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Happy Monday morning. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’re only publishing the AM edition. We’ll be back to the regular schedule tomorrow.
President Joe Biden’s split screen on Sunday was stark.
Biden spoke at a memorial service for the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The high-profile speech came at the invitation of Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), the senior pastor there. On what would’ve been MLK’s 94th birthday, and from King’s own pulpit, Biden warned that the United States is at an “inflection point,” with the future of democracy in peril.
“We’re at what we would call an inflection point. One of those points in world history where what happens … in the next six or eight years is going to determine what the world looks like for the next 30 or 40 years. It happened after World War II. It’s happening again.”
“My message to this nation on this day is we go forward, we go together, when we choose democracy over autocracy, a beloved community over chaos, when we choose believers and the dreams, to be doers, to be unafraid, always keeping the faith.”
While Biden overuses the “inflection point” line, the issues of voting rights and ballot access remain big ones for Black voters, a critical group for the president if he runs again in 2024 — especially in Georgia.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Biden’s fellow Democrats were offering only tepid support for his handling of the classified-documents scandal. Some are even calling for the release of more information after White House lawyer Richard Sauber on Saturday disclosed the existence of additional classified materials at the president’s Delaware home.
“Well, it’s certainly embarrassing. Right?” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
Stabenow, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, added that “this is the kind of thing that the Republicans love.”
That’s especially true right now. After a brutal public struggle last week for Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans, GOP committee chairs can now focus on Biden and the probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Hur. It’s a major political gift for Republicans, who’ve wasted no time going all in.
On Sunday, House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) called for the release of the visitor logs for Biden’s Delaware home. And Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) have already sought any communications between the Justice Department and the White House over this issue. The White House said it received no heads-up on Hur’s appointment.
Here’s more from Comer:
“So the administration hasn’t been transparent about what’s going on with President Biden’s possession of classified documents. And we just want equal treatment here with respect to how both former President [Donald] Trump and current President Biden are being treated with the document issue.”
What’s more, few Democrats are publicly defending Biden’s handling of the matter.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the former Intelligence Committee chair, said on ABC’s “This Week” that he wants to know “whether there was any risk of exposure and what the harm would be [to national security] and whether any mitigation needs to be done” as a result of the materials being misplaced.
Rep. Daniel Goldman (D-N.Y.), the lead counsel for Democrats in Donald Trump’s first impeachment, praised Attorney General Merrick Garland’s actions in this case — but didn’t go much further than that.
“This administration is doing things by the book,” Goldman said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Goldman acknowledged that classified information shouldn’t have been at Biden’s home in the first place, but noted that the president isn’t accused of obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve the materials, unlike Trump.
“There is a divide and a separation between the Department of Justice and the White House that certainly did not exist in the last administration. And President Biden and his team have reached out to the [National] Archives, they’ve reached out to the Department of Justice, they have done everything they can to cooperate.
“And that’s in direct contrast to what former President Trump has done, where he has obstructed justice at every turn.”
Goldman also said we don’t yet know all the circumstances surrounding the document discovery.
We do know, however, that the timing of this controversy couldn’t be worse for Biden and Democrats in many ways. Besides allowing McCarthy to glide over the deep divides in his own conference — at least for the moment — Republicans have hit the Justice Department on how it handled the search of Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago versus the Biden probe.
Of course, the two situations aren’t comparable, but consistency isn’t something pols ever worry about anyway.
And the media furor has obscured some solid economic news and Biden’s rising poll numbers, which are the best they’ve been in more than a year.
The House and Senate are out this week, meaning Biden gets the spotlight all to himself. We’ll see how that goes.
– John Bresnahan and Andrew Desiderio
TOMORROW: For our first event of the year, we’ll be interviewing Elaine O’Neal (D), mayor of Durham, N.C., about big issues facing local government and what can happen at the local level when there is a divided Congress. Join us on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. ET at the Capital Hilton. The conversation will be followed by a reception with drinks and light bites. RSVP here!
This event will take place on the first day of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 91st Winter Meeting. Punchbowl News is proud to be a media partner of the conference this year and we’ll be bringing you coverage of it all week. Stay tuned!
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
The Solution is Here. America has the energy resources, innovation and skilled workforce to meet growing energy needs while continuing to reduce emissions. But we need the policies to make it happen. API has a policy plan to protect America from energy challenges. It’s a three-part plan – to Make, Move and Improve American energy.
House leaders settle “A” committee ratios
Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries have finally reached an agreement on ratios for four exclusive committees, the most highly-sought after assignments for members. And things are mostly staying the same.
With Republicans navigating the same narrow majority that Democrats had in the last Congress, we didn’t expect huge shakeups on the “A” committees – Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services and Ways and Means.
“These ratios are consistent with an inversion of those from the last Congress where we held a similarly-sized majority, with the exception of a few changes in overall committee size,” Jeffries wrote to House Democrats in a “Dear Colleague” over the weekend.
Here’s the breakdown, from Jeffries:
“Most notably, the Appropriations committee will increase by one seat on each side. The Energy and Commerce committee will decrease by three seats on both sides of the aisle. Each side will have one fewer seat on the Financial Services committee, and the Ways and Means committee composition will mirror that of the 117th Congress.”
What does that mean by the numbers?
Appropriations: Republicans will have 34 seats; Democrats will have 27 seats
Energy and Commerce: Republicans will have 29 seats; Democrats will have 23 seats
Financial Services: Republicans will have 29 seats; Democrats will have 23 seats
Ways and Means: Republicans will have 25 seats; Democrats will have 18 seats
Republicans named their “A” committee members last week, as we reported. Democrats won’t meet to do so until later this month, when the House returns from recess, since the ratios weren’t settled until now.
But remember, this is just the ratios for the four exclusive committees. Jeffries told Democrats that he expects the ratios for the remaining committees will “be negotiated by the end of next week.”
“It is our intention to complete the committee assignment process this month, upon our return to Washington,” Jeffries added.
House Republican leadership is bringing their steering committee back into town Monday night to populate the following panels: Armed Services, Transportation and Infrastructure, Agriculture and Judiciary. Judiciary is one of the most sought after committees this Congress due to its expected role in investigations.
— Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman
Joyce, AOC talk cannabis reform under a GOP House
Think it’s too early in the year to talk about cannabis banking reform? We disagree!
Cannabis banking didn’t happen last year. That was a particularly tough blow for advocates who knew they were losing their long-time champion, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), who retired last Congress. Perlmutter had pushed the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act for more than a decade before leaving office.
Even though a GOP-controlled House makes it a lot less likely cannabis reform will be a top priority, there’s a case for some optimism: SAFE Banking’s torch has been picked up by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio).
Joyce already has experience with cannabis bills. He introduced the Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement Act, or HOPE Act, in 2021, which would allow states to tap federal funding for expunging non-violent cannabis offenders’ records.
We caught up with Joyce last week:
“It’s important that we continue to move [SAFE Banking] forward, because it’s in the best interests of these enterprises that are all legal in their states. They should be entitled to the same tax treatment and banking treatment that any other legitimate [business] can have.”
Another plus: Joyce’s partner on the HOPE Act is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which should bolster chances for bipartisan talks continuing this year. Ocasio-Cortez told us she is “encouraged” by Joyce’s support of the cannabis banking bill, given their experience working together so far.
“Towards the end of the last session, the main concern was that if SAFE Banking does somehow pass under a Republican majority, HOPE would be stripped from it,” the New York Democrat said.
Remember: A combination of SAFE and HOPE was the template for Senate negotiations between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) last year.
The real question now is what a final cannabis reform bill would look like. A bill that’s too ambitious will make it harder for Republicans to support. But there’s also a real risk that Democrats – particularly in the Senate – would abandon a bill that’s too conservative. SAFE Banking as a standalone bill has been criticized by progressives as a handout for the financial sector.
Joyce appears to be leaning towards a simpler bill, telling us: “What we found out in the past … is that big doesn’t bode well, and it has been my position that we continue to put bills out in which we can receive maximum pluralities.”
Ocasio-Cortez is also keeping expectations fairly low:
“I think there’s some small inkling of progress we might be able to make. Clearly, I don’t think it’ll be on the scale of what we would want. … Are we going to get the full action on expungements and true restorative measures? That, I think, is going to be more difficult.”
Then again, it’s important to remember that cannabis reform – banking and otherwise – is broadly popular. A lot of people like weed, which means members like it too.
We asked Joyce who his top allies would be on cannabis reform during the 118th Congress. His list covers a broad spectrum of the House: Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a subcommittee chair on the House Financial Services Committee; Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.); Lou Correa (D-Calif.); and Jim Himes (D-Conn.).
It also includes Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who introduced a broad cannabis reform bill in 2021, and Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who has a focus on veteran’s issues.
Joyce said he’s keeping Republican House leadership “apprised” of any progress made around cannabis reform. But it’s “premature to say” whether Speaker Kevin McCarthy will support a cannabis reform bill, Joyce added, “because we don’t have a package to put in front of him yet.”
– Brendan Pedersen and John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
Read API’s plan to learn more about how we can Make, Move and Improve energy.
GET WELL SOON
Bonamici recovering after being hit by car
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) is recovering from a concussion after being struck by a car while crossing the street with her husband over the weekend.
Bonamici and her husband, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, were struck by what was described as a slow-moving vehicle making a turn around 8:45 p.m. Friday night in Portland.
The couple had attended a Shabbat service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with other elected officials, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
Bonamici was taken to the hospital, where she was treated for a concussion and a cut on her head, according to her spokesperson. Simon suffered minor injuries.
In a statement Sunday evening, Bonamici thanked the first responders who treated her and said she and her husband continue to heal.
“My husband and I are continuing to recover at home, and are grateful for your kind thoughts and support,” Bonamici tweeted.
The driver, who remained on the scene, wasn’t cited by police and didn’t show signs of impairment, according to local news reports.
— Heather Caygle
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
Read API’s plan about making, moving and improving energy.
10:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will depart New Castle, Del., en route to Washington.
11:25 a.m.: Biden arrives at the White House.
11:35 a.m.: Biden departs the White House en route to the National Action Network Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast, where he will deliver remarks.
12:55 a.m.: Biden arrives back at the White House.
“Adams Visits the Border to Step Up Pressure on Biden for Migrant Funds,” by John De Frank and Emma G. Fitzsimmons in El Paso, Texas
“Biden’s Goals on Northern Ireland Present Difficult Timetable for Sunak,” by Mark Landler in London
“Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy, wary opponents, prepare to work together,” by Michael Scherer
“Harbor City called George Santos a ‘perfect fit.’ The SEC called the company a fraud,” by Isaac Stanley-Becker, Jonathan O’Connell and Emma Brown
“Yellen Sets Surprise US-Chinese Meeting With Liu in Switzerland,” by Christopher Condon
“Expanded US training for Ukraine forces begins in Germany,” by Lolita Baldor in Brussels
PRESENTED BY THE AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE
American Energy Leadership: As the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil, America can advance an affordable, reliable, and cleaner future. API has a plan in three parts – to Make, Move, and Improve American energy.
Make: America needs a five-year offshore leasing program and new onshore leases as well as fewer barriers for producing fuels. Ending restrictions could add 77k barrels of oil equivalent/day through 2035, according to a Rystad study.
Move: Current permitting policies are stalling vital infrastructure, with $157 billion in energy investment in the US economy awaiting approval. A two-year NEPA review limit could unleash needed infrastructure.
Improve: Reducing regulatory barriers will enable companies to accelerate carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), hydrogen and cleaner transportation fuels.
America has the energy resources, innovation, and skilled workforce to meet energy needs while continuing to reduce emissions. But we need the policies to make it happen.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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