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Happy Wednesday morning.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team are facing an uproar from within the Democratic Caucus over plans to bring a package of police funding and gun control bills to the floor this week.
The plan is in jeopardy as leadership struggles to unify rank-and-file House Democrats. Different factions within the caucus are jockeying for leverage as the House prepares to leave town for a scheduled six-week recess.
House Democrats will meet at 9 a.m. to continue to discuss the situation. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet twice this afternoon. First, at 1 p.m., the panel will take up an assault weapons ban authored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.)., as well as a bill by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to remove civil liability protections for gun manufacturers. The panel then reconvenes at 2 p.m. to consider a package of police funding bills, as we have detailed.
Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and other senior Democrats had hoped to combine a rule on the gun control and police funding bills in order to corral enough votes to move ahead on both fronts. But right now, it’s unclear if Democratic leaders can pass any of these bills – much less a rule.
The internal Democratic Caucus dynamics at play here are complex, interwoven and, most importantly, very, very fluid. And remember – looming behind all of this is the midterm election, now just over 100 days away.
Let’s break things down:
The Congressional Black Caucus: The CBC held an emergency meeting Tuesday night following a long series of House votes. The CBC is upset over Democratic leadership’s efforts to pair the police funding measures — some of which haven’t gone through any committee – with the assault weapons ban. Black lawmakers want to see accountability language – similar to what was included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act – included in the package before they agree to move forward.
“We support safer communities for everyone,” CBC Chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) told us after the 90-minute meeting. “We believe that there needs to be accountability for public safety. That includes law enforcement.”
There’s been discussion over whether the CBC will offer an amendment at the Rules Committee seeking to add accountability language to the police funding bills. Beatty said the CBC hasn’t decided whether to take this step yet. It’s clear the group wants to keep its options open.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus: The CPC executive board held its own meeting last night. Similar to the CBC, progressives are supportive of some of the bills being considered, including the assault weapons ban, eliminating gunmaker civil liability, violence intervention, training mental health responders and addressing the unsolved homicide backlog.
But the CPC’s members have balked at a pair of bipartisan bills from Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) to provide additional funding for police departments.
Here’s Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the CPC chair:
“We want to act on public safety bills that unify the caucus and would like to move forward on the bills that have broad support in the Dem caucus, including [Rep.] Katie Porter’s bill, Steve Horsford, Val Demings, etc.
“For the other bills to move forward, people feel strongly that there needs to be strong accountability language before [members] would look at them.
“There is some time to figure those things out, but for now, we are supportive of moving the assault weapons ban and the Schiff bill separately, and any bills that have broad support of the entire caucus (such as Horsford, Demings, Porter bills) this week.”
Remember that Jayapal negotiated with Gottheimer last year to allow the $1 trillion infrastructure bill through. Jayapal and progressives gave Gottheimer and moderates that bill, and got nothing when it came to Build Back Better.
Moderates: Frontline Democrats, led by Gottheimer, have been pressing leadership for months to bring their package of police and anti-crime bills up for a vote. These Frontliners want to rebut GOP attacks that Democrats are soft on crime and/or seeking to “defund the police,” political jabs that were successful for Republicans in 2020. And some moderates have signaled they could oppose a rule for the assault weapons ban if their policing package doesn’t get a vote this week.
Leadership: Pelosi and party leaders want two things – to give their moderates a big political win heading into a critical August campaign stretch while also ensuring they pass the assault weapons ban.
We asked House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn whether Democrats had enough votes to pass a police funding package right now.
“I wouldn’t think so from what I’ve heard, but we haven’t whipped, so I don’t know,” Clyburn said.
Top Democrats are hoping they can reach an agreement on accountability language that would bring the CBC on board. In private leadership meetings Tuesday, Pelosi read from a memo written by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on roughly a dozen potential changes to put guardrails around the policing grants.
But there’s also the issue of the CPC and whether progressives might try to take down the rule over their opposition to the police funding package. Pelosi explicitly cautioned members about threatening to vote against the rule during Tuesday night’s meeting, warning of far reaching consequences.
“When members say they don’t like the provision of this bill, they can take down the assault weapons ban, I don’t think they want to do that,” Pelosi told Democrats, according to sources in the room.
In summary, Democratic leaders are short on time and long on problems. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) summed it up best last night: “After a great deal of deliberations, we have decided that we need to engage in further deliberations.”
We’ll be covering this closely throughout the day, so stay tuned.
Happening today: The Senate will hold a vote on final passage of the $280 billion CHIPS Plus bill around 11:30 a.m. Sixty-four senators voted for cloture Tuesday, so there’s no question this legislation will pass. It’s a major victory for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has been pushing this legislation for nearly 18 months.
The New Dem Coalition will hear from National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan today on the CHIPS Plus package during the group’s weekly lunch.
The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates today by 75 basis points. The Federal Open Market Committee will make an announcement at 2 p.m., followed by a press conference by Fed Chair Jay Powell. This is the biggest economic news of the week, and there will be exhaustive analysis of what Powell says on inflation, a potential recession and the Fed’s path forward in the coming months.
– Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman
Today: Join us for a virtual conversation on building trust in technology. We’re talking to Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) at 9 a.m. ET about the importance of privacy and security in new and existing technologies. RSVP here!
PRESENTED BY META
The metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real
In the metaverse, surgical residents will be able to practice risky, complex cases over and over.
The result: improved training practices and better care for patients under even the most trying circumstances.
INSIDE THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
W.H. to House Dems: Don’t worry, be happy
When House Democratic chiefs of staff heard that they’d be getting a briefing from Louisa Terrell, the director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, at their weekly gathering Monday, they were hopeful.
Terrell comes to the Hill often, and these influential House Democratic aides – the real backbone of the caucus – expected the White House to have some positive news to share. This anxious group is keeping a wary eye out for the latest political developments as the midterms grow closer.
But Terrell’s presentation, delivered in the House basement Monday, was a complete bust, a half-dozen staffers who attended the meeting told us afterward.
With gas averaging $4.37 per gallon, Terrell said House Democratic chiefs of staff should have their bosses tout the fact that prices have fallen in recent weeks. No one is talking about that, Terrell insisted.
Several chiefs described her message as “weird,” “out of touch” and “landing like a lead balloon.”
Terrell also suggested House Democrats talk more about the bipartisan infrastructure law that President Joe Biden signed into law last November, or the American Rescue Plan, which became law in March 2021.
And Terrell said Biden would do more to tackle the climate crisis, but she didn’t offer specifics on what the president has in mind.
During her presentation, Terrell read from a list of talking points. She said the administration has made lots of progress and they’re excited to go into the August recess with momentum.
One bright spot for Democrats? Terrell mentioned how Cabinet members, particularly popular officials such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, plan to travel “extensively” in the coming weeks to talk up the administration’s agenda.
Most of the chiefs and leadership aides we spoke to didn’t agree with Terrell’s perspective or message. At all. One attendee put it this way, summing up the feeling from several of our sources: “What we got from the White House was boilerplate, a lecture and more bullshit about what Biden is going to do on climate with no specifics.”
Some sources reached out to us to say that the meeting was a standard briefing from the White House. Jamie Fleet, the staff director on the House Administration Committee, told us that the “presentation was a timely reminder of the shared successes of House Democrats and the administration.”
“It was also an opportunity to continue to partner to lift up this message to the American people during the August recess and [Terrell] suggested specific strategies to do just that,” Fleet said.
Here’s Vince Evans, the staff director for the Congressional Black Caucus:
“Louisa Terrell is doing a wonderful job in very difficult circumstances. What I heard her giving us was a roadmap on accomplishments that this president and the Congress have made over the last 18 months and encouraging members go back to their districts to tout those achievements.”
Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, sent us this statement:
“We were glad to have a good briefing underlining our shared economic accomplishments for the middle class and the contrast between the values behind our mainstream agenda – including cutting the costs of prescription drugs and fighting inflation – and the agenda of ultra MAGA congressional Republicans who want to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block and are obstructing our work against inflation.”
But let us set the scene here for a moment. House Democrats are a dejected bunch right now. The House has lost on many of its priorities in the CHIPS Plus bill. The reconciliation bill the Senate may take up next week – if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can muster 50 votes – represents just a fraction of what House Democrats voted for way back in November. Furthermore, House Democrats are being forced to swallow the Senate’s bill, on which they have no input.
And as we laid out above, the party is in a constant state of unrest, with progressives and moderates often bashing the other. The party is on the verge of losing the House and possibly the Senate. And Biden is a political piñata, with polls showing even a majority of Democrats don’t want him to run again.
Part of the House Democratic Caucus meeting this morning will be devoted to what the leadership suggests as ideal messaging over the August recess.
– Jake Sherman and Heather Caygle
INSIDE THE SENATE GOP
The Summer of John (Cornyn)
We at Punchbowl News have been focused intently on the burgeoning competition between the “Three Johns” – Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, John Thune of South Dakota and John Barrasso of Wyoming – in the slow-motion yet very real race to become the next Senate Republican leader whenever Mitch McConnell calls it quits. Which won’t be anytime soon.
It’s hard not to notice that Cornyn, the Texas Republican, has had a good couple of months.
First, Cornyn was intimately involved in negotiating a package of aid for Ukraine. President Joe Biden signed his Lend-Lease bill into law on May 9.
Then, Cornyn was the chief Republican negotiator on a landmark gun-control bill. Cornyn may have faced some criticism from gun rights groups, but he corralled GOP support and got the legislation to Biden’s desk.
Today, the Senate is set to clear the CHIPS Plus bill. Cornyn was one of the original authors of one of the predecessors of USICA, introducing a bill to boost domestic semiconductor funding in June of 2020 with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). Cornyn then took the lead with Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) on USICA. More than a year later, a slimmed down CHIPS bill is inching toward Biden’s desk.
“It’s been a long, strange trip,” Cornyn said, invoking the poets Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh and Robert Hunter, aka the Grateful Dead. “But it looks like we’re going to get there.”
There are two ways to view Cornyn’s recent success. His detractors will say that he may be sticking his neck out too far, getting crosswise with a hardline conservative swath of the Senate Republican Conference. Cornyn freely acknowledges that two of his big accomplishments – CHIPS and guns – came on issues that divided Republicans, and that could be a challenge in mounting a race for leader. But Cornyn supporters say that leaders lead. They find ways to solve thorny issues and move the party toward sometimes uncomfortable but necessary compromises.
Here’s how Cornyn put it to us:
“In a place that does not have very much trust, I hope that people view me as somebody they can trust. And if I can’t work with them, I can’t help them, I’ll tell them. But I’m interested in getting things accomplished.”
This gets us back to the ultimate question which we try to return to as frequently as possible: What does Cornyn want, and will deal-making help him get there? There’s no question in our mind that he wants to be GOP leader – as do Thune and Barrasso. Cornyn – a former NRSC chair – raises a ton of money, comes from a reliably red state and has policy and political depth. He checks all the boxes on the leadership resume requirements.
But even Cornyn acknowledges that it’s more complex than that.
We asked Cornyn if his successful summer helps him move toward the leader slot. “Depends what people are looking for,” Cornyn responded. In other words, will Senate Republicans want a bomb thrower or someone who can tiptoe on narrow political ground?
More from Cornyn:
“There’s a strange phenomenon around here. People will tell you, ‘Great job on that… I can’t vote for it, but great job.’ I get that everybody’s got their own politics and their own point of view. But I think my record demonstrates that I am interested in getting things done around here and fortunately, I’ve been here long enough and have an outstanding staff that helps me do that.”
None of this is to say that Cornyn is the top of the Three Johns. Both Thune and Barrasso have significant upside as well. Thune is the current GOP whip and has broad appeal within the GOP conference. Barrasso is seen as the most unflinchingly conservative of the three. But Cornyn has clearly used this summer to make a mark as a legislative workhorse.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who, like Cornyn, is close to McConnell, put it this way:
“John’s a good Republican. He is a strong believer in our philosophy. But he’s also willing to reach out to work with others to get things done. It’s one thing to espouse the Republican philosophy. It’s another thing to actually get things done to help the people of Texas and the people of America and he’s chosen to focus on finding areas of common ground and getting things done.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the Democratic lead on the gun-control package, said that when he presides over the Senate every Tuesday between 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Cornyn is on the floor “eviscerating Democrats and the president over some particular policy.” Murphy dubbed Cornyn one of the party’s most effective messengers. So when Cornyn says that he sees a “narrow area of agreement” with Democrats, that has credibility, Murphy said.
The ultimate question all of this leads to is this: Does dealmaking still matter in the Senate? And the answer to that is yes and no. There are obviously far fewer deals to be had then there were 30 years ago. But Senate leaders still have to find bipartisan agreement on legislative items ranging from government funding to the debt limit to political emergencies, such as gun control in the wake of several horrific mass shootings that stunned the nation. On this, Cornyn is proving adept. Here’s Cornyn:
“McConnell said one time there’s 100 former class presidents in the Senate. We get a lot of sharp elbows and people have different ambitions and different tracks. I’m not running for president. I’m going to end my career here in the Senate. And so I want to make the most of that.”
– Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY META
New: Arizona GOP Senate hopeful Blake Masters told a group of Arizona Republicans earlier this month that he’d tell Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell personally that his failure to pass more of Donald Trump’s “America First agenda” was “unforgivable.”
Masters, of course, has been endorsed by Trump ahead of the Aug. 2 Arizona Republican Senate primary.
Here are previously unreported Masters’ comments, delivered to the Superstition Mountain Republican Club on July 14:
“We inaugurated President Trump in January 2017, it’s time to go. This country elected him as a change agent, time to implement his MAGA America First agenda. And we didn’t get enough done. We got a tax cut, great. Glad we got the tax cut.
“But that’s all we got initially because Paul Ryan was in the House and Mitch McConnell was in the Senate, and they didn’t want President Trump’s agenda. And I find that unforgivable. I’ll say it to Mitch McConnell’s face.”
Masters also said McConnell is “part of the establishment” and “part of the swamp” in previously unreported comments at an Arizona Young Republicans mixer in October 2021.
“I will only vote for a majority leader who I am convinced will effectuate a Trump 2016 agenda,” Masters said. “I don’t think [McConnell’s] on the America First agenda like he needs to be. That’s a conversation I will have with him when I’m in the U.S. Senate, for sure.”
Watch the full exchange here.
To be sure, Masters has attacked McConnell publicly in recent weeks. But these newly unearthed comments are just the latest example of how the Trump-endorsed candidate is continuing to slam the GOP’s Senate standard-bearer.
Arizona’s Senate race is a major focus as Republicans look to unseat vulnerable incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
Masters’ stance on McConnell is somewhat unique. GOP candidates in key Senate races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia have strayed away from directly going after McConnell. But in Missouri’s primary, former Gov. Eric Greitens has pledged to oppose McConnell if elected. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) also turned his campaign into a vendetta against McConnell. Brooks lost to Katie Britt in a primary runoff.
Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who has lost races for governor and senator, is now running for attorney general. Kobach has a new ad that touts his Yale Law School and Harvard undergraduate degrees. This spot is running statewide.
– Max Cohen and Jake Sherman
WHAT DEPUTY SECRETARY DON GRAVES TOLD US
Catch up on our conversation with Deputy Commerce Secretary Don Graves here. We discussed the impacts of passing the CHIPS Plus legislation, the state of the U.S. economy and the possible location of the National Semiconductor Technology Center.
PRESENTED BY META
9:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing virtually.
10:15 a.m.: House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries and Vice Chair Pete Aguilar will hold a post-caucus meeting news conference.
10:45 a.m.: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson and Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) will hold a news conference following the GOP conference meeting.
11 a.m.: Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold a ceremony to dedicate a statue of famed pilot Amelia Earhart.
2:30 p.m.: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and other GOP senators will hold a news conference to talk about crime.
3 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief. … House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer will hold his pen and pad.
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PRESENTED BY META
The metaverse will make learning more interactive
Imagine students roaming with dinosaurs in the Jurassic period, visiting a museum in Paris without a plane ticket or watching Mark Antony debate in ancient Rome.
The metaverse may be virtual, but the impact will be real.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
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