Joe Biden faces fresh headwinds from his base: The Note

Maybe the only thing Democrats agree on is their dire political outlook.

July 12, 2022, 6:03 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The easy things -- the things that unite Democrats -- are suddenly hard.

That makes some of the harder things -- including the things that don’t necessarily bring the party together -- even harder.

In the context of what looks like a brutal midterm year, there are plenty of reasons to think the Democratic Party might be rallying behind President Joe Biden at the moment.

Recent weeks brought bombshell conservative Supreme Court decisions, new outrages surfaced by the House's Jan. 6 committee, slightly better-than expected economic numbers and even an unlikely legislative victory on gun control.

But when Biden sought to start the week by celebrating that bill, he was interrupted by the father of a shooting victim who shouted that the president needs to be doing more.

Biden’s White House has been showcasing what it’s looking to do now that the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion. But as the House prepares for votes destined to fall short, and the Senate lays out hearings that are also almost certainly leading nowhere, some advocates fault the president for not doing more and doing it more quickly.

Biden himself may not entirely disagree. He told reporters over the weekend that he has been considering declaring a public health emergency on abortion access, and he told activists who massed in Washington over the issue to “keep protesting.”

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks during an event commemorating the of the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, July 11, 2022.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks during an event commemorating the of the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, July 11, 2022.
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

At the same time, a widely circulated quote from the White House communications director spoke to a different audience, if not a different attitude. Kate Bedingfield, who is soon to leave her position, told The Washington Post that Biden’s aim in guaranteeing access to abortion “is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party.”

The disconnects are coming as Democrats push for some final legislative wins before campaign season subsumes most remaining space for lawmaking. The uncertainties around Biden extend far beyond the Beltway: The New York Times/Siena College poll out Monday had Biden’s approval rating among respondents at 33%, with 64% of Democrats surveyed saying they would prefer a different presidential candidate in 2024.

One thing Democrats are in virtual agreement on is how dire their political outlook is this year. But that’s not the same as agreeing on what can or should be done about it.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

Biden's victory lap Monday over last month’s passage of the bipartisan anti-gun violence package acknowledged that the legislation "matters, but it’s not enough, and we all know that.”

Although the law marks the enactment of the most significant gun legislation in three decades, Biden proceeded during an event at the White House to call on lawmakers to do more by passing enhanced background checks and safe storage laws, and he again urged for a ban on assault weapons.

“We're living in a country awash in weapons of war. Weapons that were designed to hunt are not being used; the weapons designed that they're purchasing are designed as weapons of war, to take out an enemy. What is the rationale for these weapons outside war zones?” the president said.

The event was briefly interrupted by Manuel Oliver, a father from Parkland, Florida, whose son Joaquin, was among those killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. During Biden’s remarks, Oliver shouted, “We have to do more than that” and “I’ve been trying to tell you this for years” before being escorted out of the event, ABC News’ Jay O’Brien reported.

“Our hearts go out to Manuel Oliver who has suffered a deep, deep loss. The president met with him earlier today before the event and, as you know, the president understands what loss feels like and the president agrees with him. He agrees that we need to do more,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday.

The calls for more action were echoed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Highland Park, Illinois, Mayor Nancy Rotering, who met with Biden on Monday in the wake of the recent shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park.

During a gaggle with reporters following the meeting, Pritzker -- whose national political profile skyrocketed in the aftermath of the parade killings -- told ABC News’ Ben Gittleson that gun safety should not remain a state-level issue.

"We can do our best, and we believe strongly in the state of Illinois in protecting our citizens from these kinds of weapons. But if the states around us don't, then what are we to do? So that's why we need a national ban,” Pritzker said.

PHOTO: Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, calls for additional gun control actions as he interrupts President Joe Biden in Washington, July 11, 2022.
Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, calls for additional gun control actions as he interrupts President Joe Biden during a White House event to celebrate passage of the "Safer Communities Act," in Washington, July 11, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The TIP with Hannah Demissie

Texas is entering the danger zone as temperatures continue to rise and the power demand continues to increase.

The state's power grid operator, ERCOT, sent out a notice on Sunday asking Texans "to voluntarily conserve electricity" on Monday to avoid rolling blackouts. Gov. Greg Abbott’s press secretary, Renae Eze, told ABC News in a statement that the ERCOT call for voluntary conservation “is one of the many tools at their disposal to ensure enough power keeps flowing” in the state, which has seen the disastrous collapse of its grid before.

PHOTO: Beto O'Rourke speaks at Uvalde Plaza, Texas, July 10, 2022.
Beto O'Rourke speaks at Uvalde Plaza, Texas, July 10, 2022.
Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman via USA Today Network

“Since May, Texas has set and broken power demand records 26 times without any systemwide issues or disruptions for the more than 26 million Texans served by the electric grid. The ERCOT power grid has been able to meet those challenges and respond in record ways, providing more power than ever before and doing so more efficiently, in large part because of the reforms passed last session and the increase in power generation by more than 15% over last year,” Eze told ABC.

Beto O'Rourke, who is running against Abbott in Texas' governor's race, went after him on Twitter following the announcement from ERCOT.

"We can't rely on the grid when it's hot. We can't rely on the grid when it's cold. We can't rely on Greg Abbott. It's time to vote him out and fix the grid," O’Rourke wrote on Twitter.

Abbott’s campaign hit back on Monday, releasing a statement calling O’Rourke “delusional” and contending that he’s “scare-mongering” people about the grid failing.

Abbott has avoided putting too much attention on Texas' power grid and instead has focused on the southern border. The governor continues to tout the success of his "Operation Lone Star" initiative, which aims to ward off criminal activity along the border, even though the U.S. Department of Justice is now investigating the operation for potential civil rights violations.

In the governor’s only public event on Monday, he delivered remarks in Dallas at the Texas Restaurant Show. The Dallas Morning News' Claire Ballor reported that Abbott did not mention ERCOT's call for electricity conservation during his speech and did not take any questions.

With the power disaster from last winter still fresh in many Texan's minds, local leaders are doing everything possible to ensure that this time around, they are prepared. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has asked city departments to be ready "in case the state’s power grid fails during extreme heat."

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

19. That’s the percentage of Americans who named abortion as a top issue facing the U.S. in the latest FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, which was conducted from June 27 to July 5. And as Geoffrey Skelley and Holly Fuong write, abortion might not be a top issue for most Americans -- things like inflation and crime and gun violence still rank higher -- but most Americans have thoughts on where the fight over abortion goes next. For instance, access to birth control pills remains very popular and most Americans aren’t on board with punishments for women who seek abortions or doctors who perform them. Read more from Geoffrey and Holly on how Americans feel about abortion in a post-Roe world.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Tuesday with the latest on COVID-19. ABC’s Arielle Mitropoulos breaks down the BA.4 and BA.5 variants and the new Moderna vaccine, which promises to be more effective against them. Then, we go to the wildfire raging in Yosemite National Park -- ABC’s Will Carr reports from the scene. Later in the show, Saloni Shah, agriculture and economics analyst from the Breakthrough Institute, discusses the latest on the political unrest in Sri Lanka, which forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa out of his official residence and out of office. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection will hold its next public hearing, beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
  • At 10 a.m. ET, the Senate Judiciary Committee will convene for a hearing to examine a post-Roe v. Wade America, focusing on the legal consequences of the Dobbs decision.
  • At 2 p.m. ET, the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control will convene for a meeting to examine the role of the federal government in attacking the financial networks of cartels.
  • At noon ET, the House Rules Committee will convene to discuss H.R. 7900 -- National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023; H.R. 8296 -- the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022; H.R. 8297 -- the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act of 2022; and H.R. 6538 -- Active Shooter Alert Act of 2022.

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

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