Kansas voters spurn effort to undo abortion rights protections
In the biggest news of a high-stakes primary night, Kansas voters rejected a ballot measure on Tuesday that would have removed protections for abortion rights from the state constitution in the first electoral test of support for abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
Votes against the ballot measures led “yes” votes early Wednesday morning 59 percent to 41 percent. The high turnout and double-digit margin in support of access to abortion are the strongest signals yet that abortion is a motivating issue for voters in red and blue states alike.
“This vote makes clear what we know: the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions,” President Biden said in statement Tuesday night.
The victory for abortion rights advocates came in a state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and hasn’t elected a Democratic senator since 1932 (although Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is a Democrat who supports abortion rights), indicating that Republicans also voted to protect abortion access.
As our colleague Annie Gowen noted last week in her dispatch from Kansas, “an Associated Press VoteCast survey of 2020 election voters in Kansas found that 54 percent said abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, while 44 percent said it should be mostly or always legal, compared with 59 percent nationwide who felt abortion should be legal.”
The vote came hours after the Justice Department filed its first lawsuit in the wake of Roe’s reversal, arguing that “a new Idaho law that would impose a near-total ban on the procedure violates a federal requirement to provide medical care when a pregnant person’s life or health is at stake,” as our colleagues Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett report.
- “Attorney General Merrick Garland said the lawsuit filed Tuesday is aimed at stopping Idaho’s “trigger” ban, which is set to take effect Aug. 25.”
- “The Idaho law allows doctors to be criminally prosecuted for providing abortions, Garland said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. He argued that it could conflict with federal law that says patients seeking emergency medical care at a hospital accepting Medicare funds are entitled to any lifesaving treatment.”
Biden, meanwhile, plans to sign an executive order today that “will call on Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to consider inviting states to apply for Medicaid waivers when treating patients: who travel out-of-state for abortions,” our colleague Tyler Pager reports. It’s unclear how such waivers would work, but a senior administration official told Tyler “it would target low-income women served by Medicaid and help cover certain costs.”
The Republicans who voted to impeach
Three House Republicans who voted last year to impeach former president Donald Trump faced Trump-endorsed challengers on Tuesday with one going down in defeat and the other two contests yet to be called.
- In Michigan, John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official, defeated Rep. Peter Meijer 52 percent to 48 percent in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democratic lawyer Hillary Scholten in the swing district in November.
- And in Washington state — which uses a nonpartisan “top-two” primary system — Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was leading her Republican challenger, Joe Kent, 25 percent to 20 percent. And Rep. Dan Newhouse was leading his own Trump-endorsed challenger, Loren Culp, 27 percent to 22 percent. Newhouse’s district is solidly Republican; Herrera Beutler’s leans Republican.
How the Trump-backed candidates fared
Eric won in Missouri, giving Trump a win? Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt — whom Trump sort of backed on Monday when he endorsed “ERIC” — won the Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R).
His victory is a relief for Senate Republicans, who feared the party would need to pour millions of dollars into the race to hold the seat if the other Eric in the race — Former governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in disgrace in 2018 — prevailed. But Greitens was in third place with 19 percent of the vote early this morning, behind Schmitt and Rep. Vicky Hartzler.
Here are a few more results in races in which Trump endorsed:
- Arizona Senate: Blake Masters defeated his two Republican rivals, Jim Lamon and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and will go on to face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.
- Arizona governor: Kari Lake, Trump’s candidate, was leading Karrin Taylor Robson, the developer who won the endorsements of former vice president Mike Pence and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, 46 percent to 45 percent with 78 percent of the votes counted. The winner will face Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, in November.
- Arizona secretary of state: Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem, who has falsely argued that Biden only won Arizona in 2020 due to massive fraud, defeated his primary rivals. Adrian Fontes, a former Maricopa County recorder, was leading state Rep. Reginald Bolding 53 percent to 47 percent for the Democratic nomination.
- Michigan governor: Tudor Dixon, whom Trump endorsed on Friday and who also has the backing of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s former education secretary, defeated two Republican rivals and will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the fall.
A progressive congressman goes down
Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), an outspoken progressive from a prominent Michigan political family, lost his seat to Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) after they chose to run in the same district in the Detroit suburbs following redistricting.
Stevens’ victory was also a win for United Democracy Project, a super PAC started by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee earlier this year that spent more than $4.2 million backing Stevens and opposing Levin. Emily’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, also spent millions of dollars via its super PAC on Stevens’ behalf.
Lucas Kunce, meanwhile, the populist Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri whom Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed on Monday, lost to Trudy Busch Valentine, a member of the wealthy family that started the Anheuser-Busch brewing empire.
Two more progressives — Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) — fared better, easily fending off primary challengers.
Things are coming together in the Senate
The Senate on Tuesday night passed the PACT Act, legislation that would compensate and care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during overseas deployments.
The measure passed 86 to 11, with 37 Republicans voting in favor of the bill. That’s more than the 34 Republicans who originally supported the bill in June when it passed 84 to 15.
But the measure has traveled a tortuous route over the past week. On July 27, Republicans blocked the bill, arguing they were concerned about how up to $400 billion for veterans would be classified in the federal budget, potentially freeing up money for Democrats to spend on other priorities. Democrats dismissed this argument and accused the 25 Republican senators who went from yea to nay of having a temper tantrum over an unrelated climate and health care deal struck by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.).
Republicans came under withering criticism from veterans groups and their high profile advocate, comedian Jon Stewart, who were outside the Capitol since Thursday morning demanding the bill, which more than 16 veterans organizations have been working on for 13 years, be passed.
Republicans relented after Schumer allowed a vote on an amendment from Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) that would have addressed the GOP’s budgetary concerns. It failed, but the vote let out the steam and paved the way for the bill to pass.
Dozens of veterans and Stewart sat in the Senate gallery watching the vote with tears streaming down their faces as the bill passed.
“In the end the veterans service organizations will be pleased with the final result,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday.
The bill will cover care for 3.5 million veterans exposed to burn pits, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and remove the burden of proof from the injured veterans that the toxic exposure caused their illness.
“This fully pays the cost of war,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said.
The measure now heads to Biden to be signed into law.
Next up, NATO. The Senate today will take up a new treaty that would allow Sweden and Finland into the alliance.
While passage, which requires a two-thirds majority, is not in doubt, the timing was in flux. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will receive a vote on an amendment that, he says, would ensure that “Article 5 of the NATO treaty does not supersede the constitutional requirement that Congress has to declare war.” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) will also receive an amendment vote. The Senate is expected to adopt the treaty by the end of the day.
Schumer said he invited the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden into the Senate chamber to watch the debate.
Democrats climate, health care and tax bill
Once the NATO treaty clears, all that is left before the Senate adjourns for a month-long recess is Democrats’ major legislative priority: the climate change, health care and tax bill.
Yes, Democrats are still waiting to finish the vetting process with the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) hasn’t announced if she’ll back the bill. (Our colleagues Tony Romm and Jeff Stein report on how Democrats are scrambling for Sinema’s support.) But Democrats sounded optimistic, almost giddy, at the prospect of passage.
“There was enthusiasm. There was unity. There was just a great feeling that we would get momentous things done for America in the next week,” Schumer said Tuesday. (Timing note: Schumer said “in the next week.” This is not expected to wrap by the weekend.)
Worried about jinxing the bill’s chances, Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) knocked on wood during a news conference.
Pelosi departs Taiwan as tensions rise with China
While you were asleep: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other lawmakers Wednesday, defying Beijing’s threats of retaliation over the visit and raising fears of a military crisis in the Taiwan Strait,” our colleagues Lily Kuo, Erin Cunningham, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Rachel Pannett and Annabelle Timsit report.
- “During a ceremony at the presidential office, Pelosi accepted an award from the president on behalf of Congress and declared the United States’ solidarity with Taiwan ‘crucial.’ There is ‘a struggle between autocracy and democracy in the world’ right now, Pelosi said in a subsequent news conference, adding that one of the purposes of the trip is ‘to show the world the success of the people of Taiwan, the courage to change their own country, to become more democratic.’
- While in Taiwan, Pelosi (D-Calif.) also met with Mark Liu, chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the island nation’s biggest semiconductor manufacturer.
- The speaker left Taiwan around 6 a.m. EST.
But Pelosi has always had an adversarial relationship with China, our colleague Marianna Sotomayor writes. Her trip “marks the culmination of a 35-year career spent as an outspoken critic of China, even when domestic issues overshadowed her foreign policy work during her decades leading the Democratic caucus.”
- “Those who know her best point to the massacre at Tiananmen Square as the catalyst that sparked Pelosi’s efforts, drawing her in both as a lawmaker representing San Francisco’s prominent Chinese community and as a mother who was pained watching college-age students, like her own children, being persecuted for defending democracy.”
- “Pelosi famously visited the square in 1991 where she held that banner, reading ‘To those who died for democracy in China,’ alongside congressmen Ben Jones (D-Ga.) and John Miller (R-Wash.), and surprising Chinese authorities.”
- Since that visit, Pelosi has created a pathway to citizenship for Chinese students fleeing political persecution; signed on to legislation that called for withdrawing the United States from the World Trade Organization if China were accepted; pushed for the creation of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China; advocated for the release of China’s political prisoners; and helped pass a bipartisan bill in 2019 imposing sanctions on Chinese officials tied to human rights abuses.
Taking a bite out of the competition