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Happy Monday morning.
Congress is still on the August break for two more weeks. House Democrats will hold a virtual caucus meeting on Thursday afternoon.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Maui, Hawaii, today to view damage from the deadly wildfire two weeks ago. More than 114 people lost their lives in the unprecedented disaster.
Ukraine funding: The war in Ukraine — and Congress’ willingness to keep funding it — will be a key topic when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month. And the first GOP presidential debate on Wednesday could help further illuminate Republicans’ posture on the issue.
Denmark and the Netherlands announced Sunday that they would supply dozens of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, a potentially major step in helping overcome Russian air superiority. And Ukrainian drones continue to hit Moscow and other Russian cities, an effort to counter Russia’s ongoing missile strikes inside Ukraine.
Yet all this comes amid growing signs that Ukraine’s highly anticipated counter-offensive will fall well short of its goals, despite an influx of Western tanks, armored vehicles and cluster bombs, as well as newly trained troops.
It will take the embattled country months to actually deploy the U.S.-made F-16 aircraft as the conflict risks turning into a years-long struggle. A top NATO official last week floated — and then quickly retracted — a potential peace offer that would have Ukraine cede some territory to Russia in order to join the Western military alliance. It shows just how wary some Western officials are of funding a war that looks more like a stalemate.
This all could further complicate the upcoming deliberation by Congress over Ukraine funding. Seventy House Republicans voted against additional Ukraine money in mid-July during consideration of the FY2024 defense authorization bill. Hardline conservatives such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) have come out strongly against the new White House request, showing how difficult it will be for Speaker Kevin McCarthy to straddle this issue.
Up first, though, will be the inaugural 2024 Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee.
Former President Donald Trump won’t be in attendance, but there will be several candidates on stage who echo his view that supporting Ukraine isn’t a vital national interest and the United States should instead push for a negotiated settlement. This includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
On the other side are former Vice President Mike Pence and ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both of whom have visited Ukraine this year and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky. They are firmly in the pro-Ukraine camp and continue to support military aid.
The rest of the GOP hopefuls are somewhere in the middle. They generally back more aid for Ukraine but criticize President Joe Biden for, in their view, failing to provide Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defeat Russia. They also want more controls on how U.S. funds are being spent, and have questioned the long-term U.S. strategy.
But with Trump easily dominating the Republican field — despite multiple criminal indictments — his view on the conflict has a good chance of becoming the official Republican plank in 2024.
Now, let’s focus on Senate Republicans and the White House request.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell told us in an interview last month that the war in Ukraine is “really the most important thing going on in world affairs right now.” The Kentucky Republican has been pushing the White House to approve the transfer of more sophisticated weapons — such as F-16s and ATACMS — that could help Ukraine win instead of being locked in a bloody impasse.
The question becomes, however, whether McConnell can carry a majority of Senate Republicans to vote for anything resembling the White House’s Ukraine supplemental request. We expect McConnell to continue making the case that the Ukraine conflict has a direct bearing on the simmering tensions between the West and China too.
We asked Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on Friday whether these recent reports about Ukraine’s counter-offensive should prompt a recalibration of U.S. posture toward the war. Kaine said it’s too early to make that determination.
“The accounts that I’m seeing suggest that the amount of Russian mining and defensive challenges they’ve put in place are slowing the Ukrainians’ ability to get to certain key cities that they wanted to,” Kaine told us. “But they’re also moving in some other areas that might not have been Plan A.”
Biden has long said that the United States will support Ukraine with weapons, equipment and humanitarian aid for “as long as it takes” to defeat Russia. Biden most recently made this pronouncement at the NATO summit last month, during which he and the leaders of other G7 nations announced a long-term security guarantee for Kyiv.
But, as we reported at the summit, that doesn’t happen without Congress’ buy-in — and it certainly isn’t a lock to be the official White House policy past 2024.
— John Bresnahan, Andrew Desiderio and Jake Sherman
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Latest on Hunter Biden, Afghanistan and Jordan’s subpoenas
It’s recess. But the congressional investigators are working.
Hunter Biden: There were two blockbuster stories in the New York Times and Politico over the weekend that delved into the specifics of how Hunter Biden’s plea deal with federal prosecutors fell apart.
The outlets cite correspondence between the U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss — now the special counsel overseeing the Hunter Biden case — and Hunter Biden’s lawyers. We have to imagine the House Oversight and Judiciary panels will be interested in getting their hands on some of these documents and talking to those involved.
One striking conclusion: Weiss “appeared willing to forgo any prosecution of Mr. Biden at all, and his office came close to agreeing to end the investigation without requiring a guilty plea on any charges,” the NYT reported. Weiss later changed his stance. And two IRS whistleblowers who alleged the investigation was being slow-walked attribute that switch to their efforts.
It’s safe to say that House Republicans will continue to pursue the Hunter Biden probe with a vengeance, especially with former President Donald Trump’s legal troubles growing worse by the day. The Hunter Biden case is set to head to trial during an election year in an unwanted headache for President Joe Biden’s reelection effort.
Afghanistan: We broke the news last week that the State Department had turned over more than 300 pages of documents related to the disastrous August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in response to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul’s (R-Texas) subpoena.
McCaul on Aug. 9 specifically requested a group of eight documents that he wanted State to prioritize handing over. State has since turned over one of those documents, a December 2020 memo written by Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Todd Brown.
Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be watching to see if McCaul is satisfied with the production of the withdrawal documents.
Jordan subpoenas: On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland. The subpoenas are part of Jordan’s investigation into federal content moderation policies for social media companies.
Jordan is probing whether the federal government played an improper role in censoring conservatives, which Republicans on Capitol Hill have long claimed. Here’s what Jordan is asking the FBI and DOJ to hand over:
“[C]ommunications between the FBI and DOJ, private companies, and other third-party groups related to content moderation and the suppression of disfavored speech online.”
— Max Cohen
Print and save: Your Punchbowl News calendar
If you’re like us, you like calendars. So we decided to create one with key dates in former President Donald Trump’s legal odyssey overlaid with the congressional calendar. Print, save and enjoy. (Click on the calendar to download).
Email us if you have items to add to the calendar, which we hope will become a regular feature.
— Jake Sherman
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A leader in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
States expand child tax credits as Congress drags its feet
Several states are embracing an expansion of the child tax credit, a popular pandemic-era program credited with significantly slashing child poverty. But its prospects for renewal face long odds in Congress, despite bipartisan support.
Colorado, Oregon and Minnesota recently adopted their own programs after the federal expansion lapsed at the end of 2021. Now, a bipartisan odd couple, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), is looking for ways to revive it in Washington.
The two senators had an unusual 10-minute exchange about the child tax credit at a subcommittee hearing in July. And just before the recess, Johnson told us he hopes Congress will restart discussions around the issue when lawmakers return next month.
“I’m just trying to open up a different process around here about it, get into dialogue and discuss these issues,” Johnson said of his conversation with Bennet. “Because these hearings are just not set up for what I would consider constructive dialogue.”
Tax legislation on the Hill is notoriously contentious and difficult to pass. The dearth of floor time this fall will make the situation trickier. And expanding the child tax credit faces steep hurdles in a divided Congress with slim majorities.
Still, we’ve written before about a potential compromise that includes the child tax credit and expired business provisions, such as the research and development tax credit.
But some Republicans, including Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), have expressed skepticism, arguing that the expanded CTC was far more costly than any R&D tax breaks.
House Republicans, for their part, have shown little interest in compromise on this issue. The House GOP instead spent the spring pushing to make Trump-era tax cuts permanent, which would represent hundreds of billions of dollars in lost tax income.
We’re keeping our eye on this issue as our platform, The Punch Up, explores the equity divide in the U.S. and efforts to address it on and off Capitol Hill.
The now-expired expansion of the federal child tax credit was a centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s pandemic package, the American Rescue Plan. The Census Bureau last year estimated the credits slashed poverty by 46% in 2021 from the year before.
Already, nearly a dozen states have adopted their own versions of the expanded child tax credit. In Minnesota, for example, the goal has been to make the ballooning costs of childcare more affordable, especially for low-income families.
On the national level — and nearly two years after its expiration — Congress is still discussing ways to revitalize the expanded child tax credit, which reverted to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.
Johnson implored Bennet, who chairs the Senate Finance subcommittee on taxation and IRS oversight, to hold public roundtables where members of both parties can contribute ideas on how to reduce child poverty.
“I hope, once we get back in session after the August break, we get into those dialogues,” Johnson added.
So why didn’t Congress renew the expansion? One of the biggest reasons is that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) effectively vetoed it from being considered as part of Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act last year. Manchin suggested it should carry work requirements.
It also came down to ideological disagreements between the two parties. Republicans argued that without work requirements for using the tax credit, families would lose incentive to enter the workforce.
Democrats have defended the American Rescue Plan’s approach, saying it gave parents additional flexibility to afford child care, making it easier to hold jobs.
Bennet, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, views the expanded child tax credit as a way to help parents who might be working multiple jobs because they’re paid so little.
“A huge part of that is because this is not the 1990s in America,” Bennet said during his public exchange with Johnson. “People’s incomes in America have flatlined for 50 years unless you are at the top.”
Bennet and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) are championing a bill that would make the previous expansion permanent. In the House Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is pushing similar legislation. Rep. Richie Neal (Mass.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, is also a big advocate for permanent CTC expansion. These bills have broad Democratic support but zero Republican backing.
“It was the best thing we’ve done for kids and families in generations,” Bennet said of the expanded tax credit in June when he introduced that bill. “We should have never let these tax cuts expire, and it’s past time we get this done.”
— Andrew Desiderio
Raskin backs Slotkin and Pa. Dems launch McCormick ad campaign
News: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a leading House progressive, is endorsing Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s (D-Mich.) Senate campaign. Raskin’s backing is a major boost for Slotkin, a center-left, Frontline Democrat who’s facing a primary challenge from the left in the form of actor Hill Harper.
Slotkin, of course, is running to succeed retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Raskin will travel to Michigan on Wednesday to campaign alongside Slotkin in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“This Senate race is a must-win for Democrats nationally, and Elissa is the candidate who will keep this seat blue and make the Senate a powerful vehicle for the common good,” Raskin said in a statement.
Raskin is the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee and recently passed up a Senate run of his own.
And some more Michigan news: The New Democrat Coalition Action Fund is endorsing former State Sen. Curtis Hertel to replace Slotkin in the House. Check out the endorsement release here. Michigan’s 7th District will be one of the most competitive races in the country this cycle.
McCormick billboard: Seizing on an AP story that found potential Republican Senate candidate David McCormick lives in Connecticut, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is running a billboard highlighting McCormick’s residency.
Of course, McCormick ran in 2022 in Pennsylvania and seems poised to run again this cycle in an attempt to knock off Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).
It’s an attempt by Pennsylvania Democrats to replicate a successful 2022 playbook that portrayed Mehmet Oz as a New Jerseyan unfamiliar with Pennsylvania.
— Max Cohen
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As a leader in the fight against the opioid epidemic, Emergent is committed to access and awareness of NARCAN® Nasal Spray – soon available OTC.
All times eastern
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
11:40 a.m.: The Bidens will leave Reno, Nev., for Maui, Hawaii.
5:10 p.m.: The Bidens will arrive in Maui.
11:25 p.m.: The Bidens will leave Maui for Reno.
Biden’s week: Saturday: Biden will fly from Reno, Nev., to Andrews.
“Storm Hilary batters California after making landfall in Mexico,” by Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal, Mary Gilbert, Eric Zerkel, Steve Almasy, Matt Meyer and Helen Regan
“Mitt Romney’s Political Journey Reaches a Crossroads,” by Eliza Collins in South Jordan, Utah, and Siobhan Hughes in D.C.
“Earmark bonanza: $335M directed to Michigan projects in spending bills,” by Melissa Nann Burke
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY EMERGENT
Approximately every eight minutes, on average, someone in America dies from an opioid overdose. Anyone who takes prescription or illicit opioids is potentially at risk of experiencing an accidental life-threatening or fatal opioid overdose.
As a leader in the fight against the opioid epidemic, Emergent has been committed to access, and awareness, of NARCAN® Nasal Spray soon to be available over the counter.
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