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House bills propose $767 million in domestic cuts to HIV care and prevention funding and include harmful new riders. This is unprecedented and unacceptable. HIV cases will increase, and people will die. Join thousands of advocates and write to your representatives today at bit.ly/savehivfunding2024!
Happy Wednesday morning.
There’s a warning siren blaring in Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s direction. And the message is that he’s in a prime position to get jammed by the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is voicing support for the Biden administration’s $40 billion-plus supplemental spending package on Ukraine, border security and domestic disaster relief. Some House Republicans are going to want to split the issue up, especially disaster funding. Others have little or no interest in spending more money on the war in Ukraine.
Senate Democratic and GOP leaders are planning to join arms and pass as many as three bipartisan spending bills next week, as we reported Tuesday. Compare that to the House, where Republicans are finding new ways to struggle to pass even the most partisan pieces of legislation.
Put this all together, and you’ll better understand just how messy this September will be. McCarthy is trying to buy more time beyond Sept. 30 to clear unrealistic House GOP-drafted spending measures. Meanwhile, McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer — along with senators on both sides of the aisle — are looking to keep the spending measures clean, tidy and bipartisan.
“You look at the prior shutdowns, Republicans basically gave in, and nothing was accomplished,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said. “And, in fact, the shutdown didn’t save any money. It actually cost more money.”
It’s also important to remember that FY2024 spending isn’t the only legislative battleground this month. The FAA and farm bill both need to be reauthorized. A fight over renewing FISA — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — is looming on the horizon. And McCarthy is under growing pressure from conservatives, as well as from former President Donald Trump, to make a decision about whether to impeach President Joe Biden.
“I think their whole purpose is to make things difficult,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) observed of House Republicans. “They’re demanding things that have no relation to appropriations decisions. It’s all political grandstanding. They don’t seem to have any profound commitment to getting the job done.”
McCarthy plans to begin passing individual appropriations bills the week of Sept. 18. The House GOP leadership is also still trying to figure out when they’ll take up a continuing resolution to fund the federal government until some point in November. Federal agencies run out of money on Sept. 30.
But what House Republicans don’t seem to appreciate is how unified the Senate is on FY2024 spending — giving senators the natural upper hand in this tussle. After just one day in session following the lengthy 40-day August recess, it’s clear that McCarthy’s conference is going to struggle mightily to extract any of its legislative priorities from the Senate or the White House.
Just listen to how McConnell is talking about the supplemental spending package that the Biden administration is proposing.
“The Senate’s top priority must be keeping the American people safe,” McConnell said on the floor Tuesday. “And this month, we’ll have the chance to do that with supplemental appropriations for urgent national security and disaster relief priorities.”
Of course, McConnell has been trying for months now to raise the FY2024 defense spending cap and get his party to realize the utility of backing Ukraine in the ongoing battle against Russia.
There is concern in the White House about the pace of Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive, which has been struggling to gain ground against sturdy Russian defenses. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials. Blinken is expected to announce more than $1 billion in new U.S. aid for Ukraine.
Yet compare that with the House, which has dozens of lawmakers who want to cut off some or all Ukraine aid. McCarthy has been hostile to the idea of a supplemental. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who traveled to Ukraine once again in August, suggested his GOP counterparts in the House are ignoring history.
“If you think getting out of Afghanistan was a mistake, you’re right. Pulling the plug on Ukraine and allowing Putin to get away with this is Afghanistan on steroids,” Graham said of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I mean, like, read a book about World War II.”
On top of that, McCarthy is dealing with a fractious GOP conference that includes lawmakers clamoring for a shutdown and insisting that they won’t back any funding bill that doesn’t authorize a Biden impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), often dismissed as a gadfly by the GOP leadership, even threatened to try to boot McCarthy from the speakership if he isn’t given an immediate vote on impeaching Biden.
On top of that, the right wing of the House GOP says they are perfectly comfortable with a government shutdown, dismissing its political and practical impact as minimal.
Senate Republicans are categorically rejecting that strategy.
“We have, obviously, a condensed period of time,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of GOP leadership, told us. “It appears as though a short-term CR … would give us more time to pass some more bills and negotiate. So we just don’t have that much time.”
— Jake Sherman, Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan
Two weeks out! Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) will join Punchbowl News founders Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman on Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 9 a.m. ET for an interview on his priorities as chair of the financial services panel. RSVP now!
PRESENTED BY CITI
Asia adopts new technologies an estimated 8-12 years ahead of the West.
Early adoption of mobile technologies has enabled Asia to explore and develop new forms of digital commerce before other regions. In doing so, Asia provides a glimpse of what the future could look like in more developed, Western economies.
Learn more in the recent Citi GPS Report, Asia as a Time Machine to the Future.
McConnell world digs in over his health. Some in the GOP aren’t convinced.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been attending Republican lunches for decades, noshing on pungent fish or chicken dishes while chewing over the policy and political fights of the day.
But as he returns to the Senate after freezing up in public for the second time in two months, the Kentucky Republican is facing widespread speculation about both his health and ability to continue as party leader, a post he’s held for a record-breaking 16 years.
This afternoon, McConnell will have the opportunity to address those concerns in a closed-door Senate GOP lunch in the Capitol — with 48 other Republicans eager to hear from him.
McConnell and his allies have begun that effort already.
The Kentucky Republican’s office released a letter Tuesday from Capitol Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan indicating that McConnell hadn’t suffered a stroke and did not have a seizure disorder. It’s not clear whether Monahan himself actually examined McConnell or he was simply summarizing information gleaned from other doctors’ reports.
McConnell world was hoping the Monahan letter would tamp down speculation about the public freezing episodes. At the moment, most of his colleagues and members of his leadership team continue to forcefully back him — publicly at least.
“It appears that it’s harder to recover from a concussion when you’re 81 years old than maybe he thought,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a potential McConnell successor, referring to the GOP leader’s March fall at a Washington hotel. “But he feels like he’s up to the task, and I think that’s the case.”
Here’s more from Cornyn:
“I know Sen. McConnell wants to be more transparent about this, and that’s my understanding of why the letter was released… I told Sen. McConnell I’m going to support him as long as he wants to do the job and can do the job.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, another possible successor, said McConnell “has my full support, and he’ll have the, I think, support of the conference.” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a relatively new addition to the GOP leadership team, told us that McConnell is “still more than able to do his job and able to do it better than virtually anybody else in the Senate.”
“If it happens more, that’s a discussion to have,” Tillis said of McConnell’s freezing episodes. “But right now, I’ve got confidence that we’re just going to move on. We’ve got a lot of problems to solve.”
However, other Republicans aren’t so sure about simply moving on. McConnell’s detractors within the conference are growing increasingly outspoken about the GOP leader’s ability to serve after initially reserving judgment following the first episode in July.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who opposed McConnell’s reelection as Senate Republican leader for this Congress, put it this way: “You can’t say that you’re concerned about Joe Biden, but you’re not concerned about Mitch McConnell.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — who isn’t a McConnell fan, to put it mildly — suggested McConnell hasn’t been transparent about his health. Paul, an ophthalmologist, threw shade at Monahan’s letter and suggested that McConnell might have had seizures.
“Having practiced medicine for over 20 years, I’ve seen people who are dehydrated,” Paul told reporters. “What’s occurring, from what I’ve seen, is a neurological event. It’s not dehydration. To call it dehydration makes people like you ask all these questions.”
Tillis downplayed those concerns, however saying there’s “a very small group of people that would even ask the question” McConnell’s ability to continue as GOP leader. And Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said any effort to replace McConnell “won’t go very far.”
“Obviously he’s still able to give very good guidance strategically, which is what he’s always done,” Cassidy added.
Keep an eye on the Capitol today: The Senate GOP leadership will have its stakeout after their weekly policy lunch and McConnell told us he’ll be leading the presser like usual. Everyone will be watching.
— Andrew Desiderio, Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan, Heather Caygle and Max Cohen
WASHINGTON X THE WORLD
Senate stares down a mess over Israel, Joint Chiefs nominations
With so much left on the Senate’s plate to close out 2023, there’s precious little time to consider nominations. And as Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) doubles down on his blockade of military promotions, confirming nominees to key national-security posts will only get harder.
Take Jack Lew’s nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel, for instance. President Joe Biden formally tapped Lew — a former Treasury secretary and White House chief of staff — for the Jerusalem post on Tuesday. Lew, whom senators in both parties acknowledge is qualified for the position, will face several hurdles in the Senate.
First and foremost is the upper chamber’s huge backlog of State Department nominees, many of which are being blocked by GOP senators demanding various concessions from the Biden administration. It’s unlikely that Lew would get unanimous consent, meaning that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would need to use floor time to force a vote on the nomination.
“To the extent that we can get agreement, obviously it’s one of those countries which would be a priority” for floor consideration, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) told us.
This all comes as the White House is intensifying the push for normalization of diplomatic ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, heightening the value of having a Senate-confirmed ambassador in Jerusalem.
“I think that there’s an appreciation for the need of a confirmed ambassador in Israel,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) added. “This is a particularly important one.”
And then there’s President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as next chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown. The term of Biden’s current top military adviser, Gen. Mark Milley, expires at the end of the month. The Senate typically holds a floor vote on the Joint Chiefs nominee due to the importance of the job.
Yet given Tuberville’s ongoing blockade of senior-level military promotions, Democrats are hesitant to put Brown’s nomination on the floor because it would set a precedent for all of the other promotions the Alabama Republican is blocking.
“What do you do with the rest of them?” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said. “If [Tuberville] has no answer, then you don’t have a solution.”
We caught up with Tuberville on Monday evening. The Alabama Republican reiterated that Senate leaders must vote on the promotions one-by-one because he won’t give his consent for a time agreement.
“If they don’t do it one at a time, he’s in trouble,” Tuberville said of Brown.
When asked about Milley’s term expiring at the end of the month, Tuberville shrugged. Tuberville said his constituents are “100% behind me” in his effort to block military confirmations until the Pentagon reverses its abortion policy. Tuberville also said he hasn’t heard from Defense Department officials or Senate leaders about a potential negotiation.
“They’re really worried about readiness, aren’t they?” Tuberville quipped.
But Senate Republicans are getting anxious about Tuberville’s actions, which are now preventing swift confirmation of more than 300 general and flag officers. And they’re urging Schumer to put Brown’s nomination on the floor ASAP.
“I’d like to see a resolution,” Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said of the Tuberville blockade. “And of course, what the majority leader should do is take the nomination of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the floor, as we do with Cabinet members.”
— Andrew Desiderio and Max Cohen
PRESENTED BY CITI
Asia adopts new technologies an estimated 8-12 years before the West – providing a glimpse of what the future might look like.
Brown lays out a full to-do list for ‘the next 6 weeks’
The Senate has a lot to get done this month. Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wants to make sure some of those items include bank policy.
Brown told us Monday night he’s already talked to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about moving key bills this fall, including cannabis banking reform and banker accountability legislation.
We asked Brown directly about potential floor timing for the RECOUP Act, legislation he co-sponsored with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) that would introduce the first new safeguards on banker behavior since the Dodd-Frank Act was passed.
Pointing to his conversation with Schumer, Brown said that the bill would get to the floor “as soon as he could do it.”
“We want to get RECOUP. We want to get SAFE Banking. We already have, in the NDAA, the FEND Off Fentanyl Act. All three of those are my priorities.”
Aside from financial services policy, Brown also nodded to the rail safety bill he co-sponsored with Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio).
“We want to do all that in the next six weeks,” Brown said.
Of course, the Senate already has a jam-packed schedule, and floor time for things other than funding the government in the next several weeks will be hard to come by.
But this month is already off to a good start for the Banking panel: the Senate voted 83-10 Tuesday evening to invoke cloture on the nomination of Federal Reserve Gov. Philip Jefferson to be the central bank’s next vice chair.
Jefferson is one of three latest nominees from the Biden administration for roles at the Fed. Gov. Lisa Cook was re-nominated to a full, 14-year term. World Bank U.S. economist Adriana Kugler was also nominated to be a governor and would be the Fed’s first Hispanic board member. Those cloture votes are expected later this week.
— Brendan Pedersen
Campaign news from Rhode Island to Virginia
Amo wins Rhode Island Democratic primary: Gabe Amo, a former Biden White House aide, will almost certainly succeed former Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in Congress. Amo on Tuesday won a crowded Democratic primary in Rhode Island’s deep-blue 1st District.
Among others, Amo beat out Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos and former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who was endorsed by top progressives including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Amo will face Republican Gerry Leonard in the Nov. 7 special general election.
Tight in Utah: Salt Lake Tribune: “Celeste Maloy, Becky Edwards neck and neck in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District GOP special primary election,” by Bryan Schott and Emily Anderson Stern.
Jen Kiggans gets a Democratic challenger: Missy Cotter Smasal is running to take on Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) in Virginia’s competitive 2nd District. Cotter Smasal, a Navy veteran and small business owner, already boasts the endorsement of Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.) and former Gov. Ralph Northam.
President Joe Biden carried the seat in 2020. But Kiggans flipped the district two years later by unseating Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria. The 2nd District, anchored in Virginia Beach, will be one of the nation’s most closely watched battleground seats in 2024. In a preview of the race’s messaging, Cotter Smasal said in a statement that Kiggans is one of the “extremist DC politicians.”
Reproductive rights on the airwaves: Americans for Contraception Education Fund is running two six-figure ad campaigns in D.C. and North Carolina urging lawmakers to codify the right to contraception.
The sports-themed spots, timed to align with the start of the football season, accuse Republicans of “fumbling freedom” by not supporting access to contraception.
— Max Cohen
PRESENTED BY CITI
Asia adopts new technologies an estimated 8-12 years ahead.
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily briefing.
1 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
2:15 p.m.: Biden will speak about the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association finalizing a new contract.
“Why the G20 Keeps Failing, and Still Matters,” by Damien Cave
“The AP Interview: Harris says Trump can’t be spared accountability for Jan. 6,” by Chris Megerian in Jakarta, Indonesia
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY CITI
Asia adopts new technologies an estimated 8-12 years ahead of the West, making it much like a time machine to the future. While its infrastructure has historically been underdeveloped relative to the West’s, Asia’s high internet connectivity, young and increasingly affluent and urban demographics, and entrepreneurial spirit have driven the region to adopt many technologies at a faster pace.
For example, early adoption of mobile tech has enabled Asia to explore and develop new forms of digital commerce before other regions. In 2021, digital/mobile wallets accounted for nearly 70% of the e-commerce transaction value in Asia, more than double that of North America or Europe.
Looking ahead, the trends and technologies seen across the region today can provide a glimpse of what the future could look like in Western markets in years to come.
Learn more in the recent Citi GPS Report, Asia as a Time Machine to the Future.
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