FLY-PARTISAN — Presidents come and go, but flies remain at the White House — like, lots of them — and they’ve become a point of agreement between a Trump official and a Biden official who don’t have much else in common. JARED KUSHNER recently called Biden senior adviser CEDRIC RICHMOND to offer any help he could provide in the new job, but the conversation soon turned to the critters, a source familiar with the chat told us. (The flies have persisted going back at least to the Obama White House; some staffers in Trump’s West Wing used bug zappers.)
“Yeah man, they’re like bats,” Kushner told Richmond. “Good luck.” When we asked Richmond for comment, he emailed us back: “I prefer not. lol.”
MCCARTHY’S LATEST TRUMP CONUNDRUM — Just days after making nice with DONALD TRUMP by leading the ouster of Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) from his leadership ranks, House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY this week will once again find himself in a tough spot via-a-vis the former president.
One of his close allies and a member of his whip team, Rep. JOHN KATKO (R-N.Y.), struck a deal with Democrats on a 9/11-type commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot — and it’s set to come to the floor this week. That means McCarthy will once again have to choose between one of his members and Trump, who — let’s face it — will be none too pleased with any sort of independent commission investigating his actions.
We made some calls about this Sunday night, and here’s what you need to know going into the week:
— McCarthy appeared to diss the deal on Friday, telling reporters he hadn’t seen the details and doubling down on his belief that any commission should also probe violence that occurred amid racial tensions last summer. But multiple sources tell us that Katko was asked by McCarthy to negotiate with Democrats and was in touch with the leader’s office about what he wanted. They also said Katko got almost everything McCarthy asked for.
— Indeed, Democrats agreed to multiple demands from McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL, including equal representation and subpoena power for both parties, and finishing its work before 2022, when the midterms will kick into high gear. Notably, the bill tracks closely with a GOP bill introduced earlier this year that has 30 Republican co-sponsors.
— Katko’s team has told some Republicans that while the agreement’s language doesn’t specifically mention violence by left-wing protesters last summer, the commissioners can go there if they think it will help illuminate what happened on Jan. 6. (We’ll see if Democrats dispute this interpretation of the text.)
— Given all of that, some Republicans supportive of the deal aren’t pleased that McCarthy is keeping his distance — though they understand the bind he is in. “I think Kevin was hoping that the Democrats would never agree to our requests — that way the commission would be partisan and we can all vote no and say it’s a sham operation,” said one senior House Republican aide. “Because he knows Trump is going to lose his mind” over this commission.
— Don’t forget the context: The vote comes as some Republicans have started to equate what happened on Jan. 6 with regular protests, and as Cheney — appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” — accused her party of trying to “whitewash” what happened.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH AS THE DRAMA UNFOLDS:
— The big question on House Republicans’ minds right now is whether McCarthy and House Minority Whip STEVE SCALISE (R-La.) will whip against the deal. Leaders are well aware that if they decided to muscle members to move against it en masse, they’d be effectively throwing Katko under the bus.
— Watch Trump. How vocal he is about this commission could determine its fate. It is almost certain to pass the Democratic House this week but then will need 10 Republican senators to go along.
— What will ELISE STEFANIK do? The New York Republican is close with Katko — but also just won her new position because she’s a fresh face in alliance with Trump. How does she navigate this vote in her first week on the job as conference chair?
THE COMING WELFARE DEBATE — The Biden administration is arguing with Republicans (and a few Democrats) about whether enhanced unemployment benefits are preventing some Americans from entering the labor force. And several Republican-led states have now decided not to accept the money from the federal government.
But many families are about to see another boost of support from Washington. The Treasury Department will announce today that on July 15 the expanded Child Tax Credit will kick in, and some 39 million American households with kids will start to receive monthly payments of as much as $300 per child under 6 and up to $250 per child over 6.
The program, which is set to expire after this year, is estimated to lift 5 million children out of poverty. President JOE BIDEN wants the program renewed through 2025, and other Democrats are pushing for a permanent extension.
Considering the program’s scale and cost ($1.6 trillion over 10 years if it were renewed), it sailed through Congress tucked into the American Rescue Plan with remarkably little debate and nary a Fox News segment attacking it. But as with expanded unemployment benefits, which most Republicans supported under Trump, if the labor market continues to struggle, look for the tax credit to come under attack from the right as a welfare program impeding full employment.
This could be a trend. As we saw in the Obama years with the Affordable Care Act, passing progressive legislation is one thing. Implementing it competently and defending it from GOP court challenges, state-level attacks and federal repeal efforts is quite another.
Biden is entering a phase where he will try to do both: pass two more enormous bills loaded with new climate, infrastructure, tax and social welfare policies, while simultaneously implementing what’s already been passed. That will offer new targets for his opponents.
BE BEST — Look out, MELANIA: The Biden White House has its own anti-bullying initiative — but it’s directed at its own staffers, who’ve been abuzz since Friday when a memo landed in their inboxes laying out the Biden administration’s “Safe and Respectful Work-Place Policy.” It states that “discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, retaliation, and bullying violate the respect owed to every employee at the White House.” Employees will receive compliance training, and they can report alleged infractions anonymously. The White House personnel office, in conjunction with the White House counsel, will investigate alleged violations.
The memo also includes this line: “The White House reserves the right to take any disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”
Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook, where we (almost) never bully each other. Send us an email if you know why the White House sent this memo four months after Biden’s civility pledge — we’ll also let you report it anonymously: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
BIDEN’S MONDAY — The president will leave Wilmington, Del., at 8:20 a.m. and get back to the White House at 9:15 a.m. Biden and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks about the pandemic and vaccines at 1 p.m. from the East Room.
— Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at noon.
THE SENATE will meet at 3 p.m. to take up the motion to proceed to the Endless Frontier Act, with a vote to invoke cloture at 5:30 p.m.
THE HOUSE will meet at noon, with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.
BIDEN’S WEEK AHEAD — The president will head to Dearborn, Mich., on Tuesday to visit and speak at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. On Wednesday, he’s off to New London, Conn., to deliver the Coast Guard Academy commencement address. South Korean President MOON JAE-IN will arrive Friday for a bilateral meeting, including a press conference with Biden.
TAX WARS — Our colleagues Ben White and Sarah Ferris are out with a pair of stories about the collision looming between corporate America and Democrats over Biden’s tax hikes. Reading the two pieces, you get the sense that someone is really, really miscalculating.
— Here’s Ben, writing about the business community “dismissing the threat” that tax hikes will pass: “Corporate executives and lobbyists in Washington, New York and around the country say they are confident they can kill almost all of these tax hikes by pressuring moderate Democrats in the House and Senate. And they think progressive Democrats don’t really care about the costs of new programs and will be happy to push through as much spending as they can and then run on tax hikes in 2022 rather than actually pass them this year.
“Interviews with over a dozen executives, lobbyists and business group officials turned up a similar theme: While Democrats might be able to push through a slightly higher top corporate rate, when it comes to higher taxes on the rich, on capital gains, on financial transactions or private equity profits, forget it. It’s not happening.”
— Meanwhile, Sarah has the dish on Biden and Democrats gambling that tax hikes can be popular (at least when levied on the rich …): “Poll after poll shows those proposals are broadly popular with voters, particularly amid a deadly pandemic that’s exacerbated the nation’s already stark economic divisions. While Democrats acknowledge that touting a tax hike — even if it’s just for top earners — carries risk, they see a dramatic shift in the politics of taxing the rich that they’re ready to use to their benefit.”
AMERICAN FAMILIES PLAN WRANGLING — “Biden’s Plan for Free Community College Faces Resistance,” WSJ: “Republicans and some academics on both the left and right say that community college is already inexpensive and making it free wouldn’t sufficiently address deep-seated problems with the system: high dropout rates and entering students being unprepared for college-level work. …
“The Biden plan as introduced also relies on states contributing funds—about $1 for every $3 from the federal government—raising the question of whether states will go along. … Taking all sources into account, the U.S. spends more than any other developed country on its colleges and universities … and more per student, too. Advocates of community colleges say the sector is underfunded and underappreciated.”
CLIMATE FILES — “Biden’s climate agenda targets Black America with innovation, HBCU funding,” TheGrio: “The Biden administration is putting Black America at the center of the solution for climate change by expanding electric vehicle power stations into Black neighborhoods and dumping funds into HBCU renewable energy research.
“This as President Joe Biden is set to tour a Ford Electric Vehicle facility Tuesday. In an exclusive interview with theGrio, Energy Secretary JENNIFER GRANHOLM discussed this engagement as part of President Biden’s equity initiative that sparks tangible creativity and innovation from people who are not normally at the table or in the research lab.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
LATEST IN THE MIDDLE EAST — “Calls mount for Gaza-Israel cease-fire, greater U.S. efforts,” AP: “U.N. Security Council diplomats and Muslim foreign ministers convened emergency meetings Sunday to demand a stop to civilian bloodshed as Israeli warplanes carried out the deadliest single attacks in nearly a week of unrelenting Hamas rocket barrages and Israeli airstrikes.
“President Joe Biden gave no signs of stepping up any pressure on Israel to agree to an immediate cease-fire despite calls from some Democrats for the Biden administration to get more involved. His ambassador to the United Nations, LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, told an emergency high-level meeting of the Security Council that the United States was ‘working tirelessly through diplomatic channels’ to stop the fighting. … Appeals by other countries for Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers and Israel to stop their fire showed no sign of progress.”
More headlines: “Israel stages new round of heavy airstrikes on Gaza City,” AP; “Blinken discusses Gaza in calls with Qatari, Egyptian, Saudi foreign ministers,” Reuters; “Israel showed U.S. ‘smoking gun’ on Hamas in AP office tower, officials say,” Jerusalem Post
— On Capitol Hill on Sunday night, Sens. CHRIS MURPHY (D-Conn.) and TODD YOUNG (R-Ind.), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Middle East, released the first of what’s likely to be many bipartisan calls for peace this week as the death toll rises.
CAN’T TOUCH THIS — “Teflon Joe muddies GOP’s midterm strategy”: David Siders’ lede says it all: “When the National Republican Senatorial Committee sought to attack four vulnerable Senate Democrats in a series of new ads this spring, President Joe Biden was nowhere to be found. Instead, the NRSC juxtaposed photographs of the senators — RAPHAEL WARNOCK of Georgia, MARK KELLY of Arizona, MAGGIE HASSAN of New Hampshire and CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO of Nevada — next to House Speaker NANCY PELOSI.
“Interviews with more than 25 GOP strategists and party officials depict a president whose avuncular style and genial bearing make him a less-than-ideal foil … In response, Republicans are preparing to break with time-honored custom and cast the president less as the central character in the midterm elections than as an accessory to the broader excesses of the left.”
GOP FLIPS THE SWITCH IN N.H. — Senate Republicans have been eyeing New Hampshire as one of their best pickup opportunities next year. Now they think they’ve got a star candidate to take on Hassan — and are using the same strategy Democrats deployed last cycle: recruiting a governor.
Burgess Everett and James Arkin write about the “full-court press” to woo Granite State Gov. CHRIS SUNUNU: “Sununu has the potential to be the most important Republican recruit of the cycle. He’s an incumbent three-term governor fresh off a 30-plus-point victory last year in a state Biden carried with relative ease. And he’s political royalty in the Granite State, the son of a former governor and White House chief of staff as well as the brother of a former senator.”
2022 WATCH — “Big stakes for Biden’s agenda, Democrats’ majority in Michigan,” NBC/Detroit: “Rep. ELISSA SLOTKIN, D-Mich., wants her party to be deliberate as it considers President Joe Biden’s proposals to spend $4 trillion on infrastructure, housing and family care … She wants to ‘make sure there’s nothing hidden on page 1,000 that dings the middle class’ and that any actions in Washington ‘keep our corporations competitive.’ …
“Their position on the front lines of the battle for control of the House means [Rep. HALEY] STEVENS and Slotkin could be a strong barometer for the viability of Biden’s proposals … Because Michigan is losing a seat, at least two of the state’s 14 House members … will be placed in the same district. … And it remains to be seen whether they will get to see the lines before they have to vote on the more controversial elements of Biden’s proposals.”
— “John Lee confirms he’s running for governor as a Republican,” Las Vegas Review-Journal: “North Las Vegas Mayor JOHN LEE will run for Nevada governor in 2022.” Launch video
COMPETING NARRATIVES — “With violent crime spiking, the push for police reform collides with voters’ fears,” WaPo: “[W]ith shootings spiking in cities nationwide during the pandemic, there are growing signs that the thirst for [criminal justice] change is being blunted by fears of runaway crime. … Critical tests of just how far the pendulum has swung will come in the next several days and weeks, with a nationwide flurry of elections for mayor, district attorney and members of Congress.
“Although Republicans have long been skeptical of reform efforts, the races are concentrated in big cities and other areas that are friendly terrain for Democrats. They should offer, at least in theory, fertile ground for the sort of systemic overhauls that protesters who flooded the streets last summer were demanding. Yet the proposals on offer from leading candidates have tended to be more modest.”before they have to vote on the more controversial elements of Biden’s proposals.”
MEGA-MERGER — “AT&T Is Preparing to Merge Media Assets With Discovery,” Bloomberg: “A deal could be announced as soon as this week … The idea is to combine Discovery’s reality-TV empire with AT&T’s vast media holdings, building a business that would be a formidable competitor to Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney Co. Any deal would mark a major shift in AT&T’s strategy after years of working to assemble telecommunications and media assets under one roof.”
CAROL LEONNIG BOOK REVIEW — “The Many Blunders of the Secret Service — and the Dangers They Pose to U.S. Presidents,” NYT: “‘Zero Fail,’ a history of the agency by the Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig, is a devastating catalog of jaw-dropping incompetence, ham-fisted mismanagement and frat-boy bacchanalia. …
“There were improvements in techniques after JOHN KENNEDY’S assassination. But since then the Secret Service has been stretched thin by its expanding charter; hobbled by inadequate training and obsolescent weaponry; and plagued by mistrust between the rank-and-file and leadership. The agency has also been abused by its overseers … Time and again, in Leonnig’s telling, rather than taking a bullet for the president, the Secret Service has dodged one. … This book is a wake-up call.”
IN MEMORIAM — WaPo’s @CarolLeonnig: “The entire @washingtonpost family weeps for 3 of our own. Sports editor David Larimer, who died at 47 after working half his life at the Post; his wife @terri_rupar, a superb editor who made everything better; their daughter Matilda.”
AND A NICE CHIANTI? — NPR White House reporter Tamara Keith tweeted a video of live cicadas, asking for your best recipes for … consumption. We’re curious if she went through with it. If Keith wants some variety in her bugs — a bug salad, perhaps — there are many to be had at the White House.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — WHITE HOUSE ARRIVAL LOUNGE: Second gentleman Doug Emhoff has added Rukku Singla as deputy director for policy, Megha Bhattacharya as comms assistant and Zaina Javaid as deputy director for advance. Singla was most recently at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Bhattacharya on Sen. Jon Ossoff’s (D-Ga.) campaign and Javaid at Sunshine Sachs.
— Eva Millona will be assistant DHS secretary for partnership and engagement. She currently is president and CEO of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.
— Mike Davis, Ian Prior, Will Chamberlain and Andy Surabian launched a new 501(c)(4) “The Unsilenced Majority,” to fight against cancel culture.
D.C. TIPTOES BACK TO MASKLESS LIFE: Olivia Reingold emails with some details about D.C.’s first weekend after the new CDC mask guidance:
CDC Director ROCHELLE WALENSKY framed the new mask rules as one step closer to normalcy, but the new Washington looked a lot like the old pandemic one. Checking in with mainstays like the Smithsonian museums and Politics and Prose bookstore made it clear they are continuing to ask patrons to wear masks until D.C. rules officially catch up with the new federal guidance. Despite the recent news that kids 12 and over can now get the Pfizer vaccine, schools like Georgetown Day say they don’t intend to revise their mask policies anytime soon.
One reader — a fully vaccinated 20-something ready to shed her mask and go drinking — saw no fewer than eight signs reminding her to mask up during an afternoon in Adams Morgan. Another said he was yelled at by a neighbor in the halls of his Dupont Circle apartment building for not wearing a mask.
Meanwhile, one high-ranking Democratic aide said his office didn’t have new guidance yet. “We’re just taking the weekend to make sure we understand from the Office of the Attending Physician to the CDC,” the person said, adding that they’re working on crafting an updated office mask policy. “I don’t know if legal counsel is going to suggest anything. We’re just reaching out to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row.”
They added that each Senate office already has its own Covid culture and that the new CDC guidance probably won’t do much to change that.
SPOTTED: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on the American shuttle from New York to D.C. on Sunday afternoon.
TRANSITION — Lauren Smith is now head of federal regulatory engagement at Cruise. She previously was senior manager at Lyft, and is an Obama White House alum.
ENGAGED — Julie Tsirkin, NBC News Capitol Hill reporter and field producer, and Gavi Reichman, senior account executive at Yext, got engaged at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va. He surprised her with the proposal and by bringing in their families, close friends and puppy Stevie. The couple originally met freshman year at a Rutgers fraternity party, but didn’t start dating until they bumped into each other two years later at a Penn State/Rutgers football game at Penn State. Pic … Another pic
— Alex Gangitano, a new White House correspondent and soon-to-be-former lobbying reporter at The Hill, and Bryan Petrich, a consultant at Capco and 2021 Georgetown MBA grad, got engaged Saturday in Oxford, Md. He proposed during a beach picnic after kayaking. The couple originally met at Villanova and reconnected in D.C. Pic
WEDDINGS — Allison Auman, who works in comms at Boeing, and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Anatoly Smith, a senior-level operator for 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) based out of Joint Base Lewis McChord, got married May 8 in Southern Pines, N.C. They met via modern romance (swiping right). Pic … Another pic
— Lila Nieves-Lee, VP of government affairs at Auto Drives America and a Tim Scott alum, and Adam Farris, legislative director to Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), got married this weekend at Immaculate Conception Church, followed by a reception at the District Winery that featured a cake in the shape of the U.S. Capitol. Pic … Another pic … SPOTTED: Jennifer DeCasper, Kelsey Baron, Saat Alety, Alyssa Richardson, Emily Lavery, Kunal Parikh, Warren and Emily Tryon, Molly Quimby and Naomi Zeigler.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Blake Waggoner, director of public relations at PR firm OBI and an Edelman and Targeted Victory alum, and Erin Waggoner, who works on state government affairs at Verizon, on Thursday welcomed Brooks Daniel Waggoner, who came in at 8 lbs, 10 oz. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo (5-0) … NYT’s Mike Shear and Reid Epstein … NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell … Jim Lyons … DCCC’s Mike Smith … Rick Wiley … Kathleen Sullivan … Olivia Petersen of Morning Consult … former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) (8-0) … former Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) … BP America’s Wynn Radford … Jeet Guram … Andy Post … Margarita Diaz … MacKenzie Smith … Cheryl Bruner … Camille Joseph … Chuck Raasch of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch … Robin and Abigail Pogrebin … Adi Sathi … Randy Schriver … WaPo’s Peter Wallsten … Jenna Lowenstein … Rebecca Nelson … Megan Heckerman Curatolo … POLITICO’s Maura Kelly, Robin Turner, Sean Scott and Thao Sparling … Mike Farrell … Brittany Desch … Bloomberg’s Jeremy Lin … Rachel Palermo … Eric Sapirstein … Paul Blank … Blake Zeff … Jordan Dunn … Go Big Media’s Phillip Stutts … Derrick Robinson … CBPP’s Shannon Buckingham … Myra Freeman … Deirdre Murphy Ramsey of Precision Strategies … Derek Flowers … Ralph Neas … Leslie Ridle … Tim Del Monico … David Brancaccio … Gabrielle Hopkins … Margaret McInnis of Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s (D-Ohio) office (32)
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