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BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN, AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Happy Thursday morning from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where House Republicans are holding their annual retreat, run by the Congressional Institute. And from D.C., where we’re covering the Supreme Court confirmation process.
Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson withstood nearly 24 hours of often brutal questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday and Wednesday, with Republicans on the panel repeatedly accusing her of being “soft” on child pornographers and crime in general. Jackson forcefully denied the GOP charges, and Democrats on the panel rallied to her defense, calling the accusations “reprehensible” and “beneath the dignity of the committee.”
Yet Jackson will be back on the Hill today, meeting one-on-one with senators as she seeks to become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, according to sources close to the situation. Jackson met with every senator on the Judiciary Committee before this week’s proceedings. The White House clearly wants to continue to work the Senate as it searches for potential GOP votes over the next few weeks.
These latest Jackson meetings come as the Judiciary Committee formally closes out the witness testimony portion of her confirmation hearings. Three lawyers will testify today on behalf of the American Bar Association, which has given its highest rating – “well qualified” – to Jackson.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, will also testify, as will Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; Risa Goluboff, the first woman to serve as dean of UVA Law School; Richard Rosenthal, an appellate lawyer and longtime Jackson friend; and Captain Frederick Thomas, National President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).
Judiciary Committee Republicans have invited Steve Marshall, Alabama’s AG; Jennifer Mascott, assistant law professor at George Mason University; Eleanor McCullen, an anti-abortion rights activist; Keisha Russell of First Liberty, a religious liberty advocate; and Alessandro Serano, an anti-human trafficking activist.
The Judiciary Committee is set to hold a business meeting on Monday to consider Jackson’s nomination. Under committee rules, Republicans can delay a vote on Jackson’s nomination for one week. Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin has already said he will honor that GOP request. This means the committee vote on Jackson will be held April 4. That puts the Senate on schedule for a floor vote on Jackson before the chamber leaves for the Easter recess on April 8.
There’s likely to be a lot of drama between now and then, however.
In the midst of Wednesday’s contentious hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released a letter along with nine other Judiciary Committee Republicans demanding an “adjournment” in Jackson’s confirmation until the panel could obtain pre-sentencing reports in the child pornography cases that she oversaw. Durbin angrily rebuffed Cruz’s request, saying it could result in the release of highly confidential information that could further hurt victims and family members.
“The notion of making those pre-sentencing reports available for this political environment and potentially available for public consumption, would be reprehensible and dangerous. These reports contain sensitive information about innocent third parties and victims and children, for God’s sake. Why the Republicans and Ted Cruz have insisted on poring through these now to build their specious case against [Jackson], I don’t know. I’m gonna fight every step of the way.”
When asked if he feared Republicans could boycott a Judiciary Committee vote on Jackson as the result of his decision – triggering a potential crisis inside the panel and the Senate – Durbin acknowledged it was a concern, although he downplayed that possibility.
“Of course it’s a danger,” Durbin said. “Senate Judiciary Committee rules give the minority, in this circumstance, control over whether there’s a hearing. … So yes, it’s an important decision on the Republicans’ part.”
However, we talked to several Judiciary Committee Republicans on Wednesday night who fully shot down the possibility of any boycott, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking member.
“I haven’t had any conversation [on a boycott] with any Republican,” Grassley said. “If there’s any thought of that, people would be talking to me. So there’s no thought of that.”
Grassley added: “And I can get paid to work and to go to the committee.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said “There’s not going to be any boycott. There’s zero, not one iota chance that we would boycott a Supreme Court [nomination.] I can tell you it’s not gonna happen.”
Here’s Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.): “I haven’t heard anything to that effect. And if somebody came to me and said, ‘I want to do a boycott,’ I would say, ‘You need to explain to me very carefully and persuasively why.’”
So a GOP boycott appears to be out of the question. But are there any other steps that could be taken to delay Jackson’s nomination while Republicans pursue this issue?
We had a long discussion with Cruz on this issue. The Texas Republican remained adamant that seeking the pre-sentencing reports was a valid request, based in part on Jackson’s testimony Wednesday. Jackson told senators there was information in those reports that impacted her sentencing decisions.
“I’m not sure what the procedural next steps are. The reasonable step for the committee to take is to produce the information,” Cruz insisted. “[Jackson] said we don’t have enough information to understand the cases. That’s what her answer was under sworn testimony. If that’s the case, then the responsible thing for the committee to do is review the probation reports.”
Cruz remained upset that the White House turned over a summary document on the pre-sentencing reports to Democrats but not Republicans. Cruz believes this is the first time an administration has done that during a Supreme Court confirmation.
“As I pointed out yesterday, if the Trump White House had done that during, say, the Kavanaugh hearing, Dick Durbin would’ve lost his mind. He would’ve lit his hair on fire,” Cruz added.
As for Judiciary Committee Democrats, they look united in moving forward on Jackson following the tough sessions the last two days.
Yet two Democratic senators on the panel privately raised concerns with us as to whether Jackson had been adequately prepared for the GOP cross-examination on her sentencing of child pornographers. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) had signaled days in advance that he was going to push this explosive line of questioning, and Jackson still seemed not fully ready for the GOP onslaught on Tuesday. All Democrats agreed she was far better on Wednesday, although “The damage had already been done,” a Democratic senator admitted.
Reminder: We’re one week away from our event with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In-person spots are filled, but you can still RSVP to watch virtually here.
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN EDGE PROJECT
“Every day, I work with small businesses in my community, helping them grow and create jobs.
American technology empowers Main Street businesses to innovate and reach their customers through social media and online advertising.” – Clayton, Corinth, MS
WASHINGTON AND THE WORLD
Biden to meet with NATO leaders on Russia-Ukraine
President Joe Biden is in Brussels for an emergency meeting of NATO. This is NATO’s most critical moment in decades as the alliance responds to the bloody Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is now entering its second month.
We expect the Senate to vote today on legislation trade stripping favored trade status from Russian and Belarus, as well as further codifying the U.S. ban on Russian oil and energy imports. Biden has already done so by executive order, but Congress wants to make it into law. Biden, though, won’t press European allies to do the same. Germany and other European countries are far more reliant on Russian oil and gas imports than the United States, and they’ll need time to make the transition to other sources without blowing up their own economies. The United States will begin shipping liquified natural gas to Europe.
Biden arrived at NATO HQ in Brussels this morning. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg greeted him. Biden will huddle with other NATO heads of state. Sky News is reporting that the members of NATO have agreed to extend Stoltenberg’s term for another year due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Biden is reportedly ready to warn other NATO leaders that the conflict in Ukraine may last for months or even years. NATO has surged tens of thousands of troops into its eastern flank to counter any potential Russian aggression.
This afternoon, Biden will meet with other G7 leaders. And in the evening, Biden will take part in a European Council Summit.
In Ukraine, Russian forces continue to slowly grind forward, although they’ve lost any real momentum and appear to be just leveling major cities including Kyiv and Kharkiv with missile and artillery attacks. NATO officials estimate Russian forces have already suffered 7,000 to 15,000 deaths after four weeks of battle, a shocking figure. There are thousands more wounded and missing.
Russia is expelling U.S. diplomats, the latest in a series of diplomatic tit for tat with Moscow. The U.S. government expelled 12 Russians last month over security concerns, so now Russia is responding.
Inside the House GOP political briefing in Ponte Vedra Beach
House Republicans are gathered at the Sawgrass Marriott here for their annual retreat 229 days ahead of the midterm elections. The event kicked off late Wednesday afternoon with a political briefing from NRCC Chair Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Dan Conston, the president of the Congressional Leadership Fund. These are the two organizations that will power the House Republicans’ attempt to take back the majority this fall. These two groups will spend a combined hundreds of millions of dollars in pursuit of this goal.
Conston opened up his presentation – the first of the retreat – with data from a focus group where voters said that they didn’t believe Democrats had any idea how to stop inflation. And these voters do not believe President Joe Biden has “a clue,” broadly speaking, the presentation showed.
Conston spoke about Republicans’ big challenge: that the map of competitive seats has shrunk. Before redistricting this year, there were 48 swing seats, Conston said. In the new maps nationwide, there are just 30 swing seats. In addition, there are 20 seats represented by Democrats that either former President Donald Trump won outright, or Biden carried narrowly. Conston said the GOP needs to expand the map to include Democratic-held seats where Biden won with a six- to 15 point margin. Remember: Republicans only need to win five seats to win the majority, so they are well on their way.
Conston also touted Punchbowl News reporting about CLF and its sister group’s massive cash advantage over Democrats. The GOP super PAC and related non-profit has $110 million on hand, while House Majority PAC and its related group has $55 million. This is something that DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney noted at the Democratic retreat in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. Conston also touted the party’s recruitment of minorities – a bright spot for the GOP – and the wave of Democratic retirements.
Emmer said the GOP’s quest to win the majority is focused on three areas: the right message, the right candidates and making sure they have enough resources to win. To that end, Emmer noted a stark improvement in member fundraising. In the fourth quarter of 2019, 60 Democratic candidates raised more than $500,000, compared to 27 Republican candidates. In the fourth quarter of 2021, 38 Democrats raised more than $500,000 compared to 53 Republicans.
Emmer warned Republicans can’t let their foot off the gas, despite the current strong standing, repeating a frequent refrain that the party hasn’t won anything just yet.
We thought this was worth pointing out. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is hosting a D.C. fundraiser next week for Harriet Hageman, the Republican challenging Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). The Daily Caller and our friend Alex Isenstadt at Politico reported on this yesterday.
But even more than merely appearing at the event, McCarthy has been privately pressing his House Republican colleagues and his close political allies to co-host the event.
So far, more than 100 House Republicans have signed up to co-host, according to a source familiar with the planning. The fundraiser will be held at the D.C. home of Jeff Miller, a lobbyist with very close ties to McCarthy.
Among those who have signed up as a co-host: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), former Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Ryan Zinke, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Jason Smith (R-Mo.). Former Rep. Mick Mulvaney, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and David Bossie are all signed up as co-hosts. Here’s copy of the invitation:
McCarthy’s animosity toward Cheney truly knows no bounds. That he is appearing at this fundraiser and quietly working other Republicans to line up with Hageman shows the depths of his distaste for Cheney. Needless to say, the number of sitting House Republicans who are lining up against Cheney is quite stunning.
→ Also tonight: Jake will sit down with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a fireside chat at the House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. We’ll share more from that conversation in today’s PM edition.
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN EDGE PROJECT
Congress needs to protect, not weaken American technology
“Some politicians in Washington are pushing new laws that will weaken American technology, threaten jobs in our community, and make our economy more dependent on China.
“This misguided agenda will leave small businesses behind.” See Clayton’s story.
NEW: CMR makes her demand on chips
One of the top legislative priorities for Congress during the next few months will be finishing work on the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which has previously had about a handful of different names. This legislation, as we’ve mentioned a number of times, is aimed at combating the technological rise of China.
Senate leaders are trying to work out the guidelines for a bicameral conference committee that will be charged with negotiating a final package. The conference committee will include members from both parties in both chambers.
Washington State Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, has penned a letter with Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), asking the the leadership to include language to make it easier to produce American-made energy.
Here’s the full letter, and here’s a key excerpt.
“We write to request that any Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between H.R. 4521, the America COMPETES Act of 2022, and S. 1260, the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) be directed to address robust reforms to federal permitting, licensing, and regulatory regimes that pose significant barriers to building a more competitive economy. Specifically, we are concerned that these government-imposed barriers are preventing the United States from securing its energy future, which is the key to remaining the world’s dominant economy through the 21st century and beyond. These are issues that cannot be solved through government investments in research and development (R&D) and subsidies alone. Passing this legislation without addressing real reforms to ensure the United States is energy secure would be a missed opportunity and would fail to meet the legislation’s goal of increasing America’s global competitiveness. It would cede our future to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Russia.”
To be clear, this is probably a bit outside the scope of the chips bill. But it’s interesting to see what these top Republicans are asking for. They’ve been intently focused on energy – especially with the high price of gas.
→ Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, is hosting a series of dinners with House Democrats. On March 29, he’ll raise money with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) at Officina at the Wharf. Thompson is the chair of the Jan. 6 committee. On March 30, Aguilar will take part in a fundraiser with Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) at Maialino Mare. On April 1, he’ll host a breakfast with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) at Art and Soul. And on April 6, he’ll host a dinner with Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) at Gatsby.
All of these events are aimed at helping raise money for these key House Democrats. This is precisely what leadership lawmakers like Aguilar do in order to build support in the caucus.
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN EDGE PROJECT
“Congress needs to protect, not weaken American technology.” See why.
All times eastern
8:30 a.m.: House GOP leaders will hold a news conference in Florida.
9 a.m.: President Joe Biden will take a photo with G7 leaders in Brussels.
9:15 a.m.: Biden will speak at a leaders’ meeting about Russia’s war with Ukraine.
11:20 a.m.: Biden will meet with European Council President Charles Michel.
Noon: Biden will speak at a European Council Summit on Ukraine. … Vice President Kamala Harris will speak to mark the one-year anniversary of Biden’s executive order on voting access.
1:45 p.m.: House Republicans will talk in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., about their American Security Task Force.
3 p.m.: Biden will hold a news conference at NATO headquarters. … Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Michael Turner (R-Ohio) – the top GOP lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees – will hold a news conference on “President Biden’s Biggest National Security Blunders: Afghanistan, China, Iran and Russia.”
5:30 p.m.: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will sit down with Jake for a one-on-one fireside chat at the House GOP retreat in Florida.
→ “Ketanji Brown Jackson Survives a Final Bruising Day of Questions,” by Carl Hulse and Jonathan Weisman
→ “U.S. Makes Contingency Plans in Case Russia Uses Its Most Powerful Weapons,” by David Sanger in Brussels, and Eric Schmitt, Helene Cooper and Julian E. Barnes in D.C.
→ “Cities Lost Population in 2021, Leading to the Slowest Year of Growth in U.S. History,” by Robert Gebeloff, Dana Goldstein and Winnie Hu
→ “As allies meet, splits emerge in NATO about how to deter Russia,” by Michael Birnbaum, Karoun Demirjian and John Hudson
→ “Want to talk? FBI trolls Russian Embassy for disgruntled would-be spies,” by Devlin Barrett
→ “North Korea launches long range ballistic missile capable of reaching U.S., Japan and South Korea say,” by Min Joo Kim in Seoul, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma in Tokyo
→ “Poland Is Welcoming Ukrainian Refugees, But It’s Taking a Toll,” by Dorota Bartyzel and Konrad Krasuski
PRESENTED BY AMERICAN EDGE PROJECT
This misguided agenda will leave small businesses behind
Small businesses in this country rely on America’s tech companies to access customers and provide services. Congress should avoid legislation that empowers foreign competitors at the expense of domestic industry, Main Street businesses across the country are depending on them. See why.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
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