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GOP escalates immigration protest, Democrats deride moves as reckless, cruel

Good morning, Early Birds. A note to our readers: Please don’t send Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen any stamps. Send us your tips, though: Thanks for waking up with us.

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In today’s edition …  Theo sits down with Democratic strategist Martha McKenna to discuss how a Democrat won a special election in Alaska … The Senate punts a vote on same-sex marriage vote until after midterms … Jackie Alemany with the latest on how Republicans plan to investigate the Biden administration if they win the House … but first …

GOP escalates immigration protest, Democrats deride moves as reckless, cruel

The debate over immigration has taken a stunning turn as Republican governors ramp up their efforts to send migrants to blue states and cities unannounced in a move Democrats and advocates are calling a reckless and cruel political ploy.

Our colleagues Maria Sacchetti, Ellen Francis, Joanna Slater and Antonio Olivo set the scene with the latest: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) claimed credit Thursday for flying dozens of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, a resort island off Massachusetts, to make a political point about the record influx of those coming across the southern border.”

  • Beth Folcarelli, the chief executive of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, told our colleagues that the migrants were flown in from San Antonio, and “believed they were going to Boston and told her they were from Venezuela, where many migrants have been fleeing a political and economic crisis marked by chronic shortages of water, food and electricity.”
  • “Folcarelli said each migrant was carrying a red folder containing several documents: a basic map showing the road from the Martha’s Vineyard airport to the community services office, a trifold pamphlet with information on immigration services and a piece of paper with their name on it.”
  • “Republican governors — including some possible contenders for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 — have increasingly been ferrying migrants from border states they control to Democratic strongholds,” including Washington where two buses from Texas dropped off dozens of migrants near Vice President Harris’s residence early Thursday morning. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) declared a public emergency last week to release $10 million in city funds to help the migrants.

Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Isaac Arnsdorf with a scoop on what DeSantis was telling donors about his plans in the days ahead of the chartered jets taking flight: “Flying immigrants from Florida to Martha’s Vineyard is the latest move by DeSantis to seize the national spotlight and solidify his place among conservative supporters.” DeSantis told the GOP’s top donors last weekend that he thought flooding liberal cities with migrants has “been very effective” and was considering sending additional migrants to “Chicago, Hollywood [and] Martha’s Vineyard,” where prominent Democrats like former president Barack Obama vacation.

  • “The 51-minute speech to the donor retreat gave a clear outline of how he might sell himself to Republican base voters during a potential 2024 presidential bid. The remarks were full of grievance and culture war pugilism, casting the nation’s political future as a battle against a conspiracy by leftists to impose their ideology and turn dissenters into ‘second-class citizens.’ His message, according to the people in the room, was that America should become more like Florida — and that he would be a culture warrior.”

From Fox News’s Griff Jenkins: 

Where is the money coming from? “Then-President Donald Trump also considered shipping migrants to ‘sanctuary’ cities, but immigration officials rejected the idea, saying using federal funds to mete out political retribution would be inappropriate,” Sacchetti, Francis, Slater and Olivo write.

  • But this may have been how DeSantis was able to fly migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard — and how he plans on funding more flights in the future, per our colleague Tony Romm. DeSantis may have used the “interest earned on his state’s federal coronavirus aid” which dedicates “about $12 million to the relocation campaign.”
  • Texas did something similar. “Earlier this year, Texas officials took advantage of a separate, yet related, federal pandemic program to free up money for Operation Lone Star, an effort to police the U.S.-Mexican border.”

How a Democrat won a special election in Alaska

Eight questions for … Martha McKenna: We chatted about the midterms with the Democratic admaker who worked for Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska), who was sworn in this week after winning a special election last month in an upset. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: How did you get involved in Peltola’s race?

McKenna: I have a number of friends in Alaska, who were all in touch with each other when [Rep.] Don Young [(R-Alaska)] passed. And Mary’s name sort of bubbled to the surface as somebody who people admired and a Democrat from a rural area. She had not been in the [state] legislature for about 10 years, but had been a real powerhouse when she was [first] elected. There was excitement about a pro-choice woman Democrat running. I got to know her by phone, and I was really impressed with her focus on fish and protecting fish stocks and the importance of fish culturally and economically — and also [her] very clear commitment to women’s reproductive rights.

The Early: Had you worked in Alaska before?

McKenna: Yes. I got to know folks in Alaska because my husband worked there for [former Democratic Gov.] Tony Knowles. And I was the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s] political director in 2008 when [Mark] Begich decided to run against [Republican Sen.] Ted Stevens and beat him. So I spent a lot of time in Alaska for that campaign.

The Early: Did you think Peltola had a path to victory when you signed on?

McKenna: Yes. Ranked-choice voting provided a very different formula for someone like Mary. The real effort in the first few months was to take her from polling at 1 or 2 percent and get her to finish in the top four [in the primary], which she did. She came in fourth. That was a more traditional race: building name ID and introducing Mary and her positions on fish and family and reproductive freedom to enough people on TV and in mail and in the hard work of retail politics.

The formula thereafter for [a] ranked-choice voting [election] was one that a moderate bridge-builder like Mary Peltola is made for. If somebody said they were for Palin, she said, “Great, vote for Sarah Palin, and would you consider me for your second [choice]?” She’s just a very friendly and open person. Ranked-choice voting provided her an opportunity because of her ability to build coalitions.

The Early: Peltola has described herself as “pro-fish,” and her first TV ad featured her carving up a salmon. How did you settle on the fish theme, and what does it mean to be pro-fish in Alaska?

McKenna: On the Kuskokwim River, where Alaska Natives have been fishing for 12,000 years, salmon is a way of life. The fish stock has dwindled to such a great extent that now you can barely put one fish on the table. Factory trawlers catch the juvenile halibut, crab and salmon, and really disrupt the salmon stock. There has to be more give and take so that families who rely on fishing for their subsistence and to feed their families, that there are fish for them. Mary’s going to work hard to bring balance back to that equation for Alaska.

The Early: Democrat Pat Ryan also won a special election last month in New York. Two other Democrats running in special elections lost but outperformed President Biden’s 2020 margins. How much do you think these special election results can tell us about November?

McKenna: These special elections tell us that Americans are angry about losing abortion rights. And they are coming to the polls to vote for candidates who support abortion rights and to punish those who don’t. I think it was true in Kansas. I think it’s been true in the congressional special elections.

The Early: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was overheard on Wednesday night at a restaurant on Capitol Hill telling senators he thought there was a 60 percent chance Democrats would hold the Senate and a 40 percent chance they’d hold the House. Do you think those odds are correct?

McKenna: I said in January to a Politico reporter that not only were Democratic women going to be mobilized and voting on abortion rights in November, but that all women would be. People are going to be shocked at the turnout levels among women, young people. I think that we will hold the House and hold the Senate — and there will be surprises and upsets, because women are coming out to vote for pro-choice candidates.

The Early: What sort of trends are you seeing in political ads this cycle as an ad maker?

McKenna: You’re seeing ads that are more stripped-down: the candidate, in a very genuine way, talking for 30 seconds about who they are and what they believe. It’s easy to overdo it. These are serious times, and voters want to hear directly from the candidates. I think this cycle in particular that straight-to-the-voter message without a lot of B-roll, without too many fancy additions, is really powerful.

The Early: Do you have a favorite political ad that you’ve seen this cycle?

McKenna: My favorite is the [Arizona Senate candidate] Blake Masters ad on abortion — for its absurdity. I am enjoying these Republicans tying themselves up into a pretzel to cover up decades of extremism and obsession with taking away our abortion rights. Because now that they’ve done it, they are so screwed.

Democrats push same sex marriage vote until after the midterms

The Senate will delay voting on a measure to protect same-sex marriage until after November’s midterm elections as Republican support for the measure remains uncertain. 

The prospect of a vote less than two months from the midterms, in which control of the Senate is at stake, left some Republicans skittish about taking a position on the legislation.

  • Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) have been working alongside Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) to find 10 Republican votes necessary for it to pass. 
  • Republicans wanted airtight protections for religious liberty and clarification that the law would not legalize polygamy.

The group of negotiators reached agreement on the new language Wednesday night and disseminated the new text Thursday afternoon to the GOP lawmakers considering voting for the legislation. But ultimately, the group decided that there wasn’t enough time in the waning days of the legislative session ahead of the midterms to push a vote. It would have had to take place next week to accommodate the other work the Senate must finish.

Portman, who is retiring at the end of his term this year, acknowledged that the bill would probably get more Republican support in the lame duck session when Republicans wouldn’t have to face voters.

“It takes a lot of the political sting out of it,” he said.

Support for same-sex marriage continues to grow, with a record 70 percent of respondents in a recent Gallup survey saying they support it. But the conservative base is less supportive, and Republicans are wary of suppressing their motivation to vote.

“My personal preference is to put everyone on the record before the November elections but I understand the decisions that are made about when the prospects are best for passing the measure,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “I want a law, not just a bill.”

From Hunter Biden to the Justice Department, GOP prepares its investigations

Coming soon to Washington: “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has begun talks with top House Republicans on how to coordinate investigations across committees if the party is successful in taking over the House next year,” our colleague Jacqueline Alemany reports. “He has encouraged ranking Republicans on committees to send letters to agencies throughout the Biden administration, asking that they turn over or preserve documents, with more than 500 requests issued already.”

Here are the investigations, per Jackie: 

  • Hunter Biden’s business dealings and art sales
  • Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas
  • The Biden administration’s military withdrawal from Afghanistan
  • The origins of the novel coronavirus
  • Coronavirus-related school closures
  • The administration’s deliberations over weapons sales to Ukraine
  • The spending of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection
  • The Justice Department

Not on the list? Investigating the 2020 election and a counter-probe of the Jan. 6 committee.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will have breakfast with Vice President Harris at her residence this morning before heading to the White House, where he’ll meet with President Biden this afternoon. They’ll discuss trade, energy, climate and health care, among other issues, according to a senior administration official.

We didn’t need a study to tell us this. When one of us is overtired, we reach for the chocolate, chips, cookies and crackers. But it’s always good to know that we’re right. And now we know the science behind it! 

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

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