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.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House GOP leaders are moving into uncharted territory.
McCarthy has thrown in with the House Freedom Caucus and other hardline conservatives, turning the normally bipartisan annual defense authorization bill into a culture war battlefield. This is expected to be the same template McCarthy will use on the upcoming FY2024 spending bills, even as the threat of a government shutdown looms in October.
McCarthy faces what’s expected to be a close vote today on final passage of the NDAA package, although the GOP majority will very likely muscle through the 1,200-plus page package on a largely party-line vote.
The House still has to consider a number of amendments on China, Covid-19 and Afghanistan before final passage. Some of those amendments could be adopted by voice vote.
But enough Democratic Frontliners and moderates are expected to support the $886 billion measure to help ensure its approval. Democratic lawmakers and aides predicted that five or more Democrats may cross the aisle to vote with House Republicans.
“At the end of the day, this is a tough vote for some [vulnerable Democrats],” said one senior Democratic aide, pointing to the 5.2% pay hike for service members, increased housing allowances and hundreds of millions of dollars for “quality of life” improvements included in the underlying legislation.
There also may be one to two Democrats who miss the vote, which will help bolster the GOP margin. For instance, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is out after the birth of his second child.
However, McCarthy and the GOP leadership could lose some Republicans as well, especially conservatives who saw their proposed amendments fail. GOP leadership aides privately said they’re watching Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.), among others.
The approval of Rep. Ronny Jackson’s (R-Texas) amendment Thursday prohibiting the Defense Department from covering travel expenses related to abortion care for service members has become the pivotal moment in the NDAA debate. The addition of the Jackson provision caused Democrats to turn against the underlying NDAA bill, which had passed the Armed Services Committee by a 58-1 margin just weeks ago.
A number of anti-abortion rights groups are “key voting” this bill, as are other conservative organizations, Republican aides noted.
And abortion is a growing controversy for the Pentagon as Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) continues to block dozens of military promotions until DoD rescinds the policy.
Republicans also pushed through conservative amendments targeting Pentagon funding for DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and LGBTQ programs. Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) were successful in adding language barring DoD funding of transgender-related medical services.
Norman offered another amendment to limit what kind of flags can be flown at a military base, which is aimed at banning the display of pride flags. And Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Colo.) proposal to prohibit DoD-run schools “from purchasing and having pornographic and radical gender ideology books in their libraries” was approved by a 222-209 margin.
There have been some Democratic victories. Greene’s effort to block the Pentagon from providing cluster munitions to Ukraine was defeated. MTG and Gaetz were shut down on other Ukraine-related amendment votes as well. Rep. Bob Good’s (R-Va.) proposal to allow military facilities to keep the names of prominent Confederate figures was rejected, too.
But adding the House GOP’s poison-pill provisions on abortion, DEI and transgender medical care to the defense-authorization package will make it harder for McCarthy and top Republicans to cut a deal with Senate Democrats and the White House. Congress has enacted the NDAA every year since the early 1960s.
House Republicans counter that shifting the bill dramatically rightward will give them room to maneuver in any upcoming negotiations with Democrats, similar to what happened on the debt-limit showdown. McCarthy and President Joe Biden eventually reached a compromise on that issue that won broad bipartisan support after the speaker first pushed through a hardline House GOP bill.
Following the votes Thursday night, the House’s three top Democrats — House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar — issued a blistering statement outlining their opposition to the revised NDAA bill:
“House Republicans have turned what should be a meaningful investment in our men and women in uniform into an extreme and reckless legislative joyride. The bill undermines a woman’s freedom to seek abortion care, targets the rights of LGBTQ+ servicemembers and bans books that should otherwise be available to military families.”
Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and other subcommittee ranking members also released their own lengthy statement criticizing the legislation. These Democrats would normally be vocal supporters of any defense-related bill, but they’re not doing that now.
“The bill we passed out of committee sent a clear message to our allies and partners, global competitors, and the American people that democracy still works, and Congress can still function….
“That bill no longer exists. What was once an example of compromise and functioning government has become an ode to bigotry and ignorance.”
— John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY BP
How does bp start refining lower carbon fuel? By investing to make today’s refineries capable of doing more. Like Cherry Point in WA, where $1.5 billion in capital improvements have expanded the capacity for renewable diesel production, among other achievements. See how bp is investing in America.
Facing brutal map, Senate Dems reel in the cash
The 2024 picture doesn’t look too rosy for Senate Democrats, who currently enjoy a slim 51-49 seat majority. The DSCC is tasked with defending incumbents in solid-red Montana, Ohio and West Virginia, in addition to the battleground states of Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. And then there’s the uncertainty reigning in Arizona.
But one bright spot for Democrats is that their incumbents are raising money at a record rate. In a wide range of key races, Senate Democrats up for reelection this cycle are breaking new ground in their fundraising totals.
Friends of Sherrod Brown, Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-Ohio) campaign account, raised $5 million in the second quarter, an off-year Q2 record in an Ohio Senate race.
Montanans for Tester, affiliated with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), raised $5 million in Q2. That is the most ever raised in an off-year Q2 in a Montana Senate campaign.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) brought in more than $4 million in the second quarter — a record for Casey in a single quarter.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) raised more than $3.2 million in Q2, another record for an off-year quarter in a Wisconsin Senate race.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) announced a haul of $3.1 million in Q2. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who hasn’t said if she’s running again in 2024, hasn’t reported her Q2 figures.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) raised $2.8 million in Q2. Her first half of 2023 haul — more than $5.8 million — is the most any Michigan Senate campaign has raised in the first two quarters.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) brought in $2.7 million in the second quarter. Rosen’s campaign pointed to her $7.5 million on hand as a state record at this point in a Senate race.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who still hasn’t announced whether he’s running for reelection, raised nearly $1.3 million in Q2. Manchin has $10.7 million in the bank. Manchin’s leadership PAC, Country Roads PAC, has another $2.2 million. This is far more than any potential GOP opponents have raised up to this point.
The fundraising strength from Senate Democrats carries on from last cycle, where Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) consistently broke records in their high-profile races.
DSCC Chair Gary Peters greeted the fundraising numbers as evidence that Democratic incumbents enjoy “strong support.”
Of course, fundraising is far from everything in competitive races. Amy McGrath and Sara Gideon are two recent examples of Democratic fundraising juggernauts who fell short of winning their races.
But Peters said raising big money early in the cycle means candidates can “communicate your message early and make sure that you can get out before anyone else can.”
Republicans, of course, had a different take.
“Democrat candidates have virtually unlimited campaign cash and dark money at their disposal every cycle. The problem for them is they are facing a brutal map and are running alongside an extremely unpopular president,” NRSC Communications Director Mike Berg said.
For what it’s worth, the NRSC is taking note of Democratic hauls in their own fundraising emails to supporters. A recent appeal notes that “2024 will be the most EXPENSIVE election in our history, and the Democrats are already brutally outraising Republicans.”
“We don’t mean to scare you, but if Democrats continue to outraise Republicans, they will obliterate the America First movement and potentially lock President Trump up FOREVER,” the email continues.
— Max Cohen
Hunter Biden prosecutor to talk to House GOP — at some point
The Department of Justice’s legislative affairs team will coordinate with the House Judiciary Committee later today to set up a time for U.S. Attorney David Weiss to testify in front of the panel.
Carlos Uriarte, the DOJ legislative affairs chief, wrote to Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to express that Weiss — who conducted the high-profile and politically sensitive criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son — is willing to appear before the panel.
Here’s the relevant portion of the letter:
“U.S. Attorney Weiss said he welcomes the opportunity to meet with the Committee at an appropriate time, consistent with the law and Department policy.
“The Department, with this letter, affirms that commitment. The Office of Legislative Affairs will reach out to your staff tomorrow to discuss the appropriate timeline and scope of such an appearance.”
IRS whistleblowers have accused the DOJ of improperly intervening in Weiss’ investigation of Hunter Biden in order to protect the president’s son. Weiss has said he was given total autonomy to bring any charges in the probe, a position backed up by Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Weiss has also denied the allegation that his request for special counsel status was rebuffed.
Also: Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) will unveil “phase one” of his five-step accountability report targeting DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday.
Green told us the report is roughly 115 pages and will focus on “dereliction of duty.” It will accuse Mayorkas of breaking 11 laws, two court orders and lying to Congress.
The report, of course, is widely viewed as the first step toward a potential impeachment inquiry into Mayorkas. Green said he plans to complete the full report by the end of summer and provide his findings to the Judiciary Committee.
Green is also now overseeing an impeachment resolution against Biden after the House voted to refer the measure, drafted by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), to his panel.
The Tennessee Republican told us handling the extra workload won’t have much impact on his Mayorkas probe, except folding in the role Biden plays regarding problems at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“All we’re doing now is adding the president to the drill down,” Green told us. “So, there’ll be a few extra hearings to see his link to all this failure.”
The Department of Homeland Security has largely pushed back on Green’s investigation and defended Mayorkas’ oversight of the border.
“Instead of pointing fingers and pursuing baseless attacks, Congress should work with the Department and pass comprehensive legislation to fix our broken immigration system, which has not been updated in decades,” said Mia Ehrenberg, DHS spokesperson.
DHS officials also pointed to data that shows daily migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border have decreased by 70% since May 11, when Title 42 pandemic restrictions expired.
Homeland Security Committee ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) painted Green’s investigation as a thinly veiled drive toward Mayorkas’ impeachment. Green, however, has refused to use the “i-word” in describing his report.
“Since extreme MAGA Republicans predetermined months ago they would impeach Secretary Mayorkas, they have been busy trying to manufacture so-called evidence to do so,” Thompson told us in a statement. “But their cooked-up narrative is not reality.”
— Max Cohen and Mica Soellner
PRESENTED BY BP
Andy Barr wants to talk to you about capitalism
Democrats think they can beat back the GOP’s crusade against environmental-social measures in the financial system with an appeal to free market fundamentals. Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) disagrees.
We’ve written a few times this week about the battle over ESG that the Republican-run House Financial Services Committee wants to have across the month of July.
We’ve also covered the Democrats’ counteroffensive, which is now turning into a bit of a tug-of-war over the word “capitalism.” That brings us to Barr, who chairs the Financial Services subcommittee covering regulation.
“ESG is not capitalism,” Barr told us yesterday. “That’s a lie. It’s not even a persuasive argument.”
For what it’s worth, ESG is the acronym for environmental, social and governance standards. It’s the approach some corporations and investment firms have embraced as a way to assess how good for the world a company’s activities are.
But Republican opposition to “ESG” has more to do with the Biden administration than anything else at this point. The Securities and Exchange Commission has put itself front and center with a nearly 500-page climate disclosure rule for public firms.
Barr tells us he’s not actually opposed to private companies making individual decisions about climate risk or social benefit. He also acknowledges climate change is a “major public policy issue.” The Kentucky Republican just thinks it “doesn’t belong in the realm of financial regulation.”
“This is not about assessing risk,” Barr said. “I say it’s about putting the government’s thumb on the scale and discriminating against energy companies.”
We pointed out that the oil and gas sector is heavily subsidized in the United States. Barr responded by arguing that was in part a consequence of the costs of federal regulation.
But the broader problem is that climate change is an issue that investors want to know more about. The lack of standardization for carbon emissions data is a huge obstacle to that. A government agency could, in theory, begin to rectify that with the proper authorities.
Yet that’s not a bridge Republicans are about to cross. No matter how dire the problems posed by climate change may be, and no matter how much investment or global action climate scientists ask for, the GOP doesn’t think the U.S. government should be front-and-center of the effort.
“At the end of the day, climate change is not going to be solved by governments,” Barr said. “It’s going to be solved by technology, innovation and investments in energy.”
— Brendan Pedersen
THE TOWNHOUSE BREAKFAST
On Thursday, we hosted leaders from across D.C. at The Townhouse for a breakfast in partnership with Walmart focused on U.S. manufacturing and small businesses. Attendees heard from Punchbowl News Managing Editor Heather Caygle and Walmart’s Executive Vice President of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs Dan Bryant.
Breaking bread: Carolyn Lee of The Manufacturing Institute; Marcus Robinson of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; Olivia Davis of Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) office; Alvaro Perpuly of Rep. Frederica Wilson’s (D-Fla.) office; Sebastian Roa of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee; Jessica Boulanger of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Maia Hunt Estes of Invariant; and Paige Fadden, Bruce Harris, Lee Culpepper, Mark Espinoza, Kevin Gardner, Sean Bresett, Phillip Wallace, Shawn Whyte, Sarah Thorn and Laura Siegrist of Walmart.
News: NRCC raises $25.8M in Q2
The NRCC raised $25.8 million in the second quarter of 2023, the same tally the House Republican campaign arm raised in the first quarter.
The NRCC announced it finished the first half of the year with $31.8 million cash on hand.
The $51.6 million total raised in the first six months of 2023 is a presidential off-year record for the NRCC.
— Max Cohen
PRESENTED BY BP
9 a.m.: The House Freedom Caucus holds a press conference on the NDAA.
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden gets his daily intelligence briefing.
10 a.m.: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries holds his weekly press conference.
1:30 p.m.: Biden and First Lady Jill Biden depart for Camp David.
“Prosecutors Ask Witnesses Whether Trump Acknowledged He Lost 2020 Race,” by Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman
“US sets a grim milestone with new record for the deadliest six months of mass killings,” by Stefanie Dazio and Larry Fenn in New York
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY BP
What does it mean to be one of America’s leading energy investors? For bp, big investments include growing lower carbon solutions – like bioenergy and EV charging. Bringing major new oil and gas projects online. And investing in American businesses we can help grow. It also means adding more than $70 billion to the US economy last year alone. See how bp is investing in 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