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🚨: “The Justice Department asked a federal judge late Tuesday to issue an order that would prevent Texas from enacting a law that prohibits nearly all abortions, ratcheting up a fight between the Biden administration and the state’s Republican leaders,” the New York Times’s Katie Benner reports

  • “The Justice Department argued in its emergency motion that the state adopted the law, known as Senate Bill 8, ‘to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.’”

In the agencies

The Agriculture secretary has become something of a progressive favorite

Vilsack vs. the farm lobby: Progressives weren’t excited when President Biden announced he’d chosen Tom Vilsack as his Agriculture secretary. 

The Revolving Door Project called him “the wrong choice to lead USDA.” Groups representing Black farmers criticized his record on civil rights during his eight years as Agriculture secretary in the Obama administration.

So it’s a little surprising that Vilsack is now something of a progressive favorite.

“We’re thrilled — surprisingly so I have to admit,” said Joe Maxwell, the president of the Family Farm Action Alliance, which criticized the choice of Vilsack in December. “But we’re thrilled that he’s the secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.”

Maxwell applauded Vilsack’s support for debt relief for Black and other historically disadvantaged farmers and his efforts to fight consolidation in the industry. And he praised Vilsack’s efforts to diversify the department along with progressive hires such as Andy Green, a Center for American Progress veteran who’s now Vilsack’s senior adviser for fair and competitive markets.

Some of the agriculture trade groups that backed Vilsack’s nomination, meanwhile, now find themselves fighting him and his party on a critical issue: Biden’s proposal to change how capital gains are taxed, which they say would make it harder for family farmers to pass on land to their children. The idea is one of a number of tax proposals designed to help pay for Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending bill.

“There’s a deep concern out in the countryside about the ability of farmers, ranchers and producers to be able to transition and transfer ownership of their farms and ranches to the next generation,” Vilsack told The Early 202.

So Vilsack has been hustling to reassure farmers that Biden’s proposal won’t hurt them.

The children of family farmers who pass on their land won’t have to pay the tax unless they stop farming or sell the farm, he wrote last week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week. And they wouldn't owe any taxes on the first $2.5 million in increased value.

“The people who are going to pay tax under the proposal have never plowed an acre,” he wrote. “Don’t let lobbyists use American farmers as a smoke screen to keep a system that allows the rich to pass on their wealth tax-free.”

Let the lobbying begin

Lobbyists see it differently.

While Vilsack has said that “98 percent of farm families in the country today” won’t be affected by the change, Dustin Sherer of the American Farm Bureau Federation said in an interview the USDA hasn't clarified how it arrived at that figure.

And the exemption for those who keep farming after they inherit the land could still create problems, he added, because it might hinder their ability to take out loans against the value of their farms.

Even Maxwell, who praised Vilsack’s record overall, said his group was delaying endorsing the administration’s plan until it saw more details.

Lobbyists fighting the proposal won a victory this week when the House Ways and Means Committee failed to include it in the committee’s draft plan for its portion of Democrats' mammoth spending package.

“It’s over with,” said Collin Peterson, a former Democratic chairman of the House Agriculture Committee who called the plan “the worst idea that has been proposed in terms of its impact on agriculture in my lifetime” in an op-ed last month, told The Early 202. “There’s no reason to debate it. It’s not going to happen.” (Peterson is now a consultant but said he isn’t representing any clients on this issue.) 

In the interview, Vilsack said he wished farmers would look at the whole budget bill rather than singling out the tax provisions causing so much angst.

“I would be willing to wage that a majority of farm families with children will see their taxes cut” because the bill would extend the childcare and dependent tax credit, he said. It could also lower health care and prescription drugs costs for many farmers.

He went on, “Everyone needs to take sort of a 360 view of this and not necessarily just simply focus on a particular aspect that may have an impact on a very, very, very, very small percentage of farm owners in the country.”

The campaign

Gavin Newsom projected to win California recall 

Newsom survives another year: “Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is projected to defeat a recall campaign against him Tuesday with a large Democratic turnout,” per our colleague Scott Wilson.

  • “The final results may not be known for days … But the ‘no’ vote against recalling Newsom was ahead by more than 20 percentage points as polls closed.”
  • “The state's traditional voting pattern appeared to be holding true, with more conservative inland residents favoring Newsom's recall and voters on the more populated, liberal Pacific coast opposing it.”
  • “Newsom will face voters again next year in the regularly scheduled election. His likely victory Tuesday will keep him in charge of a state that has become the liberal standard-bearer on issues such as climate change and immigration policy for the rest of the nation.”
  • Larry Elder, a leading Republican and recall challenger, conceded and told his supporters to “stay tuned.”

On the Hill

Sen. Rand Paul thinks Gen. Milley should be court-martialed

Milley has lost the (GOP) room: The man at the center of some of former president Donald Trump's most scrutinized and controversial moments is now being slammed by GOP lawmakers for his behind-the-scenes actions in the waning days of the Trump presidency.

Republicans are suddenly calling for the resignation of Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Gen. Mark A. Milley after a devastating portrayal of the general acting to stave off a feared war with China, revealed by our colleagues Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their new book, “Peril.”

While Democrats continued to praise Milley's efforts to rein in the former president, Republicans swiftly called for his resignation and accused him of potential misconduct: 

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) last night called for Milley to be court-martialed if the book account is accurate.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called on Biden to “immediately” fire Milley, and accused him of working to “actively undermine the sitting Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces and contemplated a treasonous leak of classified information” with China “in advance of a potential armed conflict.”
  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in an interview with Fox News that Milley “might have overstepped his bounds.”
  • Hmmm: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key figure in the Ukraine scandal, also said Milley should go because he “broke the chain of command.”

Save the date: Milley is set to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28.

Drip drip: Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham's tell-all memoir, “I'll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw in The Trump White House.” is out Oct. 5. 

Simone Biles will be on the Hill

Happening today: “Star gymnasts including Simone Biles, in addition to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, are scheduled to testify before a Senate committee about the FBI’s handling of sex abuse allegations against Larry Nassar — an investigation so badly bungled that FBI officials last week fired a key agent in the case,” our colleague Devlin Barrett reports.

  • “Lawmakers are expected to hear emotional testimony from Biles and three other gymnasts who say they were sexually abused by Nassar, the former USA gymnastics doctor now serving the equivalent of a life term in federal prison.”
Democrats are targeting smokers in the budget bill

GOP says tax hike runs afoul of Biden’s campaign promise: “Millions of Americans who smoke could soon see an increase in their prices, as Democrats target tobacco and nicotine to help finance their $3.5 trillion economic package,” our colleague Tony Romm reports. The new proposal would “hike existing federal levies on cigarettes and cigars while introducing new taxes on vaping.”

  • “To GOP lawmakers, the higher taxes put Democrats at risk of violating Biden’s promise during the 2020 campaign not to raise rates on Americans who make less than $400,000 each year … As many as 80 percent of smokers have incomes less than $200,000 annually.”

Viral

Too cool for Congress 😎

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.