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Happy Tuesday morning.
The Senate’s $118 billion bipartisan border security supplemental stunningly unraveled Monday less than 24 hours after it was released, with top Republicans reversing their previous positions and indicating they’ll block the measure from advancing for the time being.
A number of GOP senators came out against the proposal on Monday. They ranged from the Senate Republican Conference’s most conservative members to defense hawks who want to see Ukraine funded. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership team and some of his closest allies rejected the package.
This wave of opposition prompted McConnell to recommend to Republicans behind closed doors Monday night that they vote against cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill this week, according to multiple attendees — effectively halting the effort in its tracks and throwing new aid to Ukraine into serious jeopardy.
McConnell, according to attendees, said his view was that the problem isn’t the bill itself but that the political mood in the country has shifted since the Senate first began this effort four months ago. This is a reference to former President Donald Trump’s surge toward the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, plus the poor outlook for the proposal among House GOP lawmakers.
McConnell still backs the underlying bill, but he made this recommendation after it became clear that most Republicans were preparing to vote “no,” either because they oppose the legislation outright or want more time to consider and, potentially, try to amend it.
McConnell’s reversal — first signaled two weeks ago — still surprised some GOP senators. While McConnell’s aides insisted he’d made no recommendation either way, both supporters and opponents saw his comments as a free pass for any wavering Republicans to vote no.
Several Republicans who are generally supportive of the bipartisan measure effort — drafted by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) — said they want guarantees from leadership on the amendment process before voting for cloture to advance the bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has teed up a Wednesday procedural vote, which is now almost certain to fail.
“You’re not going to get it done in three days and get an agreement on an amendment process,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who said he’d vote against cloture but still wants to move forward with the process. “Let’s not quit now and lose everything because we didn’t give people enough time to digest it.”
“A bill of this magnitude being brought to the floor in 48 hours is really rushing,” added Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a defense hawk who backs Ukraine funding.
Even Lankford, the lead GOP negotiator, wouldn’t say if he plans to vote to advance the bill, citing the fact that very few Republicans are ready to do so. Lankford, however, still insisted the effort isn’t dead:
“Obviously I’ve got a lot of members that have questions on it. It’s not going to move and become law if we try to force this right now. So there’s a difference between opposing a bill and saying, ‘We can’t rush this right now.’ Right now it’s a work in progress. So I’m not willing to do a funeral on it.”
After the 90-minute meeting, McConnell told reporters that the discussions would continue. His deputy, Minority Whip John Thune, indicated it’s likely that GOP senators filibuster the bill because they believe Wednesday is “too early” to kick off the process.
But with all the momentum turning against a bipartisan deal, a delay is almost certainly fatal. Those Republicans who oppose Ukraine funding, as well as GOP senators who don’t want to hand a victory to President Joe Biden in an election year, aren’t going to support it no matter what. And it’s unclear if there would be enough Republicans willing to move ahead with the bill after a failed procedural vote on Wednesday.
“There is broad consensus that we’re not going to grant cloture this week,” added Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), one of the leading critics of the bill. “The division from there is, is the bill salvageable? Or salvageable with a lot of work? Or is it dead? … But I think there are a lot of Republicans who want to debate and work on it.”
“It’s complicated,” Thune said. “Obviously, people want a result, they want an outcome if they’re going to go through this process. To make law around here, you’ve got to get it through the House and Senate.”
GOP senators said they plan to discuss the issue again at today’s weekly policy lunch.
In the meantime, Senate Republicans are still taking open shots at one another.
“Leader McConnell made the decision not to force the Biden administration, which is lawless, to secure the border,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a McConnell antagonist who opposes the border deal.
Democrats were seething after the Republicans’ meeting last night. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), a member of his party’s leadership, said he was “just gobsmacked,” adding: “I’ve never seen anything like it. They literally demanded specific policy, got it, and then killed it.”
— Andrew Desiderio, Laura Weiss and Max Cohen
Happening tomorrow: Are you a lawmaker, staffer or reporter attending the House Democratic retreat in Leesburg, Va.? Don’t miss Punchbowl News’ “Cocktails & Conversation,” kicking off at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. RSVP here. Our managing editor Heather Caygle will sit down with House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar as part of the event.
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The House will vote today to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the first time the chamber has moved to oust a Cabinet secretary in nearly 150 years.
You can call this the “House Freedom Caucus Impeachment” if you want. These conservatives, along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — who was kicked out of the HFC last year — have been leading the push to target Mayorkas for months, both in the Homeland Security Committee and on the floor.
And once a Senate trial begins for Mayorkas — which will ultimately lead to his acquittal — multiple HFC members will be on the Senate floor helping to manage the case against him. More on this below.
Today’s vote: If all 431 members are present and voting, House Republicans can only lose three votes. Democrats are expecting one absence, which gives Republicans a little more room to maneuver.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) has publicly said he’s a “hard no” on impeachment. Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) are possible GOP no’s we’re tracking too.
Joyce and McClintock told us they’ll release statements prior to the vote on impeachment. Both refused to tell us where they stand heading into today.
But we expect this to be a straight party-line vote, meaning Mayorkas’ ouster is guaranteed if the GOP vote count stays the same.
Yet the opposition to Mayorkas’ impeachment has gotten louder and more intense as the floor vote has gotten closer. Along with House Democrats, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security, a number of legal experts — including Republicans — have called the process improper and constitutionally suspect.
Mayorkas’ allies also assert that he wasn’t allowed to testify in his own defense, which we covered.
Dems latest rebuttal: On Monday, two top DHS lawyers sent a lengthy letter to Rules Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and ranking member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) calling the impeachment effort improper and unconstitutional.
McGovern read the document — drafted by DHS General Counsel Jonathan Meyer and Counsel David O’Neil — into the record.
“Impeachment in these circumstances, and on this record, would represent a radical and dangerous step in violation of the Constitution,” the letter states. “The House of Representatives should reject the proposed Articles of Impeachment.”
None of this has dissuaded House Republicans, however.
What’s next: On Monday, Speaker Mike Johnson named the impeachment managers who would make the House case to convict Mayorkas to the Senate.
These GOP lawmakers include: Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (Tenn.) and Reps. Michael McCaul (Texas), Clay Higgins (La.), Ben Cline (Va.), Michael Guest (Miss.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.), August Pfluger (Texas), Harriet Hageman (Wyo.), Laurel Lee (Fla.) and MTG.
A Senate trial is unlikely to occur until after the chamber returns from its two-week Presidents’ Day recess later this month.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will have to work out the ground rules, including how soon a motion to dismiss can be offered. As with everything in the Senate, this requires unanimous consent. In this case, there is little precedent for a Cabinet-level impeachment case, so Schumer will have wide discretion.
— John Bresnahan and Mica Soellner
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will be on Capitol Hill this week, starting this morning at 10 a.m. The Republican-led House Financial Services Committee will get the first crack at interrogating President Joe Biden’s top economic official at a time when the administration is touting positive new jobs and inflation data.
This is an annual hearing ostensibly about the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a government body made up of other financial regulators that Yellen chairs. You can read her testimony about FSOC’s annual report to Congress work here. But FSOC is unlikely to be at the top of most lawmakers’ minds.
We asked several House Republicans on Monday night what they planned to ask the Treasury secretary. Virtually all said they wanted to keep their cards close. “You’ll have to watch the hearing,” Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) said. “We don’t want to give her a heads up.”
Fair enough! But expect some Republicans to play the hits on inflation woes, government overreach and FSOC’s looming proposals to enhance nonbank supervision.
We anticipate a number of Democrats giving Yellen time to talk up the continued strength of the U.S. economy. “I’m pretty happy about where the economy is,” Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) told us.
What Yellen will say: Yellen will discuss FSOC’s work “monitoring the increasing use of artificial intelligence in financial services,” as well as the risks of stablecoins and other digital assets.
“Applicable rules and regulations should be enforced, and Congress should pass legislation to provide for the regulation of stablecoins and of the spot market for crypto-assets that are not securities,” Yellen will tell Congress.
Meanwhile in the Senate: Yellen will get a brief one-day reprieve from Congress before heading over to the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday at 9 a.m.
Senate Republicans are preparing to hammer Yellen on a number of fronts, including a lack of testimony before the Banking panel in 2023. (Yellen testified before the Senate Finance Committee just days after the onset of March’s banking crisis, for what it’s worth).
Ben Watson, GOP spokesperson for the Senate Banking Committee, told us Republicans will also ask whether “Iran has funneled potentially U.S. sanctioned funds to terrorist groups that are attacking our troops” and Israel.
SALT off the menu: House leadership pulled a vote on a SALT-related rule that was supposed to go to the floor today. The rule would’ve teed up New York Republicans’ bill granting more state and local tax deductions in 2023, as we scooped Monday night.
It may come up next week. But it’s still unclear whether Republicans will have the votes to pass the rule with some hardline conservatives opposed to the measure and most Democrats opposed.
— Brendan Pedersen, Laura Weiss, John Bresnahan and Heather Caygle
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GLEN COVE, N.Y. — Speaker Mike Johnson and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries both parachuted into New York’s 3rd District in recent days. But neither did much to publicize it — a sign that both parties are wary of nationalizing the race.
When Johnson visited for a Mazi Pilip fundraiser Friday, it was behind closed doors. And when Jeffries appeared with former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) on Saturday to mark the start of early voting, the event was conspicuously absent from Suozzi’s public schedule.
While in the district, Jeffries slammed Pilip as “an extreme candidate” who “will go to Congress and partner with people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz.”
We asked Suozzi why his campaign didn’t play up the Jeffries visit more prominently.
“The race is Suozzi versus Mazi. That’s the race,” Suozzi responded. “The people in this district know me. They don’t know her.”
Even though Jeffries is a fellow New Yorker, it was an acknowledgment from Team Suozzi that the Brooklyn Democrat may not play as well among swing voters in Nassau County.
The dynamic is even more true for Johnson, a socially conservative Louisiana Republican whose views on abortion are out of step with many moderate suburbanites.
Cash dash: Although both leaders sought to stay out of the headlines, the two are playing a big behind-the-scenes role, shoveling cash into the race ahead of the Feb. 13 special election.
The NRCC and Pilip’s campaign are each putting another $200,000 into their latest hybrid campaign ad that hits Suozzi on Democratic border policies.
A total of $15.7 million has been spent or reserved on the airwaves so far. Democratic groups are leading the way with $9.7 million invested, while Republicans have put $6 million into the race, according to an AdImpact analysis.
Johnson has participated in several fundraisers for Pilip, and the CLF and NRCC are pumping in millions of dollars in TV ads.
And Jeffries has fundraised for Suozzi through direct appearances, the DCCC and House Majority PAC.
— Max Cohen
… AND THERE’S MORE
Black Democrats back Thanedar challenger: A group of prominent Black Democrats is endorsing Adam Hollier over Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.) in the Democratic primary for Michigan’s 13th District.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Austin Davis and DNC Black Caucus Chair Virgie Rollins are all backing Hollier.
Hollier, a Black Democrat who formerly served in the Michigan state legislature, is aiming to unseat Thanedar after losing to him in the 2022 primary. After Thanedar won the open seat created by former Rep. Brenda Lawrence’s (D-Mich.) retirement, no Black members are representing Detroit in the House for the first time in generations.
Becerra to the Hill: HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will address the New Democrat Coalition at the group’s lunch today. Becerra will discuss child care, drug pricing and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Figures up on the air: Shomari Figures, a leading candidate in the Democratic primary for Alabama’s newly configured 2nd District, is up with his first ad of the cycle. It’s a biographical spot featuring his family legacy in politics and his work for Democratic administrations.
EMILYs List backs Morrison: EMILYs List, the pro-abortion rights group committed to electing Democratic women, is endorsing Minnesota state Sen. Kelly Morrison in the race to succeed Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.).
— Max Cohen
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ALL TIMES EASTERN
President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing… Speaker Mike Johnson, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) will hold a post-meeting press conference.
Johnson and Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Amir Ohana will give brief remarks following a closed meeting.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief… Johnson and Ohana will meet with hostage families.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host a reception in recognition of Black History Month. Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend.
News Analysis: “Trump Couldn’t Shut Down the Border. Can Biden?”
– Michael Shear
– John Harney and Mohammed Hatem
– Matthew Lee, Wafaa Shurafa and Samy Magdy in Cairo
– Melanie Mason
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