POLITICO Playbook: Clarence Thomas speaks- POLITICO
MCCONNELL VISITS UKRAINE — Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL led a delegation of Senate Republicans to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY. “Zelensky said on his Instagram account that the visit ‘is a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people.’ Also seen meeting [Zelenskyy] in video and photographs on the president’s official social media accounts are Republican Sens. SUSAN COLLINS of Maine, JOHN BARRASSO of Wyoming and JOHN CORNYN of Texas. It’s unclear whether the meeting took place Saturday and whether the delegation is still in Kyiv,” per CNN. Video of the visit, via Christopher Miller
“I do think that what happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said about the publication of a draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade. | Patrick Semansky/AP Photo
‘TREMENDOUSLY BAD’ — Supreme Court Justice CLARENCE THOMAS, a man of few words from the bench, did not hold back Friday about the publication of a draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade. “I do think that what happened at the court is tremendously bad,” Thomas declared during a discussion at a conference for Black conservatives in Dallas, per our colleague Josh Gerstein. “I wonder how long we’re going to have these institutions at the rate we’re undermining them and then I wonder when they’re gone or destabilized what we will have as a country and I don’t think the prospects are good if we continue to lose them.”
According to a new poll, Americans would like to see Congress focus more on reducing the overall costs of health care coverage such as premiums, deductible, and copays (71%) over reducing the costs of prescription drugs (29%). This extends across party lines; 73% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans would like to see Congress focus on reducing overall costs of coverage. Read more.
KEYING IN ON THE KEYSTONE STATE — New this morning: “Trump endorsed Doug Mastriano in the Pa. governor’s race, a late boost for the far-right front-runner,” by the Philly Inquirer’s Andrew Seidman
A batch of good stories out today digging into the wild, must-watch GOP Senate primary Tuesday in Pennsylvania, where largely unvetted conservative commentator KATHY BARNETTE is mounting a late surge against celebrity doctor MEHMET OZ and hedge fund exec DAVID MCCORMICK:
— On what it will say about Trump’s sway over the GOP: Trump is increasingly finding that his grip and ability to clear the field may be waning. “From Nebraska and Idaho to Pennsylvania and Georgia, Republicans have been actively campaigning — or quietly maneuvering — against Trump’s picks in a way that could undermine his sway over the party,” WaPo’s Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey write. “In several cases, some of Trump’s own Cabinet members and advisers, along with other longtime allies in the Republican Party, are working or stumping for candidates running against Trump-endorsed candidates.” In Pennsylvania, Trump’s former Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO and Sen. TED CRUZ have backed McCormick. And even his former VP, MIKE PENCE, is embracing one of Trump’s biggest political targets in Georgia Gov. BRIAN KEMP.
— On Senate Republicans’ electability dilemma: McConnell has given his lieutenants a clear marching order: Embrace electable candidates who can reclaim the majority. At the same time, the party apparatus has adopted a posture of not picking favorites in primaries. The upshot: The GOP has little control over who emerges as their standard bearer. And there are fears that Barnette — and a handful of contenders in other states — could blow winnable races.
“While it’s too early to compare the GOP’s plight to the debacles in 2010 and 2012 that frittered away competitive Senate races,” Burgess Everett reports, “there’s a rising sense of unease among party insiders that Republicans could end up with candidates who make a Senate takeover more difficult.”
— On whether voters can separate Trump from Trumpism: “In interviews with more than two dozen Republican voters in western Pennsylvania, many [voiced] ambivalence and uncertainty about Dr. Oz — despite Mr. Trump’s backing, they view him with suspicion, call him ‘too Hollywood’ and question his ties to the state. Those Republicans … said they were instead voting for or considering voting for Kathy Barnette, the far-right author and conservative-media commentator who has surged in the polls on a shoestring budget,” NYT’s Jennifer Medina reports from Laughlintown, Pa.
“In a race that could determine control of the Senate, many Republicans in the state find themselves deeply devoted to Mr. Trump yet, at the same time, less swayed by his guidance.”
ICYMI: Majority of Americans reject so-called government “negotiation” once they learn it could restrict access and choice and chill the innovation of new treatments and cures.
Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. You can find me on email here, or get in touch with the rest of the team: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
BIDEN’S SATURDAY: The president has nothing on his public schedule.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Law enforcement personnel hold candles during the 34th Annual Candlelight Vigil to commemorate new names added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in a ceremony at the National Mall on Friday, May 13. | AP
9 THINGS WE READ THAT STUCK WITH US …
1. HOW WE GOT HERE: The NYT a harrowing look at the United States’ steady march to 1 million Covid deaths, a grim milestone that the country passed this week: “How America Lost One Million People”
2. THE BIG ISSUE:Helena Bottemiller Evich and Meredith Lee have the download on the national shortage of infant formula that has grown over months to become the issue in Washington this week. “Republicans are blaming President Joe Biden for the shortage, claiming it’s part of the fall-out from his economic policies — and that his administration was too slow to act when problems with the formula supply first materialized. The White House, meanwhile, is scrambling to help ramp up production while fellow Democrats in Congress are raising potential antitrust concerns about the infant formula sector, which is dominated by four companies.” Related read: “GOP’s new midterm attack: Blaming Biden for formula shortage,” by AP’s Paul Weber
3. BEHIND THE SUBPOENAS: The striking subpoenas that were issued to House GOP lawmakers this week are shrouded in a bit of secrecy. Very little is known about the scope or contents of the requests, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu report. “Members of the select committee declined to say whether they had also subpoenaed telecom companies to obtain the phone and email records of the GOP lawmakers — a step they’ve taken with dozens, if not hundreds, of other witnesses. And they wouldn’t specify whether the subpoenas demand their Republican colleagues’ documents, in addition to their testimony.”
4. A PEEK INSIDE BIDEN’S WALLET: The White House released Biden’s financial disclosure forms on Friday. Biden disclosed a modest $29,500 income from book sales and “reported numerous other assets, including several bank accounts with holdings up to $500,000, and investment funds. The overall value of those funds can’t be determined as values are reported in ranges.” WSJ’s Alex Leary has more, including figures from first lady JILL BIDEN and VP KAMALA HARRIS
5. THE VIEW FROM WALL STREET: During the height of the pandemic, the stock market seemed to buck all conventional wisdom. The market stayed high even when the collective spirit of the country plummeted. Now, after six consecutive weeks of market losses, it appears that the high-wire act may be coming to an end. “ “Even after the bleeding stops, stock market investors, who include more than 50 percent of Americans, could face years of relatively meager returns that will leave them with substantially less money to pay for their children’s college education and support themselves in retirement,” NYT’s Michael Corkery writes.
6. WHERE ARE THE WEAPONS: The U.S. is preparing to deliver more military supplies to Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, once Biden signs off on a new multibillion-dollar aid package. “But what remains unclear is Washington’s ability to keep track of the powerful weapons as they enter one of the largest trafficking hubs in Europe,” WaPo’s John Hudson writes. “Ukraine’s illicit arms market has ballooned since Russia’s initial invasion in 2014, buttressed by a surplus of loose weapons and limited controls on their use.”
7. PROGRESSIVES’ PLIGHT: Progressive Dems are finding themselves set back on their heels across the map — in a heavily contested Pennsylvania House primary, but also in hotly contested primaries in other states — battered by millions of dollars pouring in from outside interests. “It’s a sign of the fierce intraparty competition on a playing field opened up by redistricting and more than 30 Democratic House retirements across the nation,” David Siders reports.
8. THE CRYPTO CAMPAIGNS: “Some candidates in the midterm elections are experimenting with NFTs to help raise money and spark interest in their campaigns, following the lead of artists as well as big consumer brands, even as the broader market for such items has cooled,” WSJ’s Teresa Mettela writes.
9. PUTIN’S PRIVACY: “Vladimir Putin, Family Man,” by NYT’s Jason Horowitz in Voorschoten, Netherlands: “As Western nations place sanctions on people close to the Russian leader, including family members, the strict secrecy surrounding his private life is being punctured.”
ICYMI: Majority of Americans reject so-called government “negotiation”.
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 keepers
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:
— “The Woman Who Killed Roe,” by N.Y. Mag’s Kerry Howley: “Marjorie Dannenfelser’s single-minded pursuit of an end to abortion.”
— “How George Floyd Spent His Final Hours,” by WaPo’s Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa
— “As a ‘Seismic Shift’ Fractures Evangelicals, an Arkansas Pastor Leaves Home,” by NYT’s Ruth Graham in Fort Smith, Ark.: “Kevin Thompson thought he would lead his hometown church for the rest of his life. Then came Trump and everything after.”
— “How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church,” by The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta: “The movement spent 40 years at war with secular America. Now it’s at war with itself.”
— “The inside story of Chernobyl during the Russian occupation,” by Wendell Steavenson with Marta Rodionova for The Economist’s 1843 Magazine: “Staff were trapped between two sources of volatility: enemy soldiers and radioactive waste.”
— “The Untold Story of the White House’s Weirdly Hip Record Collection,” by Washingtonian’s Rob Brunner: “Jimmy Carter’s grandson is unlocking its mysteries.”
— “Butt Lifts Are Booming. Healing Is No Joke,” by Sandra Garcia for NYT Magazine: “Beauty, pain, race and money play out in Miami’s post-surgical recovery houses.”
Jeff Bezos took to Twitter to criticize the president, his new Disinformation Board and inflation.
Peter Doocywished Jen Psaki well as she steps down as press secretary.
Melania Trumpsat for her first interview since leaving the White House.
IN MEMORIAM — “Robert C. McFarlane, Top Reagan Aide in Iran-Contra Affair, Dies at 84,” by NYT’s Neil Lewis: “Robert C. McFarlane, a former decorated Marine officer who rose in civilian life to be President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser and then fell from grace in the Iran-contra scandal, died on Thursday in Lansing, Mich. He was 84. Mr. McFarlane, who lived in Washington, was visiting family in Michigan at the time. A family friend, Bill Greener, said the death stemmed from an unspecified previous lung condition.”
— “Richard Wald, former NBC News president and ABC News executive, dies at 92,” by NBC’s Daniel Arkin: “Richard Wald, a respected television executive who served as president of NBC News in the 1970s, helped steer coverage at ABC News for decades and taught media industry practices at Columbia Journalism School, died Friday. He was 92. He had a stroke in his sleep Sunday night, according to his son Jonathan, a news industry veteran and former executive producer at both NBC News and MSNBC.”
OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at the RNC’s Mothers for Mary Prayer Breakfast, a celebration of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima, at the Capitol Hill Club: Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.), Newt and Callista Gingrich, Kellyanne Conway, Marjorie Dannenfelser, George Glass, Robert O’Brien, Joe Grogan and Ashley Hayek.
— SPOTTED at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s 76th Annual Congressional Dinner on Wednesday night: HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), Val Demings (D-Fla.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.), Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Jennifer Bendery, Seung Min Kim, Kevin Corke, Caroline McKee, Mark Lima, Nikole Killian, Robert Costa, Rebecca Kaplan, Manu Raju, Kristin Wilson, Amanda Terkel, Igor Bobic, Jennifer Haberkorn, Kimbrill Kelly, Jeff Dufour, Josh Kraushaar, Tamara Keith, Deirdre Walsh, Mary Bruce, Rick Klein and Rachel Scott.
NEW NOMINEES — The White House announced several new nominees, including David Pressman as ambassador to Hungary, Heide Fulton as ambassador to Uruguay, Calvin Smyre as ambassador to the Bahamas, Yohannes Abraham as U.S. representative to ASEAN, Stacy Dean as undersecretary of Agriculture for food nutrition and consumer services, Alexis Taylor as undersecretary of Agriculture for trade and foreign agricultural affairs and Laura Taylor-Kale as assistant secretary of Defense for industrial base policy.
TRANSITIONS — Na Eng is now chief comms officer at People for the American Way. She most recently was comms director at the McKnight Foundation. … Quentin Scholtz will be federal government relations manager at HP. He most recently was a manager of government affairs at the Consumer Technology Association, and is a Mitch McConnell alum. … Makenzie Shellnutt is joining NTCA as director of government affairs. She previously was a legislative assistant for the Congressional Western Caucus.
ENGAGED — Suzanne Kianpour, a longtime BBC foreign affairs and political journalist now working on a BBC documentary she’s hosting and season two of the “Women Building Peace” podcast she hosts, and Jamie Angus, outgoing senior controller of BBC News, announced their engagement in London at a boat dinner party on Friday night with friends and colleagues. The couple, who have been friends for years, will be celebrating with D.C. friends next month. SPOTTED: David Rhodes, Yalda Hakim, Gordon Corera, Jake Cusack, Sam McAlister, Sodaba Haidare, Victoria Wakely, Jim Naughtie, John Humphrys, Ian Sherwood, Jo Carr, Liz Gibbons, Vara Szajkowaki, Aleem Maqbool and Ed Foy. Pic
WEDDING — Ryan Smith and Scott Woods, via NYT: “Mr. Smith, 38 … is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in health systems administration at Georgetown. … Mr. Woods, 38, is a vice president for policy, research, and membership at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America … The couple married April 23 at the Yale Club of New York City.”
WELCOME TO THE WORLD— Jason Resendez, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, and Brian Pierce, a teacher at Center City Public Charter School, recently welcomed Felix. Pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Mark Zuckerberg … Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) … Tom Donilon of O’Melveny & Myers … former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), now at Arent Fox … J.B. Poersch of Senate Majority PAC … Susie Wiles … ABC’s Karen Travers and Alexandra Svokos … CNN’s David Gelles … POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin, David Guide and Emily Golden … Sam Newton … Jon Vogel of MVAR Media … Sydney Thomas of the Joint Economic Committee … College to Congress’ Audrey Henson … Aneiry Batista … former Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) (6-0) and Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) … Cassie Scher of Rational 360… Elizabeth Kilgallin Harnik … Bloomberg’s Josh Eidelson … Robert Levinson … Jesse Meisenhelter … Kara Allen … Judith Barnett … Brian Canfield … Todd Reid … Elizabeth Mulkey … former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen … Jill Stein … Howard Wolfson … Lenwood Brooks … Caleb Randall-Bodman of Rep. Adam Smith’s office (D-Wash.) … Gavin Smith of the Inspyre Group (3-0) … Erwin Chemerinsky … Nellie Mitchell … Samuel Greer
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
FOX “Fox News Sunday,” guest-anchored by Shannon Bream: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt … Colorado Gov. Jared Polis … Kathy Barnette. Panel: Charles Hurt, Guy Benson, Catherine Lucey and Mo Elleithee.
ABC “This Week”: Speaker Nancy Pelosi … Ukrainian Deputy PM Olga Stefanishyna. Panel: Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Molly Ball and Julie Pace.
CBS “Face the Nation”: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg … Mark Esper … Scott Gottlieb … Lloyd Blankfein … Robert Costa reporting from Pennsylvania.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Panel: Matt Bai, Al Cardenas, Susan Page and Ashley Parker.
CNN “State of the Union”: Speaker Nancy Pelosi … Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts … Finland President Sauli Niinistö. Panel: Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, Mia Love, Paul Begala and David Urban.
CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Astead Herndon, Margaret Talev, Asma Khalid, Alex Burns and David Sanger.
MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Rachel Bitecofer … Eric Holder … Glenn Kirshner … Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) … Alfre Woodard.
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According to a new poll, voters overwhelmingly support policies that would lower out-of-pocket costs and bring greater transparency and accountability to the health insurance system.
We need to make the cost of medicine more predictable and affordable. Government price setting is the wrong way. The right way means covering more medicines from day one, making out-of-pocket costs more predictable and sharing negotiated savings with patients at the pharmacy counter.