Every issue of the Punchbowl News newsletter, including our special editions, right here at your fingertips.
Join the community, and get the morning edition delivered straight to your inbox.
BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Happy Friday morning and welcome to April. Beware: It is April Fool’s Day. We won’t prank you.
We have a bit of news this morning: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats are eyeing a vote next week on a bill to provide Covid-related relief to the nation’s restaurants. Pelosi’s leadership team discussed the idea during a private meeting Thursday.
The proposal is still coming together. A vote is “under consideration,” a senior Democratic aide told us. However, one idea being discussed is targeting restaurants that previously qualified for federal aid but didn’t receive a grant before the Restaurant Revitalization Fund ran out of money last year.
The big question is will this go anywhere in the Senate?
As we’ve reported in detail, the Senate is close to an agreement on a roughly $10 billion Covid preparedness package, which could be taken up next week as Congress rushes to leave town for the Easter recess. We’ve heard Senate Democrats might offer an amendment to that Covid package that would provide funds for restaurants. But Republicans are insisting any additions be fully offset.
The two sides in the Senate are already having trouble finding a way to pay for the $10 billion in the underlying negotiations, much less any new provisions. The White House has also been cool to the idea of refilling the restaurant fund in recent months.
Still, there is a bipartisan energy around this push. Senate Small Business Committee Chair Ben Cardin (Md.) led a drive to have restaurant relief funding included in the $1.5 trillion omnibus, but that ultimately failed in the face of GOP objections. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Bill Cassidy (La.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.) are just some of the supporters of a bill to replenish the restaurant fund with $48 billion.
Three-dozen House Democrats led by Reps. Dean Phillips (Minn.) and Mike Quigley (Ill.) are on record saying they would “be hesitant” to support a Covid aid package that didn’t include relief for restaurants and other small businesses.
Big picture: We’ve noticed growing tension in the Capitol in recent weeks. The House and Senate aren’t getting along too well.
Yes, that’s a story, in some ways, as old as Congress itself. But on a number of issues, leaders in the two chambers find themselves jockeying over who takes the lead role on these high-profile bills. And with the margins of control so tight, a vote here or there makes the difference between success or failure.
Senate Democrats were shocked a few weeks ago when Pelosi and her leadership team failed to foresee an uprising in their ranks on the Covid funding during debate over the massive omnibus spending bill.
Now, House Democrats are openly criticizing the Senate over their negotiations on the Covid preparedness bill. House Democrats are demanding it include at least some of the $5 billion in global vaccine aid that was initially in the omnibus package last month. “I don’t think it can pass the House without some global funding. So I hope they understand that,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) told us.
But it’s not just the Covid package. There was some eye-rolling in the Senate on Thursday when the House passed a bill to cap insulin costs at $35 per month. This came despite Schumer’s announcement last week that the Senate was negotiating a bipartisan bill to do the same and more. The Senate is expected to vote on that bill – led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) – following the Easter recess.
Also, the House passed a bill to strip favored trade status from Russia and Belarus in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The measure would codify the ban on Russian oil imports already implemented by President Joe Biden. The vote was 424-8, a massive bipartisan win. Now the Senate is totally rewriting the bill after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and others objected.
“The Senate needs to get over itself,” complained Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), one of the leaders on insulin cost legislation. “The Senate can’t be this elitist body that allows each of its members super-special veto power. It’s got to come to an end.”
Recent examples of jockeying between the two chambers abound. The frustration can be traced back to late last year, when Senate Democrats failed to pass the Build Back Better Act after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) blocked it. And it took months for the House to pass a bipartisan Senate $1 trillion infrastructure package. Who’s to blame for what happened and how is still hotly debated within the party.
House members in both parties are grumbling about whether the Senate will just sit on bipartisan retirement and marijuana bills too.
Senators have their own complaints about the House.
For instance, several vulnerable Senate Democrats introduced a bill to suspend the federal gas tax in February. Now House Democrats are pursuing ways to address the issue of soaring gas prices. But Pelosi was cool to the idea of a gas tax holiday this week. Pelosi did say gas “rebates” or direct payments are two ideas under consideration by House Democrats, though.
As we noted, this is an age-old dynamic in the Capitol: The Senate thinks the House does what it wants without consideration for the political reality in the upper chamber. The House gets frustrated by what it sees as antiquated Senate rules that limit what can get done – the filibuster. But with an all Democratic Washington, narrow margins in both chambers and a difficult election staring them in the face, the chasm is more pronounced right now.
More from Malinowski on the simmering frustration:
“The dysfunction of the Senate, ironically, gives the Senate more power because we’re all walking on eggshells around the Senate for fear of either not getting 60 [votes] or losing the one Democrat that might be required to pass a reconciliation bill or, frankly, losing the one senator out of 100 that can block unanimous consent.
“It’s like they’re all walking around with suicide vests over there and we have to be very careful.”
PRESENTED BY FACEBOOK
We build tools that give you control and help keep you safe
Real connection can only happen on safe platforms. So we build tools to protect our communities.
→ Privacy Checkup, where you can manage your privacy settings and control who sees what you share
→ Industry-leading AI that detects and reacts to harmful content faster than ever
JOIN THE TEAM!
Punchbowl News is growing…again!
We’re so proud of the team we’ve built at Punchbowl News, and we are excited to announce that we’re hiring for two new positions. Check them out on our Careers page.
→ Product Manager: We’re looking for a Product Manager to help us grow our product offerings and own the technical and design infrastructure for Punchbowl News. Learn more and apply here.
→ Subscription Growth Manager: We’re looking for a Subscription Growth Manager to grow our Punchbowl News community and run the full lifecycle for our subscription sales growth. Learn more and apply here.
ROCKY TOP REPORT
Ortagus gets help in Tennessee ballot fight
Veteran Republican lawyer Charlie Spies is representing a group of Tennessee voters in an attempt to stop a law aimed at preventing former Trump administration official Morgan Ortagus from running for Congress.
The Tennessee legislature this week passed a bill requiring anyone running for Congress to have lived in the state and district they are running in for three years.
The lawsuit, which is on behalf of three constituents, says the recently passed bill is unconstitutional since it “blatantly violates Article I of the United States Constitution … because the Constitution delineates the only qualifications necessary to serve as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and vests with the House of Representatives the exclusive authority to judge the qualifications of its own members.”
The suit is being funded by a super PAC called Tennessee Conservative PAC, which has at least $1 million in the bank, a source familiar with its operations told us. The super PAC is expected to back Ortagus in the race in her Nashville area district. The Republican primary is Aug. 4, and the district is solidly conservative.
PUNCHBOWL NEWS X MITCH MCCONNELL
What Mitch McConnell told us
Anna and Jake sat down yesterday with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for a wide-ranging, newsy conversation. Catch up on it below.
PRESENTED BY FACEBOOK
→ Americans for Public Trust, a conservative non-profit, has filed an ethics complaint against House Democratic leaders for discussing DCCC dues in the Capitol. We reported earlier this week that Democrats were pressing their rank-and-file to pony up to the party committee during a meeting in the Capitol basement.
DCCC Spokesman Chris Taylor said this in response to the complaint: “Unlike the cocaine-fueled orgies Congressman Cawthorn has detailed this week, Democrats’ member to member solicitations are expressly permissible.”
The House Ethics Manual states that “Member-to-Member solicitation is permissible, notwithstanding a criminal statute that generally barred political solicitations in federal buildings.”
PRESENTED BY FACEBOOK
10:45 a.m.: President Joe Biden will speak about the March jobs numbers.
11:15 a.m.: Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
2:30 p.m.: Kate Bedingfield will brief the press.
3:25 p.m.: Biden will leave for Delaware, where he’ll arrive at 4:20 p.m.
→ “Facing Demand for Labor, U.S. to Provide 35,000 More Seasonal Worker Visas,” by Aishvarya Kavi
→ “More Mixed Signals From Russia as Ukraine War Enters Sixth Week,” by Megan Specia in Krakow, Poland, Anton Troianovski in Istanbul and Steven Erlanger in Brussels
→ “Biden administration border plan poses midterm danger for Democrats,” by Annie Linskey and Nick Miroff
→ “Mariupol evacuations expected after temporary cease-fire is declared,” by Matt Viser, Dalton Bennett, Alex Horton and Paulina Villegas
PRESENTED BY FACEBOOK
Privacy Checkup helps you stay informed and empowered on Facebook
We want privacy to be as easy as possible for you. That’s why we built the Privacy Checkup, so you can:
→ Strengthen your account security
→ Learn about your privacy settings and how your information is used
→ Control who sees what you post
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
Crucial Capitol Hill news AM, Midday, and PM—5 times a week
Join a community of some of the most powerful people in Washington and beyond. Exclusive newsmaker events, parties, in-person and virtual briefings and more.Subscribe to Premium
The Canvass Special Report
Analysis of how sentiment on Capitol Hill evolved this year. And what senior aides believe will happen in 2022.Check it out
Every single issue of Punchbowl News published, all in one placeVisit the archive
THE PREMIUM COMMUNITY AT
Experience regular online and offline events with Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan, special Premium content and so much more. Check out our full list of benefits for Premium membership!