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The Hill’s Morning Report — McConnell boosts guns bill; Trump takes down impeachment foe

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The Senate’s swift push to pass bipartisan gun violence legislation got a major boost on Tuesday when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.) tossed his support behind the framework as negotiators push for a vote to take place as soon as next week.

During weeks of discussions by senators, McConnell stayed largely mum about how he would lean on any final package. That was until Tuesday when he indicated that he will side with the 10 Senate GOP negotiators as long as the final legislative text mirrors the framework lawmakers released on Sunday (The Hill). 

“For myself, I’m comfortable with the framework, and if the legislation ends up reflecting the framework, I’ll be supportive,” McConnell told reporters (The Hill). 

McConnell is the 11th Senate Republican to back the proposal, following the initial 10 who signed on to the framework upon its release. The blueprint would provide funding to states to implement red flag laws, for community mental health centers and to improve school security. It would also beef up background checks to give access to juvenile crime records of gun buyers between 18 and 21. 

“If this framework becomes the actual legislation, it’s a step forward,” McConnell added.

The news comes amid an effort by leaders and negotiators to get a vote on a final bill by next week before lawmakers leave Washington for the July 4 recess. According to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer(D-N.Y.), Sens. John Cornyn(R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) believe legislative text can be finalized in the “coming days” (C-SPAN).

“I have assured my colleagues that once we get legislative text to a gun safety bill, I will move to hold a vote on the Senate floor as soon as possible,”Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Despite McConnell’s announcement on Tuesday, there are still corners of the GOP that are resistant to backing up the gun safety proposal with a vote of their own. That was echoed by Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who argued that politics are a big reason for some — including himself — to withhold their support.

“I think we’re more interested in the red wave than we are in red flags. Quite honestly, as Republicans … and we have a pretty good opportunity to do that,” Cramer told reporters (CBS News).

The Washington Post: McConnell says he’ll likely back gun deal as Senate rushes toward vote.

Politico: Why this time was different on guns.

Alex Gangitano, The Hill: President Biden publicly stays out of gun talks as Senate nears finish line.

Meanwhile, the House on Tuesday passed legislation providing increased security protections to members of the Supreme Court and their families, putting a swift end to a brief squabble between the two chambers. The bill advanced in a 396-27 vote. All of those who voted “no” were Democrats, including Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Maxine Waters(Calif.).

McConnell on Monday pressured the House to vote on the court security bill unaltered, saying that the Senate would not pass a bill with changes that would have extended those protections to court employees and clerks. The bill the House voted on was unanimously supported by the Senate (The Hill).

Finally, the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol postponed its planned hearing today. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a panel member, cited “technical issues” as the reason, noting “overwhelming” demand on staff to produce videos (NBC News).

Today’s hearing was expected to center on former President Trump’seffort to install loyalists in his final days at the Department of Justice, including to replace acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a lawyer in the department.

The next scheduled hearing is Thursday at 10 a.m.


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Mike Lillis, The Hill: House Democrats pressure Jan. 6 panel to pursue criminal referrals of Trump. 

The Hill: How the testimony of Trump aides differs from their public statements.

The Wall Street Journal: Congress is pressing ahead with legislation that could rewrite the rules for American companies investing abroad, proposing the screening of investments in countries such as China that are seen as adversaries. 

The Hill: Senate Democrats are eyeing a cannabis banking bill that has bipartisan support.


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LEADING THE DAY

ECONOMY 

The Federal Reserve appears poised today to unveil an aggressive interest rate hike of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent at the end of a two-day monetary policy meeting (Reuters). The prospect of rising prices and the risks of recession are rattling financial markets and forcing fiscal experts to guess whether the nation’s central bank has the wherewithal to keep dire economic repercussions at bay (The Hill).

Biden, speaking on Tuesday to an AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia, sought to reassure Americans that tackling the highest inflation the United States has seen in four decades remains his top priority, even as he blames rising prices on a range of culprits, including Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine and triggering sanctions, the coronavirus lockdowns, which tangled supply chains around the world, and corporations that profit from higher prices. U.S. inflation was evident to the White House and central bank last year, but both incorrectly insisted that inflation, which is now a global challenge, would be “transitory.”  

Biden conceded to a friendly union audience that inflation is “sapping the strength of a lot of families.” The president suggested that without the votes to influence a divided Congress in a midterm election year to approve his domestic agenda, there was little he could do (CNN).

“The problem is Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to stop my plans to bring down costs on ordinary families. That’s why my plan is not finished and why the results aren’t finished either,”Biden said.

The problem for the president is there are going to be more Republicans in Congress next year.

The Associated Press: Biden focuses on workers as high inflation remains a risk.

The Hill: How “just in time” supply chains drive inflation. 

The Hill: A Texas explosion at a natural gas terminal last week rippled through international energy markets as the U.S. tries to help Europe replace Russian sources of natural gas.  

© Associated Press / Patrick Semansky | Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, May 23.

POLITICS 

It was a mixed bag for Trump on Tuesday night as the two preeminent members of Congress he opposed who were on the ballot this week split their contests.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) defeated Katie Arringtonon Tuesday, handing Trump only his second loss on the congressional map this year. Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-N.C.) defeat is the other. Mace raked in 53.1 percent to 45.2 percent for the challenger in the state’s 1st District, having earned Trump’s derision with some statements following the Jan. 6 attack last year (The Hill). 

However, Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) could not replicate her success as he was handily defeated by state Rep. Russell Fry(R). Rice was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Trump last year, and is among only five who are running for reelection this year. Not only did Fry win, he also cleared the 50 percent barrier to avoid a runoff, taking 51.1 percent to only 24.5 percent for the incumbent lawmaker. 

“You ran a great race and you’re going to make a great congressman,” Rice reportedly told Fry in a brief phone call conceding the contest. “I’ll do anything I can to help. Good luck, buddy. Good luck”(The State).

© Associated Press / Meg Kinnard | Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) on Tuesday night.

Across the country, former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt(R) rebuffed a challenge from Sam Brown to earn the party’s nod to take on Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto(D-Nev.) in November. Laxalt, who was defeated in 2018 in the state’s gubernatorial race, pulled 56 percent of the vote (The Hill). 

The Associated Press: Laxalt’s Nevada win sets up fierce race for Senate control.

The Texas Tribune: Republican Mayra Flores flips House seat in South Texas, historically a Democratic stronghold.

Julia Manchester, The Hill: Five takeaways from races in Nevada, South Carolina and Texas.

The Hill: Former Rep. Joe Cunningham(D) wins Democratic governor’s primary in South Carolina.

From this week’s primaries to one down the road, the battle in Arizona to earn the right to face Sen. Mark Kelly (D) is becoming increasingly nasty. The mostly three-way bout between former tech executive Blake Masters, businessman Jim Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovichis escalating by the week as the three spend millions in an attempt to tear one another down.

As The Hill’s Tal Axelrod writes, Lamon has dumped millions of his own money in an attempt to damage Masters, citing his ties to PayPal founder Peter Thiel after Masters won Trump’s endorsement earlier this month. Masters and his allies have responded in kind, including major dollars from the Club for Growth and Thiel. 

And with nearly two months to go until the primary contest, the attacks won’t slow down anytime soon. 

The Hill: Progressives looking to change the narrative.

Molly Ball, Time: How the “MAGA Squad” is building power to control the next Congress. 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION

Biden will travel to the Middle East July 13-16 with stops in Israel (his first trip there as president), to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and then to Saudi Arabia for a controversial meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

It’s a much-debated move that signals a thaw in Biden’s posture toward the kingdom’s leader, who has been denounced by the U.S. as the person who ordered the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi (The Hill and The Washington Post). 

During his trip to Saudi Arabia, Biden will attend a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. That summit will also include Egypt, Iraqand Jordan. 

“I’m not going to change my view on human rights, but as president of the United States, my job is to bring peace,” Biden said recently. “And that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Axios: ​​Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) will become a senior Biden adviser in the White House, succeeding former White House Office of Public Engagement specialist Cedric Richmond, who left the West Wing to work for the Democratic National Committee. Bottoms told Axios in an interview that she plans to do “more listening than anything” and that “it’s important that people feel their voices are reflected and their voices are heard.” Biden is tending to the base of the Democratic Party, including progressive constituents of color in major cities and swing states.   

A U.S. enforcement waiver program for young migrants that began 10 years ago as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was a stopgap intervention ordered by former President Obamaand executed by the Department of Homeland Security. It was Obama’s effort to challenge Congress to reform U.S. immigration law and the DREAM Act for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and had never known another home. The Hill’s Rafael Bernal reports that a decade later, DACA teeters through court actions and political sclerosis and could send its beneficiaries back to undocumented status with the risk of deportation.


📝 Introducing NotedDC, The Hill’s curated commentary on the beat of the Beltway. Click here to subscribe to our latest newsletter. 


OPINION

■ The nature of trade has changed — US trade policy must change too,by Ralph Gomory, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3xl8gjS

■ Inflation isn’t going to bring back the 1970s,by Ben Bernanke, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/39tki2H

WHERE AND WHEN

The Housemeets at 10 a.m. and will consider legislation requiring the Federal Reserve to address racial disparities in wealth, income and employment.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the Honoring Our PACT Act of 2021. The bill would expand eligibility for Veterans Affairs health care for post-9/11 combat veterans, including those exposed to toxic chemicals. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans a hearing at 10 a.m. about the impact of gun violence on children with a 19-year-old witness from Chicago.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. He will have lunch with Vice President Harrisat 12:15 p.m. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host a reception at 4 p.m. in the East Room and speak about Pride Month with invited guests, including Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, second gentleman Doug Emhoff and others.

The Federal Reserve wraps up its two-day meeting with a policy statement released at 2 p.m. and press conference at 2:30 p.m. with Chairman Jerome Powell.

The White House daily press briefingis scheduled at 3 p.m.


🖥  Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.


ELSEWHERE  

  INTERNATIONAL

In Ukraine, Russianforces control about 80 percent of the city of Sievierodonetsk in the east. Three essential bridges there were destroyed, but ​​Ukrainian authorities were still trying to evacuate some wounded residents, a regional official said Tuesday. About 12,000 people remain in an urban industrial center that was once home to 100,000 residents (The Associated Press). 

“The situation is difficult,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a news conference on Tuesday with Danish media. “Our task is to fight back.”

The Associated Press: Egypt and Israel agreed Wednesday to boost liquified natural gas sales to the European Union amid allies’ sanctions-heavy response to Russia and its energy supplies during the Kremlin’s war with Ukraine. 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was transferred to a maximum-security prison in Melekhovo in the Vladimir Region, according to Russia’s state media outlet TASS citing Sergey Yazhan, chairman of the regional public oversight commission.

Navalny’s spokesperson could not confirm the transfer (CNN). Navalny in March was sentenced in court to another nine years of incarceration to be served in a high security prison.

© Associated Press / Vladimir Kondrashov | Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in prison, June 7.

For the third time, Russia extended the detention in Moscow of WNBA star Brittney Griner,who is accused by Russia of possessing vaping cartridges filled with cannabis oil. The 31-year-old will be held at least until July 2 (The Associated Press). 

China: Today marks the 69th birthday of President Xi Jinping. Will Biden be speaking with Xi soon? ​​Bloomberg News: A senior-level U.S.-China meeting on Monday raised prospects for a Biden-Xi call.

  POX & PANDEMIC 

Experts at the World Health Organization are rethinking whether monkeypox is a public health emergency and will meet next week to brainstorm. “I think it’s now clear that there is an unusual situation, meaning even the virus is behaving unusually from how it used to behave,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday. “It’s also affecting more and more countries and we believe it needs, also, some coordinated response because of the geographic spread.” There have been no recent confirmed deaths from the disease (The Hill). The United States has reported 65 cases of the disease, which previously was associated with parts of Africa. Monkeypox has been confirmed in 32 new countries during the current outbreak.

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,011,925. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 283, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

A sealed copy of 1985’s “Back to the Future” on VHS sold for $75,000 at the first-ever VHS-only auction last week, becoming what is likely the most expensive videocassette to change hands at auction. Texas-based Heritage Auctions organized the event featuring 260 factory-sealed VHS tapes in original packaging, authenticated and graded by a verified grading service. They were primarily classic, first-edition copies of beloved films from the 1970s and 1980s, including “Jaws,” “Ghostbusters,” a promotional copy of “Top Gun,” “First Blood” and “Goonies.” The record-setting copy of “Back to the Future” was previously owned by Tom Wilson, the actor who portrayed Biff Tannen in the trilogy. The auction netted $584,750 (Nexstar).


THE CLOSER

© Associated Press / European Space Agency photo | Sample of the Milky Way stars, released on Tuesday. 

And finally … ✰ The Milky Way invites endless exploration by astronomers who want to know how stars are born and die, how black holes work, what dark matter entails, and how to accurately catalog a galaxy and measure about how fast stars move away from Earth and hurtle toward the planet. In that vein on Monday, the European Space Agency released its third trove of data on almost 2 billion stars in the Milky Way, collected by its Gaia space observatory (The Associated Press). Here’s a five-minute Gaia video that explains what one scientist called a “silent revolution” in knowledge (YouTube).


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