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Democrats call on Biden to declare abortion national health emergency

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Good morning, Early Birds. This newsletter will not accept cash donations in suitcases. But we will take your tips: earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

In today’s edition … Jan. 6 committee subpoenas former White House counsel Pat CipolloneTony Romm reports Democrats are forging ahead on drug pricing as they eye a wider deal with Manchin …  Poll Watch: Scott Clement on how Americans are reacting to the Roe decision, and what it means … J Street Action Fund pumps money in Donna Edwards‘ campaign … Ketanji Brown Jackson to take Supreme Court oath today … but first …

Democrats call on Biden to declare abortion national health emergency

Lawmakers and advocates are pushing President Biden to declare a national health emergency to increase financial resources and flexibility in states that continue to allow abortion access following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Congressional Black Caucus made the initial request the morning of the court’s ruling, and the House Pro-Choice Caucus is privately urging the administration to act swiftly. 

“The fundamental right to control your body and future has been ripped away from American women,” Assistant Speaker of the House Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) told The Early. “Declaring an emergency is an immediate step to help patients access the care they need.”

Supporters say time is critical because the remaining abortion clinics are seeing a massive increase in demand that is going to be difficult to meet.

“They are doing everything they can,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said of an abortion clinic treating women in the northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. “But they are severely resource constrained in terms of the providers that they have, in terms of the physical facilities that they have, in terms of the financial resources they need to try to expand access to care, which they desperately want to do.” 

“This would be another way for the full legal authority of the federal government to be brought into play as we try to protect women’s health,” Smith said in an interview on Washington Post Live this week. 

A Planned Parenthood clinic 13 miles over the southern Illinois border is now treating women throughout the Midwest. It expects 14,000 additional patients this year and is already seeing a 52 percent increase for abortions after 12 weeks because it is taking longer to get to a clinic, according to Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, vice president of strategy and communications at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri

“We’ve been really clear that since before the decision we needed the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency to free up resources,” Lee-Gilmore said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra was participating in a forum at Missouri’s only abortion clinic Friday morning when the Supreme Court handed down its decision and the state’s trigger law banning abortion went into effect. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) was at the event and said, “This is an emergency and it demands emergency action. It’s why I am calling for the Biden administration to declare a national public health emergency.”

Because of the so-called Hyde amendment, federal funding cannot pay for an abortion, but advocates said federal funding freed up by an emergency declaration could pay for travel expenses for patients, a cost often incurred by clinics. 

The administration has been examining the legality and the efficacy of declaring a health emergency, people familiar with the matter said, including aspects that could enable registered nurses to perform abortion, enable doctors to practice outside their geographical jurisdiction, and allow patients into other states’ Medicaid programs.

The health emergency for the pandemic is still in effect and enabled emergency access to drugs and vaccines and subsidized patient costs.

Reached for comment, a White House official pointed to Becerra’s remarks on Tuesday that all options remained on the table.

Other options include ensuring access to abortion pills and the freedom to travel for health care. Our colleagues Caroline Kitchener and Devlin Barrett report that “[s]everal national antiabortion groups and their allies in Republican-led state legislatures are advancing plans to stop people in states where abortion is banned from seeking the procedure elsewhere, according to people involved in the discussions.”

‘The juice isn’t worth the squeeze’

Some public health experts say Biden could take other steps that would be more effective than declaring a public health emergency.

Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University and an informal health care adviser to the White House, has encouraged the administration to protect access to abortion. But he doesn’t think declaring a public health emergency is a good idea.

“If the White House were to declare a public health emergency in response to a Supreme Court decision, it’s very possible that the next incumbent of the Oval Office would declare an emergency for the life of fetuses,” Gostin said. “And that’s exactly the kind of politicization of public health that we really need to avoid.”

Declaring a public health emergency might have symbolic importance, but it would have little tangible impact, Gostin argued.

The federal government doesn’t have the power to let doctors perform abortions in states in which they’re not licensed, for instance. If blue states want to take such steps, they can do so on their own, he said. And the administration could authorize Medicare and Medicaid to pay for travel to other states to seek abortions without an emergency declaration. 

“The juice isn’t worth the squeeze,” Gostin said. “You face huge legal and political headwinds and you gain very little, if anything, that you couldn’t do without the emergency.”

Jan. 6 committee subpoenas former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

🚨: The Jan. 6 committee “issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Wednesday evening after blockbuster testimony from a former aide identified the lawyer as having firsthand knowledge of potential criminal activity in the Trump White House,” our colleagues Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey report. 

  • “The decision followed extensive negotiations between Cipollone and the committee, as well as sharply escalating pressure on him in recent days to come forward and testify.”
  • “Committee members have come to believe that the former counsel’s testimony could be critical to their investigation, given his proximity to Trump and presence during key moments before, during and after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the committee’s vice chairwoman, spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday evening, where she praised Cassidy Hutchinson’s courage for testifying before the committee and implored Republicans to reject Trump.

“We have to choose, because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution,” she said.

Democrats forge ahead on drug pricing, eyeing wider deal with Manchin

Deal or no deal: “Democratic leaders have finalized a revised proposal to lower prescription drug prices for seniors, part of a broader scramble to satisfy Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and resurrect a long-stalled economic package that they hope to advance as soon as this summer,” our colleague Tony Romm reports. Here’s what’s inside: 

  • Drug negotiations would begin in 2023.
  • Democrats would cap seniors’s drug costs under Medicare at $2,000 each year and penalize companies that raise prescription prices faster than inflation.
  • Democrats plan to close a “loophole,” thereby ensuring that the government still seeks to keep drug prices down even if control of Washington changes.
  • Democrats plan to expand support for low-income seniors, hoping to help them afford their premiums and co-pays.

How Americans are reacting to the Roe decision, and what it means

From Post Polling Director Scott Clement: Several national pollsters rushed into the field following the Supreme Court’s Friday decision striking down the constitutional right to abortion to provide a valuable first read on Americans’ response to the ruling. Put simply, reactions were strong. 

A Monmouth University poll found Americans disapproved of the court overturning Roe by 60 percent to 37 percent, a 23 percentage-point margin. Three other polls found a smaller but clear margin of opposition, between 16 and 18 percentage points (including CBS News-YouGov and Yahoo-YouGov). 

Abortion often ranks low on voters’ agendas, but polls suggest that may change this year. The Monmouth poll found about 8 in 10 Americans had strong feelings about the Roe v. Wade decision, with 53 percent saying they “strongly disapprove” while 29 percent “strongly approve.” The NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll also found most feeling strongly about the ruling, with 45 percent strongly opposing it while 28 percent strongly supported the ruling. Both polls found younger Americans were significantly more likely to say they strongly opposed the decision, an indication it could be a motivator for this low-turnout group to vote this fall. 

Polls also reaffirmed Americans’ complex views on the issue, and how easy it is for political leaders to stake out a very unpopular position. Monmouth’s poll found an 85 percent majority said states with abortion restrictions should include exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. A similar 87 percent opposed states prosecuting women who travel to a state where abortion is legal to obtain an abortion. The same poll highlighted public discomfort with abortion after the first trimester, with Americans split on whether the woman or unborn fetus should be afforded more rights in the second trimester, and a 57 percent majority saying the unborn fetus should have more rights in the third trimester. 

The coming months will provide a clearer sense of Americans’ reaction to the decisions beyond polls, including protests as well as the midterm elections. One early test to watch is Kansas’ Aug. 2 referendum amending the state’s constitution to explicitly authorize abortion restrictions. While Kansas is a deep red state, a 2018 PRRI poll suggested the state was split on whether abortion should be mostly legal or mostly illegal, and the margin by which the amendment passes or fails will be an important signal of voters’ reactions to the Roe decision.

J Street Action Fund pumps money in Donna Edwards’ campaign

First in the Early: J Street Action Fund, a super PAC affiliated with the progressive “pro-Israel, pro-peace” advocacy group, is ramping up its support of former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) ahead of next months’ primary in an open, safely Democratic district.

The super PAC will spend $500,000 on TV ads and $160,000 on digital ads and direct mail backing Edwards, who’s running to recapture the seat she relinquished in 2016 to run for Senate. (Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown, who succeeded her, is running for attorney general.)

The spending comes after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s super PAC, United Democracy Project, poured nearly $1.9 million in attacks on Edwards, according to campaign finance records. AIPAC has endorsed her primary opponent, former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey.

Jackson to take Supreme Court oath today

Breyer to officially retire: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be sworn in as the Supreme Court’s first Black female justice at noon, just minutes after her mentor Justice Stephen G. Breyer makes his retirement official,” our colleague Robert Barnes reports. Jackson will be sworn in during a private ceremony at the Supreme Court, with Breyer and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administering the oaths.

“Breyer’s work on the court will end with the release of the term’s remaining opinions and possibly with the announcement of some new cases accepted for next term.” Here’s a quick rundown of the final two cases: 

  • West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency: The Supreme Court is set to rule on whether the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in a major climate ruling.
  • Biden v. Texas: The court will also decide the future of the “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy. The Trump-era program – which has been linked to a rise in dangerous crossings – requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are decided.

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

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