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Harris and Trump Trade Attacks as Campaign Heats Up

By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Good evening. President Joe Biden is set to deliver a historic Oval Office address to the nation tonight, expounding on his decision to end his re-election bid and laying out how he wants to “finish the job for the American people” in his remaining months in office.

That speech comes after embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of Congress. Netanyahu sought to shore up the alliance between his country and the United States, offering praise for both Biden and former President Donald Trump as well as a vigorous and combative defense of the divisive war against Hamas in Gaza.

With thousands of pro-Palestinian protestors demonstrating outside the Capitol and dozens of congressional Democrats boycotting the speech, the Israeli leader called the fight a “clash between barbarism and civilization” and part of a larger battle against Iran. “Israel will fight until we destroy Hamas’ military capabilities and its rule in Gaza and bring all our hostages home,” he said. “That’s what total victory means. And we will settle for nothing less.”

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet separately with Biden, Trump and Vice President Kamala Harris, who skipped the speech to attend a previously scheduled event in Indianapolis.

Here’s what else we’re watching.

Harris and Trump Trade Attacks as Campaign Heats Up

As she launches her presidential bid this week, Vice President Kamala Harris is laying out the ideas she wants at the core of her campaign and the strategies she believes can propel her to the White House.

In a speech Wednesday at a convention of Zeta Phi Beta, a prominent Black sorority, Harris again sought to define herself for voters and contrast her vision with that of former President Donald Trump, the Republican nominee. And she again linked Trump to Project 2025, a 900-page conservative policy agenda, which she said represents “an outright attack on our children, our families and our future.”

Trump has repeatedly disavowed that plan and sought to distance himself from it, even as many of its contributors served in his administration and would be expected to join him for a second term in office. But Harris argued that this election was a choice between competing visions, with Trump representing “extremists” who would return the country to a “dark past,” cut Medicare and eliminate the Department of Education.

The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein notes that Harris has already promised multiple times this week to pursue the “care economy” and social safety net agenda that had been blocked as part of Biden’s ambitious post-pandemic plans:

“In remarks to campaign staff in Delaware on Monday and a campaign speech in Wisconsin on Tuesday, the vice president focused on key parts of President Biden’s domestic agenda that failed to pass because of resistance from Republicans and centrist Democrats. In both speeches, Harris highlighted the need for legislation to expand paid family leave, housing assistance, child care and eldercare — parts of the ‘care economy’ that advisers say have been one of her top priorities in the administration.”

Emphasizing those policies could help Harris draw contrasts with Republicans on so-called kitchen table issues — and appeal to her key supporters. “Part of her constituency will clearly be women, clearly be women of color, and clearly families of color — and these are disproportionately folks in the service industry,” Felicia Wong, president of Roosevelt Forward, a progressive advocacy organization, told the Post. “So it’s not just that she knows investing in the care sector is good for the economy and in line with her values … in political terms, she sees an advantage in the care agenda.”

Trump on the attack, too: Still, policy issues may ultimately take a back seat to personal ones as the campaign speeds ahead. Harris will certainly want to make the contest a referendum on Trump’s presidency and character. And Trump is already attacking her in typical fashion.

“She is a radical left lunatic who will destroy our country if she ever gets the chance to get into office,” he said at a rally Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina. He acknowledged that his tone was much different than the one Republicans had suggested he’d adopt after surviving an assassination attempt. “I was supposed to be nice,” he told the crowd. “If you don’t mind, I’m not going to be nice.” His audience roared in approval.

Plotting a ‘path to victory’: In a memo shared with reporters on Wednesday, Harris’s campaign mapped out what it sees as its “path to victory.” It cited her “well-documented support” among the Black, Latino, Asian-American and young voters that comprise key portions of the Democratic base. Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon also argued that Harris has an opportunity to build on the support Biden got in 2020, in particular by appealing to white, college-educated voters and those over 65. She also suggested that Harris’s entry into the race could also bring an opening to reach some more persuadable voters.

“About 7% of voters remain undecided in this race, and these voters are disproportionately Black, Latino, and under 30,” the memo said. “They are more likely to have supported the Biden-Harris ticket in 2020, and are two times more likely to be Democrats than Republicans.”

The campaign indicated that it sees multiple paths to 270 electoral college votes and opportunities to reach voters in the Sun Belt states of North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada, even as it would continue to focus on Democrats’ “Blue Wall” states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which had been seen as must-win states for Biden.

House Starts Summer Recess Early as Spending Bills Stall

Unable to pass some of their key spending bills for fiscal year 2025, House Republican leaders announced Wednesday that they are canceling votes planned for next week, moving up the start date of their summer recess. The last votes are now scheduled to occur tomorrow, after which lawmakers will adjourn for a six-week break.

The House will not return until September 9, just three weeks before the end of the fiscal year. The failure of the House to pass the full suite of 12 spending bills for fiscal year 2025, along with the Senate’s failure to pass any of them, all but guarantees that Congress will need to provide some kind of short-term funding at the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, or face a government shutdown.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said earlier this year that he’d like to pass as many of the 12 appropriations bills as possible by August 1, sending them to the Senate before the long summer recess begins. But the House GOP pulled the plug on that ambitious timeline after internal disagreements led to failed and canceled votes. A planned vote to fund the Department of Energy was canceled late Tuesday, though it could get a last-minute vote on Thursday, along with a bill funding the Interior Department.

Familiar problems: The Republican efforts to pass the 12 spending bills hit some familiar speed bumps. Right-wing lawmakers insisted on adding culture war amendments to some of the bills, touching on issues such as abortion, gender status and climate change, weakening support from moderates while guaranteeing the bills would fail should they make it to the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Some Republicans questioned the wisdom of their leadership’s approach. “Trying to pass 12 separate Republican appropriation bills, that the Democrat controlled Senate will NEVER vote on. For what? Messaging?” asked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican who sometimes embraces questionable messaging efforts of her own. “When the reality that we ALL know is that we will be forced to vote on a CR by Sept 30th which is the government funding deadline. But for some reason that’s not being discussed even though we all know it.” (CR refers to a continuing resolution, the legislative vehicle Congress typically uses to pass short-term funding.)

The bottom line: Progress on the 2025 appropriations bills will likely come to a halt after tomorrow, raising the odds that the federal government will be operating on short-term funding until after the election, and possibly much longer.

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