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Happy Thursday morning.
Something unusual is happening in the Capitol: Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries are getting along.
Let’s be clear: It’s very early in the new Congress. And these two will be at each other’s throats for the foreseeable future over politics, policy, personnel and morals.
But the New York Democrat and the California Republican have found an initial good vibe, according to multiple sources close to both men. The rapport has surprised aides on McCarthy and Jeffries’ teams.
Let’s take McCarthy’s decision to kick Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) off of the Intelligence Committee. Jeffries gave McCarthy a heads-up that he was going to send a letter filled with invective urging Republicans to keep them on the panel.
And on Tuesday night, McCarthy pulled Jeffries into his Capitol Hill office and gave him a heads-up that he was planning to respond to the New York Democrat’s letter that evening. McCarthy also told Jeffries of his desire to get House committees up and running as quickly as possible following the week-long speaker vote.
In another era, this would be unremarkable. McCarthy, 57, and Jeffries, 52, are adults who should be able to run the House without any personal strife, no matter what they’re political views are.
But the relationship between McCarthy and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was pretty frigid – putting it mildly – so any improvement is notable.
For example, McCarthy often found out about important institutional changes from the press, not from Pelosi’s office. And Pelosi made no effort to hide her disdain for McCarthy, even once calling him a “moron” over his comments on mask mandates. Democrats expressed distaste for McCarthy over his relationship with former President Donald Trump as well, especially after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The good feelings between Jeffries and McCarthy are considered so sensitive that several aides to both men asked us not to write about it. That’s the state of Washington politics today – you can’t actually be polite or affable toward other party leaders because that’s considered a potential sign of weakness.
“We have had very forward looking, collegial, positive discussions about finding ways to work together over the first few weeks of the 118th Congress, and I look forward to that continuing,” Jeffries told us Wednesday.
We asked Jeffries what has changed between the two given that the New York Democrat has leveled very sharp – and at times, dismissive – criticisms at McCarthy in recent years. Jeffries’ speech ahead of handing McCarthy the speaker’s gavel was also notably pointed and partisan at times (Democrats loved it).
Here’s Jeffries on their evolving relationship:
“In the past, we’ve been in different positions. And in the last four years, as chair of the House Democratic Caucus, it’s been one of my top responsibilities to make sure that I’m defending the prerogatives and values and the individual members of the House Democratic Caucus.
“In this current position, while still having that responsibility, I also have an obligation to make sure that we’re trying to find common ground with Speaker McCarthy and Republican leadership in order to try to get things done for the American people. And I take that seriously.”
McCarthy said he’d “enjoyed” his interactions so far with Jeffries, adding that he understands what minority leaders have to go through in the majority-rule House.
“I know sitting in that job and the things that concerned me, and the things that frustrated me,” McCarthy said. “And I’m trying not to have that happen to him.”
McCarthy even says he texts Jeffries directly to discuss issues, a distinct generational change from their predecessors.
“We hadn’t spent a lot of time together before, but I’ve enjoyed working with him so far. Look, we are of different parties. We’re gonna be fierce debaters at times, but I have a lot of respect for him.
– Jake Sherman, Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan
THE NEW MAJORITY
Roy, Massie shift to the inside lane
Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Tom Massie (R-Ky.) have spent years in the backwater of the House Republican Conference. To the leaders in both parties, they were gnats – annoying and needing to be swatted away constantly.
They motioned for the House to adjourn, openly dumped on their own leadership’s strategy and were generally thorns in the side of those in power. Massie was probably best known for voting no on pretty much everything, while Roy – a one-time aide to Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn – complained repeatedly about how House leadership had become too powerful at the expense of rank-and-file members.
But now they’re the ones who find themselves as party insiders. And the GOP leadership says that’s exactly where they want them.
Roy and Massie – along with fellow conservative Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) – landed seats on the House Rules Committee this week, an unprecedented new role for the arch-conservatives.
Roy and Massie were also tapped for the select subcommittee investigating the “Weaponization of the Federal Government.” Both Republicans already serve on the Judiciary Committee, which the new panel comes under.
These high-profile committee assignments are a departure from how previous speakers handled dissidents. Former Speaker John Boehner, for example, sometimes booted people off committees if they crossed him. Members were loath to get on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bad side as well.
Yet for Speaker Kevin McCarthy, this is part necessity, part personal style. With a razor-thin majority, McCarthy knows that a handful of Republicans can easily derail any leadership initiative. So it’s better to work everything out among Republicans at the committee level or in Rules rather than trying to solve a problem on the floor, McCarthy says.
“Five of them can easily stop the rule going through. So my take to them is, ‘I want you in here. Your goal is you all work together,’” McCarthy told us. “When this comes out of Rules, you’ve got the microcosm of the conference. There should be no problem on the floor there.”
McCarthy, though, also was forced to make numerous concessions to Roy and other conservatives in order to become speaker. Makeup of the Rules Committee – which is how the speaker controls the floor – was a key battleground. McCarthy agreed to add two members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus – Roy and Norman – to the panel. Massie isn’t a Freedom Caucus member, but he’s considered “Freedom Caucus adjacent.”
Roy insisted he didn’t make any promises to McCarthy with regards to serving on Rules.
“I don’t make commitments to anybody other than my constituents. The thing is you gotta work within the process to try to make things work,” Roy said. “Everybody knows I want things to be more open as a general rule. That doesn’t mean every bill. But we should do as we said.”
The 50-year-old Roy, elected to a third-term in November, said repeatedly he wasn’t looking to get on the Rules panel because of its difficult schedule. But Roy has been a very vocal advocate for allowing members more opportunities to shape legislation instead of the leadership.
The House is going to consider a bill on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve under a modified open rule today for the first time since 2016. Both sides are watching closely to see how it turns out, especially since Democrats can offer amendments to embarrass GOP members in swing districts.
Massie, an enigmatic libertarian now in his seventh term, acknowledged he finds himself in an unfamiliar position because he’s “probably voted against more majority rules than anybody in the majority here.”
“I’m there to help them identify how to make the rules better, right? So I told Kevin, ‘We’re kind of like the canaries in the coal mine,’” Massie said.
Like Roy, Massie has also long pushed for a return to an open amendments process and regular order in the House.
“If you have one takeaway from this, the fact that Chip Roy, Ralph Norman and I are on this committee, it’s that for the next two years, five or six people can take down a rule on the floor,” Massie said. “And that’s out of 222.”
While we were speaking with Massie off the House floor on Tuesday night, Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) walked by. “Hey, there’s our chairman now!” Massie said before shaking Cole’s hand.
“You’re my man!” Cole replied, and Massie said, “This is the boss.”
Cole told us he’s all on board with the new Freedom Caucus members on his committee and has had “good visits” with them recently. Massie and Roy have regularly testified before the panel on bills and amendments.
“These are the speaker’s choices. He’s talked with them all. I’ve talked with them all. These are all members I like and admire. So I think we’ll get along well.”
— Max Cohen, John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman
INSIDE THE GOP LEADERSHIP
McCarthy rewards Graves with chair of Elected Leadership Committee
News: Speaker Kevin McCarthy has tapped Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves to be the chair of the Republican leadership, according to GOP sources.
McCarthy is also restructuring the House Republican Steering Committee to give Graves a seat. Republicans are eliminating the seat for the former NRCC chair. Emmer is already on Steering, making the slot obsolete.
Here’s why the Graves’ move is significant.
The chair of the Elected Leadership Committee is an ad hoc position that’s only filled at the discretion of the speaker or GOP leader. The last leadership chair was former Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, who held the role when John Boehner was speaker.
Graves was one of McCarthy’s most useful – and loyal – allies during the California Republican’s fight for the speakership. Graves was among the group of lawmakers who crafted the deal with conservatives that delivered McCarthy the gavel.
It’s not at all surprising that McCarthy is making this move. He considers Graves a loyal foot soldier and one of the smartest policy minds in the conference.
McCarthy hopes Graves will run what they call “tiger teams” – groups of lawmakers who work together to try to solve legislative issues. Graves built up a well of goodwill with conservatives during the speaker vote.
One of Graves’ first tasks will be to put further restrictions on earmarks in the budgeting process, according to leadership sources. The House GOP rules allow for earmarks, but also let committee chairs put forward stricter guidelines should they wish. Graves will be tasked with tightening up the process. Then Graves will work on the budget, appropriations and debt limit.
McCarthy has told Republicans they should think of Graves as an “assistant coach.”
– Jake Sherman
THE TOWNHOUSE BREAKFAST
Wednesday, we hosted our first townhouse event of 2023! The breakfast brought together members of our community from the Hill, the administration, and downtown in the healthcare space, presented by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. Anna Palmer and Kim Keck, president & CEO of BCBSA, spoke to the group as well.
Breaking bread: Michael Levin of the Department of Health and Human Services, Joshua Kramer and Nikki Oka of the Senate Aging Committee, Oliver Edelson of the Office of Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA), Taylor Hittle of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Erica Socker of Arnold Ventures, Meredith Raimondi of the National Council of Urban Indian Health, Lauren Aronson of Mehlman Consulting, Stephanie Quinn of the American Academy of Family Physicians, Shawn Whyte of Walmart, and Katie McBreen, Sean Robbins, David Merritt, Amanda Schwartz, Keysha Brooks-Coley, and Lynn Merritt from BCBSA.
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
News: AFL-CIO President Elizabeth Shuler is unveiling a new slate of senior staffers today as she and Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond look to capitalize on a wave of renewed union organizing.
The new hires are: Jennifer Rodriguez, director of political and field mobilization; Ray Zaccaro, strategic adviser to the president and director of public affairs; and Clayola Brown, senior adviser for strategic partnerships and racial justice. The trio have extensive experience in politics, mobilization, civil rights and public affairs.
Other recent appointments include Cindy Estrada, strategic adviser to the president for the Center for Transformational Organizing, and Samantha Smith, strategic adviser to the president for clean energy jobs.
“We are thrilled to have Jennifer, Ray, Clayola, Cindy and Sam bring their decades of experience to the AFL-CIO to ensure any worker who wants a union on the job can have one, build a state and local mobilization powerhouse, fight for more good union jobs, and strengthen our democracy,” Shuler said in a statement.
Also: Stephen Newton will join lobbying firm Porterfield, Fettig & Sears as a vice president. Newton previously served in the office of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as a senior policy adviser and deputy legislative director and before that as a legislative assistant to Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).
– John Bresnahan and Brendan Pedersen
THE MONEY GAME
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a lobbying and law firm, hosted a major DSCC fundraiser Wednesday night that brought in more than $525,000 in contributions, including more than $120,000 in personal contributions.
More than half of the Democratic Caucus attended the Brownstein event, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, DSCC Chair Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.).
Also in attendance: Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Tina Smith (Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.) and Peter Welch (Vt.).
Hosts for the event, Brownstein’s 12th annual DSCC fundraiser, included Norm Brownstein, Al Mottur, David Reid, and former Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), in addition to Nadeam Elshami, Nancy Pelosi’s former chief of staff.
— Max Cohen
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
8:30 a.m.: The Commerce Department will release the 2022 fourth quarter GDP.
9 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
10 a.m.: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will hold his weekly news conference. … Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Greg Casar (D-Texas) will hold a news conference on border policies.
11:30 a.m.: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) will hold a news conference on “rifles marketed to children.”
1:40 p.m.: Biden will leave for Springfield, Va., where he will speak about the economy at 2:45 p.m.
5:30 p.m.: The Bidens will host a Lunar New Year celebration.
“How Biden Reluctantly Agreed to Send Tanks to Ukraine,” by David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper
“Judge Orders Release of Video Showing Attack on Paul Pelosi,” by Michael Corkery
“Biden Has Never Been Under More Pressure From Congress to Ban TikTok,” by Emily Birnbaum and Daniel Flatley
“RNC challenger not ready to concede to McDaniel,” by Natalie Allison
“Washington Post lawyers are deposing ex-Nunes aides in libel suit about 2017 White House visit,” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
Teens’ experiences on Instagram should be positive and supportive.
That’s why we have tools to help teens see less sensitive content and help them spend less time on our platform.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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