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Happy Friday morning.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s long-term strategy is this — he has no long-term strategy.
The California Republican has shown, to a remarkable degree, that his day-to-day, week-to-week style in running the House is to essentially push through — to just keep dancing — and deal with problems as they come. Get through today and worry about what happens next when it happens.
McCarthy won the speaker’s gavel in January after 15 grueling rounds of voting, granting a host of concessions to the conservatives in the process. These promises put McCarthy on a collision course with President Joe Biden and the Democrats over the debt limit, yet McCarthy had finally become speaker, his longtime goal.
McCarthy then cut a deal with Biden to set FY2024 spending levels in order to defuse the debt-limit crisis, only to reverse direction just weeks later when conservatives complained. The $100 billion-plus difference in spending levels could result in a government shutdown in the fall — but McCarthy will have to deal with it then.
Just this week, McCarthy derailed an attempt to impeach Biden by redirecting the effort to some House committees. Eventually that bill will come due; a huge chunk of House Republicans want to launch a quixotic effort to remove the president from office.
McCarthy is fully cognizant of the “Do-whatever-it-takes” dynamic — and he even seems to relish it. McCarthy has privately remarked to aides and reporters that he has to “keep on dancing.” On Thursday, McCarthy exited the House floor saying that he got through another week.
When we remarked to McCarthy that his approach to governing seemed to be just keep moving, he said this:
“But the scenario is every week, you build on the next week. So it gives you guys news. In the beginning of the week, you think something’s going to fail and then we survive and we make it to the next week.”
“Live to fight another day?” McCarthy was asked.
“That’s right,” McCarthy said. “Never give up.”
All party leaders on the Hill need the ability to keep moving. And they must lack a conscience in certain ways, too. The secret of congressional deal making is that today’s friend is tomorrow’s foe and vice versa. This year’s principled stand may be completely changed next year, depending on whether one is in the majority or minority.
But the criticism of McCarthy has always been that he lacks a clear ideological agenda. He’s broadly conservative, of course, but McCarthy isn’t wed to any specific legislative goals. This is particularly the complaint from the House Freedom Caucus and other conservatives. They see McCarthy as more interested in power than principle. It was the reason behind the recent floor rebellion by conservatives.
McCarthy, for his part, believes he’s constantly been underestimated. He and his allies repeat this word over and over again in describing the California Republican. His frequent refrain: No one believed he’d recover from being denied the speakership in 2015. No one thought he’d lead Republicans to the majority in 2022. No one thought he’d actually win the floor fight to become speaker. No one thought he could get a debt-limit deal with Biden. And no one believes he’ll be able to keep all the balls in the air for the entire 118th Congress.
“Every time I walk out, you tell me … ‘Are you going to get the bill? Are you going to be thrown out?’” McCarthy told reporters gathered outside of his office once during the debt-limit fight. “I kind of like it. You guys are worried every day.”
Also today in McCarthy world: McCarthy and NRCC Chair Richard Hudson will hand out more than $6 million in checks to the GOP’s targeted members.
McCarthy is contributing $3.7 million to the effort, while another $2 million is from member-to-member contributions, which were collected by the entire leadership.
McCarthy has transferred $13.5 million to the NRCC during the last six months and $8.5 million to members.
Over this recess, McCarthy will be in 15 cities in 14 days. He’ll start in New Jersey and New York this weekend, before spending all of next week in Ohio for political and official events.
— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
One more thing: We’re growing our Punchbowl News Canvass community! Our flagship anonymous survey, The Canvass, provides insights each month from top Capitol Hill staffers and K Street leaders on key issues facing Washington. Sign up here if you work on K Street. And click here to sign up if you’re a senior congressional staffer.
PRESENTED BY THE ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION
Why Is Medicare Access Only Restricted for Alzheimer’s?
Breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s research have led to new FDA-approved treatments. But, for the first time ever, CMS blocked Medicare coverage to these treatments costing patients with a terminal disease time they will never get back. Now CMS insists on imposing unprecedented, unclear and unnecessary restrictions for coverage that are not required for any other FDA-approved drug. Medicare must be fair to those with Alzheimer’s.
MESSAGING, MESSAGING, MESSAGING
Inside the latest DCCC poll: 3-point deficit on the generic
The latest DCCC battleground poll conducted in June has Democrats down three points on the generic ballot, according to several sources who saw the data this week.
While that number is still within the margin of error, it’s certainly not where some in the Democratic Party expected to be given the GOP dysfunction that’s played out since Republicans took over in the House in January.
But several House Democrats insist they left a DCCC presentation this week upbeat. Democratic actions to address the U.S. economy poll well, despite low public confidence in economic conditions overall. And highlighting what Democrats characterize as Republican extremism — such as banning access to abortion — also polled well among battleground voters.
The DCCC polled the House battleground map — Frontline Democratic districts as well as Republican districts that lean blue and top GOP targets this cycle.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who serves as the newly created Battleground Leadership Representative for House Democrats, maintained that Democrats are “in a good place” more than 16 months out from the 2024 election.
“In my district, people are talking about the jobs that these bills are bringing,” Spanberger told us. “We’re focused on things that matter to people, which is not the drama of the past couple of weeks.”
The latest data comes as Democrats are just five seats away from winning the majority. The party significantly overperformed all expectations last cycle by relying on a mix of messaging that focused on legislative achievements, the Jan. 6 insurrection and abortion, depending on the district.
The question now is if they can replicate that success in 2024, two years after the party’s key legislative priorities were enacted? And can they then do so in a presidential election year with Joe Biden deep underwater in the polls?
Many of the policies from Democrats’ marquee legislative achievements, including the bipartisan infrastructure law, the CHIPS bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, will be implemented over the next several years. Democrats say this works to their advantage, especially when little is likely to get done this Congress with divided control.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who’s not been shy about critiquing Democratic messaging, said the key is talking “about the actual material changes that we’ve implemented,” citing the $35 cap on insulin for Medicare participants.
The DCCC poll found that the CHIPS Act and capping insulin costs at $35 a month were the top two winning issues, according to several members who attended the presentation Wednesday.
When respondents were asked about their feelings on the CHIPS Act — framed as bringing semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States and reducing production delays — 49% said it made them view Democrats much more favorably.
And Democrats see the popularity of capping insulin costs — which came about in the Inflation Reduction Act — as a campaign trail asset given Republicans uniformly opposed this policy.
Even with the latest data, several Frontline Democrats we talked to said they’re going to run on their own message and expressed skepticism at polling.
“We won our race to get here by focusing on two things: women’s rights and MAGA extremism,” Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.) said.
“We’re going to talk about all the stuff we’ve accomplished,” Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.), another Frontline member, told us. “The IRA investments that are happening in the economy, people are earning more money, people are back to work. The economy in Las Vegas is booming. And that’s a reminder of the policies that we enacted.”
Overall, Democrats we spoke to weren’t concerned about the generic ballot gap.
“Polls come and go all the time,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). “I think I’d feel more concerned about it if I wasn’t a witness to what this Republican majority is doing right now.”
Nickel noted how named incumbent Democrats generally perform better, including in this latest DCCC poll.
“I’ve seen other sort of similar polling where they have generic ballots that are pretty close,” Nickel told us. “But as soon as you start naming your Frontline district incumbents, folks feel very differently because they know we have people like me who are here to be a different kind of Democrat and are focused on working across the aisle and solving problems.”
But there’s also a healthy dose of skepticism from Democrats who’ve seen polling miss the mark in recent years.
“It’s not personal to DCCC, I just think a lot of this polling is always taken with a grain of salt,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Especially the last two cycles, where we have seen that polling was not always most tightly correlated with what we experienced in the election.”
— Max Cohen and Heather Caygle
BIDEN BOOM? BIDEN BOOM!
White House circulates ‘Bidenomics’ pitch deck to Hill allies
News: The White House is urging congressional Democrats to tout the Biden administration’s economic achievements heading into the Fourth of July recess, pointing to job gains, cooling inflation and inbound infrastructure investments.
Read the deck circulated among Hill Democrats this week.
Voters haven’t bought into Bidenomics quite yet. But Democrats see some political runway here, and this is the latest sign the party is trying to embrace the unpredictable-but-pretty-good economy heading into 2024.
The White House points, first and foremost, to the strength of the labor market, saying the president’s economic agenda “brought the unemployment rate below 4% four years before experts projected and kept it there for the longest period in more than 50 years.”
One chart said Americans’ job satisfaction “is at the highest level in decades,” pointing to historical data from the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey. The White House also argued the U.S. economy is now experiencing lower inflation than its peers.
The document also packages a couple of attack lines tailored toward House Republicans, pointing to GOP plans to “enact massive tax cuts” for the richest Americans and targeting social spending programs like Medicaid for cuts.
— Brendan Pedersen
PRESENTED BY THE ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION
CMS is planning burdensome restrictions of Alzheimer’s treatments, only providing coverage through an unexplained registry — something Medicare has never before done for an FDA-approved drug.
We kicked off our second year of The Punch Up Thursday with The Social, a townhouse event in partnership with UnidosUS. We launched The Punch Up to address key societal issues by bringing together people from the private, government and nonprofit sectors to amplify and build upon the work that too often happens in silos. Thursday night exemplified this mission, as attendees heard from our CEO, Anna Palmer, and UnidosUS president and CEO, Janet Murguía, who spoke about Unidos’ new HOME initiative to increase Latino homeownership across the country.
Raising a glass: Courtney Cochran of the Office of Democratic Whip Katherine Clark; Brian Garcia of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Liam Forsythe of the Office of Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.); Cecilia Belzer and Valeria Ojeda-Avitia of the Office of Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.); Nairka Joe Treviño Müller of the Office of Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.); Taylor Griffin of Block; Amena Ross of Cash App; Jennifer Cummings of Business Roundtable; Ruben Barrales of Wells Fargo; Antonio Tijerino of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation; and Laura Arce of UnidosUS.
AND THERE’S MORE
New: The Service Employees International Union is up with a six-figure broadcast ad buy calling on Congress to back airport service workers with higher wages and better benefits.
The ad links air travel chaos with poor conditions for workers.
“Better, safer travel is possible, if we improve conditions for the people who keep airports running,” the ad’s narrator says.
The spot is running on cable news in the D.C. media market.
Toasting the Great Dane: Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the longest-serving House Democrat and former No. 2 in leadership, was the guest of honor at the Maryland Democratic Party’s annual gala Thursday night.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries headlined the event and President Joe Biden sent a video tribute toasting Hoyer’s long political career. The 84-year-old Hoyer was first elected to the Maryland State Senate in 1966. He won a House seat in May 1981.
“Steny Hoyer is a good man, a hard-working man, a family man, a well-educated man, a community man, a visionary man, a soon-to-be-newly-wed man…
“And certainly, above all else, a mighty, mighty, mighty Maryland man who has dedicated his life to improving the health, the safety, the economic well-being of the people of this great state.”
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, retiring Sen. Ben Cardin (D) — a longtime close Hoyer friend — Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) and other members of the state’s congressional delegation attended.
“I like politics because of what we can do, not to just be, but do. To make a difference in people’s lives. To make it better. To give it a greater quality. To respect every individual.”
It’s a big personal moment for Hoyer, who is also getting married this weekend. Mazel tov!
— Max Cohen and Heather Caygle
PRESENTED BY THE ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION
Why is Medicare access only restricted for Alzheimer’s drugs?
9:30 a.m.: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will hold a news conference with the Pro-Choice Caucus on the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision.
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
11:45 a.m.: Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet with Indian and American CEOs.
12:50 p.m.: Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a luncheon honoring Modi at the State Department.
3:45 p.m.: The Bidens, Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will leave the White House for the Mayflower for a political event with reproductive rights groups.
“With a Hand From the U.S. Military, Aid Finally Reaches a Syrian Camp,” by Raja Abdulrahim
“DeSantis Dodges Question on Endorsing Trump as 2024 Nominee,” by Nicholas Nehamas in North Augusta, S.C.
“TikTok Shakes Up Leadership Amid Questions About Its Future,” by Sapna Maheshwari
“New weapons, tactics further entangle U.S. in Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” by Shira Rubin in Tel Aviv
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images.
PRESENTED BY THE ALZHEIMER’S ASSOCIATION
Are Continued Restrictions for FDA-approved Alzheimer’s Treatments the Future of Medicare?
For people living with Alzheimer’s, Medicare hasn’t been the “rock solid guarantee” President Biden has promised. For more than a year, CMS has blocked Medicare coverage to FDA-approved Alzheimer’s treatments costing patients with a terminal disease time they will never get back. Now the agency is planning to continue unprecedented restrictions, saying they’ll provide coverage only through a registry — something Medicare has never before done for an FDA-approved drug. Yet with a deadline only weeks away, CMS has yet to explain the barriers patients will face or the steps doctors must take to prepare to deliver long-delayed treatment. Each day is crucial to someone living with early stage Alzheimer’s when it comes to slowing the progression of this disease. Medicare must do better for beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s.
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The Canvass Year-End Report
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