Democrats snipe on policy, GOP brawls over Trump

Newly empowered Democrats are split over a $15 minimum wage hike, the president’s war powers and other policy issues, while distracted by New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoNew York City moving thousands of people from hotels back to shelters Bank of America: All vaccinated workers to return to office after Labor Day US Open allowing 100 percent spectator capacity at matches MORE’s (D) harassment scandal, which worsens by the day.

Republicans are having a full-blown existential crisis as former President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE and his allies look to banish GOP lawmakers who rebuked him after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Two months into the 117th Congress, leaders in both parties are fighting to iron out internal divisions within their own ranks. But the breadth and scale of their difficulties occupy different universes. While the Democrats are sniping over specific provisions of their policy agenda, Republicans are battling to prevent a full-scale civil war from cleaving the party for years to come.


Republicans “are struggling with craziness. They are struggling with insurrectionists,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOvernight Health Care: Biden touts 300 million vaccine doses in 150 days | Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant | Public option fades with little outcry from progressives Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post On The Money: Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax hike MORE (D-Wash.) told The Hill on Tuesday. “And we are struggling with how to get aid to the maximum number of people and lift people up across the country.”

The disparate intraparty clashes are a consequence of an extraordinary few months that saw Trump lose the election, refuse to acknowledge defeat, encourage thousands of supporters to gather in Washington to reverse the results and then get impeached for his role in the deadly attack on the Capitol that followed.

Democrats are more united in the aftermath of the chaos, but they also lost House seats this cycle, making it tougher for them to legislate. Republicans gained power in the lower chamber, but are deeply divided over Trump, making their message complicated. Still, both parties are striving for the same goal: They need to unify their side of the aisle to win over voters in 2022 when the House and Senate will be up for grabs.

Trump should be taking aim at President BidenJoe Biden 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Philadelphia shooting leaves 2 dead, injures toddler Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin MORE — not fellow Republicans, said Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - House GOP drama intensifies; BIden sets new vax goal MORE (Mo.), who was not among the 139 Republicans who voted to overturn the election results.

“We don’t need any other sideshow, chatter, infighting. What we need to be is unified against this terrible Democrat agenda that is literally against everything that Joe Biden spoke about in terms of unity and coming together in a bipartisan fashion,” Wagner said.


“If we don’t carry that message, then shame on us.”

Republicans have plenty of distractions they’ll need to overcome. The GOP is still reeling from the political fallout from the Jan. 6 riot that led to the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer. GOP leaders were also put in the unenviable spot of defending a new member, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for her endorsement of racist screeds and calls for violence against prominent Democrats — a social media track record that prompted the House to strip Greene of her committee assignments.

“I would not trade places with them under any circumstances because right now, the Republican caucus has members that are either dangerous, delusional or divided,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), who heads the Democrats’ campaign arm.

Those Republican divisions were on full display during a news conference last week, when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection House Democrats' campaign arm raises almost million in May Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters it absolutely was appropriate for Trump to speak at the nation’s most influential conservative gathering after his push to overturn the election results led to a violent insurrection.

Seconds later, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyCheney: 'It is disgusting and despicable' to see Gosar 'lie' about Jan. 6 GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas McCarthy pushes back on Biden criticism of GOP at NATO MORE (Wyo.), who voted to impeach Trump, stepped on McCarthy’s message by declaring that the 45th president should not be “playing a role in the future of the party or the country.”


That awkward moment perhaps best exemplified the battle playing out between the warring pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions of the Republican Party. Days later at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump flirted with a 2024 presidential bid and personally name-checked the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him and the seven GOP senators who voted to convict.

“Get rid of them all,” Trump said to the adoring crowd in Orlando.

Trump has been incensed with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Black lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' MORE (R-Ky.), who voted to acquit but also called Trump “morally responsible” for the attack. The two most powerful leaders in the Republican Party have exchanged bitter criticism as they both try to steer the GOP ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Trump and his allies are vowing to back primary challengers against what they see as disloyal anti-Trump Republicans, including Reps. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerKinzinger: Conspiracy theory FBI planned Jan. 6 example of 'legacy of Trump and Trumpism' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' Why the Democrats need Joe Manchin MORE (Ill.), Jamie Hererra Beutler (Wash.), David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoProgressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate path uncertain after House approves Jan. 6 panel Five takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks MORE (Calif.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHouse lawmakers roll out legislation to protect schools against hackers Colonial Pipeline may use recovered ransomware attack funds to boost cybersecurity In shot at Manchin, Pelosi calls for Senate to strengthen voting rights MORE (N.Y.) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonFauci: Emails highlight confusion about Trump administration's mixed messages early in pandemic Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump Progressives nearly tank House Democrats' Capitol security bill MORE (Mich.). But Wagner, who fended off Democratic challenges the last two cycles in a district Trump narrowly won in 2020, said Republicans would be foolish to cannibalize some of the moderate incumbents who will be needed to take back the majority in next year’s midterms. 

“I don’t like the attacks on any colleagues by name. They are majority-makers, and this is about winning the majority in 2022, which is absolutely five or six votes within our grasp,” said Wagner.

Democrats are only happy to point out the brawling across the aisle — “I’d much rather be us than them,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) — but they have their own internal divisions to contend with.

Biden’s ascension to the White House has energized the party’s liberal base, which is clamoring for an aggressive progressive agenda like the $15 minimum wage. Yet it’s the moderate, swing-district Democrats who propelled the party to power in the House in 2018, and some of those lawmakers are advocating for party leaders to prioritize bipartisan legislation, which has a better chance to pass through the 50-50 Senate.

“There’s consensus amongst moderate Democrats like myself that we want to vote on pragmatic things that have a chance of becoming law in the Senate,” Rep. Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaOvernight Defense: House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers | Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard | New pressure on US-Iran nuclear talks House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats MORE (D-Va.) told The Hill. “And that’s our priority.”

Luria had balked at language in the Democrats’ sweeping campaign reform bill that left vulnerable moderates like herself open to GOP attack ads suggesting Democrats were spending taxpayer dollars on their campaigns. Democratic leaders tweaked the language to win her vote when the package hits the floor on Wednesday. And similar negotiations may follow as Democrats pursue an ambitious legislative schedule in the coming weeks.

“I think the dynamics are different, and it’s still a question of trying to figure out those dynamics in a very slim majority,” Luria said, comparing the current Congress to the last.


Campaign finance is not the only issue in dispute. Liberals are up in arms that party leaders didn’t fight harder to challenge a recent ruling by the Senate parliamentarian, who determined that the $15 minimum wage bill could not move by special fast-track procedures. And many of those same progressives are furious with Biden’s recent airstrikes in Syria, which happened without congressional approval.

“This is clearly a violation of the U.S. Constitution and international law,” said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaPublic option fades with little outcry from progressives Democrats shift tone on unemployment benefits Khanna outlines how progressives will push in climate infrastructure proposal MORE (D-Calif.).

Democrats are also contending with unexpected distractions early in the new Biden era. A third woman came forward this week accusing Cuomo, whom Democrats praised last year for his aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic in New York, of unwanted advances.

Pressed about Cuomo, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDemocrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street Congress tiptoes back to normality post-pandemic White House to Democrats: Get ready to go it alone on infrastructure MORE (N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday that the allegations are “very serious” and said he was supportive of the independent investigation now underway. But he and other top Democrats have not joined Rep. Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHouse moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill House GOP campaign arm adds to target list Lawmakers brace for bitter fight over Biden tax plan MORE (D-N.Y.) in calling for Cuomo to step down.

“The time has come. The Governor must resign,” Rice tweeted.