Thursday, February 2

Analysis | Democrats pressure Biden administration to come up with plan to counter Roe’s demise

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In today’s edition … All the latest coverage from The Post on the Roe v. Wade fallout … The Fed tries to tame inflation … A new report that the Biden administration has provided intelligence that has helped Ukraine kill Russian generals… but first …

Democrats pressure Biden administration to come up with plan to counter Roe’s demise

Faced with the reality they don’t have the votes to codify Roe v. Wade, congressional Democrats are pursuing another strategy in the wake of Monday’s revelation that the Supreme Court is poised to strike down the landmark 1973 ruling: Press President Biden to take executive action to protect abortion access.

“We’re looking at every avenue, including congressional action, including administrative action,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) told The Early. 

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) pressed Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a hearing on Wednesday on “the administration’s plan for a whole-of-government response to defend the right to abortion.”

Becerra didn’t have an answer. He touted an interagency task force that the administration set up in January to mark Roe’s 49th anniversary, but vowed to “work with all of our partners throughout the federal government to make sure every woman has the legal right to access to care that she’s entitled to.”

Murray is demanding more details.

  • “Americans need to see leadership from the Biden administration on this too,” she told The Early in a statement. “I want to know, ASAP, how the federal government is preparing to respond if the Supreme Court overturns Roe to protect women’s health, because make no mistake: women’s lives are on the line.”

But there isn’t much the administration can do to counter the sweeping ramifications of the Supreme Court striking down Roe, our colleagues Yasmeen Abutaleb and Tyler Pager report, and officials are instead exploring what can be done along the margins.

In “marathon meetings and phone calls among White House officials, government lawyers, outside advisers and federal agency officials, a sobering reality settled in: There’s little the White House can do that will fundamentally alter a post-Roe landscape,” Yasmeen and Tyler write.

There are some options available: “Officials are discussing whether Medicaid funding could be made available to women to travel to other states for an abortion, according to outside advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, but many doubt whether that is feasible.”

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“A lot of what the Biden administration could do would be window dressing, in that ultimately we’re going to have a system of conflicting access to reproductive health and rights depending upon the state you live in,” Lawrence Gostin, the director of the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown University’s law school, who has been advising the White House on its options, told Yasmeen and Tyler. “And there’s very little that Biden can do about that.”

Senate Democrats are planning to take up legislation next week that would codify Roe — an effort that is almost certain to fail. A previous version of the same bill failed to win even 50 votes in February to open debate on the measure, much less the 60 required to surmount a Republican filibuster.

With that result in mind, Senate Democrats discussed what possible administrative actions could be taken at a small lunch Wednesday. Congressional staffers are also meeting with each other and administration officials, trying to devise some kind of plan before the Supreme Court decision is released, which is still expected to be in June or July. 

  • “One of the real game-changers has been the availability of medical abortion pills, mifepristone,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, told The Early. “To work with the administration to make those available to everybody, that would really help, although it won’t completely solve the situation.”

The administration, she added, could take steps to ensure women could receive such pills by mail.

Outside advocates for reproductive rights have also been in touch with the White House. And Senate Democrats have been “brainstorming” ideas for what else the administration might able to do, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told The Early. 

“People would like to do something,” Stabenow said, adding that the biggest question is What can be done?” 

Stabenow mused that perhaps there are opportunities at HHS or with federally run health clinics. She also said they have to determine what possible actions fall under state law and what are under federal authority. The details might depend on how the court’s final decision is written.

“One option under discussion is whether the administration could provide funding through Medicaid or another mechanism that would make money available to women to travel to other states for an abortion,” outside advisers to the administration told Yasmeen and Tyler. “Some Republican-led states have said they will make it illegal for women to travel elsewhere to get abortions, but it’s unclear whether such a policy would be upheld by the courts.”

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Republican legal challenges

One challenge for the White House: Republican state attorneys general are likely to challenge the legality of almost anything they do.

But DeGette said she wasn’t too concerned about legal challenges at the moment.

“We’re in an emergency situation here for women’s health,” DeGette said. “I think that the Biden administration will look very closely at what their legal abilities are, and then they have to take all action they can within those abilities. If it later gets challenged in court, then we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there.”

Here’s the latest from our colleagues:

Senate passes non-binding motion to restrict Biden from removing IRGC as terror group

Iran motion passes with Democratic support: A non-binding motion to constrain President Biden‘s ability to strike a new nuclear agreement with Iran passed the Senate on Wednesday evening on a 62-33 vote, with 15 Democrats joining Republicans in favor.

The motion, offered by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), bars Biden from removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the federal government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, among other provisions. As we reported on Monday, the possibility that Biden might rescind the IRGC’s designation as terrorist group has become a flash point as the administration seeks a new deal with Iran.

The vote was a rough gauge of how widespread concerns about a new Iran deal are among Democratic senators.

The Democrats who voted “yea”: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Jon Tester (Mont.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who has urged Biden not to nix the IRGC’s terrorist designation, did not vote.

The taming game: “The Federal Reserve raised interest rates Wednesday by half a percentage point and scaled back other pandemic-era economic supports, strengthening its efforts to fight the highest inflation in 40 years and vowing to keep up the pressure as Americans continue to struggle,” our colleagues Rachel Siegel and Abha Bhattarai report.

  • “The rate increase is the sharpest since 2000 and the second of seven hikes forecast for this year … Faced with soaring prices and a hot job market with record numbers of job openings, the Fed is betting that a steady series of hikes will slash inflation, cool the economy and get the coronavirus recovery on more sustainable footing.”
  • But “interest rate hike will make an array of loans costlier for households and businesses, especially mortgage rates.”
  • “The Fed’s rate hike campaign marks a new epoch for the economy,” Politico’s Victoria Guida reports. “The central bank’s easy money policies over the years have enriched many Americans … [but] the end of those good times has shaken consumer confidence, putting an uncomfortable spotlight on the unelected Fed policymakers ahead of the congressional midterms as they shift into inflation-fighting mode. Republican Fed critics — and some prominent Democrats — have even blamed the central bank itself for allowing inflation to go unchecked for so long.”
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U.S. Intelligence is helping target and kill Russian generals, report says

👀: “The United States has provided intelligence about Russian units that has allowed Ukrainians to target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war,” the New York Times’ Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt report. “The targeting help is part of a classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine.”

  • “The United States has focused on providing the location and other details about the Russian military’s mobile headquarters, which relocate frequently. Ukrainian officials have combined that geographic information with their own intelligence — including intercepted communications that alert the Ukrainian military to the presence of senior Russian officers — to conduct artillery strikes and other attacks that have killed Russian officers.”
  • The United States also “gave Ukrainian forcesdetailed intelligence about exactly when and where Russian missiles and bombs were intended to strike, prompting Ukraine to move air defenses and aircraft out of harm’s way,” NBC News’ Ken Dilanian, Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee and Dan De Luce reported last week.

A Post-Roe America, visualized: “If the Supreme Court overturns the nearly 50-year-old federal legal protection for abortion in Roe v. Wade, 52 percent of women of childbearing age in the United States would live in states where their right to the procedure is imperiled,” our colleagues Harry Stevens, Aaron Steckelberg, Dan Keating and Bonnie Berkowitz report.

  • “‘Trigger’ laws in 13 states would immediately outlaw abortion in nearly all cases; some make no exception for rape or incest. In addition, 14 other states appear ready to enact bans and more restrictive laws.”

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @LACaldwellDC and @theodoricmeyer.

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