Senate Republicans hope their 2020 luck changes

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BAD NEWS BEARS Senate Republicans are having a couple of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weeks. GOP lawmakers in the Senate — which has been in session the entire month of June, unlike the House — have been forced to respond to tough questions about Trump’s shaky leadership throughout the coronavirus crisis and the national reckoning over racial injustice. And privately, some Republicans are starting to get worried about losing the Senate this fall.

Just take this quote from Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican: “You gotta play the hand you’re dealt. But yeah, we’ve been getting some bad cards lately. You’ve gotta keep playing and hopefully your luck changes at some point,” he said. “I’m still very confident we can win a lot of these races this fall. But timing and circumstances and the political environment have a lot to do with that. We’ll see what it looks like then.”

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Some of it is out of their control, like another spike in coronavirus cases and Trump’s slumping poll numbers. But other things are self-inflicted wounds from the president, like Trump’s retweet of a supporter yelling “white power”, an ill-advised rally in Oklahoma and reports that Trump was aware of Russian bounties for Afghan militants to kill U.S. troops, but took no action. The breakdown from Bres and Marianne: https://politi.co/38k2KRs.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS —The House cleared legislation yesterday by unanimous consent allowing the small business loans program to keep taking applications until Aug. 8, sending the measure to Trump’s desk for signature. The program — which still has $130 billion in funding available and has been a key pillar of the coronavirus recovery effort — stopped issuing new loans on Wednesday. But the bill has moved at lightning speed, which is rare in Congress. The story from Zachary Warmbrodt and Sarah: https://politi.co/2ZzSsJk.

Also passed by UC: “U.S. House passes bill to sanction Chinese banks over Hong Kong,” by Patricia Zengerle of Reuters: https://reut.rs/2C0FNXn.

MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY — House Democrats on Wednesday approved a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package, the latest in a string of priorities that Democrats passed before leaving town for the July Fourth recess. The measure — which mostly passed along party-lines — includes money for schools, hospitals, housing, broadband, drinking water, storm water, the energy grid and vehicle safety.

The GOP complained that the bill was too partisan and stuffed with liberal priorities like climate change, even though infrastructure generally earns bipartisan support. But Republicans did secure at least one change to the bill: they managed to win another procedural vote, also known as a “motion to recommit”, to amend the bill (Democrats have now lost 7 of the GOP procedural votes since taking the majority). The deets from Tanya Snyder: https://politi.co/31Ib9wK.

Related read: “Passing infrastructure bill, Democrats go all-in on climate,” from CQ Roll Call’s Jessica Wehrman, Benjamin J. Hulac, and Elvina Nawaguna: https://bit.ly/2Zw8UKf.

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Thursday, July 2. Does anybody else miss Sharpiegate? Well, we’re here for all the drama. Quick programming note: Huddle will take a break on Friday, July 3, for the Independence Day holiday, but well resume on Monday.

WEDNESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The Hill’s report on reparations legislation gaining steam was the big winner.

CULTURE WARS HIT NDAA— The push to rename bases named for Confederate leaders is officially bipartisan. In a marathon markup on Wednesday night, the House Armed Services approved language to require the renaming of those bases within one year — mirroring the Senate’s own version of the massive NDAA, Connor O’Brien reports. The panel ultimately advanced the bill — which will be named after the retiring ex-chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) — on a 56-0 vote.

Just hours earlier, President Trump vowed to veto the final Pentagon policy bill over the push to eliminate Confederate-linked names from the bases. The Senate GOP’s reaction? Mostly “meh,” with some Republicans noting that the bill might not actually reach his desk until November. In the words of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "Well, I would hope the president really wouldn't veto the bill over this issue." Get the rest from Andrew and Marianne: https://politi.co/31EfdhE.

Meanwhile.. “House to vote in July to remove bust of Roger Taney from Capitol,” by POLITICO’s Max Cohen. https://politi.co/3dUT9BQ.

TL;DR — The Gang of Eight will hear from CIA Director Gina Haspel on Thursday morning amid a steady drip-drip of details about Russian-paid bounties on coalition troops in Afghanistan. One big sticking point on the Hill: when exactly did Trump learn of this, and why wasn’t Congress briefed? Lawmakers learned this week that the Russian bounty intelligence was included in Trump’s daily written brief in late February — though he hadn’t been orally briefed on it, per Natasha Bertrand and Kyle. More about that daily briefing breakdown: https://politi.co/3f4WcIY.

Related reads: “Slotkin, Former Intelligence Briefer, Presses White House on Russia Reports,” via NYT’s Emily Cochrane: https://nyti.ms/2YRCmeK. “White House does not plan any immediate response over intelligence reports on Russian bounties targeting U.S. troops,” by WaPo's Ellen Nakashima, Josh Dawsey, Karen DeYoung and Shane Harris. https://wapo.st/2YTEPFm.

CONSPIRACY CAUCUS — House GOP leaders are embracing their party’s controversial nominee in Colorado, Lauren Boebert, despite ties to the QAnon conspiracy theory, the Washington Post reports. Boebert pulled off a surprising upset against five-term Rep. Scott Tipton — despite a Trump endorsement.

Per WaPo, Boebert is the “ninth individual to win the Republican nomination for a seat in the House or Senate who is either a full supporter of the QAnon movement or has voiced support for some of its tenets.” (The FBI, by the way, has labeled QAnon as a potential domestic terrorist threat.) More from PK and Colby Itkowitz: https://wapo.st/2ArDsog.

Related: Lauren Boebert ran against AOC and the ‘squad,’ and beat Rep. Scott Tipton in the process,” by Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman. https://bit.ly/3eSZbnY.

TRANSITIONS

Will Turner is now legislative director for Rep. Mike Garcia’s (R-CA, after serving as legislative assistant for Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL).

TODAY IN CONGRESS

The House is out.

The Senate meets at 10 a.m.

AROUND THE HILL

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) holds his weekly press conference at 9:30 a.m. in HVC Studio A.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds her weekly press conference at 10:30 a.m. in HVC Studio A.

TRIVIA

WEDNESDAY’S WINNER: Fred Grafe was the first person to guess that former Congressman Mo Udall was a star athlete, despite having lost an eye, and lead his high school team to an undefeated season as their quarterback.

TODAY’S QUESTION: From Fred: What is the name of the only flag officer in our Nation's history who has held four 4-star billets in succession? (Hint: he was promoted from 1-star to 3-stars in one day.) The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess to [email protected].

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