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News: The House Judiciary Committee is considering a vote this week to hold Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in contempt. While this is a mostly symbolic step for the House GOP majority, it would be a huge escalation of Republicans’ war on Big Tech — if it happens.
Judiciary Republicans claim Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Threads, hasn’t been cooperating with the panel’s effort to investigate potential censorship by Big Tech, including the failure to hand over internal company documents.
“Meta has critical information that it has not turned over to the committee regarding federal government efforts to censor speech online and how Meta responded to those efforts,” Russell Dye, spokesperson for Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told us.
“It is imperative the committee get these materials and we will take whatever actions necessary to facilitate that end,” Dye added.
The committee is eyeing voting on the resolution Thursday, according to multiple sources.
A Meta spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment on Sunday night.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) subpoenaed Meta back in mid-February along with several other tech giants — Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Alphabet — about the companies’ content moderation policies.
And Jordan sent a letter to Zuckerberg last week raising questions about Threads, the company’s new competitor to Twitter.
But in reality, Republicans have been targeting the major tech companies even before officially taking over the House, promising to investigate so-called conservative censorship dating back to the 2020 election.
Democrats insist Republicans are just trying to gin up their fundraising heading into the August recess and protect GOP-friendly Twitter owner Elon Musk. Or that should be “X owner Elon Musk.”
Meta Platforms Inc. has turned over 53,000 pages of documents in 18 rounds of production since being subpoenaed earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the investigation. In addition, 10 Meta staffers will have completed voluntary interviews with the panel by the end of this week.
A Democratic spokesperson declined to comment.
— Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan
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THE WEEK AHEAD
NDAA, approps on tap as Congress nears August recess
It’s crunch time for Congress this week as lawmakers get ready for the August recess. We would normally say “scramble” or “rush,” but there’s not a lot of scrambling or rushing as neither chamber comes in until Tuesday afternoon and senators will be gone by Thursday.
Let’s start in the Senate, where party leaders want to wrap up floor action on their version of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to finish it by the end of this week, but that’s far from a sure bet. There are several outstanding amendment requests on the underlying package, including some controversial ones that could put the Senate on record when it comes to Ukraine funding.
With the August recess just around the corner, party leaders are hoping that jet fumes will work their magic and convince everyone to fast-track the process.
We’ll note that Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced Sunday night that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and will be out this week. The 78-year-old Durbin had Covid last July as well. This means that Schumer is without one Democratic vote this week — an important one at that.
There’s also the unresolved problem of Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) blockade of senior military promotions. With nearly 300 promotions in the queue — including the nominee to serve as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — there’s enormous pressure on both Tuberville and Schumer.
Tuberville, for one, isn’t signaling any kind of shift. Schumer is leaving open the possibility of eating into the August recess. We’ll point out that it isn’t an explicit threat (or one we much believe in anyway).
At least one top Democrat wants Schumer to start playing hardball with Tuberville. At the Aspen Security Forum over the weekend, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said Schumer should start putting these stalled promotions on the floor and see what happens.
“We may need to do one or two really high-level [promotions], and then hope that the [GOP] caucus will push for [a resolution],” Coons said.
There’s a lot of skepticism that this would even work. Tuberville insists the only thing that will move him is a reversal of the Pentagon abortion policy and a subsequent Senate vote on codifying it. Plus, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Republicans aren’t putting any pressure on Tuberville.
On top of that, the State Department wants Senate leaders to prioritize the nearly three dozen nominees to serve as U.S. ambassadors that are sitting on the floor thanks to GOP Sens. J.D. Vance (Ohio) and Rand Paul (Ky.).
In the House: The focus will be on passing two FY2024 appropriations bills — Agriculture and MilCon-VA — as well as two Congressional Review Act disapproval resolutions.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will be before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other panel Republicans will certainly tee off on Mayorkas, a popular impeachment target for House Republicans. But what will the GOP say about the suddenly calmer U.S.-Mexico border, with illegal crossings at the lowest level in more than two years?
House Appropriations Republicans actually steered more money to the Veteran Affairs Department in response to Democratic claims that GOP lawmakers were cutting veterans’ spending, but USDA will receive billions of dollars less this year than last. Republicans say the end of the Covid-19 pandemic eliminates the need for some social safety net spending, especially for food stamps (SNAP).
Abortion and other culture war issues are a hot topic for both spending bills, basically a replay of what happened during debate on the House’s version of the NDAA package.
The MilCon-VA bill includes GOP-drafted language banning abortion, transgender medical procedures and even flying LGBTQ Pride flags at VA hospitals. The Agriculture funding package — which also covers FDA and some other agencies — would block approval of mail delivery for mifepristone, an abortion drug.
There are already a number of amendments being offered by the House Freedom Caucus and other conservatives to both bills on abortion, immigration, transgender issues, DEI, critical race theory and other hot-button topics — as well as by Democrats to strike what Republicans are pushing. We’ll see what amendment votes the Rules Committee allows.
House Republicans want to cut more than $100 billion from last year’s spending bills, undermining the Fiscal Responsibility Act’s funding levels hammered out by Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee is going to finish marking up its version of the 12 annual spending bills this week. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — the chair and ranking member — are eager to add another $13 billion to the measures.
The overall picture is this: Congress is leaving town with only one chamber — the House — likely to have passed any FY2024 spending bills. Yet neither of these bills can possibly pass the Senate or get Biden’s approval. And Congress won’t return until after Labor Day, just weeks before government funding expires and a potential shutdown looms. Happy August!
On the economic front: There will be some big economic news this week. The Federal Open Market Committee will meet starting Tuesday on interest rates (with an announcement on Wednesday). Shipping giant UPS and the Teamsters will begin negotiations again on Tuesday seeking to avoid an Aug. 1 strike that could damage the U.S. economy. And second quarter GDP data will be released on Thursday. So a huge couple of days for Bidenomics.
— Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan
What we’re watching
Wednesday: The Senate Armed Services Committee will have a hearing on a number of pending military confirmations. The Senate Banking Committee will have a hearing on fees. The Senate Budget Committee will have a hearing on the impact of climate change on infrastructure with Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will have a hearing on permit reform.
The House Judiciary Committee will have a hearing with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Senate Foreign Relations will have a hearing on the nomination of several Biden administration positions. House Administration and Senate Rules will have a joint hearing with the U.S. Capitol Police board.
Thursday: The House Judiciary Committee will have a hearing with DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. The House Foreign Affairs Committee will have a hearing on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. House Oversight will have a hearing on Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
— Jake Sherman
News: The New Democrat Coalition Action Fund is endorsing Will Rollins in California’s 41st District and Kirsten Engel in Arizona’s 6th District. Both candidates narrowly lost to Republicans in 2022.
The group is the political arm of the New Dems, the center-left caucus of House Democrats.
Engel lost to Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.) by less than two points last cycle. Ciscomani is one of the most endangered House incumbents and represents a district President Joe Biden won in 2020.
Rollins lost to longtime incumbent Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) by less than five points in 2022.
— Max Cohen
Tell It Like It Is PAC, which supports former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination, has an ad up which sharply criticizes former President Donald Trump. The ad is running in Philadelphia, L.A. and D.C.
— Jake Sherman
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
3:30 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
“Ukrainian minister claims responsibility for strikes in Moscow and Crimean peninsula,” by Maria Kostenko and Vasco Cotovio
“As Inquiries Compound, Justice System Pours Resources Into Scrutinizing Trump,” by Glenn Thrush, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer and Adam Goldman
“U.S. Confronts Tight but Turbulent Relationship With Israel,” by Peter Baker and Lisa Lerer
“UN-North Korea Talks Begin on US Soldier Who Crossed Border,” by Sangmi Cha and Jon Herskovitz
“Netanyahu leaves hospital as Israel faces a key vote — and a crisis — over divisive legal changes,” by Tia Goldenberg and Issac Scharf in Tel Aviv, Israel
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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