POLITICO Playbook: Biden backs Dems into a corner on climate – POLITICO – Politico

Happy Saturday, y’all!

This week, there was a tornado on the National Mall. Record heat in the Pacific Northwest melted the power cables for streetcars in Portland, Ore. There was a damn fire in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico after a gas leak from a pipeline — and the video is like something from one of those bad summer blockbusters you go to for the air conditioning.

Climate activists say this summer is poised to go down as the tipping point when the impacts of climate change are so in your face it’s impossible to ignore. They are worried that no one — including President JOE BIDEN and lawmakers on Capitol Hill — is doing enough to fix it, and as climate policies get swallowed up by the reconciliation process, they’re gearing up for a new pressure campaign to turn up the heat on Washington.

— EVAN WEBER, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, put it like this to me: “I don’t think you can say in any serious way that [Biden] is treating climate change like the emergency that it is. The stuff that is in this plan is not some sort of historic commitment, which is what he’s been calling it. It’s scraps. It’s the bare minimum.”

— JAMAL RAAD, co-founder of Evergreen Action, said that “Biden will be judged by history on a lot of things, but nothing more so than whether we did enough on the existential crisis of our time: climate change. … Years from now, it will be a question of whether we did enough, or let the last best opportunity to reckon with this slip by.”

This week, national climate adviser GINA MCCARTHY and senior White House adviser ANITA DUNN sent out a memo outlining the administration’s climate commitments. It noted — as Biden has in the past — that the bipartisan deal left out “critical initiatives on climate change that he proposed,” and that the reconciliation bill is where real investment will happen. Read the full memo

But here’s the thing: The strategy that the Biden team is using — relying on reconciliation as the way to enact climate policy — virtually ensures that Democrats are the only ones who’ll feel any heat on the issue.

Reconciliation is likely to be Democrats-only. That means that climate activists’ pressure campaigns won’t target Republicans, because they’re irrelevant to how the process works.

— Who’ll be targeted instead? Watch for activists to focus on moderate Dems — and no, not just Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.).

— With climate-focused lawmakers like Sen. ED MARKEY (D-Mass.) threatening to block reconciliation unless it makes major investments in combating climate change, it’s hard to see how Democrats get out of this without some real infighting.

Which leads to a couple of questions: Will the battle over climate change spur a new civil war within the Democratic Party? And will that toll be worth it to notch a bipartisan infrastructure deal?

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

THREE TOP STORIES FOR SATURDAY …

NYT’s Eric Schmitt on Biden’s “dueling messages” on Afghanistan. The Biden administration is simultaneously seeking to “reassure the American public that its so-called forever wars are winding down, at least militarily, while trying to convince beleaguered Afghans that the United States is not abandoning the country at a moment when intelligence analysts assess that the government could fall in as few as six months to a resurgent Taliban,” writes Schmitt. “To listen to the White House and Pentagon, the exit of the last American combat troops from Bagram Air Base is not the end of the mission in Afghanistan. At least that was the signal to the Afghans. … The United States military will still help Afghan forces, just by teleconference from afar.” It’s sort of the Schrodinger’s cat of foreign policy messaging: We’re simultaneously pulling out of Afghanistan and not.

The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino with a deep dive on the BRITNEY SPEARS conservatorship saga. It’s a story generating increasing amounts of interest on Capitol Hill: pop icon Spears’ quest to end the court-ordered conservatorship that has largely stripped her of her autonomy and rights. This morning, Farrow and Tolentino released a mammoth investigation of the ordeal — one sure to dominate the cultural conversation over the days to come — rich in its portrayal of a broken legal process that’s virtually inescapable: “If a conservatee functions well under conservatorship, it can be framed as proof of the arrangement’s necessity; if a conservatee struggles under conservatorship, the same conclusion can be drawn.” Says a former friend whose testimony helped secure Spears’ conservatorship: “At the time, I thought we were helping. And I wasn’t, and I helped a corrupt family seize all this control.”

Something to think about this July Fourth weekend, from NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg: “Is Biden declaring independence from the virus’ too soon?”: “President Biden’s plan to celebrate ‘independence from the virus’ on the Fourth of July is running into an unpleasant reality: Less than half the country is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the highly contagious Delta variant is threatening new outbreaks,” writes Gay Stolberg. “[P]ublic health experts fear that scenes of cross-country celebrations — including a White House party with a liberation theme — will send the wrong message when wide swaths of the population remain vulnerable and true independence from the worst public health crisis in a century may be a long way off.”

BIDEN’S SATURDAY:

— 10:35 a.m.: The president will leave for Traverse City, Mich., arriving at 12:15 p.m. and then getting to Antrim County by 12:50 p.m.

— 1:25 p.m.: Biden will tour a cherry farm with Gov. GRETCHEN WHITMER and Democratic Sens. DEBBIE STABENOW and GARY PETERS.

— 3 p.m.: Biden will head back to Traverse City, arriving at 3:15 p.m.

— 4:35 p.m.: Biden will depart Traverse City for Wilmington, Del., arriving at 6:15 p.m.

KAMALA HARRIS’ SATURDAY:

— 1:10 p.m. EDT: The VP will travel from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

— 2:55 p.m.: Harris will tour the Carpenters International Training Center.

— 3:45 p.m.: Harris will speak about getting America back to work and the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

— 5:55 p.m.: Harris will leave Las Vegas to head back to LA.

AFGHANISTAN

WITHDRAWAL HAPPENING SOONER THAN EXPECTED — “U.S. vacates key Afghan base; pullout target now ‘late August,’” by AP’s Robert Burns and Kathy Gannon: “Nearly 20 years after invading Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and hunt down al-Qaida, the U.S. military has vacated [Bagram,] its biggest airfield in the country, advancing a final withdrawal that the Pentagon on Friday said will be completed by the end of August.

“Biden had instructed the Pentagon to complete the military withdrawal by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, but the Pentagon now says it can finish the drawdown a little earlier. In fact, the drawdown is already largely completed and officials had said it could be wrapped up this weekend. But a number of related issues need to be worked out in coming weeks, including a new U.S. military command structure in Kabul and talks with Turkey on an arrangement for maintaining security at the Kabul airport, and so an official end to the pullout will not be announced soon.”

“Biden administration formally launches effort to return deported veterans to U.S.,” by WaPo’s Maria Sacchetti: “Homeland Security Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS ordered his department’s immigration agencies to ‘immediately’ take steps to ensure that military families may return to the United States. He said the department would also halt pending deportation proceedings against veterans or their immediate relatives who are in the United States, and clear the way for those who are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.”

POLICY CORNER

SCOTUS ANALYSIS — “Barrett moves Supreme Court to the right, but cautiously,” by WaPo’s Robert Barnes: “Justice AMY CONEY BARRETT moved the Supreme Court’s center of gravity further to the right this term, but not as quickly or as dramatically as her supporters had hoped or her detractors had feared. Whether that reflects a rookie justice’s first-term caution or a more-ingrained inclination to moderation and small steps will determine her place among the court’s sometimes splintered six-member conservative majority.”

PANDEMIC

LEFT VULNERABLE — “15 million people in the U.S. have missed their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine, CDC says,” by WaPo’s Caroline Anders: “CDC data shows that as of June 16, nearly 11 percent of people who had sufficient time to get the second dose missed their ideal window. The number has increased from 8 percent earlier in the year, but CDC spokesperson KATE FOWLIE said the rise was ‘not unexpected.’”

SHEPHERDS WARY OF THEIR FLOCKS — “Southern pastors resist calls to promote vaccines, wary of another Covid fight,” by Dan Goldberg: “POLITICO spoke with nearly a dozen pastors, many of whom observed that vaccination is too divisive to broach, especially following a year of contentious conversations over race, pandemic limits on in-person worship and mask requirements. Public health officials have hoped that more religious leaders can nudge their congregants to get Covid shots, particularly white evangelicals who are among the most resistant to vaccination. …

“NIH Director FRANCIS COLLINS, a devout Christian who has used his ties to the faith community to promote public health measures during the pandemic, said he regretted that pastors have faced ‘such a barrage of negative responses’ from congregants.

“‘It’s heartbreaking that it’s come to this over something that is potentially lifesaving and yet has been so completely colored over by political views and conspiracies that it’s impossible to have a simple loving conversation with your flock,’ Collins said in an interview. ‘That is a sad diagnosis of the illness that afflicts our country, and I’m not talking about Covid-19. I’m talking about polarization, tribalism even within what should be the loving community of a Christian church.’”

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

GUESS WHO’S HACK? — “Ransomware Group Behind Meat-Supply Attack Threatens Hundreds of New Targets,” by WSJ’s Robert McMillan: “The ransomware group that collected an $11 million payment from meat producer JBS SA about a month ago has begun a widespread attack that could affect hundreds of organizations world-wide, according to cybersecurity experts.”

POLITICS ROUNDUP

SCOTUS FALLOUT ON VOTING RIGHTS — “Proving Racist Intent: Democrats Face High New Bar in Opposing Voting Laws,” by NYT’s Reid Epstein and Nick Corasaniti: “The 6-to-3 decision by the Supreme Court on Thursday that upheld voting restrictions in Arizona has effectively left voting rights advocates with a higher bar for bringing federal cases under the Voting Rights Act: proving discriminatory intent.

“That burden is prompting civil rights and voting groups to recalibrate their approach to challenging in court the raft of new restrictions that Republican-controlled legislatures have passed … No longer, they say, can they count on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to serve as a backstop for preventing racially discriminatory voting restrictions. …

“The high court gutted the central protection of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 decision, and on Thursday the court further limited the act’s reach in combating discriminatory laws, establishing strict new guidelines for proving the laws’ effects on voters of color and thus requiring litigants to clear the much higher bar of proving purposeful intent to discriminate.”

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

AT THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS — “‘We need you to stop the counting’: Records detail intense efforts by Trump allies to pressure Maricopa County supervisors,” by the Arizona Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez: “Then-President DONALD TRUMP tried to speak directly with the chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in the weeks after the November 2020 election as his allies sought to change the election results in a state he narrowly lost to Democrat Joe Biden. …

“On Nov. 13, hours after a late-evening ballot update from Maricopa County clinched Biden’s victory in Arizona, [state GOP Chair KELLI] WARD delivered a missive to [Supervisor CLINT] HICKMAN: ‘POTUS will probably be calling you.’ … Hickman’s phone rang weeks later, about 8:30 p.m. [Pacific] on New Year’s Eve … The White House switchboard wanted him to call back so he could talk to the president, he recalled in an interview with The Arizona Republic. Hickman did not return the call and later deleted that voicemail, he said.”

NYC ELECTION CHAOS — “Elections board staffer resigns in wake of counting snafu,” by Joe Anuta: “A Board of Elections staffer has resigned in the wake of Tuesday’s botched primary results. GLADYS FERNANDEZ — a BOE staff analyst assigned to the electronic voting department in Queens — put in her papers after the borough office failed to catch 135,000 test ballots that were erroneously included in the official primary results Tuesday, according to two sources with knowledge of the exit and board records.”

IS PENNSYLVANIA THE NEXT ARIZONA? — “Trump ally in Pennsylvania raises 2020 election audit plan,” by AP’s Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo

THE LATEST LGBTQ RIGHTS BATTLE — “‘This isn’t the Olympics’: GOP transgender laws head to court,” by Bianca Quilantan: “A slate of transgender athlete restrictions taking hold this week in conservative states has snowballed into the highest-profile LGBTQ rights battle of the year, fueling a culture war conflict that will ripple through the courts for months. New laws barring transgender girls and women from playing on teams that match their gender identity took effect Thursday in six states — statutes the Biden administration has openly challenged in court. …

“The Supreme Court has now punted on transgender bathroom cases twice since the landmark Bostock v. Clayton County ruling last summer — the decision Biden is leaning on. And two other circuits have issued rulings similar to the 4th Circuit, saying it is unconstitutional to bar transgender students from using the bathrooms that align with their gender identities. … But a patchwork of courts will now decide whether these circuit court precedents hold any bearing on transgender athletes cases just as students start trying out for fall sports.”

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

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:

“The Secret History Of Gavin McInnes,” by Adam Leith Gollner in Vanity Fair: “In the ’90s, he played punk rock and helped create Vice magazine. Five years ago, he founded a very different organization: the Proud Boys, the far-right group that came to personify the vilest tendencies of Trump’s America. A formerVice editor interviews one of our era’s most troubling extremists.”

“Instagram Influencer Hushpuppi’s Rise Was Allegedly Fueled by Cyber Scams,” by Evan Ratliff for Bloomberg: “Authorities say Ramon Abbas, aka Hushpuppi, perfected a simple internet scam and laundered millions of dollars. His past says a lot about digital swagger, and the kinds of stories that get told online.”

“Was the Lone Ranger Black? The Fight to Resurrect the Legacy of Bass Reeves,” by Texas Monthly’s Christian Wallace: “His almost superhuman exploits made him one of the West’s most feared lawmen. Today, the legendary deputy U.S. marshal is widely believed to be the real Lone Ranger. But his true legacy is even greater.”

“Attorney General Merrick Garland vs. Trump’s January 6 Mob,” by Andrew Rice for New York magazine: “Those who hoped he would prosecute January 6 with gusto have been bitterly disappointed.”

“The War on History Is a War on Democracy,” by Timothy Snyder in the NYT Magazine: “A scholar of totalitarianism argues that new laws restricting the discussion of race in American schools have dire precedents in Europe.”

“The Oral History of ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day,’” by Alan Siegel for The Ringer: “Three decades ago, James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Linda Hamilton joined forces again to make the biggest, baddest, most eye-popping sequel ever. Here’s the story of how the machines took over Hollywood.”

“The Rise and Fall of an Herbal Viagra Scammer,” by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling for The New Republic: “An internet huckster got rich selling a sex enhancement supplement named Stiff Nights. Then the FDA sampled his wares.”

“The Long, Surprising, and Not Totally Nerdy History of the Political Cocktail,” by Washingtonian’s Jessica Sidman: “Never mind the ‘Fauci Pouchy’ and the ‘Moscow Mueller.’ Politically themed tippling goes back to the early days of the republic. A timeline.”

— From the archives: “Governor Moonbeam’s Ray of Sunshine,” by Lloyd Grove, WaPo, April 3, 1992: “To understand Jacques Barzaghi — Jerry Brown’s campaign field manager, adman, confidant, clothing consultant and common scold — it is necessary to put aside the fact that much of his body is covered in tattoos depicting Zen Buddhist symbols and Tibetan mandalas.”

SPOTTED: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at Ice Cream Jubilee in Navy Yard. Pic

MEDIA MOVES — Ethan Barton will be a producer/reporter at Fox News. He previously was editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller News Foundation. Thomas Phippen will move up to be acting DCNF editor-in-chief.

STAFFING UP — The White House announced several new nominations: Rachel Jacobson as assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment, Jose Javier Rodriguez as assistant secretary of Labor for employment and training, Mallory Stewart as assistant secretary of State for verification and compliance, Chantale Wong as U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank, Amy Gutmann as ambassador to Germany, Jeffrey Hovenier as ambassador to Kosovo and Virginia Palmer as ambassador to Ghana.

TRANSITIONS — Hank Kilgore will be senior adviser to Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). He most recently was assistant VP of government affairs at CTIA. … Zivah Solomon is joining the progressive firm Bread & Roses Digital as a senior digital strategist. She previously was federal and initiatives manager for the South at ActBlue.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Playbook’s own Allie Bice … Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) … Julian AssangeKristen Morgante of Purple Strategies … Peter Sherman of DDC Advocacy … Nick Baldick of Hilltop Public Solutions … AFP’s Shaun Tandon … POLITICO’s Heidi Vogt Rina Shah … Washington Examiner’s Naomi Lim … CNN’s Lindy Royce-Bartlett … former Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) … Adam GoldbergAlicia CriscuoloKate McCartyMary YatrousisCameron MorabitoLally WeymouthDon “Stew” StewartBarbara Lee of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation … Gloria Allred

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

  • CBS

    “Face the Nation”: Jeff Zients … Surfside, Fla., Mayor Charles Burkett … Oregon Gov. Kate Brown … Utah Gov. Spencer Cox … Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) … Scott Gottlieb.

  • CNN

    “State of the Union”: Jeff Zients … House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) … Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson … Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

  • ABC

    “This Week”: Jeff Zients … West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice … Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller … Gayle Tzemach. Panel: Averi Harper, LZ Granderson, Mary Jordan and Molly Ball.

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday,” guest-anchored by Mike Emanuel: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) … Tom Frieden. Panel: Charles Hurt, Catherine Lucey and Juan Williams. Power Player: James Patterson.

  • NBC

    “Meet the Press,” with a special “Covid: Comeback and Challenge” report: Anthony Fauci … Seth Berkley … soundbites from Michael Hinojosa, Audrey Fix Schaefer and Brian Niccol. Panel: Audie Cornish, Adam Grant and Kate Snow.

  • Gray TV

    “Full Court Press,” with a special episode filmed in West Virginia about the opioid epidemic: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).

  • MSNBC

    “The Sunday Show”: Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) … Ruth Marcus … Michael Osterholm … Minnesota A.G. Keith Ellison … Gloria Avent-Kindred … Mitch Landrieu … Laurie Garrett.

  • CNN

    “Inside Politics”: Panel: Nancy Cook, Melanie Zanona, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Jeremy Diamond, Joan Biskupic and Oren Liebermann.

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