NotedDC — Senators hope to get what they can from momentum

A spurt of bipartisanship in the Senate this summer has allowed Democrats to move closer to long-awaited goals ahead of the midterms. Will it last? 

Democrats have been riding out a wave of bipartisan victories since June: the first gun safety law in 30 years, the confirmation of a permanent director to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the passage of a bill to boost domestic chip production. 

Now, Democrats are hoping to use that momentum to push through other measures, including one to codify same-sex marriage into federal law and another to reform the Electoral Count Act, which would make it harder for lawmakers to overturn presidential election results. 

At a debate hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center on Monday night, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) expressed optimism about the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act alongside Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is a co-sponsor of the bill. 

“It’ll be another moment where you’ll see Republicans and Democrats come together to move this country forward,” Murphy said. 

He expressed fear that if retiring Republicans, including Portman, are replaced by ones who are less willing to be bipartisan, then Democrats won’t be able to get anything through even if they do maintain control of Congress. 

“I look at these newer Republican senators and most of them don’t seem terribly interested in getting deals done in the Senate,” Murphy told reporters after the event. “We’re losing a number of really important members of the Senate this year who have helped make the place work.” 

Portman, whose Ohio seat is the subject of a contest between Republican J.D. Vance and Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, countered Murphy’s concerns. 

“I think people will step up,” Portman told reporters.  

ANOTHER BIPARTISAN BILL LIKELY TO PASS DESPITE ROADBLOCK 

Another bipartisan victory is expected Tuesday night when the Senate votes on the passage of a bill to help veterans suffering from toxic exposure. 

But Republicans will have some explaining to do on why it took longer than expected to pass. 

For context: The Senate initially passed the PACT Act in June by a vote of 84-14, but when it came up for another procedural vote in the chamber last week after the House corrected a procedural error, 25 more Republicans voted against the same bill. 

Democrats argue that Republicans changed their minds since the vote came on the same day as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) unveiled the text of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to pass with only Democratic support.  

As our colleague Alex Bolton reported, the Republicans who changed their votes to “no” argue that they want to give Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) more time to debate his amendment on the spending language. 

More on why Republicans want to stand down: “Republicans concede the standoff is not a good look for them three months before a crucial election and that they’re taking most of the blame for the stalled bill.” 

WILL SINEMA DERAIL PARTY’S RECONCILIATION BILL? 

Democrats don’t have to wish for bipartisan action on their broad tax reform and climate bill, but they are praying that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) doesn’t kill it.  

JUST IN – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that he is exchanging materials with Sinema to help her better understand the Inflation Reduction Act and is open to her suggestions. 

The bill would likely be considered President Biden’s greatest legislative victory so far. 

It only takes one: if Sinema opposes it, then the bill would effectively be dead since it needs at least 51 votes to pass in a 50-50 split Senate (Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaker).  

Why the concern? As our colleagues Alex Bolton and Amie Parnes point out, Sinema previously expressed opposition to closing the carried interest loophole, which “allows asset managers to pay a 20 percent capital gains tax on income earned from profitable investments.” 

Read more from Bolton on what Manchin told reporters. 

Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, despite China’s objections 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has made it to Taiwan after days of speculation and tension over the third-highest official in the U.S. government visiting the self-governing island and facing off against China’s objections. 

Pelosi’s office and other top-tier officials had declined to confirm her expected trip for the past several days. Her office sent out a statement, however, shortly after she landed with a group of members. 

“Our Congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy,” she said in the statement. 

China, which views Taiwan as its territory and not a sovereign nation, had warned against Pelosi traveling to the island. 

“China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said last month. 

Read more from The Hill’s Mychael Schnell here.  

 
BIDEN FACES RENEWED CRITICISM ABOUT AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL 

Republicans are renewing their criticism of the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan after the U.S. announced it successfully killed a top al Qaeda leader nearly a year after the last American troops left Kabul. 

The killing of Ayman al-Zawahiri will likely be considered one of Biden’s greatest national security achievements, and while Republicans are applauding him in the short-term, they are suggesting that he should rethink his decision to withdraw from the region. 

“Your overall strategy of abandoning Afghanistan is going to come back to haunt America because Afghanistan is again going to be a safe haven for radical Islam,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted.  

Graham, and other Republicans, pointed to al-Zawahiri living in Kabul as the reason for their criticism, since the Taliban – the group that overtook Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrew – had pledged to break with al Qaeda when it signed the Doha agreement.  

“I am very troubled by the fact that the Taliban has been harboring the leader of Al Qaeda and they have done what they characteristically do, which is lie, disassemble and pose a threat,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told our colleague Mychael Schnell. 

The White House reacts: John Kirby, White House national security spokesperson, said on Tuesday that if the Taliban does not comply with the agreement, “it is going to lead to consequences, not just from the U.S. but from the international community.” 

Read about Biden’s speech announcing the strike from our colleague Alex Gangitano. 
 

Trump faces another round of primary tests 

It’s a big day for former President Trump as his hand-picked candidates appear on primary ballots in Missouri and Arizona.  

Missouri 

Trump pulled a fast one, endorsing “ERIC” in the big showdown to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). There are two major candidates named Eric seeking the GOP nod — former Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned midway through his first term because of a sex scandal, and current state Attorney General Eric Schmitt

“I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, much as they did when they gave me landslide victories in the 2016 and 2020 Elections, and I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump wrote in a statement after he had teased that an endorsement in the race would be forthcoming. 

The primary winner will go on to face whichever Democrat wins that party’s primary. Beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine is seen as the favorite in that race. 

 
Arizona 

The Arizona primary has been the topic of considerable speculation, as Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence have split over which candidates to back in the race to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.  

Trump’s backing Kari Lake, a former TV news anchor who has branded herself as an “ultra-MAGA” Republican. 

Pence has meanwhile endorsed the more moderate candidate Karrin Taylor Robson, a real estate developer and the wife of a wealthy Republican donor. Robson also has Ducey’s backing. 

Remember: President Biden won Arizona with a narrow majority in the 2020 race, infuriating Trump. The GOP primary will set up a proxy-vote of sorts that could have major implications for the future of the party. 

Read more about what to expect from our colleagues Julia Manchester and Max Greenwood. 

‘TOURIST SERENA’ on the D.C. scene 

ICYMI: Serena Williams turned full-on Washington tourist over the weekend. Hitting up the monuments and battling sister Venus Williams in a Sunday morning practice at Rock Creek Park. She even dubbed herself “TOURIST SERENA” as she documented her adventures on Instagram. 

She spent the better part of a day getting around town on a Lime scooter. 

See her page for more from her tourist adventure

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We’ll see you tomorrow!

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