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.
Let’s talk about Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.
The prevailing wisdom throughout the 117th Congress has been that if House Democrats lost their majority, the Big Three would be replaced in the leadership, ending their generation-long run atop the Democratic hierarchy. Pelosi and Hoyer have been the No. 1 and No. 2 for House Democrats for nearly 20 years. Clyburn joined the triumvirate after the 2006 election.
But what if Democrats don’t lose the House, certainly a possibility now in a rapidly changing political landscape, although admittedly a small one?
Or more realistically, what if Democratic losses are at the lower end of projections, say between 10 and 20 seats? In this scenario, Democrats would still lose their majority, but what would that mean for Pelosi-Hoyer-Clyburn, all three of whom are now in their 80s? Would they stick around for the presidential election in 2024, hoping to win the House back? How would this impact younger Democrats who have been positioning themselves to take over next year?
And there’s another angle to explore here – What does it mean for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik if Republicans don’t win the House or only take the majority by a narrow margin?
Last November, McCarthy was claiming this could be 2010 all over again for Democrats, who lost 63 seats that cycle. Clearly that’s not going to occur. Republicans are still favored to win the majority on Election Day. But what if the GOP majority is so chaotic, so unwieldy, that McCarthy can’t run it effectively, similar to what former Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan faced? How big of a majority does McCarthy need to become speaker in the first place, since there are some Republicans who won’t vote for him on the floor come Jan. 3?
We’ll start with Democrats and then move to Republicans for this pre-Labor Day snapshot.
We’ve spoken to a number of Democratic lawmakers and aides during the last few days. There isn’t any discussion by Pelosi, Hoyer or Clyburn about staying in leadership or what happens to them after Nov. 8. And no one knows what they’ll do at this point.
Yet it’s clear that if Democrats were to somehow hold onto the House, there’s no expectation that Pelosi would leave. That feeling has only grown since Democrats’ upset victory in Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 19th District. That win was the latest evidence that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, coupled with some legislative successes by Democrats, has shifted the political landscape. President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are rising, gas prices are falling, and Democrats’ edge in fundraising – especially online fundraising – is growing.
No one is predicting a Democratic victory in the midterms, although they acknowledge the political winds have certainly shifted in their favor.
Here’s Pelosi at a Medicare prescription drug event Wednesday:
“Republicans should be very, very, very scared this morning about their prospects. I have never believed that we would not hold the House. That’s my mission. And that’s what I hope to accomplish, and I plan to do it.”
The 82-year-old Pelosi has spoken both publicly and privately about her concerns if Republicans take back the House, saying she “fears for democracy.” Multiple Democrats we spoke to said they don’t think that’s an exaggeration on her part. Pelosi genuinely believes that she is one of the only things standing between a Republican-controlled House and the unraveling of democracy.
A senior Democratic aide said:
“If we pull off the impossible and win in November, even if it’s a small majority, how do you take out the person who led them there? Just imagine the optics.”
Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff and spokesperson, said this when asked about possible post-Nov. 8 scenarios: “The speaker is not on a shift. She’s on a mission.”
The 83-year-old Hoyer and the 82-year-old Clyburn – both of whom are widowers – aren’t seen as being in any hurry to leave Congress, either in the majority or minority.
One House Democrat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Hoyer and Clyburn “want to stay regardless.”
“I feel like Hoyer more than anyone is focused on his future post-November and he has no plans to go anywhere,” added a senior aide.
So when do things change and how? In many ways, this is the same question that we have been reporting on for more than a decade. We’ve watched the Big Three hold onto power through big wins and epic losses, while a parade of ambitious younger Democrats found themselves stuck, with no possibility to advance up the leadership ladder.
But in some ways, things are different now. Pelosi previously agreed to term limits that would have her step down after this year. Now, more than ever, the caucus is filled with younger members who want a leadership team that talks and governs like they would.
“The caucus is desperate for new leadership,” one member told us.
There’s a “New Three,” as we’ve noted before – Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark and Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar – hoping to step up. Not to mention other ambitious pols, including Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who are eyeing leadership spots when they become available.
But as Pelosi always says, power is not given, it’s taken. And so far, no one is willing to try to take hers away.
As one top Democratic aide told us: “Would anyone directly challenge her? There’s a very strong appetite for change but nobody wants to go on a suicide mission.”
Major challenges remain on the Republican side. If the GOP takes the majority by a slim margin, can McCarthy hold on? This is the question bouncing around Republican leadership ranks at this moment. And the answer here isn’t clear. McCarthy has said he expects to win several dozen seats from Democrats and has frequently indicated that one of the largest majorities in history is within reach. Coming up short of that could present him troubles.
This fact remains – Republicans are just a handful of seats from the majority. Anything short of a 10 to 20-seat net gain would be seen as a disappointing result for the GOP.
In the last few days, we’ve gotten unsolicited messages from nervous Republicans about whether GOP leadership has an adequate strategy to navigate the political environment following the special-election loss in New York. One Republican pointed out that several Republicans – including NRCC Chair Tom Emmer of Minnesota – are already eyeing leadership slots in a Republican majority that’s not yet won. In other words, the knives are beginning to come out for GOP leaders.
And, we’ll add, if Republicans don’t take the majority, McCarthy and Co. could easily be looking for new jobs.
A big day for the economy
There will be two key economic developments to watch today.
First, the personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index for July will be released at 8:30 a.m. Of all the measures of inflation used by policymakers, the PCE covers the broadest set of goods and services.
That will be followed at 10 a.m. EST by Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell’s widely anticipated keynote address at the Jackson Hole Economic Symposium. Powell’s speech, coming shortly after the latest PCE release, will be parsed intensely around the globe for signs of how much and for how long the Fed intends to keep raising interest rates.
Programming note: This is our last edition until Sept. 5.
– John Bresnahan, Heather Caygle and Jake Sherman
We’re looking forward to a September full of events! Earlier this week we announced three new conversations, don’t forget to RSVP to join us in-person or on the livestream.
Thursday, Sept. 8: We’ll be at Hawk ‘N’ Dove at 9 a.m. ET talking to Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) about the wide ranging use of 5G technology and its impact on transportation. RSVP Here.
→ Bonus: Stay after the conversation for our first ever in-person Brown Bag Lunch! This benefit usually is exclusive to our premium community, but will be available for all who attend our conversation with Carter in-person. The BBL is a 30-minute discussion where Anna, Jake, Bres and Heather break down what’s going on in Congress and answer questions.
Thursday, Sept. 15: Join us at The Roost at 9:30 a.m. ET for our interview with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) about her role as ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and her priorities for 2023. RSVP Here.
Tuesday, Sept. 20: We’ll be back at The Roost at 9 a.m. ET for a conversation with Senate Minority Whip John Thune about the role of private capital in supporting small businesses, jobs, and the U.S. economy. RSVP Here.
PUNCH POWER MATRIX
— Max Cohen
The Saudi golf tour’s new lobbyist
LIV Golf, the professional golf tour backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, has hired Hobart Hallaway & Quayle Ventures to lobby.
The two lobbyists on the account are former Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) and Rashid Hallaway, who worked for former Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh. This is LIV’s first registered lobbyist.
The duo will be lobbying on “[e]ducation and Issues related to the game of professional golf in the United States and abroad. Protecting the rights of professional golfers to play when and where they choose.”
Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, served one term in the House before losing in a 2012 member-on-member primary to Rep. Dave Schweikert (R-Ariz.).
The debut of LIV Golf has rocked the world of professional golf. The PGA Tour has denounced LIV Golf as part of “a strategy by the Saudi government to use sports in an effort to improve its reputation for human rights abuses and other atrocities,” including the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. PGA Tour players who have joined LIV Golf have been banned by the PGA, which in turn sparked lawsuits from these players.
The PGA Tour spends a lot of money on its own lobbyists, with LIV Golf as its main focus.
LIV Golf recently hosted an event at former President Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf course. Trump, in an interview promoting the event, suggested “nobody has gotten to the bottom of 9/11,” which is a different response than the one he had as a candidate in 2016.
– Jake Sherman
THE MONEY GAME
It’s summer – and money season
Since we’re not publishing next week, we thought we’d bring you some interesting fundraising events for the next few days.
→ Speaker Nancy Pelosi hosted an event for Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) and candidates Rudy Salas and Adam Gray last night in Los Angeles.
→ On Sunday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will be in Philadelphia hosting a fundraiser for Pennsylvania Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, Susan Wild, and Matt Cartwright and candidate Chris DeLuzio.
→ Schiff, who is vying for a leadership post, will be in Boston Tuesday, hosting a fundraiser for Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.).
→ Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) will be in Denver hosting an event Aug. 30 for the DCCC. Neguse also has his eye on a higher leadership slot.
– Jake Sherman
→ News: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is reserving more than $24 million in broadcast TV and cable ad spots nationwide. The reservations include over $1.5 million in Spanish language ads.
→ $1.2 million in Bakersfield, Calif. (including $315,000 in Spanish language ads).
→ $2.6 million total in Fresno, Calif. (including $818,000 in Spanish language ads).
→ $2 million in San Antonio (including $445,000 in Spanish language ads).
→ $716,000 across Maine (in Bangor, Presque Isle and Portland).
→ $4.3 million across Michigan ($1.6 million in Grand Rapids, $1.5 million in Lansing and $1.2 million in Detroit).
→ $3.45 million in Portland, Ore.
→ $1.6 million in Denver.
→ $1.3 million in Raleigh, N.C.
Other ad reservations were placed in Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Washington State and New York.
This is the second round of ad reservations by the House Democratic campaign arm. The first round of $21 million in reservations came in early June.
→ Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) is running an ad on abortion rights that highlights Repulbican Adam Laxalt calling Roe v. Wade “a joke.”
“As Nevada’s attorney general, Laxalt signed onto multiple efforts to restrict abortion access, and he’s made it clear he wants to make abortion illegal,” the ad’s voiceover says.
It’s another example of Democrats messaging on abortion rights following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Nevada notably passed a ballot initiative in 1990 that codified the right to abortion access in the state’s constitution.
→ Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) campaign is out with a new ad painting the incumbent as “one of America’s most effective senators.” The statewide spot highlights news channels covering Rubio’s involvement in crafting the Paycheck Protection Program and supporting the PACT Act.
Recent polling has shown Rubio neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.).
→ Here’s an interesting ad from Tiffany Smiley, the Republican running against Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Murray has run ads painting Smiley as anti-abortion rights.
“Patty Murray has spent millions to paint me as an extremist,” Smiley says in the ad. “I’m pro-life, but I oppose a federal abortion ban.”
— Max Cohen
9:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
11 a.m.: Biden will meet with “state and local elected officials on Women’s Equality Day to discuss actions to protect access to reproductive health care.”
12:45 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
1:55 p.m.: Biden will leave the White House for Beltsville, Md., en route to New Castle, Del. He’ll arrive in Delaware at 4:40 p.m.
→ News Analysis: “Biden’s Student Loan Plan Squarely Targets the Middle Class,” by Jim Tankersley
→ “Putin Orders a Sharp Expansion of Russia’s Hard-Hit Armed Forces,” by Anton Troianovski and Ivan Nechepurenko
→ “Biden student loan action ignites instant political battle,” by Matt Viser and Mark Guarino
→ “Did California just kill the gas-powered car?” by Shannon Osaka
→ “In Arizona, Blake Masters backtracks on abortion, scrubs campaign website,” by Allan Smith and Marc Caputo
→ “Third US Congress Visit to Taiwan This Month Fans China Tensions,” by Sarah Zheng
→ “Trump search redacted affidavit set to be released,” by Eric Tucker
→ “Dr. Oz shifts strategy as campaign ails,” by Holly Otterbein and Natalie Allison
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 Special Report
Analysis of how sentiment on Capitol Hill evolved this year. And what senior aides believe will happen in 2022.Check it out
Every single issue of Punchbowl News published, all in one placeVisit the archive
Medicare Advantage helps seniors save money on out-of-pocket costs, premiums, prescriptions and more. It’s no wonder 29 million seniors choose Medicare Advantage. Learn more.