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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 Friday morning.
There’s the infamous “Do-Nothing Congress” of the 1940s. And then there’s this year’s “Do-Nothingest Congress.” The “Less-Than-Nothing Congress.” The “Zero Congress.”
OK, we’re still workshopping this. But you get the idea.
There’s one week left until the House and Senate are scheduled to recess for the year, and the list of legislative items left undone, half done or in limbo is unusually long — and incredibly consequential.
In other words, Congress is getting very good at being very bad.
Yet Speaker Mike Johnson looks ready to let members go home at the end of next week. The Senate may not move on any other major legislation once it clears the defense authorization bill, which could be as soon as Wednesday. Lawmakers could potentially have only a few days left in session before they leave town until mid-January.
There are huge issues at stake: Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, border security, government funding, FISA, FAA. It’s just that party leaders and the White House can’t seem to agree on anything, so little gets done.
Overall, the only thing the 118th Congress has achieved is avoiding a debt default or government shutdown. But that’s like paying your rent or taxes. You don’t get credit for doing what you should be doing anyway.
What has Congress accomplished this month? Not much. The House expelled a corrupt GOP lawmaker and censured a Democrat who improperly pulled a fire alarm.
House GOP leaders may authorize an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden even though they haven’t shown he did anything definitively improper and everyone knows he won’t be removed from office anyway. The Senate resolved — for the most part — a blockade of military promotions that almost everyone believes shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
Here’s what’s unfinished — and spoiler alert, it’s pretty alarming.
Border talks, immigration and foreign aid: The Senate’s bipartisan border security negotiations are back on for the moment. But if you consider the history of immigration and Congress, it’s unlikely there will be a deal.
Senators from both parties keep telling us that failure isn’t an option, and that aid for Ukraine and Israel is too important to let slide for another month or two.
At the same time, senators are telegraphing just how difficult it will be to find enough votes in both chambers from lawmakers who want to help Ukraine but are willing to accept restrictive border policies. If there’s no agreement by the time the NDAA wraps up next week, it’s hard to see the Senate staying in town. This would be a disaster for Ukraine funding, which already is in trouble in the GOP-run House.
There are foundational disagreements between the two parties over how to address the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Republicans want to implement policies that “dramatically” reduce border crossings. Basically a return to the Trump era. Democrats want to give DHS more resources to process migrants’ asylum claims at the border rather than paroling them inside the country.
It’s pretty remarkable to think that Israel — which both parties hold up as America’s staunchest ally in the Middle East — could get no additional U.S. help this year even as its forces are locked in a bloody battle against Hamas militants in Gaza.
FAA: The FAA’s authority lapses on Dec. 31. As of now, there’s no plan for extending it while the Senate haggles over a longer-term reauthorization bill. Aside from the NDAA, there aren’t any other must-pass bills that a temporary FAA extension could ride. The Senate could try to pass a short-term extension by unanimous consent, but all it takes is one senator to derail this. And the House would have just a few days to get it cleared.
NDAA: Call us overly skeptical, but we have a sneaking suspicion that the annual Pentagon policy bill is on shaky ground in the House. One senior GOP aide said it’s “not in a great spot.” Johnson is under fire from conservatives for including a four-month extension of FISA authority.
The Senate is going to pass the NDAA next week, giving House Republican leadership a chance to get it done. The NDAA is going to be considered under suspension, meaning it will need a two-thirds majority for House passage.
Military promotions: While Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) folded this week on his blanket blockade of military promotions, he’s still holding around a dozen military officers being promoted to the rank of 4-star general. Plus, Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) is now holding a few others.
Without unanimous consent, it would take several days to approve all of them. Top Democrats say they’re willing to stay in session because these promotions would need to be sent back to the Armed Services Committee if they’re not approved by year’s end.
— Jake Sherman, Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
The world needs ways to reduce carbon emissions. At ExxonMobil, we’re working on solutions in our own operations – like carbon capture and clean energy from hydrogen – that could also help in industries like manufacturing, commercial transportation and power generation, too. Helping deliver heavy industry with low emissions. Let’s deliver.
Senate Dems unveil new push on conditions for Israel
More than a dozen Senate Democrats are pushing to condition U.S. military aid for Israel over its adherence to international laws for armed conflicts and delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in the war-torn Gaza Strip.
Progressive senators led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced an amendment to the Israel-Ukraine-Taiwan supplemental funding bill that imposes these conditions. The proposal requires a report to Congress on each country’s use of U.S.-supplied weapons.
The effort is a reflection of some Democrats’ criticisms of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, which began in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas terrorists. Several top Democrats have suggested Israel isn’t doing enough to limit civilian casualties, pointing to the thousands of Palestinian deaths. They’ve argued that Israel’s efforts to destroy Hamas have therefore been made less effective.
The amendment applies to all countries receiving U.S. aid as part of President Joe Biden’s new foreign-aid funding request, so it doesn’t mention Israel by name.
But the senators who sponsored it are among those progressives who’ve urged Biden to do more to ensure that Israel’s military is minimizing civilian casualties and allowing humanitarian assistance to enter Gaza. Five of the Senate sponsors named Israel in their statements supporting the amendment.
“American support cannot be a blank check to a right-wing Netanyahu government that has demonstrated a gross disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said.
Those Democrats who support placing conditions on the aid have noted that Congress routinely does this with other nations, including on human rights grounds. They argue that Israel shouldn’t be an exception.
But a majority of Democrats –including Biden – and pretty much all Republicans oppose the idea of conditioning aid for Israel, so it’s safe to say this amendment isn’t going anywhere.
Still, it’s been a point of contention within the Senate Democratic Caucus lately and among progressives nationwide, many of whom have called for a permanent ceasefire.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), a former synagogue president and a vocal Israel supporter, spoke on the Senate floor this week lambasting the idea of placing conditions on military assistance for Israel.
Rosen called out “members of my own party” for advocating an approach that she says would “undermine Israel’s ability to defend itself, and would send a signal to the world that America’s support for our ally is weakening, which is exactly what Iran and its terrorist proxies… want.”
Other Democrats have said the Biden administration’s current strategy — publicly and privately urging Israel to exercise more caution in its military operations — is a more effective one and has yielded results.
— Andrew Desiderio
House Dems, GOP trade border for economic issues to reach Hispanics
While negotiations over immigration, border security and the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border continue to dominate Capitol Hill, you won’t see either party making those the top issues when trying to reach Hispanic voters.
House Republicans and Democrats alike told us they are instead focusing on kitchen table topics like the economy, health care and education to win Hispanic votes in 2024.
Some lawmakers say tagging immigration as the top issue for Hispanic voters is not only out-of-touch but outdated. Both parties are trying to change the narrative.
“When people ask me what the Hispanic issues are out there, I tell them it’s the same issues as you and I. It’s education, safe streets and jobs,” Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.) told us. “We just need to be aggressive and talk about the things we have in common.”
It’s no secret that Republicans have made the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border a central issue during this Congress, even blocking legislation this week that didn’t include more resources for border security. The border also remains a significant political liability for the Biden administration with record-high levels of illegal crossings every day.
But the parties’ strategies are in line with what polling shows: Immigration and border issues are relatively low on the list of priorities for Hispanic voters.
A November Unidos US poll of 3,037 Latino voters found the cost of living, the economy and health care were the top three issues. Immigration and border was the sixth highest-rated issue that voters cared about.
Here’s a look at what both parties are doing to reach Hispanic voters, as well as the races to watch next year.
Republican strategy: Congressional Hispanic Conference co-chairs Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told us they’ve distributed more than $400,000 to members of their group this year.
Gonzales said they have traveled to several cities in Texas and Ciscomani’s Arizona district to raise money for incumbents through their campaign arm, the Hispanic Leadership Trust. HLT will hold another event in Dallas in February.
The House GOP Campaign arm has also recruited 11 candidates to take on Democratic incumbents. Thirty of the NRCC’s battleground districts have a higher-than-average Hispanic vote share.
Kevin Lincoln is challenging Rep. Josh Harder in California’s 9th District; George Logan will again face Rep. Jahana Hayes in Connecticut’s 5th district; former Rep. Mayra Flores is challenging Rep. Vicente Gonzalez in Texas’ 34th District; Gabe Evans is going up against Rep. Yadira Caraveo in Colorado’s 8th District; and Maria Montero is taking on Rep. Susan Wild in Pennsylvania’s 7th District.
Democrats’ view: Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) launched the “CHC on the Road” initiative this year, connecting members and administration officials with Latino voters to tout Democrats’ legislative successes.
This year, Barragan has traveled to Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona with other members of the CHC. They’ve been joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, among others.
Barragan told us she is also planning trips to Colorado, Georgia and California.
“People think, ‘Oh well, California is unnecessary.’ But we need to make sure we’re reaching out to these growing Latino populated areas,” Barragan said.
Victoria McGroary, the CHC BOLD PAC’s executive director, said abortion rights will also be top of mind for Latino voters in 2024, an issue Democrats across the country plan to run on again.
The BOLD PAC has also raised $6 million to date this cycle, far outpacing its GOP counterpart.
— Mica Soellner and Max Cohen
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
American industry with low emissions. Let’s deliver.
Lawmakers head to COP28 climate summit with high expectations and conflicting goals
Both Democrats and Republicans are heading to the United Arab Emirates this weekend for the UN’s annual climate conference — but with vastly different missions.
Republicans see COP28 as a chance to promote conservative ideas on the global stage, like maintaining reliance on fossil fuels while advancing cleaner-burning technology.
“I think it’s important that they hear conservative voices in what 21st century energy production is going to look like,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), who’s leading the House delegation, told us.
Democrats, unsurprisingly, plan to pitch more aggressive climate action largely centered around significantly reducing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.
We’re following the issue as part of our platform, The Punch Up, which explores efforts to close the equity divide on and off Capitol Hill.
At least seven senators, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and 15 House members — including nine Republicans — are expected to attend for part of the two-week summit, which ends Dec. 12.
A GOP climate shift: The comparatively large number of Republicans heading to COP28 is a notable change for a party that historically rejected engaging in climate discussions. Armstrong said the “political science is settled” and consumers are demanding action.
“We want to give consumers what they want,” Armstrong added. “We just don’t want to put U.S. companies at a global disadvantage.”
Democrats, of course, are side-eyeing the GOP mission given the party’s close fossil-fuel ties. “I have yet to see a sincere conservative solution to climate change,” Whitehouse said. “So I have zero confidence in Republican sincerity on climate change.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden skipped COP28’s opening, but Vice President Kamala Harris went last weekend following backlash from environmental groups over the president’s decision.
The priorities: House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said he’s hoping more countries commit to cutting emissions, especially the more potent methane, as the United States has recently done.
Meanwhile, Republicans are preparing “to present an alternative to the Biden administration’s ambitious clean energy targets.”
Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), a member of the Energy and Commerce panel, isn’t attending but said he hopes Republicans push the “narrative” of the GOP energy bill HR 1.
The equity dilemma: The United States is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses after China, but there’s debate about whether it should subsidize the efforts of lower-emitting countries.
Pallone acknowledged it’s difficult to coax the United States and other developed countries to “spend significant resources” to help other nations reach their climate goals. “That’s always a tough one,” he added.
Republicans say countries should be empowered to make their own climate decisions with less U.S. interference.
“We cannot afford to pay for everything for the rest of the world,” said Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), calling for conservative solutions that include fossil fuels.
“I’m hoping over time, people realize there’s a climate crisis. But we need to do things that actually make sense; that don’t make it more expensive for people to provide electricity for their folks in Sub-Saharan Africa or India or in Central Asia,” Griffith added.
It’s not all head-butting though. “There’s lots of places we agree, and there’s lots of places we disagree,” Armstrong said. “Nuclear — obviously, if you want less carbon — nuclear energy is a huge part of this conversation.”
Lawmakers also agree on the need to reform the arduous permitting processes, Armstrong added.
A toothless convention?: The annual UN summit is often criticized as a pricey pageant with more talk and less action. Democrats have expressed frustration at the difficulty in enforcing the lofty, but voluntary, commitments set by attendants.
“A lot of it is BS and we need to fix that,” Whitehouse said, calling for increased transparency and accountability.
— Elvina Nawaguna
Razom, a nonprofit supporting Ukraine, is running an ad, urging Congress to “stand united” with Ukraine “in defense of freedom.” “A win for Putin is a threat to us all,” the ad says. It’s running in D.C.
— Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
Capturing industry’s carbon emissions. Let’s deliver.
All times Eastern
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily briefing.
10:55 a.m.: Biden will leave the White House for Joint Base Andrews. From there, Biden will fly to Las Vegas. Karine Jean Pierre and John Kirby will gaggle aboard Air Force One.
4 p.m.: Biden will arrive in Las Vegas.
5:45 p.m.: Biden will deliver remarks about his “Investing in America” agenda at the Carpenter International Training Center.
6:50 p.m.: Biden will depart Las Vegas for Santa Monica, Calif., via Los Angeles, arriving at 8 p.m.
10:30 p.m.: Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will participate in a campaign reception in Santa Monica.
News Analysis: “Biden Tied Ukraine Aid to Border Security, and It Backfired on Him,” by Zolan Kanno-Youngs
“Palestinian Authority Working With US on Postwar Gaza Plan,” by Ethan Bronner and Fadwa Hodali
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
Let’s deliver clean energy from hydrogen.
At ExxonMobil we’re working on solutions to reduce carbon emissions in our own operations – like clean energy from hydrogen – that could also help in other industries. At our Baytown plant, one of the world’s largest integrated refining and petrochemical operations, we’re working to deploy hydrogen power and carbon capture to reduce emissions by up to 30%. Now, we’re taking solutions like these to others in heavy industry. Using our technologies, we can help businesses in manufacturing, commercial transportation and power generation create a plan to make similar reductions. And together, we can deliver a lower-emissions future. Let’s deliver.
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