Trump rejects need for climate action at G-20: US has 'cleanest' water and air 'we've ever had'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats and Trump are all in on immigration for the 2020 election Trump to allow US companies to sell products to Huawei Trump says he brought up Khashoggi murder with Saudi crown prince MORE broke with the Group of 20 (G-20) nations on the need for climate change action on Saturday, saying the United States has the “cleanest water we have ever had.”

“We have the cleanest water we have ever had,” Trump said at a news conference at the G-20 summit in Japan. “We have the cleanest air we’ve ever had, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the tremendous power of what we’ve built up over a long period of time and what I’ve enhanced and revived.”

The U.S. joined the other G-20 nations in signing on to a communique that sought to commit the countries to taking action to curb climate change. However, the U.S. reportedly signed on to the declaration only after it was able to include a clause in the document that would allow it to be exempt from commitments outlined in the agreement.

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All G-20 nations will “strive to foster inclusive finance for sustainable development, including public and private financing mobilization and alignment between them, as well as innovation in a wide range of areas for low emissions and resilient development,” the communique stated. 

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“Climate actions at all levels with broad participation, including by non-state actors, will be the key to realizing such a paradigm shift,” it continued while reaffirming the G-20 nations’ commitment to the Paris climate accord and the agreement’s “irreversibility.”

However, breaking from the other 19 nations in the joint declaration, the United States said in the communique that it “reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers.”

“The U.S.’s balanced approach to energy and environment allows for the delivery of affordable, reliable, and secure energy to all its citizens while utilizing all energy sources and technologies, including clean and advanced fossil fuels and technologies, renewables, and civil nuclear power, while also reducing emissions and promoting economic growth,” it added.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Trump said, “I’m not sure that I agree with certain countries with what they are doing. They are losing a lot of power. I am talking about the powering of a plant.”

“It doesn’t always work with a windmill. When the wind goes off, the plant isn’t working. It doesn’t always work with solar because solar [is] just not strong enough, and a lot of them want to go to wind, which has caused a lot of problems,” he continued, according to The Washington Post.

“Wind doesn’t work for the most part without subsidy. The United States is paying tremendous amounts of subsidies for wind. I don’t like it. I don’t like it,” he added.

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Trump, Putin share a 'cheers' at G-20 dinner

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House ‘with my head held high’ Atlanta mayor endorses Biden for president MORE and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTrump jokes with Putin about ‘fake news’ at G-20 summit The Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Trump poses next to Saudi crown prince in G-20 group photo MORE shared a “cheers” as the pair gathered with other world leaders at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Japan.

Trump and Putin were photographed sitting near each other at a G-20 dinner Friday night in Osaka with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seated between them.

At one point, Trump grabbed his glass and reached to clink it with Putin’s cup, which appeared to be a plastic tumbler. Both then took a sip from their cups.

It was unclear what was in the president’s wine glass, though he is known to drink Diet Coke. It was unclear what was in Putin’s cup.

Trump’s interactions with Putin at formal dinner gatherings have drawn attention before, given tensions over Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the president’s perceived downplaying of Russian meddling.

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At a G-20 dinner in 2017, Trump appeared to gesture toward Putin across the table and pumped his fist. First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpSarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House ‘with my head held high’ Mika Brzezinski to Ivanka and Melania: ‘You will go down in history as having done nothing about’ conditions for migrant children The Hill’s Morning Report – Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? MORE was seated next to the Russian leader at that dinner.

The White House also said that Trump and Putin had an “informal” conversation at a G-20 summit last year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, though it was unclear what the two leaders discussed. Trump had previously canceled a formal meeting with Putin over Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships shortly before that gathering.

At this year’s summit, Trump gave a perfunctory warning about Russia’s election meddling. During a sit-down in front of cameras earlier Friday, journalists shouted questions about whether Trump planned to tell Putin not to interfere in U.S. elections. Trump grinned and turned to tell Putin, “Don’t meddle in the election, please. Don’t meddle in the election.” 

Trump and Putin also shared a laugh over frustration with journalists, with Trump remarking, “Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.” Putin responded in English: “We also have. It’s the same.”

The exchange drew attention given the history of Putin critics and Russian journalists who have turned up dead over the years. Russia has ranked low for press freedom, being listed at 149 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom index.

Trump and Putin joined other heads of state to exchange pleasantries while posing next to each other for the summit’s “family photo” Friday, with Trump standing between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Trump is scheduled to meet Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That meeting comes amid pressure for both sides to reach a trade deal to avoid an escalating tariff battle between the two countries.

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California Democrats unveil redistricting reform bill after Supreme Court partisan gerrymandering ruling

A group of California Democrats unveiled legislation Friday to place new requirements on how congressional districts are redrawn a day after the Supreme Court ruled that courts can’t resolve partisan gerrymandering claims.

The bill, led by House Rules Committee Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenHouse passes sweeping Democrat-backed election security bill This week: Congress set for clash on Trump’s border request Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt ‘relief’ after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups MORE (D-Calif.) along with Reps. Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalHouse committee forwards bills to bar offshore drilling across US Trump administration signals support for uranium mining that could touch Grand Canyon Overnight Energy: Inslee says DNC won’t hold climate debate | Democrats fear Trump opening door to mining in Grand Canyon | Interior pick gets surprising support from greens | Ocasio-Cortez says effective climate plan needs T MORE (D-Calif.) and Julia BrownleyJulia Andrews BrownleyBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Overnight Energy: Ocasio-Cortez rolls out Green New Deal measure | Pelosi taps members for climate panel | AOC left out | Court reviews order for EPA to ban pesticide Ocasio-Cortez: ‘I truly do not’ believe Pelosi snubbed me on climate change panel MORE (D-Calif.), would require that states adopt independent redistricting commissions to draw new district maps after each decennial census.

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The proposal comes one day after the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision along ideological lines, found that partisan gerrymandering claims are a political issue that courts can’t weigh in on.

“If the U.S. Supreme Court won’t fight to protect Americans’ votes, then Congress will,” Lofgren said in a statement Friday.

“Our democracy cannot function properly unless every person’s vote counts equally, and voters choose their elected officials, not the other way around. My bill would fix our broken redistricting process to ensure all voices are heard and politicians are held accountable.”

The majority of California Democrats in the House also back the bill, according to a press release.

The bill would require that states create 15-member commissions to draw congressional districts, rather than leaving the responsibility to state legislatures.

Each commission would be evenly divided among three political affiliations — the state’s majority party, minority party and an unaffiliated or minor party.

And the bill calls for a three-judge court to create and implement a plan if states fail to create the commissions or to adopt a commission’s map.

The legislation echoes provisions included in House Democrat’s anti-corruption legislative package H.R. 1, which passed the House earlier this year. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers Sanders: My views on working with GOP ‘a little bit different’ from Biden’s Supreme Court to hear cases on Trump efforts to end DACA MORE (R-Ky.) has said that he won’t bring it up for a vote on the Senate floor.

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Overnight Energy: Senate confirms one Trump Interior pick | Vote on second controversial nominee awaits | Mayors commit to buying electric vehicles | Second Democratic debate largely avoids climate change

ONE TRUMP NOM IS IN, THE OTHER WAITS: The Senate late Thursday night approved a Trump Interior Department nominee that has proven popular with Democrats and Republicans.

Rob Wallace is the first assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks since 2011, a position that oversees both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.

Wallace stood out in his confirmation process after a long line of controversial picks to a department that has faced numerous ethics controversies since President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House ‘with my head held high’ Atlanta mayor endorses Biden for president MORE took office. 

“Rob has the right experience and real commitment to serve in this important role,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump proposal nixes review of long-term climate impacts Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for ‘forever chemicals’ Trump hails D-Day veterans in Normandy: ‘You are the pride of our nation’ MORE (R-Wyo.) said of the Wyoming native. “He will do an outstanding job. He has worked to conserve wildlife and protect our national parks in both Wyoming and Washington.”

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Wallace currently works as president of the Upper Green River Conservancy and as a partner at the investment firm i2Capital.

Some environmental groups raised questions about Wallace’s nearly two decades as a lobbyist for General Electric Energy and income from stock in the oil industry, but many conservation groups offered letters in support of his nomination. 

The Senate also confirmed Aimee Jorjani to a post on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Like Wallace, Jorjani received words of praise from Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Committee

Her husband, Daniel Jorjani, has also been nominated to a position at Interior reviewed by that committee, but he does not enjoy bipartisan support.

Daniel Jorjani, currently the top lawyer for Interior, has been nominated to fill the vacant role as solicitor for the department.  

But he has been criticized by Democrats for his role in Interior’s controversial public records review process and responses to questions about it they said lacked candor.

“The solicitor must uphold the law above all else about, above party politics and ideology. That was not the sense I got” about Jorjani, said Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGOP sen: Democrats talking about ‘Medicare for All’ shows they’re unhappy with ObamaCare Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Senate panel advances bipartisan package on health costs | Grassley, Wyden in talks on deal to limit drug price increases | Court asks if blue states have standing in ObamaCare suit Manchin on ‘Medicare for All’: ‘We can’t even pay for Medicare for some’ MORE (D-W.Va.), the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Read more on the Interior nominations here.

 

TFIG! And welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. 

Please send tips and comments to Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com and Rebecca Beitsch, rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @mirandacgreen, @rebeccabeitsch and @thehill.

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IT’S ELECTRIC (BOOGIE WOOGIE WOOGIE): Mayors from across the country are committing to buying more than 2,100 electric vehicles — including school buses — by 2020 to fill out local government fleets.

The pledge was made by 127 cities across 38 states who have banded together to form a purchasing bloc, known as the Climate Mayors Electric Vehicle Purchasing Collaborative, in order to get better pricing on the vehicles.

“The clean transportation revolution is not a distant vision for the far-off future — it’s a reality hitting the streets of Los Angeles and cities around the world,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), who founded the group in 2018, said in a release. “By pooling our purchasing power, Climate Mayors are sending a powerful message to the global car market: if you build electric vehicles, we will buy them.”

The collaborative estimates that by replacing aging vehicles with electric ones, the cities will collectively cut gas consumption by 1 million gallons a year.

The collaborative is especially interested in buying electric school buses and transit buses to replace current gas-guzzlers. School buses get around 6 mpg while transit buses get a little over 3 mpg, according to the Department of Energy. 

The mayors say that switching to more electric vehicles will help them “cut emissions and fight climate change from the bottom-up.”

Read more on the effort here.

 

DEBATES DODGE CLIMATE (AGAIN): The second night of Democratic presidential primary debates largely steered clear of climate change, drawing pushback from some green groups that had hoped to see the issue take center stage.

The topic saw roughly seven minutes of airtime during the two-hour debate.

The length of time devoted to the debates angered climate activists who have for months been calling for a debate devoted entirely to the issue.

“Another debate, another climate section the length of a bathroom break,” tweeted the Sunrise Movement, a youth advocate-driven group focused on climate issues. 

“By not discussing climate nearly enough, this debate allowed candidates to hide behind vague promises of climate action,” Friends of the Earth tweeted after the debate.

Sunrise Movement and other environmental groups like the Sierra Club, along with candidates such as Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWinners and losers from two nights of Democratic debates Second Democratic debate largely steers clear of climate change Biden, Harris get most speaking time at second debate MORE, have called repeatedly for a debate devoted solely to climate change. 

But the Democratic National Committee has rejected those calls, with chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s ‘wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE saying, “It’s just not practical.”

Inslee, a long shot presidential hopeful who appeared in the first round of debates on Wednesday, renewed his call for a climate-focused debate following Thursday’s round.

“Fifteen minutes in four hours of debate is not enough time for candidates to put forward the bold plans needed to defeat climate change,” he said in a statement.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor endorses Biden for president Harris claims Iowa momentum after first Democratic debates Sanders: My views on working with GOP ‘a little bit different’ from Biden’s MORE, Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisAtlanta mayor endorses Biden for president Harris claims Iowa momentum after first Democratic debates Booker: Biden can’t ‘fall into a defensive crouch and shift blame’ MORE (D-Calif) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: My views on working with GOP ‘a little bit different’ from Biden’s Scarborough apologizes for ‘disaster’ of 2020 Democratic debate on MSNBC Harris clarifies private insurance stance: ‘No, no’ I don’t think it should be eliminated MORE (I-Vt.) were asked to weigh in on their climate plans. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegAndrew Yang says microphone was ‘not on’ at times during Democratic debate Marianne Williamson most searched on Google for night two of the Democratic debate The Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate MORE, former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn Wright HickenlooperThe Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Winners and losers from two nights of Democratic debates Second Democratic debate largely steers clear of climate change MORE, and author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonAndrew Yang says microphone was ‘not on’ at times during Democratic debate Marianne Williamson most searched on Google for night two of the Democratic debate Chris Christie on Chuck Todd: ‘The most pretentious know-it-all on network news’ MORE also offered their proposals surrounding the issue.

Harris, who referred to climate change as a crisis and reiterated her support for the Green New Deal, attacked President Trump for his lack of leadership on the issue.

“The fact that we have a President of the United States who embraces science fiction over science fact will be to our collective peril,” she said.

Biden broke down some of the expenses of his $5 trillion climate plan, saying he would insist on installing 500,000 charging stations across the U.S. so that the nation could reach “a full electric vehicle future” by 2030. He added that he wants to invest $400 million in green energy research.

Hickenlooper stressed his past work with the oil and gas industry to reduce methane emissions, but cautioned against demonizing businesses.

Read more on last night’s debate.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

-Towns across globe hit record setting highs, The Washington Post reports

-Paris bans up to 60 percent of its cars as heatwave worsens pollution, Reuters reports

-Venezuelans charged in US over energy contract bribes, Bloomberg reports.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Friday…

Senate confirms one Trump Interior pick, but vote on controversial nominee awaits

Mayors across country commit to buying electric vehicles

Trump administration unveils new details about July Fourth fireworks, flyover

Palm Beach bans plastic bags and polystyrene containers

Second Democratic debate largely steers clear of climate change

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GOP scores procedural win by securing more funding to enforce Iran sanctions

House Republicans on Wednesday scored a procedural victory by successfully amending a spending bill to include language that would increase funding to strengthen Iran sanctions.

Thirty-seven Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the motion to commit to change the bill, adding an additional $10 million for the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. The motion passed in a 226-195 vote.

“In yet another example of deep divisions among House Democrats, 37 of them just broke with their leadership to pass the Republican Motion to Recommit to increase the enforcement of sanctions on Iran,” Lauren Fine, a spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump knocks Democrats on ‘Open Borders’ House passes .5B border funding bill Pelosi, Democratic leaders seek to quell liberal revolt over border bill MORE (R-La.), said in a statement.

“It’s clear that even these 37 Democrats acknowledge their party’s Iran appeasement stance is wildly out of step with the views of the American public,” she added.

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Democratic Reps. Cindy AxneCindy AxneIowa Democrat calls foul on White House over Trump ethanol tour invite House Democrats pull legislation that would give lawmakers raise Will Hollywood be coaxed to the political middle? MORE (Iowa), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.), Gil CisnerosGilbert (Gil) Ray CisnerosMORE (Calif.), Angie Craig (Minn.), Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph Crist Biz groups target Florida voters ahead of Democratic debates in Miami White House: Pelosi calling Barr a liar ‘beneath her office’ Timeline: Barr, Mueller and the Trump probe MORE (Fla.), Jason CrowJason CrowBipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress’s approval Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner Dem proposal to ban Pentagon funds for border wall survives House panel votes MORE (Colo.), Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamTime for Congress to shut the door on President Trump’s radical offshore drilling plan Overnight Energy: Trump proposal would nix agency reviews of long-term climate impacts | Greens rip decision | House votes to block offshore drilling for one year House votes to block US offshore drilling for one year MORE (S.C.), Antonio DelgadoAntonio Ramon DelgadoConservative group launches ad calling on 2020 Democrats to name potential Supreme Court picks Freshman Democrats call on McConnell to hold vote on election reform bill Democrats face voters clamoring for impeachment MORE (N.Y.), Abby FinkenauerAbby Lea FinkenauerYoungest black congresswoman says millennial colleagues have ‘less fighting over partisan nonsense’ The Hill’s Morning Report – 2020 Dems make last dash for debate stage GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates MORE (Iowa), Jared Golden (Maine), Vicente Gonzalez (Texas), Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerCNN’s Rye: U.S. will soon be running ‘death camps’ at the border Bipartisan bill would enable companies to defend themselves against cyberattacks Hillicon Valley: Facebook won’t remove doctored Pelosi video | Trump denies knowledge of fake Pelosi videos | Controversy over new Assange charges | House Democrats seek bipartisan group on net neutrality MORE (N.J.), Josh Harder (Calif.), Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornRepublicans attempt to amend retirement savings bill to include anti-BDS language The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority House GOP secures last-minute change to gun bill MORE (Okla.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), Andy Kim (N.J.) and Conor Lamb (Pa.) all bucked party leadership in supporting the motion.

Other Democrats who voted for it included Reps. Susie LeeSuzanne (Susie) Kelley LeeMORE (Nev.), Daniel LipinskiDaniel William LipinskiOvernight Health Care: Democratic bill would require insurance to cover OTC birth control | House Dems vote to overturn ban on fetal tissue research | New rule aims to expand health choices for small businesses House Democrats vote to overturn Trump ban on fetal tissue research Sanders endorses Lipinski’s progressive primary challenger MORE (Ill.), David Loebsack (Iowa), Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One House panel approves 3B defense policy bill House Democrats pull legislation that would give lawmakers raise MORE (Va.), Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiUS must do more if justice is to prevail for slain journalist Progressives seize on impeachment in 2020 primaries Cracks form in Democratic dam against impeachment MORE (N.J.), Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), Ben McAdams (Utah), Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathBlack women candidates are overlooked and underrated Ex-congressman launching PAC to defend Dem seats in 2020 GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates MORE (Ga.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyBipartisan House committee members agree on cyber threats to elections, if not how to address it Biz groups target Florida voters ahead of Democratic debates in Miami House panel approves bills on tax extenders, expanding tax credits MORE (Fla.), Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Democrats take aim at Trump policies by passing T spending package House passes amendment to block funding for transgender troops ban MORE (Minn.), Max RoseMax RoseCongress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic Hillicon Valley: Investigation finds federal agencies failed to address cyber vulnerabilities | Officials crack down on illegal robocallers | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Senators grill Google exec on ‘persuasive technology’ Artificial intelligence can’t solve online extremism issue, experts tell House panel MORE (N.Y.), Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderOmar hits back at Pelosi over BDS remarks Hoyer defends Israel in veiled shot at Omar House Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts MORE (Ill.), Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderLiberals rip Democratic leaders for writing drug pricing bill in secret Dems walk Trump trade tightrope Lobbying World MORE (Ore.), Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierPress beat lawmakers to keep trophy in annual softball game To protect our health, we must act on climate Democratic rep says Congress does not need to ‘blow up and deconstruct’ the health care system MORE (Wash.), Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillCongress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic Bipartisan House committee members agree on cyber threats to elections, if not how to address it Blue Dogs look to move forward on infrastructure project MORE (N.J.), Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinKlobuchar, Warner introduce bill to limit foreign involvement in US political ads Bipartisan House duo unveils amendment to block Iran strike without Congress’s approval Chaos within the EPA exposes Americans to toxins like asbestos MORE (Mich.), Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerGOP hopes dim on reclaiming House Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations ‘alarming’ | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale MORE (Va.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.) and Susan WildSusan WildCongresswoman opens up on House floor about partner’s suicide Congress needs to continue fighting the opioid epidemic Multiple people injured in shooting outside Pennsylvania nightclub: authorities MORE (Pa.).

Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) advocated for amending the bill ahead of the vote, making the case that Treasury’s anti-terrorism office could play an important role in pushing back on Iran’s aggression amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.

“This office plays a key role in countering our most critical national security threats by implementing sanctions. As a Green Beret, I have fought in the war on terror and can tell you that this office is vital to the safety of our nation and preventing war,” he said during debate. 

“In light of our current threats, this office requires an additional $10 million to accomplish its goals. This motion will implement sanctions policy towards Russia, North Korea, ISIS and particularly the Iranian regime,” he added.

Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyDemocrats wary of Trump’s ‘erratic’ approach to Iran Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Democrats lash out at Trump’s bombshell remarks MORE (D-Ill.) pushed back, arguing that the Republican motion was hypocritical for GOP members to put forth because members of the party supported amendments that would have made cuts to the account. He pointed to an amendment offered by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.).

“How in the world can we take your MTR seriously?” he said on the floor, referring to the motion to recommit.

“Just a few moments ago on an amendment proposed by Mr. Banks from Indiana, you voted yes on two amendments that would cut this account by 14 percent, a cut of $23.5 million.” 

But despite Quigley’s pushback, Democratic leadership members were unable to whip enough lawmakers against the last-minute change.

Republicans have repeatedly utilized the procedural tool in an attempt to highlight divisions within the Democratic caucus. The passage of Wednesday’s motion marks the third time this year they’ve successfully picked off enough members across the aisle to make last-minute changes to a bill.

Top GOP lawmakers are looking to use the strategy to place moderate Democrats up for reelection next year in swing districts in a difficult position.

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Republicans had their first success with the procedural move in February when they amended a bill on Yemen to include language condemning anti-Semitism.

Shortly after, they also managed to amend Democrats’ landmark gun control bill to include language requiring that Immigration and Customs Enforcement be alerted if an immigrant without legal status tries to purchase a firearm.

Following the passage of the second motion, Democratic leaders attempted to crack down on members splitting with the party on the procedural votes, with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House Pelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July Trump says he spoke to Pelosi, McConnell on border package MORE (D-Calif.) warning would-be defectors that Democratic resources are best reserved for those who vote with the party, according to multiple media reports.

Meanwhile, three Republicans — Reps. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash splits with Republicans, votes to authorize subpoena for Kellyanne Conway The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Anticipation high ahead of first debate House panel votes to subpoena Kellyanne Conway over Hatch Act testimony MORE (Mich.), Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThis week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive House conservative’s procedural protest met with bipartisan gripes Trump signs long-awaited .1B disaster aid bill MORE (Ky.) and Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungEx-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Congress: Pass legislation that invests in America’s water future Bipartisan group introduces legislation to protect federal workers’ health benefits during shutdowns MORE (Alaska) — voted against the motion Wednesday.

Senate sets new voting record with Iran war measure

The Senate set a new record for the longest vote in modern history Friday as the chamber votes on restricting President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House ‘with my head held high’ Atlanta mayor endorses Biden for president MORE‘s ability to take military action against Iran without congressional approval. 

 

The Senate is normally out of town on Friday, but stuck around to give 2020 Democratic candidates a chance to vote on the amendment, from Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers The Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | Iran vote left for Friday | Democratic candidates talk Iran, Afghanistan at first debate | Congress moves toward tougher North Korea sanctions MORE (D-Va.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers The Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | Iran vote left for Friday | Democratic candidates talk Iran, Afghanistan at first debate | Congress moves toward tougher North Korea sanctions MORE (D-N.M.), that would block Trump from using funding to take military action against Iran without congressional approval. 

 

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The vote clocked in at 10 hours when it wrapped up just after 3 p.m.

 

In an effort to balance the 2020 demands and senators who had already planned trips, the Senate came into session at 5 a.m., several hours earlier than a normal week day. 

 

Several senators voted within minutes of the vote opening, including Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline MORE (D-Ill.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyDemocrats plot strategy to win back Senate The Hill’s Morning Report – Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Trump endorses McSally in Arizona Senate race MORE (R-Ariz.), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanOvernight Defense: Trump says he doesn’t need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Senators weigh potential security risks from Chinese-made drones August recess under threat as yearly spending bills pile up MORE (R-Alaska) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt VA chief pressed on efforts to prevent veteran suicides Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of ‘nuclear blackmail’ | Details on key defense bill amendments MORE (D-Mont.). 

 

Other senators trickled in throughout the morning. Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Senate panel advances bipartisan package on health costs | Grassley, Wyden in talks on deal to limit drug price increases | Court asks if blue states have standing in ObamaCare suit Senate Health Committee advances bipartisan package to lower health costs Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases MORE (R-Tenn.) jokingly asked Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers Senate set to vote on Trump’s power to attack Iran Senate passes .5B border bill, setting up fight with House MORE (R-Utah) as they ran into each other in Capitol hallways, “Mike, did you sleep here?” 

 

Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Senate panel advances bipartisan package on health costs | Grassley, Wyden in talks on deal to limit drug price increases | Court asks if blue states have standing in ObamaCare suit Senate Health Committee advances bipartisan package to lower health costs Overnight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds MORE (D-Wash.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenNew bill will get the labor market running on all cylinders Senate Democrats wish talk on reparations would go away Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Senate panel advances bipartisan package on health costs | Grassley, Wyden in talks on deal to limit drug price increases | Court asks if blue states have standing in ObamaCare suit MORE (D-Ore.) were overheard talking about their flight times as they exited the Capitol. 

 

And Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), spotting reporters as he entered the Capitol, quipped, “You’ve got to be kidding me? Six a.m., really?” 

 

The previous record for the longest vote in modern history was in December, when senators kept a vote open for more than five hours as they made a failed attempt to avoid a partial government shutdown. 

 

Friday’s early voting, and long hours, wasn’t without unusual moments. 

 

At odds with the generally buttoned up Senate decorum, Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGOP sen: Democrats talking about ‘Medicare for All’ shows they’re unhappy with ObamaCare Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Senate panel advances bipartisan package on health costs | Grassley, Wyden in talks on deal to limit drug price increases | Court asks if blue states have standing in ObamaCare suit Manchin on ‘Medicare for All’: ‘We can’t even pay for Medicare for some’ MORE (D-W.Va.) headed toward the chamber around 5:30 a.m. in jeans and a green polo shirt. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham jokes after Democratic debate: Third term for Trump ‘looking better and better’ McConnell on Democratic attacks: ‘I love it’ Trump, Congress set for new showdown on Saudi Arabia MORE (R-S.C.) was spotted voting from the cloakroom in shorts and a T-shirt. 

 

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyIs Big Tech biased? Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns Bipartisan senators to introduce bill forcing online platforms to disclose value of user data MORE (R-Mo.) tried to inject some humor into the proceedings five hours into the Senate session by asking a largely empty chamber if “any senator wanted to vote or change their vote.” 

 

After roughly six hours of Republicans presiding over the GOP-controlled chamber, they took an unusual step of letting Democrats preside, with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHouse holds moment of silence for drowned migrant father and daughter Schiff calls viral photo of drowned immigrants product of Trump’s policies Trump goes after Democrats over photo of drowned migrants MORE (D-N.Y.) taking over.  

 

By the time the Senate left for the day, Democratic Sens. Kaine, Udall and Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate Democrats wish talk on reparations would go away Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions Overnight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn’t want war with Iran MORE (D-R.I.) had also presided over the chamber.

 

There was talk amongst senators that there wouldn’t be enough Republican senators in Washington with the start of the Fourth of July recess for them to preside over the Senate for an hours-long last-minute session. 

 

Normally when the Senate is in session one Republican senator presides over the chamber, with the responsibility rotating amongst lawmakers throughout the day. 

 

Tester told reporters on Thursday that Democrats were being lined up to help preside over the chamber, adding, “I never saw it happen when we were in the majority.”  

On The Money: Anticipation builds for Trump, Xi sitdown | Pressure on Trump for trade breakthrough | Democrats at debate rip Trump approach to China

Happy Friday and welcome back to On The Money, where we’re ready to recover from two nights of testy debates with a #USWNT victory over France this afternoon. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

See something I missed? Let me know at slane@thehill.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.

Write us with tips, suggestions and news: slane@thehill.com, njagoda@thehill.com and nelis@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane, @NJagoda and @NivElis.

 

THE BIG DEAL–Trump under pressure for China trade breakthrough: President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House ‘with my head held high’ Atlanta mayor endorses Biden for president MORE is under intense pressure to make progress toward a trade deal with China at this weekend’s Group of 20 summit in Japan, as lawmakers and businesses anxiously wait for an end to damaging tit-for-tat tariffs. 

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Trump is set to meet Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a bid to revive negotiations that fell apart in May. The summit is the latest attempt to cement a deal to lift U.S tariffs on Chinese goods in exchange for structural reforms meant to curb alleged Chinese trade abuses and technology theft.

  • The trade war between the world’s two largest economies has hindered economic growth in both nations over the past 12 months. 
  • U.S. tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods have strained China’s slowing manufacturing sector, while Beijing has targeted the ailing U.S. agricultural sector with levies on $60 billion in American crops and livestock.

Those tensions will come to a head this Saturday as Trump and Xi sit down with pressure to break the deadlock in trade negotiations. 

  • If the two make progress, it could clear the path toward an eventual deal to eliminate tariffs.
  • But if Trump emerges unsatisfied or empty-handed from his meeting with Xi, that could risk escalating a trade war with severe economic and political costs.

I’ve got more on the risks and potential rewards here.

 

The path forward: The first step toward a broader deal is likely an agreement to halt further tariffs while negotiations continue, which Xi reportedly demanded as a condition for meeting with Trump.

But the president still faces several other economic and political challenges in securing broader agreement.

  • Trump has demanded stricter protections for U.S. intellectual property technology, along with greater U.S. access to Chinese financial markets. 
  • That would require China to overhaul its economy in ways long resisted by Beijing, raising doubts about the viability of a larger deal.
  • China has also insisted that Trump lift the tariffs he imposed on Chinese goods, which Trump has ruled out doing on several occasions. And Trump’s blacklisting of Huawei, a Chinese tech firm with purported ties to the country’s intelligence agencies, has also become entangled in talks.

 

Political cover now, risks ahead: Republican lawmakers have given the president unequivocal support in his battle with China, even as farmers in their states and districts suffer under retaliatory tariffs. 

  • “He’s using the tools at his disposal to get a good deal for the American farmer. Is it painful? Yes, it is very painful. But if we can get a good deal out of this pain right now, we can endure,” said Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump under pressure for China trade breakthrough Democrats plot strategy to win back Senate Mitt Romney: Rape allegation against Trump should be ‘evaluated’ MORE (R-Iowa).
  • “This is not just about a trade war. This is about whether or not China is going to participate in the world economy,” said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).

 

2020 ramifications: But If Trump is unable to come away with even a moderate victory against China, it could damage his standing in states like Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that have lost industrial jobs for decades. Those states were crucial to Trump’s victory in 2016 and could make or break his reelection bid.

Higher tariffs on Chinese goods and the expected retaliation against American farmers could also hamper the U.S. economy, which is already expected to slow over the next 18 months. 

“I worry that even if there’s a trade agreement, that from a Kansas point of view, that we will now have a lot of work to regain the markets that we’ve lost,” said Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers Overnight Defense: Officials brief Congress after Iran shoots down drone | Lawmakers fear ‘grave situation’ | Trump warns Iran | Senate votes to block Saudi arms sales | Bombshell confession at Navy SEAL’s murder trial The 7 GOP senators who voted to block all or part of Trump’s Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Kansas).

“China is a hugely important market, and particularly in regard to soybeans, which we raise a lot of. So there’s a lot of challenges in the absence of trade, in the short term, but even in the long term,” he continued. “One of the goals in our country is to get our sons and daughters to return to family farms. Nobody would look at the family farm today and think this is a good time to return home and when our kids can choose other careers.”

 

The latest: China’s foreign ministry has indicated that it hopes the U.S. can meet halfway on trade after the countries failed to reach an agreement earlier this year. 

 

LEADING THE DAY

Dem candidates rip Trump on China ahead of crucial trade summit: Democratic presidential candidates criticized President Trump’s trade war with China during Thursday’s primary debate in Miami, arguing that his use of tariffs is the wrong weapon in the president’s rightful battle with China.

Trump’s Democratic challengers agreed with his concerns about anti-competitive trade policy from China and the authoritarian regime’s efforts to expand its global influence. 

But they criticized Trump for using tariffs on billions of Chinese goods to push Beijing into negotiations, creating immense economic costs for both nations.

“The China challenge really is serious. This is not something to dismiss or wave away,” said South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegAndrew Yang says microphone was ‘not on’ at times during Democratic debate Marianne Williamson most searched on Google for night two of the Democratic debate The Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate MORE. “But their fundamental economic model isn’t going to change because of some tariffs.”

Democrats argued that Trump’s tariffs addressed real concerns but created unnecessary economic harm for U.S. farmers, manufacturers and consumers. 

  • Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSanders: My views on working with GOP ‘a little bit different’ from Biden’s The Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Winners and losers from two nights of Democratic debates MORE (D-Colo.) said Trump should instead unite global allies to curb China’s alleged practice of intellectual property theft, steel dumping and currency manipulation.
  • Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang says microphone was ‘not on’ at times during Democratic debate Marianne Williamson most searched on Google for night two of the Democratic debate Chris Christie on Chuck Todd: ‘The most pretentious know-it-all on network news’ MORE, a tech entrepreneur, added “They do pirate our intellectual property and it’s a massive problem. But the tariffs and the trade war are just punishing businesses and producers and workers on both sides.”
  • Buttigieg said that the only way to defeat China as they use “technology for the perfection of dictatorship” is to focus on sprawling domestic investments, “not the export balance on dishwashers.”
  • “The biggest thing we’ve got to do is invest in our own domestic competitiveness. If we disinvest in our own infrastructure, education, we are never going to be able to compete,” Buttigieg said.

 

Tax policy also took center stage in the opening questions of Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate.

The first question moderators asked in the Thursday’s 2020 Democratic presidential debate went to Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: My views on working with GOP ‘a little bit different’ from Biden’s Scarborough apologizes for ‘disaster’ of 2020 Democratic debate on MSNBC Harris clarifies private insurance stance: ‘No, no’ I don’t think it should be eliminated MORE (I-Vt.), asking him if he would raise taxes on the middle-class to pay for his proposals.

  • Sanders said that he has a plan to pay for every proposal he’s offered, such as canceling student debt with a tax on Wall Street trades.
  • Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor endorses Biden for president Harris claims Iowa momentum after first Democratic debates Sanders: My views on working with GOP ‘a little bit different’ from Biden’s MORE said that the country has “massive income inequality” and can reduce tax loopholes. He added he wants to eliminate President Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy.
  • Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisAtlanta mayor endorses Biden for president Harris claims Iowa momentum after first Democratic debates Booker: Biden can’t ‘fall into a defensive crouch and shift blame’ MORE (D-Calif.) touted her proposal to give low- and middle-class household a tax credit of up to $6,000, or $500 per month.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK: Congress will be in recess until the end of the July 4th weekend.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • The Trump administration on Friday announced sanctions against the son of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro amid questions over whether its push to oust the embattled leader has stalled.
  • “American companies that spent years trying to build a foothold in Europe are being torpedoed by the EU’s retaliatory tariffs,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Wall Street emerged from the first Democratic presidential debate unscathed–for now, at least.
  • Former Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampLobbying World Pro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA On The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight MORE (D-N.D.) writes in an op-ed that Republicans have abandoned free trade to support Trump’s ‘radical and reckless’ policies.
  • Apple is shifting production of the Mac Pro, one of the few devices that had been manufactured in the U.S., to China amid an ongoing trade battle between the two countries, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Trump’s demands for Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to weaken the dollar are going unanswered, according to Bloomberg News.

 

ODDS AND ENDS

  • Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will join the board of directors of Pfizer, the company announced Thursday.
  • Mayors from across the country are committing to buying more than 2,100 electric vehicles — including school buses — by 2020 to fill out local government fleets.

 

Recap the week with On The Money:

  • Monday: Sanders unveils plan to wipe $1.6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman $20 bills | Trump says Fed ‘blew it’ on rate decision 
  • Tuesday: Powell asserts Fed’s independence amid new Trump attacks | House approves $383 billion spending package | CBO projects ‘unprecedented’ debt levels by 2049 | Democrats struggle with Trump tax law provision
  • Wednesday: Senate passes $4.5B border bill, setting up fight with House | 2020 Democrats spar over socialism before first debate | Ex-Im deal in peril amid Dem backlash
  • Thursday: House sends Trump border aid bill after Pelosi caves | McConnell dismisses one-year stopgap floated by White House | Mnuchin pushing Trump to put Secret Service under Treasury control

Democratic senators urge Ross to print 2020 census materials without citizenship question

A group of Democratic senators on Friday called for Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossTrump digs in on citizenship question after Supreme Court setback Trump wants delay on census in wake of Supreme Court ruling Trump to push for delay on census in wake of Supreme Court ruling MORE to move forward with printing 2020 census materials that don’t include a citizenship question, after the Supreme Court blocked the question on Thursday for the time being.

In a letter to Ross led by Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzYang raises eyebrows with tie-less debate look Democratic senator knocks NBC over debate’s lack of climate-related questions McConnell on Democratic attacks: ‘I love it’ MORE (D-Hawaii), the 28 senators urged Ross “to uphold the rule of law and respect the court’s decision.”

And they warned that “any unnecessary delay” ahead of the 2020 census “would impact the ability of the Census Bureau to count every person in our country.”

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“By continuing to pursue the citizenship question, you will further delay and jeopardize the Census Bureau’s ability to conduct a full, fair, and accurate decennial census as required by the U.S. Constitution and the Census Act,” the letter reads.

“We urge you to stop all efforts to add a citizenship question and allow the Census Bureau to proceed with preparation for a 2020 census without a citizenship question on the questionnaire.”

The letter’s signatories included Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHouse holds moment of silence for drowned migrant father and daughter Schiff calls viral photo of drowned immigrants product of Trump’s policies Trump goes after Democrats over photo of drowned migrants MORE (D-N.Y.), as well as Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats leery of Sanders plan to cancel student loan debt McConnell opens door to vote on Iran war authorization Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline MORE (D-Ill.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyTop Democrat urges Pelosi to take Senate border bill Political interference at DOJ threatens the rule of law, and Congress needs to act Senate Democrats wish talk on reparations would go away MORE (D-Vt.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHouse passes sweeping Democrat-backed election security bill Senate Democrats wish talk on reparations would go away Pelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July MORE (D-Va.).

2020 Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker: Biden can’t ‘fall into a defensive crouch and shift blame’ Winners and losers from two nights of Democratic debates Biden, Harris get most speaking time at second debate MORE (N.J.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar campaign promotes merchandise mocking Trump Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | Iran vote left for Friday | Democratic candidates talk Iran, Afghanistan at first debate | Congress moves toward tougher North Korea sanctions McConnell relishes role as 2020 debate villain MORE (Minn.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Biden falters in Democratic debate Buttigieg: We don’t know what allies Trump ‘will have pissed off worst’ MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisAtlanta mayor endorses Biden for president Harris claims Iowa momentum after first Democratic debates Booker: Biden can’t ‘fall into a defensive crouch and shift blame’ MORE (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris clarifies private insurance stance: ‘No, no’ I don’t think it should be eliminated The Hill’s Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate Winners and losers from two nights of Democratic debates MORE (Mass.) also signed the letter.

Ross announced in 2018 that the 2020 census, which his department oversees, would include a question asking about citizenship status. He argued that it was necessary to help the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act.

But the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Ross’s rationale didn’t match up with evidence presented in a lawsuit challenging the citizenship question’s inclusion, and blocked the question’s inclusion for now.

The justices sent the matter back to the Commerce Department to provide another reasoning for the question that better aligned with the evidence.

The Trump administration had said in court documents that it needed to finalize materials by June 30 in order to meet a July 1 printing deadline.

However, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate rejects attempt to curb Trump’s Iran war powers Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House ‘with my head held high’ Atlanta mayor endorses Biden for president MORE tweeted after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday that he was asking administration lawyers about delaying the 2020 census “no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter.”

That opens the door for the administration to put off printing census materials as it continues to fight in court for the citizenship question’s inclusion.

Government privacy watchdog to probe airport facial recognition

The federal government’s privacy watchdog this week said it will examine the use of facial recognition technology at U.S. airports.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent agency tasked with advising the executive branch on privacy matters, announced the probe on Wednesday.

“The aviation-security project will examine how facial recognition and other biometric technologies are used to verify identity at each phase of a journey, from booking to baggage claim,” the PCLOB said in a statement. “The project will consider both operational benefits and privacy and civil liberties concerns arising from the use of biometric technologies in the aviation-security context.”

Civil liberties groups, most prominently the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have been pushing for PCLOB to review and recommend guidelines for the expanding face scanning program being implemented by the government in dozens of airports.

The watchdog’s announcement came two days before the Senate confirmed the nominations of Aditya Bamzai and Travis LeBlanc to the bipartisan agency’s five-member board.

The facial recognition investigation comes as Congress has escalated its probes into the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) expanding facial recognition technology program, which scans the faces of people entering and exiting the U.S. at airports and certain points along the border.

More than 20 House Democrats in a letter earlier this month pressed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over Border Patrol’s use of facial recognition technology on U.S. citizens at airports, raising privacy and civil rights issues over the program.

DHS this year said it plans to use facial recognition technology on almost all departing air passengers within the next four years as part of its Biometric Entry/Exit program, which scans the faces of people coming into and out of the U.S.

CBP has said the program is aimed at identifying people flouting laws about who can come into the country, including those overstaying their visas, and airlines have argued that it makes traveling more efficient.

But critics say the program raises concerns about how the government is using the data it collects and how it will protect that information.

The PCLOB on Wednesday also announced it would begin reviewing the FBI’s process of searching data obtained without a warrant during terrorism investigations. That authority, enabled by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows the U.S. government to collect communications from foreigners located outside of the U.S. without a warrant.

House Democrats launch investigation into Trump administration's Medicaid changes

House Democrats are launching an investigation into the Trump administration’s handling of Medicaid.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Energy: Top EPA official stepping down amid ethics probe | Critics slam EPA for rolling back union protections | Trump officials open door to controversial Alaska mining project Top EPA official stepping down amid ethics probe Pressure builds to secure health care data MORE (D-N.J.) sent a letter Thursday to the Department of Health and Human Services that asks for information about the administration’s attempts to convince states to make conservative changes to their Medicaid programs.

The administration has been trying to sell states on the merits of imposing block grants, or a per-person spending cap, without congressional approval. 

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Pallone wrote these changes would threaten access to health care for millions of Americans across the country, and are illegal.

“The plain language of the statute prohibits the Secretary from approving a waiver that requests a block grant or per capita cap in Medicaid through a cap on federal funds,” Pallone said. 

The Trump administration has pulled out all the stops to encourage red states to make controversial conservative changes to Medicaid, and Pallone questioned whether the agency would follow the law.

“It is troubling to learn that you are putting your radical agenda ahead of your responsibility to implement the law faithfully,” Pallone wrote.

A letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to state Medicaid directors currently under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget is expected to provide a road map to red states on how to gain approval from the administration on their requests to cap their Medicaid programs. 

Additionally, the administration has urged Alaska’s governor to apply to be the first state to change its Medicaid program funding to a block grant.

Imposing block grants in Medicaid has long been a major conservative goal. Republicans say policies like block grants and payment caps allow for more state flexibility and are more fiscally sustainable.

A block grant would transform Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement program into one with capped benefits. 

Currently, the federal government matches a certain percentage of state spending, and the funding is open-ended. In exchange, states agree to cover specific services and specific types of recipients.

Under a block grant, states would receive a fixed amount of money from the federal government, regardless of outside circumstances, that they could spend however they see fit.

Democrats argue block grants would result in Medicaid cuts. Depending on how the block grant is designed, it could also run into legal problems, based on coverage requirements.