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The Hill’s Morning Report — Deal on gun violence reached, but will it pass?


It’s a crucial week on Capitol Hill. Negotiators in both parties moved a step closer to completing a years-long quest to pass gun violence legislation by striking a framework deal on Sunday, and the Jan. 6 Committee convenes today for its next phase of hearings.

A group of 20 members unveiled the gun safety framework after more than two weeks of discussions in the aftermath of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. 

Included in the nine-point outline are proposed federal resources for state red flag laws to keep guns away from individuals considered by courts to be dangers to a community, more funding for mental health services, new safety measures at schools and new criminal background check requirements for gun buyers younger than 21. 

“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

The bottom line: The gun safety accord, which is more modest than provisions President Biden and Democrats proposed, is seen as a breakthrough after a decade of tragedy, advocacy and national arguments that Congress needs to act. 

Key figures were quick to throw their weight behind it. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that he would put a bill on the floor right away once legislative text is hammered out. Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the lead GOP negotiator, had indicated last week that he was hopeful a vote would take place before the July 4 recess. 

Biden also lauded the accord, labeling it “the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.” He added that he intends to sign it once it reaches the Resolute Desk. 

“Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction,” Biden said in a statement. “The sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives.”

The New York Times: Senators reach bipartisan deal on gun safety.

The Wall Street Journal: Senators reach deal on addressing gun violence.

Perhaps the most notable development was that 10 Senate Republicans signed onto the framework — the exact number needed in order for any gun violence legislation to pass the upper chamber. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton notes, the new Senate GOP members who backed the proposal are Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of leadership, Rob Portman (Ohio), Richard Burr (N.C.) and Mitt Romney (Utah).

Blunt, Portman, a leadership ally, and Burr are all retiring at the end of the year. 

One key senator, however, had not jumped fully on board Sunday. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) applauded the work of negotiators, saying he hopes they would come to a consensus on a “bipartisan product” (The Hill).

“I continue to hope their discussions yield a bipartisan product that makes significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country,” he said.

© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) in 2016. 

The new Democrats joining the group are Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), a member of the Democratic leadership. Sen. Angus King (Maine), an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also signed on.

As Biden and others have already noted, this package is more modest than what the party would pass if it had its druthers. The House approved a measure last week that would raise the age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21 and nationalize red flag laws. It has no chance of passage in the Senate.


Related Articles

Alexander Bolton, The Hill: How gun talks are weighing on Cornyn’s candidacy for Senate GOP leader.

The Wall Street Journal: Why Congress won’t ban assault weapons.

Politico: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) embraces his low-key side.


LEADING THE DAY

  CONGRESS

Three hearings this week convened by the House Jan. 6 committee will feature prominent witnesses who will describe how former President Trump and his allies allegedly conspired to overturn what they knew to be the lawful results of the 2020 presidential election, leading to a mob attack on the Capitol.

The Hill: Hearings to focus on Trump’s “dereliction of duty,” committee member Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

The Hill: Trump’s “Big Lie” to take center stage during today’s Jan. 6 hearing.

The Associated Press: What’s next for the Jan. 6 panel.

Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who was subpoenaed to be among witnesses this morning, reportedly “supervised the conversion” within Trump’s campaign around “Stop the Steal” messaging and associated fundraising, the committee says. That messaging “included the promotion of certain false claims related to voting machines despite an internal campaign memo in which campaign staff determined such claims were false,” according to House investigators (The Hill and The New York Times).

The committee wants to flesh out its narrative with a brisk lineup of witnesses to make the case that Trump and his top lieutenants knew in November that Trump lost the election, pressured state officials to support false claims and asserted unfounded election fraud in dozens of lawsuits later lost in courts nationwide.

Other witnesses today will include former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt; former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung J. “BJay” Pak; longtime election attorney for Republicans Benjamin Ginsberg; and Al Schmidt, former city commissioner of Philadelphia.

Stirewalt — now with cable’s NewsNation, part of Nexstar, which also owns The Hill — was part of a team at Fox News that made the 2020 decision to correctly call Arizona for candidate Biden on election night, a move that infuriated Trump and his top aides, some of whom reportedly complained directly to Fox leadership about the relatively early race call.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a longtime Trump critic, Jan. 6 panel member and House Intelligence Committee chairman, said on Sunday that he wants potentially criminal aspects of evidence uncovered by investigators to be weighed by the government’s top law enforcers. “I would like to see the Justice Department investigate any credible allegation of criminal activity on the part of Donald Trump,” he said (The Associated Press).

The panel’s Wednesday hearing will turn to witnesses who served in the Justice Department at the end of the Trump term who have said they were encouraged to spread “false stolen election claims in the days before Jan. 6,” which they say they made clear to Trump were untrue. Former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen will testify, among others (Bloomberg News). Rosen succeeded former Attorney General William Barr after he resigned in December 2020. Rosen has previously said he refused to cooperate with a White House pressure campaign to assert election fraud that did not exist.

Thursday’s hearing will focus on Trump’s efforts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to stop Congress from certifying some electoral votes for Biden on Jan. 6 — something the vice president had no power to do and refused to do. Former Pence aide Greg Jacob will testify (NBC News and Newsweek).

The Hill: How the Jan. 6 panel is trying to reach the apathetic and apoplectic.

The Hill: More than 20 million TV viewers tuned in to Thursday’s prime-time House hearing, according to Nielsen estimates.

The Hill’s Memo, Niall Stanage: Jan. 6 hearings open a new front in the battle to control the political agenda. 

© Associated Press / Andrew Harnik | House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Thursday.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

  ADMINISTRATION

Inflation in the United States and Europe is sky high. Gas prices average more than $5 a gallon in this country and rise daily, much to the chagrin of consumers. And the Federal Reserve on Wednesday is expected to announce another interest rate hike on Wednesday as it taps the economic brakes hoping to tame inflation while also averting a U.S. recession.

Many economists have their doubts. Even Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the Fed will need “luck.”

Biden’s 2021 hopes have been dashed that the administration and Congress would manage the pandemic and stimulus spending to bolster a good-news economic rebound in a midterm election year. U.S. demand outpaced supply and the highest inflation in four decades arrived, reports The Hill’s Sylvan Lane.  

Republican critics say Biden is disingenuous at best in trying to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin, COVID-19, shippers and Congress for higher prices for goods and services while also telling voters inflation is his No. 1 priority as president (New York Post).  

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who served both the Clinton and Obama administrations, has been increasingly critical of the Fed during interviews and asserts a data-driven case that a U.S. recession is “more likely than not” in the next two years (The Hill and Bloomberg Television).

The Hill and The Washington Post: Gas prices present a glaring problem for Biden.

Axios: Biden is planning to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority on July 14 and 15, and travel from there to Saudi Arabia on July 15, according to Israeli officials. The White House has not confirmed those dates. The tentative agenda for the visit to Saudi Arabia includes a summit with the leaders of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Axios previously reported.

Biden said Saturday that any trip he might make to Saudi Arabia in a few weeks will not relate to leaning on the kingdom to pump more oil (The Hill). “The commitments from the Saudis don’t relate to anything having to do with energy,” he told reporters. “It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia. That’s the reason I’m going,” he added, seeming to confirm his travel plans.

“And it has to do with national security for them, for Israelis,” he continued. “It has to do with much larger issues.”

The Hill: Biden’s political gamble with any Saudi Arabia stop.

The Associated Press: “Great resignation” reaches White House with staff turnover.

© Associated Press / Evan Vucci | President Biden on Saturday.

  POLITICS 

Another week, another set of primaries as voters in South Carolina, Nevada, Maine and North Dakota head to the polls on Tuesday. 

The GOP side is rife with interesting races that could result in major upsets, be tell-tale signs of Trump’sstanding within the GOP or offer clues for the future of the party in the coming weeks and months. 

On the Senate side, all eyes are on Nevada where former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), the presumptive nominee, has found himself in a tough fight with Sam Brown, a U.S. Army veteran and a small business owner. According to a poll released last week by Ohio Predictive Insights, Laxalt leads with 48 percent to 34 percent for Brown.

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s support is playing a big role for Laxalt. 

“Trump’s endorsement was important in that race,” said Greg Ferraro, a Nevada-based GOP strategist who advised former Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), who predicted that Laxalt wins by a low double-digit margin. If Brown has any chance to pull the upset or even cut into that margin, it’s going to have to be the grassroots that does the trick, he added. 

“Superior boots on the ground equals an Election Day surprise showing,” Ferraro continued, adding that it’s not clear either side has an advantage on the ground. “Republicans traditionally vote in bigger numbers on Election Day, so maybe there’s a chance, but I think this race is cooked.”

Trump’s standing is also under the microscope in South Carolina in a pair of congressional races as he looks to unseat Reps. Nancy Mace (R) and Tom Rice (R), the latter of whom is among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. 

The New York Times: Two targets of Trump’s ire take different paths in South Carolina. 

The Hill: Why House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is flexing his political muscles in this year’s primaries.

The Associated Press: Vulnerable Democrats run against Washington — and their party.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Battle Born State are pushing for their presidential contest to become the first-in-the-nation primary in 2024, a move that would not only shake up the primary process but also highlight the growing importance of Latino and Asian American voters. 

As The Hill’s Julia Manchester writes, Democratic activists have pointed to a number of factors why they should jump the line, with the state’s strong union presence serving as a prime example. However, it’s Nevada’s growing Latino and Asian American populations that are the driving force for the potential move as activists argue Democrats should work to win over the two groups amid growing concerns that their support for the party is waning. 

The Hill: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) declines to say if she’ll endorse Biden in 2024. 

Tal Axelrod, The Hill: Seven key primary races still to come before November.

The Associated Press: Sarah Palin nabs early lead in Alaska House special primary. 


📝 Introducing NotedDC, The Hill’s curated commentary on the beat of the Beltway. Click here to subscribe to our latest newsletter


OPINION

■ The Senate’s bipartisan gun deal is an encouraging first step, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/3zxm9xY

■ There has to be a better way to run the government, by Ezra Klein, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3NNSbtX 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at noon.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the Honoring our PACT Act of 2021, which is expected to pass with bipartisan support. The bill would expand eligibility for Veterans Affairs health care for post-9/11 combat veterans, including those exposed to toxic chemicals. A slightly different measure passed the House by a 256-174 vote (The Hill).

The president returns to the White House at 12:05 p.m. from Delaware. He receives the President’s Daily Brief at 12:30 p.m. in the Oval Office. Biden will sign into law at 2 p.m. the “Commission To Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture Act.” 

Vice President Harris will join the president for the East Room bill signing at 2 p.m.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a working lunch at noon with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin at the State Department. The two diplomats will participate in a joint press conference at 1:45 p.m. 

The White House daily briefing is scheduled at 3 p.m.

The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts the first in a series of live debates beginning in Boston at noon between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Bret Baier of Fox News will moderate and Fox is streaming the event.  


🖥  Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.


ELSEWHERE  

  INTERNATIONAL

Russia on Sunday destroyed a bridge connecting Sievierodonetsk to Lysychansk, its twin city, cutting off an escape route for civilians and Ukrainian forces as intense fighting continues in one of the preeminent battles of the nearly four-month war. According to Reuters, Russian forces have taken most of the city, though Ukrainian troops are in control of an industrial area and chemical plant that is sheltering hundreds of civilians.

The Associated Press: The battle of Donbas could prove decisive in the Ukraine war.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance will likely keep its parliamentary majority after the first of two rounds of voting. According to projections, Macron’s party and its allies received nearly 26 percent of the vote (The Associated Press).

  PANDEMIC & POX

Reminder: On Sunday night, the U.S. pre-departure testing requirement ended for travelers returning to the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend COVID-19 testing prior to air travel of any kind and could reinstate a pre-departure testing requirement, if needed later (CNN). The airline industry wanted the change, but may not be ready for it (Bloomberg News).

The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday said that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines appear to be safe and effective for children younger than 5, a key step toward a long-awaited decision to begin vaccinating the youngest American children. The FDA plans a Wednesday meeting where outside experts will vote on whether the shots are ready for the nation’s 18 million babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Youngsters under 5 are the only group not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in this country (The Associated Press and The Hill).

The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel reports on why the Biden administration faces an uphill challenge to get children under age 5 vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Massachusetts on Sunday confirmed two more cases of monkeypox in adult men, making a total of three known cases of the communicable disease since May (MassLive).

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,011,275. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 284, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As of today, 77.2 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 66.1 percent is “fully vaccinated,” according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker and the government’s definition. The percentage of Americans who have received third or booster doses is 3.1.


THE CLOSER

© Associated Press / Charles Sykes, Invision, AP | Ariana DeBose hosted the 75th Annual Tony Awards Show on Sunday.

And finally … A revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” with a woman in the lead showcased the fondness Broadway has for the late iconic composer by earning five Tony awards on Sunday, including best musical revival during a celebration of theater. “The Lehman Trilogy,” an exploration of western capitalism through the fortunes of a single family during the financial crisis of 2008, won best new play, and there was much more (The Associated Press).

Host Ariana DeBose told the crowd it was the season “Broadway got its groove back,” after singing to the song “This Is Your Round of Applause,” which mashed up musical theater favorites, such as “Chicago, “The Wiz,” “Evita,” “Rent,” “Hair,” “Cabaret,” “Hairspray” and “West Side Story,” the movie remake for which she recently won an Oscar.

Variety lists the 75th Annual Tony Awards winners HERE. 


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