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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Cecile Richards on the road ahead for the abortion rights movement

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds. It's Friday. Send us your best tips before heading off into the weekend: Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition President Biden heads to Ohio … Rudy Giuliani won't speak to the House committee investigating Jan. 6 after all … Biden names a new White House press secretary … but first …

🚨: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi will announce this morning that she’s setting a minimum salary for House staffers, a gigantic boon for a workforce that historically has been underpaid and overworked,” Punchbowl News first reported this morning.

The new minimum annual salary for staffers is $45,000, and will go into effect on Sept. 1. 

First reactions: “100 days after Speaker Pelosi promised to support staff unionization–and as the groundswell of labor organizing across the country sweeps through the halls of Congress–the credibility of lawmakers is now being put to the test. Will our bosses finally lead by example?” the Congressional Workers Union wrote in a statement exclusive to The Early 202.

“Next week, every Member of Congress who’s stood up for workers rights must vote to pass the resolution to give their own workers the right to unionize and bargain collectively. If Democrats are For the People, we are people too.”

The campaign

Cecile Richards says Democratic candidates need to go on offense on abortion rights

Ten questions for Cecile Richards: We spoke with the former president of Planned Parenthood, who is now a co-chair of the Democratic nonprofit American Bridge 21st Century, about the road ahead for the abortion rights movement. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: You led Planned Parenthood for more than a decade. Did you ever think we'd be on the brink of seeing Roe overturned?

Richards: Well, of course, I always knew it was a possibility. And we spent many of those years fighting off abortion bans in states, including my home state of Texas. And after this last administration, Donald Trump, and putting three justices on the Supreme Court with a pledge to overturn Roe — I knew intellectually it was always a possibility. It was my worst nightmare. [But] when the news came out, it was still stunning to think that we could have gotten to this point in America.

The Early: You wrote in January that your one regret from your time at Planned Parenthood was that you “believed that providing vital health care, with public opinion on our side, would be enough” to keep abortion legal. “As a movement, I know we couldn’t have worked any harder, but maybe we could have been tougher,” you wrote. What did you mean by that?

Richards: Well, I kind of always wanted to give even some Republicans the benefit of the doubt, that they just wouldn't go that far. I thought at some point there would be some adults in the room that stood up and said, “OK, this is too much. We’re going too far.” But apparently that's not happening. And you’re certainly seeing in the politics of the Republican primaries now, in fact, the Republican Party feels like it's going so much further to the right than any of us could ever imagine. Maybe I should have known that’s where it was all headed.

The Early: Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said Wednesday that he thought “pro life activists would push for federal protections” if Roe falls. Do you anticipate that being the next battle? 

Richards: One hundred percent. I mean, the Republicans keep saying, “Oh, well this should be a state issue” — as if that is any solace to women who live in parts of the country where they already have so little access to health care, to support for their families, support for the children that they have. But I fully expect that if the Republicans gain control of Congress as early as this November, that House Bill 1 will be some form of abortion ban.

The Early: The White House has been scrambling to figure out what they can do to protect abortion rights via executive action. What specific steps would you like to see them take?

Richards: Well, I definitely think there are moves they can take to protect access to medication abortion, which is a really important form of early termination of pregnancy. It's very safe. [And] we have two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who expressed their dismay over what's happened, or what seems to be happening, in the Supreme Court. So I'd like them to join up with the Democrats in the Senate to basically pass legalization of abortion in this country. That's what the American people want.

The Early: Murkowski and Collins have their own bill that’s narrower than the one House Democrats passed last year. Would you like to see the Senate take up their legislation to codify Roe into law as opposed to the Democratic bill, which Collins doesn’t support?

Richards: I think it's time that those two women join with the Democrats who have been leading on this issue. It's not time [for] two people to try to get everybody else to agree with their point of view. If they believe in abortion rights, if they are as appalled as the rest of us about what this Supreme Court then it's time to join with the rest of Democrats in the Senate and pass abortion legalization in America.

The Early: What advice do you have for Democrats on how to campaign on this issue?

Richards: Go on offense. Go on offense. I saw [Democratic Rep.] Tim Ryan yesterday, really making the case in Ohio. Make it real for people about what kind of world we would be living in. It's not simply that we are losing our constitutional rights. There's an entire generation of women who had enormous opportunities to finish school, to find a career, to get into the workforce, to have the number of children they could support. It has completely changed women’s participation in our country, in our economy. That is all at risk.

The Early: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) went to Texas on Wednesday to campaign for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), the last House Democrat who opposes abortion rights. Do you think there's a place for someone like Cuellar in the Democratic Party right now?

Richards: Look, I ran Planned Parenthood for years. I dealt with folks from all walks of life. People have their own personal feelings about abortion, and that is their right. It is a deeply, deeply personal issue. The question is not, How do you feel about abortion? The question is, Do you believe that this decision about a pregnancy should be made by politicians and government? So I fully respect, whether it's Congressman Cuellar or anyone, who says abortion is something that they personally don't believe in. It is very different to say, therefore, I believe we should take away this right from every single person in the country.

The Early: Do you think it sends the wrong message for Clyburn and other members of Democratic leadership to stand with Cuellar as he’s facing a primary?

Richards: I mean, personally, I hope he gets defeated. That's my point of view.

The Early: What do you see as the long-term strategy now for abortion rights advocates? Electing enough Democrats to pass a bill to codify Roe into law? Waiting for conservative Supreme Court justices to retire or die and for a Democratic president to replace them? Is it electing enough Democratic senators to scrap the filibuster and pass a bill codifying Roe with 50 votes instead of 60?

Richards: There's not gonna be one single thing but I certainly am not going to wait on the Supreme Court. I don’t think anyone is. I do believe it's important not only that we elect more people that support the right of women to have access to safe and legal abortion. I also think that it's important that some Republicans begin to stand up and fight back [against] their party. And if the Republican Party does not, they have to be defeated.

The Early: In the immediate aftermath of the leak of the draft opinion, you saw some Democrats call for expanding the Supreme Court. You saw Democratic senators call for eliminating the filibuster. Do you support either of those steps?

Richards: I definitely support eliminating the filibuster in order to pass legalization of abortion. I think expanding the Supreme Court is definitely something to consider — probably harder to imagine that happening. But my first priority would be to break the filibuster, pass abortion legalization so that women are not immediately put in harm's way.

At the White House

Biden heads to Cincinnati to push Bipartisan Innovation Act

Biden heads to Boehner country: President Biden is headed to Ohio this morning, where he'll urge Congress to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act — the latest name for a bill meant to make the U.S. more competitive with China that some Democrats hope to run on in the midterms. The House and Senate are trying to work out a compromise between two competing versions.

Biden is set to meet with manufacturers in Hamilton, Ohio, in the suburban Cincinnati district once represented by former House Speaker John Boehner. And he'll announce a new initiative in which companies such Honeywell, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin commit to work with and buy from more American suppliers, with support from the administration.

Karine Jean-Pierre named White House press secretary

KJP ascends to the podium: Biden has tapped Karine Jean-Pierre to replace departing White House press secretary Jen Psaki, making her the first Black and the first openly gay woman to hold the title, our colleague Tyler Pager reports. Psaki is expected to leave the White House on May 13.

  • “Jean-Pierre will join a growing list of individuals who are breaking barriers under the Biden administration, from Lloyd Austin, the first Black defense secretary, to White House budget director Shalanda Young, the first Black woman in that role,” Pager writes. “Vice President Harris is the first Black woman as well as the first Asian American to hold her position, and Biden just appointed Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.”

Get to know Jean-Pierre: Karine Jean-Pierre is breaking the ‘marble ceiling’ at the White House. By theGrio’s April Ryan.

On the Hill

Rudy Giuliani pulls out of Jan 6. committee interview

Last-minute cancelation: Rudy Giuliani won't testify today before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol after all.

Giuliani, who as Trump's personal lawyer helped lead the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, had been negotiating with the committee about testifying for months, the New York Times' Luke Broadwater reports. He “had finally reached an agreement to speak about matters other than his conversations with Mr. Trump or any other topic he believes is covered by attorney-client privilege, said his lawyer, Robert J. Costello.”

But he abruptly pulled out on Thursday because the committee wouldn't let him record the meeting.

"Mr. Giuliani’s sudden withdrawal threatens what could have been a major breakthrough for the investigation," Broadwater reports.

  • “His testimony could have included details about interactions with members of Congress and others involved in the plans who were not Mr. Giuliani’s clients, Mr. Costello said. And with Mr. Giuliani under a subpoena to testify, the standoff raises the specter of yet another protracted legal battle between the committee and a former Trump aide.”

The Media

Weekend reeeads: 


*drops mic*

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