With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
WILL THE SENATE SAY ‘I DO’? — It would have been unthinkable just a few months ago, let alone a decade ago, but senators of both parties are increasingly optimistic they can overcome a filibuster and pass a bill enshrining same-sex and interracial marriage into law as soon as this month.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER told reporters a same-sex marriage vote “will happen on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.”
All 50 Democrats are ready to vote yes, while Sens. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-Wis.) and SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine) are leading the effort to corral the requisite 10 Republicans. Two Senate aides close to the negotiations tell Playbook that Baldwin pulled Sens. Collins, THOM TILLIS (R-N.C.) and KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) into her office Wednesday to organize the final whip effort — reviewing whom they’d already spoken to and discussing whom else they might target.
Those aides tell Playbook that a federal same-sex marriage law is within grasp for two big reasons. For one, the overturning of Roe v. Wade cast new doubt on the assumption that same-sex marriage is, in fact, settled law — something Sen. ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio) acknowledged in a Fox News interview Wednesday evening.
“In my view, it’s the appropriate role of Congress to speak here and to be sure … we are ensuring that people who are in relationships already aren’t at risk of losing the ability to move from state to state,” he told BRET BAIER, predicting the bill’s passage. “Now the Supreme Court decision came out counter to that, so all this legislation does is, it says, let’s just go with the status quo.”
The other big factor, the aides said, is Baldwin — a low-key figure in the high-ego confines of the Senate, but one who has received high praise from both Republicans and Democrats for staying focused on the policy and avoiding culture-war politics.
“Sen. Baldwin has been both persistent and patient. She is working well with the Republicans in leading this effort,” a GOP source close to the negotiations told Playbook. “The core group believes they can get this passed.”
But there are potential land mines:
— Religious protections. Some conservatives want an amendment to ensure “that the bill wouldn’t affect religious liberty or conscience protections,” our Marianne LeVine reports. Collins and Baldwin are working on tweaks to be unveiled in the coming days; one aide called it a “clarifying” amendment that would make existing protections more explicit.
— Procedural snafus. When some Democrats floated the possibility of putting the bill into the government funding stopgap that must pass before a Sept. 30 deadline, senators of both parties bristled — including Baldwin, who is insisting on a standalone vote. The ride-along plan seems to have fizzled for now, but moving the bill on a separate track has its own pitfalls, such as …
— A ticking clock. There are only 14 more session days before senators leave D.C. to hit the campaign trail. And while Schumer and Senate aides, eager to seize on the present momentum, are signaling there will be a vote before then, there is little margin for error — especially with the appropriations deadline looming. Any ongoing fight over the bill text could spell delay — and possibly doom.
THESE PICTURES OF YOU — The unveiling of former President BARACK OBAMA and first lady MICHELLE OBAMA’s official White House portraits was both a chance to commemorate the historic presidency they’d ushered in and also served as a stark reminder of the differences with the current era, Eugene and Sam Stein write.
The East Room event felt like a family reunion. Former Obama aides mingled with colleagues who now staff the current president. Former Cabinet members exchanged knowing glances, handshakes and hugs.
But behind the celebratory feel was an inescapable contrast. The Obama years ended just six years ago. But, politically, it’s been an eternity. The youthful vibe has been replaced by something older, less hip, more traditional.
Beyond that, however, was a more serious undercurrent to Wednesday’s affair. The weighty issues that the Obamas confronted have been overtaken by even graver matters, as the former first lady appeared to reference.
“Traditions like this matter, not just for those of us who hold these positions, but for everyone participating in and watching our democracy,” Michelle Obama said. “[The people] make their voices heard with their vote. We hold an inauguration to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Those of us lucky enough to serve work, as Barack said, as hard as we can for as long as we can, as long as the people choose to keep us here. And once our time is up, we move on.”
The relationship between JOE BIDEN and Obama has not always been the bromance the two men have sought to portray. Long-reported tensions between the two go back years. But there were no signs of tension at Wednesday’s event, which centered on the theme of one tight-knit family, fused together by eight years in the political trenches.
“We grew to be family for each other, through our highs and our lows — a family from different backgrounds brought together by a shared value set,” Biden said. “I imagine there may have been other relationships like this. None comes to mind.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN is delivering a major speech at a Ford facility in Detroit this afternoon. Her remarks will expound on an agenda of “modern supply-side economics” that has delivered “expanded productive capacity of our economy; increased resilience to global shocks; and greater fairness for workers and businesses,” according to excerpts of her remarks.
“Now, with an economy at full employment, we are uniquely suited for a supply-side expansion that delivers sustainable growth and reduces inequality,” she will say.
— Related read: Yellen may be one of the stars of the Biden administration, but so far she’s kept a low profile when it comes to selling the White House’s economic plans. With the election two months away, that’s about to change, Kate Davidson writes this morning.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
THE DEBATE DEBATE — Facing mounting questions about his health following a May stroke, JOHN FETTERMAN agreed to debate MEHMET OZ in the closely watched Keystone State Senate race, telling our colleague Holly Otterbein in Philadelphia that it was “always our intent to do that.” Fetterman “declined to specify which debate he will attend or provide an exact date for it, though he said it will ‘be sometime in the middle to end of October’ on a ‘major television station’ in the state,” Holly reports, also noting that Fetterman’s campaign is still discussing accommodations for his auditory processing problems.
— “The Senate debate season is slow in 2022. There’s a reason for that,” by Natalie Allison
CASH DASH — We’ve got a pair of stories up this morning digging into the diverging donor classes behind each party as we enter the home stretch of the midterm season:
— First, for Republicans: A POLITICO analysis of millions of GOP donation records shows that while Trump is siphoning some money from the rest of the party, Republicans have a much bigger problem: Their online donor base is shrinking, not growing. The numbers: “Campaign finance data show that in the first half of this year, the number of people giving federal contributions to Republican candidates and committees through WinRed — the GOP’s widely used donation processing platform — fell to around 913,000 down from roughly 956,000 contributors during the six months prior,” Jessica Piper reports.
— And for Democrats: A new Democratic donor group, called “The Next 50,” is coming onto the scene ahead of November, aiming to raise cash specifically for candidates under the age of 50, Elena Schneider reports. The group comprises 17,000 donors and has already raised $3 million for the cycle, and is “rolling out 22 new endorsements this week for candidates running in the midterms, details of which were first shared with POLITICO.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — The Fetterman and MANDELA BARNES campaigns are launching a joint fundraising effort called Fight to 51, which aims to solicit money together across digital platforms as the two lieutenant governors both angle to be Democrats’ 51st vote in the Senate. The campaign will include joint email campaigns, digital ads and promotional videos.
FRAUD FILES — NYT’s Michael Wines has a deep dive investigation into voter fraud prosecutions over the last five years: “A review by The New York Times of some 400 voting-fraud charges filed nationwide since 2017 underscores what critics of fraud crackdowns have long said: Actual prosecutions are blue-moon events, and often netted people who didn’t realize they were breaking the law.”
HMM — “Karen Bass got a USC degree for free. It’s now pulling her into a federal corruption case,” by L.A. Times’ Matt Hamilton: “Federal prosecutors have made no indication that Bass is under a criminal investigation. But prosecutors have now declared that Bass’ scholarship and her dealings with USC are ‘critical’ to their bribery case and to their broader portrayal of corruption in the university’s social work program.”
DOJ’S DILEMMA — The Justice Department this week is wrestling with “whether to appeal all, part or none of a court order requiring it to turn over to an independent arbiter materials seized,” NYT’s Glenn Thrush and Alan Feuer write. The details: “Over the past several days, senior officials at the department have been huddling to game out options. They range from the relatively safe step of filing a motion with Judge [AILEEN] CANNON, who was appointed as a federal judge in Florida by Mr. Trump, to reconsider all or part of her ruling; to requesting that the court limit the time and scope of the special master’s review; to the riskier move of appealing the ruling up to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, which is stocked with no fewer than six Trump appointees.”
DEMS’ DILEMMA —NYT’s Luke Broadwater and Michael Schmidt write that Democrats are exploring a variety of ways that they could bar Trump from seeking office again, “including drafting new legislation and readying a flurry of lawsuits seeking to use an obscure clause in the Constitution to brand him an insurrectionist,” a gambit that they note is part of an “extraordinarily long-shot effort” as the prospect of Trump running for reelection gets closer.
TRUMP TALES —Rolling Stone’s Adam Rawnsley and Asawin Suebsaeng have the latest report on the final days inside the Trump White House and the scramble that ensued, writing that Trump told aides that they “needed to preserve certain Russia-related documents to keep his enemies from destroying them.” Trump and then-White House officials “pushed to declassify these so-called ‘Russiagate’ documents, believing they would expose a ‘Deep State’ plot against him.”
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Why finding a special master for the Trump Mar-a-Lago documents won’t be simple,” by CNN’s Tierney Sneed and Katie Bo Lillis
THE WHITE HOUSE
HAPPENING TODAY — Biden is planning to host a call with U.S. allies to discuss the “next steps in support of Ukraine against Russia’s invasion,” per Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove, Brian Platt and Jennifer Jacobs.
VEEP FILES — “Harris to lead funeral delegation for Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe,” by CNN’s Jasmine Wright: “Harris will be in Asia from September 25 to 29, first traveling to Tokyo, Japan, then making a second stop in Seoul, South Korea. … A source familiar with the planning told CNN that Harris is expected to meet with both Japan’s Prime Minister FUMIO KISHIDA and South Korea’s President YOON SUK YEOL.”
NEW JOHN HARRIS COLUMN — “The People Who Said Biden Isn’t Smart Are Looking a Bit Dumb”: “‘Good luck is what is left over after intelligence and effort have combined at their best,’ said baseball legend BRANCH RICKEY. ‘Luck is the residue of design.’ … Biden is now belatedly passing the Rickey test — smart and lucky are reinforcing each other, as shown in recent polls. In particular, there are five strategic insights that were missing from his early presidency on clear display in his recent revival.”
WHY CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS — Though they’ve had one of the worst relationships in modern political history, it’s likely the Biden administration and House GOP will have to find a way to work together next year. Jordain Carney and Sarah Ferris dig into what that delicate dance might look like: “While the president has maintained a better relationship with Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL, the GOP leader in the lower chamber has repeatedly shown that he’s determined not to hand Biden any victories. Biden has also only spoken on the phone with [KEVIN] McCARTHY once during his presidency, according to a person familiar with their discussions.”
The GOP view: “POLITICO spoke with 10 House Republicans ranging from rank-and-file members to chairs-in-waiting, nearly all of whom described having little outreach or no contact with the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. And it’s hardly just McCarthy. Several House Republicans came up empty when pressed who, if anyone, in their conference had the sort of built-in relationship that Biden enjoys not only with McConnell but other GOP senators, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins.”
IMMIGRATION FILES — A record number of migrants have died at the southern border this fiscal year, according to DHS figures reported by CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez. “Since October 1, which marks the start of the fiscal year, there have been 748 deaths, a Homeland Security official told CNN, with a month still left to go in the fiscal year. That’s up from 557 southwest border deaths during fiscal year 2021, the previous record.”
FED UP — “Fed on Path for Another 0.75-Point Interest-Rate Lift After Powell’s Inflation Pledge,” by WSJ’s Nick Timiraos
NEWS YOU CAN USE — “4 things to know about the bivalent booster campaign rollout,” by David Lim and Katherine Ellen Foley: “The latest efforts come as CDC-reviewed modeling projections show that if Americans take the updated Covid shots at the same rate as the annual flu shot, as many as 9,000 lives could be spared and 100,000 hospitalizations could be avoided.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
WOWZA — “Police arrest county official in reporter’s stabbing death,” by the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Briana Erickson, David Ferrara and Glenn Puit: “Less than a day after asking for the public’s help in identifying a suspect in the stabbing death of Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter JEFF GERMAN, police arrested Clark County Public Administrator ROBERT TELLES on Wednesday on suspicion of murder, Sheriff JOE LOMBARDO said.
“Hours earlier, Las Vegas police interviewed Telles and searched his home. By 6 p.m. Wednesday, police had returned in tactical gear and were surrounding the home while Telles remained inside. About 30 minutes later, he was wheeled out of the home on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance.
“The morning search marked a stunning development in the police investigation because it indicated for the first time that the killing might be related to German’s work exposing public wrongdoing. German’s investigation of Telles this year contributed to the Democrat’s primary election loss, and German was working on a potential follow-up story about Telles before he was killed.” Video, via LVRJ’s Brett Clarkson … Another video
JUST POSTED — Four people were killed and three injured in a shooting spree in Memphis, Tenn., Wednesday, reports WSJ’s Michael Wright. A 19-year-old suspect has been arrested. “The assailant committed crimes at at least eight separate locations, including a carjacking at gunpoint, [Memphis Police Chief CERELYN DAVIS] said. Some of the actions were streamed on Facebook Live, she said.”
Capitol Police officers helped a woman deliver a baby in the front seat of her car near the Hart Senate Office Building.
Kara Swisher is launching a new podcast with N.Y. Mag.
Brian McGrory is stepping down as editor of the Boston Globe.
Peacockreleased a trailer for “Shadowland,” a six-part series “revealing how conspiracy theories can disrupt family, friends, and a nation.”
A day care center for the children of Congress members and staffers had a rat problem this summer.
IN MEMORIAM — “Anne Garrels, long time foreign correspondent for NPR, dies at 71,” by NPR’s Lynn Neary: “At NPR, Garrels was known as a passionate reporter willing to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice if the story required it. She was also a warm and generous friend to many. When she arrived at NPR in 1988, she already had a lot of experience under her belt — including 10 years in television news at ABC, where she was bureau chief in both Moscow and Central America.”
— “Christopher Ogden, who for decades was a senior journalist for Time Magazine, and author of several books, died August 27, at hospice in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was 77-years-old. … Mr. Ogden was an international correspondent, first for the UPI in London and later in the USSR, followed by a lengthy career with Time Magazine where he was chief international correspondent and columnist.” Read the full obituary shared by Ogden’s family
SPOTTED: Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan lunching on Wednesday with Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg at the Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt.
NEW NOMINEES — The White House announced several new nominations, including Jennifer Adams as ambassador to Cape Verde and Nicole Theriot as ambassador to Guyana.
TRANSITIONS — Janelle Jones is now chief economist at SEIU. She previously was the chief economist for the Labor Department. … Lawrence Muir is now partner at Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig. He retains his role as CEO of the Muir Group, and is a Trump ONDCP alum. … Jeremy Konyndyk from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the senior Deputy Operations official and Hank Tomlinson from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the Deputy Operations Official to fight monkeypox.
ENGAGED — Andrew Hanna, legislative and policy analyst for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Olive Eisdorfer, a third-year law student at the University of Virginia Law School, got engaged in Crete during the August recess. The two first met in 2016 via Tinder while Andrew was interning for POLITICO and Olive was an undergraduate student at The George Washington University. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) … Axios’ Alayna Treene … Purple Strategies’ Steve McMahon … BerlinRosen’s Jonathan Rosen … Richard Cullen … Sharon Páez of Potomac Waves Media, Shatter and Hilltop Public Solutions … Zack Ford … POLITICO’s Jeremy White, Arianna Santana and Tara Gnewikow … Alexis Marks Mosher of Apple … Gabby Deutch … White House’s Eduardo Cisneros … Charlotte Ivancic … Jaime Lennon of Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s (D-Md.) office … Mike Danylak … Ali Pardo of the House GOP Conference … J.D. Durkin … Jess Tocco of A10 Associates … Airlines for America’s Marli Collier … Michael Johns … Lenore Cho … former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis … former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) … E.W. Scripps’ Samantha Osborne Reynolds … former NEC Director Al Hubbard … NBC’s Maura Barrett … Brendan Kownacki … Michael Wasser of the Department of Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (36) … Alexander Szarka
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