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Post Politics Now: Ahead of weekend debate, Schumer says economic package a ‘very, very, very big deal’

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 8/5/2022 John Wagner, Mariana Alfaro
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks during a news conference Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib) © Mariam Zuhaib/AP Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks during a news conference Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Today, ahead of this weekend’s planned debate on a major health-care, climate and deficit-reduction package, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the legislation a “very, very, very big deal” and said he believes all 50 members of the Democratic conference will support it. His comments came a day after striking an agreement with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) that alters some tax provisions in the bill. Senators are expected to entertain a slew of amendments starting Saturday. Schumer would not predict when the Senate might pass the bill and send it to the House for consideration.

Meanwhile, President Biden touted a jobs report Friday showing employers adding 528,000 jobs in July, far more than expected. Later Friday, Biden, who continues to recover from a rebound case of the coronavirus, signed two bipartisan bills that target those who commit fraud in pandemic-era small-business relief programs. He spoke from an outdoor balcony at the White House.

Your daily dashboard

  • Noon Eastern time: Schumer held a news conference on the Inflation Reduction Act. Watch here.
  • 1 p.m. Eastern: Biden signed bills targeting fraud under coronavirus small-business relief programs. Watch here.
  • 2 p.m. Eastern: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre brief reporters. Watch live here.
  • 3 p.m. Eastern: Vice President Harris meets with Latina state legislators about reproductive rights. Watch live here.
  • 8 p.m. Eastern: Former president Donald Trump holds a rally in Waukesha, Wis., ahead of Wisconsin’s primaries on Tuesday. Watch live here.

Got a question about politics? Submit it here. After 3 p.m. Eastern weekdays, return to this space and we’ll address what’s on the mind of readers.

8:17 PM: On our radar: Trump rallies in Wisconsin, Senate prepares for IRA

Guests attend a rally with former president Donald Trump in Waukesha, Wis., on Friday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) © Scott Olson/Getty Images Guests attend a rally with former president Donald Trump in Waukesha, Wis., on Friday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It’s been a busy week in Congress — even with the House on recess. And it’s going to be an even busier weekend, with Democrats pushing forward with their Inflation Reduction Act.

Here’s what we’re watching:

  • Donald Trump is holding a rally in Waukesha, Wis. The former president is there to throw his support behind GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels. Notably, Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, has thrown his weight behind Michels’s opponent, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
  • Democrats will start work on their Inflation Reduction Act. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he expects the parliamentarian to be done reviewing the bill in time for the Senate to start considering it and any amendments on Saturday. The House could probably come back into session Monday to move it to President Biden’s desk.
  • Trump will speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He’s speaking on Saturday along with conservative political commentator Glenn Beck.

6:39 PM: This just in: Alex Jones must pay $45.2 million more in punitive damages to Sandy Hook parents

Alex Jones steps outside of the Travis County Courthouse in Austin to do interviews with media after he was questioned under oath about text messages and emails by lawyer Mark Bankston. (Briana Sanchez/Reuters) © Pool/Reuters Alex Jones steps outside of the Travis County Courthouse in Austin to do interviews with media after he was questioned under oath about text messages and emails by lawyer Mark Bankston. (Briana Sanchez/Reuters)

Infowars founder and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was ordered by an Austin jury on Friday to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting, in addition to the $4.1 million Jones has been ordered to pay in compensatory damages, Timothy Bella, Meena Venkataramanan and Meryl Kornfield report:

Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, sought $145.9 million in punitive damages against Jones, a conspiracy theorist who falsely claimed that the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history was a “giant hoax.” Since the massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, 20 of them young children, the boy’s parents say Jones’s remarks have created a “living hell” for the family.
The decision comes one day after Jones was ordered to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages — a ruling that the 48-year-old claimed was “a major victory for truth.”
The total of $49.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages is less than a third of the $150 million total that the family was seeking, and it remains to be seen how much of the punitive damages the parents will ultimately receive as Texas laws cap such awards.

The national profiles of Infowars and Jones were raised by former president Donald Trump, who promoted Jones’s work to his base.

On Friday, Bernard Pettingill Jr., an economic consultant, estimated in testimony that the net worth of Jones and Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars, was somewhere between $135 million and $270 million. Pettingill added that Jones was paying himself an average of $6 million annually.

Jones has claimed in court filings that he has a net worth of negative $20 million, but attorneys for the Sandy Hook families have pointed to records showing that Jones’s Infowars store made more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018 alone.

Read more about this decision here.

5:44 PM: Noted: Senate’s Saturday work on reconciliation upends Grassley’s family reunion plans

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), seen at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Aug. 4, is among the Republican senators escalating their criticism of Google over alleged bias in email spam filtering. © Al Drago/Bloomberg News Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), seen at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Aug. 4, is among the Republican senators escalating their criticism of Google over alleged bias in email spam filtering.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) complained Friday that Senate Democrats’ plans to work on their reconciliation package on Saturday spoiled his family reunion.

“Each [December] Schumer puts out schedule for Senate,” Grassley wrote on Twitter. "I set Grassley family reunion based on schedule. For 2nd [year] in row I won’t be at reunion."

Grassley said that instead of heading to his family trip, he’ll be “in DC to fight” the Democrats’ tax and spending bill — a deal negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) that caught Republicans by surprise. The reconciliation bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, includes plans to lower health-care costs, tackle climate change and reduce the deficit.

“Need a Republican majority to [have] schedule we can count on & A RESPONSIBLE FISCAL AGENDA,” the senator concluded.

While the House is on recess, the Senate has remained in Washington working through different pieces of its agenda. In fact, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) advised colleagues that the House is expected to meet next Friday to consider the reconciliation package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has signaled that she would call members back to get the legislation to President Biden’s desk well before lawmakers are scheduled to return in September.

4:59 PM: Noted: At CPAC, Republicans talk inflation but not Biden’s economic package

J.D. Vance, the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on Aug. 5. © Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg News J.D. Vance, the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on Aug. 5.

DALLAS — As Senate Democrats prepared for a vote on Biden’s economic package, the Inflation Reduction Act, Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference said that rising prices would be at the center of their midterm campaigns.

The legislation to address climate change, health-care costs and taxes wasn’t discussed specifically. Both parties expect it to pass. Instead, Republicans blamed Democrats for policies that they argued were making life harder for the working class.

“The Joe Biden economy has made it hard for families to have hot dogs with hot dog buns,” said J.D. Vance, the venture capitalist, author of “Hillbilly Elegy” and GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Ohio. “Our people, our American citizens, have dreams too. And one of those dreams is that they should be able to have a family cookout with hamburger buns, and they should be able to fill up their gas tank with reasonably priced gasoline.”

His remarks came as gas prices have been dropping, with the national average now about $4.11 a gallon, according to AAA, down from over $5 in June.

In a speech about the GOP’s next governing agenda, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who chairs the party’s Senate campaign committee, described “empty shelves” and “babies in the United States without formula.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) described costs that were going “through the roof.”

The Biden administration has stepped up its efforts to ensure that baby formula is available.

By: David Weigel

4:40 PM: Noted: Democrats’ reconciliation bill to include $4 billion in drought relief

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), meets with supporters after speaking on abortion rights during an event on July 1 in Las Vegas. © John Locher/AP Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), meets with supporters after speaking on abortion rights during an event on July 1 in Las Vegas.

Three senators who represent some of the states most affected by drought announced that $4 billion in funding for the Bureau of Reclamation to combat water shortages will be added to the Democrats’ reconciliation bill targeting inflation, energy, climate change and drug pricing.

Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.) and Michael F. Bennet (Colo.) announced the agreement in a statement Friday.

“The Western United States is experiencing an unprecedented drought, and it is essential that we have the resources we need to support our states’ efforts to combat climate change, conserve water resources, and protect the Colorado River Basin,” the three senators said. “This funding in the Inflation Reduction Act will serve as an important resource for Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, and the work we’ve done to include it will help secure the West’s water future.”

Much of the West is experiencing severe to exceptional drought, and scorching summer temperatures are expected to dry out the parched landscape even more.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a crucial vote on the economic package, had been pushing for drought relief to be included in the legislation.

4:10 PM: Noted: Federal salaries lag 22.5 percent behind private sector, report finds

A new report by the Federal Salary Council found that federal employees’ salaries lag their private-sector counterparts in comparable jobs by 22.47 percent on average, Eric Yoder reports.

The advisory group, in releasing the report Friday, noted the “pay gap” has held steady over the past two years. The last time the federal pay gap was computed, in late 2020, the council reported a 23.1 percent gap.

Unions quickly said the findings emphasized the need for Biden’s proposed 4.6 percent raise for federal employees.

“With the latest inflation figures, rising private sector wages and the new pay gap calculation, it is even more clear that federal employees need help keeping up with rising costs and the government needs help in recruiting and retaining skilled employees,” National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon said in a statement.

The council calculates pay differences on a national average and by some four dozen city areas using Labor Department statistics on costs of labor — not costs of living — under a formula set by a federal pay law.
Assessments using other data sets and methods have reached much different conclusions, though. Some conservative and libertarian organizations have concluded that federal employees make more than private sector workers, while the Congressional Budget Office in 2017 found federal employees to be slightly ahead on average but behind among those with higher levels of education.

Read more on this report here.

2:31 PM: Noted: Colo. GOP candidate for Senate says he wouldn’t support Trump 2024 run

Joe O'Dea, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), speaks during a primary election night watch party on June 28 in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP) © David Zalubowski/AP Joe O'Dea, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), speaks during a primary election night watch party on June 28 in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Joe O’Dea, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado, said Friday that he would not support former president Donald Trump if he runs for president in 2024 — a switch from his comments during the primary.

Speaking to libertarian radio host Ross Kaminsky, of Denver’s KOA station, O’Dea said he hopes Trump “doesn’t run.”

“I don’t want to see him as president. Again, we’ve got a lot of great candidates, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, there’s a lot of great talent out there. We need to move this country forward,” O’Dea said. “I think that seeing a Biden-Trump rematch again in 2024 would rip the country apart. I think a lot of people are ready to move our country forward. So I wouldn’t support him running again.”

O’Dea, a moderate Republican who is looking to oust Sen. Michael F. Bennet, said on June 21 — a week before the primary — that he would support Trump if the party nominates him in 2024.

“If Donald Trump happens to be the Republican nominee, then I definitely won’t vote for [President Joe] Biden,” O’Dea said during a debate hosted by the Colorado Sun and CBS4.

In a statement to The Washington Post, O’Dea’s communications director Kyle Kohli said the Senate candidate was arguing that “neither Trump nor Biden should run for re-election.”

In the primary race, O’Dea defeated state Rep. Ron Hanks, who was in the crowd of Trump supporters who marched to the U.S. Capitol from the Ellipse near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, moments before the pro-Trump mob attacked the building. Hanks did not receive Trump’s endorsement.

A spokesman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

2:13 PM: The latest: Hoyer says House expected to consider Inflation Reduction Act next Friday

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) during a Maryland Democratic Party event in Silver Spring, Md., on Monday. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post) House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) during a Maryland Democratic Party event in Silver Spring, Md., on Monday. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) has advised colleagues that the House is expected to meet next Friday to consider the Inflation Reduction Act, the major health-care, climate and deficit-reduction package being taken up this weekend by the Senate.

The House is in recess, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has signaled that she would call members back to get the legislation to President Biden’s desk well before lawmakers are scheduled to return in September.

With a narrow majority in the House, Democrats cannot afford many defections to pass the bill. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated Friday that he believes all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus will support it.

1:42 PM: This just in: Republicans select Milwaukee to host 2024 convention

The Republican National Committee announced Friday that Milwaukee will be the host for the 2024 Republican National Convention, tapping a swing state that helped decide the outcome of the past two presidential elections.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the vote was unanimous for Milwaukee, a “world-class city,” while expressing her eagerness to work with local leaders as Republicans prepare to select their presidential nominee.

“Milwaukee is a world-class city, and we are eager to see it shine in the spotlight come 2024,” McDaniel said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the members of the Republican National Committee, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, the Milwaukee Host Committee, and Visit Milwaukee to deliver an incredible convention for our Party and nominate the next President of the United States.”

Johnson expressed his excitement for the upcoming event.

“We look forward to the positive economic impact of the presidential nomination convention, and, as the host city, I am confident all the attendees will find Milwaukee to be a splendid location for the event,” he said.

Republicans said their convention is expected to have a significant economic impact in a state that will be key to the final outcome of the 2024 election.

Milwaukee and Nashville were the two finalists for the convention, but the Nashville City Council quashed a bill to bring it there, citing safety concerns.

During the pandemic in 2020, the GOP held its convention at several venues, including the lawn of the White House, a site that raised ethics concerns.

By: Eugene Scott

1:40 PM: The latest: Biden touts manufacturing figures in new jobs report

During an event at the White House on Friday, President Biden touted “another outstanding jobs report” and pointed in particular to job recovery in American manufacturing.

“We’ve seen the biggest and the fastest job recovery in American manufacturing history since the ’50s,” Biden said ahead of a bill signing ceremony at the White House, where he appeared on an outdoor balcony. “That phrase 'Make It in America’ is the cornerstone of my economic plan. And today’s report proves ‘Make It in America’ isn’t just a slogan. It’s my administration. It’s a reality.”

The report released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed employers adding 528,000 jobs in July — with about 30,000 coming from the manufacturing sector. Biden said 642,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since he took office.

“Some people may have given up on American manufacturing, but the American people didn’t,” Biden said. “And I know I never did.”

His comments came ahead of the planned signing of two bills that aim to reduce fraud in a small-business relief program launched during the pandemic.

1:24 PM: The latest: Jason Martin prevails in Tenn. Democratic primary for governor

Jason Martin answers a question during an interview on July 11 in Nashville. © Mark Humphrey/AP Jason Martin answers a question during an interview on July 11 in Nashville.

Jason Martin, a Nashville physician whose campaign focused on health-care access and the record of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) during the coronavirus pandemic, has won the state’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to the Associated Press.

Martin narrowly defeated Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley Jr., with Carnita Atwater finishing a distant third. The race remained too close to call on Tuesday night.

Lee had no primary challenger, and national Democrats haven’t targeted his reelection race in the conservative-leaning state. Tennessee has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 2006.

12:45 PM: The latest: Sinema insisted tax policy targeting wealthy investors come out of economic plan, Schumer says

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) arrives for a meeting of the Senate Homeland Security Committee at the Capitol in Washington, ug. 3, 2022. © J. Scott Applewhite/AP Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) arrives for a meeting of the Senate Homeland Security Committee at the Capitol in Washington, ug. 3, 2022.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) would not support the Democrats’ package on energy, climate and drug pricing unless they agreed to remove a key tax policy targeting wealthy investors.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has shepherded this legislation through his caucus, told reporters Friday that he was a supporter of tightening a loophole on carried interest but that he was forced to remove it to secure Sinema’s vote.

The policy, known as the “carried interest loophole,” would have raised taxes paid by private equity and hedge fund managers.

“Senator Sinema said she would not vote for the bill, not even move to proceed, unless we took it out,” Schumer said. “So we had no choice.”

In the face of unified Republican opposition, Democrats need all 50 votes to secure a measure’s passage through reconciliation. Vice President Harris would be the tiebreaking vote.

Sinema, in a statement saying she would support the legislation, said her colleagues had agreed to remove this policy and had also made additional changes to a second provision that imposes a new minimum tax on corporations that currently pay nothing to the U.S. government.

Schumer assured reporters Friday that the changes made to accommodate Sinema’s demands did not drastically change the final bill and instead improved it.

“The vast majority remains,” he said. “What we added is something that excites me, and I think excites all Democrats and particularly progressives. We’re adding in an excise tax on stock buybacks that will bring in $74 billion. By way of contrast, the carried interest loophole as it was phrased — and we took the exact language the House had — was a $14 billion income.”

12:38 PM: This just in: Schumer says economic package will address Americans’ concerns

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters after a closed-door policy meeting at the Capitol in Washington on Aug. 2. © J. Scott Applewhite/AP Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks to reporters after a closed-door policy meeting at the Capitol in Washington on Aug. 2.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday heralded the Inflation Reduction Act as a bill that will address Americans’ ongoing anxieties about the economy in fundamental ways.

“Put simply, this legislation will save lives, create jobs, reduce costs and reduce inflation,” the Senate’s leading Democrat said during a Capitol Hill news conference. “Just what the American people want. And that’s why the American people are on our side.”

The White House is backing the bill, which, if passed, would fulfill more of the promises President Biden made to voters as they head to the polls this fall for midterm elections.

Democrats have spent the week gathering support for the health-care, climate and tax legislation with the belief that it could help soothe the concerns that multiple polls show Americans have about the economy. Schumer has argued that conservatives have no valid reasons to oppose the bill beyond being oppositional.

We’re prioritizing the middle-class working families, those struggling to get to the middle class instead of what Republicans do, prioritize those at the very top,” he said. “Now, Republicans are scraping the bottom of the barrel for justification to oppose this bill.”

“It’s as plain as the nose on your face that this will reduce inflation,” Schumer added.

The Senate is slated to begin voting on the bill Saturday, with Republicans promising multiple amendments.

By: Eugene Scott

12:22 PM: The latest: How Alex Jones was embraced by Trump after Sandy Hook lies

Alex Jones talks to media during a midday break during the trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas. (Briana Sanchez/AP) © Briana Sanchez/AP Alex Jones talks to media during a midday break during the trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas. (Briana Sanchez/AP)

In roughly 10 years since he declared the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history to be a “giant hoax,” Infowars founder Alex Jones has been denounced and de-platformed by tech giants such as Facebook, YouTube and Spotify. But not some key conservative figures — including former president Donald Trump.

On Thursday, a jury ruled that the right-wing conspiracy theorist must pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting after he created a “living hell” for the family.

But as Jones’s false claims and rants launched him into the national political dialogue, his ascent has arguably been solidified, thanks to Trump and podcast host Joe Rogan, who embraced his ideas.

As Tim Bella reports, Jones’s presence on the national stage was elevated when Trump, who became the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, agreed to be interviewed on Infowars:

“Your reputation is amazing,” Trump told Jones at the time.
Jones going on “The Joe Rogan Experience” in 2020 allowed him to push false claims about coronavirus vaccination on Spotify, where he had been banned. A former Infowars staffers told “Frontline” how Trump seemingly using Jones’s false claims as his own was “a super power trip for Alex that was irresistible.”
“Someone in the mainstream — Trump — using the words that Jones had been using for decades, I think that emboldened Jones, and it changed him as a personality,” said Josh Owens, a former video editor at Infowars.
The support from Trump elevated Jones in the national conversation, as when Fox News host Tucker Carlson hailed Jones as “one of the most popular journalists on the right.”

Read more on Jones’s rise here.

12:05 PM: Analysis: With Griner’s trial over, U.S.-Russia talks over release could advance

A new mural in Washington, D.C., featuring Americans held in Russia, including basketball player Brittney Griner, is seen from an adjacent building on July 20, 2022. (Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post) © Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post A new mural in Washington, D.C., featuring Americans held in Russia, including basketball player Brittney Griner, is seen from an adjacent building on July 20, 2022. (Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)

The White House didn’t pull punches Thursday when asked about Brittney Griner’s sentencing in Russia, stressing that President Biden is doing everything he can to bring home the WNBA star as well as security consultant Paul Whelan.

But there may be a bright side to her trial being over, even with her 9½-year sentence for bringing less than a gram of cannabis oil into Russia in February, Olivier Knox writes in Friday’s Daily 202. Russian-American negotiations meant to win Griner and Whelan’s freedom might now make serious progress.

Russia was never going to agree to a prisoner swap before Griner was convicted and sentenced, no matter how frequently the U.S. labeled her “wrongfully detained,” which elevated her case to the special U.S. presidential envoy for hostage affairs.
Moscow, which now has more leverage over the United States than it did before Thursday’s proceedings, was never going to short-circuit a trial that let it put its thumb in America’s eye with the world looking on. That might have come at a potential domestic political cost, too.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly said Friday that Moscow was now “ready to discuss” a possible prisoner swap. ... [And while John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator] declined to spell out the American offer, it would reportedly envision swapping Griner and Whelan for Russian Viktor Bout, a notorious international arms dealer. ... A deal to bring Bout home would be a major political victory for Putin, signaling to his domestic audience that despite unprecedented Western criticisms and sanctions, he still has the clout to force the White House to negotiate with him.

Read more on the future of these negotiations here.

12:00 PM: The latest: Biden continues to test positive for the coronavirus

President Biden tested positive for the coronavirus again Friday despite feeling “very well” and having a cough that has “almost completely resolved,” White House physician Kevin O’Connor wrote in a letter released publicly.

The positive tests — which have continued since O’Connor announced last weekend that Biden had a “rebound” coronavirus case — come as the White House has announced a busy stretch of public events for Biden early next week.

He is scheduled to travel to Kentucky on Monday to view flood damage and hold high-profile bill-signing ceremonies in the Rose Garden on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In his letter, O’Connor said Biden would continue with “strict isolation” measures.

11:42 AM: Noted: Miss. governor dismisses political impact of abortion decision

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas on Aug. 5. (LM Otero/AP) Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas on Aug. 5. (LM Otero/AP)

DALLAS — This summer’s Conservative Political Action Conference is the first to be held since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. On Friday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves got a round of applause after saying that his state, whose 2018 abortion law led to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, was “number one in nation in leading to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

It was a victory, said Reeves, but not one that might necessarily help Republicans.

“I don’t care what it means for the political consequences of the future,” Reeves said. “I’m going to stand up for those 62 million babies that were aborted in this country.”

In the weeks since the Dobbs decision was released, Democrats have regained some ground in tracking polls, and several Democratic candidates have highlighted past GOP candidate promises on abortion to warn that Republican victories would lead to outright bans.

In Kansas on Tuesday, voters resoundingly rejected an amendment aimed at restricting abortion rights.

By: David Weigel

11:15 AM: This just in: Biden, first lady to visit Kentucky region hit by floods

A photo taken by the Kentucky National Guard on July 30, 2022, shows a boat navigating among houses in flooded area of eastern Kentucky. © -/AFP/Getty Images A photo taken by the Kentucky National Guard on July 30, 2022, shows a boat navigating among houses in flooded area of eastern Kentucky.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to travel to Kentucky on Monday to visit families affected by the massive flooding in the eastern part of the state, the White House announced Friday.

The White House said that the trip would include a survey of recovery efforts at a local Federal Emergency Management Agency center and that the Bidens would be joined by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and his wife.

The trip will be Biden’s first since it was announced last weekend that he had a “rebound” case of the coronavirus. As recently as Thursday, Biden’s physician announced that Biden was continuing to test positive for the virus.

11:09 AM: Noted: The revival of a spending bill prompts a flurry of lobbying

As Democrats hurry to finalize $739 billion climate, health-care and tax legislation that was revived last week to the surprise of most Washington insiders, business lobbyists and issue advocates are working to support, tweak or derail the bill entirely.

The Post’s Yeganeh Torbati and Jeff Stein write that the measure, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act, would provide the largest investment in U.S. history for clean energy and other efforts to combat climate change. It also aims to lower health-care costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and it would levy a new minimum corporate tax and bolster the Internal Revenue Service budget to go after tax cheats.

Per our colleagues:

The sudden revival of the legislation last week launched a flurry of efforts by groups for and against it, who are using television and newspaper ads and personal outreach to try to sway Democrats to their side before the Senate votes.
Much of the fiercest lobbying has focused on the bill’s health-care provisions.
Research by Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, which advocates for lower prices, found that the main pharmaceutical lobby PhRMA and its allies spent at least $18.6 million on television and digital ads since July 1, including $1 million in spending on new television ads just since the Democrats’ deal was announced on July 27. That $1 million figure does not include ads that were already running when the deal was announced.

You can read Yeganeh and Jeff’s full story here.

10:46 AM: This just in: Fetterman to hold first public rally since suffering stroke

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for a Senate seat from Pennsylvania, speaks during a video interview from his home in Braddock, Pa., on July 20. © Julian Routh/AP Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for a Senate seat from Pennsylvania, speaks during a video interview from his home in Braddock, Pa., on July 20.

John Fetterman, the Democrat Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, next week will hold his first public rally since suffering a near-deadly stroke four days before the May 17 primary election, his campaign announced Friday.

The rally is planned for Erie, Pa., one of the state’s swing counties, on Aug. 12. Fetterman has only recently resumed attending in-person fundraising events and has made a few brief public appearances — but nothing of the scale of what’s planned next week.

Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, faces celebrity doctor and Republican Mehmet Oz in the November election. Oz has remained active on the campaign trail since prevailing in the May primary.

In an interview late last month with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — his first media interview since his stroke — Fetterman said he felt ready to return to the trail.

“I might miss a word every now and then in a conversation, or I might slur two words. Even then, I think that’s infrequent,” Fetterman said. “So I feel like we are ready to run, and that’s the only issues I have. That’s the absolute truth, 100 percent.”

You can read more about Fetterman here.

10:10 AM: This just in: White House offers condolences after deaths from Lafayette Square lightning strike

Emergency responders on the scene of a lightning strike near the White House. © D.C. Fire and EMS/D.C. Fire and EMS Emergency responders on the scene of a lightning strike near the White House.

The White House offered condolences to the families of two people who died Friday following a lightning strike Thursday evening in Lafayette Square, just north of the White House. A total of four people were critically hurt in the strike.

“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.”

The Post’s Peter Hermann has details on the strike:

Two men and two women were critically hurt in the strike just before 7 p.m. in the center of the park, in a grove of trees about 100 feet southeast of the statue of Andrew Jackson, D.C. fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said at a news briefing Thursday night. The U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police rendered aid to the victims, which fire officials credited to the ability of the victims to initially survive.
D.C. Police identified those who died as Donna Mueller, 75, and James Mueller, 76, of Wisconsin. The other two victims remain in critical condition, police said.

You can read Peter’s story here.

9:47 AM: The latest: Biden takes credit for strong July jobs report

President Biden. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post) President Biden. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

President Biden on Thursday took credit for a report showing employers adding 528,000 jobs in July, far more than expected, saying it was the result of his economic plan.

“Today, the unemployment rate matches the lowest it’s been in more than 50 years: 3.5%,” Biden said in a statement. “More people are working than at any point in American history. That’s millions of families with the dignity and peace of mind that a paycheck provides. And, it’s the result of my economic plan to build the economy from the bottom up and middle out.”

Employers added 528,000 jobs in July, more than doubling expectations

Biden added that “there’s more work to do” to improve the standing of the middle class but said the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed “we are making significant progress for working families.”

Biden has been eager to point to solid economic news as inflation and related issues have been a big drag on his job approval numbers.

9:27 AM: The latest: Russia ‘ready to discuss’ prisoner swap but cautions against ‘loud statements’

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner before the Russian court reached a verdict in her drug-smuggling case. © Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner before the Russian court reached a verdict in her drug-smuggling case.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that his country was ready to discuss a possible prisoner exchange deal with the United States involving basketball star Brittney Griner but warned that “loud statements” and public diplomacy from the United States could sink hopes of any deal.

The Post’s Robyn Dixon and Adela Suliman have details:

“We are ready to discuss the issue,” Lavrov told reporters Friday. He said that the appropriate channels would be via a dialogue mechanism established by Washington and Moscow after President Biden and President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva in 2021.
Lavrov also accused Secretary of State Antony Blinken of being disinterested in meeting with him to discuss the matter on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit taking place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
“We sat next but one to each other at the table during today’s discussion but I did not see him show interest in catching me,” Lavrov said at a news conference at the end of his visit to Cambodia.
“If this is another case of the Americans resorting to public diplomacy and loud statements on their pending steps, it’s their business — or I would even say their problem — because the Americans often fail to honor the agreement on doing calm, professional work,” Lavrov said.

You can read the full story here.

9:08 AM: Analysis: Democrats not out of the woods yet on economic package

Senate Foreign Relation Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is a leading proponent of the Taiwan bill. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post) © Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Senate Foreign Relation Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is a leading proponent of the Taiwan bill. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The agreement that Senate leaders reached with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on the climate change, health-care and tax bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act is undoubtedly a big deal, and the legislation is likely to make its way through the Democratic-led Senate in coming days. But some potential problems still lay ahead for Democrats, The Post’s Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell write in The Early 202.

Our colleagues note:

The Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough will continue examining the bill and hearing from Democrats and Republicans as she determines whether all of the legislation’s components comply with Senate rules that would allow it to be considered under the fast-track budget reconciliation process where only a majority vote is needed for passage. She is under pressure to work quickly.

Moreover, Republicans are plotting amendments on crime, inflation, border security and energy. Immigration is an issue that could create a major complication for Democrats, our colleagues note:

They expect Republicans to offer an amendment regarding Title 42, the pandemic-era public health restrictions leftover from the Trump administration that allows the United States to reject migrants at the border. When President Biden this spring said he would repeal Title 42, Democrats up for reelection in tough races denounced the move.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) warned his colleagues during a caucus lunch this week that he’d tank the reconciliation bill if Democrats take the bait from Republicans and allow “pejorative” immigration amendments to be adopted and included in the final version of the bill.
“Everybody knows where I stand,” Menendez said.

You can read the full analysis here.

8:48 AM: On our radar: A new jobs report for Biden to tout

President Biden will no doubt have something to say Friday about the latest jobs report showing the labor market continuing rapid growth in July despite some fears of a recession. The report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed employers adding 528,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent.

Biden and his party have been eager to promote positive economic news ahead of the upcoming midterm elections in which Republicans are seeking to hammer Democrats on inflation and related issues. Expect Biden to note that the country has now fully recovered all the jobs that were lost early in the pandemic.

The Post’s Lauren Kaori Gurley has details on the latest report:

The labor market has shown little signs of cooling off, proving to be a pillar of strength for an economy facing strong head winds.
Other indicators, especially inflation at 40-year highs and six months of negative economic growth paint a less rosy picture. The financial markets have lost trillions of dollars in value this year, and one measure of consumer sentiment hit a record low in June.

You can read the full story here.

8:30 AM: The latest: Biden plugs economic package on anniversary of children’s health insurance

President Biden on Friday used the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Children’s Health Insurance Program to lobby for passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Democratic-crafted package pending in the Senate that includes a provision that would reduce the cost of health insurance for millions of Americans.

“The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will build on our efforts to make quality, affordable health care accessible,” Biden said in a statement.

The IRA would extend for an additional three years premium tax credits available through the Affordable Care Act that were temporarily expanded by the American Rescue Plan passed in response to the pandemic. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, passed in 1997, provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

“In 1997, before CHIP was created, 15 percent of our nation’s children lacked health insurance,” Biden said in his statement. “Thanks to CHIP, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), today only 4 percent are uninsured. My Administration is building on that progress.”

7:55 AM: Noted: Sanders says Democrats’ economic plan might be ‘better than nothing’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday. © Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Bernie Sanders was jubilant. It was July 2021, and the Vermont senator had just helped finalize a $3.5 trillion blueprint to overhaul the country’s health-care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws.

“This is the most significant piece of legislation … since the Great Depression,” he told reporters after a round of negotiations that stretched late into the night.

The Post’s Tony Romm reports that more than a year later, though, the sprawling package Sanders once envisioned is far smaller in size and scope. And as Democrats prepare to hold a key early vote on the bill, the senator himself has changed his tone — from a proud architect into a potent mix of supporter and critic. Per Tony:

“You can do something significant with 50 votes,” Sanders said in an interview Thursday, referring to the special legislative process Democrats plan to use to move the bill over Republican opposition. “Does this bill do that? No. Might it be better than nothing? Yes.”
For Sanders, the new health-care, climate and tax package that the Senate aims to adopt as soon as this weekend amounts to a massive missed opportunity. While the firebrand independent is supportive of its core aims — and is seen as likely to vote for its provisions to lower drug costs and address a fast-warming planet — he has increasingly made clear that the bill stops far short of what Democrats should have pursued while in rare control of the House, Senate and White House.

You can read Tony’s full story here.

7:24 AM: The latest: China announces sanctions on Pelosi for Taiwan visit

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shakes hands with Hiroyuki Hosoda, speaker of Japan's House of Representatives, during their meeting in Tokyo on Friday. © Kyodo/Via Reuters House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shakes hands with Hiroyuki Hosoda, speaker of Japan's House of Representatives, during their meeting in Tokyo on Friday.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday said it has imposed unspecified sanctions on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her immediate family in retaliation for what it called a “malicious and provocative” insistence on visiting Taiwan despite Beijing’s strong opposition.

The ministry also announced eight “countermeasures” to punish the United States for the trip, including suspending bilateral climate talks and canceling three formal military-to-military dialogue mechanisms, The Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lily Kuo and Christian Shepherd report.

Earlier Friday, Pelosi vowed that China would not succeed in isolating Taiwan. Our colleagues have details:

China “may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they will not isolate Taiwan,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in Tokyo, her final stop on an Asian tour that included a visit to Taiwan that brought to the fore the rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Pelosi added that Beijing could not dictate who could visit the island. “They are not doing our traveling schedule. The Chinese government is not doing that,” she said.

You can read the full story here.

7:00 AM: On our radar: Biden to sign bills targeting coronavirus relief fraud

President Biden plans on Friday to sign a pair of bipartisan bills designed to hold accountable those who commit fraud under small-business relief programs that were enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event is the only public appearance that the White House has advertised Friday for Biden, who continues to recover from a “rebound” case of the coronavirus.

Vice President Harris, meanwhile, is planning to hold a meeting with Latina state legislators about reproductive rights, the latest gathering she has convened in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The meeting, scheduled to be held in Harris’s ceremonial office, will include representatives from Kansas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Illinois, New York and Texas, the White House said.

6:52 AM: The latest: White House summons Chinese ambassador for rebuke on Taiwan response

This image from a video by the People's Liberation Army shows a missile being fired during a Chinese military exercise on Thursday. © PLA Eastern Theater Command/AFP This image from a video by the People's Liberation Army shows a missile being fired during a Chinese military exercise on Thursday.

The White House summoned China’s ambassador on Thursday to condemn Beijing’s escalating actions against Taiwan and reiterate that the United States does not want a crisis in the region, after a visit to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sharply escalated tensions in the Taiwan Strait this week.

The Post’s Yasmeen Abutaleb has details:

“After China’s actions overnight, we summoned [People’s Republic of China] Ambassador Qin Gang to the White House to démarche him about the PRC’s provocative actions,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “We condemned the PRC’s military actions, which are irresponsible and at odds with our long-standing goal of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” A démarche is a protest lodged through diplomatic channels.
China’s show of force against Taiwan on Thursday included firing missiles into the sea and threatening the island’s territorial waters. Taiwan said China fired 11 ballistic missiles into the waters off its northeastern and southwestern coasts, and Japanese officials said five Chinese missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

You can read the full story here.

6:49 AM: On our radar: Senate Democrats could adopt economic package in coming days

\Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., walks to the Senate floor for a vote on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Aug 04, 2022 in Washington, DC. © Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post \Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., walks to the Senate floor for a vote on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Aug 04, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Senate Democrats could adopt a health-care, climate and deficit reduction package in the coming days following an announcement Thursday by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema that she will soon be ready to “move forward” on a revised version of the legislation.

The Post’s Tony Romm reports that Sinema offered her must-have support after Democratic leaders agreed to scale back some of their original tax proposals, capping days of speculation about her public silence and moving her party one step closer to fulfilling a central element of President Biden’s economic agenda. Per Tony:

In a statement, Sinema said Democrats had “agreed to remove” a key tax policy targeting wealthy investors that aimed to address what is known as the “carried interest loophole.” She also signaled they had made additional tweaks to a second provision that imposes a new minimum tax on corporations that currently pay nothing to the U.S. government.
The latter set of revisions is likely to benefit some manufacturers, according to two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the unreleased details. Many corporate executives, including Arizona business leaders, had petitioned Sinema to consider the consequences of the tax in recent days.
With it, Democrats opted to seek a new 1 percent tax on corporate stock buybacks, a move that would make up at least some of the revenue that might have been lost as a result of the changes, the two people familiar with the matter said. And party lawmakers agreed to set aside new money at Sinema’s request to respond to climate issues including drought, according to the sources.

You can read Tony’s full story here.

6:44 AM: Noted: Controversial federal court changes debated in Manchin negotiations

Hand-painted signs along roads near Bent Mountain, Va., protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project. © Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post Hand-painted signs along roads near Bent Mountain, Va., protest the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project.

The deal this week that secured the support of Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) for major economic legislation contained a small provision that could have an outsize impact in federal courts.

The Post’s Rachel Weiner reports that in an early version of the talks, Democratic leaders agreed on a proposal that would move future litigation involving a particular natural gas pipeline proposed in Manchin’s state to be heard by the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit and that judges weighing the cases would be randomly assigned. Per Rachel:

Experts say the ramifications of such a deal would go beyond the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline project that has long been stalled by the courts over environmental concerns.
“It would create a new pathway for lobbyists” to demand “congressional forum-shopping” for pet concerns, said Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at Columbia University, on the grounds that “Joe Manchin did it for them; why can’t you do it for me?”
It’s not clear what language will be used in a final agreement. A longer draft bill that has circulated among environmental and energy lobbyists, first published by Bloomberg, says only that federal courts “shall randomly assign cases seeking judicial review of any Federal authorization of a covered project to the maximum extent practicable to avoid the appearance of favoritism or bias.”

You can read Rachel’s full story here.

6:41 AM: The latest: Kari Lake wins GOP primary for Arizona governor

Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at a news conference on Wednesday in Phoenix. © Ross D. Franklin/AP Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at a news conference on Wednesday in Phoenix.

Former news anchor and Trump-backed candidate Kari Lake has won the Republican nomination for Arizona governor, elevating a candidate who has embraced the former president’s false election claims in a key swing state.

The Post’s Amy B Wang and Eugene Scott report that Lake emerged the winner after declaring victory prematurely on Wednesday when she had only a slim lead over land developer Karrin Taylor Robson (R), who nabbed the backing of former vice president Mike Pence and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). Per our colleagues:

Lake had already warned that her own primary might be tainted by fraud she refused to provide proof for.
“We out-voted the fraud, we didn’t listen to what the fake news had to say,” Lake told reporters, according to the Arizona Mirror. “The MAGA movement rose up and voted like their lives depended on it.”
Lake’s victory was one of several for prominent election deniers in Arizona. If these Republicans win in November, they will be empowered to dramatically upend the election process in a key state in 2024 and beyond. Arizona became ground zero for unfounded 2020 election conspiracy theories after Joe Biden narrowly beat Donald Trump there — the first time a Democrat has taken the state since 1996.

You can read the full story here.

6:39 AM: The latest: Ogles wins closely watched GOP primary for U.S. House in Tennessee

Andy Ogles speaks to supporters after being declared the winner in Tennessee's 5th Congressional District Republican primary on Thursday. © Mark Humphrey/AP Andy Ogles speaks to supporters after being declared the winner in Tennessee's 5th Congressional District Republican primary on Thursday.

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles prevailed Thursday in a closely watched Republican primary in Tennessee’s new 5th Congressional District, as voters in the state went to the polls to nominate midterm candidates.

The Post’s David Weigel reports that the Associated Press projected Ogles, a conservative candidate, the winner in a crowded field. Per Dave:

The district he ran in was newly redrawn to be safe for his party in November. He will begin as a favorite against state Sen. Heidi Campbell, the Democratic nominee.
Thursday’s primaries set the stage for races up and down the ballot.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee had no primary challenger and national Democrats haven’t targeted his reelection race in the conservative-leaning state. Three candidates sought the Democratic nomination, and with about 83 percent of the vote tallied in that primary, Jason Martin, a physician whose campaign focused on health-care access and Lee’s record during the pandemic, held a slim lead over Memphis City Council member J.B. Smiley Jr. The AP had not yet projected a winner.

You can read Dave’s full story here.

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