Biden issues a new executive order to prevent the next Brittney Griner
It’s unclear if the administration’s new actions will expedite her release though. Plus: Pelosi calls for Democratic unity ahead of the midterms.
First Things First
With every day that US basketball star Brittney Griner remains wrongfully detained in Russia as she endures a show trial for allegedly possessing paraphernalia with traces of cannabis oil, the pressure on President Joe Biden and his administration intensifies to secure her release and the freedom of the other Americans wrongfully detained or held hostage around the world.
And while negotiators work behind the scenes, later today he will issue a new executive order to promote transparency in these cases, guidance for Americans who are considering traveling to a dangerous country and deter other countries from capturing US nationals to bargain with our government to advance their often-nefarious interests.
The executive order is accompanied by a new “D” risk indicator, which the State Department will add to its travel advisories to inform American travelers of the risk of wrongful detention by a foreign government. The “D” indicator joins the existing “K” (for kidnapping), “C” for crime and “H” for health indicators and will update according to State’s extensive internal guidelines. Six countries have received the designation: Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.
Senior administration officials said the executive order also streamlines the information-sharing process between the government and the families of Americans in wrongful detention or held hostage. This is a direct response to a common criticism of this and previous administrations that White House officials are less than forthcoming about all they’re doing to reunite US nationals with their families.
What’s less clear is what this means for Griner and other Americans with similar circumstances. Officials declined to get into the specifics of any of the cases reporters asked about, preferring instead to speak to the challenges of negotiating these cases and reaffirming President Biden’s commitment to getting the job done.
Murray and Smith to introduce bill to expand family planning
Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Tina Smith of Minnesota this afternoon will introduce the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act to push back against Republican-led restrictions on reproductive freedom.
The bill would invest in Title X, the federal grant program that provides birth control, STI testing and treatment and preventative screenings to people across the country.
The senators will attempt to fast-track the bill’s passage through a process called unanimous consent. But since all it takes is one objection to block the request, it’s unlikely to advance. (Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma blocked a unanimous consent request last week from Murray and Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, who attempted to pass a bill to protect people who cross state lines for abortion care from state prosecution.)
Still, Murray and Smith hope to put Republicans on record as claiming to support family planning while blocking efforts to actually do so.
Pelosi calls for unity among House Democrats
Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week that her Democratic Caucus has no intention of surrendering power to Republicans this November.
But to maintain or expand their slim House majority, Pelosi says her members must project a unified front in the face of bubbling antipathy towards one of their Senate colleagues.
“The short time between now and [the midterms] will be intense,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to House Democrats on Monday. “Our success, as always, will depend on a unified Democratic House Caucus.”
Democrats are still pissed at Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia for pumping the brakes on negotiations to invest in climate action and raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations as part of a budget package that the party can pass without Republican support.
If you missed it on Friday, you can read the full backstory. But here’s the upshot: Manchin wants to wait until the next inflation report comes out before he commits to investing billions of dollars to tackle the climate crisis or roll back the lopsided 2017 Trump tax cuts.
The issue with most Democrats is that they’ve been negotiating with Manchin on and off for 18 months and feel like he’s wasted their time. There’s also frustration that his reticence on climate justice is due to his receiving donations from the fossil fuel industry, which obviously isn’t giddy about President Biden’s clean energy ambitions. Additionally, there just aren’t many legislative days left on the calendar.
Congress will be out for its August recess next month when the inflation numbers are released. And although theoretically, members can cut their break short. In reality, few will want to since we’re 100 days out from the midterm elections and Democrats would rather be on the campaign trail than in a House or Senate chamber taking votes that already could (or should?) have been passed.
Underneath all of this tension is an opportunity to keep health care affordable and lower the price of prescription drugs for millions of Americans. This isn’t paid family leave, universal pre-K, voting rights, immigration reform, student debt cancelation or many of the other issues Democrats have unsuccessfully tried to pass. But it’s also not too shabby of a consolation prize for members to run on back home since health care is an issue that touches everyone. And it’s also one Republicans have been AWOL in terms of solutions for reform.
“[W]e must accept the good and continue our negotiations for more. The health provisions of a potential reconciliation package are essential, as we must act to reduce the cost of prescription drugs,” Pelosi said. “It is of the highest priority for House Democrats that we continue our fight to save the planet for the children, as this is an issue of health, jobs, security and values.”
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In the Know
The White House will host a cyber workforce and education summit as the nation attempts to fill an estimated 700,000 open positions in the cybersecurity sector. Among the topics of discussion will be how to enable untapped talent from underserved and diverse communities to reach jobs that pay well and don’t require a four-year degree.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said he plans to retire by January 2025, the end of President Biden’s presidential term. Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the president’s chief medical adviser, has been one of the faces of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the target of personal attacks from anti-science Republicans. (Aria Bendix and Kelly O'Donnell / NBC News)
The Agriculture Department will invest $50 million to test and launch online shopping for WIC participants and require WIC state agencies to include a provision in future infant formula rebate contracts to account for future infant formula recalls. WIC families, which account for more than half of infant formula purchased, have been hit the hardest by the recent shortage.
Read All About It
Kenny Torrella on Costco’s inflation-proof $4.99 rotisserie chicken:
But there’s another reason the birds have remained so affordable. In 2019, Costco made an unprecedented move to source its chicken at even lower margins: It set up its own feed mill, hatchery, and slaughter plant in Nebraska, and contracted nearby farmers to raise over 100 million birds each year, all under the name Lincoln Premium Poultry (LPP). It could be saving the company up to 35 cents per bird.
It’s a classic example of “vertical integration.” That means owning each link in the supply chain, which enables companies to reduce operating costs and go bigger. It’s how some of the country’s largest chicken producers, like Tyson Foods, took over much of America’s chicken business. Now, Costco is outdoing them all by being both the meat producer and the retailer.
The move worries industrialized animal farming critics, who say that over the last few decades, meat industry consolidation has worsened conditions for meat-processing workers, intensified largely unchecked air and water pollution, and weakened rural economies.
Zak Cheney-Rice on how Democrats bolstered the Post-Roe enforcement regime:
Dobbs is a reminder that what constitutes a crime is frequently arbitrary. If the right powerful people wish it so, there are few limits to what you can be charged with. There are doctors in Louisiana, Kentucky, and South Dakota who woke up on the morning of June 24 with jobs that were legal; that evening, those jobs could land them in prison. Their reality complicates the very notion of a crime wave: The Court’s decision — which will not actually end abortion — practically guarantees such a wave and, with it, a whole new class of criminals.
A lot of this was predictable, which makes the Democrats’ apparent lack of foresight all the more striking. Even before the January 6 coup attempt and GOP apologia that came after, it was clear that Republicans saw Democratic wins at the ballot box as, by their very nature, illegitimate and unlawful. False accusations of fraud coupled with suppression tactics have cast a pall of criminality over the mere act of voting blue. These are but a preview of what could be in store.
So what happens when a lot more of us suddenly become criminals? And how do we move forward when Democrats, our self-styled protectors, continue to respond by shoveling money at the organs that will punish our crimes? Something has to give as more people are forced to rely on underground networks for safe abortions. Democratic leaders can keep up their myopic allegiance to law enforcement, or they can see how many more of their constituents are entering its crosshairs and fight for us.
People describe Smalls’s ideology as a mix of narcissism and egalitarianism, of earnest solidarity and ego — “Chris-ism,” as one former ALU member described it to me. But the key to Smalls’s success is how well he grasps class-war unionism as a moral outlook as well as a strategy. When, on July 20, 2021, news broke that Bezos had flown to outer space on his private rocket, it provided the perfect opportunity for Smalls and the other organizers to bond with beleaguered Amazon employees by skewering the CEO as a feckless billionaire whose head was literally in the clouds. A year earlier, Smalls had demonstrated the same savvy when he had led a protest outside Bezos’s mansion in Washington, D.C., in which he set up a guillotine. (“I thought that was a little too crazy,” said Flowers.)
Smalls may be distrustful or even cynical sometimes, but it’s no wonder. He, like those who gravitate toward him, has lived his whole life in a country where hard work can fail to earn you a decent existence and where the working class’s supposed allies have done little to change that fact. If there is a sense of Kismet to Smalls’s rise — that unique alchemy of inevitability and circumstance that creates all heroes — it’s due to the conjunction of his own personality with the anger that raged across the country during the pandemic. Only someone with bravery and ego in equally giant doses would ever have attempted what he did, yet his reward has often been people denouncing him as a megalo-maniac for even trying and as a failure for not winning every single battle.