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POLITICO Playbook: Dems face a dilemma on voting rights


DEVELOPING … “G-7 countries reach agreement on 15 percent minimum global tax rate,” by WaPo’s Jeff Stein: “Finance ministers for seven of the most powerful nations in the world announced an accord that could reshape the tax obligations of multinational corporations around the world. The deal is a major breakthrough for the Biden administration as it seeks to enact a floor on the taxes paid by corporations worldwide. Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN has been adamant that the U.S. needs to work with international counterparts to prevent nations from being played off each other by firms seeking lower tax obligations.”

Happy Saturday, folks!

Today, former President DONALD TRUMP will hit the campaign stage for the first time since February, as he speaks to attendees of a dinner at the North Carolina GOP convention. He speaks at 7 p.m. EDT, the event is ticketed and all 1,250 seats have been sold out (though, tbh, that’s a pretty small crowd by political rally standards).

— Here’s the NYT’s Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman with a pre-speech look at a man they describe as “both a diminished figure and an oversized presence in American life.”

In private, many elected Republicans will confess that they are not looking forward to Trump’s return to the campaign trail. They worry about him turning off suburban voters and that his speeches will distract from their message. They say they’re ready to move on from rehashing the 2020 election and repeating the Big Lie™ — though I have a hunch that Trump will raise the topic at campaign stops.

But even as some Republicans say they’re ready to move on, GOP state officials across the country are moving at a breakneck speed to introduce and enact new voting restrictions in the name of election integrity. And it’s difficult to divorce the impetus for those laws from lies that the election was stolen or millions of illegal votes were cast.

For months, congressional Democrats and voting rights advocates have argued that the only way to protect against all of this is to pass both the For the People Act (S1/H.R. 1) and The John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R. 4). But as the pace of changes to election laws has sped up, there’s a new urgency among Dems to pass something — anything — to try and stop them.

Here’s the thing: Dems on the Hill have talked up the For the People Act for months, and it’s slated to reach the Senate floor at the end of June. But it’s sweeping in its reach, and a group of voting rights experts and civil rights leaders think that the smarter legislative strategy is to focus on passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act first.

— Rev. AL SHARPTON told me this: “I think the politics of public opinion says that H.R. 4 would be more difficult for the Republicans to justify opposing. … I think you need both. But I clearly think H.R. 4 takes the veil off of those that are trying to obstruct voting rights.”

— JESSICA HUSEMAN, an elections expert and editorial director of Votebeat, agrees. “I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that this bill could create some bipartisan support,” she told me. “I don’t know why the Democrats are doing what they’re doing. I genuinely don’t understand.”

It amounts to a big and consequential question for Democrats: If they lead with the For the People Act and it can’t get through Congress — and, since Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) is the only Senate Dem who isn’t cosponsoring the bill, it is likely DOA — will that make it harder to go back and try to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act instead?

— Worth noting: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act reauthorizes the original VRA — something Manchin has said he supports. It would resurrect DOJ oversight of voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination or voter suppression, giving muscle to enforcement — especially after the Supreme Court gutted the VRA’s “preclearance” provision in its ruling in 2013’s Shelby v. Holder. Manchin has said he’d like to see preclearance apply to all 50 states.

Voting rights advocates aren’t pollyannaish about this. They know this is an uphill battle given Senate math. But they also feel the stakes. “We keep trying to negotiate around the fact that we do not have the political infrastructure currently in this moment that guarantees that the voting rights are accessible and will be protected as citizens,” says Latosha Brown, cofounder of Black Voters Matter. “Fundamentally, do we want democracy in this country or not?”

— It’s a test for Democrats: How do you make good on your promises to fight for the voting rights of the constituencies that support your party? And which is better: fighting for a big change that your supporters want but which won’t likely pass, or being able to realize a more moderate-but-achievable goal that might resonate in voters’ lives, even if it falls short of what the base really wants?

THROWING THE BOOK(ERS) — On Friday, we reported that CNN’s JAKE TAPPER recently decided that he does not want to invite Republicans who’ve promoted pro-Trump election fraud conspiracy theories onto his weekday and weekend news shows. Not everyone in media agrees with that decision, of course, including Fox News’ CHRIS WALLACE.

Since then, several prominent Republicans who’ve publicly toed the line on Trump’s “election fraud” lies came forward with claims — and, in some instances, receipts — that despite Tapper’s position, they’ve been invited onto his shows many times in recent months.

— Rep. ELISE STEFANIK (R-N.Y.) tweeted out screenshots of emails from CNN bookers requesting her as a guest on Tapper’s weekday and weekend shows as recently as May 5.

— ABIGAIL MARONE, press secretary for Sen. JOSH HAWLEY (R-Mo.), claimed Tapper’s “State of the Union” has invited the Missouri Republican on 18 times since the Jan. 6 insurrection, and posted emails from CNN bookers requesting a guest spot from Hawley as recently as this past Sunday’s episode.

— We also heard from a source with Rep. STEVE SCALISE (R-La.) who says CNN bookers have invited the House GOP whip onto Tapper’s shows eight times since the election, including as recently as April. The Scalise source said they’ve declined the requests.

Tapper, for his part, tweeted, “I can’t account for every email from my excellent bookers whose job it is to present me with as many options as possible.” And of Marone’s tweet about Hawley, Tapper said that “if the bookers had come to me and said [Hawley] was an option I would have said no, as I have for every Election Liar. I only started explaining to them last month the reasons behind my saying no to every Big Liar. Weird to admit that your boss is an Election Liar but ok.”

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

BIDEN’S SATURDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS have nothing on their public schedules.

INFRASTRUCTURE YEAR

ANOTHER ONE — “Biden rejects another GOP infrastructure offer,” by Myah Ward and Marianne Levine: “In a phone call [on Friday] with the president, Republicans’ lead infrastructure negotiator, Sen. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO of West Virginia, outlined a new plan with about $50 billion more in [new] spending than the group’s last offer of $257 billion, according to the White House. It was Biden and Capito’s second meeting this week, and they agreed to speak again on Monday.

“Capito had offered an infrastructure proposal that totaled $928 billion in spending over eight years, but only about a quarter of that was new spending. The offer came after Biden lowered his initial $2.3 trillion demand to $1.7 trillion, and the White House pushed Republicans to come up to $1 trillion in new spending. … [B]oth sides remain far apart on the top line, along with pay-fors and the definition of ‘infrastructure.’ The White House had outlined a plan to pay for the package by revising the 2017 tax bill and increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, a non-starter for the GOP.”

THE WHITE HOUSE

BIDEN OK WITH ENDING BEEFED-UP U.I.? — “Biden says it ‘makes sense’ for enhanced jobless aid to end in September,” by WaPo’s Jeff Stein: “In remarks from Delaware about Friday’s jobs report, President Biden said that it ‘makes sense’ for the $300 per week benefit to end in September, marking the first time the administration has explicitly endorsed their expiration. …

“White House National Economic Council Director BRIAN DEESE declined to say whether the administration believes the benefits are constraining hiring, but also said it is ‘appropriate’ for them to end in September. White House press secretary JEN PSAKI also said Friday that Republican governors ‘have every right’ to curb the benefits, a step more than two dozen of them have taken in recent weeks.”

NEW JOB ALERT — “Biden considering former ambassador to Israel for a new Middle East role,” by WaPo’s Anne Gearan and Tyler Pager: “The Biden administration is strongly considering a former ambassador to Israel for a role as an envoy to the Middle East, people familiar with the planning said. … DANIEL SHAPIRO was a Middle East specialist for President Barack Obama and later the U.S. ambassador to Israel for the Obama administration. He has lived primarily in Israel for years and had been mentioned as a possible ambassador to the country under Biden.”

Speaking of which … “State Department Shuns Term ‘Abraham Accords,’” by Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo.

CONGRESS

FILIBUSTER WATCH — “Democrats, Converted to Filibuster Foes, Are Set to Force the Issue,” by NYT’s Carl Hulse: “[Senate Majority Leader CHUCK] SCHUMER said he intended to bring the filibuster showdown to a head beginning next week, by forcing votes on a series of measures that Republicans oppose, including one that was blocked by a Republican filibuster in 2014 that seeks to ensure that women and men receive the same pay for equal work. Mr. Schumer hinted that he could also bring forward legislation on gay rights and gun safety. Most immediately, he promised a vote before the end of June on a sweeping voting rights bill that Democrats say is needed to counter new Republican-led voting restrictions being enacted in states around the nation.

“The idea is to show Democrats refusing to change the filibuster rules that Republicans led by Senator MITCH MCCONNELL, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, are going to stand in the way of legislation that has widespread support, and that the only way to win their adoption is by overturning the rules.”

MCGHAN TESTIFIES BEHIND CLOSED DOORS — “Don McGahn tells House panel about Trump’s bid to undermine Mueller probe,” by WaPo’s Karoun Demirjian: “Former White House counsel DONALD MCGAHN detailed for the House Judiciary Committee on Friday how former president Donald Trump attempted to stymie a federal probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election — bombshell revelations that might once have fueled additional impeachment charges … [A] transcript of the interview is not expected to be made public before next week.”

POLICY CORNER

HACK JOB — “Cyberattack on food supply followed years of warnings,” by Ryan McCrimmon and Martin Matishak: “Virtually no mandatory cybersecurity rules govern the millions of food and agriculture businesses that account for about a fifth of the U.S. economy — just voluntary guidelines exist. … Unlike other industries that have formed information-sharing collectives to coordinate their responses to potential cyber threats, the food industry disbanded its group in 2008. Now, food producers need to face the fact that disruptive cyberattacks are part of what Agriculture Secretary TOM VILSACK calls their ‘new reality.’”

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

PUTIN POINTS THE FINGER — “Putin Says the U.S. Wants to Hold Back Russia’s Development,” by WSJ’s Georgi Kantchev and Ann Simmons: “‘We have no disagreements with the United States, we have only one disagreement: their desire to hold back our development,’ [Russian President VLADIMIR] PUTIN said Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russia’s flagship investment event. ‘We should try to find ways to settle Russian-U.S. relations.’”

POLITICS ROUNDUP

PILLOW TALK — “MyPillow CEO Lindell’s Lawyer Leaves Firm One Day After Filing Suit,” by Bloomberg’s Rebekah Mintzer: “Barnes & Thornburg partner ALEC BECK has left the firm, one day after he filed a lawsuit for MyPillow CEO MIKE LINDELL against electronic voting companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic. Beck, a labor and employment lawyer in Minnesota, wasn’t authorized to file the suit, the firm said in a statement.”

VOTING RIGHTS LATEST — “Republicans want to change state election laws. Here’s how they’re doing it.,” by Zach Montellaro and Daniel Payne: “Comparing the proposed law in Texas to the one that passed in Georgia reveals five key areas targeted since former President Trump’s defeat.”

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

BIG GUN NEWS OVERNIGHT — “California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional, federal judge rules,” AP’s Don Thompson: “U.S. District Judge ROGER BENITEZ of San Diego ruled that the state’s definition of illegal military-style rifles unlawfully deprives law-abiding Californians of weapons commonly allowed in most other states and by the U.S. Supreme Court. … He issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law but stayed it for 30 days to give [California] Atty. Gen. ROB BONTA time to appeal.”

Eyebrow-raising quote from the ruling: “Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle.”

THE EYES OF TEXAS — “Why both parties are so fixated on a nonpartisan Texas mayor’s race,” by Maya King: “Republican mayors are close to extinct in big-city America. And there might be one fewer after Saturday’s mayoral runoff in Fort Worth, Texas. While Democrats hold City Hall in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin, the fifth-largest city in Texas — Fort Worth — is a holdout. … Once a Republican stronghold, Tarrant [County] has seen its GOP margins decline in recent years — President Joe Biden’s narrow victory there in November marked the first time in over a half-century that a Democratic presidential nominee carried the county. If the county continues to move leftward, it stands to affect the balance of power in statewide elections.”

MEDIAWATCH

ABOUT THIS ‘INVESTIGATIVE WATCHDOG BLOG’ — “The new journalism — and the PR firms behind it,” by WaPo’s Elahe Izadi: “At first glance, Checks and Balances Project looks like a traditional if scrappy news site — an ‘investigative watchdog blog,’ as it bills itself … Yet a closer look suggests the site is not always the independent crusader it appears to be. …

“Checks and Balances is investigating a massive hospital system in Virginia named Sentara, publishing regular stories and asking patients and employees to send tips … These stories started appearing the same month that a medical school in a complex dispute with Sentara hired a public relations firm that happens to share a founder and financial ties with Checks and Balances. … [T]he relationship was not divulged to readers, nor publicly acknowledged until The Washington Post inquired about it — an arrangement that unnerves transparency advocates who have been keeping tabs on a proliferation of unconventional news sites and watchdog outfits that may be blurring the lines between PR and journalism.”

TRUMP CARDS

IMPLICATIONS OF TRUMP’S FACEBOOK SUSPENSION — “Facebook wanted to escape the Trump trap. So much for that,” by Cristiano Lima: “The social media giant on Friday announced it may give Trump a way back onto its platforms after serving a two-year suspension, just in time for another potential White House run in 2024. That means that one way or another, Facebook will again have to make a politically hazardous call on whether Trump’s posts pose a threat to the U.S. in the run-up to a key election.

“And the high-stakes decision-making doesn’t end there. Facebook also unveiled a more hands-on approach for reviewing global leaders’ posts on Friday, where the company will no longer automatically give their rule-breaking posts a pass on the basis that they are newsworthy. That could usher in a deluge of controversies over its handling of political speech.”

CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 funnies

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza

“Why Willie Nelson Is America’s Favorite Outlaw,” by Alan Light for WSJ Magazine: “At 88, Willie Nelson is still singing, writing, championing the causes he believes in — and staying true to his renegade Texas roots.”

“‘I took part in the psilocybin trial and it changed my life,’” by Steve Shorney for The Independent: “Psilocybin is a non-lethal, non-addictive drug with real clinical potential. In the race to realise that potential, Imperial College is running trials. Volunteer Steve Shorney shares his experience.”

“America Has a Drinking Problem,” by Kate Julian for The Atlantic: “A little alcohol can boost creativity and strengthen social ties. But there’s nothing moderate, or convivial, about the way many Americans drink today.”

“The Snitch,” by Jordan Michael Smith for The Atavist: “In Scott Kimball, the FBI thought it had found a high-value informant who could help solve big cases. What it got instead was lies, betrayal and murder.”

“The Baby Brokers: Inside America’s Murky Private-Adoption Industry,” by Tik Root, TIME: “I will never forget the way my heart sank. You have to buy your own baby back almost.”

“Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Mega-Donor, and the Future of Journalism,” by John Drescher, The Assembly: “Emails obtained by The Assembly show that UNC-Chapel Hill’s largest journalism-school donor warned against Nikole Hannah-Jones’ hiring. Their divergent views represent a new front in the debate over objectivity and the future of the field.”

“Kevin Durant and (Possibly) the Greatest Basketball Team of All Time,” by NYT Magazine’s Sam Anderson: “The Brooklyn Nets were built to be an unbeatable superteam of eccentric basketball superstars. Will they dominate the N.B.A. playoffs?”

— From the archives: “The Peekaboo Paradox,” by WaPo’s Gene Weingarten, Jan. 22, 2006: “The strange secrets of humor, fear and a guy who makes big money making little people laugh.”

SPOTTED: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan having a glass of red wine in the Congressional Country Club’s Founders Lounge on Friday evening.

TRUMP ALUMNI — Carter Burwell is now counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton and a member of the firm’s white collar and regulatory defense practice. He most recently was counselor to the secretary of the Treasury Department for terrorism and finance intelligence.

TRANSITION — Logan Hoover is now director of legislative affairs at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. He previously was legislative director for Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) … Megan BeyerKaty Summerlin of Maxar Technologies … Mike Heimowitz … White House’s Todd Zubatkin Rob EngstromElan Kriegel of BlueLabs … Jordan Dickinson of Rep. Dan Kildee’s (D-Mich.) office … Kara Hauck of March of Dimes … Dean Pinkert of McDermott Will & Emery … Carol Guensburg … Real Chemistry’s Cherith CleavesMary Kirchner of Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) office … Rob Kelly of Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) office … Pew Trusts’ Matt Vasilogambros … Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo John D’Adamo of VenuIQ (3-0) … Abeer Al Otaiba

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

  • CBS

    “Face the Nation”: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg … Condoleezza Rice … Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) … Brian Moynihan … Scott Gottlieb.

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday”: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) … Corey Lewandowski. Panel: Doug Heye, Susan Page and Marie Harf.

  • Gray TV

    “Full Court Press”: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) … Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

  • MSNBC

    “The Sunday Show”: Chasten Buttigieg … Al Sharpton … Max Boot … Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) … Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) … Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) … Connie Schultz … Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas).

  • ABC

    “This Week”: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo … Nick Clegg. Panel: Rahm Emanuel, Donna Brazile, Jason Riley and Justin Amash.

  • CNN

    “State of the Union”: Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm … Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves … Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

  • CNN

    “Inside Politics”: Panel: Amy Walter, Kaitlan Collins, Errol Louis and Julie Hirschfeld Davis.

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press”: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) … Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) … Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Panel: Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Lanhee Chen, Anne Gearan and Chris Matthews.

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.





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