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BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Happy Thursday morning.
All everyone is talking about in the House and on K Street is what the leadership of both parties looks like next year. We’ve spent the last few days talking to many of the key players on both sides of the aisle. We’re going to focus on House Republicans today. Tomorrow, we’ll look at Democrats.
We’re in for some seismic shifts. And with just over 200 days until the midterm elections, it’s time we focus on what the leadership might look like.
Our six questions about House GOP leadership in 2023
1) If Republicans win the majority, what’s the margin of control and what does that mean for Kevin McCarthy? No one who talks to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for more than a few minutes will question how badly he wants to be speaker. McCarthy, who turns 58 in January, had to back away from his bid in 2015 for the speaker’s gavel, and he’s been eyeing the job ever since.
Let’s play this out a bit. The party out of power wins an average of 26 seats in the House in a president’s first midterm election. If McCarthy has a 20-seat majority heading into the 118th Congress, he should coast to the speakership. But modern-day speaker races are complicated, and party leaders on both sides of the aisle have less control over their fringe factions than in the past. There’s almost always a pocket of resistance to anyone seeking the post.
If Republicans somehow come up far short of predictions and are only able to win 10 seats in November – leaving the GOP with a five-seat House majority – ascending to the speaker’s chair will be extremely difficult for the California Republican. For McCarthy, the size of the GOP majority is critical.
Of course, McCarthy’s relationships with GOP hardliners are far better than they once were. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), formerly one of McCarthy’s chief antagonist, is now one of his biggest boosters. Jordan has publicly declared that he has no interest in being speaker or anything other than the Judiciary Committee chair. At the GOP retreat in Florida last month, Jordan said plainly that McCarthy will be speaker.
But, let’s be clear. A small group of allies of former President Donald Trump are always agitating against McCarthy. They’re an unpredictable bunch with little concern about how they’re perceived publicly.
Some of these Trump allies have suggested Trump should be speaker, something the 45th president has said he has no interest in. That’s never going to happen, but this idea will be floated down the road. Some in Trump’s orbit have informally tried to recruit other Republicans to take on McCarthy for speaker, with no success and no clue how a race like this is won. So the Trump-world dynamics are something McCarthy has to be aware of and prepared for – to the extent he can be.
Here’s something else to discuss before we move on from McCarthy. McCarthy has been berated for years over his close relationship to Trump. McCarthy was loyal to Trump during the 2016 campaign and beyond. Trump, as much as he is with anyone, was loyal to McCarthy in return. And let’s not forget that McCarthy was the first top Republican to visit Trump in Florida after the former president left office, still in public disgrace over the Jan. 6 insurrection.
McCarthy will face the question of impeaching President Joe Biden immediately if Republicans win the majority. Some Republicans may seek his commitment to it before a speaker vote in January. We could see Trump playing this up. It would be a very slippery slope for McCarthy. Speaker Nancy Pelosi avoided this commitment in January 2019. Could McCarthy do the same four years later?
Let’s get this out of the way as well too: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is completely solid in his job and is expected to ascend to majority leader in a GOP-run House without any major challenge. Scalise, 56, has served as both majority and minority whip. He’s a strong fundraiser and a star in GOP circles.
2) What does Elise Stefanik do? New York Rep. Elise Stefanik has an enviable set of options. As of now, Stefanik is the House Republican Conference chair, and she’s been getting pretty high marks in that role from her colleagues. Stefanik has expressed interest in chairing the Education and Labor committee in a GOP majority. If Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) forgoes a run for House majority whip – we’ll get to that in a minute – that’s a post that Stefanik could seek. We don’t believe that she’ll run against McHenry since the two are close.
The 37-year-old Stefanik has a lot going on for her. She raises a ton of money. She’s a constant TV presence. She flipped her “North Country” district from blue to red when she first ran for office. She’s a woman in a party dominated by men – and the only woman in GOP leadership. And she’s led the charge in recruiting more women to run for Congress.
In other words, Stefanik has her pick of jobs. Most insiders believe that if McHenry runs for whip, Stefanik will remain as conference chair. Whatever Stefanik decides, she’ll be at the leadership table.
3) The big question: What does McHenry do? This is the biggest question right now in GOP leadership circles after McCarthy. Does the North Carolina Republican run for leadership or stay in a committee role?
While still only 46 years old, McHenry is already in his ninth term. McHenry started out in the House Republican Conference as a President George W. Bush era rabble-rouser. But he quickly got wise to the ways of the House and shifted to the leadership’s side.
McHenry became chief deputy whip to Steve Scalise in the previous House GOP majority, and he had an outsized role in the operation when the Louisiana Republican was shot in 2017. McHenry, who’s built a reputation as a savvy inside player, has raised and handed out tons of money. He’s been a top-five rainmaker inside the GOP Conference during the last few cycles.
McHenry is the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee and in line to be the panel’s chair in a GOP majority. That’s an attractive slot – with far fewer headaches than leadership. There are also a ton of hot issues under the panel’s jurisdiction, including the future of cryptocurrency and the digital economy.
McHenry’s mind on what post to seek isn’t made up yet. He seems torn between the two slots. He is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks. In many ways, McHenry’s entire congressional career has been building to a major leadership run, so we can’t really see how he passes this up. Plus, if you’re McCarthy, you want an experienced whip and McHenry is just that. Join us April 27 at 9 a.m. when Jake and Anna interview McHenry, where this is sure to come up. Register here.
There are some others aiming for the whip job too. Namely Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.), who is the chief deputy minority whip to Scalise right now. Ferguson has lots of contact with the rank-and-file through this post. And the criticism of McHenry is that his interactions throughout the conference are limited because he’s been enmeshed in committee work during the last few years, instead of being on a leadership track. We don’t buy those criticisms, for the most part, and would give a very hefty advantage to McHenry here – if he decides to do it.
4) Who will run the NRCC? The question over who will run the National Republican Congressional Committee is interesting. There are two frontrunners here: Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Darrin LaHood (R-Ill.). Both are quite well liked. LaHood raises a lot of money and has a lock on Chicago-area donors. But Hudson has some pretty big advantages himself. He’ll have strong backing from southern Republicans, a key voting bloc in any Republican leadership race. Plus, Hudson was chief of staff to two Texans in the House – former Rep. Mike Conaway and Rep. John Carter – so he’ll have an immediate advantage in the GOP-heavy Lone Star State.
The wild card here is Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.). Emmer has been atop the NRCC for two cycles. If Republicans win back the majority, Emmer could make a case that he deserves another term as NRCC chair.
But Emmer can also make a case to be McHenry’s chief deputy whip if the North Carolinian runs for leadership.
Our sources also tell us that Emmer would be interested in seeking the top slot on the Financial Services Committee if McHenry runs for whip, but that would be exceedingly difficult. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) is the frontrunner in that scenario for that committee slot, and behind him are Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.). Emmer could also be offered a slot at the table as chair of the leadership.
5) Who else wants a slot? A lot of lawmakers want into the leadership mix. We’re going to highlight a few here. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), the chair of the Republican Study Committee, is seen as angling for something. Banks could be a candidate for chief deputy whip if McHenry wins. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) wanted to be conference chair when Stefanik toppled GOP Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.). You will absolutely have some conservatives who want to be appointed to leadership positions because they can’t win a committee scramble.
6) The committees: There’s one more category for us to focus on here – committee chairs. There are a bunch of prime committee posts that are set. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) will run Energy and Commerce. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) will chair Appropriations.
But as we’ve reported a number of times, Ways and Means is a race between Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Jason Smith (R-Mo.) and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.). There will also be vigorous competition for the chair of the Budget Committee.
One more thing to mention: Republicans don’t seem likely to issue waivers to allow lawmakers atop committees to serve longer than term limits allow.
BTW: If Republicans don’t win the majority, all bets are off. In that case, the entire leadership will probably turn over.
Did we miss someone in the mix? Email Jake at jake [at] punchbowl [dot] news.
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FLASHING RED LIGHTS
A disastrous Q poll for Democrats and Joe Biden
Another day, another bad poll for Democrats. This time it’s courtesy of our friends in Hamden, Conn., at Quinnipiac University. Here’s the full poll.
→Biden is deep underwater. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings in this poll are just abysmal. Only 33% of adults overall approve of Biden’s job performance as president, while 54% disapprove. The “strongly disapprove” rate is 43%. Among Hispanics, just 26% approve. With whites, it’s 31%. With adults age 18-34, Biden is at 21% approve, 58% disapprove. Yeah, it’s bad.
→Biden’s disapprovals are relatively constant. In the January Q poll, Biden was at 33% approve, as well.
→Americans think the U.S. needs to do more on Ukraine. 68% of those polled say the U.S. has “moral responsibility to do more to stop the killing of civilians in Ukraine.”
As always, polls are just a snapshot of time. But this snapshot doesn’t look great. Not many of Biden’s snapshots have looked good this year.
46 ON THE ROAD
Biden to N.C. to talk innovation at HBCU
President Joe Biden is heading south today to Greensboro, N.C., to talk about the yet-to-be-passed Bipartisan Innovation Act – CHIPS, USICA, whatever you want to call it – at North Carolina A&T, the largest HBCU in the country.
Why Greensboro and North Carolina A&T? Here’s what the White House says.
Greensboro is an example of a regional manufacturing ecosystem that the President’s agenda seeks to build across America to create a globally competitive manufacturin industry that also expands the middle class. These ecosystems require the co-location [of] feedback loops between researchers and industry, public-private partnerships to produce an inclusive and skilled workforce, and a supply chain of small and medium sized manufacturers. The Bipartisan Innovation Act would offer the sustained funding places like Greensboro need to accelerate their ability to convert this potential into job creation and business growth.
Check out the memo the White House sent in advance of Biden’s travel.
The Bipartisan Innovation Act is one of the Biden administration and Congress’s top priorities following the Easter break. The House and Senate are slated to begin a bicameral negotiating committee to reconcile the chambers’ competing bills. This has traditionally been a bipartisan issue – the Senate passed the legislation with an impressive 68-32 vote last summer. But the issue has become more complicated in recent months, as the House passed a partisan package after a lengthy delay. We believe something will get done, since there are so many principals who want the package to become law. But it’s going to be a slog.
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→ CCIA, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, is running an $8-million national television campaign warning that Amazon Prime’s quick deliveries could end if the American Innovation and Choice Online Act is signed into law.
The legislation, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), is the obsession of tech companies, who are worried it will stifle or stop their businesses. It’s a complex piece of legislation that you should read about here. But, in sum, it gives the federal government the ability to go after tech companies for antitrust violations, such as pushing their own products over their competitors’.
The legislation is bipartisan, with Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) as the lead GOP sponsor. It passed the Judiciary Committee in January but still hasn’t gotten a vote on the Senate floor. The House Judiciary Committee passed a similar bill last year that’s stalled in that chamber as well.
The legislation would adversely impact Amazon Prime’s business, according to the CCIA.
“Tell your senators don’t break our prime,” the ad says.
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10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
10:40 a.m.: Biden will leave the White House for Andrews, where he’ll fly to Greensboro, N.C. He will arrive at 12:20 p.m. Karine Jean Pierre will brief aboard Air Force One.
1:05 p.m.: Biden will visit the Harold L. Martin Sr. Engineering Research and Innovation Complex.
2:15 p.m.: Biden will speak about his administration’s efforts “to rebuild supply chains and lay a foundation for an economic renewal that’s made in America through the Bipartisan Innovation Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law”
3:30 p.m.: Biden will leave Greensboro for Hagerstown, Md. He’ll then go to Camp David.
→ “Democrats Weigh Shake-Up to Presidential Primary Calendar,” by Katie Glueck
→ “The U.S. is considering sending a high-level official to Kyiv,” by Michael Shear
→ “Captured Ukrainian oligarch was a figure in the U.S. investigation into Russian electoral meddling,” by Andrew Kramer in Kyiv
→ “Moscow digs in for protracted fight as war stretches into 50th day,” by Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng and Bryan Pietsch
→ “Poland builds a border wall, even as it welcomes Ukrainian refugees,” by Chico Harlan and Piotr Zakowiecki
→ “Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Flagship Damaged, Evacuated After Ukraine Claims Missile Strike,” by Yaroslav Trofimov
→ “Russia Threatens Nuclear Buildup If Finland and Sweden Join NATO,” by Benjamin Harvey
→ “Thinking small: Biden scrounges for ways to break through,” by Chris Megerian and Zeke Miller
San Francisco Chronicle
→ “Colleagues worry Dianne Feinstein is now mentally unfit to serve, citing recent interactions,” by Tal Kopan and Joe Garofoli
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Blackstone focuses on investing in the sectors and themes with the greatest potential for growth. This means backing companies, like Bumble and Ancestry, that are advancing how we use technology to connect to one another. Blackstone is providing the leaders of these companies with the partnership and resources they need to accelerate their growth and reach their full potential.
Blackstone takes a long-term approach to investing because building successful, resilient businesses can lead to better returns for investors, stronger communities, and economic growth that works for everyone. Learn more.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
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