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Happy Tuesday evening.
New: Even as Senate Republicans say they’re prepared to head home for the holidays without a deal on Ukraine — a huge blow to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was on the Hill today — the Biden administration seems to be making some last-minute moves on immigration and border control.
CBS News reported that Biden administration officials “would be willing to support a new border authority to expel migrants without asylum screenings,” as well as a “dramatic expansion of immigration detention and deportations” in a bid to get Republicans back to the negotiating table on Ukraine.
A senior administration official confirmed the basic outlines of the CBS report but added that nothing has been agreed to at this point. And both sides are looking to narrow the scope of the talks.
There hasn’t been a breakthrough, and one may not occur. Yet there has been so little progress on this front that any movement at all is noteworthy.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office early Tuesday evening. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) – all of whom have been involved in the immigration and border security talks – were also there. An aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was also in the room.
Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator, wouldn’t comment on the CBS report, deferring to the White House.
“We made progress,” Murphy told reporters following the meeting. “Obviously our goal, the leader’s goal, is to get this done before we leave. So that’s all I’ll say.”
Schumer declined to comment as he walked into a Hanukkah celebration in the Capitol. Speaker Mike Johnson told us he was not aware of any new offer that the White House has made to Capitol Hill.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told us it would be “premature for me to comment” on the negotiations. “Any changes that are made with respect to immigration policy have to be consistent with our values,” Jeffries added.
The White House said it “has not signed off” on any proposal. Here’s what a White House spokesperson told us:
“The White House has not signed off on any particular policy proposals or final agreements, and reporting that ascribes determined policy positions to the White House is inaccurate. The [p]resident has said he is open to compromise, and we look forward to continued conversations with Senate negotiators as we work toward a bipartisan package.”
The devil is in the details here, of course. House Republicans have signaled they won’t accept half-measures from the Biden administration and Hill Democrats.
“You gotta go back to the policies that work,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told us Tuesday afternoon before reports of the conversations with the White House. “Remain in Mexico. You come across, we’re gonna detain you. We’re not gonna release people in the country. That’s what it all boils down to. Short of that, I don’t think you get Republicans to go along.”
Earlier Tuesday, McConnell told Republicans during their lunch that a deal to unlock new Ukraine aid wouldn’t come together before lawmakers break for the holiday recess, effectively punting on the issue until January at the earliest. The White House has warned that Ukraine will suffer battlefield losses if new aid isn’t approved this month.
McConnell’s remarks, which he later repeated publicly, came just hours after Zelensky visited with senators to once again plead for additional assistance. Republicans told Zelensky that they need to resolve the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border before worrying about his borders.
“It’s practically impossible” to get an agreement through both chambers before Christmas, McConnell said at his weekly news conference. He cited Johnson’s suggestions that the House will not stay in session past this week.
“That doesn’t mean it’s not important,” McConnell added of the overall package. “We’re not losing track of [Ukraine]. It’s just that border security applies to us as well.”
McConnell’s deputy, Senate Minority Whip John Thune, said it’s about “getting this done and getting it done right.”
Schumer said he called Johnson Monday night to urge him to keep the House in session past this week.
“You don’t say ‘We can put it off three weeks’ if it’s an emergency,” Schumer said of Republicans. “We are trying very, very hard to get this done.”
Schumer added that it will be “much harder” to get something accomplished in January. The Senate majority leader declined to say whether he would keep the Senate in session past Thursday if the House leaves.
Punting to January adds another big agenda item to Congress’ plate with a government funding deadline looming in mid-January. Senators will have just a handful of legislative days to figure everything out after returning from the holiday break.
— John Bresnahan, Andrew Desiderio and Jake Sherman
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A fresh Senate stablecoin bill is coming into focus
There’s a new stablecoin package forming in the Senate.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) have worked together before on broader crypto legislation that would have touched on stablecoins. This time, the pair is focused on a “discrete” stablecoin bill.
The senators tell us the effort is coming partly in response to policy developed across the Capitol. The Republican-led House Financial Services Committee cleared stablecoin legislation in July with some bipartisan support, but many Democrats are concerned about the Federal Reserve’s limited oversight role in the new framework.
“What we are doing is a discrete bill just on stablecoins right now, so if the House moves on it, we will have a unique bill in the Senate to mark up, hopefully,” Gillibrand told us.
Lummis, a top crypto backer on Capitol Hill, said that negotiations are ongoing at the staff level and the goal is to “craft a bill that is bipartisan and bicameral.”
How exactly this approach will vary from the House’s is the big question. Negotiations are ongoing, so don’t expect hard details for a minute. But Gillibrand acknowledged the role of Fed supervision over state-chartered stablecoin firms as a major focus.
“It’s a little more refined on what the state path is outside of a state bank,” Gillibrand said. “So, if you want to have [a crypto company] be an issuer of a stablecoin, what requirements will be on them, what Fed oversight would be included? We think we have a nuanced position that might be the sweet spot.”
We still expect the Senate’s approach to feature a significant role for state governments. That’s a priority for Lummis.
“I’m going to be as protective as I can of state banking being able to operate as the dual-rail system in our banking system, even when it comes to stablecoins,” Lummis said. “That said, I’m willing to listen to counterarguments if there are those who think that the Fed should have a bigger role than I personally envision.”
Laura Peavey, a spokesperson for House Financial Services Committee Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), said “there is bipartisan and bicameral agreement that the best approach to regulating the issuance of payment stablecoins is to build on successful state regimes, like New York.”
Could this new approach be enough to interest Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)? He’s keeping his options open. “It’s on my radar,” he told us.
“I don’t want a crypto industry written bill, and I’ll leave it at that. I mean, that’s what McHenry is doing in the House. Not clear on this bill.”
– Brendan Pedersen
N.Y. court orders state to redraw congressional maps
New York Democrats will likely face better odds at flipping a number of GOP-held House seats after a state court ordered new congressional lines drawn ahead of 2024.
In a 4-3 decision, the State Court of Appeals told New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission to come up with a new map by Feb. 28.
That commission is a bipartisan entity tasked with finding common ground on House districts. Last cycle, the IRC failed to agree on a map and the Democratic-controlled state legislature stepped in to implement a Democratic gerrymander. Of course, that gerrymander was thrown out in the courts, resulting in a special master creating a competitive map where Republicans triumphed in key swing seats.
There’s a widespread sense that if the IRC can agree on new lines, they will almost certainly benefit Democrats.
DCCC Chair Suzan DelBene hailed the decision as “a win for democracy.”
“As a result of the court’s enlightened decision, the Independent Redistricting Commission can now begin the process of drawing fair maps,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a statement.
NRCC spokesperson Savannah Viar said the decision showed Democrats are “trying to cheat their way to power” by allowing the party a “second attempt at gerrymandering the maps.”
There are currently five New York Republicans — Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams — who represent districts that President Joe Biden won in 2020.
— Max Cohen
What we’re watching: Wednesday
The House: It’s a big day in impeachment news. Hunter Biden is scheduled to appear for a behind-closed-doors deposition in front of the House Oversight Committee tomorrow. But the younger Biden is unlikely to show as his lawyers are demanding that a public hearing is held instead.
The House is also poised to vote on whether to officially authorize an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. After months of resisting holding an official vote, Republican leadership decided it was necessary to add legal heft to their subpoenas.
The Senate: The Senate is likely to wrap up the annual defense authorization bill as soon as tomorrow, sending it over to the House for final approval.
We’re also keeping a close eye on the border security talks and whether there’s enough movement to keep the Senate in session past this week.
We also expect that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will lay out a plan to approve the promotions of four-star general candidates who are still being held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.).
— Max Cohen and Andrew Desiderio
“Biden Says Israel Is Losing Support Over the War in Gaza,” by Michael D. Shear
“Biden Will Meet Families of US Hostages Held by Hamas,” by Jordan Fabian
“McCarthy Urged Trump Not to Run on a Message of Revenge,” by Kristina Peterson
“George Santos attorney expresses optimism about plea talks as expelled congressman appears in court,” by Philip Marcelo in Central Islip, N.Y.
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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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