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Happy Tuesday morning. There are 14 days until Election Day.
A letter Monday from 30 House progressives to President Joe Biden urging him to cut a peace deal in Ukraine is causing an uproar inside the Democratic Caucus, with some members complaining that it should never have been sent at all. Several of these lawmakers are privately blaming Rep. Pramilya Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, for the flub.
In their letter – the original version – the progressives urged Biden to “pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire.”
While saying they supported Biden’s position “that it is not America’s place to pressure Ukraine’s government regarding sovereign decisions,” the progressives also called for the White House “to seriously explore all possible avenues, including direct engagement with Russia, to reduce harm and support Ukraine in achieving a peaceful settlement.”
There was an immediate backlash, with some Democrats warning that the letter undermined U.S. support for Ukraine.
And the progressives’ timing was a problem as well. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy warned last week to Punchbowl News that he won’t approve “a free blank check” for the White House on Ukraine if the GOP wins on Election Day. Biden quickly pushed back on McCarthy’s comments, stating that the only way for Russian President Vladimir Putin to win a war that’s gone so disastrously for his country is for the West to weaken its support for Ukraine.
Within several hours, Jayapal issued a second statement “clarifying” that progressives still back Biden on Ukraine:
“As we also made explicitly clear in our letter and will continue to make clear, we support President Biden and his administration’s commitment to nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”
Some progressives were “upset and confused” about the incident, complaining it made them appear as if they were siding with hardline conservative Republicans and threatening to cut off Ukraine aid.
“I’m really at a loss why this happened,” one progressive Democrat said to us late Monday night.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), the former chair of the CPC, said Monday evening he has “no idea” why the letter went out now since it was written in July. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who was on the original letter, issued a statement “regarding my continued support for President Biden’s policies on Ukraine.”
Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), a former Marine, slammed the progressives, calling their letter “an olive branch to a war criminal who’s losing his war.”
“Ukraine is on the march. Congress should be standing firmly behind @JoeBidens effective strategy, including tighter – not weaker! – sanctions.”
A Jayapal aide declined to comment on the process for approving the letter, including why a four-month old document – which had been updated somewhat – was released now.
This incident is important to dwell on for a moment because Jayapal is interested in a leadership bid in a post Nancy Pelosi world. Leadership races typically turn on whether lawmakers think the candidate best represents their interests. This has been Pelosi’s strength for two decades. A misstep like this could impact Jayapal’s eventual bid.
Yet there’s also a warning to the White House and Democratic leaders here. While support for Ukraine remains strong on the Hill, there are limits, of course. We’ve seen that on the GOP side, and it clearly exists among their own party as well. The upcoming negotiations for Ukraine funding during the lame duck session will be critical, just as the war moves into a new, bloodier phase.
– John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY META
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The metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real.
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Examining Drew Ferguson’s chances for majority whip
It’s been an eventful few days in the race for Republican whip during the next Congress.
Allies of former President Donald Trump and his son Don Jr. have been boosting Rep. Jim Banks’ (R-Ind.) prospects and trying to sink NRCC Chair Tom Emmer’s bid. We won’t get into all the particulars here – read the link above – but it’s getting ugly. It’s also unclear to us whether this will impact the fundamentals of this race.
We’re going to focus today on Rep. Drew Ferguson (Ga.), who is the third and final candidate for for the GOP whip job – should Republicans win the majority. You can read our analysis of Banks’ and Emmer’s candidacy if you need a primer.
We’ll say this: This is the most interesting GOP leadership race in a while. All three candidates are well liked and have their base of support inside the conference.
The 55-year-old Ferguson, a former dentist now in his third term, is the chief deputy whip to House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. He holds a deep red seat in western Georgia. And his conservative voting record matches that heavily pro-Trump district.
There’s no question that, judging by experience, Ferguson is the most qualified for the whip job. Ferguson has been the No. 2 to Scalise since 2019. He understands how the vote-counting operation works and has a close relationship with the whip’s office staff, which does much of the heavy lifting in corralling the conference. There are some who gripe about the efficacy of the whip operation, but members gripe about everything in Congress.
Having a whip who has actually whipped his colleagues before could be very useful early next year as a new majority is trying to get its footing. Banks and Emmer haven’t whipped anything significant ever before. Ferguson has.
While Banks is making the case he would be a conservative at the leadership table and Emmer is saying he deserves the job if Republicans take back the majority, Ferguson is arguing he actually knows how to do the job.
Ferguson has some institutional advantages in gathering votes for a leadership race. He interacts with a ton of members on a day-to-day basis. Plus, we’ve seen chief deputy whips fare well in leadership races. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, former Speaker Denny Hastert, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former House Republican Leader Roy Blunt were all chief deputy whip.
There’s another interesting contrast to be made right now. Ferguson is running the most traditional leadership election of all three candidates. He’s quietly working the members himself. Emmer — in the midst of fighting for control of the House – has Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) running his operation. And Banks’ allies on the outside are trying to bloody Emmer to boost the Indiana Republican – all while Banks works the membership on his own.
They are all working hard – we’re not suggesting otherwise. But Banks and Ferguson are having member-to-candidate conversations, which is where these races are usually locked up.
One area where Ferguson has another advantage is in staff. His chief of staff, Annie Wolf, has worked in the GOP leadership for more than a decade and understands this very quirky world.
Ferguson has been traveling the country on behalf of Republican candidates. The Georgia Republican has been to 23 states and 40 districts. He’s given $2 million to the NRCC and $700,000 to lawmakers and GOP candidates.
His main supporters are Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Jake Ellzey (R-Texas) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.).
Ferguson has significant weaknesses that we want to explore. Ferguson was first into the race for majority whip and still hasn’t locked up the votes yet. If Ferguson truly was a frontrunner, he could’ve put this away before anyone else got into the race. He didn’t. That doesn’t mean he won’t; it just means he hasn’t yet.
Traditionally, the South is one of the most powerful blocs for a Republican running for leadership. But even Ferguson’s allies concede he hasn’t solidified his support from the region yet. For example, Scalise ascended to leadership on the power of his lock on the South, handily beating then Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam of Illinois.
But here’s the biggest problem for Ferguson – Kevin Owen McCarthy. It’s well known that McCarthy doesn’t care for Ferguson or want him to be the whip. As we’ve mentioned, McCarthy isn’t publicly getting involved in this race, but that doesn’t really matter because everyone knows the California Republican’s view. We’ve reported this before but it’s worth repeating – McCarthy has uninvited Ferguson from the leadership’s Daily Management Meeting.
Remember: McCarthy and Scalise have had a rocky relationship at times. Ferguson would be another Scalise ally at the leadership table if he were to win, which could be tricky for McCarthy. McCarthy also has picky views on how the whip team should operate having been the party’s top vote counter for three years under then Speaker John Boehner.
That’s not to say that there aren’t opportunities for Ferguson. There are. While Banks and Emmer get roughed up through this Trump-related feud, some rank-and-file Republicans may take a second look at Ferguson. We imagine McCarthy may get involved if Ferguson picks up steam, though.
Scalise has been letting Ferguson handle this race on his own. We’ll be interested to see whether the Louisiana Republican leans in more at some point to get his chief deputy elected.
The best situation for Ferguson would be if Banks is eliminated after the first round of voting. Ferguson could then make the case that he’s the conservative in the race and has the edge in experience over Emmer.
What happens to Ferguson if McCarthy goes public and says that he doesn’t want the Georgian as his whip? This could be a big problem. And we’ll repeat this: If Emmer has a big night on Nov. 8 and helps to deliver the majority for House Republicans, it’s going to be hard to turn him down.
– Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
Warren, AOC call for crackdown on crypto’s revolving door
News: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are leading an effort among progressive lawmakers to make it harder for crypto firms to hire former government officials to guide their lobbying efforts.
In a letter sent Monday morning to just about every major federal financial regulator, Warren and AOC warned that an influx of former public officials into the crypto sector risked “corrupting the policymaking process and undermining the public’s trust in our financial regulators.”
Here’s a quick excerpt from the letter, which was also signed by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) and Chuy García, (D-Ill.):
“Americans should be confident that regulators are working on behalf of the public, rather than auditioning for a high-paid lobbying job upon leaving government service. The rapidly spinning revolving door out of government and into the crypto sector, however, undermines both imperatives.”
Pointing to a February report from the Tech Transparency Project, the lawmakers wrote that “over 200 government officials [had] moved between public service and crypto firms,” with dozens of officials from the Treasury Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission making the jump.
Also on the list: the Federal Reserve, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., all of which have also seen some officials leave for the crypto sector, although fewer than the markets regulators and Treasury.
The report counted “87 moves between Congress” and the digital asset industry including several ex-lawmakers. Former Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), former Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), and former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) are some of those who have done so.
Not to mention this report is roughly eight months old, meaning these figures are almost certainly undercounts by now. For instance – former Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), now leads strategy for the Crypto Council for Innovation.
Warren and AOC’s letter poses several ethics-heavy questions for the financial agencies to answer with a Nov. 7 deadline.
Key points of inquiry are as follows:
“According to your agency’s ethics guidelines … for what period of time is an individual barred from seeking employment in an industry with which they interacted while working at your agency? …
“What polices are in place at your agency to protect agency policies from being unduly influenced by current or former employees’ potential conflicts of interest?”
The FDIC, OCC, CFTC, and SEC each declined to comment. The Fed referred to an internal policy that prevents personnel working on digital asset policy from owning crypto, and CFPB pointed to a web page outlining its revolving door policy.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Treasury Department said its employees “are held to high ethical standards to guard against conflicts of interest.”
They also listed a handful of specific policies:
“Treasury employees who are seeking outside employment are subject to recusal obligations that limit the types of work they can do in their current role and must disqualify themselves from participating in any particular matter in which a prospective employer has a financial interest. This requirement applies even to the early stages of a matter, such as making a recommendation or participating in an investigation.
“In addition, there are restrictions that apply to Treasury employees after they leave federal employment. Senior employees, for instance, are subject to a one-year cooling-off period following their federal employment.”
A historical note: the revolving door has always spun with a particular speed among the financial regulators. The private sector can pay far more than the government. As this 1978 speech from a former SEC chair would suggest, this is a long-running problem.
In the absence of some serious federal compensation reform, there’s only so much a strict ethics policy can do to stop this kind of broad financial imbalance.
– Brendan Pedersen
PRESENTED BY META
New: Republican super PAC Defending Main Street is launching a six-figure radio ad buy backing up Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa). It’s the latest example of Defending Main Street’s political spending this cycle, along with the group’s ad buys protecting Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) and attacking Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner in Oregon.
The ad buy blasts Miller-Meeks’ Democratic challenger, state Rep. Christina Bohannan, as an “out-of-touch liberal professor” and singles out her stances on transgender rights, eliminating cash bail and police reform. The ad praises Miller-Meeks for promoting “common-sense solutions” in Congress.
New: Republican Jeremy Shaffer is presenting himself as a “bipartisan problem solver” in a new ad that could serve as an application to the Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress.
Shaffer’s business partner, a local Democratic official and his wife all vouch for the Republican’s ability to get stuff done. Shaffer is also featured in a hard hat filling a pothole in the spot.
Democrats have sought to paint Shaffer in a very different light in his toss-up western Pennsylvania race against Democrat Chris Deluzio, accusing Shaffer of being an extremist ally of GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano.
New: Former President Barack Obama is endorsing Maryland Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore. Obama praises Moore as a leader who can bring Marylanders together and build an economy that works for all residents.
Moore will become the first Black governor of Maryland if he defeats far-right GOP nominee Dan Cox in November.
Emerson College has Republican Don Bolduc gaining on Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.). Hassan is now leading 48%-45%. Hassan was previously up 11 points.
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), running for mayor of Los Angeles, has a new spot up where she links Rick Caruso, her opponent, to Mitch McConnell.
– Max Cohen and Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY META
10:15 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
2:05 p.m.: Biden will get his Covid booster and speak about the virus. Biden will be joined by executives from CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aide and Albertsons. Here are some fact sheets detailing what Biden will announce.
Vice President Kamala Harris will fly to Albuquerque, N.M., to raise money for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Harris will also hold an event with Lujan Grisham on “protecting reproductive rights.”
Remember: Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will face Republican Mehmet Oz in the only debate of the Pennsylvania Senate race tonight.
“Pelosi’s Last Dance? Speaker Sprints Across U.S. as Republicans Close In,” by Carl Hulse in Downers Grove, Ill.
“Fearing a New Shellacking, Democrats Rush for Economic Message,” by Jonathan Weisman and Neil Vigdor
“Prosecutors Pressure Trump Aides to Testify in Documents Case,” by Mike Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer
“Mercenary chief vented to Putin over Ukraine war bungling,” by Ellen Nakashima, John Hudson and Paul Sonne
“U.S.-Saudi Relations Buckle, Driven by Animosity Between Biden and Mohammed bin Salman,” by Stephen Kalin, Summer Said and Dion Nissenbaum in Riyadh
“North Carolina Senate Race Spotlights Shrinking Slice of Persuadable Voters,” by Josh Jamerson in Greensboro, N.C.
“Fed Is Losing Billions, Wiping Out Profits That Funded Spending,” by Enda Curran, Jana Randow, and Jonnelle Marte
“German president arrives in Ukraine as tensions rise,” by Andrew Meldrum in Kyiv
PRESENTED BY META
Students will be able to explore outer space in the metaverse.
With the metaverse, students in a classroom will be able to travel to the depths of our galaxy, helping them get up close to the planets and gain a deeper understanding of how our solar system works.
The metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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