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How progressives plan to put their fingerprints on the NDAA
From offering amendments focused on social reform to keeping a close watch for poison pills, the Democrats’ most liberal members are on a mission to check House conservatives’ most extreme impulses.
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THE NDAA, FROM THE PROGRESSIVE POV
For this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) will offer an amendment that would grant the Defense Secretary the authority to produce and sell insulin without upcharges for diabetes patients on federal health care programs.
She’ll also move to ban the US government from contracting with firms who repeatedly violate the Fair Labor Standards Act and penalize them for failing to disclose those labor violations.
That’s not all: Jayapal will offer amendments to prohibit the government from buying data on Americans. And she’ll put forward another one to repeal the law that requires the Defense Department law submit a list of unfunded priorities for Congress to fill outside the budget process.
Each of the amendments, in addition to the several others many of the 100-plus left-leaning members of the caucus, is an attempt to prioritize labor and civil rights for servicemembers, reassert congressional war powers, and protect civilians abroad in the annual defense policy and programs legislation.
The NDAA is also an opportunity for House progressives to continue its long-lasting fight to rein in a military-industrial complex that Jayapal says prioritizes self-interested contractors and special interests over middle- and working-class families — a status quo both parties are complicit in upholding.
“So while our colleagues in the Appropriations subcommittees are forced to squeeze the investments in health care, education, and housing, and workers to fit underneath the cuts demanded by extreme MAGA Republicans, militarism continues to expand,” Jayapal told reporters during a press call on Wednesday.
The House is scheduled to consider several amendments later this afternoon into the night as Republican leadership threads an impossible needle between the unrelenting demands of the far-right flank of the conference and the reality that the NDAA won’t pass if Democrats and less-extreme Republicans are too turned off by the final product.
Jayapal said her members will be watching today to make sure the NDAA is uncontaminated with poison pills or policy risers that restrict abortion care, immigrant rights, or LGBTQ+ rights.
“It’s certainly not going to be Democrats that helps them to get the votes when they’ve made it so clear that they intend to use this for all kinds of horrendous amendments that stripped rights from people,” she added.
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TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
6 a.m. President Biden participated in a bilateral meeting with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland.
7 a.m. The president took a family photo with Nordic leaders
7:15 a.m. The president will participate in the US-Nordic Leaders Summit.
10 a.m. The House will meet to continue consideration of the NDAA with three vote series expected: The first at 1:30 p.m., the second starting at 5 p.m., and the last starting 10 p.m.
The Senate will also meet and take two votes at 11:30 a.m.: The first to confirm Kalpana Kotagal to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the second to advance the nomination of David Uhlmann to be an Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
10:30 a.m. President Biden and President Niinistö will hold a joint press conference.
12:40 p.m. The president will leave Finland to return to the White House, arriving at 9:35 p.m.
1:15 p.m. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will speak about workforce training programs and community colleges at the National Governors Association annual meeting. She will arrive in Atlantic City, New Jersey at noon.
1:20 p.m. Vice President Harris will leave Washington, DC en route to New York City, arriving at 2:15 p.m.
1:45 p.m. The Senate will vote to advance the nomination of Rachel Bloomekatz to be US Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit.
5:30 p.m. The vice president will speak at a campaign fundraiser.
7:05 p.m. Vice President Harris will leave NYC and arrive back in DC at 8:05 p.m.
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DEMS STAND WITH BIDEN ON UKRAINE AID
In a speech for an audience of nearly 10,000 at Vilnius University in Lithuania, President Biden on Wednesday reaffirmed to what he told President Zelenskyy hours earlier: The US will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
And while Congress is engaging in the annual appropriations process, lawmakers may need to pass an additional funding bill at some point to fulfill Biden’s commitment.
Jayapal told Supercreator Daily that House progressives are equally committed to supporting Ukraine despite their advocacy for lower overall defense funding.
“I think Ukraine canning be a bundle in which we then just get more money for military funding,” she said. “So we’re looking at what that looks like.”
Jayapal added that Congress should be looking to cut funding in places members do not support free up dollars for other priorities that are important to them.
But congressional Republicans will have to reconcile diverging positions on additional funding for Ukraine or the discussion is moot.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters this week that the $886 billion topline number Speaker McCarthy and President Biden reached in their debt limit deal is inadequate for the Pentagon.
“How to get additional assistance is the challenge,” he said. “We will have NDAA, which is not a spending bill, then we’ll have, at some point, Ukraine supplemental. In the meantime, there’s an effort going on in the Appropriations Committee to try to increase defense spending. I’m hoping that’s successful.”
McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) brokered a deal with defense hawks early last month to speed up the process of approving the debt limit deal before the markets got spooked ahead of the default deadline.
The leaders promised to protect military funding from an automatic one-percent cut if Congress failed to fund the government by the end of the year and to bring up a supplemental to provide additional money to the Pentagon or respond to a national emergency.
But McCarthy would throw cold water on this plan the following week when he said the House had no intention of taking up a supplemental that would boost military spending beyond the levels allowed in the deal he reached with President Biden.
Aguilar warned against such a definitive posture though.
“We don’t have a request for supplemental but I think drawing that red line and standing with folks who don’t support Ukraine right now is a place we shouldn’t go,” he said. “But that’s a question better left for House Republicans than House Democrats.”
ZELENSKYY ACCUSES CRITICS OF CLUSTER BOMB DOUBLE STANDARD
President Biden has been under fire for agreeing to send cluster bombs to Ukraine for the country’s counteroffensive against Russia.
The controversial weapons, which pose high risks to civilians who can be killed or injured in an attack or afterward from the explosives, are banned in more than 100 countries.
But President Zelenskyy defended Biden’s decision to supply cluster bombs to Ukraine.
“It’s very simple, you know, to criticize, for example, cluster munitions, and you made a difficult political decision,” Zelenskyy said to Biden ahead of a private meeting between the leaders during the NATO Summit. “But you have to know that Russia used such weapons from the first day … I didn’t hear from all parts of the words when Russia began to use it, I didn’t hear the same kind of criticism.”
Jayapal disagreed with Zelenskyy’s characterization and argued House Progressives have been clear on their position against cluster munitions regardless of who uses them.
“We have been against cluster munitions in any situation. We have called out Russia time and time against for their use of cluster munitions and for the cruel way in which they have waged this war,” she said to Supercreator Daily. “And I don’t think we should cede are moral authority on this question or go against the moral authority of our allies, most of whom have signed [the Convention on Cluster Munitions].”
The CPC chair also took the Pentagon to task for having to send cluster bombs to Ukraine in the first place.
“When we’re providing this level of funding for the Pentagon, how is that we run out of regular munitions and forced to then go to cluster munitions?” she said. “There’s something very wrong here in terms of what the Pentagon has been prioritizing and how much money is going to defense contractors’ pockets versus into things that we might actually need like regular munitions that we could be supplying Ukraine instead of cluster munitions.”
Aguilar acknowledged House Democrats share a variety of opinions on the issue and that members will take principled positions and votes if an amendment to block the sale or transfer of the weapons.
“We’re a caucus, not a cult,” he said. “Everybody’s allowed to make their own decisions.”
INFLATION DIPS FOR 12 STRAIGHT MONTHS
Congressional Democrats and the White House took a victory lap after the latest inflation report showed costs have dropped every month for the past year.
Total inflation is down to three percent from last year while core inflation, which measures the change in prices of goods and services excluding food and energy, fell to 4.8 percent, according to the June Consumer Price Index, one of the closely watched economic statistics.
In June, total inflation and core inflation were both 0.2 percent. And wages are now rising faster than inflation.
Housing remains a thorn in the economy’s side though: The cost of rent and shelter accounted for 70 percent of inflation last month.
But the overall economic snapshot gave Democrats plenty to brag about.
Pete Aguilar said the report demonstrates the resilience of the recovery and reiterated House Democrats’ commitment to growing the middle class.
“Call it Bidenomics, call it People Over Politics, just call it effective,” Aguilar said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the report proof that Democrats have made progress toward fulfilling their promise to lower costs for everyday Americans.
“This news means one thing: more money in people’s pockets, greater financial security, and affirmation that Democrats’ agenda is working,” Schumer said on Wednesday during a floor speech.
And the White House projects progress on lowering housing costs which it says will decrease core inflation further.
“Good jobs and lower costs: That’s Bidenomics in action,” President Biden said in a statement. “I ran for office to grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down — that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
All eyes will be on the Federal Reserve later this month to see if the central bank raises interest rates again to drive down inflation even faster. The next Fed rate decision is expected on Wednesday, July 26 at 2 p.m.
Related: “It’s a hot economy summer” by Kevin Dugan
PENCE DRIFTS FURTHER FROM MAINSTREAM ON ABORTION
Former Vice President Mike Pence has always been sharply anti-abortion, but he’s tacked even further right on the issue in his long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nominee.
Here’s how far: In an interview with AP, the staunch conservative said abortion should be banned even when a pregnancy is unviable. To be clear, this would force pregnant people to carry pregnancies to term even when their doctor has determined there is no chance the baby will survive outside the womb.
Pence cited stories from women and families who were told their unborn child would not go to term or would not survive only to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Despite these claims, doctors say most pregnant people choose to avoid the suffering, grief, of risk that comes with continuing an unviable pregnancy.
Pence’s comments come as Iowa state lawmakers passed a six-week abortion ban after Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds convened a special legislative session specifically to pass the ban, which she intends to sign into law on Friday. Weeks earlier, the state’s Supreme Court permanently blocked a 2018 law that was similar to the new legislation. Iowa abortion providers, represented by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the ACLU of Iowa, filed a challenge to the latest ban for a temporary injunction in district court.
And here in Congress, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee recently touted the support they received from anti-abortion groups for including anti-abortion provisions in annual funding bills.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats immediately pounced on these developments.
“This is about Republicans advocating a nationwide ban. This is not the Republican Party of states’ rights anymore. They’ve been very clear they want a nationwide ban on abortion,” Aguilar said. “It's deeply dangerous and women continue to fear that they’ll be prosecuted for traveling and state line traveling across state lines to receive the care that they are entitled to.”
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), the chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said members would continue to remind voters of how the GOP’s views on abortion are outside of the mainstream.
“The American people are not with them. They want us to protect women’s reproductive rights and to protect people’s ability to make their own health care decisions. And so we're going to continue to hold them accountable,” she said on Wednesday. “We’re going to continue to hold Republicans accountable for the stance that they’re taking.”
Related: “Ohio Republicans’ devious plot to stop voters from legalizing abortion” by Grace Segars
THEY DID THAT
Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) introduced a bill that would fine tech companies up to $10 million for failing to prevent the sale of drugs on their social apps, including fentanyl.
Related: The Treasury Department sanctioned ten people, including several from the Sinaloa Cartel, for their role in trafficking a significant portion of the illicit fentanyl into the US.
The Senate Banking Committee advanced three Federal Reserve nominees to the full Senate: Philip Jefferson to be vice chairman of the Board of Governors and Lisa Cook and Adriana Kugler to be members of the Board. Jefferson became the fourth Black man to serve on the Board and Cook became the first woman to sit on the Board when they were confirmed last year. Kugler would be the Board’s first Latina member if confirmed.
Vice President Harris tied the record of 31 tie-breaking votes set by John Calhoun when she joined all Senate Democrats except for Joe Manchin (D-WV) to advance the Kotagal nomination.
Team Press (aka the Bad News Babes) beat Team Congress 15-9 in this year’s Congressional Women’s Softball Game, which raises funds and awareness for young women with breast cancer.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
“The children won’t save us from climate change” by Liza Featherstone
“How much should you really spend on a house?” by Olga Khazan
“Why Harvard is being challenged over legacy admissions” by Shirin Ali in conversation with Oren Sellstrom
“We need a Department of Sidewalks” by Michael C. Pollack
“Shane Smith has a secret multi-million dollar Vice deal” by Kevin Dugan
“The curious personality changes of older age” by Faith Hill
“What loving Barbie says about us” by Alex Abad-Santos
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