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“GPO innovations are helpingto reduce provider costs, streamline drug delivery, and strengthen the health care supply chain,” – Hon. Phil English, HGPII National Co-Coordinator
Happy Wednesday morning.
Here’s a blunt reality that isn’t being heard loud enough in the conservative-dominated House Republican Conference — the party’s majority makers think their leadership is screwing up on abortion.
Center-right lawmakers representing swing districts from New York to California are sounding the alarm that their party’s strategy on abortion rights has backfired. These vulnerable Republicans — who hold districts that President Joe Biden won in 2020 — told us the GOP needs to be more mindful about how it talks about abortion in the run-up to the 2024 election.
Former President Donald Trump, who is easily leading the race for the GOP’s White House nomination, brags about appointing Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade. Yet Trump is also trying to be vague on his stance on abortion, including whether he’ll push for a national ban if he wins next year.
Remember: House Democrats averted an expected “red wave” in 2022 by relentlessly attacking Republicans on abortion. And after its success on Election Day this November, Biden and Democrats are already planning to replicate that playbook next year.
There’s plenty of evidence that Republicans are getting crushed on the issue. Since the Dobbs decision in June 2022, six states have considered related ballot initiatives, with abortion-rights advocates winning even in deep-red states Kentucky and Kansas.
Earlier this month, voters in Ohio approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion access in that state. At least a dozen other states could consider abortion-related ballot initiatives next year.
In response, moderate GOP lawmakers have started opposing spending bills that include restrictive language dealing with reproductive rights. This comes after they previously backed bills such as the annual defense authorization package that included similar policies.
“We have to be very careful,” Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.) told us. “I don’t think some of these guys have cable. I mean, did they not watch the election results? The American people do not want a federal abortion policy. They want very carefully considered state abortion policy, so we need to leave this alone.”
For years, Republicans said abortion should be left up to the states. Which is exactly what the Supreme Court did when it struck down Roe.
Yet increasingly, top players in the House Republican Conference have embraced a more aggressive federal role on the issue, including banning most abortions after six weeks. One of the conference’s chief opponents of abortion rights — Speaker Mike Johnson — now sits atop the House GOP.
This isn’t going down well with some of the very members who need to win next year to keep the speaker’s gavel in Johnson’s hand.
“We have to be much more compassionate and caring for the very difficult choices women have to make,” Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) said.
The rubber is going to meet the road when Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess. The House is going to be forced to reconcile its spending priorities with the Senate. And the House GOP leadership is going to have to contend with competing pressures from moderates, hardline conservatives and the Democratic-run Senate on access to reproductive care.
“Listen, the [Agriculture spending] bill didn’t proceed because of an effort to prohibit the access to over-the-counter birth control,” Molinaro added. The Financial Services-General Government spending bill “has its own issues because of the effort to rescind the Washington, D.C., non-discrimination act.”
There have been efforts — so far, unsuccessful — to remove some language that’s problematic for the middle of the GOP conference. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.), who represents a Long Island district won by Biden, said he’s been working with the leadership to ax language in the Agriculture spending bill that would restrict access to mifepristone, a commonly used abortion pill. But the talks have been “slow.”
House Democrats, meanwhile, are chomping at the bit to make the election about abortion rights. The DCCC has already teed up campaign attack ads accusing vulnerable GOP targets of holding “radical” positions on abortion.
“Republicans were routed electorally last week because they continue to peddle extreme things, like criminalizing abortion care or imposing a nationwide abortion ban,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said during a pre-Thanksgiving recess press conference.
Case in point: A recent WSJ/NORC poll found that support for abortion access is nearing record highs. Fifty-five percent of respondents said a pregnant woman should be allowed to get an abortion “for any reason.”
For his part, NRCC Chair Richard Hudson dismissed the idea of abortion being a losing issue for Republicans. Hudson said it’s too early to tell what issues will dominate at the ballot box next year.
“I feel really good about ‘24,” Hudson said. “We’ve got great candidates all over the country, I think we’ve got a tremendous opportunity to grow the majority. So we’ll see what the issue sets are next year.”
We followed up by asking Hudson if he had any direct response to Democratic optimism that their abortion messaging will play well, even in red states.
“Nah,” Hudson replied.
Some Trump news: Reps. Tracey Mann (R-Kan.) and Erin Houchin (R-Ind.) will endorse Trump today. This gives Trump more than 80 congressional endorsements.
Trump is far outpacing everyone in the 2024 field in such endorsements. The former president’s team has made winning endorsements from Capitol Hill a priority, believing it could help Trump’s legislative agenda if he takes the White House next year.
— Mica Soellner and Max Cohen
Two weeks out! Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) will join Punchbowl News founder Anna Palmer and senior congressional reporter Andrew Desiderio on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 9 a.m. ET for an interview on news of the day, tech policy and the latest on the 2024 presidential and congressional campaigns. RSVP now!
PRESENTED BY CENTER FORWARD
A new proposal from the Federal Reserve would have unintended consequences – driving up costs and making everyday goods and services even more expensive. Increasing mortgage, credit card, and student loan payments – even heating and energy bills. Hurting hard-working Americans and harming American competitiveness. That’s the last thing we need right now. Tell the Fed: Protect our economy.
Where Americans’ economic angst comes from, according to Congress
If there’s been one constant over the tumultuous last few years, it’s voters’ dissatisfaction with the U.S. economy.
This is a singular concern for Republicans and Democrats alike, particularly as the White House continues to pitch “Bidenomics” as a success while polls show former President Donald Trump beating President Joe Biden on economic confidence.
Yet reading about economic pain and perusing the data beneath it is one thing. Hearing about it firsthand from constituents is something else entirely. And that’s something many lawmakers spend a fair amount of time doing when they manage to get away from the Capitol.
Here’s a rundown of what lawmakers say they’re hearing from constituents about the state of the economy and what needs to be done to fix it.
Core costs grinding down budgets: A defining feature of the current inflationary picture is that while the price increases for things like furniture, energy and used cars have slowed, fundamental expenses including childcare and housing remain a pain point.
“Housing and childcare are probably the two biggest things that I’m hearing about. And then health care,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told us. “The thing that’s hard about this is, obviously, housing and childcare were the things that were in Build Back Better that got dropped.”
Housing costs — particularly the price of mortgages — have had a dampening effect on a key element of the American dream: social mobility.
“What I hear about is the people who want to buy a slightly bigger house but can’t afford it, because the house that they live in, their interest rate is 2.5%, and the next house is going to be 6%,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said.
Student loans are back: It’s been a long time coming, but millions of borrowers with federal student loans have seen their payments resume since October. Several lawmakers told us that the potential for $200-$300 monthly expenses was weighing on their voters.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said his office had heard from many “young people” with both questions and concerns about student debt payments. Rounds on what his constituents are saying: “‘I can’t afford what I’m doing right now, and now I’m gonna have to start paying these back again? My income is not keeping up with my expenses.’ And we get it.”
When we asked Rep. Nikema Williams about student loans, the Georgia Democrat told us we’d just missed her commiserating with one of her own staffers whose loans had resumed.
“Think about the last time people with federal student loans made payments. It’s been a while. People have readjusted their budgets,” Williams said. “Adding something to your budget when your salary probably has not risen to keep up is going to have a huge impact.”
But concerns about student loans aren’t shared evenly among members’ districts. Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) said that “at the end of the day, my district — like a lot of the rest of the country, a majority of Americans — didn’t go to college.” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said he had the opposite situation: “My district is older and more affluent, so I probably hear about it less than some.”
The future is… something: More than one lawmaker told us their constituents are first and foremost preoccupied with what the future holds. And it’s a huge source of anxiety.
This includes laments about the trajectory of climate change among younger voters and existential concerns about the difficulties of retirement among older Americans.
“While unemployment is very low, and while we created a whole lot of jobs and while we’re making very good investments and rebuilding our manufacturing, the reality is that 60% of workers in America are living paycheck to paycheck,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said. “Younger people will probably have a lower standard of living than their parents.”
New technologies including generative artificial intelligence are also making it harder for the younger generation to imagine the future of work and where they’ll fit into it, Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) said.
“Young kids are very disturbed about AI when they think through their careers,” Foster said. “They’re thinking downstream, and they’re more connected with ChatGPT, thinking through the implications. I think that’s one of the undercurrents, particularly for young people — just the fact that the world seems so unstable.”
— Brendan Pedersen
Dissecting the wave of House retirements
Thirty members of the House have announced that they’re not running again in 2024, including a spate just this week. This creates a host of dynamics we wanted to dive into this morning before you settle in for the Thanksgiving holiday.
No. 1: Our friend Steven Shepard of Politico notes that the 12 congressional retirements announced this month make it the second-most of any month since 2011. And November isn’t over yet. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is the time lawmakers announce they’re leaving Congress. We don’t know why this has occurred. Maybe it’s the joy of being home and away from the Capitol for a few weeks that’s convinced members and senators to make it permanent.
Also, we could see some more departures very soon. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) seems certain to be expelled — or to quit — when Congress returns from its Thanksgiving holiday. And Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) was just hired as the president of Youngstown State University. The seven-term lawmaker said he’ll “continue serving in the House for several more months,” but didn’t give an exit date.
Remember, there are several key states with filing deadlines coming up in the next few weeks. California’s deadline is Dec. 8 and Texas’ is Dec. 11. Those are the two biggest states in the country, with a whopping total of 90 representatives in their combined delegations.
No. 2: We cataloged all of the current House retirements. Here’s a look, and we’ll talk about them on the other side. This image is clickable, by the way.
As you can see here, we have retirements ranging from No. 14 in seniority — Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who announced her departure Tuesday — to No. 422. The average seniority of those retiring is 180. Ten lawmakers in the 100s ranks are leaving, meaning Congress is losing some very experienced pols. And eight lawmakers who are in the top 100 of seniority are leaving as well.
No. 3: With every departure comes opportunity. Sixteen seats are opening on House “A committees” — Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services and Appropriations.
The biggest opportunity is on E&C, which is seeing seven departures. Appropriations, which is far less desirable now than it was 15 years ago, is seeing five members leave, while three more are giving up Ways and Means spots. And Financial Services and Rules each have one retirement.
Of course, the number of openings on these panels depends on which party controls the House next year, and what the ratios are.
But it’s clear the departure of so many veteran members will create openings for junior colleagues to grab these plum committee assignments, whatever the final numbers are.
— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY CENTER FORWARD
If the Fed adopts its Basel III endgame, our economic landing will be anything but soft. Tell the Fed: Protect our economy.
Republican Celeste Maloy won the special election in Utah’s 2nd District on Tuesday. Maloy, a former top aide to former Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), will succeed her former boss in Congress.
Maloy’s victory over Democrat Kathleen Riebe in the solidly Republican seat wasn’t a surprise. The race didn’t receive much outside attention or spending.
Once Maloy is sworn in, Republicans will control 222 seats in the House. How long that will last is unclear given Rep. Bill Johnson’s (R-Ohio) potential upcoming retirement and an expulsion vote targeting Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).
— Max Cohen
Here’s something interesting: Bernie Moreno, a Republican who is running for Senate in Ohio, is airing three different ads with the same opening scene: former President Donald Trump saying that he loves Ohio and Moreno.
Moreno is running for the nomination to challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
— Jake Sherman
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President Joe Biden is in Nantucket, Mass., and has no public events scheduled. Vice President Kamala Harris is in Los Angeles. The House and Senate are out until after Thanksgiving.
“Inside the painstaking negotiations between Israel, Hamas, the US and Qatar to free 50 hostages,” by MJ Lee, Betsy Klein and Jennifer Hansler
“Israel and Hamas Agree to Cease-Fire in Exchange for Hostage Release,” by Patrick Kingsley in Jerusalem
News Analysis: “Political Pressures on Biden Helped Drive ‘Secret Cell’ of Aides in Hostage Talks,” by Michael Shear
“Sam Altman Is Reinstated as OpenAI’s Chief Executive,” by Cade Metz, Mike Isaac, Tripp Mickle, Karen Weise and Kevin Roose in San Francisco
“Nearly half of Americans think the US is spending too much on Ukraine aid, an AP-NORC poll says,” by Seung Min Kim and Linley Sanders
Pensacola News Journal
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY CENTER FORWARD
Will our economy achieve a soft landing? Not if the Federal Reserve further tightens access to credit and weakens financial markets.
It’s hard to get ahead — or even keep afloat — in this economy. The last thing we need is for the Federal Reserve to adopt new, overreaching capital rules that will further tighten access to credit and hurt financial markets. Making it even more expensive for a family to buy a house, send their kids to college, and save for retirement. Even harder for small and mid-size businesses to get the loans they need to expand and innovate. Increasing the cost of life insurance, plane tickets, home energy bills, and shipping. Raising prices and reducing employment.
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