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.
Happy Friday morning.
News: Shortly before a closed Democratic Caucus meeting on Thursday afternoon, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar hopped on the phone with top White House officials.
The trio’s message to Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, White House Counselor Steve Ricchetti, White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and Legislative Affairs Director Louisa Terrell was direct. It wasn’t acrimonious, but the message was very precise.
Democrats don’t like what they’ve heard about the emerging debt-limit and federal spending deal between President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. And that sense has been building within House Democratic ranks all week.
The leadership trio warned the White House that it can’t just assume 80 to 100 Democrats will back any Biden-McCarthy deal. Tougher work requirements for social-welfare programs is the most sensitive issue for many Democrats, with McCarthy continuing to press the White House to give in on this front.
“We’ve been exceedingly clear where we are depending on what’s in it,” said a senior Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Another aide said the deal is “shitty enough” that Democrats don’t feel compelled to back it and it’s not good enough for the GOP to bring 200 Republicans on board.
Andrew Bates, spokesperson for the White House, pushed back on the characterization of the call as “inaccurate.” Bates said it was more of a listening session, allowing White House negotiators to hear where House Democrats stood on outstanding issues.
“And our calls that have been about the overall direction of the deal, including this evening, have been positive,” Bates added.
Jeffries and Ricchetti — a top Biden aide — had another conversation on Thursday evening that was described by multiple sources as “cordial.” Ricchetti outlined the parameters of the negotiations as they currently stand and Jeffries reiterated the caucus’ values and the vote count, these sources said.
House Democrats want detailed information from the White House on how many votes McCarthy can deliver. Democrats especially are interested in whether the speaker can bring a majority of the 222 House Republicans with him. McCarthy believes he can, according to sources close to the California Republican.
The coalition McCarthy would have to assemble includes leadership-aligned GOP lawmakers, appropriators and defense hawks. But the challenge for McCarthy’s leadership team will be whipping this in a matter of days.
With a possible June 1 default deadline looming, the pace of negotiations between the White House and McCarthy’s team has accelerated. Yet this has also brought new pressure on negotiators from lawmakers on both the left and right.
Frustrations have been simmering for days within the Democratic Caucus, especially as more details on the emerging Biden-McCarthy package leak out.
Moderates, such as Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), have privately vented about making swing-seat Democrats vote for a deal that could cost them their races next year. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have come out forcefully against tougher work requirements. And progressive leaders have condemned spending cuts that could damage non-defense discretionary programs.
Jeffries sought to ease his members’ concerns during Thursday’s closed-door session.
“You can’t ask us to support an agreement we have a problem with. And the White House is strong in communicating that position,” Jeffries reassured the caucus in the closed session, according to sources in attendance.
But it was apparent that the normally unflappable Brooklyn Democrat was frustrated as well.
“We’ve asked the White House to ask the Republicans — how many votes do you plan on producing? What’s the number?” Jeffries continued in the meeting. “And we haven’t really gotten any clarity yet.”
Democrats have repeatedly decried the standoff as a “manufactured crisis” forced upon the country by McCarthy and House Republicans. Why should they have to vote for a deal they didn’t negotiate to solve a crisis that didn’t have to happen, Democrats argue.
At the center of this is Jeffries, the main conduit between the 212 members of his caucus and tight-lipped White House negotiators who are saying almost as little to Democrats in private as they are publicly.
For now, Jeffries is part bulldog, part therapist and part megaphone. A translator to a White House that doesn’t seem to fully understand the dynamics of the caucus he leads. A soother to anxious colleagues who worry they’ll be forced to swallow a deal they hate and had no negotiating influence over. And a counter to McCarthy and GOP negotiators’ daily press conferences while Biden and top White House aides stay silent.
Like Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar are also going through their first big legislative fight as top Democratic leaders. All three have spent the week talking non-stop to their rank-and-file, trying to get a detailed read on what members can support.
“I think we could benefit from the president and from folks at the White House really helping and joining us and amplifying that message,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). “But right now, I do think that this is a team sport and Democrats in Congress have been very, very aggressive about being out here and making our case.”
— John Bresnahan, Heather Caygle, Max Cohen and Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
How can families create positive Instagram experiences together?
Family Center supervision tools allow parents to view who their teen follows and who follows them, manage daily time limits and be notified when their teen shares reported accounts, once Supervision is set up.
Deal or no deal? It’s crunch time on the debt limit
Top House Republican negotiators left the Capitol Thursday evening without a deal in hand, complaining that it was proving difficult to clinch a deal with the White House on new work requirements for social-welfare programs.
Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), one of Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s top negotiators, told reporters Thursday night in the Capitol that negotiations were going “slow.” Here’s the video from CNN’s Haley Talbot.
“The White House continues to prioritize paying people to not work over paying Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits,” Graves said, repeating an often-cited criticism of opponents to work requirements.
Work requirements and permitting reform remain sticking points in the negotiations.
The NYT wrote about a few new details of the emerging accord Thursday evening. As we reported, the debt limit would be lifted for two years with spending caps for the same period of time. Defense and veterans spending would be set at the levels that Biden proposed in his FY2024 spending blueprint.
The agreement, which isn’t yet finished, will also include a mechanism to incentivize Congress to pass all 12 annual spending bills.
Remember: All of these details are subject to change based on Republicans’ ability to enact work requirements and permitting reform — and whether Democrats will agree to this. McCarthy has described the inclusion of work requirements as a red line for him.
Now let’s get to timing. The White House and House Republicans truly need to come to an agreement today or, at the latest Saturday, in order to hold a vote on the House floor by Wednesday. And the Senate still needs to take up any package, which could take several more days at a minimum.
GOP leaders expect that it will take one to two days to turn any agreement into legislative text.
“Whenever you’re able to get to an agreement, you got to make sure you print it, post it, then you got three days before you vote,” McCarthy said Thursday night as he left the Capitol. “We’ve got time, we’re going to get this done.”
Given the sensitivities, House Republican leadership is likely to hold the vote on the deal after the stock market closes, sources told us.
McCarthy is remaining in D.C. for the weekend.
— Jake Sherman
Outside Dem group tries to invalidate IRS whistleblower
The IRS whistleblower who claims the probe of Hunter Biden was purposely slow-walked at President Joe Biden’s direction will testify behind closed doors before the House Ways and Means Committee today. But as GOP groups play up the allegations, the White House and Hill Democrats have largely been silent on the issue to avoid appearing like they’re interfering with an ongoing investigation.
Facts First USA — a left-wing group helmed by David Brock — is attempting to fill the vacuum. The group is portraying the IRS whistleblower as a partisan who’s represented by a hard-right Republican advocacy group.
Gary Shapley, who’s worked at the IRS for 14 years, publicly came forward during a Wednesday CBS interview to accuse the Justice Department of interfering with a case he was involved in. The IRS has been investigating Hunter Biden for allegedly failure to pay millions of dollars in taxes.
Shapley is working with Empower Oversight, a right-wing group that also has helped two FBI whistleblowers who appeared before the House Weaponization select subcommittee.
In a statement, Brock ripped Empower Oversight as “so extreme, one of their founders was writing xenophobic and bigoted blog posts while working for [Sen. Chuck] Grassley.”
Brock is referring to Jason Foster, who worked under Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee and wrote Islamophobic and homophobic blog posts using an internet alias. When ProPublica reported on Foster’s controversial comments in 2018, Foster apologized and said his writings were “stupid and wrong.”
Foster is now the founder of Empower Oversight. Here’s a 21-page research document compiled by Facts First USA dinging Empower Oversight as a “conservative conspiracy machine.”
Democratic groups have used similar tactics when pushing back against Republican witnesses this Congress. House Judiciary Committee Democrats released a lengthy report in March trying to invalidate whistleblowers that appeared before Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) panel.
— Max Cohen
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
THE MONEY GAME
Do you have Memorial Day plans? Nah, we didn’t think so. Do you want to spend thousands of dollars to hang out with members of Congress? OK, great. We have some options for you.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) will be at his BRIDGE PAC Charleston fundraiser this weekend. That will cost you a cool $5,000.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) is hosting a weekend in honor of his 30th anniversary of getting elected to Congress. Admission is anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. This is at the Holiday Inn Newport News-Hampton.
— Jake Sherman
8:30 a.m.: The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis will release the April PCE data.
9:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
2 p.m.: The Bidens and Vice President Kamala Harris will host the LSU women’s basketball team, which won the national championship this year.
5 p.m.: The Bidens will host the UConn Huskies men’s basketball team, which dominated the NCAA Tournament this year.
6:30 p.m.: The Bidens will leave the White House for Camp David.
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
“Menendez Investigation Is Said to Involve Questions About Luxury Gifts,” by Tracey Tully and William K. Rashbaum
“Municipal Bond Issuers on Edge as Debt Ceiling Deadline Nears,” by Brenda León and Heather Gillers
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY INSTAGRAM
How can parents help teens manage the time they spend on Instagram?
Once Supervision is set up, parents can use daily time limits to manage the amount of time their teen spends on Instagram every day.
As a result, teens can be more intentional about the time they spend online.
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 Year-End Report
And what senior aides and downtown figures believe will happen in 2023.Check it out