with Tobi Raji

It's Friday. We've almost made it. Thank you, NPR Music for this Juneteenth playlist. This is the Power Up newsletter – see you on Monday. 

The policies

A PROUD CELEBRATION, AND A SOMBER REFLECTION: Congress might have acted quickly to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday, but lawmakers have yet to act on many of the policy priorities Black communities have asked for.

Flanked by several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, along with other lawmakers who championed passage of the Juneteenth legislation, Biden told the cameras that establishing the holiday “will go down for me as one of the greatest honors I will have as president.”

Symbolism aside, Congress has stalled on crucial legislative fights on voting rights, police reform, and other policies that Black communities have long advocated for. 

  • “My Democrat colleagues and friends are so busy compromising amongst each other that they don’t actually get any policy changes done,” Bakari Sellers, CNN commentator and former South Carolina state lawmaker, told Power Up. “I’m glad I get another day to cookout on Friday but at the end of the day I want substantive policy changes." 

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, and H.R. 40, a bill that would establish a commission to study reparations, have mostly languished. And even as Republican lawmakers supported Juneteenth legislation, many of them have come out against teaching critical race theory in schools – an academic framework that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism.

  • The near-unanimity around creating Juneteenth papers over much deeper disagreements in Washington — not only over legislation that is critical to the Biden administration’s equity agenda but a growing political debate across the country over teaching students about systemic racism with an approach that Republicans oppose and are seeking to use as a political weapon,” our colleague Seung Min Kim reports. 

All roads lead back to the filibuster: As for the sweeping voting bill known as the For the People Act, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), the lone Democratic senator to hold out support for the bill, circulated a three-page memo outlining potential changes to the proposal that he said could win his support. 

While Democrats mostly reacted positively to Manchin's proposal, which includes a voter ID provision, Senate Republicans rejected Manchin's compromise and vowed to block the legislation later this month: 

The pledge from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) all but guarantees that Republicans will filibuster a sweeping voting bill that Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sending to the floor Tuesday,” our colleagues Mike DeBonis and Vanessa Williams report. 

  • “I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell said Thursday. “There is no rational basis for the federal government to take over all of American elections.”
  • “The only remaining question is whether all 50 Democratic senators will unite in support of debating the bill, known as the For the People Act, and how they will react once Republicans block the legislation.”

A compromise deal has yet to emerge on police reform as well. “The chief negotiators on the policing measure have toiled for months to craft a compromise measure that would bar controversial law enforcement practices such as chokeholds while making either officers or police departments more susceptible to lawsuits for use of excessive force,” our SMK reports. 

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), one of the chief negotiators, has told allies at home that he's confident he'll ultimately garner the necessary support from his caucus to pass a reform bill, a source told Power Up. However, what that deal is remains murky. 

Scott told Fox News Radio's Guy Benson this week he is “cautiously optimistic” about striking a deal with Democrats, “if they live within the parameters that I have set, number one, we will not demonize law enforcement officers.” 

  • “Qualified immunity for their individual liability cannot be on the table. It is too hard to understand the life, the day in the life of an officer for us to negotiate on their individual liability,” Scott added.Number two, we must never break the fused relationship between communities of color and those officers with character coming in to respond to crises. If we keep those two as the pillars of this conversation, we have a good chance of getting to a solution.”

Biden has cast himself as an ally in the fight for racial justice as the country has further plunged into a reckoning over race in the wake of the murder of George Floyd last year. But he has so far been unwilling to eliminate the procedural hurdles to allow for passage of bills that would address racial issues. 

Even his latest $6 trillion budget, released last month, fell short on meeting his promise to rectify long-standing, race-based disparities. According to civil rights advocates, more money is “needed to rectify a long-standing lack of fairness and a lopsided burden being carried by people of color,” the New York Times's Michael Shear reported. 

  • “'It’s going in the right direction, but it’s not a perfect document,' said Derrick Johnson, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., who said he was disappointed that the president’s budget did not call for canceling student loan debt, which falls disproportionately on Black Americans.”

From the courts

LONG LIVE OBAMACARE: “The decision by a conservative Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act could usher in an end of a bitter, 11-year drive to get rid of the law, as both parties immediately began scrambling to recalibrate their strategies with a sense that the political reality of health care was immutably altered,” our colleagues Amy Goldstein, Matt Viser and Mike DeBonis write.

  • “The legislation, President Barack Obama’s defining domestic legacy, has been the subject of relentless Republican hostility. But attempts in Congress to repeal it failed, as did two earlier Supreme Court challenges, in 2012 and 2015. With the passing years, the law gained popularity and became woven into the fabric of the health care system,” the New York Times’s Adam Liptak reports.

The final frontier. “The waning repeal effort has given Democrats their first chance in a decade to press forward on a new campaign: moving the country toward a system of universal health coverage,” per the New York Times’s Margot Sanger-Katz and Sarah Kliff. “It seems the end of a period when Democrats played constant defense, fighting back against legislative and legal challenges.”

  • But “efforts to move toward universal health coverage are complicated, with potentially high costs, difficult policy trade-offs and the risks of industry opposition.”
  • “And the post-Obamacare dream of many progressives, ‘Medicare-for-all,’ continues to divide the party. Such a policy would face fierce opposition from hospitals, doctors and insurers, who already have an advocacy group to combat further government involvement in health care.”
  • Long story short: The healthcare war isn't over.

So much for Trump’s Supreme Court advantage. “On the campaign trail before his 2016 election, [former president Donald] Trump made clear he would use all of the powers of the presidency to target the legislation,” our colleague Philip Bump writes. “His nominees just had that chance. But on Thursday, the justices rejected an attempt to dismantle the law on a 7-to-2 vote — with two of Trump’s three appointees joining the majority.”

  • “Trump had promised that his justices would deliver a particular thing, and, given the opportunity, they didn’t.”
  • “The key fault line in the Supreme Court that Trump built is not the ideological clash between right and left — it’s the increasingly acrimonious conflict within the court’s now-dominant conservative wing,” per Politico’s Josh Gerstein.
  • Alito v. Roberts (and everyone else). “Despite the obviously tense Alito-Roberts dynamic, what unfolded Thursday at the court was not simply a one-on-one grudge match. It was more like a tag-team wrestling event, with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch repeating much of [Samuel A.] Alito’s criticism and the court’s newest conservative justices — Amy Coney Barrett and Brett M. Kavanaugh — coming to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s defense.”

The campaign

THE RACE FOR THE BIG APPLE: Our Post colleague Josh Dawsey gives us an inside look at New York’s mayoral race.

  • “Anything goes on the streets of this city these days, according to mayoral front-runner Eric Adams. As he sat chomping pieces of melon in a building his campaign shares with a massage salon in Flushing, Queens, Adams described the threats plaguing New York: Heroin users shooting up in Washington Square Park. Stray bullets killing children in Queens. A recent daytime shooting in Times Square.”
  • “The moderate Democrat, former police officer and Brooklyn borough president praised Mike Bloomberg — who championed an aggressive policing method called ‘stop and frisk’ — as one of his favorite mayors in the city's history. He even credited former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who is reviled among New York Democrats, for ‘taking on some dysfunctionality in the government,’ while offering broader criticisms of his tenure.”

“Whether Democratic primary voters share his dystopian vision of a struggling Big Apple and turn toward law-and-order policies will determine whether Adams becomes the next mayor — and will speak to how New York sees itself as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and picks a new mayor for the first time in eight years.”

  • But Maya Wiley, the daughter of a prominent civil rights activist, sees things a bit differently. “The police force in New York, she says, will shrink if she wins. In an interview, when asked about effective policing, she cited an initiative in Glendale, Ariz., in which police worked with managers of a local convenience store on a plan that increased staffing and redesigned stores to help prevent thefts.”
  • Meanwhile, Andrew Yang is struggling. “Public polls show he has faded considerably after fielding attacks for never voting in a New York City election, leaving during the pandemic, running after he lost his presidential bid, having little management experience and not being previously involved in the city.”
  • And Kathryn Garcia, a longtime city official and former Sanitation Department commissioner, told Dawsey that “she's not running to be an advocate or champion a cause” but a mayor who can “deliver every day.”

On the Hill

THE INFRASTRUCTURE DEAL WITH A HEFTY PRICE TAG: “Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) plan to advance Biden’s economic agenda on two tracks hit stumbling blocks Thursday as moderate Democrats said they’re still working on the details of a bipartisan infrastructure plan and balked at a separate proposal for a $6 trillion follow-up as too costly,” Bloomberg’s Steven T. Dennis and Erik Wasson report.

  • Politico’s Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett first scooped that “Senate Democrats are weighing spending as much as $6 trillion on their own infrastructure package if the chamber's bipartisan talks fail.”
  • Now, “with the bipartisan group still not able to agree among themselves on the details of their plan and the White House still not on board, the timetable to get a package passed keeps getting pushed later into the summer,” Dennis and Wasson write.

REIGNING IN THE PRESIDENT'S WAR POWERS: “The House voted on Thursday to revoke the authorization it gave in 2002 to invade Iraq, a step that would rein in presidential war-making powers for the first time in a generation,” the New York Times’s Jennifer Steinhauer reports.

  • “The bipartisan action reflected growing determination on Capitol Hill to revisit the broad authority that Congress provided to former president George W. Bush following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks through measures that successive presidents have used to justify military action around the world.”
  • “The 2002 authorization was repeatedly applied well beyond its original intent, including in a campaign much later against the Islamic State in Iraq and for the killing of the Iranian general Qassim Suleimani last year.”
  • “The 268-to-161 vote … tees up the legislation for the Senate, where Schumer this week declared his support for the measure and his intention to bring it to the floor for a vote sometime this year,” per our colleague Karoun Demirjian.
  • “Congress, however, is still largely divided along party lines about whether the move to repeal such authorizations will actually allow lawmakers to reclaim their power to permit the use of military force — a decision that some think has been usurped by successive presidents.”

Global power

PROGRESS?: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his government to be prepared for both dialogue and confrontation with the Biden administration — but more for confrontation, days after the United States and others urged the North to abandon its nuclear program and return to talks,” AP News’s Hyung-Jin Kim reports. “Sung Kim, the top U.S. official on North Korea, is to visit Seoul on Saturday for a trilateral meeting with South Korean and Japanese officials.”

  • “The comments are the first high-level suggestion of talks since Biden replaced Trump, who met Kim three times. Pyongyang has so far rebuffed Biden’s requests for dialogue and lambasted the U.S. president’s comments that were critical of North Korea’s arms buildup,” Bloomberg’s Jon Herskovitz and Maria Jose Valero report.
  • Why now? “His country is feeling the pinch. North Korea’s economy will barely grow in 2021 after its worst contraction in decades as it continues to struggle with the pandemic, international sanctions to punish it for its nuclear and missile testing, and a lack of trade with its main benefactor, China.” 

In the media