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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

President Biden arrived in France this morning to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When tens of thousands of U.S. troops landed on the beaches at Normandy, it turned the tide in World War II. Biden is there with a message he's aiming at the American people.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us now from Paris. Tam, making that pilgrimage to Normandy - it's something presidents do every five years on the anniversary of D-Day. So what's notable about Biden's trip this year?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well, this could be the last major anniversary where there are D-Day veterans still alive to mark the moment. The veterans who will be there tomorrow are in their late 90s, some over 100 years old...

MARTÍNEZ: Wow.

KEITH: ...And Biden is expected to meet them. But what's also notable is that this anniversary comes as a land war rages once again on the European continent with Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And it raises the stakes as World War II fades from people's memories and into the history books. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan briefed the press on the flight over.

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JAKE SULLIVAN: And over the course of the two days, he'll really be drawing a through line from World War II, through the Cold War and the stand-up of the greatest military alliance the world has ever known - the NATO alliance - to today, where we face, once again, war in Europe, where NATO has rallied to defend freedom and sovereignty in Europe.

KEITH: And Sullivan confirmed that President Biden will be sitting down with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy while they're both in Normandy for the D-Day commemoration.

MARTÍNEZ: So Sullivan mentions NATO there. I mean, there was a time when talking up NATO and U.S. leadership on the world stage was very bipartisan. Is that still the case today?

KEITH: According to a poll from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the majority of Americans still support NATO with its mutual defense agreement. But it is a big dividing line in the presidential election, with President Biden extolling the importance of these alliances and former President Donald Trump borrowing a pre-World War II slogan of America First and repeatedly toying with the idea of the U.S. not keeping its commitment to NATO.

Ivo Daalder was the U.S. ambassador to NATO during the Obama administration, and he now heads the Chicago Council.

IVO DAALDER: NATO is becoming politicized in a way it never was until this point, in part because the isolationist, nationalist views that have always been a part of the American political scene are consolidating within one political party.

KEITH: And you'll remember the six months it took for Republicans and the House of Representatives to come around to taking up a package of military assistance to Ukraine.

MARTÍNEZ: How political do you expect President Biden to get on this trip? I mean, it's a presidential campaign after all.

KEITH: Yes, but he is also overseas, and there is a tradition of not getting too political while across the ocean. You know, I would be surprised if he calls out Trump by name, but the campaign subtext will be everywhere. On Friday, Biden is giving a speech in Normandy billed as an address to the American people about freedom and democracy. And those are obviously themes this anniversary, but they're also key themes in Biden's reelection effort.

And on Sunday, he will visit a cemetery outside of Paris, honoring some of the fallen Americans from a key World War I battle. Former President Trump was supposed to visit that cemetery in 2018 but canceled. And a report in The Atlantic magazine said Trump referred to Americans who died in war as, quote, "suckers and losers." It's something Trump denies, but it's a big part of Biden's stump speeches. So going there to that cemetery in person may give him some new political fodder.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Tamara Keith in Paris. Tamara, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: Members of Congress are campaigning even when they're in session on Capitol Hill.

MARTÍNEZ: That's right. It's messaging season on the Hill. Lawmakers are shifting their sights from legislating to proposing long-shot bills that seem to have just one purpose - to make a point - and it's happening on both sides of the aisle.

MARTIN: NPR Congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt is here to talk through the latest. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So there's a vote slated in the Senate today that would give protections for the right to access contraception. This is unlikely to go anywhere in the Republican-led House. So what's the thinking from the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer?

SPRUNT: Well, this comes just ahead of the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down federal abortion protections. And since then, voters have backed abortion rights at the ballot box in at least six states. So yes, this is a messaging bill. It's exactly the message that Democrats are trying to hammer home in an election year. Here's how Schumer put it himself on the floor earlier this week.

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CHUCK SCHUMER: Over the coming weeks, Senate Democrats will put reproductive freedoms front and center before this chamber so that the American people can see for themselves who will stand up to defend their fundamental liberties.

SPRUNT: Voters in up to 10 states could face abortion rights amendments this year - some of them in places that have critical Senate races, too, like Arizona, Montana and Nevada. This vote and others down the road, as Schumer alluded to, are all aimed at centering Democrats' message on this issue and forcing Republicans to take votes on it as the election draws closer.

MARTIN: But is this a season of what you're calling messaging bills for both parties?

SPRUNT: Yeah, it is. I think that this is - it applies to both parties. This isn't the only one by a long shot. Democrats have put forward a messaging vote last month with the stalled border deal - a way to give vulnerable incumbents in redder states a chance to vote for a bipartisan effort to address high levels of illegal immigration at the U.S. southern border.

And Republicans are busy with their own messaging bills - one recently that would prevent noncitizens from voting in federal elections, something federal law already prohibits, to drive home one of their favorite issues to talk about on the campaign trail - what they call election integrity issues. And this is all happening as Republican-led House committees are holding hearings that ignite their base but don't really have a legislative future. So that would be investigating the origins of COVID-19 or what they call the weaponization of the Justice Department.

MARTIN: Right. We saw those just this week. So - but Barbara, is there something different about this election? I mean, isn't this something that normally happens at this time of year during an election year?

SPRUNT: This is certainly something that happens often in an election year, but it is more dramatic this year when both sides have struggled to find any common ground. The messaging drive really started at the very beginning of this Congress, and they've reached a point now where there's virtually nothing left they agree must be done.

MARTIN: OK, so apart from all that, is there something that Congress has to do before the election in November?

SPRUNT: The quick answer? - fund the government. Regular order would mean they have to pass 12 spending bills in the House by the end of September. Republican leaders say they want to do that by August, but it's a tough thing to do. They have a very narrow majority, and they have diverse demands from within the GOP conference. Most people think they'll end up punting until after the election.

MARTIN: That is NPR Congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt. Barbara, thank you.

SPRUNT: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: Believe it or not, we are still in primary season. Voters in four states and the District of Columbia cast their ballots for a presidential nominee yesterday.

MARTIN: New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, South Dakota and the District of Columbia are some of the last to have their say in this year's presidential nominating calendar. All that remains are Democratic caucuses for president a few days from now in Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, here to recap the busy day with a look ahead to November is NPR politics reporter Ben Giles, who joins us from Albuquerque. Ben, it's been clear now who the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees are going to be, so then what did we learn from these remaining presidential primaries?

BEN GILES, BYLINE: Well, we're still seeing evidence of how dissatisfied voters are with their choices for president. In states like New Mexico and New Jersey yesterday, approximately 9% of voters chose uncommitted on Democratic primary ballots rather than support President Joe Biden's reelection. Here in New Mexico, Biden garnered just about 84% of the vote. As for former President Donald Trump, he too lost about 16% of the votes combined here in New Mexico to candidates who have long since dropped out of the race, like Nikki Haley and Chris Christie. There were also some GOP voters who chose uncommitted on their ballots, too.

What'll be telling is how those unsatisfied voters turn around and cast their votes in November. Even though both Biden and Trump have won their party's nominations, they're really going to win or lose in November on the margins. Now, I should say the margins might not matter as much in states like New Mexico, which is pretty blue, but it's something I'll be keeping an eye on when I get back to Arizona, where Biden only won by less than 11,000 votes four years ago.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, and you've been reporting a lot from swing states, including Arizona, this year. You're in New Mexico now - lovely state, not considered a swing state, though. So what have you learned in the few days that you've been there?

GILES: Sure. Well, the politics at play in New Mexico - they're still largely reflective of the arguments being made for and against Biden and Trump at the national level. And New Mexico shouldn't be overlooked. There are pivotal races here for the U.S. House and Senate that could help determine control of those chambers. In those races, you'll see Republicans attacking Democrats over immigration. This is, after all, a border state, and Democrats, for better or worse, will try to tie their opponents' fates to Trump. They'll also be campaigning on defending access to abortions, with promises to help codify that right in federal law. And there's also demographics at play in this majority-minority state. GOP and Democratic candidates alike will be trying to win over Latino voters.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so now that the Tuesday dust has settled, what are the downballot races to watch?

GILES: Well, let's go to New Jersey, where Representative Andy Kim won the state's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. That's according to a race call by the Associated Press. Kim launched a campaign shortly after New Jersey's incumbent senator, Bob Menendez, was, for the second time, indicted on corruption charges. Menendez has refused to step down and this week filed to run for reelection as an independent.

Then there's another U.S. Senate race in Montana, where Democrat Jon Tester is literally the last man standing among Democrats. He's the only Democrat to hold statewide office there. But his race for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate is considered a toss-up, given how deeply red that state is. Republican leaders are backing Tim Sheehy, a retired Navy Seal, who won the GOP nomination. But last night's results show more than a quarter of Republican primary voters chose a candidate other than Sheehy, even though he was endorsed by Trump. And Tester's running as a moderate, and he hopes to pick up some Republicans who maybe will split their ticket between him and Trump.

MARTÍNEZ: That is NPR's Ben Giles, reporting from Albuquerque. Ben, thanks.

GILES: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: And finally, a panel of experts has advised the Food and Drug Administration to not recommend MDMA as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Yesterday, we reported on one company's efforts to make the illegal party drug a mainstream treatment for PTSD. Those efforts hit a major setback Tuesday when experts advising the FDA said available evidence fails to show that the benefits of MDMA-assisted therapy outweigh the risks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.