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The Early 202

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

Biden courts labor ahead of tough midterms

The Early 202

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

Good morning, Early Birds. Happy Flag Day. Tips: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … How much to spend on the Senate framework on gun violence emerges as an issue … The latest on the Jan. 6 hearings …  Josh Dawsey with the scoop on what Kevin McCarthy was up to MondayHouse sets vote on Supreme Court security bill … but first …

At the White House

Biden courts labor amid worries union members are drifting away from Democrats

President Biden is heading to Philadelphia today to address the AFL-CIO convention — his latest show of solidarity with the labor movement as Democrats confront a tough midterm election forecast.

He's expected to talk about building an economy around working people, according to a White House official, with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Stacey Abrams in attendance.

Showing up at the AFL-CIO meeting held once every four years is almost obligatory for Democratic presidents. But Biden has made a special effort to court organized labor in recent months.

He's spoken to the North America’s Build Trades Unions and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He hosted union organizers last month in the Oval Office who led campaigns to unionize Amazon warehouses and Starbucks stores, leading the coffee giant to express alarm. He has belittled Elon Musk’s extraterrestrial ambitions — a feud born of Biden’s support for unionized automakers over Tesla, which isn't unionized.

“I’ll be 60 years old in six weeks, and in my lifetime nobody’s even come close to doing for working people what this guy’s done,” said Sean McGarvey, NABTU’s president. “Not close.”

“If you go to the rank and file in the John Deere factory or the Kellogg’s factory or in the Nabisco factory and you look at where are those memberships drifting, they’re drifting further right,” said Faiz Shakir, an adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who’s been in touch with the White House on unionization issues. “There are more people siding with Trump and the Republican Party. And so you need to be talking to those people.”

‘We know that we have some work to do’

Voters who identified themselves as union members made up 9 percent of the electorate in 2020 and were more likely to vote for Biden than voters who weren’t in unions, according to the Associated Press’ VoteCast survey. Fifty-six percent of union members voted for Biden; only 50 percent of non-unionized voters did.

Some Democrats close to organized labor say Biden can hardly be expected to do even more. “Rather than saying, ‘Oh the president needs to do more,’ I’d say, ‘Keep on keepin’ on, brother Biden,’” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), a former union organizer.

But union leaders say there’s cause for concern as the midterms approach.

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, who was elected to a full four-year term on Sunday after taking office last year — the first woman to hold the position — praised the infrastructure law that Biden worked to pass but said many union members didn’t know that “this administration was the engine behind that proposal and getting it across the finish line.” More worryingly, some union members — “a small percentage of people that are very loud” — have embraced the idea that the 2020 election was stolen.

  • “We know that we have some work to do, because there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there,” Shuler told the Early in an interview on Monday. “And unfortunately, we're all in our Facebook bubbles, and the algorithms have won in some ways.”

The problem has led the AFL-CIO to radically remake its political program ahead of the midterms.

“We realize we cannot just get out in the field and start talking to members about candidates,” Shuler said. “It’s more regaining trust, getting into worksites with our network … and having face-to-face conversations to break through the misinformation and all the noise.”

Drawing contrasts

NABTU endorses Republicans as well as Democrats, but McGarvey echoed some of Shuler's concerns.

“The traditional ways to do it aren’t as effective anymore,” McGarvey said. It’s tough for Biden and other national figures — even for McGarvey himself — to connect with members on the ground.

  • “I can’t go to Butte, Montana, and talk to those members — I can, I do, OK?” he said. “But when that conversation’s done, they want to hear from their local leader in Butte, Montana: Is that accurate? Is what they’re saying the truth?”

David Madland, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who works on labor policy, urged Biden to draw a contrast with Republicans heading into the midterms. Biden has made a point of talking about the tax plan advanced by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), which would raise taxes on workers with low incomes and has been disavowed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

McGarvey said he approved of such a strategy — with one catch.

“I don’t think anybody really knows who Rick Scott is,” he said. “But that’s something that absolutely would resonate with our members.”

Additional reporting by Scott Clement.

On the Hill

The latest on the Jan. 6 hearings

In the Jan. 6 committee hearing on June 13, multiple witnesses said that President Donald Trump and some members of his campaign spread false election claims. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

The second of seven: “The House Jan. 6 committee aired videotaped testimony from a parade of insiders in Donald Trump’s White House describing how they each told Trump in the wake of his 2020 loss that there was no credible evidence the election had been stolen,” our colleagues Mike DeBonis and Jacqueline Alemany report. “But they said they were ignored, ridiculed and sidelined by the former president as he persisted in making baseless claims that laid the groundwork for the violent attack on the Capitol two months later.”

  • “While most of those figures testified they communicated those facts to the president directly, many failed to correct the public record on the issue or speak out against Trump’s false claims,” Jacqueline Alemany writes. “The quiet distancing from people on what former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien called ‘Team Normal,’ in part allowed people such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell to gain even more influence and reach.”
What was Kevin McCarthy doing during the hearing?

Our colleague Josh Dawsey writes in that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) held a donor retreat at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown on Monday during the hearing and appeared on stage with Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott and National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), according to people who attended the event.

A range of top lobbyists and donors were in the room. McCarthy told the crowd that Republicans should focus on economic and other issues and not the Jan. 6 committee.

Next steps

Happening tomorrow: The Jan. 6 committee will use the day’s hearing to determine whether Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark was acting of his own volition, or a part of a larger, concerted effort to keep Trump in power, when he proposed sending letters to state legislatures telling them that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns” about the election results, per our colleague Michael Kranish.

What will the committee do? “Attorney General Merrick Garland, who oversees prosecutors who are evaluating potential federal charges against Trump and other officials, said Monday that the Justice Department is monitoring the hearings closely,” per DeBonis and Alemany. But the select committee appears divided over whether to make criminal referrals. 

  • “That’s not our job,” Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters Monday night. “Our job is to look at the facts and the circumstances around January 6, what caused it, and make recommendations after that.”
  • Two committee members said differently: 

Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.): 

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.): 

More from our colleagues: 

Some outstanding issues on the gun violence framework

As the bipartisan group of senators negotiate draft legislative text for the agreed upon framework of their nine-point gun safety and mental health plan, one of the remaining sticking points is how much it will cost and how to offset that price tag. 

In an interview Monday with Leigh Ann on Washington Post Live, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), who represents Uvalde and has been in contact with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about the negotiations, said the mental health components are going to be “billions of dollars.” 

Multiple people on both sides of the aisle said the total cost of the measure — which includes mental health and school safety programs as well as red-flag law grants to states — is still being decided. Democrats familiar with the negotiations said the range is between $15 billion and $20 billion and Republicans said it's closer to $10 billion. 

Why that matters? Funding and how to pay for legislation is often a challenging conversation between the parties.

The provisions that cost money will be offset. People from both sides of the aisle said it is likely the legislation will include a delay of a Medicare and Medicaid rebate rule to find savings. But again, no final decisions have been made and things could change.

Where the House stands

Many House members said they aren't taking a position on the Senate framework until they see legislative text, including progressives. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she's “encouraged” but she needs “to see more details about the criminalization,” including the expansion of background checks into juvenile records and what she calls the “criminalization of communities” after the increase of police officers at high schools, she told our colleague Marianna Sotomayor.  

And an aide to Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) said she is “hopeful” but has concerns about the “militarization” of schools.

On the Republican side, Gonzales said he's “optimistic” about the framework but also said he needs to see the legislative text. Gonzales also said he doesn't support red flag laws but said he'd support grants for states, as the Senate framework is written, and that he's “okay” if his state of Texas rejects those grants.

Our colleagues Kimberly Kindy, John D. Harden, Chris Alcantara and Kevin Schaul have a look, complete with graphics, at how state gun-control laws surge after high-profile mass shootings

From the courts

House sets vote on Supreme Court security bill

Happening today: The House will “vote on a Senate-passed bill that would extend security to family members of Supreme Court justices, but not to family members of judicial clerks or other staff,” our colleague Mike DeBonis reports. “Should the House approve the Senate bill as expected, it would go to Biden for his signature.”

The Data

The GOP’s winning formula, visualized: “District by district, state by state, voters in places that cast ballots through the end of May have chosen at least 108 candidates for statewide office or Congress who have repeated Trump’s” false fraud claims, according to a new analysis by The Post’s Amy Gardner and Isaac Arnsdorf. 

  • “The analysis offers a fresh portrait of the extent to which embracing [‘the big lie’] has become part of a winning formula in this year’s GOP contests, and what it means for the immediate future of American democracy … Many will hold positions with the power to interfere in the outcomes of future contests.”

The Media

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

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