SCOOP: BOEHNER JUMPS INTO GOP PRIMARY — Alex Isenstadt writes in: “Former House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER is slated to be the special guest at a Monday afternoon Zoom fundraiser for Rep. ANTHONY GONZALEZ (R-Ohio), according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO. Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans to vote for former President DONALD TRUMP’S impeachment, and he’s now facing the repercussions: a primary challenge from the right by MAX MILLER, a former Trump White House side. Trump hosted a fundraiser for Miller at Mar-a-Lago this week.”
This will be the second fundraiser in a week headlined by a former House speaker for a GOP incumbent targeted by Trump. On Thursday, PAUL RYAN was the special guest at an event in Alexandria for Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican who’s drawn Trump’s wrath with her very public criticism of him since Jan. 6.
The competing events pitting staples of the old Republican guard like Boehner and Ryan against Trump put the spotlight on House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY. It’s the leader’s job to protect incumbents, and McCarthy has said he intends to help all his members win reelection. But it still remains to be seen how active he’ll be in helping the 10 black sheep raise money and turn out their voters.
VOTING RIGHTS LATEST — “Biden urges Congress to pass election reform in wake of Georgia voting restrictions,” by Ben Leonard: “‘It has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency. They passed the law saying you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote? You don’t need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can’t provide water for people about to vote? Give me a break.’”
— Trump countered with a statement praising the new Georgia law: “Too bad these changes could not have been done sooner!” he said.
The NYT’s Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein write that the “fight over voting rights is emerging as one of the defining conflicts of the Biden era,” and offer a preview of how it will play out in the coming months: “Civil rights groups immediately challenged the Georgia law in federal court, backed by prominent Democratic voting rights lawyers. Several Black leaders described the legal skirmishes to come as an existential fight for representation, saying the law clearly puts a target on Black and brown voters. Protests against voting restrictions unfolded this week in state capitols like Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, and more lawsuits are expected.”
The Boston Globe reports that the state of Georgia could face a backlash that extends beyond skirmishing politicians into sports: “The 91st MLB All-Star Game is scheduled to be played in Atlanta this July. But on Thursday, in the wake of voting-restriction legislation signed into law by the Georgia governor, the executive director of the MLB Players Association said the players are ready to discuss moving their annual midsummer exhibition out of Georgia.
“Players are very much aware” of the Georgia voting bill, which places restrictions on voting that some believe will make it particularly difficult for Black voters to reach the polls, said Tony Clark in an interview with the Globe. “As it relates to the All-Star Game, we have not had a conversation with the league on that issue. If there is an opportunity to, we would look forward to having that conversation.”
— “Meanwhile, the National Black Justice Coalition … has urged the PGA to pull the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club next month. He also encouraged golfers to not play the event,” notes Newsweek.
And NYT’s Carl Hulse reports that Democratic activists want the party to go all-in by including D.C. statehood in whatever voting rights bill they try to pass. “Some backers of statehood say that they see the more comprehensive legislation as the most expedient route and that the current Democratic effort to protect minority voting rights would fall short if residents of the nation’s capital ultimately lacked representation. …
“The call to include statehood in broad Democratic legislation that would institute fundamental changes in the nation’s conduct of elections and campaigns is a strategic shift for the activists. They had coalesced behind an independent measure that would make the District of Columbia the 51st state and entitle residents who pay federal taxes to voting representation in the House and Senate. The change in tactics is not endorsed by Senate backers of the legislation, who still see a separate statehood bill as the best approach for both statehood and the voting rights measure.”
Happy Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook, where I’m doing double backflips because it’s congressional recess time. I’m your host this weekend — but I’ll also be out for the next two weeks working on my book. So if you have a news tip, document or scoop, be sure to reach out to my colleagues: Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
BIDEN’S SATURDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS have nothing on their public schedules.
SENATE PRIVILEGE — “GOP senator flashes congressional pin after car was pulled over by Capitol Police, sources say,” by Manu Raju: “It was Thursday afternoon before a Senate recess was about to begin, and senators were in a hurry — especially Marsha Blackburn. As senators bolted from the chamber after the week’s final vote to catch their afternoon flights, the Tennessee Republican hopped in a waiting car along with an aide and made her way down Constitution Avenue. But the car was pulled over by US Capitol Police.
“Blackburn then jumped out of the car, identified herself as a senator and showed the officer her congressional pin, according to a text message and a source familiar with the matter. The officer then let the car go. US Capitol Police says it has no record of the incident.”
— WaPo’s James Hohmann with the quick take: “This is emblematic of why so many everyday Americans dislike career politicians like Marsha Blackburn. The mentality seems to be that the rules apply to all of us but not her/them.”
BERNIE SPIES AN OPENING — “Sanders pushes Medicare expansion in Dems’ next big bill,” by Burgess Everett: “The Vermont Independent is urging his party to force Medicare to enter into negotiations with drug companies and use that revenue to pay for a huge expansion of the entitlement program. Sanders, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, is aiming to lower Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 55 or 60 years old and expand the program to cover dental work, glasses and eye surgeries as well as hearing aids.
“Those major changes would be rolled into a massive infrastructure bill Democrats are starting to craft that’s likely to include … tax policy as well. … Senior Democrats say they are confident that issues like health care would pass muster under the Senate budget rules.”
— Sanders isn’t the only progressive working this angle. Congressional Progressive Caucus leader PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-Wash.) has also been privately pushing the White House to address health care in the next reconciliation package. A well-connected Hill source told us early on — around Inauguration Day — that Biden was not interested in tackling a health care overhaul. But the left is riding high right now and feeling bullish about pressuring him to stick to his campaign promise to expand Medicare and pass a public option.
“We want to see those agreements followed through on in the ‘Build Back Better’ package,” Jayapal told me recently, noting that White House chief of staff RON KLAIN was on the Biden-Sanders unity task force that recommended the Medicare/public option reforms. “We want to see those followed through on. … Health care is an area that could fit under reconciliation.”
SURGE EXPECTED — “Border Crossings by Migrant Children to Rise Sharply, U.S. Estimates Show,” WSJ: “The government estimates that about between 18,600 and 22,000 children could cross the border in April. For May, officials are estimating the figure could rise to roughly between 21,800 and 25,000. Border Patrol officials have said they expect taking more than 16,000 children into custody this month, a record for any month at the border since at least 2010, according to government data.”
— “Biden says he wants to ramp up expulsions of migrant families, but most are being allowed to stay,” CBS: “[T]he policy is currently being enforced inconsistently across the southern border, frustrating both immigrant advocates and government officials. U.S. agents in south Texas are not expelling Central American families with children younger than seven years of age to Mexico, according to a senior Border Patrol official who requested anonymity during a call with reporters Friday. …
“About 86% of the families CBP encountered Thursday were processed under U.S. immigration law and not expelled, CBP said.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
LATEST IN ALBANY — “Gov. Andrew Cuomo Aides Receive Subpoenas in Sexual-Harassment Investigation,” WSJ: “Melissa DeRosa, whose title is secretary to the governor and who has been at the center of the state’s pandemic response, is among the officials to receive a subpoena earlier this month … Ana Liss, a former aide to Mr. Cuomo who has accused the Democratic governor of misconduct, said that, during an interview with investigators, she was asked about Ms. DeRosa’s behavior in the workplace. …
“In a statement, Ms. DeRosa said she cared deeply about public service and didn’t get much sleep during the pandemic because she was working long hours. ‘The last thing I would do in my day is call family members of healthcare workers who died and tell them I’m sorry for their pain, and then close the door, lay on the floor and cry,’ she said in response to questions for this article. ‘I am not the one-dimensional person that has been portrayed in the press.’”
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT — DETROIT NEWS: “Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser labeled the state’s top Democratic officeholders ‘witches’ and referenced ‘assassination’ when pressed Thursday for answers about how to remove two sitting GOP congressmen. … Someone in the crowd asked how to unseat U.S. Reps. Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids Township, who were among 10 House Republicans to support the impeachment of former President Donald Trump …
“Weiser responded the party is focused on beating the ‘three witches’ in 2022, apparently referring to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson … Then someone in the crowd can be heard asking about the ‘witches in our own party.’ ‘Ma’am, other than assassination, I have no other way … other than voting out. OK?’ Weiser said. ‘You people have to go out there and support their opponents. You have to do what you need to get out the vote in those areas. That’s how you beat people.’” Video
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
LITTLE ROCKET MAN — “Biden team holds fire after North Korean missile launches,” by Lara Seligman and Nahal Toosi: “Joe Biden says North Korea is his top foreign policy issue. Just don’t expect him to do much about it — at least not in public. … As for the Pentagon, officials familiar with the discussions say military leaders have no immediate plans to respond or escalate …
“[T]he Biden team is taking a more conventional approach. The administration is in the midst of a comprehensive review of North Korea policy, and for now at least, the Biden team is avoiding escalation while urging allies behind the scenes to step up pressure on Pyongyang. … But there are steps the Biden team can take to send a stronger signal without resorting to military action.”
MOVING CAREFULLY — “Officials Try to Sway Biden Using Intelligence on Potential for Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan,” NYT: “American intelligence agencies have told the Biden administration that if U.S. troops leave before a power-sharing settlement is reached between the Taliban and the Afghan government, the country could fall largely under the control of the Taliban within two or three years after the withdrawal of international forces. That could potentially open the door for Al Qaeda to rebuild its strength within the country, according to American officials.
“The classified assessment, first prepared last year for the Trump administration but not previously disclosed, is the latest in a series of grim predictions of Afghanistan’s future that intelligence analysts have delivered throughout the two-decade-long war.”
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
CHANGING OF THE GUARD — “Pelosi taps D.C. National Guard chief as top House security official,” by Kyle Cheney: “[Maj. Gen. William] Walker, a 39-year military veteran, will become the House’s permanent sergeant-at-arms … ‘His historic appointment as the first Black American to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms is an important step forward for this institution and our nation,’ Pelosi said in a statement. The California Democrat also noted that Walker had a long career as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.”
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 16 funnies
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:
— “How Sara Gruen Lost Her Life,” by Abbott Kahler for N.Y. Mag’s Vulture: “The Water for Elephants author’s six-year fight to free an incarcerated man left her absolutely broke and critically ill.”
— “Notes from a Moab Trailer,” by Mark Sundeen for Outside: “What I learned about love, loss, and landscape over two decades of living in a 1961 Artcraft mobile home in the Utah desert.”
— “Unlocking the Covid Code,” by Jon Gertner for NYT Magazine: “Ultrafast and ultracheap sequencing could reshape the future of health care.”
— “The missing students of the pandemic,” by WaPo’s Eli Saslow: “A California school official searches his district for the hundreds left behind by covid-19.”
— “The Eternal Fantasy of a Racially Virtuous America,” by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw for The New Republic: “How partisans on all sides overlook the brutal legacies of white supremacy.”
— “Islands in the Stream,” by David Dayen for The American Prospect: “Musicians are in peril, at the mercy of giant monopolies that profit off their work.”
— “A New Crime Wave—and What to Do About It,” by Heather Mac Donald for City Journal: “New York City rejected the policing lessons that led to its success, and violence is surging.”
— “Rock Me on the Water,” an excellent new book by Ron Brownstein about “1974—The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics.” (May take more than the weekend but worth it!)
STAFFING UP — The White House announced it plans to nominate Daniel Kritenbrink, Brian Nichols and Brett Holmgren as assistant secretaries of State.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Kevin Benacci, VP at Targeted Victory leading the cybersecurity practice and a CISA alum, and Jessica Rodek Benacci, senior counsel at Cardinal Health, recently welcomed Charlotte Cecelia Benacci. Pic … Another pic
BIRTHWEEK (was Friday): former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly … Rob Nabors of the Gates Foundation … Natalie (Buchanan) Joyce, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s deputy COS for member services … Rachel Semmel of the Center for American Restoration … NBC/MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff (38) … Steve Atkiss … CNN’s Meredith Artley … Frank Sadler … Liz Johnson, chief of staff for Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) … The 19th’s Shefali Luthra … Alberto Martinez of Targeted Victory … Whitney Smith, deputy comms director for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) … POLITICO’s Stephanie Beasley, Kameryn Stanhouse and Toni DeWitt … Katie Johnson of Jenner & Block … former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) (63) … Jonathan Beam … Niki Christoff … Lane Bailey of the Advocom Group … Walt Mossberg (74) … Lisa Zhang … Alex Aragon of the American Gaming Association … Billy Moore … Mara Vandlik … David Mitrani … Lauren Dikis … Edelman’s Erin Schwille … Roll Call’s John M. Donnelly … Iain Hart, legislative director for Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) (31) … Laura Driscoll … Steven Newman (79) … Sally Kohn
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
“State of the Union”: Secretary of State Antony Blinken … Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) … Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) … Sanjay Gupta.
“Fox News Sunday”: White House press secretary Jen Psaki … Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Panel: Josh Holmes, Shannon Bream and Harold Ford, Jr. Power Players: Taylor Gaussoin and Joe DiPietro.
“Meet the Press”: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) … Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) … Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.). Panel: Peter Baker, Al Cardenas, Heather McGhee and Vicky Nguyen.
“Face the Nation”: Anthony Fauci … Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) … Rep.-elect Julia Letlow (R-La.) … Anthony Capuano … Scott Gottlieb.
“Full Court Press”: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) … Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) … Jon Decker.
“Inside Politics”: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) … Seung Min Kim and Jeff Zeleny … Patricia Murphy and Astead Herndon … Mia Love … Ala Stanford.
“The Sunday Show”: Ari Berman … Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) … Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) … Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist … Yamiche Alcindor … D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser … Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.).
“This Week”: White House comms director Kate Bedingfield … Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). Panel: Rahm Emanuel, Leah Wright Rigueur, Margaret Hoover and Ramesh Ponnuru.
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