Marriage equality slips from the Senate summer agenda
Plus: The latest on the CHIPS-Plus bill and President Biden is ready to break a sweat after his bout with COVID-19.
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Heads up: The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates again as it tries to tame inflation without hurtling the economy into recession and Fed Reserve Chair Jay Powell will hold a news conference later today to discuss the state of play. The report on second-quarter economic growth — or lack thereof — will be released tomorrow.
ICYMI: In my latest column for premium subscribers, I wrote about how states like Michigan and Vermont are empowering voters to protect reproductive freedom through ballot initiatives that would amend their state constitutions. Read the full story.
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The Respect For Marriage Act, a bill that would enshrine the right to same-sex marriage and interracial marriage into federal law, may not receive a vote in the Senate until after the August recess due to a cramped legislative agenda, limited floor time and the unpredictability of the pandemic.
Allow me to explain: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday afternoon said his chamber’s immediate priorities in the next week and a half will be passing bills on global competition and innovation, improving health care and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances, and lower the costs of prescription drugs.
Leader Schumer’s strategy seems to be to focus on the handful of bills he has the votes to pass before members go home to campaign rather instead of forcing a vote on legislation that may not have the numbers yet.
The risk with waiting until after the month-long recess is the unknown: Who knows what will happen between now and September that could punt this critical and popular bill down the road even more. Some equality advocates would prefer Schumer to put the bill on the floor now — Senate math be damned.
What they are saying: “The bottom line is we care very much the marriage equality act,” Schumer said to reporters after the Senate Democrats’s weekly party luncheon. “We are working really hard with Republican Senators. Between that and the [recent COVID-19 infections], we’re not there yet.”
“This is something that the president is going to keep an eye on,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to work with Congress and do everything that we can to make sure that it gets over the finish line.”
For your information: The House passed the Respect For Marriage Act last week with all Democrats and 47 Republicans voting for it.
The bill is one of several put forward by lawmakers to proactively safeguard the rights granted by the Supreme Court under the same constitutional law principle that made abortion legal for almost 50 years.
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the court should revisit these cases, which could be overturned by the same conservative supermajority that nullified Roe v. Wade.
Leader Schumer has enlisted Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who became the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the Senate in 2013, to rally GOP support for the legislation.
Counterpoint: Despite the overwhelming public support behind same-sex and interracial marriage, few Senate Republicans have said on record if they will vote for the bill. (At least 10 Senate Republicans would need to vote for the bill.)
Many say they will reveal their position when the bill is put to the floor for a vote.
Others say that the legislation is unnecessary because marriage equality is much more popular than abortion rights and the former is settled law. (FWIW, this was the Republican Party’s company line on Roe too.)
What’s next: Sen. Baldwin will continue to whip votes for the bill while Schumer races against the clock to give Senate Democrats and the Biden administration a trio of meaningful wins to brag about on the campaign trail this summer.
See also: “About that concurring opinion from Justice Thomas…”
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CHIPS-Plus crosses a critical procedural hurdle
The Senate on Tuesday voted 64-32 to advance a bill that supporters say will make important investments in computer chip manufacturing and scientific research.
Allow me to explain: The vote means the Senate can vote on the final passage of the bill and send it to the House for consideration by the end of the week.
The chips and science bill, also known as CHIPS-Plus and plenty of other names over the past year, would lower the costs of producing everything from consumer electronics to appliances to cars
Theoretically, this will make our supply chains more resilient against global economic challenges and bring down the prices of products, which would lower inflation.
What they’re saying: “This morning, the Senate will draw a clear line in the sand that America’s chip crisis — and America’s dwindling commitment to science and innovation — will not continue under our watch,” Leader Schumer said on Tuesday in a floor speech ahead of the vote.
“Even as this bill will help to encourage multi-year investments in the United States, there are companies all around the world right now that are making decisions this week and this month on where they are going to invest and how much they are going to expand,” White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said on Tuesday. “Passage of this bill — you’ve heard it from the CEOs themselves — will be a game-changer for them in deciding how quickly they will move out, how aggressively they move out, and, importantly, whether that investment will be here in the United States.”
For your information: CHIPS-Plus includes $52.7 billion for domestic chip manufacturing and research subsidies, along with $2 billion earmarked for less advanced legacy chips, which are crucial to the military and automotive industry, according to a bill summary.
The subsidies would be targeted mostly at US companies to support the construction of new semiconductor plants to manufacture the chips and offer tax credits and funding for semiconductor manufacturing and research and development.
CHIPS-Plus is a smaller version of a broader bill that Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate had been negotiating for months. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell threatened to withdraw Republican support for the bigger legislation if Democrats moved ahead with plans to pass legislation to lower health care costs, raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations and make much-needed investments to tackle climate change.
SK Group, a South Korean conglomerate announced an almost-$30-billion investment in semiconductor manufacturing, green energy, and bioscience.
SK’s recently announced a $7-billion investment to build two new gigafactories in Tennessee and Kentucky as part of a joint venture with Ford Motor Company.
Both the White House and SK executives say the funding will create tens of thousands of new high-tech, high-paying American jobs.
Counterpoint: Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was the only member of the Democratic Caucus to vote against advancing CHIPS-Plus, which he calls corporate welfare. Several Senate Republicans agree with Sanders while some voted against it because they preferred the bigger bill that McConnell threatened to quash.
What’s next: If both chambers pass the bill in Congress, it goes to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
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Biden feels good enough to work out
President Biden told his doctor he now feels well enough to resume his workout routine following the completion on Monday night of his five-day treatment plan after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
Allow me to explain: The president’s symptoms are almost all gone and his vital signs are strong, according to the latest note from Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s longtime physician.
Biden has been a case study for the White House COVID-19 response. Administration officials say Biden experienced mild symptoms because he was fully vaccinated and twice boosted.
What they’re saying: “We should be thrilled that he’s doing well enough to say that he wants to work out,” Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday. “It brought a smile to my face when I saw that he wants to work out. You know?”
For your information: Biden’s treatment plan included Paxlovid, an oral medication designed to prevent severe illness and death after infection, Tylenol and an inhaler he intermittently used, according to Dr. O’Connor. The president paused two other medications while taking Paxlovid.
Preliminary tests indicate the president was infected with BA.5, the now-dominant Omicron subvariant that is more contagious but less severe than previous strains.
The White House identified 17 close contacts to President Biden, including Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden but said none of them had tested positive.
The White House on Tuesday hosted a day-long virtual summit on the future of COVID-19 and the next generation of vaccines.
Counterpoint: The White House press corps expressed frustration to administration officials for preventing Dr. O’Connor from taking questions from the media while Biden has been in isolation.
The White House said the daily doctor’s notes have been thorough enough to answer any questions reporters may have and seemed to want to focus on how well the president responded to treatment versus any inconsistencies between what administration officials said in the briefing room and what O’Connell said in his notes.
What’s next: Biden will resume traveling and working from the Oval Office once he tests negative for COVID-19.
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In the Know
The White House announced the All Stations Accessibility Program, a $1.75 billion initiative to retrofit the 900 inaccessible legacy stations across the US. The announcement on Tuesday coincided with the 32nd anniversary of the American Disabilities Act.
The Biden administration launched heat.gov, a new website to help the public and decision-makers understand and reduce the risks of extreme heat. 28 states this past weekend experienced heat warnings with most Americans exposed to temperatures higher than 90 degrees.
Justice Department leaders this week met with representatives from reproductive rights, health, and justice groups and other civil rights organizations to discuss the impact of the recent Supreme Court Decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Department also launched a new website — www.justice.gov/reproductive-rights — to track its work to protect access to comprehensive health services.
The Education Department released a new proposed regulation that attempts to clarify how incarcerated people can begin to access Pell Grants for qualifying prison education programs operated by public and nonprofit institutions. The change will take effect next July and follows the Department’s expansion of its Second Chance Pell program.
Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota introduced a bill that would provide funding for trauma-informed care in school settings. The bill also defines “trauma-informed practices” for the first time in federal law to ensure learning environments are supportive of empowering trauma survivors.
Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and 31 House members called on President Biden in a letter to encourage the federal government to offer a vegetarian entrée at all federal facilities. The lawmakers cite increased interest from Americans in vegetarian options, the health benefits of plant-based meals and how they can provide a climate-friendly alternative to the animal agriculture industry, which is a major contributor of greenhouse gases.
Former President Barack Obama released his annual summer reading list. 14 titles made the cut, including Black Cake, a novel by Charmaine Wilkerson that’s been on my must-read list all year long.
Related: Obama also released his summer playlist. The first song should come as no surprise. 🐝
Instagram head Adam Mosseri responded to intensifying criticism of the social app as it undergoes a series of changes that critics say too closely resembles TikTok and have devalued the user experience. “I want to be clear: We’re going to support photos. It’s a part of our heritage,” he said in a video posted to his Instagram page. “That said, I need to be honest: I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We see this even if we change nothing. We this even if you just look at chronological feed.”
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Today in Politics
President Biden will virtually receive his daily press briefing. There are no additional events on his public schedule.
Vice President Harris will be in DC and has no public events on her schedule.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff this morning will attend a ceremony dedicated to a new Wall of Remembrance at the Korean War Memorial.
The House this morning will meet and then take votes on a series of bills including telehealth policy, South Asian heart health research and legislation to upgrade the communications service used by the National Weather Service.
The Senate this morning will meet and resume its work on the CHIPS-plus legislation.
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