with Tobi Raji

Good Wednesday morning. We're halfway there. Thanks for waking up with the Power Up newsletter. 

On the Hill

NO SHOWS: Before Senate Republicans blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6, Gladys Sicknick, the mother of late U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick who lost his life shortly after defending the Capitol that day requested meetings with every GOP senator to advocate for the proposal. 

At least 20 Republican senators did not meet with Sicknick's mother, according to a list obtained by The Washington Post. Asked why they were not able to meet with Gladys Sicknick, who was accompanied by her son's former partner, Sandra Garza, several of the offices cited scheduling issues. 

  • A spokesperson for Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) told us “the senator was not available due to scheduling conflicts, but a staff level meeting was offered.”
  • A spokesperson for Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Burr “was already fully committed the day of the requested meeting and was unable to meet given the short notice.” 
  • Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) was “not able to accommodate a meeting on short notice, but indicated his openness to setting up a time to meet with Mrs. Sicknick following the recess,” a spokesperson told Power Up in an email.
  • A spokesperson for Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) responded that the top Republican on the Senate Rules Committee had instead “extended an invitation to meet with Officer Sicknick's family to discuss the findings and recommendations included in the bipartisan report on the January 6 attack that will be issued jointly by the Senate Rules and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees next week.” 
  • A spokesperson for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito Moore (R-W.Va.) said that Capito would have liked to meet with Sicknick's family but was unavailable the morning they requested due to infrastructure negotiations.
  • If they responded with additional days to meet, our office would happily review his schedule to see if something could work,” a spokesperson for Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told us.
  • Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) also did not meet with Gladys Sicknick and did not respond to requests for comment from The Post.

Despite the last-minute request from Sicknick's family, several Republican lawmakers cleared their schedule to accommodate a request to meet. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were among the GOP lawmakers who did meet with Gladys Sicknick before last week's vote on the commission — and ultimately voted to create it. But the commission was never established after it failed to pass the Senate's 60-vote bar, with only six Senate Republicans voting to create it.

Some offices did not respond to the requests from the family for a meeting, including Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). Their offices did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. 

After it became increasingly clear the commission proposal backed by 35 House Republicans faced long odds in the Senate, Gladys Sicknick requested meetings last Wednesday with every GOP senator in hopes of mustering enough votes to pass it. 

  • “Mrs. Sicknick understands this is a last minute request but would appreciate any time the Senator can spare,” reads the email sent to schedulers on behalf of Gladys Sicknick. “We hope Senator NAME will make time to meet with Mrs. Sicknick considering the sacrifice her son made in defending members of the House and Senate, and our democracy itself.” 

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper following the vote, Gladys Sicknick described the meetings she did have as “tense”: “I don't understand it. They are elected for us, the people, and they don't care about that,” she added. “They care about money, I guess, their pocketbooks. So they'll be in front of the cameras when they feel like it. They just don't care, and it's not right.”

  • “I said to him that he got lucky. He got lucky. It could have been very different that day,” Garza told CNN of her meeting with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) before the vote. “Those who want to run with this narrative that, 'Well it was tourists that day, and I didn't feel threatened' — they got lucky. That's the truth of it.”
  • “I'm disgusted that the Republican senators, that decided to vote no. It's a spit in the face to Brian, it's a spit in the face to all the officers that were there that day,” Garza told CBS News's Nikole Killion. 

On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ruled out the possibility of a presidential commission to study the Jan. 6 insurrection, “telling House Democrats that having President Joe Biden appoint a panel is unworkable even after the Senate blocked an independent probe last week,” the Associated Press's Mary Clare Jalonick reports. “She proposed four options for an investigation of the attack, according to a person on the private Democratic caucus call who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.” 

  • The first option, Pelosi said, is to give the Senate another chance to vote on the commission.
  • “The other options involve the House investigating the attack, meaning the probes would be inherently partisan. Pelosi suggested that she could appoint a new select committee to investigate the siege or give the responsibility to a single committee, like the House Homeland Security panel, which wrote the original bipartisan bill to create the commission. Alternately, Pelosi said committees could simply push ahead with their own investigations that are already underway.”

The campaign

DEMOCRATS SECURE NEW MEXICO HOUSE SEAT: “Democrats continued their dozen-year winning streak in the 1st Congressional District, with state Rep. Melanie Stansbury prevailing in Tuesday’s special election,” the Albuquerque Journal’s Ryan Boetel reports. “The special election was called to fill the vacancy created when former Rep. Deb Haaland resigned to join President Biden’s Cabinet.”

  • “Stansbury’s victory will give Democrats 220 seats in the House to 211 for Republicans, offering a bit more breathing room to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ahead of an expected summer push on infrastructure spending,” our colleague David Weigel reports.

The race was an indicator of the current political environment, the overall mood headed into next year’s midterms and potential messaging Republicans could deploy. Another midterm test is coming. “Two Republicans will face each other in the runoff for another vacant House seat, in Texas, on July 27. Two open seats in Ohio, split between the parties, will not be filled until November, and a safely Democratic seat in Florida will remain vacant until January 2022.”

  • And Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) announced Tuesday her bid for governor of the Sunshine State.

At the White House

HARRIS WILL LEAD PUSH FOR VOTING PROTECTIONS: “Biden promised Tuesday to ‘fight like heck’ against Republican efforts to restrict voting, using the anniversary of a racist massacre to respond to Democrats’ growing anxiety that his low-key approach was threatening fair elections and their own electoral future,” our colleagues Tyler Pager and Annie Linskey report.

  • “Biden announced he was tapping Vice President Harris to marshal an effort against the increasing array of Republican-led state laws that restrict voting in various ways, a campaign Biden condemned as ‘un-American.’”
  • Context: In tapping Harris to oversee the voting rights efforts, Biden has tasked her with another difficult issue, in addition to leading the administration’s work on the root causes of immigration in Latin America. The vice president said she would be meeting with voting rights groups, community organizations and the private sector in the coming days and weeks.”
President Biden and Congress have a narrow window this summer to pass legislation on infrastructure and other issues before a potential debt limit standoff. (Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

The clock's ticking for Congress on voting rights. By Feb. 19, Republican state legislators had introduced “253 bills proposing new voting restrictions across 43 states,” our colleague Elise Viebeck writes. “That number rose to at least 389 bills in 48 states as of May 14.”

  • More: “As of mid-May, 14 states had enacted 22 new laws with provisions that create new hurdles to vote, and another 61 such bills were still advancing in 18 states. Arkansas and Montana lead the country in fresh voting restrictions, with four new laws enacted each.”
  • The pressure is on Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona): “I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’” the president said singling them both out during his speech in Tulsa, Okla. “Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.”
  • Manchin and Sinema "have frustrated Democrats with their defense of the filibuster — the rule requiring most legislation to win 60 votes to pass, making many of Democrats’ biggest priorities like voting rights and gun control bills dead on arrival in the 50-50 Senate. While Sinema is a sponsor of the voting rights bill that passed the House, known as the For the People Act, Manchin has refused to sign on, calling the measure ‘too broad,’” the Associated Press's Alexandra Jaffe notes. 

The investigations

FEC SPARES TRUMP BUT FINES TABLOID PUBLISHER: “The Federal Election Commission has fined the National Enquirer’s parent company $187,500 for ‘knowingly and willfully’ violating election law by making a payment in 2016 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with former president Donald Trump years before he was elected,” our colleague Felicia Sonmez reports.

  • ‘Catch and kill’: “The idea behind the payment scheme — a method known as ‘catch and kill’ — had been to buy the rights to McDougal’s story and then never publish it,” the New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher reports.
  • “Trump himself faces no further investigation in relation to the payment to McDougal … [and] Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause’s vice president of policy and litigation, said he was frustrated that Trump, whom he called ‘the mastermind of the illegal scheme,’ had not been held accountable.”

Rinse and repeat. “The decision comes on the heels of a similar decision by the agency to drop an inquiry into whether Trump violated campaign finance laws when Cohen paid adult-film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 in the days leading up to the 2016 election,” Sonmez writes.

In the agencies

BIDEN SUSPENDS OIL AND GAS LEASES IN ALASKA’S ARCTIC REFUGE: “The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, targeting one of Trump’s most significant environmental acts during his last days in office,” our colleagues Juliet Eilperin and Joshua Partlow report

  • “The suspension follows Biden's January 20 executive order that identified ‘alleged legal deficiencies’ in the original leasing program and put in place a temporary moratorium on any oil- and gas-related activities in the refuge,” Politico’s Adam Federman reports. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s new order calls for a temporary moratorium on all activities pending a new environmental review.
  • The last unspoiled wilderness: “The Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain, a 1.6 million-acre stretch of tundra on Alaska’s North Slope, was opened to oil and gas development as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act … [It] marked the culmination of a nearly four-decade-long battle by the oil industry to gain access to the refuge, which is home to federally listed polar bears whose population numbers have declined dramatically in recent decades largely due to diminishing sea ice.”
  • Bigger picture: This is “the latest move by the Biden administration to reverse Trump-era environmental policies. On his first day in office, Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, and in February, the US officially rejoined the landmark international accord to limit global warming known as the Paris agreement, which Trump pulled the country out of in 2020,” CNN’s John Harwood and Liz Stark report.

CENSUS WOES: PRIVACY VS. ACCURACY: “As the Census Bureau prepares to release data from the 2020 Census for redistricting this summer, a controversy is brewing over a new way it plans to protect details of responders’s identities,” our colleagues Tara Bahrampour and Marissa J. Lang report

  • “The system, known as differential privacy, adds ‘noise’ to the data to scramble it and block would-be hackers from identifying people who filled out the census. The bureau has said it is necessary because recent advances in technology have made it too easy for outside actors to ‘re-identify’ respondents, to whom the government guarantees privacy.”
  • “But some statisticians charge that the bureau’s plans could corrupt the data so much as to make it unusable. A report Friday from IPUMS, a survey data processing and dissemination organization at the University of Minnesota, found that ‘major discrepancies remain for minority populations,’ adding that ‘small localities can sometimes have their population doubled or halved by the disclosure avoidance noise.’”

In the media

ZIMBABWE AUTHORITIES ARREST LOCAL REPORTER WORKING FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: “The authorities in Zimbabwe have arrested a freelance reporter who works for the New York Times and accused him of improperly helping two other Times journalists make a reporting trip there recently, his lawyers said Friday,” the New York Times’s Rick Gladstone reports. “Moyo’s arrest has come amid a crackdown on press freedom in the southern African country.”

  • “Jeffrey Moyo, 37, who was arrested on Wednesday, has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyers have called the accusation spurious. Efforts by the lawyers to secure his release have so far been unsuccessful.”
  • “We are deeply concerned by Jeffrey Moyo’s arrest and are assisting his lawyers to secure his timely release,” the New York Times said in a statement. “Jeffrey is a widely respected journalist with many years of reporting experience in Zimbabwe and his detainment raises troubling questions about the state of press freedom in Zimbabwe.”

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