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Happy Monday morning. Today is the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in NYC to attend a commemoration ceremony.
The Senate is in session today. The House returns Tuesday after 47 days off. But if you’re Speaker Kevin McCarthy, you’re coming back to a bit of a nightmare.
The challenges McCarthy faces are numerous enough that it could fill this entire newsletter. Let’s spend a moment this morning dissecting McCarthy’s difficult road ahead.
Government funding: We’ve gotten the sense from members of McCarthy’s leadership team over the past week that a government shutdown is quite possible — even likely. One senior House Republican lawmaker told us that there’s a 75% chance of a shutdown after federal agencies run out of money on Sept. 30.
McCarthy wants to pass a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open beyond that date, perhaps until November. In McCarthy’s mind, that avoids a shutdown while giving House Republicans more time to pass appropriations bills. The House is set to take up the mammoth $886 billion defense spending bill this week. And if the House is able to pass a Homeland Security spending bill next week — currently the leadership’s hope — then the House GOP will have established a position on the key issue of border security funding that they can use in talks with the unified Senate.
This is the argument McCarthy will make Wednesday in a closed-door House Republican meeting. McCarthy is likely to say he’s willing to have a showdown with the Senate over FY2024 funding, but the House GOP needs to pass bills to put him in the strongest position. And to pass bills, the House needs more time.
Let’s dig into this strategy. For one, it’s not clear McCarthy can convince enough House Republicans to pass a short-term continuing resolution on their own. If he wanted, McCarthy could pass a CR, but he’d likely need a sizable number of Democrats to do so. That’s politically perilous for him. Doing anything with Democrats will spark pushback from the House Freedom Caucus and other conservatives.
Another weakness: It’s far from certain that McCarthy will be able to pass more appropriations bills — period. Conservatives are demanding huge spending cuts that won’t fly in the Senate. Passing any rules for spending bills will be a challenge.
On top of all that, there is a group of Republicans who want to shut down the government to either prove a point or to use the crisis to force McCarthy out.
So what’s the endgame? Smart House GOP lawmakers understand that they have zero leverage over a Senate that’s passing appropriations bills with big bipartisan margins. The House will have less than zero leverage if Republicans can’t move any spending bills after years of crying for regular order.
Disaster relief and Ukraine supplemental: The White House wants $16 billion for the recent natural disasters in Hawaii, Florida, Vermont and elsewhere, plus $24 billion for Ukraine. McCarthy’s plan is to add the natural disaster money to a CR and then try to extract border policy changes and additional funding in exchange for Ukraine money.
It seems like a fine plan until you consider that the Senate will take the CR, add the Ukraine money and send it back to the House with a shutdown looming. McCarthy wouldn’t put that bill on the floor, sources told us.
Impeachment: This is McCarthy’s biggest political dilemma. He’s stuck between the two wings of his conference here. If you speak to most House Republicans, they’ll acknowledge that they don’t have the votes for an impeachment inquiry right now. Will they at some point? Maybe. Expect the GOP leadership this week to send a letter to the White House asking for sensitive documents. If the administration doesn’t produce them, Republicans are convinced the votes will materialize for an inquiry.
On the other side of the equation are hardliners such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Gaetz loathes McCarthy. Some in Gaetz’s orbit blame the speaker for an ongoing Ethics Committee investigation, although there’s no sign McCarthy is behind that.
Gaetz has threatened to try to remove McCarthy as speaker if the California Republican impedes a Biden impeachment inquiry vote. But again, the votes aren’t there right now to launch such an inquiry.
The other big issues: Remember that government funding isn’t the only thing that needs to be resolved this month. The FAA’s authorization expires Sept. 30, as do critical pieces of the farm bill and the nation’s pandemic preparedness policy.
One of the big fights we expect to see is lawmakers trying to jam key expiring farm bill provisions — mostly from the commodities title — into a short-term CR. That will infuriate Democrats, who will argue that nutrition programs also need to be extended. But it may help convince some conservative Republicans to back a CR. The House GOP leadership is skeptical of adding anything more to a CR out of fear it will complicate passage.
Absences: On top of all of this, McCarthy is going to have attendance problems. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) is leaving office at the end of this week to deal with family issues. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise is in the midst of what he described as an aggressive chemotherapy course. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) may be pleading guilty to federal charges, which would force him out of the House. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) had hip surgery last month.
The Senate: Meanwhile, it’s quite the contrast with the upper chamber expected to continue its bipartisan appropriations process this week. The Senate will hold an initial procedural vote on the MilCon-Agriculture-Transportation/HUD minibus on Tuesday afternoon. And senators are scheduled to vote to get on the bill on Wednesday morning.
The big question for the first minibus, as we wrote last week, will be the structure of the amendment process. This could take time to hammer out.
— Jake Sherman, Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan
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House Rs lay out top demands in spending fight
The House returns tomorrow, and the list of demands hardline Republican conservatives are making to keep the federal government open has grown — and grown — over the August recess.
To be clear: Almost all of these are partisan wishlist items that won’t be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate. But as in the recent NDAA fight, we’ve seen Speaker Kevin McCarthy cave to right-wing demands in order to get must-pass bills through the House.
Here are the top conservative demands that we’ll be watching:
Border funding: Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a senior Freedom Caucus member, led a letter over recess urging his colleagues not to fund the government unless Trump-era border security measures are put back in place. More than a dozen Texas Republicans signed on to the letter.
Some Republicans are pushing for a government funding bill to include the Secure the Border Act of 2023, the House GOP border security enforcement package that passed the chamber this spring.
Impeachment inquiry: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has vowed to oppose any government funding bill unless the House votes to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Then this weekend, she said an “impeachment inquiry can not be rushed.” OK then.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has threatened McCarthy with a possible motion to vacate if an impeachment inquiry vote isn’t held.
However, as we’ve reported, some of their conservative colleagues have come out in opposition of linking impeachment with spending cuts.
Defunding government agencies: House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is leading the push to defund the DOJ and FBI, which is in line with his sprawling probes investigating politicization of the department.
Jordan wrote to House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas) in July, demanding budget cuts until the DOJ vows to “neutralize” its staff, which he says is politically biased.
Others to keep an eye on: Greene has also demanded Republicans “defund Biden’s weaponization of government.” And Crane said he was a “hard no” on a funding bill that continues “bankrolling open borders, weaponized agencies, a woke Pentagon [and] an escalation of the war in Ukraine.”
Ukraine: It’s no secret that many House conservatives oppose providing additional aid to Ukraine. As we reported, McCarthy is planning to pass a stop-gap funding bill without the $24 billion in Ukraine aid that the White House is seeking.
Who to watch: Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who wrote to Biden last month questioning the nation’s objectives in Ukraine after the White House asked for the new aid.
A number of other conservatives have offered amendments to the Pentagon funding bill, which the House will take up this week. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) as well as Gaetz and Greene are among those seeking to cut off Ukraine aid.
Remember: Many Freedom Caucus members are already trying to frame a shutdown as not a big deal.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) described a government shutdown as “a temporary pause in nonessential spending that would allow us to get our fiscal house in order.” Other Freedom Caucus members have made similar comments recently.
And Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn) told us that he believes there will be a shutdown due to the right’s opposition to a stop-gap funding bill.
— Mica Soellner and Max Cohen
Oversight war of words is preview of impeachment battle to come
As the House returns from August recess, one of the major storylines we’re tracking is the Republican effort to impeach President Joe Biden.
Want a preview of the wider political fight to come in the House? Look no further than the House Oversight Committee. The political sniping between panel’s leaders — Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) — will foreshadow the rhetoric surrounding the looming impeachment inquiry.
In a new memo, Raskin assails Comer’s efforts to establish wrongdoing by Biden over his alleged involvement in Hunter Biden’s overseas business deals.
“[The investigation] has been a complete and total bust—an epic flop in the history of congressional investigations,” Raskin says in the statement.
The full memo, which you can read here, is a useful summary of how Democrats are seeking to defend the White House. Raskin returns to a familiar comparison to former President Donald Trump, arguing Comer’s efforts are simply a distraction from the GOP standard bearer’s litany of legal troubles.
And the top Oversight Democrat accuses Republicans of “regurgitating old and disproven information” and making “baseless and sensationalistic claims.”
But Comer’s investigation, while stopping short of establishing misdeeds by the president, has shattered a public perception that Biden had no involvement with Hunter Biden’s business.
Former Hunter Biden business associate Devon Archer told Oversight investigators this summer that then-Vice President Biden would speak to his son’s business partners on speakerphone. While Archer insisted business wasn’t discussed, the calls revealed Biden played a larger role than he had previously admitted.
“Mounting evidence reveals that then-Vice President Joe Biden was ‘the brand’ that his family sold around the world to enrich the Bidens,” Oversight Committee spokesperson Jessica Collins said in a statement. “The Oversight Committee has a duty to continue to follow this pattern of corruption and hold President Biden accountable for abusing public office for the financial benefit of his family.”
As we noted above, a number of House Republicans have said there’s not enough votes to start an impeachment inquiry.
— Max Cohen
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PUNCHBOWL NEWS EVENTS
Missed our event Friday in North Dakota with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) discussing challenges facing small businesses owners in rural America? Watch the full recording.
Joseph Cortina, an alumnus of former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-Md.) office, is joining Standard Industries to lead the firm’s global government affairs team. Cortina was previously a principal at Sternhell Group as well as head of federal affairs for Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.
JP Morgan Chase has hired Marshall & Popp to lobby on “[i]ssues related to financial services, banking, and investments.” Marshall & Popp is helmed by Hazen Marshall, a former policy director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Monica Popp, the former chief of staff to Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) leadership office.
— Brendan Pedersen and Jake Sherman
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All times eastern
6:05 a.m.: President Joe Biden will visit the John Sidney McCain III memorial in Hanoi, Vietnam. … Vice President Kamala Harris will fly to New York, where she will attend the 9/11 Commemoration at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
7:10 a.m.: Biden will leave Hanoi for Anchorage, Alaska.
4:05 p.m.: Biden will arrive in Anchorage, where he will speak to mark 9/11.
6 p.m.: Biden will leave Anchorage for Joint Base Andrews.
Midnight: Biden will arrive at Andrews.
“Rescuers Reach Remote Villages in Mountains as Aid Trickles In,” by Vivian Yee and Aida Alami
“Biden Forges Deeper Ties With Vietnam as China’s Ambition Mounts,” by Peter Baker and Katie Rogers in Hanoi, Vietnam
“Pretrial-palooza underway for Trump,” by Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett
“Biden Doubts China Able to Invade Taiwan Amid Economic Woes,” by Akayla Gardner and Jenny Leonard
“Even Brief UAW Strike Seen Causing Billions in US Economic Damage,” by David Welch and Michael Sasso
“Meta Is Developing a New, More Powerful AI System as Technology Race Escalates,” by Deepa Seetharaman and Tom Dotan
“Pennsylvania Republicans have the candidate they want for US Senate. They just need him to run,” by Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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