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Happy Monday morning. The House is out this week, the Senate is in session.
Sorry, Eagles fans. And congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs!
U.S. fighter planes shot down a fourth “high-altitude object” on Sunday, this time over Lake Huron. This situation has now turned into a major challenge for the Biden administration, which is facing an unparalleled – and largely unexplained – violation of American airspace.
The AP’s headline says it all: “US jets down 4 objects in 8 days, unprecedented in peacetime.”
The Pentagon privately briefed members and senators about the military operation over the Great Lakes, and it was actually lawmakers who made the shootdown public on Twitter. This is a change from the initial Chinese spy balloon incident, when Congress complained that few on the Hill were told what was happening. There are still a lot of concerns, though, even from Democrats.
“[B]y the way, I have real concerns about why the administration is not being more forthcoming with everything that it knows,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday’s “Meet The Press.”
Yet there’s clearly a lot that U.S. officials don’t know. Including what they’re shooting down, at least in the last three instances.
“We’re calling them objects, not balloons, for a reason,” said Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of Northern Command and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), per Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali of Reuters.
Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, said the Pentagon may be finding more of these objects now because they’re looking for them.
“We have been more closely scrutinizing our airspace at these altitudes, including enhancing our radar, which may at least partly explain the increase in objects that we’ve detected over the past week,” Dalton said at Sunday night’s press conference, the New York Times reported.
The full Senate has a classified briefing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. That session is supposed to focus on Russia and Ukraine, but we imagine a lot of the discussion will be about what’s going on in the skies above North America.
Some Republicans continue to bash Biden, which may have been justified after the Chinese spy balloon incident – lots of Democrats thought so too – but now what exactly are they slamming him for? An unidentified object “that presented as an octagonal structure with strings hanging off but no discernible payload?”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Congress should look into what’s going on and will, but he also repeatedly noted that these incidents appear to stretch back to the Trump era as well.
Here’s Schumer on “This Week”:
“I do think Sen. Tester is looking into why it took so long for us, our military, our intelligence to know about these balloons. That’s something I support. Congress should look at that. That’s the question we have to answer.”
Schumer will be on “The View” today to talk about how Democrats are implementing the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as how he views the upcoming debt-limit fight. We’re sure balloonish objects will come up too.
As for the Senate, there’s two votes scheduled at 5:30 p.m. today. The first is a confirmation vote on Cindy Chung to circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. That will be followed by a cloture vote on Gina Méndez-Miró to serve as a district judge in Puerto Rico. If cloture is invoked, the Senate will vote on Méndez-Miró’s confirmation on Tuesday.
Chung and Méndez-Miró would be the 99th and 100th judges appointed by Biden. And Senate Democrats say the pace of confirming Biden judicial nominees will begin to pick up once again this week. Cloture was filed last week on three more Biden nominees.
Here’s “What we’re watching this week,” our weekly listing of the most important committee hearings on the Hill.
There are two other events to keep an eye on.
First, the consumer price index data for January will be released on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. Inflation has eased for six straight months. Will January make it seven?
Secondly, CBO will release an update on the debt limit on Tuesday at 2 p.m., including the expected default deadline. In addition, CBO will provide its latest 10-year budget outlook. There will be fresh budget and economic projections too. CBO last issued this report in May 2022.
Also: Speaker Kevin McCarthy is scheduled to speak at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., this week.
– John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman
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Sanders backs Nelson or Reich for Labor post
News: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the HELP Committee and the leading progressive voice on Capitol Hill, is backing Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, or former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to take over for Marty Walsh at the Labor Department, according to a letter obtained by Punchbowl News.
Walsh is expected to formally announce soon that he’s stepping down from the Labor post to head the NHL Players’ Association.
Asian-American lawmakers and some outside groups are calling on President Joe Biden to nominate Julie Su, deputy secretary of Labor, to succeed Walsh. While there are a number of high-ranking officials of Asian-American heritage across the Biden administration, including Vice President Kamala Harris, there’s no AAPI secretary in the Cabinet.
Su also has the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus, an important faction on the Hill.
Sanders, however, believes Biden should pick Nelson or Reich. And Sanders’ panel has jurisdiction over this nomination, so his views carry weight here.
Sanders’ letter to Biden on Friday spells this out:
“Sara Nelson is the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. She has been a union member for nearly 30 years, has been a leading voice for worker rights and is a very strong communicator of progressive values. She has a thorough understanding of federal labor laws and how these laws apply to workers, and her experience sets her up for success in this job.
“Robert Reich served as Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration and is now the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley. Bob is widely regarded as one of the most effective Secretaries of Labor in modern history and, based on past experience, would hit the ground running. He has been instrumental in advancing workplace protections, workforce development, and worker power for decades.”
We’ll note that Sanders voted for Su’s confirmation in July 2021. Senate Republicans had opposed the former California labor secretary over tens of billions of dollars of fraud in that state’s unemployment insurance program during her tenure. This controversy will be revisited if the 53-year-old Su is nominated as Walsh’s successor.
Nelson, 49, is in her third term running the nearly 50,000-member flight attendants union. She also has long-standing ties to Sanders.
Reich, 76, served as Labor secretary under former President Bill Clinton and is an outspoken progressive figure. Reich has 1.5 million followers on Twitter, for instance, and he can often be found on MSNBC or some other TV outlets slamming Republicans or big corporations.
– John Bresnahan
INTRODUCING THE LEADERS
On Friday, we announced the launch of The Leaders, a new editorial product focused on four elected officials driving economic growth for their state and local economies. Our first profile launches tomorrow morning and features Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R). We cover everything from how Stitt is attracting businesses to his state to how he’s leading the oil and gas economy to a renewable future.
Don’t miss anything from The Leaders: Sign up to receive The Leaders direct in your inbox here.
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN BEVERAGE ASSOCIATION
The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo are offering more choices with less sugar. In fact, nearly 60% of beverages sold contain zero sugar. BalanceUS.org
… AND THERE’S MORE
Key W.H. aide – a link to House GOP – to depart
News: Shuwanza Goff, a key lieutenant in the White House’s legislative affairs operation, is leaving the Biden administration to join a lobbying shop.
Goff, the deputy director of White House legislative affairs, will join Cornerstone Government Affairs, which represents entities as varied as the NHL, Crowdstrike, Raytheon, Syracuse University and Target.
Goff was in charge of House outreach for the Biden administration and helped shepherd all of the White House’s key priorities through Congress during the last two years.
This is a noteworthy loss for the White House. Goff is an alumnus of Steny Hoyer’s leadership operation and knows the House floor and rank-and-file membership as well as anyone. She also enjoys a close working relationship with Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his top aides. That’s not something a lot of other White House officials can say.
In fact, a forthcoming news release announcing Goff’s hiring includes quotes from McCarthy and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
In other news:
Former Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is joining the American Enterprise Institute as a distinguished visiting fellow for public policy. Portman’s work will focus on “free trade expansion, US-China relations, US-Russia relations, the conflict in Europe, US budget and entitlement reform, worker training, retirement security, and other issues,” according to AEI.
Laura Dove, the former GOP secretary of the Senate, is joining the Harvard IOP as senior director of administration. This is a six-month appointment for Dove.
News Corp., the parent company to Fox, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, has hired CGCN to lobby on “IP issues and competition policy.”
– Jake Sherman and Andrew Desiderio
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN BEVERAGE ASSOCIATION
America’s beverage companies are delivering more choices with less sugar. BalanceUS.org
9 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
1 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
5:30 p.m.: The Senate will come into session.
Biden’s week: Tuesday: Biden will speak at the National Association of Counties at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Biden will “discuss the progress we have made thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and more – and work that needs to be done together to implement these historic legislative victories at the local level to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Wednesday: Biden will speak in Maryland about the economy.
Thursday: The Bidens will host a screening of “Till” in the East Room.
“Why Mississippi, a Covid Hot Spot, Left Millions in Pandemic Aid Unspent,” by Sharon LaFraniere in Jackson, Miss.
“Hopeful freshman lawmakers run up against the reality of a divided House,” by Marianna Sotomayor
Paul Thornell: “Diversity among top Senate staffers is abysmal”
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN BEVERAGE ASSOCIATION
Families are looking for more choices to support their efforts to find balance, and today nearly 60% of beverages sold contain zero sugar. America’s beverage companies are intentionally offering more choices with less sugar or no sugar at all, and our actions are making a real difference.
Our commitment to helping our consumers find balance includes:
Putting clear calorie labels on every bottle, can and pack.
Reminding consumers to think about balance with signs on coolers and displays in store.
Innovating products to offer more choices with less sugar or no sugar at all.
Working with local organizations across the country to build awareness of the many choices available – and make zero sugar beverages more available in communities where it’s needed most.
Learn more at BalanceUS.org.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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