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NEWS: McCarthy eying disaster relief on CR, exacting price for Ukraine aid
Happy Thursday morning.
News: Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the House GOP leadership are considering attaching billions of dollars in disaster relief to a short-term stopgap spending bill, leaving out Ukraine aid at a critical moment in the war with Russia. Such a move would set up a showdown with the Senate and President Joe Biden over U.S. support for its embattled ally.
Senate leaders in both parties want to pass Biden’s full $40 billion supplemental spending request — which would go to disaster relief, border security and Ukraine — by the end of the month. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators to pass it expeditiously Wednesday, as we detailed in our Midday edition.
Acknowledging a “difference of opinion in my party on this,” McConnell said maintaining U.S. support for Ukraine is a national security priority. He added that Ukraine isn’t just fighting for its own independence but also “degrading the military of one of our biggest rivals.” McConnell has been making this case against Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Yet McCarthy and his leadership team don’t seem to care about this argument. They’re planning to leave the Ukraine funding out of the supplemental package in order to consider it separately. Instead, House Republicans want to include disaster relief on a continuing resolution designed to keep federal agencies open until some point in November. Congress needs to pass a CR by Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
Adding to the complications, McCarthy wants changes to border policies as well as an increase in overall border security money in return for additional Ukraine aid, according to multiple sources familiar with the internal House GOP discussions. The White House’s supplemental request includes around $4 billion for border-related measures.
Again, we’ll point out that this has the potential to be a very big mess. The White House and Senate Democrats are going to be hesitant to break up the supplemental. And there are bound to be disagreements between the House and Senate on the contours of any CR. With just 23 days until federal funding runs out, these kinds of tiffs could easily lead to a government shutdown.
The United States has spent more than $100 billion on the Ukrainian conflict, and a growing number of House Republicans are opposed to additional funding. Former President Donald Trump has called for linking Ukraine aid to a Biden impeachment probe.
But Senate Minority Whip John Thune told us he thinks it “gets complicated” if McCarthy leaves the Ukraine money out of the CR and only includes disaster relief funding.
“At some point, we’ve got to deal with the Ukraine issue,” Thune said. “But if they send us a vehicle that we could do something with when it comes over here, that’s also a possibility.”
Thune is saying that the Senate could amend the House-passed CR and add Ukraine funds to it. Due to House GOP opposition to Ukraine funding, this move could lead to a shutdown.
But Thune did also say if the Biden administration “really wants” Ukraine money, “they’re probably going to have to figure out a way to accommodate some” additional border money and policy changes.
“I think we’ve got a big demand on our side for the border, and especially, that’s going to be something that the House has to execute on getting some across the floor over there,” Thune said.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), a member of GOP leadership and the co-chair of the NATO Observer Group, was even more pointed when we asked him about McCarthy’s plan to leave Ukraine aid out of the CR.
“It’d be disappointing,” Tillis told us. “I think we should get them both done [disaster relief and Ukraine aid] because we’re talking about a timeline where we have to send a signal that we’re going to sustain Ukraine.”
Tillis said it was important to make sure that Biden’s presidential drawdown authority doesn’t lapse, which he said could create “an opening for Russia.”
And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told us he’s been trying to impress on House Republicans that pulling the plug on Ukraine would amount to “creating chaos in the world” and rewarding Vladimir Putin.
And it’s no surprise that Biden himself doesn’t like splitting up the supplemental request, categorically rejecting the suggestion last month.
Interesting: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, in his second week of chemotherapy for blood cancer, is hosting a conference call today for supporters. Here’s the invite.
Also new: The Problem Solvers executive committee has a new letter urging leaders to work together “every single day” until Sept. 30 to find a government-funding solution.
— Jake Sherman and Andrew Desiderio
PRESENTED BY CITI
Disruptive innovation sparks industry transformation. Innovations in technology can potentially change the way we shop, access the internet, organize data, and more.
Vertical farming – where plants or crops are grown indoors in vertically stacked layers – uses 95% less water and 99% less land than conventional farming.
This Citi GPS Report, Disruptive Innovations IX, takes a closer look into this and other leading-edge concepts that could disrupt their marketplace – from retail and healthcare to 5G.
EVENTS, EVENTS, EVENTS!
NEW EVENT: Punchbowl News HQ at CBC Week! We are excited to announce Punchbowl News HQ, our “Punch Up” activation in partnership with PhRMA on Thursday, Sept. 21 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during CBC Week. This exciting event will feature can’t-miss editorial conversations on health equity, including a one-on-one interview with Delaware Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, great networking, activations, music, and delicious food and drinks. Our HQ will be located just steps away from the Convention Center at the Unconventional Diner. Learn more about the event and RSVP here.
And don’t forget about our event Friday in North Dakota! Punchbowl News founders Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman will discuss the challenges facing small business owners in rural America with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.). Join us at 12:30 p.m. CT/1:30 p.m. ET in Bismarck, N.D. Afterward, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon will join Anna and Jake for a fireside chat. RSVP here.
Senate Rs chide House conservatives over shutdown threat
Senate Republicans have a warning for their House counterparts: Stop threatening a government shutdown to extract spending cuts.
Several senators who support the deep cuts pushed for by House conservatives told us that forcing a shutdown is a poor strategy to achieve GOP fiscal goals.
“I don’t think there is any reason for a shutdown. I’m opposed to a shutdown. Period,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said. “This way of doing business where we’re in constant brinkmanship and real people suffer is just bad news.”
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who previously offered legislation to prevent government shutdowns, said he “better not” see a shutdown happen due to disarray in the House.
And Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who co-sponsored Scott’s anti-shutdown bill, echoed that.
“My recommendation during the debt ceiling issue was to increase the debt in order to prevent a government shutdown,” Johnson told us. “That’s what they should’ve done. They didn’t do it and now the situation is unfortunate. Next time, maybe they’ll learn.”
The House’s GOP hardliners have issued a range of demands over the August recess in exchange for their support for any funding bill, even a stopgap package. That wide-ranging — and growing — list includes nixing additional Ukraine aid, defunding the Justice Department and FBI, and opening an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a senior member of the House Freedom Caucus, has vowed to oppose any government funding package unless Trump-era border security measures are put in place, or better yet for him, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is removed from office.
And as we’ve reported before, several conservatives told us they have no qualms about shutting the government down to force concessions from GOP leaders.
Even though most GOP senators we’ve spoken to this week said a shutdown is a bad idea, a few Senate Republicans said they understood the strategy.
“It’s not something I would do, but it’s OK to use that as leverage to get all you can get,” Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) told us.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called the goal of trying to mitigate the national debt “noble,” but disputed anyone was actively seeking a shutdown.
Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), a Freedom Caucus member, said Congress shouldn’t fear a shutdown but added that closing the government isn’t the ultimate goal.
This, of course, is impossible with less than a month left until government funding runs out and Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s tenuous four-vote majority.
The House had to scrap consideration of the Agriculture funding bill just before the August recess. GOP leaders didn’t have the votes due to disputes between the conference’s hardliners and moderate members over funding cuts and abortion-related riders.
McCarthy is now pursuing a stopgap funding bill into November, as we reported above.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he’s comforted by McCarthy’s bullish stance on keeping the government open.
“We should all be encouraged by the fact that the speaker doesn’t want a shutdown,” Schatz told us. “He clearly can’t get to a majority with Republicans, so he’ll have to wrap his mind around doing things on a bipartisan basis.”
The House returns next Tuesday. The Senate will start debate on a three-bill minibus package next week as well. It will take the better part of two weeks for the Senate to complete work on the package, leaving just days to pass a continuing resolution to avoid an Oct. 1 shutdown.
— Mica Soellner
PRESENTED BY CITI
The Citi GPS Report, Disruptive Innovations IX, shines a light on 10 leading-edge concepts that could disrupt their marketplace – from retail and education to farming.
Schumer: No vote on nation’s top military adviser until Tuberville relents
Government funding isn’t the only thing expiring on Oct. 1.
The term of Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Joe Biden’s top military adviser, also ends on that date, and his replacement — Gen. C.Q. Brown — is waiting in the wings for Senate confirmation.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made it clear on Wednesday that Brown won’t get a floor vote until Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) unprecedented blockade of senior military promotions comes to an end.
“This is a problem created by Republicans, and it’s up to them to solve it,” Schumer told reporters. “We’re not going to shift the burden to Democrats when this is a Republican-caused problem.”
Democrats’ thinking boils down to this: It would be seen as rewarding Tuberville’s tactics if the Senate were to take any floor votes on the more than 300 senior military promotions the Alabamian is blocking — even the nation’s most senior military officer.
And some Democrats privately believe that leaving the Joint Chiefs position vacant — and maximizing the political pain that comes with it — could cause Republican leaders to do what they have yet to do yet: publicly pressure Tuberville to back down.
“What do you do with the rest of them?” Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said when asked about putting Brown’s nomination on the floor. “If [Tuberville] has no answer, then you don’t have a solution.”
Tuberville, however, is only digging in further. When asked to respond to Schumer’s remarks on Wednesday, Tuberville replied: “Well, we won’t have [a Joint Chiefs chair] then.” Tuberville insists that his constituents are behind him. The entire saga has made the Alabama Republican a mini-celebrity in right-wing circles, too.
The Senate voted on Milley’s nomination in 2019 on the floor, but Democrats argue that this time is different because Tuberville is taking the unprecedented step of denying unanimous consent for all general and flag officers. Democrats believe that if Senate leaders give in to Tuberville’s demands of holding individual floor vote on these nominations, it would encourage other senators to resort to this tactic in the future and create a dangerous new precedent.
Reed’s GOP counterpart on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.), has been calling on Schumer to put Brown’s nomination on the floor immediately.
Wicker reacted to Schumer’s comments on Wednesday by arguing that holding a vote on Brown’s nomination could serve as “a gesture that might break the logjam” of senior military confirmations. Wicker added that he hopes Schumer reconsiders.
Democratic leadership’s strategy here is clearly to shift the burden to Republicans, but some Democratic senators have openly wondered whether it’s worth going through the procedural motions on some of the high-level nominees in order to get them in place. When Milley retires, fully half of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be without Senate-confirmed officers.
Reed warned Wednesday that by the end of the year, “nearly 90% of our general and flag officers — our most senior military leaders — will be affected by the senator from Alabama’s holds.”
— Andrew Desiderio
Michigan rematch: Democrat Carl Marlinga is running to set up a potential rematch against Rep. John James (R-Mich.) in Michigan’s competitive 10th District.
Marlinga came within 2,000 votes of James in 2022, a surprisingly close race that took some election observers by surprise. The Democrat — a former U.S. assistant attorney and judge — was heavily outspent by James last cycle.
In his election announcement, Marlinga focused on reproductive rights and accused James of being “squarely focused on banning abortion even in the case of rape or incest.”
With Republicans holding a narrow five-seat House majority, protecting vulnerable incumbents like James is a top priority for the GOP.
DCCC targets N.Y. Republicans: The DCCC is targeting a group of vulnerable New York House Republicans, accusing the members of protecting scandal-ridden Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.). A new video by the House Democratic campaign arm takes aim at GOP Reps. Mike Lawler, Marc Molinaro, Nick LaLota, Brandon Williams and Anthony D’Esposito.
The release, which you can watch here, is timed to coincide with “the day criminally-indicted Republican George Santos was originally scheduled to appear in federal court.”
The Santos issue is a political liability for the endangered New York Republicans. All have called for the freshman to resign. But the video highlights the fact the GOP members opposed a measure that would have forced a vote to expel Santos.
Florida Senate endorsement watch: EMILYs List, the Democratic group dedicated to electing pro-abortion rights female candidates, is endorsing former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s (D-Fla.) Senate bid. Mucarsel-Powell is running in the Democratic primary to face off against Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in 2024.
— Max Cohen
THE MONEY GAME
Pennsylvania’s two Democratic senators have very different public personas. Their dressing styles could be summed up neatly as Hoodies and Suits.
Appropriately enough, Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) are hosting a joint fundraiser on Wednesday, Sept. 13 with that exact title. Casey, of course, is up for reelection in 2024 in what will be a competitive contest in the key presidential battleground state.
Tickets range from $500 to $10,000 for the event. Check out the full invite here.
— Max Cohen
PRESENTED BY CITI
Disruptive Innovations: 10 leading-edge concepts that could disrupt the marketplace.
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
4:45 p.m.: Biden will leave the White House for Andrews, where he will fly to Ramstein, Germany. Karine Jean-Pierre and Jake Sullivan will gaggle on Air Force One.
“U.S. Seized Iranian Oil Over Smuggling Incident That Escalated Tensions in Gulf,” by Charlie Savage in D.C. and Ronen Bergman in Tel Aviv, Israel
News Analysis: “Jan. 6 Rioters Have Been Held to Account. That Might Be the Easy Part,” by Alan Feuer
“US, EU Plan New Chinese Steel Tariffs in Bid to End Trump-Era Trade Conflict,” by Alberto Nardelli and Jenny Leonard
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY CITI
Innovations in technology can potentially change the way we shop, access the internet, organize data, gain education, and more.
The recent Citi GPS Report, Disruptive Innovations IX, takes a closer look into 10 leading-edge concepts that could disrupt their marketplace – from retail and healthcare to 5G.
For instance, vertical farming – where plants or crops are grown indoors in vertically stacked layers – uses 95% less water and 99% less land than conventional farming. While vertical farming automation is still in its infancy, its advancements aim to usher in the agricultural system of the future – one that contributes less food waste, reduces deforestation and soil usage, and helps to accelerate the food production needed to feed the world.
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