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Democrats go on offense over abortion- POLITICO


Happy Monday. Get ready for yet another week dominated by the debate over abortion rights, as the impending decision expected to overturn Roe v. Wade sucks up all the oxygen in Washington.

Two major storylines to watch this week, as Democrats gear up to go on offense:

1) SENATE TEES UP ABORTION VOTE — Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER is expected to file cloture today on a bill by Sen. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-Conn.) that would enshrine a statutory right to abortion nationwide. The move will set up the upper chamber for a Wednesday vote — though the roll call will almost certainly fail to garner the 60 votes needed to clear the filibuster, as happened to a similar proposal earlier this year.

— Among Democrats, there’s a debate over whether the party is better off trying to go it alone on this legislation (all the better to use to pummel the GOP on the campaign trail), or to take a more bipartisan approach by calling up an alternative to the Blumenthal bill that is narrower in its scope and backed by two Republican senators supportive of abortion rights: Maine’s SUSAN COLLINS and Alaska’s LISA MURKOWSKI. (Schumer, ever the political animal, has chosen the former approach.)

— Republicans are already previewing the talking points they’ll employ as they move to filibuster the bill. As we reported last week in Playbook, the NRSC is encouraging GOP candidates to change the topic from abortion rights overall to less-popular facets of the issue where Republicans feel they can win.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) did exactly that. “Schumer … is insisting we vote to legalize abortion [up] to the day before birth,” he said, touting his own proposal to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “We’re one of seven nations in the world that allow abortion on-demand at 20 weeks, the fifth month in pregnancy. So, Congress will continue to debate this issue.” Expect to hear similar talking points from the GOP all week.

2) DEMOCRATS SEIZE ON MCCONNELL’S NATIONAL ABORTION BAN REMARKS — Democratic strategists are salivating over comments Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL made in a USA Today interview that published Saturday. In it, McConnell suggested a nationwide abortion ban was “possible” if Republicans take over Washington.

What he said: “If the leaked opinion [overturning Roe] became the final opinion, legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — could certainly legislate in that area,” he said, adding that a ruling overturning Roe would bring the nation to a “point that should be resolved one way or another in the legislative process.”

— Underlining the point, he added: “I don’t think it’s much of a secret where Senate Republicans stand on that issue.”

The comments have lit a fire under Democrats, who’ve been panicked about their midterm prospects until now. And where last week enabled them to change the conversation from inflation to the likelihood of Roe being overturned, McConnell’s comments …

  • All but ensure another week of abortion-related headlines that Republicans may not like.
  • Give Democrats a potent response to one of the arguments we’ve heard from conservatives since the release of the draft opinion overturning Roe. Whereas some Republicans have talked about allowing states to set their own abortion laws, McConnell’s words suggest that Republicans actually support nationwide restrictions, decided in Washington instead of individual states.
  • Put Republican candidates in the position of having to answer whether they agree with the GOP leader and support nationwide restrictions on access to abortion.

Democrats and their allies have already seized on McConnell’s remark.

— New Hampshire Sen. MAGGIE HASSAN has a new digital ad going up today linking her GOP opponents to what the narrator calls “McConnell’s decadelong crusade to criminalize abortion.” “The Republican primary candidates have spent their careers proving that they would be in lockstep with McConnell’s agenda of criminalizing abortion and punishing women,” Hassan’s campaign manager AARON JACOBS will say in a statement accompanying the ad, previewed exclusively by Playbook. “Our campaign will continue to make clear that Senator Hassan’s opponents would all be a yes vote for McConnell’s push for a nationwide abortion ban.”

— EMILY’s List, the PAC committed to electing pro-abortion-rights Democratic women, put out a statement Sunday night highlighting his comment and warning that “protecting our freedom to decide means we must ensure that Mitch McConnell never again becomes Senate majority leader.”

— Democratic senators took to the Sunday shows to hype the issue and link it to the midterms, as NYT’s Luke Broadwater reported.

Amid it all, the White House is beginning to think that the abortion fight could actually save Democrats in the midterms by helping to turn out suburban women, young people and people of color, Bloomberg’s Jordan Fabian reports. “Top Biden advisers say that since the leak of the court’s draft Roe decision, they have seen a surge in engagement, anger and enthusiasm from their base voters.”

Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

LATEST ON UKRAINE — “Putin blames West for war in Ukraine,” via BBC News

DEMS LOOKING FOR HOUSE SAVIORS — Flipping a dozen or so Republican-held districts that JOE BIDEN won in 2020 may be one of Democrats’ only ways to hold the House this fall — and the party is liking their recruits so far in many of those seats, Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris report this morning. “Daunting national headwinds have stifled Democratic recruitment in many places, and some potential contenders opted to wait for a more promising year. But party operatives have landed top-tier Democratic candidates in many Biden-won districts, in part thanks to new favorable district lines. Their biographies range from state legislators to Navy veterans to lifelong public school educators.”

BIDEN’S MONDAY:

— 8:55 a.m.: The president will depart New Castle, Del., arriving at the White House at 9:50 a.m.

— 11:15 a.m.: Biden and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief.

— 1:30 p.m.: Biden and Harris will speak from the Rose Garden about the bipartisan infrastructure law’s efforts to expand high-speed internet access and lower costs.

— 2:45 p.m.: Biden will sign the bill creating a lend-lease program for Ukraine into law, with Harris attending.

— 6 p.m.: Biden will take part in a DNC fundraiser in Potomac, Md.

HARRIS’ MONDAY — The VP will also swear in NICK PERRY as ambassador to Jamaica at 3:20 p.m.

Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 3 p.m.

THE SENATE will meet at 3 p.m. to take up ANN PHILLIPS’ nomination to head the Maritime Administration, with a cloture vote at 5:30 p.m.

THE HOUSE is out.

BIDEN’S WEEK AHEAD:

— Tuesday: The president will speak about his efforts to tackle inflation (and contrast them with Sen. RICK SCOTT’s call for higher taxes, now labeled in official White House materials as “Congressional Republicans’ ultra-MAGA plan”). He’ll also have a bilateral meeting with Italian PM MARIO DRAGHI.

— Wednesday: Biden will have a busy day in Illinois: first visiting a family farm in Kankakee to tout the administration’s work on food supply and inflation, then addressing the 40th International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International Convention in Chicago, then taking part in a DNC fundraiser in Chicago.

— Thursday: Biden will host several foreign leaders for a dinner as part of the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit.

— Friday: Biden will take part in the summit at the State Department.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

ALL POLITICS

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Former President DONALD TRUMP attended a fundraiser at the Kentucky Derby this weekend benefiting his primary super PAC, Make America Great Again, Again!, which raised $1.5 million, according to a person familiar with the event. The fundraiser was hosted by former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. (and likely 2023 Kentucky gubernatorial candidate) KELLY CRAFT and her husband, coal magnate JOE CRAFT. Others in attendance included the organization’s finance chair, KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany RIC GRENELL and Arizona gubernatorial candidate KARI LAKE. 

MORE ABORTION FALLOUT

HOW IT’S PLAYING — Abortion could emerge as a major issue in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, where Democrat JOSH SHAPIRO tells NYT’s Trip Gabriel that he expects the election to become a referendum on the issue. Republicans say voters will be focused more on high prices and other issues. But reporting from Hanover Township, Gabriel finds several right-leaning voters who are thinking about defecting this fall over abortion, and at least one left-leaning teenager who’ll be motivated to turn out because of it — a possible indication of a salve for Dems’ midterm enthusiasm worries.

— The news has also upended state races for A.G., as candidates pitch themselves to voters as the ones who should have power over enforcement of abortion-related laws if the Supreme Court leaves the matter up to states, Alice Miranda Ollstein reports this morning. “Not only will the winners of these races play a major role in abortion law, but the post is also a reliable pipeline to higher office.”

FOR YOUR RADAR — A fire broke out Sunday at the office of an anti-abortion group in Madison, Wis., where “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was written on the wall. More from the Wisconsin State Journal

CONGRESS

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED — Ever since Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) tanked Build Back Better, Democrats have been waiting for the swing vote to lay out what he’ll support in a new reconciliation bill before they make it official. But people close to Manchin tell NBC’s Sahil Kapur and Benjy Sarlin that it would be a “big mistake” for Dems to wait for him to write it. “People familiar with Manchin’s thinking say he has repeatedly laid out his demands in public but that he’s unlikely to put pen to paper to write a reconciliation bill — that’s a job for Democratic leaders.”

One person says the White House should put together a bill — with all the hard tradeoff decisions that entails — get Manchin’s sign-off, and then send it to Schumer and Speaker NANCY PELOSI.

— Senate Democrats haven’t given up on winning over Manchin and Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) for a reconciliation package that includes child care money. Eleanor Mueller reports that Senate HELP Chair PATTY MURRAY (D-Wash.) and Sen. TIM KAINE (D-Va.) are pitching a new version of the child care plan they hope will be more amenable to moderates — this time investing $150 billion to $200 billion, about half of what was in Build Back Better. The bulk of the money would go toward bulking up child care subsidies and limiting expenses for lower-income Americans.

THE WHITE HOUSE

INFRASTRUCTURE YEAR — Biden is working hard to sell the bipartisan infrastructure law, but it’s not top of mind for many voters, NBC’s Shannon Pettypiece, Sahil Kapur and Scott Wong report. Americans largely approve of the big policy win, but their focus lies more with inflation, other kitchen-table issues, abortion and Ukraine. “Biden sees infrastructure as an important piece of his economic message and one that Democrats should be proactively using,” they report. “But it is also part of a broader message.”

TRUMP CARDS

THE ESPER BOOK ROLLOUT — In an exclusive excerpt from his new memoir, “A Sacred Oath” ($28), former Defense Secretary MARK ESPER writes in POLITICO Magazine of Trump’s scattershot approach to diplomacy, including the story of his near-meeting with the Taliban at Camp David and the time the president mused that the U.S. should close all its embassies in Africa. This anecdote from Esper also jumps out:

“He told the story about his first meeting with [German Chancellor ANGELA] MERKEL, and how she asked, ‘What are you going to do about Ukraine?’ regarding U.S. military and financial support. To which he quickly responded, as he told it, ‘What are you going to do about Ukraine?’ In his view, Germany was ‘closer to Ukraine than we are,’ and it’s a ‘big buffer’ for the Germans against Russia. ‘They should be paying Ukraine more than anyone,’ he proclaimed.” Later, Esper writes, “[n]one of us could figure out what was driving the president’s resistance” to approving security assistance for Ukraine.

— Esper was also on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, discussing among other things how “he came to regard [Trump] as a threat to American democracy,” per CBS’ Norah O’Donnell. He said he had to help stop pushes within the administration to take military action against Iran and Venezuela and to blockade Cuba.

Trump’s response: In a statement, Trump denied most of Esper’s eye-popping claims, though he notably said “no comment” to the accusation that he wanted to shoot missiles at Mexican cartels.

JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH

IT’S ALWAYS THE AIDES — Though several top Trump world figures have stonewalled the Jan. 6 committee, the panel has managed to get the info it wants by turning to their assistants and deputies, Kyle Cheney and Nick Wu report this morning. “Time and again, the panel has managed to pierce the secrecy of Trump’s inner circle by turning to the aides entrusted with carrying out logistics for their bosses,” they write. “It’s a classic investigative strategy that’s paid dividends for select committee investigators” as aides like CASSIDY HUTCHINSON have helped piece together a detailed timeline of what happened in the White House on Jan. 6.

THE PANDEMIC

MONEY FROM THEE, NOT FROM ME — As the U.S. gears up to host a big global pandemic summit this week, Congress’ failure to appropriate more money for Covid-19 response is leaving the Biden administration in an awkward position where it may be harder to ask other countries to pony up, Daniel Payne, Erin Banco and Carmen Paun report this morning.

WAR IN UKRAINE

LATEST ON THE GROUND — Ukrainian forces retook more territory near Kharkiv but were pushed back in Popasna as heavy fighting continued Sunday, per NYT’s Roger Cohen.

Meanwhile, top U.S. diplomats went back to Kyiv for the first time. It’s part of a plan from the administration to hasten the reopening of its embassy there, Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu report, “the culmination of a behind-the-scenes effort led by [Secretary of State ANTONY] BLINKEN.

NEW SANCTIONS — The U.S. and other Western countries announced new sanctions on Russia on Sunday. They’ll hit “three of Russia’s most viewed state-controlled television stations,” per NBC, and block Americans from providing various services to Russian elites and businesses.

Bono and The Edge played a 40-minute set in a subway station in Kyiv.

The 2022 Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists will be announced today at 3 p.m., and can be livestreamed at the awards’ homepage.

SPOTTED at a party Sunday night for NATO Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoană hosted by Steve Clemons at his D.C. house, where Geoană told guests that young Americans should not take democracy for granted: Anne Neuberger, Jane Harman, Joe Hack, Shaila Manyam, David Adler, Margaret Warner, Jonathan Guyer, Kim Dozier, Polish Ambassador Marek Magierowski, Steve Wozencraft, Ben Pauker, Margaret Carlson, John Hudson, Paula Dobriansky, Iceland Ambassador Bergdís Ellertsdóttir, Kevin Baron, Molly Ball, Fadi Elsalameen, Eric Fanning, Jahn Jeffrey and Dragos Manea.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Jeremy Edwards is now press secretary at FEMA. He previously was deputy press secretary at the Commerce Department, and is a Biden campaign alum.

Max Levy is now deputy digital director for fundraising on Stacey Abrams’ Georgia gubernatorial campaign. He most recently was manager for partnerships and special projects at the EPA.

Jeff Le is now director of government affairs for Conduent Incorporated. He most recently was VP of public policy and external affairs at Rhino.

MEDIA MOVES — Jordain Carney is joining POLITICO as a congressional reporter. She previously covered the Senate for The Hill. Tyler Weyant is also moving up to deputy Congress editor for Congress Minutes, and Nancy Vu is moving up to a reporter for Congress Minutes. Newsroom announcement

TRANSITIONS — Raymond Rodriguez is now national press secretary for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. He previously was comms director for Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.). … Ralph Mays will be director of public affairs at SKDK. He previously was comms director for Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.).

ENGAGED — Kate Arey, content and digital manager for the House Energy & Commerce Committee GOP, and Jonathan Roberts, congressional fellow for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, got engaged in Georgetown on Saturday. They’re both Texas natives but met on a blind coffee date a year ago at Le Bon. Pic Another pic

WEEKEND WEDDING — Ryan Jacobs, who recently departed Treasury to be a senior adviser at Fenway Strategies, and Melissa Giangrande, an associate at Hogan Lovells, got married this weekend at the Salamander Resort in Middleburg, Va. It was five years after a first date that started on a Monday afternoon and lasted nine hours. In his vows, Ryan told Melissa she’d made what an AccuWeather forecast called “the gloomiest day in recent years” the brightest day of his life. (He also promised to throw away a vest she hates as soon as they’re home from their honeymoon.) Pic (with their dog Hank) Another pic SPOTTED: Clare and Stephen Krupin, David Litt and Jacqui Kappler, Sarada Peri and Naseem Khuri, Zev Karlin-Neumann and Orly May, Meg and Matt Thurlow, Ryan Daniels and Evan Giesemann, Judge Deborah Chasanow, and Shanin and Tracey Specter.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Joya Manasseh, comms manager at NBC News, and Chris Dioguardi, attorney at Walden Macht & Haran, on Saturday morning welcomed Lucas Vincent “Luca” Dioguardi, who came in at 7 lbs, 11 oz and 21 inches. Pic

BIRTHWEEK (was Sunday): Arena’s J. Peter Donald

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich … NYT’s Ezra Klein … Facebook’s Joel Kaplan … Fox News’ Dana Perino, Garrett Tenney and Jordan PowellParker Poling … White House’s Dhara Nayyar … Third Way’s Jon CowanStu Sandler … Veho’s Theo LeCompteTaylor Andreae … POLITICO’s Victoria Guida and Chris ReShoreFabion SeatonNihal Krishan of the Washington Examiner … Ashley SchapitlDavid PereraChris Ullman of Ullman Communications … Lauren DecotJason Linde of Food Allergy Research & Education … David Gergen … former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt John McEntee … former A.G. John Ashcroft Kent Knutson … former Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.)

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