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The Early 202

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

Senate gun deal moves toward passage after decades of inaction

The Early 202

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

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Good morning, Early Birds. Check it out! Leigh Ann is launching a new Washington Post Live series “Across the Aisle." The first episode today at 1 p.m. Eastern with Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). Tips: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … President Biden calls for suspending the gas tax … Takeaways from Tuesday's Jan. 6 committee hearing … The latest on Tuesday night's primaries … Two senators debut their long-awaited insulin legislation … What we're watching: The NFL and the Washington Commanders in the congressional hot seat … but first …

On the Hill

Senate gun deal moves toward passage after decades of inaction

Fourteen.

That's the number of Republican senators who voted Monday night to advance the compromise gun safety bill, a clear indication of where lawmakers stand on a vote on final passage that is expected later this week.

The Republicans who joined all Democrats in supporting the legislation were: Roy Blunt (Mo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Todd C. Young (Ind.). Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) signed onto the framework and is expected to vote for final passage, but he missed votes on Tuesday.

Tuesday night's bipartisan vote was a major achievement on an issue that has stymied Congress for decades.

And the Senate acted with rare swiftness. Less than a month after their first meeting and only nine days after a draft framework was released, a bipartisan negotiating group of four senators released the legislative text. Less than three hours after that, the Senate voted to open debate on the package.

  • The breakthrough came more than a week after 20 senators — 10 from each party — signed on to a framework agreement that coupled modest new gun restrictions with some $15 billion in new federal funding for mental health programs and school security upgrades. The release Tuesday evening of the 80-page Bipartisan Safer Communities Act concluded a crash effort to translate those elements into fine legislative detail, one that appeared to be in jeopardy late last week, our colleague Mike DeBonis and Leigh Ann write.

But the measure “falls well short of the broader gun-control measures that President Biden and other Democrats have called for, such as a new assault weapons ban or restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines,” Mike and Leigh Ann write. It also received swift opposition from the National Rifle Association, which denounced the measure as “inviting interference with our constitutional freedoms.” Murkowski and Young are the only two of the 14 Republicans who voted for the measure running for reelection this year.

The loophole that almost remained

One of the most contentious issues at the end of the negotiation was the so-called boyfriend loophole, and a deal on that provision paved the way to the overall agreement.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who worked with domestic violence victims as a social worker and in a shelter, prioritized the issue during negotiations, an aide to Sinema said. She brought up the issue during the first meeting with the top Republican negotiator, Cornyn, and colleagues in the days after the Uvalde shooting, pointing to evidence that childhood trauma, including violence in the home, is often present in the mass shooter profiles.

“To reduce community violence, it's important to stop violence from occurring in the short term and address the root causes of violent behavior in the long term,” Sinema said in a statement provided to The Early. “I'm proud we are taking this meaningful step.”

To many observers, it was surprising that the so-called loophole was even part of the conversation after it failed to pass Congress many times. And the overall deal nearly fell apart on Thursday over the issue.

Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), the top Democratic negotiator, said Republicans had a “legitimate concern” about creating a new precedent for a “right being taken away” because the bill would prevent a current or recent former dating partner convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge from obtaining a gun. Murphy said they had to create a path for people to get back their right to own a gun, and they settled on a clean domestic violence and violent crime record for five years.

“That took a little while to figure that out,” Murphy said. 

Cornyn insisted the provision is a sensible answer.

“This doesn't limit law-abiding gun owner's rights until someone is convicted of domestic abuse under state laws. Their gun laws will not be impacted,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor. “This portion of the bill includes critical due process protections, which, as we all know, is part of our Constitution.” 

The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions found a 13 percent reduction in partner homicides when protective orders cover dating partners and that more than half of mass shootings involve an intimate partner or family members. 

Acknowledging progress, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) said “partially closing” the loophole is “a significant step.”

“In 2021, more than 17,000 people who reached out to us shared that firearms were a part of their abusive experience,” said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of The Hotline.   

Some advocates still worry about “the creation of a new loophole” because the bill only includes “recent former” partners. “He doesn't need to be ‘recent' to cause harm,” Susan B. Sorenson, a University of Pennsylvania professor who studies family violence, told The Early. “Feelings, not all of them positive, live on long after a relationship has ended.”

Nineteen states have already implemented similar provisions to prohibit those convicted of abusing their current and former dating partners from having a gun, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. This would be the first time federal law would include the restriction. 

“I am so excited about this,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said of the inclusion of domestic violence provision. Klobuchar has been working on this issue for more than 10 years and recently had to strip a similar measure from the 2022 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because it didn't have the support of 10 Republicans to pass the Senate. 

“We are understandably focused on the mass shootings, but what always seems to be shoved aside, even on small-ball bills, is the domestic violence piece,” Klobuchar said. “This is a major breakthrough.”

Shaheen, Collins unveil bipartisan plan to lower insulin prices

Happening today: After months of work, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) plan to unveil a bill today “that aims to curb the high costs of insulin, a lifesaving drug that some Americans have struggled to pay for as prices for the medicine have swelled,” as our colleagues Rachel Roubein and Tony Romm report

But the bill still faces tough odds with barely four months to go ahead of the midterms and the August recess fast approaching. In a joint statement, Shaheen and Collins called “on Senate leadership to bring our legislation to the floor as soon as possible.”

What’s in the bill:

  • “A $35 monthly cap on the cost of insulin for patients with private insurance as well as those enrolled in Medicare, though it wouldn’t afford the same protections for the uninsured,” per Rachel and Tony.
  • It “also seeks to make insulin more accessible by cracking down on prior authorization requirements that can force patients to jump through hurdles to get insurers to help pay for medications.”

Georgia election workers describe ‘hateful’ threats at Jan. 6 hearing

On June 21, Georgia election worker Shaye Moss recalled her struggle after being targeted by President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani. (Video: The Washington Post)

‘There is nowhere I feel safe’: Tuesday’s Jan. 6, 2021, hearing focused on the pressure campaign lodged against state officials to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Here’s the latest coverage from our colleagues: 

At the White House

Biden goes after gas tax

Biden will urge Congress today to suspend the federal gas tax of 18.3 cents per gallon for three months, moving ahead with a step his administration debated taking for months to try to mitigate high gas prices.

Biden will also ”call on states to suspend their own gas taxes,” our colleagues Cleve Wootson and Tony Romm report. “And he plans to urge oil companies and refineries to lower prices for consumers, even if doing so means eating into their own profits.”

  • “If all those things happen, the administration estimates consumers could save about a dollar per gallon. The average cost of a gallon of gas hit nearly $4.97 per gallon nationally on Tuesday, down from its record high above $5 per gallon earlier this month, according to AAA.”

But some Democrats are skeptical that it's a good idea.

“I do not like the idea of a federal gas holiday that’s being talked about,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the Congressional Progressive Caucus' chair, told The Post on Tuesday before the White House announcement. “I don’t think that’s going to make it down to the consumer.”

What we're watching

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee this morning to defend his league’s handling of workplace misconduct. During the hearing, the committee is expected to present “the preliminary findings of its eight-month investigation into allegations of misconduct within the Washington Commanders’ workplace,” per our colleagues Liz Clarke, Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala.

Here’s some of what the evidence is expected to address, per our colleagues:

  • “The Commanders’ alleged use of nondisclosure agreements to shield bad workplace behavior.”
  • “Team executives’ alleged use of employees’ photos without their approval for private, purposes.”
  • “Snyder’s alleged efforts to intimidate former employees and perceived enemies via private investigators and the courts.”

The committee also asked Commanders owner Daniel Snyder to appear before the panel but he declined, citing a “long-standing business conflict” overseas. Snyder was accused of sexually harassing and assaulting a Commanders employee in April 2009, “three months before the team agreed to pay the woman $1.6 million as part of a confidential settlement,” our colleague Will Hobson reports.

The campaign

Two Trump-backed Republicans go down

Tuesday wasn’t a good night for candidates backed by former president Donald Trump.

Republicans running for two open House seats in Georgia who’d won Trump’s endorsement lost their primary runoffs.

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a onetime conservative Democrat whom Trump endorsed, lost to Mike Collins, a trucking company owner and the son of former Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.), in the race to succeed Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) And Trump-endorsed Jake Evans lost to Rich McCormick in the race for an open seat in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Both seats are safely Republican.

But as the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman points out, it's not like Collins or McCormick is anti-Trump:

Katie Britt, meanwhile, a former chief of staff to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) whom Trump endorsed, won the Republican runoff to fill Shelby’s seat — by defeating Rep. Mo Brooks, whom Trump backed last year but unendorsed in March as Brooks trailed in the polls.

More notable results:

  • State Sen. Jen Kiggans won the Republican primary to face Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), whose swing district was made more Republican by redistricting.
  • Yesli Vega, a Prince William County supervisor backed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ginni Thomas, won the Republican primary to take on Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) in another swing district.
  • In the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser won the Democratic primary with 50 percent of the vote (and an estimated 71 percent of votes counted) as of this morning , all but ensuring her another term.

The Media

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