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Happy Tuesday morning.
Breaking News: Speaker Kevin McCarthy plans to tell House Republicans in a closed meeting this week that launching an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden is the “logical next step” in the GOP’s probes of the president and his son, Hunter Biden.
McCarthy and the House Republican leadership scheduled a closed-door session for Thursday morning so that members could get an update on the investigations led by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Oversight Committee Chair Jamie Comer (R-Ky.). McCarthy plans to say that the two chairs have uncovered enough information that necessitates the House formalizing the impeachment inquiry in order to obtain the Bidens’ bank records and other documents.
This is, of course, a huge step for McCarthy and House Republicans. The investigations haven’t uncovered any direct evidence that Biden personally profited off his son’s foreign work.
It remains to be seen whether there are 218 House Republicans who’d vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry. Several moderate Republicans — including Reps. Ken Buck (Colo.) and Don Bacon (Neb.) — have been skeptical of the need for an impeachment inquiry. So McCarthy will have to really work this vote if that’s the direction he wants to go.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has said if McCarthy stands in the way of the impeachment process, he’d seek to remove the California Republican from the speakership. Gaetz plans to take to the House floor today to take McCarthy to task for his performance during this Congress. He’ll then hold a 12:45 p.m. press call about his “vision” for the House “moving forward.” We’ll see if Gaetz, who loathes McCarthy, follows through.
McCarthy’s plan to tacitly endorse an impeachment inquiry dramatically complicates the crush of legislation the House has to complete this month. For example, the White House will probably be less likely to work with McCarthy now that he’s effectively endorsing a process to remove Biden from office. House Democrats, once seen as McCarthy’s bulwark against being forced out as speaker via the “motion to vacate,” probably won’t come to his rescue if a conservative moves against the California Republican under these circumstances.
Meanwhile, the federal government will run out of money in 18 days, and the Capitol is consumed with how lawmakers will avert a shutdown. McCarthy wants to squeeze through the $886-billion Defense bill that’s scheduled for a House vote this week.
But House Republican leaders are skeptical they can even get the Defense bill to the floor at this point. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a McCarthy skeptic on the Rules Committee, told us Monday night that he believes the rule that would allow for debate and a vote on the Defense bill is bound to fail, possibly in the Rules Committee. Norman is one of three conservatives that McCarthy appointed to the panel this year.
Big moments this week: The House comes in today and has votes at 6:30 p.m., the first time members will be together since July. The GOP leadership and allies like Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) have been making calls for the last few weeks to gauge the mood of the conference on government funding.
There’s some talk of House Majority Whip Tom Emmer and his chief deputy, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania, hosting listening sessions in the next week or so.
The Elected Leadership Committee will huddle at 4:30 p.m. today.
The House Republican Conference will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday. McCarthy will hold his daily management meeting Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
House Republicans will meet at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, as well, for their impeachment-focused conversation.
Supplemental latest: The conservative opposition to Ukraine funding isn’t going anywhere. The Heritage Foundation’s leaders, joined by several other top conservative outside groups, are out with a new letter calling on congressional leadership to reject the White House’s request for another $24 billion to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion.
“Congress must not enact a special appropriation to aimlessly fund a foreign war,” the outside groups write in part. The Freedom Caucus is holding a press conference alongside Heritage and other outside groups this afternoon “to discuss the upcoming government funding fight.”
— Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan, Max Cohen and Mica Soellner
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The day kicks off at 10:30 a.m. with coffee and light breakfast bites. We encourage you to bring your mentor or mentee to join our Punch Up ambassadors for engaging conversations and to connect with professionals in the health equity space. RSVP today!
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What we’re watching
Tuesday: The House Homeland Security Committee is holding a hearing at the 9/11 Museum. The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Gen. David W. Allvin’s nomination to be Air Force chief of staff.
SEC Chairman Gary Gensler will testify in front of the Senate Banking Committee — more on that below. The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on “transparency” in artificial intelligence, and Senate Judiciary will hold a hearing on legislating on AI. Microsoft’s Brad Smith will testify at Judiciary too.
Wednesday: The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States with top Treasury officials.
Thursday: The House Financial Services Committee is having a hearing on the Basel capital standards. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will have a hearing on “governing AI through acquisition and procurement.”
— Jake Sherman
Senate at loggerheads over Tuberville blockade
Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) unprecedented blockade of senior military promotions has unified Senate Democrats behind a singular message. For them, the burden is on Republican leadership — not Democrats — to shut down Tuberville.
But as Tuberville keeps digging in and GOP leaders remain largely hands-off, the number of pending promotions has ballooned to more than 300. On top of that, the nation’s top military adviser finishes his term in less than three weeks. There’s no path to confirming his replacement.
And neither side sees any political incentive in caving.
Taken together, it’s also raised questions about whether Democrats can continue to wait this out. Absent a rules change, which would require GOP support, there isn’t much that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can do other than move to confirm the promotions one-by-one, which would take months.
“What’s the alternative?” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) asked. “Spend the next year plowing through nominations?”
No movement: For months, Democratic leaders have shut down the possibility of holding floor votes on even some of the upper-level nominees as a way to get around Tuberville’s blockade. Democratic leaders argue that this would set a dangerous precedent for the chamber — that other senators can employ the same tactic in the future.
“I don’t think we can give up,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) told us. “We all should recognize that this is an unusual and unique and damaging use of a particular custom of the Senate. But if it is recognized as routine, then we will be totally dysfunctional.”
The Senate could theoretically spare time to confirm the upper rung on Fridays and weekends, although Schumer hasn’t shown any interest in doing so, especially with a potential government shutdown looming.
Just last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) confronted Schumer about the issue during a closed-door lunch, arguing Democrats need to be more aggressive.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has been among those calling for changes to the Senate rules to allow multiple promotions to be considered at the same time. Murphy has been calling for this since well before Tuberville’s blockade:
“Republicans could easily decide to join us… But so far, they don’t seem to be willing to budge. My sense is that they’re all patting him on the back behind closed doors. He’s walking around with a big smile on his face, which tells me he’s getting no pressure from his colleagues.”
Therein lies the problem. While concerned about the blockade and its consequences for the military, Democrats also feel like they’re benefitting politically as they paint Republicans as anti-military and anti-abortion.
Looking forward: In addition to the pile-up of military promotions, Gen. Mark Milley’s term as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expires on Oct. 1. And his replacement, Gen. C.Q. Brown, is among those awaiting Senate confirmation. This position, the president’s top military adviser, is the most significant of Tuberville’s holds.
Republicans are pushing Schumer to put Brown’s nomination on the floor, but the New York Democrat is resisting. Schumer says he won’t do this unless Tuberville ends his blockade — an effort to put additional pressure on Tuberville to back down.
Tuberville suggested on Monday that Milley could stay put if Brown isn’t confirmed by the Senate before Oct. 1. But Milley is statutorily unable to remain in his post beyond that date, so the Joint Chiefs vice chair will serve as chair in an acting capacity if Brown isn’t confirmed by then.
“He has to leave?” Tuberville responded when we noted this. “He’s out. We’ll get somebody else to do the job. But hopefully it’s done by then.”
— Andrew Desiderio
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Senate Republicans back McConnell’s hard line on Ukraine
A government shutdown centered on GOP discord over Ukraine aid is looking increasingly possible at the end of the month.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy won’t put a stopgap funding bill on the floor that includes billions of dollars in new Ukraine aid without changes to Biden administration policies at the U.S.-Mexico border. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is hammering the GOP’s Ukraine skeptics on a near-daily basis from the Senate floor, insisting it must be included.
If you were wondering how willing each side is to take the fight to the other, Monday made it crystal clear.
“This is American leadership,” McConnell said of helping Ukraine degrade Russia’s military. “And Republicans should be pressing President Biden to show more of it instead of dreaming about American retreat.”
Two chambers, two strategies: McConnell has been getting more aggressive in pushing back against House Republicans who want to cut off Ukraine. This comes as McCarthy fears a backlash from a sizable chunk of his conference that opposed additional funding for Kyiv.
The dynamic has put Senate Republicans in particular in a bind. They don’t want to undermine McCarthy, but they believe that sustaining Ukraine is worth taking the fight to the House GOP.
“On the one hand, we need to give the speaker as much flexibility as we can because he’s in such a tight situation because of the slim majority and the various crosswinds,” Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, told us. “At the same time, this is a very pivotal moment for our Ukrainian friends. And we don’t need to signal that our support is in question.”
If the House passes a continuing resolution that doesn’t include Ukraine aid, the Senate would likely add it to the bill and send it back to the House. As we reported Monday, McCarthy wouldn’t go for this.
Uncertain path ahead: The result of McConnell’s increasingly outspoken stance on Ukraine is that McCarthy is viewed as having a weaker hand — whether McConnell intends it or not. It’s certainly isolating McCarthy and House conservatives when Senate Republicans are joining Democrats and the White House in backing Ukraine aid.
But having McConnell as a foil could also strengthen McCarthy’s position within the House GOP Conference, the speaker’s most immediate concern.
“Republicans in the House are right [in] standing by some of their priorities, so I don’t want to create another dimension of negotiations for them,” added Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who chairs the Senate NATO Observer Group and is a member of GOP leadership. “But at the end of the day, we have to fund Ukraine.”
Tillis, though, also said neither side should be drawing red lines because “you have no path to negotiation.” He predicted that Ukraine aid would eventually make it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
Some Senate Republicans oppose conditioning other priorities such as disaster relief to the Ukraine aid. Disaster relief is almost certainly going to be included in any continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown.
“They should be dealt with separately,” insisted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose state is recovering from another major hurricane. “Taking the position that if you don’t vote for Ukraine aid, you’re not going to get disaster funding, is outrageous.”
McConnell’s support level: Most Republicans are comfortable backing McConnell. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said abandoning Ukraine would be a “disaster” and could embolden China. Some GOP senators have a more nuanced position on the Biden administration’s request for both military and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.
“The best balance is to provide lethality to the Ukrainian fighters, and then our European partners or other partners can do more on the humanitarian side,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said, pointing to several billion dollars for USAID and other economic assistance that she suggested could be delayed.
Then there’s the sliver of Senate Republicans who oppose McConnell on Ukraine outright. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) said he and McConnell are “going to disagree on that issue until the United States stops funding a forever war, which I hope will be soon.”
— Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan
Gensler in the Senate, plus an update on cannabis banking
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler returns to the Senate Banking Committee this morning. It’s the first time he’s testified before the panel in just under a year.
The Senate’s approach to Gensler has been fairly cut and dry since the start of the Biden administration. Democrats are broadly supportive of his ambitious agenda, which has included significant reforms of the private funds industry and proposed climate emissions disclosures. You can read Gensler’s written testimony here.
Republicans, meanwhile, have mostly been disturbed by that same agenda. We expect to hear plenty of pushback from GOP committee members.
“Since he’s been confirmed, he’s done exactly what I suspected,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told us last night. “He’s accelerating rulemaking, not really paying attention to notice and public comment. We’ve got, let’s just say, a disagreement on how to govern the SEC.”
Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) plans to punch back at Gensler’s critics in his opening remarks. “America’s markets are the greatest in the world because we have strong investor protections — and because we have effective regulators who work to make sure we have transparent, fair and honest markets that Americans deserve,” Brown will say, according to an excerpt.
We should also note this is the first time Gensler has testified to the Senate since the collapse of crypto exchange FTX in October 2022. We imagine lawmakers might have some lingering questions there.
Latest on SAFE Banking: Speaking of Brown, we also pressed the Ohio Democrat for the latest on cannabis banking reform on Monday night.
Brown maintained that the committee was “close” to holding a markup of the SAFE Banking Act and was hopeful he’d be able to announce a date “in the next few days.”
That said, Brown acknowledged that negotiations between Democrats and Republicans haven’t quite crossed the finish line yet.
“We need to make sure we have enough votes. And I mean, there are still some differences some members still have.
“I’m not going to publicly talk about negotiating and what people are asking for or not. There are still some outlying issues — minor ones. But we hope to get people onboard and get a strong vote.”
— Brendan Pedersen
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10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
12:45 p.m.: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) will hold a call on his “vision” for the House “moving forward.”
2 p.m.: Senate leadership will hold their post-lunch stake out.
3 p.m.: The House Freedom Caucus will hold a news conference on government funding.
“Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Revisit Dispute Over Congressional Map,” by Abbie VanSickle
“Kim Jong Un Crosses Into Russia for Rare Summit With Putin,” by Jon Herskovitz and Sangmi Cha
“Trump lawyers seek recusal of judge in DC presiding over federal election subversion case,” by Eric Tucker and Alanna Durkin Richer
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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