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The Early 202

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

As Congress moves forward with gun restrictions, the Supreme Court loosens them

The Early 202

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

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Good morning, Early Birds. TGIF! How will you celebrate the last weekend of Pride Month? Let us know:

In today’s edition … Theo spoke with Rep. Titus about what she’s focused on next on gun safety … House Democrats want to focus on supply chain problems … the Jan. 6 committee has identified the pardon-hunting five … Where do ‘Luttigators’ stand on Trump’s effort to overturn the election? … but first …

On the Hill

Congress poised to send Biden gun bill today

Nearly one month after the massacre in Uvalde, Tex., the Senate passed the most significant changes to gun laws in nearly three decades. The vote was called just after 10 p.m. as families of victims of gun violence sat in the gallery to watch the vote. The final tally was 65-33 with 15 Republicans joining all 50 Democrats. 

“The May 24 killing of 19 students and two teachers inside a Uvalde, Tex., elementary school prompted renewed action, compelling a small group of senators to negotiate a narrow, bipartisan package focused on keeping guns away from dangerous potential killers while also bulking up the nation’s mental-health-care capacity with billions of dollars in new funding,” our colleague Mike DeBonis writes

Regardless of the political pressure and indicative of the changing political dynamics on the issue, 15 Republicans supported the measure despite strong opposition from the NRA. The National Shooting Sports Foundation — a firearm industry trade association which is arguably more influential among Capitol Hill Republicans than the NRA and close with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the lead Republican negotiator — offered measured opposition, noting there are many components of the bill they do support. 

Gun control groups applauded the move. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the lead Democratic negotiator, who has been working with the groups for a decade, said it was not difficult to bring them on board. They were “pleasantly surprised” by the scope of issues being addressed.

But it was a split day for gun safety advocates.

Thursday morning the Supreme Court issued a “watershed ruling against firearm restrictions” our colleagues Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow write. The 6-3 decision, which split conservatives and liberals on the Court, struck down a New York law that prohibits people carrying guns outside their home without an approved special need, ruling it violates the Second Amendment. 

The House is expected to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on Friday, giving lawmakers who back the bill a legislative victory to take to their constituents over the two-week July Fourth recess. 

Rep. Titus on why the ‘bump stock’ ban may be the next gun fight

Eight questions for … Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.): We chatted with Titus, who represents the district in which a gunman killed 58 people in 2017 on the Las Vegas strip, about her push to ban bump stocks, the gun laws and regulations the Supreme Court could strike down next and her primary victory last week. (Bump stocks allow semi-automatic rifles to fire continuously similar to automatic weapons.)

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: You’ve been an outspoken advocate for gun control legislation since the Las Vegas shooting. How big of a setback is the Supreme Court’s ruling today?

Titus: It's one step forward, two steps back. We finally got the Senate to take some action — and then you've got the Supreme Court now saying that New York's law is struck down because you can't require somebody to show proper cause to carry a concealed weapon.

The Early: Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco predicted Thursday that the ruling would “spawn a great deal of litigation.” Do you fear this decision could pave the way for more rulings overturning gun restrictions?

Titus: I think it's very possible. There are several other states that do have a law that has this showing of cause. I'm sure they'll instantly be challenged. And it wouldn't surprise me to see ‘em challenge the requirement for a license [even in states that don’t require showing proper cause]. We saw the challenges come for the [Justice Department's 2018] bump stock regulations.

The Early: What do the challenges to the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks tell us about how these legal battles might play out?

Titus: Well, the bump stock regulation was overturned by the lower court. It was appealed, and the appeals court, in an evenly divided decision, left it in place. So now you have a bump stock prohibition, but you’ve got a Supreme Court appeal already applied for, and [those petitioning the court to take the case] include a number of the gun organizations as well as 22 state attorneys general. So that's why I've been trying to get the legislation passed to put it in statute to try to circumvent their attempt to use the court. 

[Ed.: A different federal appeals court voted on Thursday to rehear a challenge to the bump stock ban after upholding it in December.]

The Early: Do you see a path forward for your bill?

Titus: Well, getting 13 Republicans [to vote for it earlier this month as part of House Democrats’ larger gun package] — which was the most of any of the gun provisions — was somewhat encouraging. I’ll introduce it again, and I'll keep introducing it in hopes that we can get something passed before the Supreme Court acts to reverse the regulation that's in place.

The Early: Do you fear that the Supreme Court could strike down such a law as well?

Titus: I don’t. The reason that the regulation can be ruled against is [that lawsuits have challenged] the authority of the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] to make such a regulation. But Congress can pass laws that have limited certain gun access that have not been struck down. So I don't see a similar constitutional problem.

The Early: What’s your sense of why the Uvalde shooting has spurred Congress to act when Sandy Hook and Parkland and the shooting in your district in 2017 did not?

Titus: You had two shootings right following each other: the grocery store shooting and then the Uvalde shooting. [But] I don't think it was that alone. I think it was the cumulative impact of all of the shootings, and there have been so many in the last several years. I think also public opinion has been increasingly supportive of gun violence legislation. And I think the fact that a real tough election year is coming up: [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell wants to try to take the Senate, and so he was willing to make some concessions.

The Early: Do you fear that after Republicans helped pass this bill that any further gun legislation might be off the table in the near future?

Titus: I’m afraid it will. This gives them cover. They can be the good guys. They can say, “We have to wait. Let this take effect before we push it any further.”

The Early: You easily won your primary last week after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) endorsed your opponent, Amy Vilela. Were you surprised that two of your colleagues backed someone trying to unseat you?

Titus: The old-time kind of courtesies where you don't go against a member of your own caucus have kind of gone out the window. It's a new day. My opponent ran Bernie's campaign in Nevada and was a big supporter of his, so that didn't surprise me that he endorsed her. I really don't know Cori Bush, but she was out there three times in the district. I guess Nevadans really weren't supportive of what she had say.

House Democrats to focus on supply chain problems as inflation fears hurt the party's midterm chances

House and Senate negotiators missed their deadline to reach a deal on the Bipartisan Innovation Act (a.k.a. USICA or the America Competes Act or the chip manufacturing bill), before Congress leaves town Friday for a two-week July Fourth recess. 

Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are trying to tee up negotiations so the industrial policy bill can be voted on in both chambers in July. 

But a source familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the talks, tells The Early that it's “a fairy tale that this is close to the finish line.” 

Chip manufacturers are taking notice of the slow pace of talks. Intel could delay the opening of a plant in Ohio because the subsidies in the bill have not been enacted. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday to discuss some of the contentious parts of the bill, including the trade and climate provisions. 

Even though the bill hasn't crossed the finish line, House Democrats are championing the measure as one that will boost the economy. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stood with nearly a dozen members in competitive races Thursday ahead of the recess, where they are heading home to campaign for their reelection. 

Hoyer is banking on things already passed and bills in the pipeline to help curb inflation and address supply chain challenges — issues that are dogging Democrats. He name-checked the House version of the Innovation Act, the infrastructure bill passed last year, the $1.9 trillion Covid-recovery bill and a slimmed down reconciliation bill that is currently being negotiated in the Senate as the “four legs” of a stool that would lead to a “transformational, generationally, positive impact on our ability to compete, on our ability to create jobs, on our ability to educate young people and not so young people.”

In the Jan. 6 committee hearing on June 23, witnesses described how President Donald Trump pressured the Justice Department to investigate election fraud. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

The pardon-hunting five: The Jan. 6 committee capped Thursday’s blockbuster hearing by identifying the five Republican lawmakers who allegedly sought blanket pardons for their involvement in the lead-up to Jan. 6. Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Mo Brooks (Ala.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.) and Scott Perry (Pa.) sought pardons because they feared “criminal exposure” and believed that former president Donald Trump would “protect them from the investigations that followed,” our colleague Devlin Barrett reports.

Of those five lawmakers, Perry has been repeatedly named “as the chief conduit for the House GOP Conference to the White House in Trump’s quest to overturn his defeat,” per our colleagues Jacqueline Alemany, Emma Brown and Amy Gardner. Perry was at the heart of bringing “Italygate” — the most bizarre claim of vote manipulation to date — to Trump’s attention.

More from our colleagues: 

Where do 'Luttigators' stand on Trump's effort to overturn the election results?

As the Jan. 6 committee takes a break from its hearing schedule, one of the more interesting witnesses it heard from was former federal judge and well-known conservative jurist J. Michael Luttig. 

Appearing during the June 16 hearing that focused on the pressure placed on Vice President Pence to reject electors from certain states, Luttig lent his voice to the charge that the scheme to keep Donald Trump in office was a dire threat to the country.

“The treacherous plan was no less ambitious than to steal America’s democracy,” he told the panel.

Luttig’s testimony has also put a spotlight on his network of former clerks — “Luttigators” — many of whom have assumed powerful positions in government after also serving as Supreme Court clerks. Some have found themselves in the middle of the Jan. 6 investigation

Luttig has publicly rebuked former clerks John Eastman and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) over their role in the effort to overturn the election. And John Wood, another former clerk and the Jan. 6 committee's senior counsel, questioned Luttig during Thursday’s hearing and is now reportedly considering a bid for Missouri’s open Senate seat.

Among Luttig’s network of former clerks are FBI director Christopher A. Wray, former Trump Solicitor General Noel Francisco and former Trump Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar. 

We wanted to know what members of the “Luttigators” network thought of the retired judge’s testimony and the roles played by their fellow former clerks regarding Jan. 6. 

Most of those contacted didn’t respond to a request for comment. Those who did would only speak on the condition of anonymity to be candid. Is it a sign that publicly backing a Trump critic, even a mentor, is still too politically and professionally treacherous in Republican circles? Possibly. Those who did respond said privately they sided with the judge. Here are some of their reactions.

“I’m proud that Judge Luttig stepped out,” one former clerk said. Luttig “did the right thing by telling what happened to the American people and too few people do that now — do the right thing when called to serve.”

Some also offered sharp criticism of Eastman and Cruz. “Johnny’s disgraced himself with his behavior,” another former clerk said. “I don’t know what Eastman’s thinking. It’s beyond my comprehension.”

(If you’re a former Luttig clerk and would like to comment on the record, let us know.)

What we're watching

As the House is poised to take up the bipartisan gun legislation on Friday, we are watching how many Republicans will vote for the legislation. In this Congress, between two and eight House Republicans voted for various gun control bills. We expect that number to be closer to eight than two on Friday even as Republican leadership will oppose the package. 

The Media

Weekend reeeads 🐣 🌴


What was your favorite one-liner from yesterday’s hearing?

*whispers* “You’re an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office and we’ll call you when there’s an oil spill.”

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