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The Early 202

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

Women are once again becoming the focus of the midterms

The Early 202

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

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Good morning, Early Birds, and welcome home, Sen. Van Hollen and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman! We hope everyone had a restful weekend. Thanks for waking up with us. 🪱🐦

In today’s edition … The Post’s Cleve R. Wootson Jr. on how two years after George Floyd’s death, there has been little movement on police reform in Washington … House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) may have echoed the ‘great replacement’ theory, but that didn’t stop firms from donating to her, according to our Todd C. Frankel and Dylan Freedman … Biden unveils the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework while in Tokyo … but first …

🚨: “The White House is considering an emergency declaration that would enable President Joe Biden to release diesel from a rarely used stockpile in a bid to address a major supply crunch,” CNN's Matt Egan reports.

On the Hill

Women are once again becoming the focus of the midterms

As the issues affecting the midterm elections take shape, something is becoming clear: Many directly impact women. 

The baby formula shortage, high gas prices, rising food costs and the upcoming Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn Roe v. Wade are putting into focus, once again, the central role played by women voters, especially in the majority-making suburbs. 

House members are beginning a two-week stretch in their home districts and Democrats are tailoring their message to reach women voters. But that's a tough challenge at the moment.

Democrats control Washington, so they are trying to explain how Republicans are blocking their agenda and how it would be much worse if the GOP controlled either or both chambers of Congress next year.

  • The party is attempting to weave together a message that both addresses the challenging economic environment  while also blaming Republicans — who Democrats are now referring to as ‘MAGA Republicans' — for Roe v. Wade's likely reversal stripping away a woman's ability to get an abortion in many states.

When asked how hard it is to be a woman and a mother right now, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) told The Early, “It's incredibly difficult, and it has been difficult coming out of covid.”

Covid has had a greater negative economic impact on women and now the formula shortage has put added pressure on women on top of increased prices for food and gas due to inflation and the war in Ukraine.

In an attempt to ease the formula crisis, President Biden is touting the first shipment of formula from Europe, which the administration said equals 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles. More shipments are expected this week.

Polls show that the economic issues are having a direct impact on the mood of women voters. In a Quinnipiac poll last week, Biden's approval rating is just 39 percent among women. That compares to 55 percent in 2020, according to Pew Research. While Biden won't be on the ballot in November, voters' opinion of Biden is an important gauge of voters' mood of the president's party.

The challenge facing Democrats is how do you convince voters that when you control Washington it's not your fault when the Capitol city isn't delivering for citizens across the country?

To answer that question, House Democrats are heading into their two-week recess at home armed with talking points. 

“Our guidance is to talk about voting to solve the baby formula shortage, stop the price gouging at the pump and defend women's rights against Republican attacks,” a Democratic campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the party's electoral strategy, told The Early. 

That's why the House rushed last week to pass bills addressing the formula shortage, including $28 million for the FDA, as well as a bill aimed at prohibiting oil companies from artificially increasing prices at the pump. 

Democrats think abortion is an issue that is going to galvanize women, especially when Democrats frame the debate as Republicans' “top priority is to eliminate and criminalize abortions, according to talking points by the DCCC obtained by The Early. 

On Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf will appear once again before a House committee, this time Energy and Commerce. The second panel of the hearing is expected to be tense with formula executives — including Abbott's Christopher J. Calamari, Gerber's Scott Fitz and Robert Cleveland of Reckitt — testifying. Members of both parties are likely to drill down on the executives about safety concerns and the formula shortage. 

At a closed door leadership meeting last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was furious about the baby formula shortage and said the head of Abbott belonged in jail, according to a person inside the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private gathering. Abbott closed down a manufacturing plant in Sturgis, Mich., in February because of reports of contamination. It remains closed but could open as early as this week. 

The executives' testimony is another way for Democrats to show voters they, too, are angry and are putting up a fight. 

“People know you can't wave a magic wand,” Castor said. “They really want to see members who are fighting for them — we're working on solutions and are pressing the senate to pass some of the (bills) to lower cost.”

Blame the Senate

It's the Senate's fault is another message House members are expected to deliver to constituents. The House, which can pass legislation with a simple majority, has been able to approve a whole host of bills stuck in the Senate: enhanced gun background checks, codification of Roe. V. Wade, voting rights, and Biden's so-called Build Back Better agenda. 

Because of Republican opposition, the Senate is unlikely to pass the price gouging bill and the $28 million to help with the formula shortage, which passed the House last week. 

“We got a bicameral legislation and we've finished our part. It ain't Congress,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told The Early. “It's the Senate.” 

The Senate is in Washington this week and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will take up the Preventing Domestic Terrorism Act in the wake of the Buffalo shooting, which passed the House last week. But it's unclear if the bill, which would create new offices within the departments of Justice and Homeland Security as well as the FBI to address domestic terrorism, will win the support of the 10 Republicans it needs for passage. 

Covid aid breakthrough or breakdown?

Now that a court blocked the Biden administration from lifting the border health policy Title 42, it could pave the way for covid aid to move through Congress. Republicans had been demanding a vote to keep the pandemic migrant restriction in place as part of a covid aid package and could now allow a bill to advance. But the Senate is waiting on the House to act.

Pelosi announced that she was going to lift the amount to $22.5 billion from $10 billion, which is, once again, going to make it difficult to pass through the Senate. 

At the White House

Biden announces Indo-Pacific economic pact to strengthen economies, counter China

✈️While you were asleep: Biden is in the midst of a “five-day trip to South Korea and Japan, an effort to bolster American influence in a part of the world where China’s power and North Korea’s nuclear aims loom large,” our colleagues Seung Min Kim, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report.

Tokyo Touchdown: President Joe Biden launched a new trade deal with 12 Indo-Pacific nations Monday aimed at strengthening their economies as he warned Americans worried about high inflation that it is “going to be a haul” before they feel relief.” AP News’ Josh Boak and Aamer Madhani report. “Biden, speaking at a news conference after holding talks with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, acknowledged the U.S. economy has ‘problems’ but said they were ‘less consequential than the rest of the world has.’”

  • “By unveiling the framework, Biden appears to be acknowledging he has little intention of rejoining [the Trans Pacific Partnership], which remains unpopular among United States lawmakers who would need to ratify the deal,” CNN’s Kevin Liptak writes.
  • The framework has 13 members, including the U.S., that account for 40% of global gross domestic product: Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

"Biden and Kishida were joined for the launch event by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while representatives from the other countries appeared by video. Modi was in Tokyo for Tuesday’s meeting of the Quad, a four-country security group that also includes the U.S., Japan and Australia,” per Boak and Madhani.

The campaign

Two years after Floyd’s death, little movement on police reform in Washington

Two years later: “A few days after George Floyd was murdered, presidential hopeful Joe Biden addressed the nation, speaking passionately about police reforms that he stressed could not wait another month, let alone another election cycle: banning police chokeholds; rules for use of force; a review of every police department’s hiring, training and de-escalation practices,” our colleague Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports

  • “‘No more excuses,’ Biden demanded, urging Congress to put a bill on then-President Donald Trump’s desk within days. ‘No more delays.’”
  • “Two years after Floyd’s killing sparked demonstrations for police reform and a movement to confront systemic racism, the push to rehabilitate police departments has stagnated. A bill bearing Floyd’s name aimed at overhauling police practices died in the Senate, even after Biden urged legislators to get it done in his first address to Congress. The administration has been mulling for months whether Biden should issue an executive order on police reform, leaving civil rights leaders frustrated at the delay and whether it will result in any enduring improvement.”
  • “More deeply, those who have pushed hardest for reforms worry about what they see as an about-face on equitable policing, or at least a faltering of will, as a surge in crime creates pressure on Biden and his party to stand unwaveringly with the police.”

Elise Stefanik echoed ‘great replacement’ theory. UBS, companies kept donating.

Do as I say, not as I do: “As companies pledged support and money to fight racism following George Floyd’s killing in May 2020, Tom Naratil, U.S. president of the financial firm UBS, told his 20,000 workers, ‘Silence is not an option,’” our colleagues Todd C. Frankel and Dylan Freedman report. “We all have a responsibility to call out hate, to stand for what’s right and to turn emotion into constructive action,” Naratil said.

  • “And UBS followed up. It donated more than $3 million to racial justice groups. It joined an industry push to combat economic disparities based on race.”
  • “But UBS Americas also donated $17,500 to the campaign and political action committees of Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 House Republican, after she was widely criticized for echoing the white supremacist ‘great replacement’ theory in campaign advertisements late last year. UBS declined to comment.”
  • “UBS was one of 22 large U.S. companies with racial justice pledges that continued donating money to Stefanik after her controversial ads, according to a Post analysis. These companies, including Anheuser Busch and Walgreens, made vocal pledges to use their resources to combat racism while at the same time bankrolling a politician with a message widely seen as racist, illustrating a thorny contradiction for corporate America as companies seek to exert influence while following ethical principles.”

The Media

What we’re reading: 

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

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