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“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 Friday morning.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s decision to scrap the chamber’s scheduled recess next week may have inspired confidence that a border security-for-Ukraine deal is in the offing — possibly even before Christmas.
We’re here to remind you that the same structural problems with these talks that existed before Thursday didn’t just magically resolve themselves. In some ways, they may have gotten worse over the last 24 hours.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that Schumer had this to say when he extolled the importance of agreeing to fund Ukraine by Christmas: “This might be one of the most difficult things we have ever had to work through.”
The obvious: Yes, you’ve heard it over and over again: Immigration reform is one of the most highly charged, emotionally fraught issues in American politics. It gets to the very definition of who can be an American.
But it’s also extraordinarily difficult to write legislative text on immigration. And if there’s even a framework or one-page agreement next week, lawmakers and interest groups on the left and right will get a chance to whack it for several weeks while Congress is gone for the holidays.
“There’s apprehension that people may get shots from their base who are somehow gonna come after them — I mean, cry me a river,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who’s close to the negotiations. “I’ve been censured 30 times by state and local GOPs. This bipartisan stuff is hard. They need to step up and do it.”
Tillis lamented that conservative groups have already added to their legislative scorecard a vote opposing the bipartisan talks. “We have literally had people on our side of the aisle key-voting just the idea of negotiating. It’s dumb,” Tillis said.
Still, Republicans are making it clear they won’t vote to advance a shell bill next week without seeing legislative text. In other words, a framework isn’t enough. Many GOP senators aren’t even planning to come back to Washington, especially since the Senate is expected to kill time by voting mostly on nominations.
“We’re staying to do nominations at this point,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the chief GOP negotiator, told us. “If we get the work done, we’ll get the work done.”
There’s a hope among Democrats that any framework agreement — if one comes together — could be credible enough for GOP Ukraine hawks to vote to advance it on the floor. This would require 60 votes. That’s nine GOP votes if all Democrats and independents are present and voting yes.
This is unlikely. Democrats think they’re making it harder for Republicans to resist striking a deal by moving ever closer to the GOP’s demands. Yet Republicans complain Schumer is just trying to bait them with an unreasonable timetable.
“When the administration and the Democrats come to a place where we get the policy right, we’ll be ready to vote,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune said. “But I don’t, honestly, realistically, see how that happens [next week].”
They also see no point in moving forward with an undertaking like this without knowing whether the House is interested in taking up and passing it.
“As we’ve seen recently, just because the speaker supports something doesn’t mean the House will go along with it,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “There’s no reason for us to rush to pass something that’s dead on arrival in the House.”
GOP primary: The Republican presidential primary officially kicks off with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15, followed by the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 23. That means we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more of Donald Trump, if that’s possible. Trump is also facing civil and criminal trial dates throughout all this.
If you think Trump will resist taking shots at any agreement that funds Ukraine and includes modest border or immigration policy changes, you’re mistaken.
This is Trump’s party. If he criticizes or comes out against any tentative deal, that creates serious problems for its prospects, especially in the House.
Already, a sizable chunk of House Republicans won’t support Ukraine funding no matter what. If you take H.R. 2 – the House GOP’s harsh immigration and border security bill – and attach Ukraine funding to it, many Republicans in that chamber would still oppose it. That hangs over everything happening in these negotiations.
Progressives: Any immigration deal will include policy changes that progressives and pro-immigration groups abhor. All week, they’ve been putting pressure on the White House to not cave to Republicans’ demands, which they say would be a betrayal of President Joe Biden’s base.
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) has been in touch with White House officials all week urging them to hold the line. Padilla told us he’s “very doubtful” about Schumer’s timetable and said the White House has been “noncommittal.”
“I’ve been very, very clear with the White House,” Padilla added. He declined to say whether it’s better for there to be no deal at all than for the White House to agree to the border restrictions under consideration in exchange for Ukraine aid.
To be sure, many Democrats are comfortable with Schumer’s strategy here. They want to at least show Congress is trying to un-stick Ukraine aid before year’s end.
“This is a surge effort,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said. “I think this is, lock everybody in a room over the weekend and see how far they can get.”
— Andrew Desiderio
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
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Johnson has a brutal election year ahead
Speaker Mike Johnson is the least experienced House speaker in modern history. And he’s just set up an extremely brutal four months to start 2024 that will test his leadership and the unity of the House Republican Conference. If there is any.
Since taking over as speaker, Johnson has passed just one bill that became law – a stopgap funding bill that looks less wise with the passage of time.
That bill, which bifurcated government funding deadlines between January and February, has created a nearly impossible first quarter of 2024. Instead of a busy two weeks before Christmas, Johnson has teed up a busy 14 weeks to begin the year.
Instead of allowing Republicans to focus on saving their razor-thin House majority in a presidential election year, Johnson is going to have a mad legislative rush with tons of tripwires.
January: Johnson sent the House home for 2023 without a deal on a topline spending number. In reality, the House and Senate will pass government funding at the levels mandated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Despite what conservatives seem to believe, that remains the law of the land.
But even more alarming than the lack of a topline number is that the leadership has no idea yet about how much money should be allocated to each of the 12 separate spending bills.
The House returns Jan. 9 and government funding runs out Jan. 19. In that brief time period, the leadership has to decide on the allocations and then reconcile the following spending bills between the House and Senate: Agriculture, Energy and Water, MilCon-VA and THUD.
It seems improbable, to put it mildly, that the two chambers can come to agreement on all four of these bills by Jan. 19. Johnson has said he won’t pass another short-term CR. So what are his options? A government shutdown or a yearlong CR. Neither is terribly attractive.
Also in January: If the Senate comes up with an immigration and foreign aid package this month, the House will have to consider it in January – or try to renegotiate it. What to do about Ukraine will be a very difficult choice for Johnson, pulling him either in the direction of GOP hawks or America First types.
How about a State of the Union? No date has been announced yet for President Joe Biden to come address Congress.
February: Two big issues for Johnson in February – another government funding deadline and impeachment.
In February, Congress will have to deal with a huge chunk of federal spending – eight spending bills, including the mammoth Pentagon and Labor-HHS bills. The challenges here are too numerous to enumerate. But in short, the Senate and House are on different planets on these bills.
In addition, Johnson likely will have to make a decision as to whether to hold a vote on impeaching President Joe Biden in February. Senior House GOP aides involved with the inquiry say they will be done with their investigation in January.
March: A slight reprieve for the House. The only deadline is the FAA’s reauthorization. That should be relatively easy – save for the DCA slot issue.
April: At some point, Johnson is going to have to tip his hand on where he stands on FISA. We don’t have to run down again how scattershot he’s been on this issue, but we’ll note he’s taken practically every side of the issue.
Overall, Johnson is facing a restive conference that’s looking for leadership but then gets angry with whoever makes a decision they don’t like. Which is basically every decision.
So 2024 is likely to be just as bad as 2023 for the speaker. Happy New Year!
– Jake Sherman
Jeffries’ year of destiny?
Being House minority leader is usually the easiest high-profile job in Washington. You just tell your rank-and-file members that whatever the majority is doing is terrible and they should vote no.
Except if you’re House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has been forced to tell his members that the GOP majority is terrible but they should vote yes because of that. Repeatedly.
Let’s think about Jeffries’ 2023 for a moment.
The New York Democrat made history in January as the first person of color to serve as a party leader in Congress. Then he watched former Speaker Kevin McCarthy – who’s leaving Congress this month — undergo four grueling days of floor votes just to get the gavel.
Jeffries later provided more Democratic votes than Republicans to avoid a disastrous debt default in the spring. That was followed in the fall by watching Republicans completely implode and force McCarthy out, except they tried to blame Jeffries and the Democrats for that disaster.
Meanwhile, Democrats again provided more votes than Republicans to avoid government shutdowns in September and November. It happened again on Thursday when the House passed the annual defense authorization bill.
Republicans, however, did censure three Democrats this year, the most in a single year since 1870. And the infamously dishonest and allegedly corrupt former GOP Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) was expelled in another precedent-making vote.
So Jeffries has faced some bizarrely unprecedented situations in which the minority was forced to behave more like a majority.
Jeffries can look forward to 2024 with a very good chance at winning the majority and becoming the first Black speaker in history.
Redistricting in New York should provide some Democratic gains (offset by North Carolina losses), plus Democrats should pick up seats in Alabama and Georgia thanks to court rulings. There have been some Democratic retirements in tough swing districts, yes, but the battle for the House is basically a jump ball at this point.
Donald Trump seems very likely to be the GOP nominee, and he’s historically been very good at turning out voters for Democrats. Fundraising is strong even without Nancy Pelosi running the DCCC. Plus, the stunning, overwhelming ineptitude of the House Republican majority is a gift from the heavens. Democrats should light candles for the House Freedom Caucus every single day.
But – there’s always a but – some tough times lie ahead for Jeffries and his colleagues.
Republicans have launched a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Bashing GOP leaders by saying this is their real agenda, not helping the American people, will be easy. Defending Hunter Biden and some of the Biden family business dealings may not be.
The devastating war in Gaza has exposed serious rifts among Democrats nationally, especially younger Democrats. The longer Israel’s war with Hamas lasts, the tougher it will be for Biden and the party to stay united. Jeffries must navigate that divide.
A possible deal between the White House and Republicans over immigration and border security – needed to unlock billions of dollars in Ukraine aid sought by Biden – is another fault line for the party at large and the House Democratic Caucus. Biden and moderate Democrats may welcome an agreement, but many progressives and pro-immigration groups won’t.
Then there’s Biden himself. Biden governed as a pragmatic dealmaker with a surprisingly progressive streak during his first two years in office. Biden and Democratic leaders scored some big legislative wins that rank-and-file lawmakers have run on already and will again. It’ll be easy to portray that against the GOP’s non-existent track record.
Yet Biden is 81 and down in the polls, especially on key economic issues. Inflation is coming down and unemployment is low. The U.S. economy is doing better than other advanced nations. But voters aren’t feeling it – fairly or not – and they blame Biden. House Democrats will need Biden to find a way to boost his ratings. Hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign ads on local TV will help him and them.
Don’t kid yourself, though – 2024 will all be about Trump. It’ll be Trump vs. Biden. Trump vs. Republicans. Trump vs. the law. Trump vs. Trump. There’ll be no escaping it. And Trump could win, returning as the 47th president in Jan. 2025.
Yet the 53-year-old Jeffries may find that he can message this either way. Jeffries could be speaker under a second-term Joe Biden seeking to cement his legacy and rack up some more wins. Or he could be speaker under Trump, ready to lead the fight against a dangerous president as perhaps the most powerful Democrat in the land. EIther works as long as he has the gavel.
– John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
Clean energy from hydrogen. Let’s deliver.
Iowa delegation shy on Trump ahead of caucuses
With the 2024 Iowa caucuses one month away, it’s no secret former President Donald Trump is the clear favorite to win the Hawkeye State. But the four state’s House members – all Republicans – aren’t backing the frontrunner just yet.
Reps. Ashley Hinson, Zach Nunn, Randy Feenstra and Mariannette Miller-Meeks all told us they’re not planning to make an endorsement ahead of the Jan. 15 caucuses. Despite Trump running away with a 30-point lead in Iowa, the four lawmakers insisted that they don’t think he’s the only option. They just won’t commit to one.
“In Iowa, you get points for showing up,” Miller-Meeks told us. “President Trump has a core group of people who are gonna vote for him no matter what, but that means the rest are open.”
Feenstra said that candidates in the past didn’t see breakout moments until late in the year ahead of the caucuses, citing Rick Santorum or Ted Cruz, who picked up speed later in their campaigns and won Iowa. That could be the same for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley, Feenstra argues.
“Their grassroots caught on,” Feenstra told us. “They went on to win, so I’m just saying, looking at history, it is a possibility.”
Feenstra hosted and moderated a local forum last weekend with Haley and DeSantis as well as Vivek Ramaswamy and Ryan Binkley, who are also vying for the nomination. The lawmaker asked candidates their stances on faith and family values.
Nunn and Hinson also told us they believe it’s an open question at the moment when it comes to a candidate defeating Trump in their state.
“Anything can happen,” Hinson said.
So why the hopeful optimism despite all the evidence to the contrary? Even with Trump having dominated the reliably red state in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, the congressional delegation is anything but MAGA.
Nunn has been openly critical of his colleagues in the far-right House Freedom Caucus. Miller-Meeks has a pro-Trump primary challenger who has attacked her over voting against Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) speakership bid.
Hinson has worked on bipartisan legislation with progressive lawmakers to expand access to child care. All four members voted to expel the embattled ex-Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) earlier this month.
The lawmakers also said that they often confide in each other ahead of tough votes and try to vote as a bloc when it comes to issues that impact their state. All four members also served in the state legislature together before coming to Washington.
Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have also passed on endorsing in the presidential contest. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds backed DeSantis last month.
“We’ve worked really hard as a delegation to deliver results,” Nunn said. “My priority is to make sure that I’m taking care of folks back home, not coming out here to run a wish list for folks who would mainly like to be on a Sunday morning talk show, but barely show up for their own committees.”
Despite their hushed tones on Trump, all four House members vowed they would support whoever ends up being the GOP nominee.
Big Picture: Trump is very much dominating Iowa polls ahead of other GOP contenders, including DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy and Chris Christie.
The latest Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll had Trump’s support at 51%, up 8% from October. DeSantis is trailing in second with 19% followed by Haley with 16%. The poll was conducted Dec. 2-7 and had a margin of error of +/-4.4%.
The former president made his third trip to Iowa this week, urging supporters to show up in “big numbers” at the caucuses next month.
– Mica Soellner
Andreessen Horowitz founder signals new stance in D.C.
Ben Horowitz, the co-founder of the venture capital juggernaut Andreessen Horowitz, is signaling he’s going to be taking a more active role in politics.
In a post on its website, Horowitz declared:
While “Big Tech” is well represented in Washington D.C., their interests are often at odds with a positive technological future as they are more interested in regulatory capture and preserving their monopolies. As a result, technology startups need a voice.
We are non-partisan, one issue voters: If a candidate supports an optimistic technology-enabled future, we are for them. If they want to choke off important technologies, we are against them.
There’s been a long line of tech titans who have said they were going to play a big role in D.C. Silicon Valley’s tendency is to move quickly and try to enact change. That’s where they get in trouble. Success is a long-term game in D.C. We’ll be tracking a16z’s moves in D.C. closely.
This is interesting, as well. Andreessen Horowitz is hosting an “American Dynamism Summit” Jan. 30 at the Waldorf Astoria in Washington. It’s by invitation only. Speakers include FBI Director Chris Wray, Reps. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), billionaire businessman Mark Cuban and Andreessen general partners Katherine Boyle and David Ulevitch.
– Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
Capturing industry’s carbon emissions. Let’s deliver.
The House and Senate are both out of session.
10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
1:30 p.m.: Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will have lunch.
“Washington Urges Israel to Scale Down Its War in Gaza,” by Adam Entous in D.C., Aaron Boxerman in Jerusalem and Thomas Fuller in San Francisco
“Putin says Russia, U.S. in talks over jailed Wall Street Journal reporter,” by Francesca Ebel in Moscow
“Biden envoy to meet with Abbas as the US floats a possible Palestinian security role in postwar Gaza,” by Karin Laub, Najib Jobain and Bassem Mroue
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
Let’s deliver American industry with low emissions.
Heavy industry accounts for nearly 30% of global carbon emissions. For these businesses, setting and achieving meaningful carbon-reduction goals can be complex. At ExxonMobil, we’ve been working on reducing our own carbon emissions. At our Baytown plant, one of the world’s largest integrated refining and petrochemical operations, we’re working to deploy hydrogen power and carbon capture to reduce emissions by up to 30%. Now, we’re taking solutions like these to others in heavy industry. Using our technologies, we can help these businesses create a plan to make similar reductions. And together, we can deliver a lower-emissions future.
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