Biden’s big gas-price play falls flat: The Note

Who would have thought passing a gun bill would be easier?

June 23, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Who would have thought that passing a gun bill would be easier than lifting the gas tax?

The mantra of “do something” is carrying the day on guns, where -- to much of Washington’s surprise -- an intricate if watered-down Senate compromise is on track to win final passage there in the coming days.

A similar rallying cry from President Joe Biden on gas prices is echoing but not being heard in the soon-to-be-emptying halls of Congress. The cool reception that greeted his big suggestion of a tax holiday reflects the political dilemmas facing Biden’s party.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks about gas prices in the South Court Auditorium at the White House campus, June 22, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks about gas prices in the South Court Auditorium at the White House campus, June 22, 2022.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

No politician wants his or her constituents to pay more at the gas pump, particularly those representing the party in power in an election year. Plenty of Democrats are glad to see the White House engage on the issue with the seriousness of purpose people are underscoring for them back home.

But between front-line Democrats worried about optics in place of policy, House leaders who have denounced similar proposals as gimmicks that don’t trickle down to consumers and familiar skepticism among deficit-conscious moderates, the president’s call for a summer gas-tax holiday stalled even before he got to announce it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s response -- “we will see where the consensus lies” -- speaks to how little capital she intends to spend on the proposal. Sen. Joe Manchin is saying the tax cut won’t matter much at the pump -- and raised the political calendar as another reason to be wary.

“It goes off at the end of September,” Manchin told ABC News’ Rachel Scott. “Which politician up here is going to be voting to put that 18-cent tax back on a month before the November election? So, we just dig the [deficit] hole deeper and deeper and deeper.”

The waters don’t get shallower from here -- particularly when even politically easy votes emerge as near-impossible.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Yesli Vega, a law enforcement officer and conservative backed by both Sen. Ted Cruz and activist Ginni Thomas (wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas), will face one of Virginia’s most vulnerable Democrats come November.

Vega was born to immigrants from El Salvador and is the first Latina ever elected to Prince William County’s Board of Supervisors. Some point to Vega’s win in Tuesday's primary as an indication of growing Latino influence within the Republican Party.

“As the first conservative Hispanic to win a Republican congressional primary in Virginia, this is a historic moment for Hispanics across Virginia and our nation,” Vega said in a statement.

PHOTO: Yesli Vega, a primary candidate for the 7th Congressional District, speaks during a campaign event, June 20, 2022, in Fredericksburg, Va.
Yesli Vega, a primary candidate for the 7th Congressional District, speaks during a campaign event, June 20, 2022, in Fredericksburg, Va.
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

She’ll face Rep. Abigail Spanberger in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. The advantage of incumbency may not be enough to send Spanberger back to Washington as the GOP angles to flip the seat back to red.

Similarly in Texas, some have referred to Mayra Flores’ special election win in the state’s 34th District along the southern border as another signal of the increasing support for the GOP within Latino communities. Flores, a Mexican-born conservative, defeated her Democratic opponent in the election earlier this month to fill former Rep. Filemon Vela’s seat.

Others, including those in Democratic circles in the state, think Flores’ win was a fluke rather than proof of shifting demographic preferences: They point to poor turnout in a special election that wasn’t held on the same day as the primaries or other runoffs and the fact that Flores will have to run again in November to keep her post in the recently redrawn district that could be more favorable to Democrats.

The context for all of this: Both parties are looking to make inroads with this critical voting bloc ahead of November.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Colorado's primary elections are a week away from testing a well-established campaign tactic that Democrats appear to be leaning into during a tough midterm year: elevating the most extreme primary candidate from the opposing party in hopes of them winning before ultimately coming up short in the general election.

The reverse-psychology strategy is especially visible in the state's Senate Republican primary. The final stretch before Tuesday's election featured heavy ad buys from the Democratic Colorado PAC, which blasted candidate Ron Hanks as "too conservative for Colorado" while simultaneously listing his backing of 2020 election denial, anti-abortion stance and favoring a southern border wall -- all issues that appeal to red-meat voters.

PHOTO: Senate candidate Ron Hanks speaks during the GOP Assembly at the World Arena, April 9, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Senate candidate Ron Hanks speaks during the GOP Assembly at the World Arena, April 9, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun via AP, FILE

Hanks' primary opponent for the GOP nod, Joe O'Dea, does not support the false notion that the 2020 election was stolen; and although he supports limits on abortion access, O'Dea opposes the possible reversal of Roe v. Wade. As the more moderate Republican in the running, O'Dea could stand a better chance of earning the support of Colorado's independent voters, thereby presenting a tougher general election challenge to incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

The situation is the second major instance this year of Democrats boosting an ultra-conservative rival to potentially provide some long-term advantage. Last month in Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano came out on top of the crowded Republican gubernatorial primary after ads backed by Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro labeled Mastriano as "one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters."

Although the tactic has proven to be successful in past elections, it remains to be seen whether it works in the current political climate. With three more primary months to go, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is crying foul and filing an FEC complaint against what they call "Democrats’ illegal activities as part of their coordinated effort to hurt Republican candidate Joe O’Dea in Colorado."

ONE MORE THING

Interviews with nearly a dozen current and former Republican Party leaders in Missouri, where voting in the state's GOP Senate primary began this week, revealed a broad distaste for former Gov. Eric Greitens and a hesitation by many in the establishment to support him were he to win the nod on Aug. 2. Greitens -- once disgraced -- is now leading a resurgent campaign four years after he resigned. "Greitens is doing exactly what he needs to do to win over voters," his campaign manager Dylan Johnson said in a statement. But one GOP county chair told ABC News: "Everything about him I question." https://abcn.ws/3namIGE

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

8. That’s the rough percentage of congressional districts that will be competitive this fall, according to the Cook Political Report. And as FiveThirtyEight contributor Lee Drutman writes, that’s a big problem for our elections. Read more from Lee on why the loss of competitive districts in the U.S. causes a whole host of problems ranging from less moderate representatives to Americans feeling unrepresented.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Thursday morning with ABC’s Karen Travers on the president’s push for a three-month gas tax holiday amid surging prices. Then, ABC’s Anne Flaherty details why the FDA is ordering Juul e-cigarettes off U.S. shelves. And, ABC’s Maggie Rulli reports on deadly earthquakes in Afghanistan. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses welcome wounded warriors and their families and caregivers for an event celebrating the annual Soldier Ride at 9 a.m. on the South Lawn.
  • The White House COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials hold a briefing at 2:15 p.m.
  • The House Select Committee Investigating the January 6th Attack on the Capitol holds a hearing at 3 p.m. Testifying are three former top officials in the Department of Justice who say they resisted Trump and his allies: former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, former deputy acting attorney general Richard Donoghue and former top DOJ lawyer Steven Engel, ABC News' Alexander Mallin and Pierre Thomas report.

Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Friday for the latest.

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