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Happy Friday morning.
From Joe Manchin to Dianne Feinstein, a treacherous 2024 Senate map and high-profile nominations teetering or being withdrawn, it’s been far from smooth sailing for Chuck Schumer during the 118th Congress.
The Senate majority leader is caught in the middle of cascading crises as he navigates Manchin’s warpath, Feinstein’s prolonged absence, President Joe Biden’s pivot to reelection mode and a debt-limit conundrum that’s far from being solved.
Schumer says he’s fine with it all — or, in his words, he “relishes” it. He’s more than happy to let Manchin do whatever is needed to get reelected. The New York Democrat insists that Feinstein’s absence won’t stymie his majority’s historic pace of judicial confirmations. And he’s leaning hard into a debt-limit faceoff with Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
“He’s stuck,” Schumer told us of McCarthy during an interview Thursday in his Capitol office. “How is he going to negotiate when he’s promised everyone he’s not going to change the bill? … His passing a bill was a step backward and brought us closer to default.”
A source close to McCarthy said the speaker didn’t promise not to alter the House GOP-leadership’s new debt-limit package during any negotiations.
In many ways, this year was supposed to be a little bit easier for Schumer with a 51-49 majority, as opposed to the unprecedented 50-50 Senate split of the last Congress. But 2023 has already brought unexpected challenges for the New York Democrat, forcing the majority leader to adapt.
Feinstein’s absence has been top-of-mind for Schumer and Senate Democrats, who are desperate to continue their record rate of confirming Biden’s judicial nominees to the federal bench. Schumer acknowledged that “We’ve had a little setback with Dianne,” but vowed that Democrats will maintain their pace even as he’s unsure when Feinstein might return.
“It may later [slow], but right now there are enough votes that we can win,” Schumer added. “What happens is, when there’s a new situation, you adjust to it. And that’s what we’ve done.”
What’s new this time is that Democrats aren’t able to do much legislatively with a GOP-controlled House. And they’ve had to deal with near-constant Republican-led votes to overturn Biden administration policies. Nominees for top-level posts are seemingly always in trouble, too, so senators are frustrated at what often feels like a glacial pace.
“I spent most of my career traveling at 17,000 miles per hour, not at the pace of the United States Senate,” said Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), a former astronaut and Navy pilot. “It’s a different kind of pace. We’ve got a lot of issues out there we’re facing right now.”
A major focus for Schumer is bolstering his most vulnerable members, whom he calls the “Big Six.” Schumer wants to ensure that these Democratic senators are benefitting from the bipartisan victories of the 117th Congress — particularly the $1 trillion-plus infrastructure law.
That includes visits from Cabinet secretaries, in coordination with the White House and new chief of staff Jeff Zients.
“[Schumer] understands we all have different personal priorities and our states’ politics are different. He does as good a job as any to solicit that, understand it, and find paths that work for people,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who’s up for reelection in 2024. “Two years of the 117th Congress with a 50-50 Senate and people frequently out with Covid, the narrowest majority possible… It really tested Chuck.”
Here’s how Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) views the new dynamic:
“We got to experience a high degree of legislative success, and we won a bunch of elections. That’s all you can ask from your party’s president and your party’s leader. This is obviously a different problem. You can’t apply the same tools you did to working with Nancy Pelosi to Kevin McCarthy. But Schumer has shown the ability to adapt pretty well over the years.”
Despite the focus on implementation, Schumer previewed for us a significant forthcoming effort on what many believe to be the most important issue of this century — the myriad economic and national-security challenges from China.
Schumer has tasked his committee chairs with finding a bipartisan path to a comprehensive China bill that he hopes to roll out over the summer. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), said he plans to resurrect the Strategic Competition Act with his GOP counterpart Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho.
“There was a lot that was left on the table that was already agreed to. A lot of that will be revisited. Some new elements, how do we continue to support Taiwan. And how do we beef up our foreign diplomacy,” Menendez told us. “It’s going to be a multi-dimensional bill.”
— Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
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THE HOUSE MAJORITY
Vulnerable Republicans prepare for campaign squeeze
During the mad dash to pass the House GOP leadership’s debt-limit proposal, we heard plenty from angry Midwesterners and conservative hardliners. But it’s the 18 Republicans in districts won by President Joe Biden who are most likely to suffer political fallout.
The GOP’s most vulnerable incumbents have already had to take several tough votes just four months into the new House Republican majority. They’ve delivered crucial support for a GOP proposal curbing transgender athletes’ rights, an education bill that leans into culture wars and an energy package that targets the Biden administration’s climate policies.
And on Wednesday, all 18 vulnerable Republicans voted for the leadership’s debt-limit bill. The package calls for more stringent work requirements for federal assistance programs, slashes non-defense discretionary spending and blocks Biden’s student loan relief program.
With a partisan immigration bill coming to the floor in May, GOP frontliners face another difficult choice: Help Speaker Kevin McCarthy pass legislation with a five-seat majority while getting hammered by Democrats, or risk getting ostracized by Republicans for bucking the party line.
Yet there’s no sign of mass discontent from the Biden-district members.
“That’s always a concern,” said Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), when asked about feeling squeezed by leadership to take contentious votes.
In conversations with a dozen Biden-district Republicans, we found the endangered incumbents sticking right by leadership — much to the delight of House Democrats. Some are already prepping for the onslaught of Democratic campaign ads claiming they want to target popular federal programs including entitlements like Medicare and Social Security.
“I’ve spent a decade talking about Social Security and Medicare,” Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) said. “I have a district that’s had millions and millions spent on me and from people attacking me about these subjects.”
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said he believes in the social safety net “more than anything.” Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) said it’s important for Republicans to protect “important programs like Social Security, Medicare, defense and the VA.”
McCarthy has pledged to leave Social Security and Medicare alone. But the Limit, Save, Grow Act could lead to a cut in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Democrats are already pouncing on other potentially dramatic spending reductions across federal agencies.
A House Majority Forward ad has begun running in New York saying Republicans want to “wildly slash” funding for “education, clean air and water and even cancer research.”
“Instead of standing up to the MAGA extremists running their party, vulnerable Republicans have enthusiastically embraced unpopular and dangerously extreme policies every single day they’ve been in office,” DCCC spokesperson Tommy Garcia said.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said GOP frontliners have been invited to the table to discuss every bill that Republicans have taken up so far. He also described vulnerable Republicans as “tough” lawmakers who know how to explain these issues to their constituents.
“What I find on any difficult issue, the most important thing a member can do is go back home and talk about it, and let their constituents know what we’re doing up here,” Scalise said. “Usually they don’t know all the details of what we’re doing up here. So it’s really on the members to educate their constituents.”
Reps. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) and Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) all told us they plan to localize their reelection races. Bacon said the GOP agenda is in line with the concerns he hears from his district about the U.S.-Mexico border and inflation.
Rep. Juan Ciscomani’s (R-Ariz.) office went further, hitting Democrats for seeking to create a “false, dishonest narrative” around him and other members over his stances on entitlements.
As we’ve reported before, the 18 Biden-district Republicans are in a unique political situation. Many have successfully ran ahead of the top of the GOP ticket in past elections, but they’re still wary of creating any distance between themselves and former President Donald Trump in 2024.
— Mica Soellner and Max Cohen
Virginians hate the idea of expanding long-haul flights into DCA
That was quick.
Delta’s push to expand the number of long-haul domestic flights into Washington Reagan National Airport has run into a wall of opposition — key lawmakers from Virginia and the airports themselves.
The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority — which operates Reagan and Dulles — said it’s opposed to further relaxing the 1,250-mile perimeter restrictions at DCA.
Virginia’s Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine also issued a joint statement Thursday, calling the idea wrong-headed and saying DCA is ill-prepared for more traffic. A coalition backed by Delta is pushing Congress to allow more non-perimeter restricted flights into Reagan as part of the FAA reauthorization later this year.
Northern Virginia Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat whose district includes Reagan, said:
“Killing the perimeter slot rule would seriously worsen aircraft noise in the National Capital region, a particularly unfortunate development so soon after the actions we announced with the FAA and regional leaders earlier this week to reduce helicopter noise. It would also increase congestion and delays, and cut service to airports in other cities with smaller markets. And with the opening of expanded service to Dulles on Metro’s Silver Line, such a change makes even less sense than it did when Congress previously rejected this idea.”
And this is new: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who represents the district next to Dulles, is also opposed:
“Further crowding, longer lines, and more delays at National Airport at the expense of Dulles is not good for passenger safety, the customer experience, or our regional economy. Unfortunately, that does not stop the airlines or Members of Congress who want direct flights home from attacking the slot and perimeter rules at National every chance they get.
To review: Most flights out of DCA have to be within a 1,250-mile radius of the airport. Congress has gradually allowed longer flights from Reagan. Delta, which is expanding at DCA, serves Los Angeles and Salt Lake City outside the perimeter. They would, perhaps, add additional service to those cities in addition to Seattle and San Diego.
Fortunately for Delta, they have Jeff Miller, a close friend of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as their lobbyist. And while the Virginia delegation has a major say in this matter, it will be up to Congress as a whole to decide what ends up in any FAA reauthorization bill.
United, whose hub is at Dulles, and American, whose hub is at DCA, will be watching this closely.
– Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
Russia steps up missile, drone attacks on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities
Russia launched missile attacks on Kyiv for the first time in weeks, and other Ukrainian cities reported mass casualties in the latest wave of strikes.
This is the first Russian strike on the Ukrainian capital since early March.
“Eleven missiles and two drones were shot down over Kyiv, the city’s administration said,” the Washington Post reported. There were mass casualties from a Russian missile attack in the central Ukrainian city of Uman.
The renewed Russian air attacks come as both sides prepare for large-scale fighting this summer. A widely-rumored Ukrainian counter-offensive has yet to get under way, despite heavy anticipation in Moscow and Western capitals.
Congress is going to have to wrestle with sending more military and economic aid to Ukraine later this year. Some House Republicans have soured on funding the Ukrainian war effort, although the White House and Democratic congressional leaders staunchly back the embattled U.S. ally.
– John Bresnahan
10:30 a.m.: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will hold his weekly news conference.
11:15 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
2:30 p.m.: Biden will present the Commander-in-Chief trophy to the Air Force Falcons.
4:50 p.m.: The Bidens will leave the White House for the Salamander D.C. Hotel, where they will attend a private reception for the DNC.
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
“After Stumbles at Home, DeSantis Heads Abroad to Find His Footing,” by Jonathan Weisman in Chicago, Patrick Kingsley in Jerusalem and Nicholas Nehamas in Miami
“Conservative dissenters block abortion limits in Nebraska, South Carolina,” by Brittany Shammas, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Rachel Roubein and Caroline Kitchener
“Congress’ anger at FBI shapes surveillance program’s future,” by Nomaan Merchant and Eric Tucker
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
How can parents view who their teen follows on Instagram?
Once Supervision is set up, parents can view who their teen follows and who follows them.
With these tools, parents can work together with their teens to create a positive experience on Instagram.
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