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BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Happy Wednesday morning.
Before Monday evening, when Politico scooped that the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was on the verge of being overturned by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, abortion was barely registering as a blip on the political radar.
The big, overwhelming issues for 2022 were the economy, inflation, Covid-19, crime, immigration and Ukraine, according to numerous polls. Economic concerns – driven by soaring gas, food and housing prices – were what Americans wanted Congress and President Joe Biden to address, and Democrats were getting clobbered over their failure to do so.
This was true despite the fact that it had been clear for six months that the Supreme Court was likely to dramatically limit or overrule Roe in the Mississippi case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor lamented during a Dec. 1 hearing. But Justice Samuel Alito, whose Feb. 10 draft opinion set off this week’s uproar, showed he and the rest of the high court’s conservative majority was ready to do so. “Can’t a decision be overruled because it was wrong when it was decided?” Alito suggested.
Here are some data points that help illustrate just how much of a second-tier issue abortion was for most voters heading into this week:
→ Only one Democrat running for Senate had aired a television ad mentioning abortion in 2022 — Morgan Harper in Ohio, according to an AdImpact analysis provided to Punchbowl News. Harper, a progressive activist, was crushed by Rep. Tim Ryan in Tuesday’s Senate Democratic primary.
→ Just 19 total ads have run in Senate races this year on the subject of abortion. The overwhelming number – 18 – were paid for by Republicans or conservative groups.
→ When Gallup asked respondents what they thought was the most important problem facing the United States today, fewer than half of one percent answered abortion in December 2021, January 2022 or February 2022. In March 2022, that number slipped to zero.
→ The AP-NORC pollsters selected 11 issue areas in December 2021 when surveying respondents on what problems they would like the government to work on in 2022. Abortion didn’t even make the list.
→ In our very own February Canvass survey of top Hill aides, just eight percent said abortion would be a top focus for Congress in 2022.
→ Biden barely mentioned the issue during his State of the Union address on March 1, giving it only three sentences. A bill to codify Roe (the Women’s Health Protection Act) garnered only 46 votes in the Senate on Feb. 28.
All that has changed now, however. The big question is by how much? And what will the final decision look like in the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban case at the center of the controversy? Can Democrats use the shock and anger felt by abortion rights supporters over the looming Roe ruling to turn around what’s been looking like a dismal cycle for them?
Senate Republicans and Democrats have competing views of the implications of this pending decision. We talked to both Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chairman of the NRSC, and Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the chair of the DSCC.
→ Scott told us that abortion may be an issue, but inflation, crime and the continuing problems at the U.S.-Mexico border will be top of mind for voters. “I think this is an important issue to many people, but so is inflation. So is crime. So is the border,” Scott said.
→ Peters put it this way: “When you take away women’s reproductive freedoms, that’s a motivating factor for people to get out to vote and Democrats are on the right side of the issue with a majority of the American people.”
Notably, you heard Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday try to get reporters to focus on the leak, not the substance of what was leaked. This is a process argument about the sanctity of the Supreme Court, which may be a worthwhile topic, but it pales in comparison to the implications of the looming decision.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the number three Senate Republican, argued that the bombshell disclosure doesn’t change the reality that most Americans are facing in the their lives every day, despite the importance of abortion as an issue. Here’s Barrasso:
“This was a ruling that was always going to come, whether it was a leak or not. What we hear about at home – all of us – is about inflation, the high cost of energy, the high cost of food, the high cost of everything. The fact is that people don’t trust the president to handle the major issue of their lives, which is the economy, the cost of living, and they’re falling further behind even if they get a raise.”
Yet contrast that to how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer talked about the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision. Schumer said he was “infuriated” by what he’d seen in Alito’s draft document. Schumer was also irate at his GOP colleagues who voted for a conservative court and at the conservative justices for what he considered the faulty logic laid out in the tentative ruling.
“One of the most horrible decisions that looks like it’s coming from the Supreme Court, in line with some of the worst decisions throughout the court’s history that they caused and they can’t own up to it. They’re afraid.
“So the bottom line is, we know that history is on our side. And we know the politics is on our side. And you can be sure, in 2022, this is going to be an issue all across the country. And Republicans will not be able to run away from it.”
Schumer’s Senate Democrats locked in tough reelection bids see the leaked Supreme Court draft decision as a game-changer for their campaigns.
→ New Hampshire: Sen. Maggie Hassan, speaking at the Emily’s List gala Tuesday, framed 2022 as the “most important election of our lifetimes.” Here’s more from Hassan, who normally dodges reporters at the Capitol:
“On the ballot will be a woman’s fundamental right to be a full and equal citizen in our democracy. This is a fight not just to defend reproductive health care — but a woman’s right to control her own destiny. And it’s a fight we must win.”
“New Hampshire is one of the most pro-choice states in the country,” Hassan spokesperson Kevin Donohoe said, noting that Hassan had conducted seven local interviews about reproductive rights on Tuesday. “This is the biggest story of the day here.”
→ Nevada: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s campaign sees abortion as a winning issue in the Silver State. In 1990, a majority of Nevadans voted to codify Roe v. Wade in the state.
Cortez Masto’s likely general election opponent, Adam Laxalt, signed the state onto anti-Roe amicus briefs as attorney general. In a statement Tuesday, Laxalt cheered the leaked draft decision but acknowledged the right to an abortion was “settled law” in Nevada.
→ Arizona: In a state that has recently enacted a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks, polling from September 2021 shows a large majority of residents lean pro-choice. Sen. Mark Kelly is a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, while his potential GOP opponents have openly opposed abortion rights this cycle.
“What I’m focused on is women’s rights, not an election in November,” Kelly told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s up to the Senate to do something on women’s rights, and Congress in general. We can codify what Roe v. Wade did with regard to reproductive rights, we can do that with legislation. I hope we do it.”
The Senate is likely to vote on a bill to codify Roe next week. It is expected to fail, as it does not have 60 votes to clear a GOP filibuster. And Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have said they won’t back eliminating the filibuster to pass the bill.
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
President Biden’s agreement to send more U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe will help our allies achieve key energy security and decarbonization goals. Another breakthrough is the European Commission’s recognition of natural gas as sustainable for the purposes of investing. Without question, America is the best-prepared nation to help Europe and others meet energy and climate needs amid international conflict. The administration should authorize more LNG infrastructure to match its commitments. Learn more here.
Trump gets his man in Ohio as J.D. Vance wins
J.D. Vance, the author and one-time vocal anti-Trumper, triumphed in the GOP primary for Senate in Ohio Tuesday, winning by nine percentage points in the five-way race.
This is a massive boon for former President Donald Trump’s political organization, which backed Vance in a field that included former State Treasurer Josh Mandel, former Republican Party Chair Jane Timken and state Sen. Matt Dolan.
Vance won handily with 32.2% of the vote, according to the AP. Mandel had 23.9% of the vote and Dolan clocked in with 23.3%. This is Mandel’s second statewide defeat. He ran in 2012 against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and lost by six percentage points. Mandel dropped out of the 2018 race before the primary.
Vance will face Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) in the November general election.
In other results:
→ Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine trounced former Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) in the primary for the governorship. DeWine won by 20 percentage points, 48.1% to Renacci’s 28%. Former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley won the Democratic nomination.
→ Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) easily won her primary against Nina Turner. Turner had the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). But Brown had the backing of the D.C. establishment, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose members previously backed Turner. Brown won by 33 percentage points.
→ J.R. Majewski, who ran an ad where he toted a gun while saying he’d do “whatever it takes” to return America back to its “former glory,” will take on longtime Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). Kaptur is the longest-serving woman in House history, but her district became far more conservative following the latest round of redistricting. Kaptur is bidding to become the longest-tenured woman lawmaker in congressional history. She needs to be reelected to pass former Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) for that honor.
Fed to increase interest rates today. But what’s next?
Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell’s highly anticipated press conference this afternoon is going to attract a lot of scrutiny across financial centers worldwide. The 2:30 p.m. presser will come after the Federal Open Markets Committee announces the first half-point increase in interest rates in more than two decades. The big question is how high will the Fed go in the coming months?
Powell will also announce how the Fed is going to reduce its $9 trillion asset portfolio, which has roughly doubled in size since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both these moves will have a big impact on the U.S. and world economy. The U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter, to the surprise of many economists, and some analysts are worried that the Fed’s efforts to tame inflation could tip the country into a recession. 2022 is proving to be a tough one on Wall Street, especially for tech stocks, which are going through their roughest period since 2008.
All this comes as Powell’s nomination to another term as Fed chair remains hung up in the Senate. The two parties are squabbling over President Joe Biden’s nomination of Michigan State professor Lisa Cook to the Board of Governors. Cook would be the first Black woman in the post, but Republicans have attacked her as “too radical” and are filibustering the nomination. Democrats, in turn, don’t want to move Powell’s nomination, or that of Davidson College professor Philip Jefferson. Both these picks have wide bipartisan support.
The stalemate – which has been further complicated by Democratic absences in the Senate thanks to Covid – won’t be resolved until next week at the earliest, key senators told us on Tuesday.
We’ll also see the latest inflation data next week as the Labor Department will release the April CPI report on May 11.
→ NYT: “The Fed Is Set to Pull Back Economic Help Rapidly. Is It Too Late?” by Jeanna Smialek
→ WSJ: “Fed’s Message on Interest-Rate Path, Destination Will Be Scrutinized,” by Nick Timiraos
→ Bloomberg: “Fed to Tighten With Big Hike, Asset Runoff,” by Steve Matthews
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
Cleaner burning natural gas reduces CO2 emissions at home and bolsters energy security abroad. The Biden administration should greenlight more LNG infrastructure. Learn more here.
→ Here’s a pretty brutal ad targeting Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.). The spot shows police footage of Cawthorn getting pulled over. It also briefly features an image of the first-term lawmaker’s crotch allegedly being touched by one of his staffers, and another of him wearing women’s clothing. The ad mostly focuses on Cawthorn’s opposition to banning Russian oil imports to the United States, and asserts that his position is helping Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cawthorn’s primary is coming up. He’s facing a vibrant challenge from State Sen. Chuck Edwards, who has the backing of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
Approving more LNG infrastructure is pro-environment and pro-energy security. Learn more.
10:15 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
11:30: Biden, the first lady, Vice President Kamala Harris and the second gentleman will host Team USA at the White House.
Noon: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and other Senate Republicans will talk about the economy.
2 p.m.: Biden will speak about “economic growth, jobs, and deficit reduction.”
2:30 p.m.: Jen Psaki will brief.
3:30 p.m.: Biden and Harris will get their weekly economic briefing.
→ “North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile Ahead of Yoon’s Inauguration,” by Choe Sang-Hun in Seoul
→ “Receiving McCarthy at Mar-a-Lago, Trump calls him ‘speaker,’” by Maggie Haberman
→ “CIA instructs Russians on how to share secrets with the spy agency,” by Shane Harris
→ “Elon Musk Plans to Take Twitter Public a Few Years After Buyout,” by Cara Lombardo and Eliot Brown
→ “‘It’s a really scary time’: Abortion rights protesters rally across US after Supreme Court draft leak,” by Ryan W. Miller, Ella Lee, Trevor Hughes, Celina Tebor and Claire Thornton
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
Much of the world’s work to realistically address climate risk and tackle climate change is already underway and accelerating right here in America. In fact, our emergence as the world’s top oil and natural gas producer is occurring while emissions are declining.
This trend is a nod to the widespread and growing use of cleaner natural gas in the power generation sector, as well as the embrace of technologies to reduce the industry’s overall footprint. Energy producers are taking meaningful steps to improve our environment and enable America to be a positive force in difficult times as increased shipments of U.S. LNG mobilize in response to geopolitical turmoil in Europe.
Innovation and technology have allowed American natural gas and oil producers to get real results for the environment and for energy security at home and abroad. Learn more here.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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The Canvass Special Report
Analysis of how sentiment on Capitol Hill evolved this year. And what senior aides believe will happen in 2022.Check it out
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