant Democrats  in public or in private  to embrace filibuster changes. 

“I don’t care whether he does it in a microphone or on the telephone — just do it,” Clyburn told Politico.

Biden himself has repeatedly invoked the racist Jim Crow laws used across the American South from the Civil War to the civil rights movement to describe the Republican effort calling Georgia’s new voting law “Jim Crow on steroids,” “a blatant attack on the constitution,” and an “atrocity.” 

Parts of our country are backsliding into the days of Jim Crow, passing laws that harken back to the era of poll taxes when Black people were made to guess how many beans, how many jelly beans, in a jar or count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap before they could cast their ballot,” the president said recently. 

In Philadelphia, Biden will take direct aim at the GOP’s state-by-state campaign — as well as former president Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that he was cheated out of a second term, Psaki said.

At the Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire reports

“Biden will lay out the ‘moral case’ for voting rights as he faces growing pressure from civil rights activists and other Democrats to combat efforts by Republican-led state legislatures to restrict access to the ballot. … 

Biden’s speech Tuesday in Philadelphia, to be delivered at the National Constitution Center, is intended as the opening salvo of a public pressure campaign, White House aides said, even as legislative options to block  voting restrictions  face significant obstacles.” 

At the New York Times, Michael Wines says

The Democratic Party pledged millions for it last week, grass-roots groups are campaigning for it nationwide and, as recently as Friday, Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, said the fight for it had only begun. 

But behind the brave words are rising concerns among voting-rights advocates and Democrats that the counterattack against the aggressive push by Republicans to restrict ballot access is faltering, and at a potentially pivotal moment

President Biden is expected to put his political muscle behind the issue in a speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday. But in Congress, Democratic senators have been unable to move voting and election bills that would address what many of them call a fundamental attack on American democracy that could lock in a new era of Republican minority rule.” 

Meanwhile, Democratic state lawmakers from Texas have bolted from their state to deny its legislature a quorum and thereby block a Republican voting bill. Here are Lauren McGaughy, Gromer Jeffers, Jr. and Allie Morris of the Dallas Morning News

“In yet another surprise flex of their limited power, Texas House Democrats left the state en masse on Monday to block debate on a contentious GOP-backed election bill. 

Democrats boarded planes to Washington, D.C., with plans to lobby Congress for federal voting rights legislation, instead of returning to Austin to complete a 30-day special session. Their decision effectively halts work in the Republican-led chamber and kills the elections legislation for now.” 

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, “suggested he’s willing to call special sessions “all the way up until election next year” and offered harsh words for the Democrats. 

As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done,’ he told KVUE in Austin.” 

My colleagues Amy Gardner and Eva Ruth Moravec report the Texas proposals: 

 “… include a number of restrictions championed by former president Donald Trump. The measures would ban several election programs implemented last year to help people vote during the coronavirus pandemic, including drive-through voting and 24-hour and late-night voting. Voting rights advocates noted that voters of color disproportionately used these programs.” 

What’s happening now

Biden will pick former West Virginia health official Rahul Gupta, an ally of Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), as the next director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Dan Diamond scoops.

A new lawsuit targets a Texas abortion law that deputizes citizens to enforce a six-week ban. “Abortion rights advocates and providers filed a federal lawsuit in Texas on Tuesday seeking to block a new state law empowering individuals to sue anyone assisting a woman with getting an abortion, including those who provide financial help or drive a pregnant patient to a clinic,” Ann Marimow reports. “Abortion providers say the law, known as S.B. 8, is unconstitutional and will subject them to endless lawsuits, shut down clinics and reduce services — and they say it will isolate abortion patients by undermining support networks for pregnant women.”

Texas Democratic lawmakers who fled the state to block the restrictive voting law this morning asked Congress to act. “Standing before the U.S. Capitol, the Democrats were defiant but pragmatic, after their second hasty exodus in three months,” Eugene Scott reports

France called on all its citizens in Afghanistan to leave over security concerns. “France joins a growing list of countries that have either told their citizens to leave, or evacuated them — including in recent days India and China,” the AFP reports. “The government will set up a special flight on the morning of July 17th, departing from Kabul, in order to allow the return to France of the entire French community,” the French embassy in Kabul said in a statement, adding the flight will be free of cost. 

First lady Jill Biden will attend the Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremonies. “News of the first lady’s attendance at the ceremony on July 23 comes days after organizers announced that they will bar local spectators from all Olympic events held in and around Tokyo, as rising coronavirus infections and the spread of the highly contagious delta variant spurred the capital to impose a new state of emergency,” Felicia Sonmez reports

Prices rose 5.4 percent in June over last year, the largest spike since 2008, as the economy continues to recover. “Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday showed that prices rose 0.9 percent in the past month, a hike after prices also rose 0.6 percent in May. The price hike in June marked the largest 1-month spike since June 2008,” Rachel Siegel reports. “Still, policymakers at the Federal Reserve and White House continue to predict that as the economy has time to heal, the surge in inflation will cool and overall prices will settle back down.”

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Lunchtime reads from The Post

  • An excerpt of “I Alone Can Fix It,” the new book by our colleagues Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. On the night of the 2020 election, Trump “stayed up until 4 a.m. chewing over the incoming results. The president was fixated on Pennsylvania, where Biden kept cutting into his lead. There were enough votes still to be counted in Philadelphia, which were sure to favor the Democrat, for Biden to overtake Trump. And indeed, Democrats were optimistic that once all the votes were in, Biden would win the state. [Kellyane] Conway and [Mark] Meadows both preached patience. … Meadows said: ‘Just count the votes, Mr. President. You probably have enough to keep those leads.’ Trump wasn’t having any of it. He thought Democrats were rigging the vote totals. … ‘Mr. President, it stings,’ Conway said. ‘It just hurts to have lost Pennsylvania.’ ‘Honey, we didn’t lose Pennsylvania,’ Trump replied. ‘We won Pennsylvania.’ Conway, who often was quick with a rejoinder to lighten the mood at tense moments, invoked the security cameras that some homeowners install at their front doors to monitor for stolen packages or unwanted visitors. ‘Then your campaign should’ve invested in Ring and Nest cameras,’ she quipped.”
  • North Carolina Democratic voters yearn for a new type of Senate candidate after years of defeats. Now they have two,” by Mike DeBonis: “When Democratic Senate candidate Cheri Beasley paid an afternoon visit to an antipoverty nonprofit here, she didn’t give a stump speech or, really, say much about her campaign at all. But the group’s executive director, Donna Carrington, didn’t need to hear much to lend support to Beasley, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court. She credited Beasley’s aggressive moves to halt evictions during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic last year — and the possibility of electing a fellow Black woman to high office in a state that has never elected an African American senator or governor. … The next day, state Sen. Jeff Jackson — Beasley’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination — attracted hundreds to a park in rural Hickory, N.C., even as the remnants of Hurricane Elsa blew overhead.”

… and beyond

  • Tennessee’s former top vaccine official: ‘I am afraid for my state,’” by Michelle Fiscus, the state’s former top vaccine official who was fired on Monday. Fiscus said she was scapegoated to appease GOP state lawmakers angry about efforts to vaccinate teens. The Tennessean published Fiscus’s statement about the situation: “Today I became the 25th of 64 state and territorial immunization program directors to leave their position during this pandemic. That’s nearly 40% of us. And along with our resignations or retirements or, as in my case, push from office, goes the institutional knowledge and leadership of our respective COVID-19 vaccine responses. … I am not a political operative, I am a physician who was, until today, charged with protecting the people of Tennessee, including its children … I have been terminated for doing my job because some of our politicians have bought into the anti-vaccine misinformation campaign rather than taking the time to speak with the medical experts.” 
  • Amid Florida COVID spike, Miami hospital’s virus patients are younger, unvaccinated,” by the Miami Herald’s Ben Conarck: “Several months after highly effective and safe vaccines have been made available to the general public over the age of 12, physicians at Miami-Dade’s public Jackson Health System were treating about twice as many COVID patients over the weekend as they had been earlier this month. … Just over 10 million people have been fully vaccinated in Florida, according to the CDC. That means there are more than 8 million who are eligible but have not yet been fully vaccinated.”
  • Former U.S. drug agency informant arrested in Haiti assassination, DEA source says,” by Reuters’s Mark Hosenball: “One of the Haitian-American men arrested on suspicion of taking part in the assassination of Haiti’s president last week had been an informant to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a DEA official said on Monday.”

The Biden agenda

Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal could face key Senate GOP defections.

  • “Initially, 11 Republicans signed off on an outline of the plan, which proposed to pump nearly $600 billion in new spending for ‘hard’ infrastructure and cost a total of $1.2 trillion over the next eight years. Getting the bill through the Senate would require at least 10 Republicans to back the measure assuming all 50 members of the Democratic caucus stay united, which is also highly uncertain,” Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Ted Barrett report. “But five of those 11 GOP senators told CNN on Monday that they are not committed to backing the bill, wary of some of the details for paying for the measure that have come to light and expressing misgivings about Democratic leaders’ plans to move the narrower bipartisan bill alongside a much-larger Democratic-only bill that would fulfill much of Biden’s economic agenda.”
  • “Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican up for reelection next year, said he’s ‘concerned’ by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to hold up House votes on a bipartisan deal until the Senate approves the Democratic-only bill … Beyond the process, several of the GOP senators who backed the initial outline said Monday that there are real concerns about how the bill would be paid for including a controversial provision to bolster tax collection enforcement by the IRS.”
  • “Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who signed on to the framework, made clear he needs to learn more when the language is finalized and the official estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is released before he will commit to voting for it. … GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who also signed off on the plan but has raised concerns about the Democrats’ tactics, said: ‘We don’t have enough pay-fors’ to finance the full package.”

Biden pressed local officials to use relief money to tamp down on crime.

  • “In what he described as a listening session about what is working in different communities, Biden also said more needed to be done to curb gun trafficking and that more funds needed to be injected into community policing programs,” Matt Viser reports.
  • “Biden on Monday highlighted the need to stem the flow of firearms by cracking down on gun dealers and illegal gun trafficking. He also urged communities to hire more police, pay them overtime and invest in community policing.”
  • “He promoted using funds for mental health programs and job training for young people … and said more needs to be done to reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals into communities by offering housing and job programs.”

The Interior Department created a task force to study its police departments.

  • “Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is forming a task force to review the practices and policies of all the law enforcement bureaus in her department, after a recent report on the U.S. Park Police’s handling of protesters in Lafayette Square last year found problems with that agency’s communications both internally and with other agencies involved in clearing the square,” Tom Jackman reports
  • “Haaland named former Park Police chief Robert D. MacLean, now the director of Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security, to lead the task force. MacLean was head of the Park Police for six years, including in 2017, when two officers fatally shot unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar in a residential neighborhood of Fairfax County. For nearly two years, MacLean refused to release the officers’ names or any information about the slaying and would not discuss it publicly.”

Former Social Security commissioner Andrew Saul, fired and defiant, was cut off from the agency’s computers.

  • Saul, a Trump appointee who declared last week he would defy his firing by Biden, found out yesterday that he was cut off from the computers as his acting replacement moved to undo his policies, Lisa Rein reports
  • “Saul, 74, called his firing and that of his deputy David Black, in an email from the White House Personnel Office, a ‘palace coup’ that he said blindsided him, given that his six-year term was not set to expire until 2025. As Republicans made plans to defend him, Saul said he had no public announcement — yet — on his strategy to remain in office as the ‘duly confirmed Social Security commissioner.’ ‘There will be more,’ said Saul, a wealthy former women’s apparel executive and prominent Republican donor who had served on the board of a conservative think tank that has called for cuts to Social Security benefits. ‘Stay tuned.’” 

Quote of the day

“At this point, the most important booster we need is to get people vaccinated,” said Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University in Atlanta, on whether vaccinated Americans should get a booster shot of the vaccine. 

The future of the GOP

The GOP’s top lawyer last November called election fraud arguments by Trump’s lawyers a “joke.”

  • “Justin Riemer, the Republican National Committee’s chief counsel, sought to discourage a Republican Party staffer from posting claims about ballot fraud on RNC accounts, the email shows, as attempts by Donald Trump and his associates to challenge results in a number of states, such as Arizona and Pennsylvania, intensified,” Josh Dawsey reports. “‘What Rudy and Jenna are doing is a joke and they are getting laughed out of court,’ Riemer, a longtime Republican lawyer, wrote to Liz Harrington, a former party spokeswoman, on Nov. 28, referring to Trump attorneys Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jenna Ellis. ‘They are misleading millions of people who have wishful thinking that the president is going to somehow win this thing.’ ”
  • “Riemer said Ellis and Giuliani were damaging a broader Republican Party push on ‘election integrity’ issues, according to the email. Riemer had led the party’s legal efforts for months ahead of and after the November election, particularly limiting the expansion of mail-in ballots. But Riemer was skeptical internally of some of the most conspiratorial theories and did not believe many of the claims from Giuliani and others about fraud.”

A federal judge in Michigan pressed Trump-allied lawyers on the 2020 election fraud claims.

  • U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker said she would rule on a request to discipline the lawyers in coming weeks. But over and over again during the more than five-hour hearing, she pointedly pressed the lawyers involved — including Trump allies Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood — to explain what steps they had taken to ensure their court filings in the case filed last year had been accurate. She appeared astonished by many of their answers,” Rosalind Helderman reports
  • “If Parker decides to discipline the lawyers, she could require them to pay the fees of their opponents in the case, the city of Detroit and Michigan state officials. But she could also go further — assessing additional monetary penalties or recommending grievance proceedings be opened that could result in banning the attorneys from practicing in Michigan or disbarring them altogether.” 

Six months after he left office, Trump has an army of GOP enforcers keeping his message alive.

  • “From the earliest days of his presidency Trump and his political team worked to re-engineer the infrastructure of the Republican Party, installing allies in top leadership posts in key states. The effect has been dramatic,” David Siders and Stephanie Murray report. “In Oklahoma, the newly installed party chair is endorsing a primary challenge to GOP Sen. James Lankford, the home state incumbent who crossed Trump by voting to uphold results of the November election. In Michigan, the state party chair joked about assassinating two Republican House members who voted to impeach Trump.”
  • “In red states, blue states and swing states, these leaders — nearly all of whom were elected during Trump’s presidency or right after — are redefining the traditional role of the state party chair. They are emerging not just as guardians of the former president’s political legacy, but as chief enforcers of Trumpism within the GOP.”
  • “‘It’s purity tests, 100 percent,’ said Landon Brown, a Republican state lawmaker from Wyoming whose state party chair, Frank Eathorne, earned Trump’s public endorsement for reelection this year after the state party censured Rep. Liz Cheney for her vote to impeach Trump. ‘When it comes to the party, what I have started seeing, especially in the past four to five years … it’s much more a hard-line, defined, ‘If you don’t vote this way, you’re not a Republican.’ ”

Hot on the left

A major union boss broke with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the Democrat lays the groundwork for a fourth term. “John Samuelsen, the international president of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), says he’s done supporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He is the first major union leader to break with the governor following the scandals that first came to light earlier this year, including accusations of sexual harassment,” NY1’s Zack Fink reports. “‘My sense is, how can the trade union movement stand with him if, as a result of that report, it becomes evident and becomes clear that he engaged in workplace criminality or misbehavior?’ Samuelsen said. An independent investigation that State Attorney General Letitia James launched is examining the accusations against the governor. Samuelsen says his union won’t support Cuomo, no matter what the report says.”

Hot on the right

Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) fundraising surge continues. “Cheney, the most high-profile of the 10 House Republicans who voted in January to impeach Trump, set a second straight quarterly fundraising record,” Fox News’s Paul Steinhauser reports. “Cheney’s 2022 reelection campaign hauled in $1.88 million in the April-June second quarter of fundraising, an increase from the record-setting $1.5 million Cheney brought in during the first three months of the year.”

Covid spending surge, visualized

The economy’s running on $5.2 trillion in training wheels. What happens when the stimulus wears off?

Today in Washington

Biden will deliver remarks on voting rights today at 2:50 p.m. in Philadelphia. He will return to D.C. in the evening. 

In closing

Seth Meyers said Donald Trump Jr. bombed at CPAC:

Anthony S. Fauci and Biden will collaborate with pop star Olivia Rodrigo to encourage young Americans to get vaccinated: 

Rodrigo is known for hits like “Driver’s License.” The younger Twitterverse got a kick out of the news:

The older Twitterverse was slightly confused:

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