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.
“GPO innovations are helpingto reduce provider costs, streamline drug delivery, and strengthen the health care supply chain,” – Hon. Phil English, HGPII National Co-Coordinator
Happy Thursday morning.
Boxed in, under unrelenting pressure and unsure where to go, Speaker Kevin McCarthy did the only thing he could Wednesday to break an intractable House GOP logjam on government funding.
McCarthy gave in to the right, pushed his moderates to follow him and is pursuing a plan that’ll be a DOA with the Senate and the White House. It could very well lead to a government shutdown on Oct. 1. In fact, that may be unavoidable at this point.
McCarthy’s new strategy is simple. He’s going to try to pass a stopgap funding bill at the $1.47 trillion level in discretionary spending — the same as the Limit, Save, Grow Act from this spring — attach an immigration package that the Biden administration has already said it opposes and create a commission to study the debt, a well-worn Washington tactic that rarely bears fruit. There’s no new Ukraine aid nor disaster relief money in this package.
Simultaneously, McCarthy is going to start moving FY2024 spending bills — beginning with Pentagon funding — at $1.52 trillion total. It’s a level that the Senate and White House won’t accept. It also makes some of his own moderates very queasy.
But let’s be perfectly clear about a few dynamics:
No. 1: McCarthy and the House GOP leadership may not be able to pass a 30-day stopgap package at the $1.47 trillion spending level. They may squeeze it through, but McCarthy’s leadership team isn’t confident about that.
Another wrench got thrown into McCarthy’s plans Wednesday night when former President Donald Trump — who McCarthy just all but endorsed — said Republicans should reject the speaker’s plan. Recall that Trump shut down the government in late 2018 only to fold five weeks later having extracted nothing.
No. 2: If the House does pass it, the Senate is going to take up this CR, gut it and send it back to the House after adding the Ukraine funding and disaster relief. The spending levels will be far higher, right at the Fiscal Responsibility Act level (which McCarthy negotiated, of course). Conservatives will be disappointed — albeit not surprised. Then McCarthy has a tough decision to make. Does he allow the government to shut down or does he cut a deal with Democrats to extend funding?
No. 3: If McCarthy can’t even pass this CR, what will he do? In the GOP leadership’s mind, it’ll free McCarthy up to work with Democrats. But that is perilous for McCarthy and could cost him his job.
No. 4: It’s way too early to begin thinking about this, but reconciling the House’s FY2024 spending bills with the Senate’s is going to be grueling. McCarthy will have a weak hand and will be facing off against the rest of official Washington.
McCarthy and his leadership team know he’s being thwarted by a small group of between five and 10 hardline Republican conservatives, many of whom have personal grudges against the speaker.
But House politics isn’t a fair game. It’s driven by personalities and gripes. As a leader, you have to play the cards you have — not the one you wish you had. And the hand McCarthy had was not great.
In the Capitol basement Wednesday night, a few key dynamics helped McCarthy. First, the conference writ large was pretty peeved that conservatives took down the rule Tuesday on defense spending. This helped the leadership.
Then McCarthy let lawmakers talk … and talk and talk. Rank-and-file members felt as if they were heard. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), probably McCarthy’s biggest irritant, said the speaker could never pass a CR — even after the California Republican had caved on every policy hardliners wanted. This, in the leadership’s view, helped further isolate Gaetz and his anti-McCarthy cause.
It was imperative for McCarthy to reassert control of the situation after a brutal few days, and, to some degree, he did that. McCarthy acknowledged where the power was — on the right — and gave them what they wanted. As he has throughout this Congress.
McCarthy is fond of saying that he “keeps dancing.” In other words, he’s far less interested in how he looks than just getting through each day. This funding debate is yet another example of that.
Meanwhile … The Problem Solvers Caucus — a bipartisan group of moderate members — approved their own proposal as an alternative to the GOP leadership’s CR plan.
This proposal would fund the government through Jan. 11, and calls for all 12 appropriations bills to be passed by then. It includes $24 billion in funding for Ukraine — similar to what the White House requested — and $16 billion in disaster relief. There would be a new debt and deficit commission.
Most importantly, it would also give new authority to the administration to respond to the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. What exactly that is remains unclear, but it’s been described as similar in impact to the expired Title 42 public health authority used to quickly deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants during the pandemic.
Today’s landscape: The House will vote on the Defense appropriations rule. GOP leaders hope to move to final passage on the underlying bill Friday. And then the House will, theoretically, vote on a CR on Saturday. This is all very tentative right now.
— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
TODAY: Join us today during CBC Week for a “Punch Up” activation in partnership with PhRMA. We’re having can’t-miss editorial conversations with Delaware Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (Del.) and more special guests on health equity. Enjoy great networking, music, and delicious food and drinks — just steps away from the Convention Center! The day kicks off at 10:30 a.m. RSVP now!
Don’t forget: On Thursday, Oct. 5 at 9 a.m. ET, join Punchbowl News Managing Editor Heather Caygle to discuss measures to address the opioid crisis with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). RSVP!
PRESENTED BY CHEVRON
At Chevron, our goal is simple – keep methane in the pipe. In 2021, the methane intensity of our U.S. onshore production sector was 64% lower than industry average. And through trialing new detection technologies, evolving our facility designs, and collaborating with multiple partners, we’re working to lower it even further. Meeting today’s energy needs while forging new paths to the future. That’s energy in progress.
WASHINGTON X THE WORLD
McCarthy declined House briefing on Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will meet with the entire Senate today in the Old Senate Chamber. It’s a rare privilege accorded to few, if any, world leaders, and a reflection of the Senate’s relative unity on Ukraine.
And when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked the Biden administration for a classified briefing on Ukraine prior to Zelensky’s visit, one was quickly added to the calendar. Top military and intelligence officials met with senators for over an hour on Wednesday.
However, according to multiple sources, when the Biden administration offered the same briefing to the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office turned it down. It may happen at a future date, GOP aides said.
Zelensky also asked to deliver another joint address to Congress, as he did last December. House Republicans denied that request, we’re told.
Instead, Zelensky will huddle with McCarthy, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and other committee chairs and ranking members on the first floor of the Capitol.
McCarthy’s efforts come as he’s dealing with a conservative bloc that is agitating for Congress to cut off additional funding for Kyiv. The divide is already complicating efforts to keep the government funded past Sept. 30.
McConnell, perhaps the most vocal Ukraine supporter in the Senate, insists that aid for Kyiv must be included in any stopgap spending bill.
Divisions on display: The Wednesday Senate briefing further exposed the widening divide within the GOP on Ukraine, with supporters and opponents of new aid digging their heels in deeper.
Following the classified session, Schumer said that if the government shuts down or Congress passes a stopgap funding bill without the new Ukraine money, “the effect on Ukraine would be very quick and devastating.”
“We cannot let Putin win,” Schumer said. “Without aid, Ukraine could run a very strong risk of being defeated.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that the United States and the rest of the Western coalition will “get tired and lose political support for the effort.”
Cornyn said the briefers made the case that this would be dangerous not only for Europe and the United States, but also for the Indo-Pacific region. President Joe Biden and other Ukraine backers have said China is watching the conflict closely as a gauge of a potential U.S. response if China moves against Taiwan.
Emboldened opposition: But Senate GOP Ukraine skeptics emerged from the briefing even more determined to block future funding for the war effort.
“If there is a path toward something that can be called a victory here, I didn’t hear it,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said afterward. “I’m frankly tired of them actively misleading us about Ukraine.”
Hawley, among the GOP’s most vocal opponents of Ukraine aid, said the Biden administration briefers told senators that funding requests will continue even beyond the current $24 billion ask from the White House.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has traveled to Ukraine several times since the war began, took aim at Hawley’s assessment after the briefing.
Graham said Western allies have “matched” what the United States has done. Graham said he pressed the administration officials to seek enough Ukraine funding to last through the 2024 elections.
“If you were in that briefing and you came away believing that what we do in Ukraine doesn’t affect our national security interest in the world, you literally had your ears closed,” Graham said. “Those who suggest that we should pull the plug on Ukraine — I will make sure, to my dying day, you own that decision.”
— Andrew Desiderio, Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan
Did Schumer set new precedent on military promotions?
Senate Democrats were adamant: No floor votes on military promotions until Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) lifts his unprecedented blockade.
Democratic senators repeated this as recently as Wednesday morning, with one calling it “fundamentally wrong” to pick and choose which of the 300-plus stalled promotions should be considered on the floor.
But by Wednesday afternoon, citing “extraordinary circumstances,” Schumer teed up votes on three members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including the new chair, while simultaneously slamming Tuberville.
The immediate question on Democrats’ minds was whether Schumer just ensured that another senator blocks military promotions in order to achieve a policy change.
After all, it’s what Democrats were warning against all along — that giving in to Tuberville’s demand for floor votes would set a dangerous precedent. And what about all of the other blocked promotions? Is Tuberville now incentivized to jam up the Senate floor by forcing even more votes on promotions he’s actually blocking?
Democrats defended Schumer’s decision.
“Chuck Schumer isn’t causing [Tuberville] to continue this tactic, and nothing that Chuck Schumer does on the floor contributes to Tommy Tuberville’s decision to continue to sacrifice the security of the country,” said a frustrated Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “Nothing excuses, rationalizes or explains the conduct of Tommy Tuberville or future like-conduct.”
And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who said earlier in the day that it’s “fundamentally wrong” that Tuberville could choose which promotions get floor votes, said Schumer’s action was “important” but didn’t elaborate.
“Sen. Tuberville has made clear he does not care about the safety and security of the United States of America, he does not care about the military or military families,” Warren told us. “Whatever Sen. Tuberville says from this point forward has to be looked at through that lens.”
Democrats have long insisted that they shouldn’t have to deal with a problem created by Republicans. And they emphasized that Tuberville still hasn’t gotten what he wants — a reversal of the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
“This is a situation where, frankly, I think people realized that this has been too damaging to the military, and we’ve got to get people confirmed,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said, later arguing that Schumer “outmaneuvered” Tuberville.
In this case, Tuberville forced Schumer’s hand by threatening to trigger a rare move afforded to members of the minority party — a cloture petition. Tuberville was feeling internal pressure from Republicans who were getting nervous about the blockade’s effects on military readiness, as we first reported. This was an easy way for him to save face.
In the meantime, Democrats said it’s time to maximize their pressure campaign on Tuberville. Outside groups are now getting involved, including some traditionally nonpolitical veterans organizations.
Tuberville, unsurprisingly, is unmoved. He touted Schumer’s move Wednesday as a victory and even suggested he may try a cloture petition again.
“We could have been confirming one or two a week for the last 200 days,” Tuberville said. “It would have taken us just four hours of voting each week. But we didn’t do it.”
— Andrew Desiderio
PRESENTED BY CHEVRON
Since 2016, we’ve trialed over 13 advanced methane detection technologies, including satellites, drones, planes, and fixed sensors. We’re aiming to keep methane in the pipe.
PUNCHBOWL NEWS EVENTS
Did you miss our event yesterday with House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) discussing GOP impeachment efforts, the ongoing government funding chaos and tax reform? Watch the full recording here.
Collins sounds off on Marshall’s credit card push slowing down approps
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) is pushing for a vote on a controversial bill to reform credit card policy as the Senate attempts to move a key legislative package.
What’s happening now around the Senate’s minibus spending package is a reprisal of a similar Marshall strategy from July, when the Kansas Republican threatened to obstruct proceedings around the annual defense policy bill.
This time around, the opposition from some of Marshall’s colleagues is more explicit. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she was confident that senators would be able to reach a deal with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who has held up the appropriations package since last week. But Marshall was proving to be a tougher case.
Collins described Marshall’s bill — the Credit Card Competition Act, which is also backed by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) — as “very controversial and significant.”
Collins also said that measure was “obviously not germane” to the spending package. Collins added that the “major” bill had “not been through committee.”
Senate leaders are still trying to figure out the path forward on the three-bill spending package, with several senators demanding amendment votes.
“Visa and Mastercard’s duopolistic, heavy-handed market practices have disproportionately hurt American families and small businesses for far too long,” Marshall said at a Wednesday press conference on his proposal.
Meanwhile, the banking lobby is leaving nothing to chance. Industry and advocacy groups alike are mounting a blitz this week against the Credit Card Competition Act, including the former Vice President Mike Pence-aligned group Advancing American Freedom. AAF came out against the bill this week.
And in a letter signed by virtually every major financial trade group, the organizations said the Durbin-Marshall proposal was “once again jeopardizing important defense related legislation, while attempting to enrich the largest multinational retailers.”
— Brendan Pedersen and Andrew Desiderio
PRESENTED BY CHEVRON
It’s a big day in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Hedge fund executive Dave McCormick is set to launch his bid for the GOP nomination tonight. McCormick, who lost the 2022 Senate GOP primary to Mehmet Oz, has been a recruiting target for NRSC Chair Steve Daines and is considered by top Republicans the best candidate to unseat Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).
In a good sign for McCormick and the Pennsylvania GOP, state Sen. Doug Mastriano has indicated he’ll back McCormick in the primary — a sign that Republicans may avoid a bitter internal fight.
The Democratic view: In a new ad, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is hitting McCormick on three different angles that will provide a good roadmap for the party’s strategy to attack McCormick. The ad blasts McCormick for owning a residence in Connecticut, his hedge fund background and his position on abortion rights.
The overarching message: Voters can’t trust McCormick. Check out the ad below.
Also: The Hispanic Leadership Trust PAC, led by Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), will host a virtual fundraising event tonight that’s already raised more than $200,000, according to numbers provided by Gonzales. The event was originally scheduled to be in person in Houston, but the House schedule got in the way.
So far, HLT has contributed more than $175,000 this cycle to support Hispanic Republicans.
GOP Reps. David Valadao (Calif.), Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.), Juan Ciscomani (Ariz.), Lori Chavez-Deremer (Oregon), Monica De La Cruz (Texas) and Anthony D’Esposito (N.Y.) are expected to take part in the virtual fundraiser.
— Max Cohen and Mica Soellner
9 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
10 a.m.: All senators will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Old Senate Chamber.
10:30 a.m.: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will hold his weekly news conference.
1 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre and Jake Sullivan will brief.
3 p.m.: The Bidens will host Zelensky and his wife at the White House.
7:10 p.m.: Biden will leave the White House for the convention center, where he will speak at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ gala.
9 p.m.: Biden will return to the White House.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY CHEVRON
Lowering our methane intensity is an important step towards building a lower carbon future. Through collaboration with multiple partners, we’re working to advance our efforts in detecting, directly measuring, and quantifying our methane. Combined with trialing advanced technologies and evolving our facility designs, we’re making strides in keeping methane in the pipe. That’s energy in progress. Read about all of our methane management efforts here.
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 Year-End Report
And what senior aides and downtown figures believe will happen in 2023.Check it out
Every single issue of Punchbowl News published, all in one placeVisit the archive
“Dynamic GPOs have embraced digital transformation without sacrificing their commitment to accountability and rigorous guidelines set forth by HGPII,” – Senator Byron Dorgan, HGPII National Co-Coordinator