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Happy Wednesday morning.
The realities of the current House Republican Conference — and the knotty institutional issues facing the GOP leadership — are screaming back into full view this week, providing a neat encapsulation of what Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s team will need to contend with for the rest of the 118th Congress.
The GOP conference has once again devolved into nasty internecine conflict between hardline conservatives and everyone else. This split calls into question how Republicans can ever coalesce around their agenda or even whether they can govern at all over the coming six months.
This is all fallout from the endgame for the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and comes despite pleas from McCarthy to focus on the “next play” now that the debt-limit crisis has ended.
Here’s the rub: Hardliners are upset that McCarthy cut a debt-limit deal with President Joe Biden that Democrats supported. The bipartisan package didn’t include a host of Republican priorities — mostly because Biden and Democratic leaders would never accept those proposals.
So on Tuesday, conservatives took out their anger on the House floor, sinking a rule on some red-meat Republican messaging bills and briefly stripping control of the chamber from the leadership’s hands.
The right is also peeved at leadership — namely House Majority Leader Steve Scalise — over the schedule for taking up a resolution by Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) that would prevent the Biden administration from regulating pistol braces. Scalise had suggested that the House may have to wait for the Senate to act first on the issue. Some moderate Republicans were upset with Clyde over his vote against the rule on the Fiscal Responsibility Act and there was concern they could oppose his pistol-brace bill
Conservatives, however, suggested Clyde had been threatened by the leadership for his previous rule vote.
That’s not the only example of backlash against hardliners. In a closed House Republican Conference meeting Tuesday morning, Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) — the chair of the Rules Committee — and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) made comments about how procedural votes should be carried by the majority party. This was a not-so-tacit criticism of the group of a few dozen conservatives that attempted to thwart the party’s agenda on the debt-limit vote.
The anger was far more poignant last week on the House floor. Leadership-aligned lawmakers asked floor staff for paper print-outs of the rule vote on the Fiscal Responsibility Act so they could identify the 29 Republicans who abandoned the party on the procedural motion.
Think of the lofty goals this majority has. They want to pass all 12 FY2024 spending bills. They need to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They have a five-year farm bill to pass. They have to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration. All of these efforts will take compromise from Republicans and Democrats. And compromise on the debt limit is exactly what’s caused this strife.
Conservatives complain they got “rolled” on the debt-limit compromise — despite the fact that two-thirds of House Republicans voted for it. The REINS Act — legislation Republicans have recycled since 2011 that’s designed to loosen federal regulations — wasn’t included in the final compromise. And conservatives griped about what they consider to be $4 trillion in new spending in the bill, a reference to the price of hiking the debt limit until 2025.
“Kevin said to the press, they asked him ‘What do you think about this motion to vacate,’ and he said ‘Bring it,’” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said, referring to a comment McCarthy made to Punchbowl News. “How do you govern if you can’t pass a rule?”
McCarthy met with some of the conservatives — including House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Texas GOP Rep. Chip Roy and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) — Tuesday evening. Conservatives said the conversations were continuing. It’s unclear whether the leadership will be able to pass the rule for the gas stove bills today.
The facts don’t matter here. Whatever the right is peeved about now doesn’t really make much difference. Conservatives have shown here that they can screw up the leadership without trying to boot McCarthy out.
Politically, the majority of the majority isn’t enough: Whatever you think of McCarthy’s debt-limit deal last week, getting two-thirds of the House Republican Conference was a big feat. And it easily clears the conservatives’ standard that the majority of the majority should be necessary to bring bills to the floor.
But McCarthy’s slim, five-seat majority gives conservatives plenty of opportunities to make McCarthy, Scalise and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s lives miserable. The right has effective veto power over McCarthy’s ability to bring anything to the floor. And they showed that they are unafraid to use it — even if they agree with the underlying legislation.
Secret deals are no good: Conservatives keep screaming that McCarthy has violated several terms of the agreement he made when he became speaker. McCarthy and his allies say that’s not so. It would be great to know which side is not being truthful, but we’ll never know that because the deal they made was not committed to paper and is not public. This was a strategic error by both sides that will continue to be problematic.
Happening today: Actor Jennifer Garner will join House Democrats for their weekly whip meeting this morning. Garner will be talking about the importance of child care for all families, particularly those in rural areas, we’re told.
— Jake Sherman, Max Cohen, Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Mica Soellner
Tomorrow: Join us at 9 a.m. ET as Punchbowl News Founder and CEO Anna Palmer and Senior Congressional Reporter Andrew Desiderio discuss national security and foreign relations with Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Susan Collins (R-Maine). There’s still time to RSVP to join us in person or on the livestream!
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Senate Rs double down on defense funding boost after McCarthy says no
The clash between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Kevin McCarthy over Pentagon spending is only just beginning.
A day after McCarthy told us that he wouldn’t entertain efforts to circumvent the $886 billion defense cap mandated in the debt-limit bill, Senate Republicans — and some Democrats — took McConnell’s side in pushing for a funding package centering on Ukraine.
“We will fund [national defense] appropriately, or we will pay the consequences later on. And I think the speaker will probably recognize that,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), who helped broker an agreement last week for Senate leaders to back a supplemental defense funding bill.
McCarthy on Monday blasted Senate Republicans — including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) by name — for seeking to boost the defense spending cap that was agreed to during the debt-limit talks between the speaker and President Joe Biden. McCarthy said a supplemental funding package for the Pentagon “isn’t going anywhere” in the House.
This, of course, is a reflection of the declining support among House Republicans for any new Ukraine funding. The GOP remains bitterly divided over the issue, though Senate Republicans are generally more supportive of aid to Kyiv than their House counterparts.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who supports boosting the defense topline, predicted that the Biden administration has enough funding to make it through at least August or September — meaning “that’s a lot of time to educate members” about the need for another round of cash.
This includes making the case that the funds are being spent properly — a common criticism from conservatives — by pointing to ongoing inspector-general reviews and third-party audits.
“We’re going to have to have additional resources for [the Ukrainians],” said Tillis, who co-chairs the Senate NATO Observer Group. “We are going to — and I think we ultimately will — support them, but there’s work to be done.”
Without mentioning McCarthy, McConnell used his Senate floor speech Tuesday afternoon to once again make the case for more defense spending. The $886 billion figure, which matches Biden’s budget request, is “simply insufficient given the major challenges that our nation faces,” McConnell said.
McConnell also repeated his oft-stated argument that Biden has been too slow to provide the Ukrainian military with the weapons and equipment it needs to beat back the Russians.
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, indicated that they’ll support the White House if it asks Congress for supplemental funding for Ukraine and other defense needs. And they’re eager to point out the dissonance between McConnell and McCarthy.
“[McConnell] seems to be critical of Biden for not doing enough [on Ukraine],” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said. “So there’s a conflict in the messages coming from the two Republican leaders.”
The timeline here is key. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense, committed to a speedy process for his panel’s portion of the 12 annual spending bills.
“We’re going to go as damn fast as we can,” Tester said, naming September as an aspirational deadline. “The goal here should be to have the military get what they need to be able to do the job… The number isn’t as important to me as how it’s spent.”
Still, McCarthy is getting backup from some GOP senators, especially on his push to find more efficient ways to spend Pentagon funds.
“I think we’re going to need greater weight of investment. But I also think we need to identify new cost efficiencies within the Pentagon, which is something that the speaker emphasized,” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) told us.
But, Young added, there doesn’t yet appear to be “significant support” for this approach.
“If members are sufficiently motivated, we could save tons of cash and re-invest that in the success of our warfighters,” Young said.
— Andrew Desiderio
Su to face House grilling even as nomination is stalled in Senate
Julie Su, the acting secretary of Labor, will face an unusual situation today.
Su will testify in front of a House committee — where she’s going to be grilled by House Republicans — while the Democratic-run Senate remains hung up over her nomination to formally become Labor secretary.
The White House and top union leaders are trying to break the Senate impasse and get Su confirmed, but there hasn’t been any discernible movement yet.
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and other top union leaders sent a letter on Tuesday to all 51 Democratic senators imploring them to confirm Su, a former California state official. Unions have also begun running ads again in Arizona and Washington, D.C., praising Su.
A White House official said Jeff Zients, White House chief of staff, and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell have held repeated discussions with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other senators about the nomination. These conversations continued throughout the debt-limit crisis. Zients is in frequent contact with Su and labor union leaders, the White House official added.
Su has also met privately with a number of senators from both sides of the aisle in a bid to win their support. And former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who Su has been tapped to succeed, is also lobbying senators.
“Julie Su is a highly-qualified nominee for Labor Secretary,” said Emilie Simons, White House deputy press secretary.
“She has served as Secretary Marty Walsh’s partner and deputy at the US Department of Labor, California’s Labor Secretary and Commissioner, and she is a distinguished labor lawyer who protected workers against abuse in a number of high-profile cases. That’s why Julie was unanimously confirmed as Deputy Secretary of Labor by all Senate Democrats.”
Senate Republicans remain strongly opposed to Su’s nomination, as they were when President Joe Biden tapped her for deputy secretary in 2021. Republicans cite billions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment insurance payments made while Su ran the program during the Covid-19 pandemic. The controversy nearly derailed her nomination for deputy secretary. Su was confirmed by a 50-47 margin with three Republicans missing the vote.
Several moderates on the Democratic side — Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), as well as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) — haven’t said how they’ll vote yet. All three backed Su in 2021, but things are different now. They’re all up for reelection, and they all face potentially tough races. And having Su serve as deputy secretary under Walsh was an easier vote for these senators than backing her for secretary.
“Just trying to make sure she’s the right person… I’m still looking. Still taking input,” Tester told us on Tuesday. “Are we ever going to vote on her? I don’t know. I have no idea. I have not been playing in that sandbox at all.”
Manchin and Sinema declined to comment.
Some Su supporters have suggested that a moderate Senate Republican could vote for Su, which would be needed if Manchin and Sinema both vote no. There’s no sign of that happening either, however.
“I don’t know where her nomination is in the process,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who opposed Su’s nomination in the HELP Committee. “It seems to me it’s been stalled out for quite a while.”
Meanwhile, House Education and Workforce Committee Republicans are ready to bash Su as they conduct a Labor Department oversight hearing this morning.
Here’s Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the panel, in a statement about Su for the hearing today:
“Just look at her record of mismanagement as California’s Secretary of Labor: She lost $32 billion in taxpayer money to fraud and implemented legislation that devastated independent contractors.
“As Deputy Secretary of Labor, she has continued to put Big Labor interests over the rights of the American worker. Our economy does not need more of these same harmful policies on a national scale.”
— John Bresnahan and Andrew Desiderio
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As conservative House Republicans complain they got rolled in the debt-limit deal, the American Action Network — a Speaker Kevin McCarthy-linked group — is running an ad claiming that President Joe Biden was the one who actually got rolled. The ad quotes several progressives — including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Greg Casar (D-Texas) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — griping about the compromise.
— Jake Sherman
THE MONEY GAME
Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) is one popular member. Why do we say that? Just take a look at who’s showing up for her birthday reception on June 22 to benefit her congressional campaign.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is slated to go, along with GOP Reps. Mark Amodei (Nev.), Stephanie Bice (Okla.), Mike Garcia (Calif.), Andy Harris (Md.), Jake LaTurner (Kan.), Zach Nunn (Iowa), David Valadao (Calif.) and Steve Womack (Ark.).
Want to co-host? That’ll be $2,500 for PACs and $1,000 for individuals.
— Max Cohen
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How local trends can drive global opportunities.
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
12:15 p.m.: Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will have lunch.
1 p.m.: Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. … Karine Jean-Pierre will brief reporters.
2 p.m.: Senate leadership will speak after their party lunches.
3 p.m.: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will meet with Sunak.
News Analysis: “Grand Jury in Florida Hints at Unknown Complexities in Trump Documents Inquiry,” by Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Ben Protess
“New US Spy Satellites to Track Chinese, Russian Threats in Orbit,” by Anthony Capaccio
“Treasury’s $1 Trillion Debt Deluge Threatens Market Calm,” by Eric Wallerstein
“Pope Francis to undergo intestinal surgery under general anesthesia,” by Nicole Winfield in Rome
“New Orleans police didn’t test Cedric Richmond for DWI after single-car wreck into tree,” by Gordon Russell and Katie Moore
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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