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Wake Up To Politics - June 3, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Eight questions for Summer 2021
Wake Up To Politics - June 3, 2021

Good morning! It’s Thursday, June 3, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 523 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,251 days away.

Summertime is usually sleepy in Washington. Not this year. The coming weeks and months are shaping up to be a critical period for all three branches of government — and for candidates in the approaching election cycles.

Here are the top questions hanging over Summer 2021 in politics:

1. How many Americans get vaccinated? It’s “Hot Vax Summer,” and the crucial metric all summer long is going to be the vaccination rate as Americans seek to return to normal after the pandemic. Currently, 63% of U.S. adults have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose; President Joe Biden has set the goal of getting that marker to 70% by July 4.

In an address on Wednesday, Biden dubbed June a “National Month of Action” to get more Americans vaccinated, in order for the entire country to enjoy a “summer of freedom.” He announced several new steps to ease access to vaccinations — including free child care while people get their shots, extended hours at pharmacies, and an initiative offering vaccines at Black-owned barbershops — as well as vaccination incentives like a nationwide beer giveaway if the U.S. reaches his July 4 goal.

2. Can Biden and congressional Republicans make a deal? The clock is ticking on a possible bipartisan infrastructure deal. Biden sat down with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) on Thursday; according to CNN, Biden told Capito he wants any agreement to include at least $1 trillion in new spending — down from his most recent offer of $1.7 trillion but significantly higher than the $257 billion of new spending in the latest GOP proposal.

Biden and Capito are expected to speak again on Friday, when Republicans are likely to unveil their latest counteroffer. Democrats are hoping to decide by next week whether to move forward with bipartisan talks or pursue a package through reconciliation. This will also be the deciding month to see whether the two parties can craft a deal on police reform: “It’s June or bust,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has told reporters.

President Biden announces new vaccination measures in a speech on Wednesday. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

3. What happens when Trump re-emerges? Former President Donald Trump has remained relatively quiet since begrudgingly surrendering the Oval Office almost five months ago, but he will soon return to the political circuit with a speech in North Carolina on Saturday and then a series of summer rallies.

According to the Washington Post, Trump has grown “increasingly consumed” with re-litigating the 2020 election — even entertaining the bogus notion that he could be “reinstated” into office in August. That focus on the past could energize Republicans, but it also might hurt the party as they seek to move forward.

How Trump’s return to the campaign trail is received will be a key test of his staying power in the party ahead of the 2022 midterms and the 2024 election, in which he is the top GOP contender if he chooses to run.

4. Will the 6-3 Supreme Court rear its head? The Supreme Court has until June to rule on a litany of hot-button cases. The new six-justice conservative majority could issue landmark decisions on fate of Obamacare, voting rights, and more. 82-year-old liberal Justice Stephen Breyer could also announce his retirement at the end of the term, or decide to stick it out for at least another year. (Read more in today’s “Policy Roundup”)

The 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. (Fred Schilling/Supreme Court)

5. Does Congress act on voting rights? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) plans to put the Democrats’ sweeping election overhaul on the Senate floor this month. Activists are hoping that will pressure Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) into backing the measure, and maybe even throwing his support behind changes to the filibuster. But Manchin has repeatedly said he won’t budge, even on this top Democratic priority.

6. How does Biden do on the world stage? Just like many Americans who are traveling again after receiving their second vaccine dose, Biden will leave for his first overseas trip as president later this month. He will have a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, meetings with G-7 and NATO allies, and even an audience with the Queen.

7. Who will New York City Democrats choose? Leading New York City as mayor is known as the “second toughest job in America.” The city’s Democrats will use ranked-choice voting to pick their mayoral nominee on June 22 after a heated primary race. The crowded field of candidates met for an in-person debate on Wednesday night; leading contenders include 2020 presidential contender Andrew Yang, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.

The crowded Democratic field of New York City mayoral candidates face off on Wednesday night. (WABC)

8. Bonus question: What about all the UFOs? Everyone from Tucker Carlson to Barack Obama has been talking about UFOs lately. Those looking for answers on the aerial phenomena — from across the political spectrum — may get them later this month when U.S. intelligence agencies issue a highly-anticipated report on the topic to Congress.

Policy Roundup: Legal

A rotating group of student journalists offer daily policy briefings. On Thursdays, Anna Salvatore breaks down the week’s top legal news.

Several major Supreme Court opinions are set to be released this month. One of them is Fulton v. Philadelphia, a pending case about whether the city can prohibit Catholic foster agencies from discriminating against LGBT couples. Many commentators expect a victory for the agencies on the grounds of religious freedom.

In their third time hearing a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the justices will decide whether the individual mandate is constitutional. Given the types of questions they asked at oral argument, SCOTUSblog predicts that they will perhaps strike down the mandate while upholding the law. Finally, the court will also rule on whether restrictive voting laws in Arizona violate the Voting Rights Act.

The Supreme Court decided two cases on Tuesday. In one ruling, it held that tribal police officers can sometimes detain non-Native drivers when a federal highway runs through a reservation. In its only other ruling, it said that circuit courts shouldn’t assume that immigrants’ testimony is credible when they’re resisting deportation. Both opinions were unanimous.

The ACLU has asked the Supreme Court to revisit the constitutionality of the male-only military draft. “By burdening only men while excluding women, the Military Service Act sends a message that women are not vital to the defense of the country,” the ACLU wrote in court papers. The organization argues that the law is “unlawful sex discrimination” with “no legitimate purpose.” The Biden administration, however, has requested that the Supreme Court reject the case, since Congress is already deliberating over whether to expand draft eligibility.

The Supreme Court will rule on a key LGBT rights case this month. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

More legal headlines from Anna:

  • A class-action lawsuit will move ahead against Google, reports Bloomberg. Four ex-employees, all women, are alleging that the company paid men more for doing the same job.
  • Johnson and Johnson has long refused to pay women who developed ovarian cancer from its products. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court affirmed that J&J must hand over $2.1 billion to these affected customers.
  • According to Fox News, 24 states have signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn New Jersey’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines.
  • Derek Chauvin’s attorneys are seeking a shortened prison sentence for the ex-police officer, arguing that his killing of George Floyd was “an error made in good faith.”


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)

President Joe Biden is at his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with First Lady Jill Biden, who is celebrating her 70th birthday today. They have no public events scheduled.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks at 11:30 a.m. “on the importance of investing in broadband to ensure affordable, accessible high-speed internet for all Americans.” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will also speak at the event.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at 11:30 a.m.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m.
  • U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. on COVID-19 response.

The Senate will convene at 11 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) will host Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for a visit to West Virginia. Granholm is a member of Biden’s “Jobs Cabinet,” charged with promoting his infrastructure plan; Manchin is a key swing vote on infrastructure and Biden’s other top priorities.
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) will hold an infrastructure roundtable in Tennessee with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, another “Jobs Cabinet” member.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court will meet for its weekly conference. The justices may also announce opinions at 10 a.m.

Former Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks at 6 p.m. at an annual dinner hosted by the Hillsborough County Republicans in Manchester, New Hampshire, his first trip to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state since leaving the White House.

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