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The Early 202

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

Democrats aren't planning on vote to scrap the filibuster for abortion bill

The Early 202

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

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Good morning, Early Birds. Congratulations to our colleagues — including former Early co-author Jackie Alemany! — who won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for their coverage of the Jan. 6 attack. Tips: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … Congress reaches deal on Ukraine aid but the path forward on covid funds is still uncertain … Trump-backed candidate accused of groping faces voters in Nebraska primary and West Virginia voters head to the polls as well, from The Post's David Weigel … but first …

On the Hill

Democrats worry a vote to scrap the filibuster for abortion legislation would be more divisive than productive

It's no secret the vote Wednesday on a bill to codify Roe v. Wade, the Women's Health Protection Act authored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), will fail due to Republican objections. 

And that has led to discussions about what Democrats should do next to show their base of voters they will fight to preserve abortion rights. Not on that list? Holding a vote to get rid of the filibuster or to carve out an exception to the rule for abortion legislation. 

Relatively few Democratic senators are looking to go down that path again after the party's attempt to pass a similar carve out for voting rights in January came up short, which highlighted the party's inability to stay unified and deliver on a major issue for its voters while causing tensions within the conference.

“I think we know where everybody is on the filibuster. I'm for whatever strategy gets rid of the filibuster faster,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said. “I could be persuaded that another vote on the filibuster does that. But I'd need to be persuaded.”

Planned Parenthood and its allies ran an ad in Politico last year urging Congress “to use every means necessary” to pass voting and abortion rights protections. But Planned Parenthood isn't pressing Congress to vote again on ending the filibuster immediately. 

The Democrats who are pressing to kill the filibuster now

Some senators do support voting again to end the filibuster, even though Democrats lack the votes to pass it. They include Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

“I will push for filibuster reform. We should do it for voting rights, we should do it for reproductive rights,” Gillibrand said.

“If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right wing judges nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote in order to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster to keep abortion legal and safe,” Sanders tweeted on Monday.

A group of House Democrats are also demanding the Senate create a filibuster carveout.

A group of 114 House Democrats, led by Reps. Sean Casten (Ill.), Judy Chu (Calif.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Cori Bush (Mo.) Jason Crow (Colo.) and Diana DeGette (Colo.), urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this morning in a letter, which was obtained by The Early, to hold a vote on scrapping the filibuster.

“When voters gave Democrats control of the House, Senate, and the White House, they did so with the expectation that we would legislate boldly and do what is necessary to advance our fight for justice and economic prosperity. Now more than ever it is the time to deliver on our promises,” they write. “The Senate must meet the moment, end the filibuster, and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) immediately.”

“Fix the damn rule,” Casten told The Early in a telephone interview. “I don't give a damn where any of them stand on Senate procedure. That is the coward's way out.” 

Why the vote won't happen

But Schumer has no intention of bringing another vote to the floor to eliminate the filibuster. The issue was not brought up in his weekly leadership meeting Monday night, two senators who attended the gathering told The Early.

“We've been down this road once already. There aren't enough horses to do it,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “Nothing's changed.” 

Democrats' attempt to get rid of the filibuster to pass voting rights protections in January failed to secure the 50 votes necessary after Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voted against the measure. Manchin and Sinema have made clear they oppose changing the rules to codify Roe, too.

Not only did the January push fail, it was politically painful for Democrats. The vote drove home Democrats' limited ability to pass their agenda, pitted Democratic senators against each other and drew attention to the party's internal divisions rather than Republicans' opposition to voting rights legislation. 

Democratic leaders don't want to a repeat of that situation and instead want voters to concentrate on the differences between Democrats and Republicans over abortion.

“This vote is about making sure the public knows where everybody is on this issue,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a member of Schumer's leadership team. Changing the filibuster rules “is not really part of the discussion because it's not doable.”

For now, Democratic leaders' goals for Wednesday's vote are more modest — they are working to at least garner the support of all 50 Democrats for the procedural motion, which would just open debate on the measure.

Manchin, who voted against a similar measure in February, told reporters Monday night that he'll “wait and see” until the Democrats weekly caucus lunch on Tuesday to decide how he'll vote. 

At the White House

Biden to speak on inflation plan, shift blame to GOP

Happening today: President Biden will outline his plan to fight inflation in a speech this morning in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, our colleagues Evan Halper, Jeff Stein and Rachel Siegel report. He's expected to attack the plan advanced by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) that would raise income taxes on Americans who don't currently pay any, according to a White House official.

While Biden's plan includes executive actions, much of it relies on pressing pressing Congress to pass policies included in the moribund Build Back Better Act, such as clean energy tax credits, child care subsidies and policies to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

Biden will meet with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in the afternoon.

Congress reaches deal on nearly $40 billion Ukraine aid package

Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on a major Ukraine aid package totaling $39.8 billion, which is more than the $33 billion President Biden requested. As the agreement was reached, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer invited Ukraine Ambassador Oksana Markarova, a familiar face on Capitol Hill in recent months, to speak at the Senate Democrats' weekly caucus lunch on Tuesday. 

The defense, humanitarian and economic aid package for Ukraine, which has overwhelming bipartisan support, is a significant development as it increasingly became bogged down in unrelated partisan politics. 

Because of the urgency, Democratic leaders agreed to move Ukraine aid and covid funding separately — two issues Democrats hoped to tie together to help push the covid funding over the finish line.

“We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort. Hence, I am prepared to accept that these two measures move separately, so that the Ukrainian aid bill can get to my desk right away,” President Biden said Monday, calling on Congress to get the measure to his desk “in the next few days.”

As for billions of dollars of covid funding for vaccine, testing and therapeutics, discussions continue on how large the bill should be and how to move it forward. Republicans are demanding a vote on an amendment to keep Title 42, the border pandemic emergency rule, in place. Democrats have been reluctant to allow for a vote because a significant number of vulnerable House and Senate Democrats would support it. A senior Democratic aide said “there will be an effort to pass a standalone bill with as much bipartisan support as possible.”

The campaign

Trump-backed candidate accused of groping is on Nebraska ballot today

Happening today: “A Republican candidate for governor of Nebraska accused of sexually assaulting multiple women is on the ballot [today], as voters head to the polls in Nebraska and West Virginia for primaries that will pose the latest test of former president Donald Trump’s ability to influence the selection of his party’s nominees,” our colleague David Weigel reports.

  • “Charles Herbster, an agricultural executive backed by Trump, has been accused by eight women of touching them inappropriately; two have spoken on the record to the Nebraska Examiner about Herbster doing so at a party fundraiser in 2019. Herbster, who has denied the allegations, is running in a crowded field that includes a candidate backed by outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and much of the state’s Republican establishment, [including] University of Nebraska regent Jim Pillen.”
  • “The Nebraska primary is one of two closely-watched races in which Trump is pitted against local Republican leaders. The former president is also backing Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who faces a primary against a colleague who’s directed far more money back home — traditionally an asset in the state — Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.).”

More midterm reads: Emboldened by wins, GOP goes all in on the culture wars. By The Post’s Annie Linskey.

The Data

What it’s like to have a baby in a ‘trigger’ state, visualized: “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this summer, women in 13 states would immediately lose access to abortion in most cases, thanks to so-called ‘trigger’ laws that outlaw abortion in all or most cases in the event that Roe falls,” our colleagues Amy Joyce and Lauren Tierney report.

  • “Maternal mortality has been on the rise in the United States, with Black women dying at nearly three times the rate as White women in 2020. The number of deaths of pregnant and new mothers in trigger states are among the highest.”
  • “The maternal death rate in states with abortion bans or trigger is 42 percent higher than in states with wider access.”

The Media

What we’re reading: 

Viral

IKDR 💅

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @LACaldwellDC and @theodoricmeyer.

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