with Mariana Alfaro

Welcome to The Daily 202 newsletter! On this day in 1969, the British comedy troupe Monty Python was founded, leading generations of nerds like me to spend remarkable quantities of time speaking in movie references. Tell your friends to sign up here.

Republicans aren’t about to purge Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her post as the third most powerful House GOP leader because she keeps talking about the past and it’s distracting the party from its focus on winning in 2022 and 2024.

She’s on the cusp of getting bounced as Republican Conference leader because her description of the past blaming former president Donald Trump for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and saying he lost fair and square to President Biden runs against how her party wants to use talk about it to shape those future elections.

Republicans have launched a once-in-a-lifetime legislative project in the aftermath of the 2020 election: A systematic effort in dozens of states to pass new laws to curtail or end voting practices they blame for Trump’s defeat.

But Cheney is effectively saying the core justification for that campaign isn’t legit. (And as every horror-movie buff knows, the calls are scariest when they’re coming from inside the House. Or the political party.)

“The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have,” she recently wrote in the Post.

Perhaps worse for Republicans, in Cheney’s telling Trump isn’t the righteous victim of leftist shenanigans, someone to be avenged — but just the candidate who lost in November and whose wild fraud claims fueled the deadly riot in Congress.

“His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate,” Cheney wrote. “Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6. And, as the Justice Department and multiple federal judges have suggested, there is good reason to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again.”

The claim Cheney’s language is distracting has come from many Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who wrote GOP rank and file yesterday that he expects a vote Wednesday on ousting Cheney.

“Each day spent relitigating the past is one day less we have to seize the future,” he said in his letter. “Our leadership team cannot afford to be distracted from the important work we were elected to do and the shared goals we hope to achieve.”

That’s not, as my colleague Aaron Blake noted yesterday, an especially convincing claim: For one thing, Trump regularly repeats his false claim he was cheated out of a second term and has made echoing those baseless charges a defining test of Republican fealty.

Trump even included a reference to “our fake Presidential Election” in a Monday statement otherwise mostly notable for his condemnation of Kentucky Derby-winning horse Medina Spirit as “a junky” after the animal failed a drug test.

And the state-by-state rewrite of election laws is precisely a way to “relitigate” what happened in November.

To understand why Cheney the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, and as close to an establishment Republican as exists today in the House is likely to get the boot, consider two statements McCarthy made this year.

“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump to accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.”

That sharp criticism of Trump came from McCarthy on Jan. 13.

“She's a fighter, and she's a powerful voice for conservatives, and is the type of person we need to help us lead the charge back to win back the majority. … Thank you for your commitment to the Republican party.”

That was McCarthy on Jan. 16, praising Cheney specifically for deciding to serve as House Republican Conference Chair.

She had joined nine other House Republicans three days earlier in voting to impeach Trump.

(McCarthy also delivered a ringing defense of Cheney behind closed doors before House Republicans voted lopsidedly 145-61 – to keep her as conference chair in early February.)

The Republican leader has orphaned those statements in the weeks and months since, but how has the substance underlying them changed?

Has Cheney who has voted more consistently with Trump than her likely successor, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York gone full Bidenista? No. Has the explanation for what happened on Jan. 6 changed? Not really.

What has changed is that state and local Republican parties have stepped up efforts to revamp election rules on the basis of Trump’s claims 2020 was tainted by widespread fraud, for which Trump’s Justice Department found no evidence.

Echoing those charges isn’t just about salving Trump’s wounded feelings, much as Cheney’s comments have seemed to tick him off personally.

It’s also become the credo for Republicans driving the changes to state election laws: Fraud determined the outcome of the 2020 vote, therefore we must take steps to reassure voters there will not be fraud in the future, here are steps to do so. 

It’s not true. But it’s so powerful, even GOP officials who say there was no fraud in their state are approving laws to fix a problem they have said doesn’t exist. Exhibit A: Florida.

That’s far more likely to be why Cheney’s apostasy will result in her likely ex-communication from leadership.

Quote of the day

“This is no time to take our eye off the ball. If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team," McCarthy said in his letter to GOP colleagues. 

What’s happening now

Sally Buzbee of the Associated Press was named executive editor of The Washington Post, becoming the first woman to lead the newsroom. “Buzbee, AP’s executive editor and senior vice president, will take over leadership of The Post’s nearly 1,000-person newsroom next month, said publisher Fred Ryan,” Paul Farhi reports. “Buzbee, 55, has headed AP’s news operations since 2017, and has been with the organization since she began her career as a journalist in 1988.” 

After Jerusalem erupted, deadly strikes and clashes spread across Israel and the Palestinian territories. “A day of upheaval at the holy sites of this contested city quickly widened into a night of warlike violence in communities across the country Tuesday, with hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip resulting in the deaths of at least two Israelis and retaliatory airstrikes killing at least 26 Gazans, according to Palestinian officials and Israeli media,” Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin report. “Clashes also broke out in the West Bank between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, as well as between Jewish residents, Israeli police and Arab citizens in Arab-Israeli towns and mixed Jewish-Arab towns, leading to hundreds of arrests and at least one Palestinian fatality.”  

Broadway is back Sept. 14 with “Hamilton,” “The Lion King” and more. “Producers of ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ ‘Chicago,’ ‘Come From Away’ and ‘Tina: The Turner Musical’ also have detailed their comeback plans, with tickets already on sale for many of them,” Peter Marks reports

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Lunchtime reads from The Post

  • Grievance, rebellion and burnt bridges: Tracing Josh Hawley’s path to the insurrection,” by Michael Kranish: “Joshua Hawley was 13 years old, living comfortably as the son of a bank president, when his parents gave him a book about political conservatism for Christmas. Hawley became enamored with the ideology. He began writing columns for the local newspaper that seethed with resentment against the political power structure. ... Twenty-six years later, those far-right rumblings reached a crescendo during another deadly attack on a federal building — this time with Hawley at the center of the action. ... At 41, the freshman senator had become a face of a movement built on the lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent. ... Now, former friends and supporters — a middle school classmate, a law school professor, a conservative columnist who promoted him and the Republican stalwart who recruited him to run for the Senate — say they are shocked that he has become a different politician than they expected. … To combat criticism that he is an elitist, Hawley has urged people to examine the place where he grew up. ... But the history long told in Lexington, Mo., including during Hawley’s childhood, focused almost entirely on the story of Whites who backed the Confederacy. ... ‘I think he is a thoughtful, deeply analytical person,’ [Stanford University Prof. David] Kennedy said. ‘What I understand far less well is his particular political evolution. I had no inkling really just how conservative he was. I blame myself. The feeling on my part is that I simply was not paying attention to what he was doing in the arena of student culture where he was moving.’”

… and beyond

  • The real steal is coming,” by the Bulwark’s Mona Charen: “Welcome to the funhouse world the Republican party is building. Up is down. Black is white. Lies are truth. ... Let’s be clear: The substitution of Stefanik for Cheney is a tocsin, signaling that the Republican party will no longer be bound by law or custom. In 2020, many Republican office holders, including the otherwise invertebrate [Mike] Pence, held the line. They did not submit false slates of electors. They did not decertify votes. ... If Cheney must be axed because she will not lie, then what will happen if Republicans take control of Congress in 2022 and are called upon to certify the Electoral College in 2024? How many [Brad] Raffenspergers will there be?”
  • Newsom wants to hand out cash before California recall election,” by Politico’s Jeremy B. White: “California Gov. Gavin Newsom embarked on a cross-state road show Monday to trumpet the fruits of an astonishing $75.7 billion state surplus thanks to soaring capital gains during the pandemic. His first order of business: tell Californians he wants to give them cash and pay some of their utility bills and back rent. The stimulus play demonstrates how an unexpected windfall offers the Democratic governor a powerful tool to ward off a recall threat. Checks would arrive in voters’ mailboxes not long before ballots do this fall.”
  • Homeless reflect on life in a New York City hotel room, one year later,” by the City’s Claudia Irizarry Aponte: “Since last April, thousands of homeless New Yorkers in the city’s shelter system have been staying in formerly private hotels — a need brought on by the pandemic. ... [On July 1] the city has suggested it will complete its transition of people from hotels back to the homeless shelter system. ... Advocates for the homeless have criticized the planned return. ... ‘I’ll be honest with you, a year after being in this hotel — I’m scared. I’m concerned … that we could be thrown back into the streets and the congregate shelters,’” said Marcus Moore, who is on the board for a homeless-led advocacy group.

The Biden agenda

Biden will meet virtually with a bipartisan group of six governors today to discuss “best practices” of their state’s vaccination programs.
  • “The meeting, which the White House says will be live-streamed, comes as the pace of vaccinations has slowed nationally and significant variations have emerged among states in the percentage of their populations receiving the shots,” John Wagner reports.
  • “According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the participating governors will include Republicans Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Spencer Cox of Utah and Mike DeWine of Ohio; and Democrats Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Janet Mills of Maine and Tim Walz of Minnesota.”
The GOP is weighing going bigger on infrastructure. 
  • “While Democrats have panned the GOP’s initial $568 billion bid as insufficient, several Republican negotiators said in interviews on Monday night that they were willing to go higher — as long as the bill in question is limited to physical infrastructure,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine report. “The first offer is meant to be countered, so I would imagine that none of those figures are solid,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who is leading the negotiations on the GOP side.
  • “Republicans likely will have limits on the amount of spending they're willing to tolerate. They want to pay for any infrastructure bill with new user fees rather than deficit spending, and Biden’s proposal to finance the measure with higher corporate taxes would mean ‘there will not be one Republican vote’ for the package, said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).”
Biden’s tax plans are making some congressional Democrats nervous. 
  • “Pockets of skepticism have emerged within Biden’s party over White House plans to raise the corporate tax rate, revamp the international tax system and double tax rates on wealthy investors, among other measures critical to the administration’s plans,” Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager report. “The party faces regional divides over taxes as well, with farm-state Democrats skittish about taxes on heirs and coastal Democrats demanding the repeal of limits on state and local tax deductions, which would amount to an expensive tax cut that would require higher taxes elsewhere.”
  • “Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee responsible for party fundraising, has privately warned the tax plans could hurt vulnerable House Democrats up for reelection in 2022.”
Tens of thousands of asylum-seeking children are being held in mass shelters with little oversight. 
  • The children are being held “in an opaque network of some 200 facilities [that] spans two dozen states and includes five shelters with more than 1,000 children packed inside,” the AP’s Garance Burke, Juliet Linderman and Martha Mendoza report. “Confidential data obtained by the AP shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled in the past two months, and this week the federal government was housing around 21,000 kids, from toddlers to teens.”
  • “Attorneys, advocates and mental health experts say that while some shelters are safe and provide adequate care, others are endangering children’s health and safety."
Biden picked former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan. 
  • Eight people familiar with the situation told the Financial Times that Emanuel, who was also chief of staff to Barack Obama, will be headed to Japan as part of a “big package of ambassadorship nominations.”
  • Biden has not yet nominated ambassadors to large U.S. allies, the FT noted.
Biden’s biggest remaining personnel decision is meeting heat from the left. 
  • “Some progressive groups are mobilizing against [Federal Reserve Chair Jerome] Powell’s reappointment, calling on Biden to pick a more liberal candidate for the country’s most important economic policy job. The groups acknowledge that he has steered the Fed toward promoting ‘broad-based and inclusive’ job gains, a historic shift for the central bank. But they have a litany of complaints: He hasn’t done enough to prepare banks to deal with the financial risks posed by climate change, he has eased regulations on the largest lenders, and he has fallen short on closing the racial wealth gap," Politico’s Victoria Guida and Ben White report.
More than 1 million Americans have signed up for Obamacare health plans during special enrollment, Biden said. 
  • “That’s one million more Americans who now have the peace of mind that comes from having health insurance,” Biden said in a statement this morning, per Wagner and Amy Goldstein. “One million more Americans who don’t have to lie awake at night worrying about what happens if they or one of their family members gets sick.”
  • He also used the milestone to urge Congress to “act quickly” to pass the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which includes aid to make it cheaper for moderate-income families to buy health insurance, among many other provisions.

The future of the GOP

Former CEO Glenn Youngkin won the Virignia GOP governor nomination. 
  • Youngkin became the nominee after his closest rival, business executive Pete Snyder, conceded while votes were still being tabulated, Laura Vozzella and Gregory Schneider report.
  • “Youngkin, 54, the former co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, elbowed past contenders with far more political experience to lead the ticket for a Virginia GOP that has failed to win a statewide election since 2009. While not as bombastic as Trump or some of his rivals for the nomination, Youngkin would not acknowledge Biden’s electoral win, made ‘election integrity’ a centerpiece of his campaign and credited Trump with creating a ‘rip-roaring economy.’”
  • “Youngkin is a fresh face who has shown strength among business leaders and in the populous Northern Virginia region. The suburbs, which swung to blue during the Trump presidency, are likely to be the key battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 general election. ... State Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker quickly branded Youngkin ‘a far-right extremist who has demonstrated total allegiance to Donald Trump.’”
  • “Virginia is seen as posing the bigger test for both major parties in the aftermath of the Trump presidency. That attention is sure to attract national money, [Richmond political analyst Bob] Holsworth said, and Youngkin has vast resources of his own. All of which raises the possibility of ‘a break-the-bank, unprecedented financial mega-campaign,’ Holsworth said.”

Federal investigators are pressing for cooperation from two key witnesses in the Rep. Matt Gaetz probe. 

  • Investigators are seeking the cooperation of a former Capitol Hill intern who was once a girlfriend of the Florida Republican, CNN reports
  • “Investigators could also soon gain the formal cooperation of a second key witness, former Florida county tax collector Joel Greenberg, who is approaching a deadline this week to strike a plea agreement with the government on more than two dozen charges he's facing. … Decisions on whether to charge Gaetz have yet to be made and will fall to prosecutors in the public integrity section of the Justice Department. That decision is likely to take some time, another source familiar with the matter said, as the Justice Department considers whether there's sufficient evidence for an indictment. The cooperation of Greenberg and the former girlfriend could be among the final steps in the probe.”
Texas’s population boom should be a boon to Democrats, but it’s Republicans who are reaping the gains. 
  • “The state’s growth — fueled overwhelmingly by people of color in its largest cities and their close-in suburbs — should be cause for celebration among Democrats,” Arelis Hernández and Griff Witte report. “But because of the way the GOP-controlled legislature is expected to redraw congressional districts, this growth is predicted to be a boon for Republicans instead. When coupled with new lines in states such as Florida and Georgia, it might even be enough to flip control of the House in next year’s midterm elections.”
  • “The way state legislators of both parties draw congressional boundaries to engineer a particular outcome, rendering most of the nation’s House districts noncompetitive, has not received the same intense focus as other forms of voter suppression. Yet that will probably change as states prepare to go through a once-a-decade redistricting. In most states where seats are in play, it is Republicans who will hold the pen as new lines are drawn.”
  • “Nowhere is that process likely to be more contentious than in Texas, where critics see an ever-widening divide between the state’s fast-changing demographics — which have put the onetime Republican bastion into play in statewide contests — and the ever-redder way it is represented in Congress.”

Hot on the left

The New York Times’s Editorial Board endorsed Kathryn Garcia for New York City Mayor. “A go-to problem solver for the past decade, Ms. Garcia was hard to miss at City Hall — a confident, gravelly-voiced woman who ran an overwhelmingly male Sanitation Department." Meanwhile, on front runner Andrew Yang, the Times wrote that “nothing so far suggests that he has the experience to run New York City on Day 1." 

"[Garcia] would be the first woman to hold the office, but there are many other reasons to give her the job. Even the front-runner agrees: Mr. Yang has praised Ms. Garcia and repeatedly suggested he would hire her to run the city. ‘If Andrew Yang thinks I need to run his government, then maybe I should just run the government,’ Ms. Garcia told us. Agreed. Cut out the middleman and elect the most qualified person.” 

The Times released its editorial board interviews with the mayoral candidates. Some snippets went viral online: 

Meanwhile, Yang racked up support… from folks close to Trump: 

Hot on the right

The Texas House passed a bill that would ban plant-based foods from using “meat” and “beef” on labels. “Rep. Brad Buckley said his bill would protect consumers, including vegetarians and vegans, from buying something by mistake. ‘This is for those who choose to eat meat, but it’s also for those who choose to not eat meat,’ said Buckley, a Killeen Republican who also helps run a small cattle operation,” the Dallas Morning News reports. “Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat from Houston, said he worried the bill would open the state up to unnecessary litigation. Fredericksburg’s Kyle Biedermann, a far-right Republican, said he was in favor of the bill but worried it represented governmental overreach on private business.” 

Air pollution from farms linked to U.S. deaths, visualized

More than 17,000 annual deaths are attributable to pollution from farms across the United States, according to a new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Sarah Kaplan reports.

Today in Washington

Biden will meet virtually with a bipartisan group of governors today at 1 p.m. 

Vice President Harris will meet with members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus at 4 p.m.

Tony Fauci, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, David Kessler, chief science officer for covid response at the Department of Health and Human Services, and Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration, will appear on Capitol Hill today to update lawmakers on their efforts. They will testify before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Looking ahead: The Supreme Court will consider an important abortion case this week, Vox reports.

In closing

D.C. will fully reopen on June 11. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that, starting May 21, capacity limits at D.C. restaurants will be lifted, while nightclubs and taverns will be able to increase their indoor capacities from 25 to 50 percent, the Washington City Paper reports. On June 11, capacity restrictions at all D.C. businesses will be eliminated. 

And Stephen Colbert wondered why the GOP keeps pushing for loyalty to Trump, even when the former president has unfavorable ratings: