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The Early 202

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

☕ The Early 202: Corporate America under pressure to lobby for same-sex marriage bill

The Early 202

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

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Good morning, Early Birds. Poor Rep. Jake Auchincloss. Tips: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … The 187-minute Jan. 6 hearing tonight … Democratic senators are introducing a marijuana legalization billPoll Watch: Most Americans now say the Supreme Court should consider public opinion … K Street keeps raking it in … but first …

On the Hill

Same-sex marriage bill barrels ahead, with or without corporate America

The bill to protect same-sex marriage is moving so fast that it's taken leaders in both parties by surprise. Senate Democrats are looking for a way to quickly hold a vote on the House-passed bill, with several Senate Republicans saying they support the measure.

As Matt Viser, Marianna Sotomayor, Paul Kane and Leigh Ann write, the development marks a shift for a Republican Party “that has gone from staunch opponents to same-sex marriage in the early 2000s to indifference by the time” the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry “to now outright supporters.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) put the bill on the legislative calendar Wednesday, signaling he could move on it soon. 

But the Respect for Marriage Act hasn't passed yet, and advocates of LGBTQ rights are urging corporate America — a powerful ally in past battles over gay rights — to help convince Republican senators to support it.

For now, most companies and trade groups appear to be sitting on the sidelines.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable, corporate America's flagship representatives in Washington, told the Early they’re remaining neutral in the fight. And some companies that have denounced state-level efforts to restrict LGBTQ rights in the past — including General Electric, Salesforce and Walmart — have remained silent.

“I’m not saying that every corporation needs to go out and pay for a full-page ad in The Washington Post or the New York Times, but all of them have relationships with legislators,” Justin Nelson, the president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, told the Early.

“Let’s find the votes that are in play and let’s get to 60,” Nelson added. “Corporate America can help with that.”

Corporate America has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights as public support for gay marriage grew stronger and stronger. Hundreds of companies signed onto a 2015 amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. More than 500 companies and trade groups have pressed Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would bar companies from discriminating against LGBTQ employees.

Jay Brown, a senior vice president at the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, urged “companies to do what’s right for their LGBTQ+ employees and customers and continue to show strong support for pro-equality measures, including the Respect for Marriage Act and the Equality Act.”

Risks of speaking out

Companies have come under increasing pressure to take stands on social and political issues in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which led hundreds of companies and trade groups to suspend campaign contributions to the 147 House and Senate Republicans who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory.

Speaking out can carry risks. When the Walt Disney Company denounced a Florida law restricting what teachers can say about gender and sexual orientation, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis took revenge on the company by repealing its special tax status in the state.

Companies need to know what their customers want and avoid reversing their positions when an issue is in the spotlight, said Jill Jackson, a communications consultant for Monument Advocacy who advises companies on how to navigate issues such as race and equality, abortion, LGBTQ and corporate sustainability. 

“Companies must ask themselves: Is this the one that we fight for? Is it not our issues?” Jackson said. “If it's not important to our customers or our workforce, the risk might not be worth it.”

It’s not clear whether Republicans’ votes against the marriage bill will lead any corporate PACs to stop giving to them.

Many corporate PACs updated their guidelines for which lawmakers they’ll support after Jan. 6, according to Doug Pinkham, the president of the Public Affairs Council. Some corporate PAC now consider whether lawmakers have made discriminatory comments or voted for legislation they consider intolerant.

“I think a lot of them have been warned,” Pinkham said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of PACs stopped contributions for that reason or other reasons.”

‘I’m confident there's going to be 60'

Corporate America’s reluctance to get involved might not matter in the end. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, and Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have indicated they're likely to vote for it.

“I’m confident there’s going to be 60,” said Charles Moran, the president of Log Cabin Republicans, the party’s leading LGBTQ rights group, who’s been lobbying Republican senators to support it.

What's next: House to vote on contraception bill

The House is set to vote today on another bill that Democrats are working to pass in response to the Supreme Court's decision striking down Roe: the Right to Contraception Act. It would “protect a person’s ability to access contraceptives and to engage in contraception, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide contraceptives, contraception, and information related to contraception,” as Matt, Marianna, Paul and Leigh Ann report.

  • “House Republicans expect fewer from their caucus to support that legislation, with party leadership arguing that Democrats have crafted a bill that is too broad and rushed it to the floor.” But Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who voted for the marriage bill on Tuesday, said she hopes to vote in support of the contraception bill if it doesn’t have “poison pills in it.”

The ‘187-minute hearing’

The Jan. 6 committee will return to prime time tonight with “a bold conclusion in its eighth hearing: Not only did Donald Trump do nothing despite repeated entreaties by senior aides to help end the violence, but he sat back and enjoyed watching it,” our colleagues Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey and Paul Kane report

  • The committee is expected to show outtakes from remarks Trump delivered Jan. 7, where, over the course of an hour, he struggled to tape a message condemning the rioters.
  • Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) will also “detail what Trump did and didn’t do over 187 minutes as the U.S. Capitol was under attack,” per our colleagues Meagan Flynn and Jacqueline Alemany.

The witness list: 

  • Sarah Matthews, former White House deputy press secretary: “Matthews is expected to provide details of what she saw in the West Wing that day, including whether Trump knew the violence had broken out when he attacked his vice president, Mike Pence, in a 2:24 p.m. tweet,” per Gardner, Dawsey and Kane.
  • Matthew Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser: Pottinger — as well as Matthews — is expected to explain why he resigned following the events of Jan. 6.
  • Pat Cipollone, former White House counsel: Cipollone, who will appear in recorded testimony, is expected to be shown “describing his thoughts about Trump’s inaction on Jan. 6 as well as his dismay over Trump’s taped statement after the violence had begun to subside.”

Far from over: Today’s hearing has been billed as the grand finale, but “with new evidence continuing to surface — and fresh investigation targets — committee members said this week that there are likely to be more hearings later this year.”

  • One likely target could be the U.S. Secret Service’s deleted text messages, which may include the revelation that the department’s watchdog knew of the deleted messages in February, but chose not to alert Congress.

Next steps: Committee members are discussing recommendations to prevent another Jan. 6. from happening, including changing the Electoral Count Act.

  • A bipartisan group of 16 senators led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) released legislation Wednesday that would clarify the vague 1887 law Trump and his allies exploited by more clearly defining “the role of states, presidential electors and the vice president in a presidential election,” Leigh Ann reports.

Senate Democrats to unveil marijuana legalization bill

(FYI: We are going provide the following information without the use of any pot puns. You're welcome in advance.)

Schumer is unveiling his marijuana legalization bill today. It's legislation he and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have been working on, which they also call a criminal justice bill, for more than a year. 

The core of the bill would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, regulate and tax it, expunge all federal criminal convictions, and prohibit discrimination in banking of people and businesses with ties to the cannabis industry. 

“For far too long, the federal prohibition on marijuana and the War on Drugs has been a war on people, and particularly people of color,” Schumer said in a statement.

The measure has no path to overcoming a likely Republican filibuster. Instead, it's an opening bid in an attempt to eventually — likely months or years down the road — settle on compromise legalization legislation.

Also, the midterms are less than four months away and polling has shown a steady increase in the public's support for legal weed. The federal government is lagging behind the states. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized access to marijuana, and 19 states and D.C. allow recreational use. 

Schumer has already begun early discussions with Republicans, including the leading pro-legalization Republican in the House, Rep. David Joyce of Ohio, an aide to Schumer said. The House passed their version of a legalization bill earlier this year with the support of three Republicans and all but two Democrats. 

Poll Watch

Most Americans now say SCOTUS should consider public opinion, as ratings of court plummet

From Post polling analyst Emily Guskin: In 2021, 59 percent of Americans said the Supreme Court should ignore public opinion when deciding cases. But after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and its protection of abortion rights, a 54 percent majority says that the Supreme Court should consider public opinion when making decisions, according to polling from Marquette University’s Law School. 

The shift comes as ratings of the Supreme Court are plummeting, with 38 percent who approved of the way the court was doing its job in July, down from 44 percent in May and 54 percent in March. In July 2021, 6 in 10 approved of the court’s performance, now a similar share disapprove.

Both shifts appear to be driven by the court’s decision to overturn Roe. Among Americans who opposed overturning “the 1973 decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states,” approval of the court fell from 41 percent last fall to 11 percent today, while support for the court considering public opinion in its rulings rose from 42 percent to 70 percent. Among those who wanted the court to strike down Roe, approval of the court increased from 68 percent in September to 83 percent today. 

The Marquette poll also found that perceptions of the Supreme Court have shifted, with more calling it conservative today. In the July poll, 67 percent of Americans said the court was either “very” or “somewhat” conservative in ideology, up from 51 percent last September and from 35 percent in 2020. About a third of Americans (34 percent) describe the court as “very conservative” today up from 5 percent in 2020. By contrast, 14 percent of adults in the poll described themselves as “very conservative.” 

The shifts may not be that surprising, given that polls consistently found most Americans opposed overturning Roe before and after the court’s June ruling. Democrats’ and Republicans’ ratings of the court have gone up and down in response to high-profile rulings as well as changes in the White House, though the overall trendline has been downward. The Marquette poll found 15 percent of Democrats approved of the court in July, down from 37 percent in September; at the same time the share of Republicans approving of the court ticked up.

What we're watching

President Biden heads to Wilkes-Barre, Pa. — only a few miles from his hometown of Scranton — to talk about his efforts to help communities hire 100,000 more police officers, clear court backlogs and fund community violence intervention programs, among other steps to reduce crime. He'll head to Philadelphia later for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.

On K Street

No slowdown on K Street: As Congress struggles to pass legislation to reduce drug prices and subsidize microchip manufacturing, lobbyists keep raking it in. Here's what a dozen leading Washington firms earned in lobbying revenue in the second quarter, according to figures shared with the Early ahead of the quarterly filing deadline:

  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: $12.8 million (versus $13.5 million in the first quarter)
  • Ballard Partners: $4.9 million (versus $4.5 million in the first quarter)
  • BGR Group: $9.6 million (versus $9.6 million in the first quarter)
  • Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: $15.2 million (versus $15.2 million in the first quarter)
  • Cassidy & Associates: $5.5 million (versus $5.5 million in the first quarter)
  • Holland & Knight: $10.7 million (versus $10.1 million in the first quarter)
  • Invariant: $9.4 million (versus $9.2 million in the first quarter)
  • K&L Gates: $5.4 million (versus $5.2 million in the first quarter)
  • Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas: $6.5 million (versus $6.4 million in the first quarter)
  • Squire Patton Boggs: $6.8 million (versus $7.2 million in the first quarter)
  • Subject Matter: $4.9 million (versus $4.9 million in the first quarter)
  • Thorn Run Partners: $6.7 million (versus $6.4 million in the first quarter)

The Media

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

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