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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Marriage. Contraception. Abortion. House Democrats try to box in Republicans.

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1969, U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon.

The big idea

Marriage. Contraception. Abortion. House Democrats try to box in Republicans.

This part of House Democrats’ midterm-elections strategy looks pretty simple: Force votes on major social issues for which polling suggests Americans side with them, not Republicans. The latest exhibit, submitted Tuesday evening: Protecting same-sex and interracial marriages.

The chamber voted 267 to 157 in favor of legislation that does away with federal statutes defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. The bill also requires states to recognize the validity of marriages performed in other states.

From a crass political perspective, here’s the heart of the Democratic gambit: Polls show very broad majorities support same-sex marriage and sky-high numbers of Americans support the right to interracial marriage. Defy those numbers at your political peril.

On Tuesday, 47 Republicans joined all 220 Democrats in voting yes. Led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), 157 Republicans voted no. Seven did not vote.

The No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), and Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.), whose chief mission as National Republican Congressional Committee chair is to recapture the House, voted in favor of the bill.

It looks like Senate Democrats will try to take up the bill. And they may get some GOP support. As I type this, the timing is unclear as is the fate of the August recess. 

Whatever happens in the Senate, where Republican opposition to Democratic priorities means you need 60 votes to advance legislation, this won’t be the last time President Biden’s allies in the House hold a vote on a major social issue potentially in the Supreme Court’s sights.

What’s next

On Wednesday, the chamber will take up legislation to protect access to contraception, for instance. Last week, the House voted to codify access to abortion as delineated in Roe and safeguard the right to travel across state lines to undergo the procedure.

It won’t all necessarily be social issues. A day before the marriage vote, 176 Republicans joined 218 Democrats to approve a symbolic resolution approving of Finland and Sweden joining NATO. All 18 “nays” were from Republicans, 17 of whom also did not vote.

The marriage vote was set in motion by the June 24 Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which declared access to abortion is no longer a constitutional right, reversing a half-century precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

Democrats argue there’s no reason to believe Justice Samuel Alito when he wrote for the majority that the ruling doesn’t affect same-sex marriage, the right to contraception or other matters that turn on some of the same constitutional interpretations of privacy rights as Roe did.

And they’ve had help — from conservatives — making the argument that those rights are in danger.

Just look, Democrats say, at Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrent ruling in Dobbs, in which he said the Supreme Court must “reconsider” rulings that affirmed the right of married couples of use contraception, the right of same-sex couples to physical intimacy, and same-sex marriage.

Invoking the legal logic of the majority’s Dobbs ruling, Thomas called those rulings “demonstrably erroneous” and declared “we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”

Or check out remarks over the weekend from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, who said the court was “clearly wrong” and “overreaching” when it legalized same-sex marriage nationally.

(Speaking on his podcast, Verdict With Ted Cruz, the senator said he believed the court lacked the “appetite” to overturn that ruling because the results would be “more than a little chaotic.” The court ruling in Dobbs would suggest the justices don’t take that into consideration.)

Or, if you’re talking about access to abortion, consider the two bills, co-sponsored by a majority of House Republicans, that look to extend restrictions on abortion nationally. One declares life — and 14th Amendment protection — begins at conception. The other makes abortion a crime if the doctor detects fetal cardiac activity, which can happen before six weeks of gestation.

The political gamble

The Democratic approach hinges on a couple of gambles. One is that social issues will energize their base. So far, that appears to be the case, even if voters overall say issues like rampant inflation matter much more to them.

The far more consequential question is whether the contrast will help turn a midterm contest shaping up to be a referendum on Biden — at a time when nearly 9 out of 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track and majorities disapprove of his handling of the economy — into a choice between the parties.

And then there’s the question of whether vulnerable incumbent House Democrats can successfully tie their GOP challengers to McCarthy, Scalise, Thomas and Cruz. (Vulnerable incumbent Republicans, meanwhile, may simply vote in favor of the Democratic proposals.)

What the Senate does with these issues is an open question. Floor time in the upper chamber is at a premium. Other liberal priorities have stalled. That may not deter the House, but it might complicate the message to voters.

What’s happening now

Pelosi signals support for semiconductor chips bill in Senate

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled her support Wednesday for a bill advancing in the Senate that would subsidize domestic semiconductor production and provide tens of billions in additional dollars for an array of measures intended to boost American competitiveness. Pelosi said the House could take up the legislation as early as next week,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

Biden to issue new policy on climate, vowing to act if Congress doesn’t

“Biden is expected to direct federal funds toward communities facing extreme heat, while taking new executive action to boost domestic offshore wind production, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the plans,” Tony Romm and Yasmeen Abutaleb report.

E.U. proposes plan to ration gas ahead of ‘likely’ cutoff by Russia

“European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined a proposal for countries to cut gas demand by 15 percent from August until March next year to buffet the energy crisis on the continent,” Quentin Ariès and Ellen Francis report.

Judge: I won’t let Bannon trial become ‘political circus’

“The judge also signaled he may give the defense some leeway on asking about the possible political motives of one individual: Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee chairman who signed letters to Bannon and made statements about the standoff,” Devlin Barrett reports.

Senate NDAA to Pentagon: ‘Immediately’ halt fight against extremism

“The Senate Armed Services Committee has called on the Defense Department to halt its programs to prevent and root out extremism in the ranks. [A new report] states the committee’s view that ‘spending additional time and resources to combat exceptionally rare instances of extremism in the military is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, and should be discontinued by the Department of Defense immediately,’” Roll Call's John M. Donnelly reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Trump’s choices set nation on path to Jan. 6 violence, committee shows

“At each moment when Trump could have soothed an agitated nation, he escalated tensions instead, the committee has illustrated through its presentation of 18 live witnesses, scores of videotaped depositions and vast documentary evidence. At each moment when longtime loyal advisers offered their view that his election loss was real, he refused to listen and found newcomers and outsiders willing to tell him otherwise,” Rosalind S. Helderman reports.

On at least 15 different occasions, the president barreled over those who told him to accept his loss and instead took actions that sought to circumvent the democratic process and set the nation on the path to violence, according to the committee’s evidence.”

GOP fake electors ‘targets’ in Georgia election fraud inquiry

“Georgia prosecutors investigating potential criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election by Donald Trump and his allies have notified several Republicans who were part of a fake electors scheme that they are ‘targets’ of the probe and could face charges, according to a court document filed Tuesday,” Matthew Brown reports.

… and beyond

The U.S. can’t afford to let Brittney Griner’s detainment become a strategy

“For the family and friends of Griner and those detained, there is no higher priority than getting their loved ones back. For the US government, however, there are other things to consider. Some reports note that given the outrage about Griner, Russian demands for her release are getting higher. Might she be worth a high-level international arms dealer like Viktor Bout? Or perhaps removing sanctions that were put in place to punish Russia for invading Ukraine?” Jane McManus writes for Deadspin.

“This is why the executive order explains that the detention of Americans abroad is a threat to our national security and economy. If Griner’s release wins one of those concessions, Russia has found a very successful strategy to strong-arm the United States and other NATO countries without having to take up arms.” 

‘It’s the accumulation’: The Jan. 6 hearings are wounding Trump, after all

“The conventional wisdom about the Jan. 6 committee hearings was that no single revelation was going to change Republican minds about Donald Trump,” Politico's David Siders reports.

“What happened instead, a slow drip of negative coverage, may be just as damaging to the former president. Six weeks into the committee’s public hearing schedule, an emerging consensus is forming in Republican Party circles — including in Trump’s orbit — that a significant portion of the rank-and-file may be tiring of the non-stop series of revelations about Trump.”

The Biden agenda

White House eyes limited abortion health emergency declaration

“White House officials plotting the administration’s post-Roe response are weighing a narrow public health directive aimed at safeguarding nationwide access to abortion pills,” three people familiar with the discussions told Politico's Adam Cancryn.

  • What it would do: “The proposal would rely on powers under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act reserved for public health emergencies to shield doctors, pharmacies and others from liability for providing abortion pills to people across the country — even those who live in states that have outlawed or severely restricted the procedure.”

Bidens welcome Ukrainian first lady to the White House

“Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska visited the White House on Tuesday, part of her high-profile trip to Washington as the Russian war in her country enters its sixth month,” Amy B Wang and Karina Tsui report.

White House begins the search for fresh communications team

“The White House is considering a major overhaul of its press and communications shop in the coming weeks, a staff shakeup that’s aimed at putting a new team in place to drive President Joe Biden’s message into November’s midterm elections and in the months after voters decide whether his party retains control of Congress, according to multiple people familiar with the effort,” NBC News's Mike Memoli and Carol E. Lee report.

White House finally defends transgender official after GOP onslaught

“Until now, the administration has remained largely silent on Republican politicians’ targeting of [Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services,] for being transgender, a decision that has frustrated some LGBTQ activists, one of whom told The Daily Beast that defending Levine is 'less about dignifying transphobes with a response than it is showing Americans that she is worthy of defense,'” the Daily Beast's Scott Bixby reports.

The nation's smallest police departments, visualized

“As the nation wrestles with what policing should look like in the 21st century, many question whether these smallest of police departments — which function in nearly every state, employ more than 20,000 officers nationwide and provide the first line of defense for millions of Americans — can adequately carry out their mission. Officials in some states have pushed to consolidate the smallest departments into larger, neighboring agencies, often triggering opposition,” Steve Thompson reports.

Hot on the left

What if they held a climate emergency and no money came?

There’s another side to a climate emergency declaration that could be additive — providing the funding that Congress has as yet been unable to provide to build out an energy transition. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how that could match the Congressional appropriations envisioned in the original Biden agenda. This is the brick wall of energy policy that’s supremely hard to bore one’s way through,” David Dayen writes for the American Prospect.

Hot on the right

Arizona Senate candidate embraces Trump’s extreme style

“Now running for the Senate in a crucial battleground with Trump’s endorsement and more than $13 million in funding from tech billionaire Peter Thiel, [Blake] Masters cites the former president as his political inspiration, both in style and substance. In an election year when GOP party leaders hope to rally voters around common concerns over rising inflation, crime and frustration with President Biden, Masters embraces the provocative and polarizing, portraying himself as a fighter in a culture war in the model of Trump, who is set to campaign with him Friday,” Hannah Knowles and Elizabeth Dwoskin report.

Today in Washington

At 2:45 p.m., Biden will speak on climate change and clean energy at Brayton Point in Somerset, Mass.

Biden will leave Massachusetts for the airport in Rhode Island at 3:30 p.m. He is scheduled to arrive back to the White House at 5:40 p.m.

In closing

Trevor Noah has some questions about the Secret Service's disappearing texts

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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