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Happy Thursday morning.
After witnessing the chaos that engulfed House Republicans last week, GOP senators were claiming vindication for passing the massive FY 2023 omnibus bill before the chamber changed hands.
But Senate Republicans are already fretting about this year’s deadlines for must-pass legislation such as government funding and raising the debt ceiling — and they’re much less sanguine about the prospects for a grand bargain on immigration and the border.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s concessions to conservative hardliners are prompting key Senate Republicans to nudge House GOP leadership on what it takes to deliver on their promises.
“Our friends in the House will have to realize that what passes the House isn’t necessarily going to be what passes the Senate,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told us in El Paso, Texas, this week as he led a bipartisan delegation to the southwest border. “It may serve as sort of the foundation. But we’ve got to have a bipartisan product in the Senate by definition.”
Cornyn, of course, is a close confidant of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the former No. 2 GOP leader. He’s been around long enough to have seen some of the more brutal divided-government dynamics that have put the country on the brink of financial disaster. When asked about the House drama from last week, Cornyn said the must-pass items this year will be a “challenge.”
At the same time, the Texas Republican compared McCarthy’s threats against GOP senators who backed the omnibus to a “spring thunderstorm — a lot of thunder, a lot of lightning, but it passes quickly.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who recently left the Democratic Party and has close relationships with Republicans, acknowledged that funding the government and lifting the debt ceiling “are going to be tough — very, very tough,” even as she seeks a compromise on immigration reform, perhaps the most difficult issue the modern Congress has tried to tackle.
The one-time House Democrat joked that “in the last week or so, I’ve been really grateful not to serve in the House. It’s been a good time to be a senator.”
Hardline conservatives in the House have the potential — and, under McCarthy’s speakership, the ability — to grind the federal government to a halt if they don’t get their way. And that’s concerning to the Senate’s conservative dealmakers.
“There probably are going to be some serious challenges to getting the numbers right” on must-pass legislation, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said in an interview at the southwest border. “Some of these things are not like, ‘Well, we disagree, we’ll come back and do it next year.’ These are date-certain sorts of challenges that we’re going to have to look to the House to figure out how they bring together a coalition.”
McCarthy and McConnell are a fascinating contrast on many levels, personal and political. McCarthy’s public struggle last week to overcome conservative opposition and become speaker was an epic event. McConnell, now the longest-serving leader in Senate history, easily beat back a conservative challenge following a disappointing midterm election.
McCarthy faces a difficult task defending his razor-thin majority in 2024, while Senate Republicans have a great map with solid pickup opportunities. McCarthy remains close to former President Donald Trump, while McConnell and Trump are bitter enemies. How they interact over the coming months will be scrutinized intently.
There are some signs already that the two chambers are at least trying to get along on the “must-pass” side of things.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and her GOP counterpart Susan Collins of Maine released a joint statement this week pledging to work in a “responsible” way and through regular order to fund the government — an apparent dig at the House GOP’s efforts to extract steep spending cuts as part of keeping federal agencies running.
Mark Bednar, a McCarthy spokesperson, responded by applauding the senators for “saying they plan to change their recent practice and actually move to consider and pass bills.”
The contrarian view: There are some who think House GOP leaders might actually be incentivized to cut bipartisan deals with the Senate to prove to voters that they’re willing to get things done. Democrats only need to pick up five seats to take back the House in 2024.
In El Paso this week, we caught up with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who had this take:
“The debacle of the last week actually makes it more important that McCarthy manufactures some accomplishments. The House Republicans now have a blinking red light of dysfunction sitting on top of their caucus that the whole country has seen.
“So that brand — they have a brand. And if he wants to keep the majority, he’s got to shed that brand. There’s only one way to shed that brand, and it’s to get some things done.”
There are lots of Senate Republicans who hope that that’s the approach McCarthy takes. And many are already openly telling House Republicans that the only way to address problems such as the border — and overcome a filibuster — is to embrace things they might not like.
“If you want to do something about the border, does that mean they’ll pass a border bill and send it to the Senate but they won’t work with us to get to 60 [votes] and then to get it to the president’s desk?” Cornyn asked.
PRESENTED BY AMAZON
Nearly 9 out of 10 workers said career-advancement opportunities were top of mind when looking for a new job, according to a recent Workplace Intelligence survey.
At Amazon, career mobility matters. That’s why Amazon promotes from within. More than 900,000 employees are eligible to participate in Amazon’s free career advancement programs.
INSIDE THE LEADERSHIP
McCarthy’s Santos politics and what it says about the speaker
Speaker Kevin McCarthy has acted quite gingerly – cowardly, to Democrats – when it comes to New York GOP Rep. George Santos’ future.
Santos has lied about practically every facet of his background, including his education, employment history and his family’s origins. And he’s under local and federal investigation for a bevy of potential campaign finance violations.
In a sea of pols who trend toward exaggeration – also known as Washington – Santos’ brazen behavior stands out.
McCarthy told reporters Wednesday that he “tries to stick to the Constitution” and that voters will render their judgment on Santos in 2024. Furthermore, McCarthy said numerous lawmakers have embellished parts of their backgrounds. McCarthy also acknowledged the obvious Wednesday — Santos would get low-level committee assignments, a function of being a freshman.
Of course, we don’t know of anyone else in Congress who’s lied about their entire life story and is under criminal investigation.
Behind McCarthy’s posture is this calculation, according to those close to him: If the GOP leadership takes action against Santos based simply on media reports, Republicans would be pressured to move against every lawmaker who gets bad headlines.
But there’s also an internal political calculation to this position.
If Santos were to resign, the House Republican majority would be trimmed to 221 members, leaving McCarthy in a position where he can lose only three votes and still pass legislation. Santos’ Long Island district, which voted for President Joe Biden by eight points in 2020, would likely flip to Democrats in a special election.
In fact, some GOP leadership aides have told us that they have encouraged Santos to stay in Congress.
Several leadership sources also said they’ve told Santos that he needs to hire a good lawyer because he cannot talk his way out of this mess. Santos faces a federal criminal probe, as well as scrutiny from state local officials.
Republican rank-and-file members seemingly don’t agree with this take. Four of Santos’ fellow New York freshmen are already calling on him to resign. So has the Nassau County Republican Party. And GOP Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.). There will likely be more.
McCarthy and Santos will need to have a tremendous threshold for pain here because they will be asked about this situation every single day for the foreseeable future.
WaPo: “George Santos was paid for work at company accused of Ponzi scheme later than previously known,” by Isaac Stanley-Becker and Emma Brown
NYT: “George Santos’s Secret Résumé: A Wall Street Star With a 3.9 G.P.A.,” by Nick Fandos
Also: The House will vote this morning around 10 a.m. Then the House will recess for a week.
Check out Punchbowl News PM for the list of lawmakers selected to choose on “A” committees.
– Jake Sherman
THE NEW MAJORITY
House Republicans pull police bills from floor schedule
In yesterday’s Midday edition, we scooped that House Republicans were struggling to build support for two measures expressing appreciation for the nation’s law enforcement officers.
Now the GOP leadership has pulled the two bills from the floor schedule.
The Prosecutors Need to Prosecute Act and a resolution “expressing support for the Nation’s law enforcement agencies and condemning any efforts to defund or dismantle law enforcement agencies” were both scheduled for the House floor this week and have been delayed.
Some GOP lawmakers wanted to tweak language in the measure. The problem with that is they would need the Rules Committee in order to do so. And there is no Rules Committee yet since Republicans haven’t constituted it at this time.
The makeup of Rules was one of the major flashpoints for Speaker Kevin McCarthy as he tried to win over conservative opponents last week. McCarthy has promised them three seats on Rules, which is normally a 9-4 ratio in favor of the majority.
McCarthy hasn’t announced who is on the panel yet, and Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told us he doesn’t expect the panel’s makeup to be released before next week at the earliest.
Cole said he is prepared “to work with whoever the speaker picks.”
– John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY AMAZON
Amazon is committed to career mobility, offering skills training, mentorship programs, and prepaid tuition, so employees like Frank can turn jobs into higher-paying careers.
New: Spanberger, Roy re-up efforts to ban congressional stock trading
Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) are re-upping their bill to effectively ban members of Congress from trading stocks, kickstarting an effort that captured headlines last year but failed to receive a floor vote.
The legislation, labeled the Transparent Representation Upholding Service and Trust (TRUST) in Congress Act, would require members, spouses and dependents to place some investment assets into a qualified blind trust.
Spanberger and Roy’s bill has 35 additional cosponsors that range from right-wing members such as Reps. Scott Perry (Pa.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.) to Democrats like Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Jerry Nadler (N.Y.). The tally is by far the most cosponsors the legislation has received at the start of a Congress. By the end of the 117th Congress, the TRUST in Congress Act amassed 75 cosponsors.
The push to ban lawmakers from buying and selling stocks fizzled out at the end of last year, despite endorsements from then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. While Pelosi ended up switching her position to supporting a ban on members of Congress from trading stocks, the legislation never came up for a House vote.
Congressional stock trading rose to national consciousness during the initial days of the Covid-19 pandemic when senators’ stock plays attracted FBI attention. A 2021 investigation by Insider found many members had run afoul of stock trading disclosure rules required by the STOCK Act.
During a pre-election interview in October, McCarthy said if he became speaker, he would not “purchase any individual stocks.” McCarthy did not own any individual stocks as of last May.
Here’s more McCarthy from October, speaking broadly about what he planned to do on stock trading by members:
“I think there’s a way that we could do something that brings greater integrity to the House. … I’ve listened to a couple of different people and [Arkansas Rep.] French Hill had some ideas and some others have other ways to handle it. … I want to be thoughtful. … So I’ve got a number of people looking at a couple of things. But I think we’ll take this up.”
— Max Cohen and Jake Sherman
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, has a new spot running in D.C. with an open letter to the 118th Congress.
Former Pennsylvania GOP senate candidate Mehmet Oz had $1.687 million left in his campaign account as of the end of the year, according to a new campaign disclosure.
– Jake Sherman
8:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing. … The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release consumer price index data for December.
10 a.m.: Biden will speak about the U.S. economy and inflation. … House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will hold his weekly news conference.
10:40 a.m.: Biden will head to the National Cathedral for a service for the late Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Biden is expected to speak.
12:30 p.m.: Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will be on Capitol Hill to meet with the co-chairs of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism.
1:30 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to speak about the climate with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
PRESENTED BY AMAZON
Amazon has committed $1.2 billion to support employee growth.
“Second Biden search yields additional classified documents,” by Devlin Barrett, Matt Viser, Tyler Pager and Perry Stein
“Trump campaign officials got subpoena asking new questions about Jan. 6,” by Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Helderman
“White House: Jill Biden has two cancerous lesions removed,” by Darlene Superville
“Death toll rises to 19 in California as new storms hit battered communities,” by Luke Money, Summer Lin, Jessica Garrison and Rong-Gong Lin II
PRESENTED BY AMAZON
Out of work and worried he would lose everything, Frank applied for a job at Amazon—and he turned it into a career.
Frank started as a shift assistant in 2017 and steadily worked his way to becoming a senior operations manager at an Amazon Air Hub. Because Amazon promotes from within, “I’m now making almost four times what I made when I started,” said Frank.
Amazon provides hourly employees with prepaid tuition, ten technical training programs, and mentorship programs so career growth is affordable and attainable.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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