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Happy Friday morning.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to pass the $95 billion foreign aid package before sending senators home and on CODELs for what was scheduled to be the two-week Presidents Day recess.
That means Friday, Saturday and, yes, Super Bowl Sunday sessions. Buckle up!
Seventeen Republican senators — less than half the GOP Conference — crossed the aisle and voted with nearly every Democrat on Thursday to advance a foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.
The biggest concern right now for leadership in both parties is what they see as an effort by opponents to kill, or at the very least, delay the legislation. More on that in a moment.
Let’s start with the schedule: The Senate convenes at noon today. The vote on proceeding to the legislative vehicle for the foreign aid package will be at 7 p.m., at a simple majority threshold. This will clear easily.
At a minimum, we expect Schumer then to file cloture on the substitute amendment sometime after the vote tonight. That would set up a cloture vote on Sunday — Super Bowl Sunday. We’re looking at you, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).
Absent an agreement to speed the process, final passage for the legislation would be sometime early next week, likely by Tuesday.
It seems extremely unlikely that there will be any agreement to speed things up, especially with conservatives focused on making Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s job as difficult as possible. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, told us he’ll make a deal “when hell freezes over.”
However, to secure meaningful amendment votes, there needs to be a unanimous consent agreement in place.
Schumer has been touting his record on allowing amendment votes, but he hasn’t telegraphed any commitments publicly. Democrats are warning their Republican counterparts that they can’t make “unreasonable” demands on amendments — especially those senators who are never going to vote for the package anyway.
Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who called himself a “contrarian” on the GOP amendments push because he supports the underlying bill in its current form, said the burden is on his party to request specific votes. Young fears that GOP senators who oppose Ukraine aid are using delay tactics to kill the package altogether or further erode its prospects in the House.
“I have concerns that support for Ukraine will wane [in the House] as they realize that the longer this goes, the better this is for them,” Young told us.
As we reported on Wednesday, several GOP senators want amendments related to border security. These would likely be at a 60-vote threshold, so they’d be defeated. Others are related to oversight of Ukraine aid.
There are also conversations about possible amendment votes on defense-related legislation that fell off the annual defense authorization bill during negotiations with the House. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) wants a vote on his proposal to reauthorize a compensation program for victims of nuclear contamination. Other senators want a vote on the Afghan Adjustment Act, which is aimed at boosting legal protections for Afghan refugees.
Democrats and amendments: It’s not just Republicans who are interested in amendments, either. Democratic senators have filed plenty of their own, although they aren’t threatening to hold up the entire package.
One rather significant issue was cleared from Schumer’s plate on Thursday night when President Joe Biden issued a national security memorandum that places new restrictions on the use of U.S. military aid. Biden’s order essentially codifies a proposal from Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and 18 other Democrats that requires countries receiving U.S. military aid to comply with international humanitarian law.
The effort came about amid growing Democratic criticism over Palestinian casualties stemming from Israeli military operations in Gaza. Van Hollen told reporters that Biden’s order means “We’ve accomplished our goal now,” so he’s no longer asking for a vote on his amendment. Van Hollen said Biden’s move gives the United States “much more leverage” to ensure that Israel and other countries comply with these requirements.
This is important for several reasons. First, it makes Schumer’s life easier and obviates a potentially difficult vote for Democrats. Second, Van Hollen would have struggled to find support for the amendment if it came up for a vote, so Biden’s action effectively implements it by executive order.
Biden announced the memorandum just minutes after telling reporters that he believes Israel’s military operations in Gaza have been “over the top” — an assessment shared by Van Hollen and a growing number of Democrats.
Note: Our event with Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) scheduled for today in Cincinnati has been postponed because of the Senate’s schedule. We’ll let you know when we have a new date.
— Andrew Desiderio
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Tax deal drama is boiling over in the Senate. Tensions are escalating over Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike Crapo’s (R-Idaho) continued opposition to the bipartisan $80 billion package passed by the House, even as interest bubbles up from his GOP colleagues.
Part of that frustration stems from the role Crapo played during the months of negotiations, when he was often in the room. The Idaho Republican didn’t just sit there idly. Crapo helped shape aspects of the deal, according to multiple sources, even if it was unclear whether he would support the end product.
There was hope Crapo would be won over. He wasn’t, and that’s led to worry that Crapo could be trying to slow-walk the deal until time runs out, effectively killing it. This concern is growing because backers see the Senate as winnable after a huge House vote, but Crapo is only digging in.
One issue being focused on is that during the House-Senate negotiations, Crapo weighed in to limit an aspect of the child tax credit, according to multiple sources.
The tax bill allows families to use their prior-year income to calculate child tax credit benefits in 2024 and 2025, which is a boon if their earnings shrink. Other tax writers were ready to start that provision in 2023, which means benefits would’ve been felt this year.
But Crapo objected and 2023 was taken out in an effort to win him over for what ultimately became the bicameral deal struck by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.), according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
No dice: Crapo told us Thursday that change wasn’t enough to get his support, and he wants to go further. His spokesperson, Amanda Critchfield, denied Crapo ever sought the change in question. “To be clear, any narrative that Senator Crapo or his staff signed off on including the lookback provision is factually inaccurate — staff requested that it be removed entirely,” she said.
Yet any changes made now would likely sink the package. And no one seems to know exactly what Crapo needs to get to yes. Some believe Crapo wants to wait to strike his own deal next year when Senate Republicans could be in the majority.
The Senate doesn’t necessarily need Crapo’s support to pass this tax bill, but it would certainly improve its chances. It would also signal that there is a greater chance for bipartisan dealmaking in the Senate next year when the 2017 Trump tax cuts expire and a far bigger negotiation looms.
Crapo has maintained that he’s gettable. But patience is wearing thin with his efforts to slow down the process. There’s concern over the lack of a realistic plan to offer changes that would still keep the deal alive.
“There were parts of the bill that needed to be fixed to get my support, and there was not an agreement to fix them,” Crapo said, of why he didn’t get on board in January and remains opposed. “The bottom line is that Ron and Jason went forward.”
— Laura Weiss
LEESBURG, Va. — As the battle for the House heats up — with a key New York special election just four days away — we sat down with DCCC Chair Suzan DelBene. Here are the top takeaways from our conversation on the sidelines of the House Democratic retreat.
New York’s 3rd District: DelBene slammed GOP candidate Mazi Pilip over her evasive relationship with the media. In an implicit comparison to the district’s former House member, expelled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), DelBene said it’s vital that constituents “have a representative they can trust.”
Public polls have shown former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) with a narrow lead ahead of the Feb. 13 special election.
“Tom Suozzi has been everywhere,” DelBene said, contrasting the Democratic hopeful with Pilip’s behind-closed-doors campaign.
Abortion rights driving the agenda: Abortion rights have been a winning issue for Democrats ever since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022. DelBene intends to keep the issue front and center in 2024. But how can Democrats convince voters in battleground districts in reliably blue states — such as California and New York — that their rights are at stake?
“Republicans want a national abortion ban,” DelBene told us. “So absolutely people in states that have been supportive of abortion rights know that their rights are under attack, too.”
But some Republicans in tough seats, like Pilip, have publicly come out in opposition to federal bans on reproductive rights. How do Democrats respond to these candidates?
“When Mazi Pilip says that, what does that mean? That she’s going to stand up to [Speaker] Mike Johnson?” DelBene said incredulously. “I think we know where every single Republican has gone. They’ve all supported movement towards the national abortion ban. So there are no moderates on the Republican side left.”
Under-the-radar pickup opportunities: DelBene said Republican Reps. Zach Nunn (Iowa), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa), Ken Calvert (Calif.) and Ryan Zinke (Mont.) should all watch their backs in November.
The DCCC chair singled out their respective Democratic challengers — Lanon Baccam, Christina Bohannan, Will Rollins and Monica Tranel — as top-tier recruits.
Biden’s mental fitness: DelBene quickly batted away our question on whether she was concerned about Biden’s acuity after his gaffe-filled week.
“No,” DelBene responded. “I think that the president has proven to be a strong leader for the American people and we’ve accomplished a ton.”
— Max Cohen
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Speaker Mike Johnson’s rapid about-face in the Montana Senate race — abandoning plans to endorse Rep. Matt Rosendale’s (R-Mont.) expected bid — was the latest embarrassing moment of indecision for the speaker.
But even after Johnson flip-flopped on his planned endorsement, Rosendale is insisting the speaker still has his back.
“I’ve got an outstanding relationship with Mike Johnson,” Rosendale told us in an interview late Thursday. “He said ‘I’m supportive of Matt Rosendale, and I’m going to send him a check to prove it.’”
Of course, this comes after we reported Johnson’s plans that he’d formally endorse Rosendale for Senate. Shortly after our story broke, Johnson abruptly changed course due to strong pushback from senior Senate Republicans. The episode caused panic in Johnson’s orbit.
Johnson said he would give money to Rosendale but not endorse anyone in the race.
As we know, Johnson’s endorsement would’ve irked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm. Senate Republicans are backing Tim Sheehy in the contest to take on incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Several Republicans have privately and publicly lamented that Rosendale’s candidacy would hurt the GOP’s chances of winning the seat.
Rosendale — who Tester defeated handily in 2018 — said he never spoke with Johnson in person about an endorsement. Rosendale claimed he texted Johnson for the first time mentioning an endorsement at noon on Wednesday. By that evening, Johnson told Rosendale he would back him.
“We went from an endorsement to non-endorsement to Mike calling me up last night and saying that he was supporting me and [then that] he was not going to be able to give an endorsement. Fine. Great,” Rosendale said.
Rosendale also dismissed reports that his vote for the Israel aid bill was in exchange for Johnson’s endorsement. The Montana Republican, typically a fiscal hawk, said he voted for the bill to simply support Israel.
An irate Rosendale then berated the national media for not asking who is spreading the rumors of a quid pro quo with Johnson.
Here’s a tidbit:
“We know why they’re telling the lies because the Senate committee with Mitch McConnell and Steve Daines is apoplectic about the potential of Matt Rosendale serving in the United States Senate and causing the same changes to the Senate that I’ve been able to do in the House.”
— Mica Soellner
… AND THERE’S MORE
Club for Growth, which has had its issues with former President Donald Trump, is running an ad in Ohio touting his endorsement of Bernie Moreno for Senate. The spot is running in Cleveland-Akron, Columbus and Cincinnati. The entirety of the ad is a narrator reading a Trump statement about Moreno.
— Jake Sherman
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ALL TIMES EASTERN
President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC spokesperson John Kirby will brief.
Biden will host German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for a bilateral meeting at the White House.
Biden will depart the White House for New Castle, Del., arriving at 6:35 p.m.
— Katie Rogers
— Peter Baker
— Anumita Kaur
— The Associated Press
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