INCLUDED ON INTEL — Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are fighting for more access to intelligence reports about Afghan militants being offered Russian bounties to kill U.S. troops. A select group of members have already started to get the intel assessment: several House Republicans attended a briefing at the White House yesterday, while a small group of Democrats — led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — will head there this morning and then return to the Capitol for a press conference.
But Democratic leaders are still pressing for all-member briefings in both the House and Senate — something the Trump administration has so far resisted, insisting that the situation doesn’t quite rise to that level. “While I will be going to the White House tomorrow for a briefing with several House Democrats, the President and his team ought to brief the full House on this serious situation immediately,” Hoyer said in a statement yesterday.
What lawmakers want to know: When was Trump briefed on these intel reports? If he wasn’t briefed, why? And if the reports about Russian bounties are true, what — if anything — is Trump going to do in response? “Many serious questions remain regarding what the White House is doing to address threats to American and allied troops and to hold Russia accountable,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The latest from Kyle, Jake Sherman and Heather: https://politi.co/2BnCERI.
Some early reactions, from those who have seen the intel: Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, and GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney put out a joint statement saying they “remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan” and “anticipate further briefings on this issue in the coming days.” But Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) had a different take: “The real scandal: We’ll likely never know the truth… Because the @nytimes used unconfirmed intel in an ONGOING investigation into targeted killing of American soldiers in order to smear the President.”
And in the Senate, the GOP may use the intel to push Trump for a more aggressive posture toward Russia — something they’ve long wanted the president to do. “I want to understand how it’s conceivably possible that the president didn’t know. How does that possibly happen?” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “And right now, I want to hear their plan for Taliban and GRU agents in body bags.” More from Andrew and Marianne on how the Senate GOP is pressuring Trump: https://politi.co/2ZlHl6C.
Related reads: “Republicans once again face questions about why Trump isn’t tougher on Russia,” by WaPo’s Seung Min Kim: https://wapo.st/3dN1o30; and “Republicans have been skipping House Intelligence meetings for months,” via Martin Matishak: https://politi.co/2VvVwVv.
READY FOR RELIEF — With coronavirus cases spiking, Democratic leaders are ramping up pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to quickly pass another coronavirus relief bill. In a letter to McConnell, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the GOP “missing in action” and noted that the House passed its own sweeping relief package 45 days ago. “Now is the time for action, not continued delays and political posturing,” they wrote. The deets from Marianne and Sarah: https://politi.co/2ZtuzTI.
In other coronavirus news … Pelosi has extended the House’s ability to use proxy voting until mid-August. The House GOP is challenging the voting system’s constitutionality in court — which may be why Republican leaders discouraged retiring Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) from using the system. Per Roll Call, Rooney had enlisted a Democratic colleague to cast a proxy vote on his behalf, but then he backed down. The backstory from Lindsey McPherson: https://bit.ly/2NIr32k.
But one thing GOP leaders are embracing? Wearing masks. McConnell encouraged mask-wearing during a speech on the Senate floor, while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) implored the public to follow the CDC guidelines regarding face coverings during a CNBC interview. And your Huddle host even overheard McCarthy telling Republican lawmakers as they left a closed-door committee meeting: “Wear your masks!” More from Doina Chiacu of Reuters: https://reut.rs/38kI0ZZ.
Related read: “Clyburn says House coronavirus committee won’t recognize members who don’t wear masks,” from Fadel Allassan of Axios: https://bit.ly/3iecuS3.
GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Tuesday, June 30, where this picture of Larry Sabato’s office is giving your host serious anxiety (guessing he is not a “zero inbox” guy.)
MONDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The story from BuzzFeed News on how Dems were considering banning Republicans from coronavirus hearings if they don’t wear masks was the big winner.
HEALTH CARE IN THE HOUSE — Democrats passed legislation yesterday to expand Obamacare, hoping to draw a contrast with the GOP as the Trump administration challenges the 2010 health care law in court. Susannah Luthi and Alice Miranda Ollstein with the dispatch: “Two Republicans — New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew, formerly a Democrat, and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania — joined virtually every Democrat in supporting the bill, which would expand the law’s subsidies for private health insurance, encourage hold-out red states to expand Medicaid and reverse Trump administration policies seen as undermining the Affordable Care Act.
“Progressive lawmakers who have pushed sweeping ‘Medicare for All’ legislation largely backed the more moderate health bill, which is aimed at shoring up Democrats’ support in swing districts that were pivotal to the party retaking control of the House in the 2018 midterms. The vote comes shortly after Trump’s Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare in a case later this fall, despite warnings from some Republicans that voters would punish the party in November.” More: https://politi.co/38eycAE.
Related read: “Top Democrat dropping support for previously bipartisan Senate drug pricing effort,” by The Hill’s Peter Sullivan: https://bit.ly/2BlZk4E.
PRIMARY DAY — There are primaries today in Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah. Here’s what to watch for, via Ally Mutnick, James Arkin, Steven Shephard and Zach Montellaro: “The latest Democratic primary battle between the party’s establishment and its progressive wing is coming to the must-win Colorado Senate race on Tuesday. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, whom Democrats recruited into the race after he abandoned a poorly performing presidential campaign, is trying to fend off challenger Andrew Romanoff from his left and secure the nomination to face GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the two most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection this year.
“Elsewhere on Tuesday, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is locked in a tight race in his comeback bid, going down to the wire in the GOP primary against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. And Republicans are choosing candidates in two of Democrats’ most endangered House seats. And after a series of election mishaps, Colorado and Utah — a bipartisan pair of states that have created mail-voting systems — get to show the rest of the country how to hold a primary in a pandemic.” More: https://politi.co/2Vwqyg5.
Related read: “How Hickenlooper may side-step a challenge from the left,” from James: https://politi.co/3eNgW82.
COMER AS YOU ARE — A House GOP panel has tapped Rep. James Comer (Ky.) to be the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, filling a key position that has gone without a permanent leader for months. As the ranking member, Comer — a businessman and farm owner who served as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture — will be on the frontlines of fighting Democratic-led investigations and oversight efforts.
Comer beat out two other candidates: Rep. Jody Hice (Ga.), a Freedom Caucus member and former talk radio host and pastor, and freshman Rep. Mark Green (Tenn.), a combat veteran and ER physician. Lawmakers said Comer, who has maintained a lower-profile in the House GOP, was an appealing candidate because of his focus on reining in wasteful government spending. “He’s one of those quieter members, but he is so well thought of and so well respected within the conference,” said Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.). The deets from yours truly: https://politi.co/2VuaZFG.
Related read: “House Dems propose strengthening Congress’ contempt power to break administration stonewalls,” via Kyle: https://politi.co/2CUEBWe.
ROBERTS IN THE CROSSHAIRS — The Supreme Court handed down another ruling yesterday that upset conservatives: this time, striking down a strict Louisiana abortion law that critics said would have forced nearly all the state’s abortion providers to close. And GOP lawmakers are now taking out their anger on Chief Justice John Roberts, who cast the deciding vote.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the head of the House Freedom Caucus, dubbed it “another disaster from Chief Justice John Roberts” and called on GOP presidents to “do more to vet their Supreme Court nominees.” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) labeled it as “another activist decision by the courts.” And Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) had this to say: “What’s next, Chief Justice Roberts? Our Second Amendment rights?” More on the ruling from Alice Miranda Ollstein: https://politi.co/2BnEaDl.
Related read: “Sen. Susan Collins Gives Brett Kavanaugh A Pass For Opposing Abortion Rights Ruling,” by HuffPo’s Igor Bobic: https://bit.ly/3eMQD1N.
The House gavels in at 9 a.m., with first votes expected between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Today’s agenda: https://bit.ly/2ZrnX84.
The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of S.4049, the “National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2021.” The Senate will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for the weekly party luncheons.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Democrats hold a press conference after their White House intel briefing at 9:30 a.m. in HVC Studio A.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Select Climate Crisis Committee Chairwoman Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and House Democrats will unveil a climate crisis action plan at 10 a.m. on the Capitol East Front steps.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and GOP leaders hold a media availability at 10:30 a.m. HVC Studio A.
MONDAY’S WINNER: Bruce Mehlman was the first person to guess that former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun played another former SCOTUS justice, Joseph Story, in the movie “Amistad.”
TODAY’S QUESTION: From Bruce: Who was the highest paid federal employee in 2019? Bonus points if you name their total compensation that year. The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess to [email protected].
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