Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — It’s decision day on Warnock vs. Walker

Upbeat is how Democrats in Washington and Georgia say they’re feeling today about the number 51.

If Georgia voters decide to send Sen. Raphael Warnock, the Democratic preacher, back to Washington next year and if GOP challenger Herschel Walker, the former Heisman Trophy winner who decided to try his hand at politics, loses today’s Senate runoff, as polls are hinting, Democrats gain a majority of 51 in January instead of 50, which amounts to a functioning majority that would deliver some political benefits.  

Warnock, a reverend who serves as senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, the former pulpit of Martin Luther King Jr., knows plenty about close elections. He narrowly won a runoff in 2021 and he received more votes than Walker a month ago on Election Day but not enough to avoid a runoff because of a third-party candidate.

The Republican football legend, who was endorsed during the GOP Senate primary and general election by former President Trump, was battered by personal controversies throughout the campaign, and his ties to Trump may have hurt him more than helped during the past month, The Hill’s Hanna Trudo and Al Weaver write.

Warnock has barnstormed counties around Atlanta and worked to chip away at rural areas held by the GOP. He also stumped heavily during the fall holiday season, an investment that his campaign argues stands in contrast to Walker, who has been less visible on the trail in recent weeks. There is some evidence that independent voters and some Republicans who would not back Walker may help Warnock hold his seat.

👉 Georgia polls start closing at 7 p.m. (The Washington Post).

The Hill’s Niall Stanage sets the scene in the Peach State with the five key factors to watch as the high-profile Senate contest wraps up. 

The Hill: Here’s a look at five men not on the ballot who may have the most at stake in Georgia’s runoff. Hint: One occupies the White House, one wants to return to the White House and three are exceedingly ambitious senators with divergent aims.

Georgia’s runoff is a window through which analysts are studying the challenges Republicans face while courting Black voters, reports The Hill’s Cheyanne Daniels. An overwhelming majority of Black voters recently indicated in a CNN poll that they planned to cast their ballots for Warnock, the Democrat, rather than Walker. 

“[Black voters] are offended that the Republican Party is attempting to impose their version of what a Black leader should be on the Black community, said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of Black PAC, speaking about the Georgia runoff.

Meanwhile, the state is not alone in trying to finish the 2022 election business nearly a month after Election Day. Arizona on Monday certified its election results following GOP challenges (The Hill). 

“Arizona had a successful election,” said Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), who was on the ballot on Nov. 8. “But too often throughout the process, powerful voices proliferated misinformation that threatened to disenfranchise voters. Democracy prevailed, but it’s not out of the woods. 2024 will bring a host of challenges from the election denial community that we must prepare for.”

Next year, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who hopes to be elected Speaker to lead the incoming House Republican majority in the Capitol, would almost assuredly struggle to unify his caucus if he is tapped, according to some Senate Republicans. Doubts about McCarthy and the fate of legislation in the hands of fractious House conservatives help explain why some want to finish major legislation this month, including additional funding for defense and military assistance for Ukraine, opposed by some House Republicans.

McCarthy’s struggles in lining up 218 votes to become Speaker underscore challenges he would face in 2023 to enact major legislation, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton. It’s clear that McCarthy will have to rely on Democratic votes, which will undercut his negotiating leverage and spark fights with the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Looking ahead, that reality may encourage GOP senators allied with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to try to navigate around political hurdles they see on the horizon. Getting a budget deal by the end of this week is one fallback option.

The Hill’s Emily Brooks explores the major pledges McCarthy has made to woo fellow Republicans to help make him the next Speaker on Jan. 3.


Related Articles

The Hill: Trump on Monday insisted he does not want to terminate sections of the Constitution after saying exactly that on his social media platform Truth Social last week. His denial came hours after the White House called on GOP lawmakers to denounce the 2024 presidential candidate’s commentary about the Constitution, which Trump took an oath to defend as president in 2017 (The Hill). GOP senators on Monday panned Trump’s comments (The Hill). 

The Hill: Former Trump White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Monday he will “seriously consider” challenging his former boss for the GOP presidential nomination if other potential candidates don’t try to dim Trump’s chances in 2024. 

CNN: A federal judge on Monday sentenced disgraced former California attorney Michael Avenatti to 14 years in prison and ordered him to pay $11 million after he pleaded guilty to multiple charges of stealing millions of dollars belonging to former clients. Avenatti briefly gained notoriety when he represented adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had an affair with Trump years before he entered politics.


LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS

Tax credits for individuals and businesses are up for grabs as negotiations on a year-end spending deal are coming down to the wire, write The Hill’s Tobias Burns and Aris Folley. The possible credits range from an expansion of the child tax credit, which was beefed up during the pandemic and raised millions of children out of poverty, to incentives for companies to invest more in research and development. 

Vox: Inside the fight for an end-of-year deal on the child tax credit.

House leaders are expected to bring a compromise version of the annual defense authorization bill to the floor this week, but details of what the massive military policy legislation will include have yet to be released. The House passed its $840 billion version of the authorization bill over the summer.

The Senate has been discussing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for months but appears unlikely to pass its own version now, opting instead to simply approve a compromise draft after the House acts. But that hasn’t stopped McCarthy from calling for the measure to be delayed until after the lame duck session, when his party takes control of the House (Military Times).

The Hill: Progressives push back on effort to put Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) permitting reform deal in the NDAA.

Roll Call: Final NDAA is expected to rescind the Pentagon vaccine mandate.

The White House opposes using the annual defense spending bill to repeal a vaccine mandate for military service members, national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday. Republican lawmakers have threatened to delay passage of the annual defense authorization bill if the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which was instituted last year, is not rescinded (The Hill).

Roll Call and Axios: Senators pitch deal to protect “Dreamers” and boost border security. The proposal by Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) seeks a rare bipartisan agreement on immigration legislation.

Politico: House Minority Leader-elect Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) begin their Democratic buddy act. Blaze trails, it’s the Brooklyn way: One is Congress’s first-ever Black party leader; the other its first Jewish leader. Now they’ve got to build their own chemistry.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants to step down from her post on a high note this year as Democrats seek a string of high-profile legislative victories in the waning weeks of her two-decade run at the top of the party, writes The Hill’s Mike Lillis

The post-election lame-duck session offers Democrats a final shot at notching policy wins before Republicans take control of the lower chamber next year, and party leaders have packed it full of weighty policy proposals touching on issues as fraught as gay rights, immigration reform, Ukraine funding and efforts to strengthen America’s election systems. The ambitious to-do list would not only make this year’s lame-duck among the most momentous in modern memory but also enable Pelosi to go out championing some of the same pet issues that have defined her long leadership career.

Her allies in Congress say that’s not a coincidence. 

ADMINISTRATION

Rock-bottom relations between the U.S. and Russia are bleeding into and fracturing one of the most fragile and preserved areas of the relationship — strategic communication over their nuclear weapons. 

As The Hill’s Laura Kelly reports, Russia’s rejection of a meeting with U.S. officials this week in Egypt — for nuclear talks related to a soon-to-expire treaty — is raising the risk that Washington is losing its ability to communicate with Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called it “absurd” that Moscow would hold talks with Washington on nuclear stability, criticizing the U.S. as using Ukraine to try to destroy Russia.

“For now, we aren’t hearing any meaningful ideas,” Lavrov said during his annual press conference, referring to nuclear talks. “[But] if there will be proposals from the president [Biden] and from other members of his administration, we’ll never shy away from contacts.” 

The Pentagon secretly modified advanced rocket systems it sent to Ukraine to make the weapons unable to fire into Russia and escalate the war. Since June, the U.S. has supplied Kyiv with 20 of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), but the weapons are uniquely modified so they can’t fire long-range missiles, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal.

The Biden administration said the modifications were a precaution necessary to reduce the risk of a wider war with Moscow.

When President Biden announced the Defense Department was shipping the HIMARS and ammunition to Ukraine at the end of May, he said they would be used only for defense and the administration was “not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia” (The Hill).

Politico: “We haven’t got this figured out just yet”: Pentagon, industry struggle to arm Ukraine.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, in a speech in Washington on Monday, said the United States faces “a new kind of warfare” that he described as a byproduct of global interconnectedness, emerging technologies and economic and political instability that mean national security and homeland security are interwoven (CyberScoop).

Meanwhile, Mayorkas on Monday extended immigration protections for Haitians in the United States, granting work permits and deferral from deportation to Haitians in the country as of Nov. 6 (The Hill).

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and other U.S. officials met on Monday in Brazil with President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and invited him on behalf of Biden to visit Washington (Reuters). Lula will be inaugurated on Jan. 1.


IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL

Explosions rocked two Russian airbases far from the frontlines with Ukraine on Monday as Kyiv appeared to launch a preemptive strike on bombers that the Kremlin has used to try to cripple the country’s electrical grid.

The Russian defense ministry confirmed the attacks, claiming two of its warplanes had been damaged when they intercepted two Ukrainian drones. The strike represented an unprecedented Ukrainian operation deep inside Russia to disrupt the Kremlin strategy of provoking a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine on the verge of winter (The Guardian).

Russia, meanwhile, has fired a barrage of missiles at targets across Ukraine for the eighth time in eight weeks. Significant disruptions to the power grid were reported, mainly in the east. But the strikes, which came nearly two weeks after the last, may have done less damage than on previous occasions. Ukraine says it shot down 60 of the 70 missiles fired by Russia, while Moscow says it hit all 17 of its targets (BBC).

Reuters: Ukrainian officials search for evidence of Russian war crimes.

The New York Times: Russian cruise missiles were made just months ago despite sanctions.

The Hill: A price cap on Russian oil imposed by leading industrialized nations in the Group of Seven, designed to be a punishment for the Kremlin’s war with Ukraine, took effect on Monday.

India will prioritize its own energy needs and continue to buy oil from Russia, its foreign minister indicated Monday. 

Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said it isn’t right for European countries to prioritize their energy needs but “ask India to do something else.”

“Europe will make the choices it will make,” he told reporters. “It is their right.”

Reuters: Beijing drops COVID testing burden as wider easing beckons across China.

CNN: Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Saudi Arabia, sources say, amid frayed ties with the U.S.


OPINION

■ North Carolina’s dubious constitutional theory could undermine elections, by Karen Tumulty, deputy opinion editor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3F3N6KU 

■ Strengthen the child tax credit before expanding it, by Ramesh Ponnuru, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. ​​https://bloom.bg/3BdV17r

■ Donald Trump is … the Terminator: He wants back in the White House and forget about the Constitution, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3HcZgDQ


WHERE AND WHEN

👉 The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.

INVITATION to The Hill newsmaker event: Tuesday 1 p.m. ET, “Reimagining the Pharma Supply Chain,” with Reps. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and other expert panelists. Information and registration HERE

The House will convene at 9 a.m. and is expected to consider a final version of marriage equality legislation.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of judicial nominations.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8:45 a.m. Biden will travel to Phoenix to visit TSMC, a Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturing plant at 1:30 p.m. MT. He will speak at 2 p.m. MT with an announcement that the company plans to invest another $40 billion in the U.S. (The Hill). The president will depart Phoenix and return to the White House tonight.

Vice President Harris will be in Washington and has no public schedule today.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin co-host Australia-U.S. ministerial consultations at the State Department. They will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet Moldovan President Maia Sandu at the Treasury Department at 4 p.m.

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report at 8:30 a.m. on October data about U.S. international trade in goods and services.  


ELSEWHERE

ECONOMY & WORKERS

The effort by major U.S.-based companies to adjust revenue projections and cut costs before the new year continues with PepsiCo., which will lay off hundreds of workers at the company’s headquarters for its North American snacks division, based in Chicago and Plano, Texas, and its beverages division, based in Purchase, N.Y., according to The Wall Street Journal.

Railroad workers are threatening to leave the industry after Congress forced through a contract agreement that does not provide paid sick leave, writes The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom. An exodus of rail workers would pose a serious threat to the U.S. economy, which relies heavily on freight railroads to transport most goods.

PBS: Rail workers say quality-of-life concerns are not resolved under a contract deal imposed by Congress to avert a strike.

The Independent: Railroad workers were given a “one-two punch” from the White House and Republicans. They say they aren’t giving up.

Record home prices and rising rents are hurting the ability of Americans nationwide to secure housing, write The Hill’s Adam Barnes and Brooke Migdon, and LGBTQ Americans in nearly half of the U.S. already can be evicted, denied home loans and turned away from rentals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Those states include Idaho, Montana and Arizona, where average year-over-year home prices have skyrocketed nearly 30 percent, and transgender people often bear the brunt of this type of discrimination. 

➤ SUPREME COURT

Some justices on Monday hinted at support for a Colorado website designer who says she has a constitutional right to create websites only for opposite-sex weddings. Hearing arguments for more than two hours, the high court’s conservative majority considered what some justices described as a narrow exemption from anti-discrimination laws for businesses that engage in expressive activities (Bloomberg News).

CNBC: The Supreme Court is likely to rule that the Biden student loan plan is illegal, experts say. Here’s what that means for borrowers.

The Hill: The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up a 2020 case against Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook. 

The court on Wednesday will hear oral arguments in a case concerning North Carolina’s congressional map that could give state legislatures more sway over federal elections. Members of the state’s GOP-controlled legislature have argued the state Supreme Court overstepped its bounds earlier this year when it ruled its newly redrawn congressional districts violated the state constitution through partisan gerrymandering.

The state court approved a new congressional map for the 2022 midterm elections that was less favorable overall for Republican candidates, and the legislators want the court to find that it violated the Constitution. But those who first challenged the map, as well as outside experts, say that siding with the legislators would cast questions over hundreds of election rules across the nation — as broad as congressional maps or as local as the locations of polling places (Roll Call).

FiveThirtyEight: How North Carolina’s political warfare in a case known as Moore v. Harper, which will be heard by the Supreme Court this week, could impact the entire country.

PANDEMIC & HEALTH 

Pfizer on Monday applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use approval of its COVID-19 omicron vaccine for children ages 6 months to 4 years as the third shot in a three-dose series.

If authorized, children would still receive two doses of the original vaccine and then a third dose that specifically targets the omicron variant of the coronavirus. The vaccine is currently authorized for children 5 and older. 

“With the high level of respiratory illnesses currently circulating among children under 5 years of age, updated COVID-19 vaccines may help prevent severe illness and hospitalization,” the company said in a statement (The Hill).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday urged Americans to get up to date on flu and COVID-19 vaccinations amid high levels of respiratory illnesses and hospitalizations as winter begins. Fourteen children have died in the United States from the flu so far this season (The Hill).

CNBC: Exercise may increase the effectiveness of your COVID-19 vaccine, a new study found: Here’s how to get the most benefit.

WHYY: If you don’t want to give COVID-19 for Christmas, experts recommend the bivalent booster.

The year without germs changed kids, The Atlantic reports. Children who spent their formative years in the bleach-everything era will certainly have different microbiomes. The question is whether “different” means “bad.”

Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,081,638. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 1,780 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)


THE CLOSER

And finally … 🏛️ Because we’re The Hill, we hopped into the wayback machine to bring you a reminder that on this day, Dec. 6, in 1790, the nation’s capital moved from New York City to Philadelphia where it remained with that designation until 1800, when the District of Columbia became the capital and seat of federal legislative governance. 

At the time, House members were divided over whether to remain in New York City or to move to Baltimore or Philadelphia. With a vote of 38 to 22, they chose Philadelphia as a temporary capital from 1790 to 1800, largely because the city blended economic and cultural hubbub with a convenient seaport along the East Coast. Philadelphia’s Congress Hall managed to squeeze in the House and Senate chambers, although the structure was not originally designed for that purpose. 

Construction of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., began in 1793. The House occupied its current chamber in Washington beginning in 1857 and the Senate moved in by 1859. The structure has undergone near-constant decluttering, expansions, upkeep and modernizations ever since.


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