House progressives balk at police funding bills

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Good morning, Early Birds. Leigh Ann will interview Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) about the chips and technology bill today at 4:10 p.m. Eastern for Across the Aisle on Washington Post Live.  Thanks for waking up with us. Tips: earlytips@washpost.com.

In today’s edition … Covid threatens to wreak havoc on Democrats’ agenda ahead of recess … Biden meets with a South Korean tycoon … What we’re watching: Trump returns to Washington … Biden moves to reinstate health protections for LGBTQ Americans … but first …

On the Hill

House progressives balk at police funding bills

House progressives are sounding the alarm about a series of bills that would increase funding for local law enforcement, arguing they risk alienating and angering Democratic base voters three months ahead of the midterm elections. 

House Democrats plan to bring the bills to the floor later this week at the request of moderate Democrats to blunt political attacks by Republicans that Democrats are soft on crime and want to “defund the police.” The bills are also an attempt to bolster Democrats’ bona fides on public safety as voters are more worried about crime than they have been since 2016, according to Gallup. 

But progressives and their voters have been highly critical of additional funding for law enforcement without new policies governing policing practices following the killings in recent years of Black Americans in high-profile cases involving allegations and convictions of excessive force and the mistreatment of communities of color. They have asked Democratic leadership to reconsider putting the bills on the floor, arguing that it will suppress Democratic turnout in the midterms and risk dividing the party. 

The lawmakers are taking issue, in particular, with two bills that would provide additional funding for police without any new policing policies attached, including a grant program to hire additional police officers from Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and a second measure from Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) to provide grants to police departments with less than 200 officers. 

  • “Progressives know that communities across the country are concerned about public safety, and that frontliners in particular are eager to see Congress move on this issue,” a senior progressive Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy told The Early. “That’s why we’ve advocated for legislation — including bills introduced by frontliners — that would unite the Democratic Caucus, and that Democrats across the spectrum can support.”

Some civil rights groups have also raised concerns. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights sent a letter to Democratic leadership Monday criticizing the additional police funding without requiring oversight and accountability measures.

“We urge you not to take up any legislation that perpetrates these harmful realities and doubles down on the broken and discriminatory criminalization-first approach to public safety,” Maya Wiley, the group’s president and chief executive, wrote.

A proposal to overhaul policing tactics that passed the House last year died in the Senate, which was a major disappointment to Democrats who wanted police reform to be a key achievement this Congress.

Absent police reform, President Biden invoked executive orders around policing in May to increase accountability and transparency in policing, but last week the president repeated his call for Congress to provide funding to hiring of 100,000 new officers. Some civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, encouraged the president to “focus on appropriate alternatives to policing and on creating a public safety system that centers the protection of civil and human rights.” 

Democratic leadership wants to help frontline Democrats who have the greatest chance of losing in an environment that seems more hospitable to Republicans — while also daring Republicans to vote against extra funding for the police. Now they are faced with warnings from progressives that the bills will hurt the party’s chances this November by scaring away loyal voters.

The progressives do support three bills in the package, including one by Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) and another by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) that would invest in community-based violence reduction and provide grants to beef up mental health response teams during emergency calls. 

Related: House Democratic leadership is moving forward with an assault weapons ban, bringing it to the House Rules Committee on Wednesday. Democratic leaders, however, still haven’t decided if and when it could receive a vote. It’s unclear if it has the votes to pass. Leaders are contemplating combining the assault weapons ban with the public safety bills, but no decision has been made. 

Covid threatens to wreak havoc on Democrats’ agenda ahead of recess

The Senate was forced to delay a vote on the $280 billion chips manufacturing, technology and science funding bill Monday night because of too many absences due to covid and weather, leaving the chamber short of the 60 votes necessary to advance the measure. 

Thunderstorms along the East Coast delayed flights into Washington, forcing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to delay the vote until 11 a.m. today.

But covid is also a factor and is threatening once again to wreak havoc on Senate Democrats’ best laid plans. 

Three senators are currently out with covid: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. V.), Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) is still out after hip surgery, putting into sharp focus once again how treacherously thin the Democrats’ majority is. Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) announced Monday night she’ll return from her covid isolation on today. 

Next week is especially precarious because Senate Democrats are hoping to move their prescription drug bill. Even though they would only need 50 votes for passage, because they are moving it through the fast-track budget reconciliation process, any absence could prove problematic.

As soon as they have the votes, Democrats also aim to vote on legislation to provide federal protections to same-sex couples but covid could hamper those plans, too. 

This is not the first time Senate Democrats have had to delay their plans due to covid. In April they had to delay voting on two critical nominations, including Lisa D. Cook to be a governor on the Federal Reserve, because two senators and Vice President Harris — who serves as tiebreak in the 50-50 Senate — contracted covid. 

Those absences delayed but didn’t derail the Senate’s business. But now the Senate is running out of time. Senators are scheduled to leave town for August recess at the end of next week and they hope to pass bills by then that will impress voters back home as they use the break to campaign.

At the White House

South Korea’s SK Group to invest $22B in U.S. supply chain

Happening today: The South Korean conglomerate SK Group is expected to announce a $22 billion investment in American manufacturing ahead of Biden’s virtual meeting this afternoon with Chey Tae-won, the company’s chairman, according to the White House. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will join Biden in the meeting.

The administration will also announce that it’s making $1.75 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden signed last year available to retrofit train and subway stations so they’re accessible to people with disabilities — an announcement timed to coincide with the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It estimates that there are more than 900 such stations.

Still, it’s unclear how far the money will go toward closing the gap. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority pledged in 2019 to spent $5.2 billion — three times the amount that Biden is making available — to add elevators to only 70 stations.

“It will be difficult to try to project how many stations will be able to be funded” because each station is different, the Federal Transit Administration’s Nuria Fernandez told reporters. “The costs will vary depending on what type of retrofitting will be required.”

Biden moves to reinstate health protections for LGBTQ Americans

Another post-Trump rule change: “The Biden administration on Monday afternoon moved to restore protections for LGBTQ Americans and other groups seeking health services that were struck down during the Trump era, saying that the rule would also cover pregnant women seeking health care services, including abortion,” our colleagues Dan Diamond and Rachel Roubein report.

  • “The proposed rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to clarify that discrimination on the basis of sex includes decisions regarding ‘pregnancy termination.’”
  • “Health-care organizations that receive federal funding would also be barred from discriminating against gender transitions and other services that have increasingly become the target of state legislative battles and litigation. Officials also stressed that the new federal anti-discrimination language covers a patient’s sexual orientation and gender identity.”

What we’re watching

Former president Donald Trump is returning to Washington for the first time since he left the White House 18 months ago to headline a summit organized by America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit led by former members of his administration. He’ll speak at 3 p.m. Others addressing the gathering include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and an array of other Republican lawmakers and Trump allies.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s investigations subcommittee, meanwhile, will hold a hearing today as part of its investigation into what Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), the subcommittee’s chairman, described as “corruption, abuse and misconduct” at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. The committee subpoenaed Michael Carvajal, the outgoing director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to testify after he declined to appear voluntarily.

Finally, WNBA star Brittney Griner returns to court today, where her defense team will continue to make its case for leniency. Griner will take the stand tomorrow and face cross-examination from the prosecution. The defense will rest its case following her cross-examination.

Eight-hundred Jan. 6 suspects, visualized: As of mid-July, more than 200 people who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have been sentenced, according to a Post analysis of court filings, case documents and other public information about those charged and sentenced.

Early reeeads

What’s Joe Biden’s plan to bring back the choco taco???

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

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