THIS IS AMERICA

Wednesday, June 23

By Kurt Heine

DEMS DODGE A GAS TAX TRAP Last week, it seemed an increase in the federal gasoline tax was part of how Biden would pay for his infrastructure package. But now it’s dead, saving vulnerable Senate Democrats from having to defend a deeply unpopular policy, writes Kevin Robillard. [HuffPost]

CAN AMERICA FINALLY DO SOMETHING ABOUT DRUG PRICES? Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a key figure in Democrats’ push to allow Medicare to negotiate with drugmakers, laid out progressive ideas for reforming drug prices. He wants to allow even Americans not on Medicare to benefit. [HuffPost]

GREAT BARRIER REEF SHOULD BE LISTED AS ‘IN DANGER’ The U.N. environmental body UNESCO set off an outcry in Australia with the recommendation that the Great Barrier Reef should be listed as “in danger.” The suggestion dismisses the Australian government’s efforts to preserve the embattled reef. [HuffPost]

BIDEN HAILS PRO ATHLETES FOR COMING OUT Biden cheered NFL defensive lineman Carl Nassib and pro soccer star Kumi Yokoyama for coming out, saying their decisions to do so will help “kids around the world.” “I’m so proud of your courage,” the president wrote on Twitter. Joy Behar landed an offensive “penetration in the end zone” joke and tried to take it back. [HuffPost]

ALABAMA PREPARES TO EXECUTE PEOPLE WITH GAS As drugs used for death penalty lethal injection remain in short supply, Alabama is among several states creating new and untested ways of killing people. The state said it’s nearing completion of a “nitrogen hypoxia system.” No state has ever executed a prisoner this way. [HuffPost]

BRITNEY SPEARS SET TO TESTIFY ABOUT CONSERVATORSHIP Pop star Britney Spears, right,  today is set to address a judge overseeing the conservatorship that has dominated her life for 13 years. It will be the first time Spears’ words are heard in open court about the controversial arrangement that puts her father in charge of her affairs. [AP]

SOCIALIST CLAIMS STUNNING UPSET FOR BUFFALO MAYOR Political newcomer India Walton appears to have knocked off Buffalo, New York’s longtime incumbent in the city’s Democratic primary, likely crowning her the first female leader of the upstate city and the first socialist mayor of any major American city in almost 60 years. No Republican is running in the fall election. [HuffPost]

NOW WHAT? DEMS PLOT NEXT MOVES AFTER GOP KILLS VOTING RIGHTS BILL Progressives are losing patience with President Joe Biden after every Senate Republican banded together to block For the People Act voting reforms. Though the measure is a priority for congressional Democrats as a way to counter state-level Republican voter suppression laws, Biden — until now — has shown only lackluster engagement. “Let me be clear: This fight is far from over,” he said after the defeat. Senate Democrats plan a summer fight over filibuster reform. If nothing else, activists say GOP efforts to strip people’s voting rights will motivate Democrats in this year’s elections. [AP]

TRUMP ERUPTS AFTER REPORT HE SICCED JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ON ‘SNL’ Former President Donald Trump launched an unhinged statement after a report that he tried to get his Justice Department to force “Saturday Night Live” to stop teasing him. Trump called the report “total Fake News,” then ripped into actor Alec Baldwin, who played Trump with hilarious precision. [HuffPost]

ERIC ADAMS LEADS NEW YORK MAYOR RACE Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams won a strong plurality of in-person votes, putting him in a strong position to win the city’s Democratic primary. Former presidential contender Andrew Yang tumbled into the also-ran basement. The new ranked-choice voting system likely means the final outcome won’t be known for weeks. [HuffPost]

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