BREAKING OVERNIGHT — Via our House elections guru Ally Mutnick: “Democrat MELANIE STANSBURY claimed a resounding victory Tuesday night in a contested special election for Congress in New Mexico, easing her party’s fears of a closer result that could have portended a brutal midterm next year.” The result: 60.3 percent for Stansbury to 35.7 percent for Republican MARK MOORES, a margin of just under 25 points.
Before results came in, Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman forecast that a Stansbury victory by 15 points or more would be good for Democrats, while a margin under 10 would give Republicans a boost for next fall. Dems are breathing a little easier this morning.
TODAY’S MAIN EVENT — Sen. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-W.Va.) will visit President JOE BIDEN in the Oval Office this afternoon to discuss infrastructure.
It’s a crucial meeting for both of them.
There are 10 Republican senators who’ve positioned themselves as part of what some of them like to call the “productive” minority in the GOP who are willing and eager to work with the White House. Most of them believed that the 50-50 Senate would put them at the center of the action. Despite the best efforts of Capito colleagues like SUSAN COLLINS (Maine) and ROB PORTMAN (Ohio), it is Capito who has now become the face of the GOP deal-makers.
Biden has rewarded her with a rare solo meeting that excludes the others. We’ll be looking to see if the president pulls a signature Biden move intended to build trust: clearing the room of staff so he and Capito can talk in private.
White House aides on Tuesday night were all singing from a similar hymnal about this meeting: Biden is serious about a deal. He allowed his Memorial Day deadline to lapse because he believes the negotiations are making progress. The political media has been too quick to describe these talks as dead after every speed bump, partly because we’ve all forgotten what negotiations look like. This is a working meeting — not something ceremonial.
This good-cop messaging to set up the Capito sitdown has been punctuated this week by other statements that have kept the pressure on Republicans. Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG said over the weekend that it was “getting pretty close to a fish-or-cut-bait moment.” The White House says it wants serious progress over the next week — or else. (Though it’s not really clear what the else is.)
Biden ran on his ability to cut deals, practiced over 44 years in Washington, and by elevating these infrastructure talks to a one-on-one with Capito he risks taking more of the blame if they fall apart.
The Capito meeting is standing between Biden and a scheduled trip to his beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., later today. So if the meeting goes long, perhaps take it as a sign that the talks are going well!
BIDEN THROWS SOME SHADE, AND PASSES A HOT POTATO — Two interesting nuggets from Biden’s speech in Tulsa:
— The president appeared to diss Sens. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.), albeit without naming them, complaining about “two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.” We suppose that’s one way of negotiating: to shame two senators he needs to pass pretty much anything by making them out to be more loyal to the other party. (For what it’s worth, it’s not true: Manchin and Sinema vote more with Democrats than Republicans.)
Whatever the explanation, it’s a notable change in tone for Biden, and suggests he’s more frustrated with the two moderates than the public realizes. While DONALD TRUMP would routinely harangue his congressional foes into submission, Biden has been more tolerant of intra-party dissent.
Both senators obviously relish their independence and would probably wear such a rebuke as a badge of honor if it were coming from anyone else. But Biden is the leader of the party, and he just flashed a bright green light to the rest of the Democratic establishment: If they want to go after either member, go for it. (Neither office wanted to weigh in on this when asked for comment.)
Republicans working on an infrastructure deal told us they were confused by the swipe. “What the president said today was not helpful,” said one Senate GOP aide. “There is a genuine interest among Senate Republicans to get a bipartisan deal focused on core infrastructure. We know there are a handful of Senate Democrats also interested in that. To the extent that the president pushes those Dems away, that’s helpful to us. They already don’t want to vote for what Biden is offering.”
ANOTHER SOFTBALL FOR THE VP — Biden also announced that he would tap VP KAMALA HARRIS to lead the administration’s effort to enact H.R. 1, Democrats’ expansive voting rights bill that looks doomed in the upper chamber. The bill can’t clear a filibuster. And Democrats — namely Manchin and Sinema — aren’t willing to nuke the filibuster to get it through. (Manchin opposes the current draft as overly broad.)
It’s the second hot potato Biden has tossed to Harris recently (mitigating the migration surge was the first, though CNN reported Tuesday that she’s trying to distance herself from the border crisis). It comes as Democrats from lawmakers in Texas to progressive activists in Washington are begging the White House to do something — anything — to stop Republicans from curbing voting rights.
— The 19th’s ERRIN HAINES: “In Tulsa and beyond, Biden tasks Black women with fighting the legacy of inequity: Harris, Fudge and Rice are among the administration leaders tackling intractable and politically divisive priorities.”
PELOSI’S (BAD) OPTIONS FOR JAN. 6 PROBE — AP breaks them down here, following last week’s failed vote on an independent commission.
WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS SINEMA? — We checked back with Sinema’s office about her absence from last week’s vote on the Jan. 6 commission and were told it was because of “a personal commitment.” (In brief comments to reporters in Arizona Tuesday, the senator cited “a personal family matter.”) This despite her earlier statement that establishing a commission to investigate the riot was “critical.” Twitter lit her up over her absence. Sinema, whose office said she would have voted for the commission had she been there, was one of two Democrats who missed the roll call — the other was Sen. PATTY MURRAY (Wash.), who cited a “personal family matter.”
The last time Sinema’s vote skipping made news was in March 2019, when she missed a string of votes on judges and the EPA chief to compete in an Iron Man competition in New Zealand. According to ProPublica, Sinema missed 8.4% of votes in the last Congress, ranking her as the 15th-most absent member of the Senate. So far this Congress, she’s missed only four votes.
Good Wednesday morning, and thanks for reading Playbook. If you happen to know where Sinema was during the commission vote (which happened to be on the Friday before the long weekend), drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
— 10:15 a.m.: Biden and Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— 11 a.m.: Biden and Harris will receive a Covid-19 briefing.
— Noon: Biden and Harris will have lunch together.
— 1:15 p.m.: Biden will deliver remarks about the pandemic and vaccines.
— 2:45 p.m.: Biden will meet with Capito to talk infrastructure.
— 5:15 p.m.: Biden and first lady JILL BIDEN will leave the White House for Rehoboth Beach, Del., arriving at 6:15 p.m.
Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at noon.
— 9:45 a.m.: The vice president will ceremonially swear in ERIC LANDER as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
CONGRESS is in recess this week.
GOP THREATENING TO TANK DEBATES — “RNC vows to advise candidates against future presidential debates unless commission makes significant changes,” CNN: “The letter is the latest example of the top Republican committee litigating something that was a key concern for former President Donald Trump …
“At one point, the letter lauds Trump for ‘his background in television’ because it led him to realize that the acrylic glass shields the commission was using to combat the coronavirus would cause the candidates to see their reflections once the stage was lit. … [Chair RONNA] MCDANIEL concluded her letter by suggesting numerous changes to the commission, including adopting term limits for its board, prohibiting members from making public comments about any candidates — and punishing them if they do — and committing to holding at least one debate before early voting begins ‘in any state.’”
2022 WATCH — “Florida’s Nikki Fried jumps into 2022 race to challenge DeSantis,” by Bruce Ritchie in Tallahassee: “Florida Agriculture Commissioner NIKKI FRIED on Tuesday officially entered the race for governor in 2022, becoming the second well-known Democrat to challenge Gov. RON DESANTIS in what will be one of the most high profile governor’s races in the country.”
DEMS’ DOWN-BALLOT DISASTER — “Democrats’ 2020 defeats haunt them in voting rights fight,” by Zach Montellaro: “Democrats hoped to spend 2021 aggressively expanding voting access. Instead, they are scrapping to put up a fight due to an enduring problem: their failure to flip any state legislative chambers in the 2020 election. …
“Texas Democrats likely won’t be able to run out the clock forever. Instead, some are hoping their extraordinary delay over the weekend will spur Democrats in Washington to make their own voting rights push.”
THE WHITE HOUSE
PREVIEWING THE JOBS REPORT — “The jobs report that could upend Biden’s economic agenda,” by Megan Cassella: “Businesses say they can’t find enough workers to hire. The pace of Americans moving off the unemployment rolls is slowing. And a top Federal Reserve official is warning that job trends in May might look ‘odd.’ All of that suggests that the next monthly U.S. employment report, which will be released Friday morning, may not show the robust growth that President Joe Biden needs to help pass his sweeping agenda. …
“Democrats have downplayed the concerns, maintaining that the path back to full employment was always going to be winding and stacked with challenges. And economists are predicting the report will show 630,000 jobs were created in May, a robust number. But while Biden has been polling strongly on his handling of the economy, a second straight month of slower-than-expected job creation could embolden critics of his multitrillion-dollar infrastructure spending plans and raise fears that the labor market is facing a long road back to normal.”
PRETTY STRIKING — @NateSilver538: “Biden’s approval rating has never been below 52.5% or above 55.0%.” The static trend lines
ON THE OTHER HAND, IT’S STILL EARLY — RON BROWNSTEIN asks whether Biden can avoid the ‘summer slump’: “For most Americans, the unofficial arrival of summer with Memorial Day is a cause for celebration. But for newly elected presidents, it’s more often been a reason for dread. Sagging job approval ratings, unanticipated challenges at home and abroad and, above all, diminishing legislative momentum have been hallmarks of the first summer in office for recent presidents.
“The dynamic has afflicted presidents of both parties. But the problem was especially acute for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the last two Democratic presidents, who arrived in Washington, like Biden, with extremely ambitious legislative wish lists. During their first summers, both Clinton and Obama found themselves sinking into legislative quagmires that sapped their public support and energized their opponents.
WHAT THE LEFT IS READING — “SALT Cap Confounds Doomsayers as Fears of Exodus Prove Overblown,” by Bloomberg’s Jonathan Levin: “The [IRS] data is finally in, and it didn’t happen. In the first year after the cap was put in place, zero-wage-tax states netted about $1.24 in new earnings from migrants for every $100 already earned there — slightly less than the net migration rates in the previous three years. Florida, the top destination among zero-tax states, netted $2.65, also a drop from the previous years’ rates. The trend remains broadly positive, but there was no SALT-cap bump. …
“Lawmakers from high-tax states want the cap nixed or pushed higher and are angling to win such a tweak as part of any package of forthcoming tax hikes. … The statistics reinforce existing research that shows high-earning Americans are relatively resistant to leaving the markets where they first became successful.”
PAGING LISA MURKOWSKI — “Biden freezes oil leases in Alaska refuge pending new environmental review,” by Adam Federman: “A new environmental analysis could impose additional restrictions on development in the [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] or potentially nullify the leases altogether, undoing one of the signature policy achievements of the Trump administration. But Tuesday’s secretarial order does not go as far as green groups have requested in an ongoing lawsuit, which aims to void the leases that were awarded earlier this year.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
HACK ATTACK — “White House in contact with Russia after meat producer JBS hit with ransomware attack,” ABC: “‘Meat producer JBS notified us on Sunday that they are the victims of a ransomware attack,’ White House principal deputy press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE told reporters, adding that the firm ‘notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia.’
“‘The White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter, and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals,’ Jean-Pierre said. The FBI is investigating the cyberattack and the White House has offered assistance to JBS, Jean-Pierre added, and the Department of Agriculture also has spoken to JBS leadership ‘several times in the last day.’”
OFF THE DEEP END, via Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT): “Trump has been telling a number of people he’s in contact with that he expects he will get reinstated by August (no that isn’t how it works but simply sharing the information). It isn’t happening in a vacuum. It is happening as he faced the possibility of an indictment from the Manhattan DA.
“But he is not putting out statements about the ‘audits’ in states just for the sake of it. He’s been laser focused on them, according to several people who’ve spoken with him (as well as WaPo reporting a few weeks ago).”
TRUMP INC. — “Trump’s company puts D.C. hotel lease up for sale, again,” WaPo: “The Trump Organization previously listed the Pennsylvania Avenue hotel, in the federally owned Old Post Office Pavilion, in the fall of 2019. When covid-19 struck, many hotels closed either completely or partially due to government shutdowns, and the company pulled the property off the market.
“Now, with Trump under investigation by prosecutors in New York and the economy beginning to take off, his company is trying again, hiring the brokerage firm Newmark Group to market the lease.”
THE POST-PRESIDENCY — “Secret Service Spending $34,000 on Fancy Porta Potties in Bedminster This Summer,” by The Daily Beast’s Justin Rohrlich
WAPO ISSUES COVID ORIGINS CORRECTION: “Earlier versions of this story and its headline inaccurately characterized comments by Sen. TOM COTTON (R-Ark.) regarding the origins of the coronavirus. The term “debunked” and The Post’s use of “conspiracy theory” have been removed because, then as now, there was no determination about the origins of the virus.” Here’s the original story.
THIS AND THAT
GUNS FOR (COVID) SHOTS — West Virginia is getting creative in its drive to vaccinate its population. Here’s the list of giveaways announced by Gov. JIM JUSTICE for a summertime lottery to entice people to get the shot: a “$1.588 million grand prize, a $588,000 second prize, full scholarships to any higher education institution in West Virginia, custom-outfitted trucks, weekend vacations at state parks, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, custom hunting rifles and custom hunting shotguns.”
OK THEN — “John Hinckley Jr., the Man Who Shot Reagan, Has a YouTube Channel Where He Sings His Own Songs,” Washingtonian: “Hinckley has recently gotten social media attention from a video he posted of him [singing] a love song he wrote called ‘Majesty of Love.’ Last year, Hinckley created a YouTube channel where he posts covers and his own original songs.
“He has gotten 4,150 subscribers and thousands of views on his videos since he started posting five months ago. The many comments under his videos, as well as Twitter discussions about his work, have been [overwhelmingly] positive and supportive. However, Hinckley hasn’t always been successful with his music. He has anonymously posted his music online for the past few years, but had received little feedback. In frustration, he went to court last year to request permission to post his music online under his own name.”
DON JR’s SIDE HUSTLE — “Donald Trump Jr flogging $599 videos on celebrity website Cameo to get MAGA messages across after Don’s Twitter ban,” The Sun
ITALIANS DO IT BETTER — We thought that the British Embassy was owning the post-Covid renaissance in D.C., but the Italians managed to gather 150 people Tuesday night to toast outgoing Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio. He of course downplayed the event’s size, calling it an “intimate affair” or “Italian dinner party,” which featured tiramisu, gelato and pizza. Guests mingled in the courtyard above the seemingly endless and lush grounds at the Villa Firenze, where they were serenaded by opera singer Lisette Oropesa. Among those basking in la dolce vita: Fiona Hill, Kurt Volker, Philip Reeker, Molly Montgomery, David Frum, David Thorne, Gianandrea Noseda and Suzanne Kianpour. Pic … Another pic
— Alexandra Berzon is joining ProPublica as a reporter. She previously has been an investigative reporter at the WSJ, including as part of a Pulitzer-winning team. Talking Biz News
DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE CAN OF PEACHES? — “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recycled a joke that fell flat while speaking at a celebration of the Save Our Stages Act at Carolines on Broadway comedy club in New York City over the long weekend,” Fox News gleefully reports (“Schumer bombs with stale joke at NYC comedy club reopening”), citing the New York Daily News. The joke, which Schumer reportedly told during an appearance with Jerry Seinfeld a year earlier, is “about a woman in trouble for stealing a can of peaches who gets one night in jail for each of the four peaches in the can, the New York Daily News reported. The punchline? The woman’s husband wants a stolen can of peas added to her sentence.” A Schumer spox told the Daily News “It’s no secret: Chuck is not quitting his day job.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Jacqui Newman will be COO at SKDKnickerbocker. She currently is COO and deputy executive director at the DCCC.
— Morgan DeWitt is now state party strategies desk coordinator at the RNC. She most recently was an associate at Ballard Partners, and is a Trump HHS alum.
— Yates Baroody is joining Beacon Media as a partner. She previously worked at A|L Media, EMILY’s List, the DCCC and the DSCC.
— Shannon Vavra, who covers the NSA for CyberScoop, is joining TheDaily Beast to report on cybersecurity and intelligence. She previously worked at Axios as a news reporter.
— Ben Schramm is now director of business operations at Maxar Technologies. He most recently was senior adviser and chief of staff to the secretary of the Air Force.
— Rep. Greg Stanton’s (D-Ariz.) office has added Tyler Lewis as correspondence director and Blaine Boyd as judiciary LA. Lewis most recently was a business development and marketing specialist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, and Boyd most recently was a law clerk to Steven Salant for the Montgomery County Circuit Court.
TRUMP ALUMNI — Hashim Mooppan has rejoined Jones Day’s issues and appeals practice. He most recently spent four years at DOJ, including as counselor to the solicitor general and deputy assistant A.G. for civil appellate.
STAFFING UP — Mary Bruce is now an associate director of the Peace Corps and head of its office of volunteer recruitment and selection. She most recently was executive director of BA Women’s Alliance (formerly the B.A. Rudolph Foundation). … Emily Hardman Rodgers is now a program specialist in the Office of Foreign Assistance at the State Department. She previously was staff assistant for Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.).
TRANSITIONS — Leigh Gibson is now a VP at the Niskanen Center. She previously was a senior policy officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and is a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities alum. … Oriana Piña is joining AT&T to manage PR and comms for the diversity, equity and inclusion department. She most recently was director of Hispanic media for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. … Ann Orr will be chief policy officer at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. She most recently was acting director of the Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition. …
… Jim Fellinger will be a senior comms manager on the Consumer Technology Association’s industry comms team. He most recently has been comms director for tech policy at Stand Together. … Veda Beltran is now a legislative aide for defense, homeland security and judiciary for Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). She previously was a legislative correspondent for Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). … Keegan Bales is now an associate director at Finsbury Glover Hering (formerly Glover Park Group). She previously worked at Trident DMG.
ENGAGED — Jon Conradi, managing director at FP1 Strategies, proposed to Kelsey Guyselman, deputy policy director for the Senate Commerce Committee and a Trump OSTP alum, on Monday at the Roanoke River Lighthouse in Edenton, N.C. They had their first date at Boxcar Tavern in Eastern Market. Pic
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Jennifer Becker-Pollet, professional staff member for the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Adam Pollet, partner at Eversheds Sutherland, welcomed Alexandra Cook Pollet on Tuesday afternoon. She came in at 8 lbs and 20 inches, and joins big sister Logan. Pic
— Lucy Jackson, director of partnerships and strategy at Petal Card Inc. and a Treasury alum, and Christopher Dennen, senior director of corporate strategy at Optum, welcomed Jackson Robert Dennen on May 25. Instapic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Clarence Page … Frank Rich … Jeanine Pirro (7-0) … Alex Hornbrook … Rainey Center’s Mia Heck … Mike Lynch of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office … Ben Cassidy of the BLC Group … Giovanna Pence … Jon Favreau (4-0) … Nicole Schiegg … Ian Byrne … Jared Keller … Jordan Kaplan of the Obama Foundation … Jason Rosenbaum … Rich Ashooh … former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) … Kevin Chaffee … Jen Tumminio … Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown … GOPAC’s Dana Hurtik … Vanessa Day … Mike Vlacich … POLITICO’s Katie Beck Wojcik … JP Schnapper-Casteras … David Lienemann … Airbnb’s Chris Lehane
Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.