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 Tuesday morning.
The House Rules Committee is scheduled to mark up the FY2024 defense authorization bill today. The legislation is set to hit the floor later this week, with final passage currently envisioned for Friday.
But thanks to big problems with the House Freedom Caucus — stop us if you’ve heard this one before — and questions over the Coast Guard’s reauthorization, Speaker Kevin McCarthy and GOP leaders will struggle to even pass the rule for the NDAA, much less the 1,200-plus page bill itself.
It’s the latest sign of the difficulties that McCarthy and senior Republicans will face as they attempt to muscle through FY2024 funding bills and other high-profile legislation with only GOP votes. The NDAA is usually done on a bipartisan basis, but facing heavy criticism from the House Freedom Caucus and other conservatives, McCarthy is under pressure to give on a number of high-profile issues touching defense policy.
Yet the further House Republicans move to the right on any of these proposals, the more valuable every GOP vote becomes due to their razor-thin, four-vote margin. And that just means more trouble for moderate House Republicans already chafing at conservative domination of these policy debates.
More than 1,500 amendments were filed — a record — to the defense authorization bill, which has been passed by Congress every year since the early 1960s. House GOP leadership staffers huddled with committee aides and Republican lawmakers over the last few days to try to pare down the number of amendments to a manageable number, but there are still likely to be dozens of potential floor votes.
Abortion, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) funding, critical race theory, climate change, transgender issues and drag shows, Ukraine aid, Russia, Afghanistan, China and Taiwan — these are the big issues we mentioned in our previous reporting on the NDAA.
House Freedom Caucus members are pushing dozens of proposed changes to the legislation, including directly with the Armed Services Committee. That panel passed the $886 billion package by a 58-1 vote on June 22. Only Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) voted no.
The Armed Services Committee sought to keep the bill as narrowly focused as possible in order to avoid jurisdictional problems with other committees.
Yet now conservatives — who pressured McCarthy during January’s speaker fight to avoid “Christmas tree” bills — want to include all sorts of non-germane amendments, according to leadership members and aides.
And there’s a new flap — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise wants to add reauthorization for the Coast Guard to the NDAA package, while McCarthy doesn’t, according to three GOP sources. The dispute was still being worked out Monday night.
“This is going to be a very heavy lift,” said one senior Republican closely following the NDAA amendment process.
The Rules Committee will come in at noon today to begin considering the NDAA. But when it will finish — and whether conservative GOP Reps. Ralph Norman (S.C.), Chip Roy (Texas) and Thomas Massie (Ky.) will vote for the rule in committee — is still unclear.
Then there’s the floor fight, which could stretch into Friday. Every “culture war” provision from the Freedom Caucus that’s added to the base legislation will cost Democratic votes. It will also make GOP moderates unhappy.
The must-pass NDAA package includes a 5.2% pay hike for service members, increased housing allowances, hundreds of millions of dollars for “quality of life” improvements, $300 million in new funding for Ukraine and more money to confront China’s growing power in the Pacific.
The Senate could take up its own version of the NDAA by as early as next week, according to several leadership aides, although the floor schedule for July is still being worked out.
CNN: “GOP battle brews over defense bill as McCarthy under pressure to appease the right on social issues,” by Annie Grayer, Melanie Zanona, Manu Raju and Haley Talbot
Happening tomorrow: Former Attorney General Eric Holder will brief House Democrats at their weekly caucus meeting. Holder chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. He’ll discuss recent Supreme Court rulings that were favorable to Democrats in their redistricting efforts in the South.
— John Bresnahan and Heather Caygle
Don’t forget: Next week on Tuesday, July 18 at 5 p.m. ET, Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) will join Punchbowl News founders Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman for cocktails and conversation on the quantum revolution. They’ll discuss the policy opportunities for quantum computing with the National Quantum Initiative Act reauthorization on the horizon. RSVP!
PRESENTED BY BP
How can we cut carbon emissions in a natural gas field? Invest $10 billion and run it on electricity. That’s bp’s formula to modernize our oil & gas business in the Permian Basin, as we cut emissions while increasing production. Just 4% of our wells in the basin were electrified in 2018 – we aim to hit 95% this year. Explore bp’s investments in America.
NATO SUMMIT 2023
Army officer confronts senators over Tuberville: ‘Help us overcome’ blockade
PABRADĖ, Lithuania — A top U.S. Army officer on Monday pressured a bipartisan group of senators to help break Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) blockade on senior military promotions, arguing it’s negatively impacting national security.
Lt. Gen. Andrew Rohling, the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Europe-Africa, was touting the benefits of U.S. aid for Ukraine here when he abruptly asked the group of senators to “help us overcome” Tuberville’s filibuster on what’s now hundreds of nominations. Tuberville is opposed to the Pentagon’s policy of covering service members’ travel expenses when seeking out-of-state abortions and other forms of reproductive care.
In an interview shortly after those remarks, Rohling told us that Tuberville’s actions are “reprehensible, irresponsible and dangerous.” Rohling gestured toward Col. Kareem Montague as one of the officers whose promotion to brigadier general is currently blocked by Tuberville.
Montague, who was standing behind the senators, “should be getting paid as a general,” Rohling added, “but he’s not.”
Rohling’s criticism — delivered as he was welcoming senators to Camp Herkus, just a few kilometers from the Lithuania-Belarus border — represents the highest-profile condemnation of Tuberville’s actions from within the military, apart from political appointees. And it was given to a group of senators that, for the most part, has expressed uneasiness about Tuberville’s blockade.
It also shows that what’s happening back in Washington — in this case, procedural minutiae on the Senate floor — is resonating across the globe. And it comes as the Marine Corps is now without a Senate-approved commandant for the first time in well over a century.
On the Senate floor Monday afternoon, Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) tried to confirm Gen. Eric Smith as the new commandant, but Tuberville blocked the move. Smith is serving in an acting capacity in the meantime.
Despite Tuberville’s opposition, several top GOP senators have spoken out against his campaign. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he believes the Alabamian’s tactics are “not the best way to go about” effecting a policy change. But Tuberville insists GOP leaders aren’t pressuring him to back down.
We asked Tuberville to respond to Rohling’s comments on Monday. Here’s what he told us:
“I’ve talked to plenty of officers. Gen. Smith said he can get the job done… They can do the job. Listen, I’m not going to hold up readiness. And I understand a little bit about what’s going on… They’re not going to leave jobs unfilled.”
Many of these posts are becoming vacant, though, and some have been empty for months, such as the U.S. military representative to NATO.
Later this morning, Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown Jr. will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in his confirmation hearing to be the next chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Mark Milley’s term as chair of the Joint Chiefs expires in September. It’s expected that the Senate will hold a floor vote on Brown’s nomination, which circumvents Tuberville’s maneuvers.
The purpose of the senators’ visit, as part of their congressional delegation to the annual NATO summit in Vilnius, was to see first-hand the types of weapons and equipment that are being used to defend NATO territory and, in some cases, sent to the front lines in Ukraine.
Rohling told the senators — a group of three Democrats and three Republicans who have been among NATO’s strongest supporters in Congress — that the supplemental Ukraine funding packages are having a clear and positive impact.
“Everything you’re seeing happen here is through the supplemental,” Rohling said, adding that he believes the current funding levels can sustain his units through February 2024.
That’s a longer timeline than we’ve heard senators talk about publicly and privately at the Capitol, with many lawmakers expecting that the Biden administration will ask for more money sometime this year.
— Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan
Nadler presses DOJ for answers on Durham’s Trump probe
Rep. Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is demanding to know what top Trump-era Justice Department officials learned from their Italian counterparts about allegations of suspicious financial dealings tied to former President Donald Trump.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr and former special counsel John Durham met with Italian intelligence officials “on two separate occasions in 2019,” where the officials “shared credible evidence implicating former President Donald Trump in potential financial crimes,” Nadler said in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Nadler is asking Garland to provide any “tips or evidence” that Italian officials may have shared with Barr or Durham “implicating former President Trump in alleged financial crimes.”
Remember: Durham was tasked by Trump with investigating how the FBI handled its investigation of the Trump campaign’s interaction with Russia. But Nadler alleges that Durham’s investigation of Trump’s potential financial crimes was launched nefariously.
“In this instance, it appears that Attorney General Barr turned the Special Counsel regulations on their head and used the Special Counsel not to promote independence and fairness, but to bury a potentially significant criminal investigation from the public,” Nadler writes.
When asked about these meetings during testimony before the Judiciary Committee last month, Durham “could only say that ‘it came to nothing’ and that the matter was ‘outside the scope’ of his report,” Nadler wrote.
Nadler is seeking answers on why Durham investigated these allegations, how many grand jury subpoenas were issued in the investigation and why the matter wasn’t included in Durham’s final report. The ranking member has given DOJ until July 24 to respond.
— Max Cohen
PRESENTED BY BP
Exclusive: New bipartisan CHIPS bill out today
A bipartisan group of senators is pushing to speed up the review process for new chip production factories, warning the United States is still losing ground to China in this critical sector even after passing major semiconductor funding legislation last year.
Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and several colleagues are introducing bipartisan legislation today — the Building Chips in America Act — to streamline the federal environmental reviews for microchip production facilities.
At issue for this group: The $280 billion CHIPS bill requires manufacturing projects that receive subsidies and grants from the law to undergo a federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act, which can take years to complete. This includes projects that have already received permitting approvals and have started construction, according to Kelly’s office.
The bill Kelly and the other lawmakers are introducing would speed up that federal review process so that chip manufacturers don’t take their production elsewhere, namely China.
“The CHIPS and Science Act, this was an unprecedented investment in getting semiconductor manufacturing restarted in the United States. Arizona is an example of that,” Kelly told us on Monday, pointing to Intel and TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) already breaking ground on new fabrication plants in the state.
“The current NEPA process could really slow this stuff down. In some cases it would have to stop, even in situations where you had a state [environmental review] process that was more stringent than the federal process. This legislation would push this whole process to the Department of Commerce.”
Young, one of the key players on the CHIPS bill, is a co-sponsor of this new effort as well.
“This particular issue rises to the level of national security and economic security,” said Young. “We’ve just made a necessary and significant investment in chip production. We don’t want to delay that fabrication capacity from coming online.”
We asked Young whether this proposal could be added to the upcoming FY2024 defense authorization or spending bills.
“There are only so many vehicles between now and the years-end,” Young noted. “I’m not targeting any particular vehicle, but perhaps Sen. Kelly has other thoughts.”
Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) are also backing the legislation. Reps. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) and Colin Allred (D-Texas) are leading a companion version in the House.
— Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise raised $7.4 million in the second quarter of the year. The Louisiana Republican has raised $14.4 million this year so far and has transferred $6 million to the NRCC, including $3 million this quarter. Scalise has also transferred $887,000 to candidates this year.
Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) joint fundraising committee, the Cornyn Victory Committee (CVC), raised more than $4.1 million for incumbents, the NRSC, and future Republican Senate nominees during the first half of 2023.
Cornyn raised between $175,000-$216,000 each for GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rick Scott (Fla.), Roger Wicker (Miss), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Pete Ricketts (Neb.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mitt Romney (Utah) and John Barrasso (Wyo.). And the Texas Republican has stockpiled $50,000-plus for each of the future GOP nominees in Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Cornyn — a former two-term NRSC chair — also raised nearly $1.4 million for the NRSC.
House Administration Committee Chair Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) raised more than $900,000 in Q2 and ended the quarter with more than $2.85 million on hand.
Frontline Democratic Rep. Angie Craig (Minn.) raised $828,000 in the second quarter and has over $1.1 million on hand.
Democrat Curtis Hertel, who’s running to replace Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), raised over $225,000 on his campaign’s first day.
Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) raised $900,000 in Q2. Pfluger helped rake in another $50,000 for other GOP candidates, too.
In campaign launch news, Democrat Kina Collins is announcing another primary challenge against longtime incumbent Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.). Davis won by just six points against Collins, a progressive backed by Justice Democrats, in the 2022 primary.
— John Bresnahan, Max Cohen and Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY BP
The Baltimore Orioles lobby for federal cash
The Baltimore Orioles have signed up Cornerstone Government Affairs to lobby for federal money to help improve the area around the iconic Camden Yards.
John Bohanan, a former aide to Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and Todd Webster, a former chief of staff to Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), will work with the Maryland delegation to “build support for federal appropriations and grants for Baltimore City.”
The pair will work to try to get the delegation to:
[S]upport programs to make infrastructure investments, transportation improvements, homeland security infrastructure and services, and general coordination with federal agencies. Efforts will focus on supporting the revitalization efforts for Baltimore Citys Inner Harbor District and the Entertainment District which includes both major league franchise stadiums in the City.”
The Orioles and Baltimore Ravens have their stadiums in close proximity to each other. It’s clear that the Orioles think that Charm City needs federal help.
— Jake Sherman
All times Eastern
1:30 a.m.: Press gaggle with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the Press Filing Center, Vilnius, Lithuania.
3:45 a.m.: President Joe Biden holds a bilateral meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania.
7 a.m.: Biden attends a meeting of the North Atlantic Council with other heads of state and government, with Sweden.
11 a.m.: Biden holds a bilateral meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.
4:45 p.m.: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Energy and Commerce Republicans on their HHS investigation and NIH reappointments.
“Turkey Clears the Way for Sweden’s Entry to NATO on the Eve of Summit,” by David E. Sanger, Steven Erlanger and Lara Jakes in Vilnius, Lithuania and Ben Hubbard in Istanbul
“Historic and deadly Northeast floods trap residents, destroy roads,” by Scott Dance, Niha Masih and Tim Craig
“China’s Reopening Trade Is Fizzling Out,” by Charley Grant
“Trump wants classified documents trial delayed until after 2024 election,” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY BP
bp supports more than 240,000 jobs in the US, where we are working to keep oil & gas flowing where it’s needed, producing more renewable energy, electrifying onshore wells, installing EV chargers, and much, much more. See what bp is doing for America.
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