The Hill’s Morning Report — Lawmakers agree on framework for government funding
Editor’s note: The Hill’s Morning Report is our daily newsletter that dives deep into Washington’s agenda. To subscribe, click here or fill out the box below.
Just days before a deadline that would have triggered a government shutdown, lawmakers have struck a much-anticipated deal on a framework for a so-called omnibus spending bill to fund the government for fiscal 2023.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) late Tuesday said in a statement that negotiators had “reached a bipartisan, bicameral framework that should allow us to finish an omnibus appropriations bill that can pass the House and Senate and be signed into law by the President.”
House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said that the House and Senate Appropriations committees will “work around the clock” to negotiate the final spending bills for 2023 (The Hill).
“We have a framework that provides a path forward to enact an omnibus next week,” she said in a statement.
Negotiators didn’t release government funding totals when they announced the deal, but appropriators have largely settled on an $858 billion defense budget in recent weeks, a 10 percent boost over current funding levels. Domestic funding levels proved the major hangup between both parties in recent weeks as talks stalled, eventually boiling down to a $26 billion difference in nondefense spending.
Democrats had signaled a willingness to move toward the Senate GOP position earlier on Tuesday in order to secure a deal before Republicans take control of the House in January. With a bipartisan framework and legislative text largely written, lawmakers could be on track to clear the omnibus just before the holidays.
Current government funding runs out this Friday, but both the House and Senate are expected to pass a one-week stopgap spending bill to give appropriators more time to pass the omnibus bill before Dec. 23 (Roll Call and Politico).
Vox: Why the government is constantly on the verge of shutting down.
The committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold its final event on Monday, during which it will release its list of criminal referrals and vote to publish its final report two days later. Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters Tuesday that the committee has sped up its timeline to cap its more than yearlong investigation (The Hill).
“We looked at the schedule, and it appears we can complete our work a little bit before that,” he said. “So why not get it to the public as quick as we can.”
Looking back on the midterms, McConnell on Tuesday blamed the power former President Trump exerted in GOP primaries for the “candidate quality” issues his party struggled with in key races — including Arizona, New Hampshire and Georgia, where Trump-backed candidates lost at the ballot box. He said that some Republicans had forgotten the lessons of the 2010 and 2012 elections, when the GOP fumbled good opportunities to win races because extreme or controversial Republican candidates won those years’ primaries.
“I do think we had the opportunity to relearn one more time [that] you have to have quality candidates to win competitive senate races,” he said.
In addition to candidate quality issues, many swing voters saw the Republican Party as too extreme in the midterms — and two new controversies aren’t helping to change that image, writes The Hill’s Niall Stanage. Comments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) about Jan. 6 and the revelation that Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) wanted martial law to be imposed to keep Trump in power both present new headaches for those who argue the GOP has to show a more electable face.
One Republican facing questions about his political future after the midterms is Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), writes The Hill’s Max Greenwood. Scott has found himself at the center of multiple dramas over the past year, ranging from his rollout of a policy agenda that was panned by many in his party to his quarrel with McConnell over the quality of the GOP’s Senate candidates. The GOP’s failed effort to recapture control of the Senate has only intensified the criticism of Scott, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), raising questions about his role in the party.
Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, meanwhile, is facing her clearest leadership challenge to date, and yet her job appears to be as safe as ever, The Hill’s Brett Samuels reports. Much of the finger-pointing in the wake of the GOP’s underwhelming midterm showing has been directed at McDaniel, but the process of choosing an RNC leader is designed to insulate an incumbent from an outside challenge, making it unlikely the organization will move on from McDaniel before 2024.
▪ The Hill: US announces breakthrough on fusion energy.
▪ Politico: The 2024 presidential campaigns of both Trump and Biden are riddled with uncertainties. That means other presidential hopefuls are lying low — for now.
▪ CNN: Recount reconfirms Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Colo.) victory in Colorado’s 3rd District.
▪ The Washington Post: Democratic senators sidestep Arizona race after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I) leaves party.
LEADING THE DAY
Online attacks against LGBTQ people have skyrocketed in recent months, rising in lockstep with proposed policies seeking to roll back LGBTQ rights and culminating in real-world violence, writes The Hill’s Brooke Migdon. A House committee today is set to investigate the connection in a first-of-its kind hearing with testimony from policy experts and survivors of mass shootings motivated by anti-LGBTQ hate.
▪ Reuters: Lawmakers unveil bipartisan bid to ban China’s TikTok.
▪ Roll Call: House Democrats reject committee term limit proposal.
▪ Vanity Fair: “They don’t see us”: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) is eyeing a leadership role to leverage her platform and profile at a time when women’s rights are under attack in a post-Roe world.
A bill to allow Puerto Ricans an open vote on their status is up in the air as competing political forces from San Juan to Washington wrestle over a dying deal that months ago was hailed as a generational breakthrough, The Hill’s Rafael Bernal reports. The Puerto Rico Status Act — which details the transition to and implementation of a non-territory status for Puerto Rico of either statehood, independence or sovereignty in free association with the U.S. — cleared the House Natural Resources Committee in July, raising hopes among supporters that it would quickly receive a House vote and go to the Senate.
President Biden on Tuesday signed legislation to safeguard marriage equality after Congress approved federal protections for same-sex marriage. Biden has championed the Respect for Marriage Act, with the White House describing the bill as “personal” to him. He signed the legislation at a celebratory event at the White House with more than 2,000 attendees.
“The road for the moment has been long but those who believe in equality and justice, you never gave up,” Biden said Tuesday. “Many of you standing on the South Lawn here. So many of you put your relationships on the line, your jobs on the line, your lives on the line to fight for the law I’m about to sign.”
The bill passed the House on Thursday in a 258-169-1 vote, with 39 Republicans joining all Democrats in supporting the measure. The Senate cleared the measure last week in a 61-38 vote; 12 GOP senators joined on to the bill once it included an amendment outlining some protections for religious beliefs (The Hill and NPR).
Biden is hosting 50 leaders from Africa in Washington this week for a critical summit about trade, investments, elections and the future of the U.S. relationship with the continent. As The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Brett Samuels report, it is the first time since 2014 the White House will host a summit with African leaders and reinforces the Biden administration’s priority of seeking greater collaboration on the economy and climate and to counter Chinese and Russian influence.
The U.S.-Africa Summit comes amid concerns over global food security during the war in Ukraine, as well as Biden’s ongoing concern about strengthening democracies abroad.
Biden is under increasing pressure to secure the release of ex-Marine Paul Whelan following the release of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner, write The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Laura Kelly.
The Whelan family has voiced support for the president’s efforts to secure Griner’s release and increased focus on Whelan’s return, but Biden has been attacked by Republicans and Trump. They allege that the administration negotiated an unfair and dangerous trade with Bout and isn’t focused enough on Whelan.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
The U.S. is finalizing plans to give Ukraine its coveted Patriot missile defense systems following months of Russian missile and drone attacks on the country’s power grid, cities and civilian infrastructure. If the administration goes forward with the deal, the Patriot would be the most sophisticated system Washington has provided Kyiv since the war began in February (The Wall Street Journal).
Russia today attacked Kyiv with 13 Iranian-made drones, according to Ukrainian officials. Most of the drones were destroyed by air defenses, and there were no immediate reports of casualties (Reuters). The withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine by the end of the year is “out of the question,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, adding that any peace deal with Kyiv was “impossible” (The Washington Post).
▪ Reuters: The supply chain that keeps tech flowing to Russia.
▪ The Washington Post: Peru’s Pedro Castillo says he’s still president; some international allies agree.
▪ The New York Times: The prince accused of a plot to overthrow the government in Germany is said to have visited Russian diplomats.
Today’s faceoff between France and Morocco in the World Cup semifinal in Doha, Qatar, will be about more than just soccer. From their past colonial ties to contemporary waves of immigration, the two nations are intertwined by a century-old shared history and culture. Many hope that these bonds, embodied by a vast community of dual nationals, will give the game a fraternal tone.
Anas Daif, a French Moroccan who was born near Paris, told The New York Times he thought about the pride that Morocco’s historic run during the tournament has brought to Africa and the Arab world — and how emblematic a victory over its former colonizer would be.
“I realized my heart went out to Morocco,” Daif said. “It’s a support rooted in greater symbolism.”
▪ The Washington Post: For Morocco, a World Cup run that transcends the sport.
▪ NPR: Lionel Messi’s dream lives on as Argentina defeats Croatia to reach the World Cup final.
Inflation slowed more sharply than expected in November, in an encouraging sign for the Federal Reserve and consumers, hinting that 18 months of rapid price increases may be starting to drop. Stock prices jumped sharply after data showed that inflation eased to 7.1 percent in the year through November, down from 7.7 percent.
Despite this, the new data is unlikely to alter the Fed’s plan to raise interest rates by another half-point today. But the moderation in inflation has caused investors to speculate that the Fed could pursue a less aggressive policy path next year — potentially increasing the chances of a “soft landing,” or one in which the economy slows gradually and without a painful recession (The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal).
Biden on Tuesday sought to capitalize on the news that inflation numbers are cooling after months of facing political derision for rising prices (The Washington Post).
“Inflation is coming down in America,” Biden said from the White House. “Look, I know it’s been a rough few years for hard-working Americans and for small business as well — and for a lot of folks things are still pretty rough. But there are bright spots all across America. We’re beginning to see the impact of our economic strategy. And we’re just getting started.”
▪ The Hill: Five ways inflation is shaping the economy.
▪ Bloomberg News: U.S. inflation relief is finally happening, putting Fed pause in view.
After two years of tax policy being at the center of major legislative vehicles, the focus in 2023 may turn to how the IRS uses $80 billion in new funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, writes The Hill’s Tobias Burns. The bulk of the IRS’s new funding will be distributed over the next decade and involve training thousands of new workers to perform more complicated audits, but more immediately, the money will be used to hire additional staff to pick up the phone and answer questions as well as grind through a backlog of millions of tax returns.
“The two places where I expect we’ll see immediate effects of the funding is getting the phone answered and the backlog of tax returns finally cleared, getting people their refunds,” Howard Gleckman, an analyst with the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told The Hill. “People should start to see these benefits early next year when tax season starts in February.”
The Hill: What to watch for in the housing market in 2023.
■ What the debate over guns tells us about America, by Sheryll Cashin, contributor, Politico Magazine. https://politi.co/3W9YvQe
■ Historic advance in nuclear fusion is truly something to celebrate, by Megan McArdle, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3hmNQTx
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.
The House will convene at 10 a.m. and discuss the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to the Further Continuing Appropriations and Extensions Act, 2023.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. At 1:30 p.m., the president will speak at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. At 3:40 p.m., Biden will host a small group multilateral meeting with leaders at the White House. He and first lady Jill Biden will host the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House at 7 p.m., which will be attended by Vice President Harris and second gentleman Dough Emhoff.
The vice president will attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House.
The first lady at 10 a.m. will host a spousal program at the REACH at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. She will attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House.
The second gentleman will attend and speak at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit spousal program. He will attend the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will participate in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington. At 7 p.m., he will speak at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Foreign Ministers Dinner at the State Department.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried with organizing a scheme to defraud investors after he was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday, writes The Hill’s Tobias Burns. Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange unexpectedly announced bankruptcy in November.
“We allege that Sam Bankman-Fried built a house of cards on a foundation of deception while telling investors that it was one of the safest buildings in crypto,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a news release.
In addition to the charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, Bankman-Fried on Tuesday was also charged with violating a slew of campaign finance laws, including conspiring to make campaign contributions above the federal limit on donations. As The Hill’s Julia Manchester writes, the charges against Bankman-Fried in relation to campaign finance laws are notable given his status as one of the most prominent political donors in this campaign cycle.
▪ The Hill: FTX hearing: Six big revelations from House panel questioning.
▪ The New York Times: The new FTX chief says the company appeared to use “old-fashioned embezzlement.”
▪ Reuters: How a secret software change allowed FTX to use client money.
▪ Bloomberg News: Bankman-Fried’s arrest in Bahamas sets up a U.S. extradition fight.
Elon Musk’s conquest of the Twitter-verse has sent hordes of mostly left-leaning users scrambling for a social-media backup plan, The Hill’s Daniel de Visé reports.
They set off in waves: first when Musk announced plans to acquire Twitter, then when he made good on his pledge and now in response to a series of inflammatory tweets from the Tesla billionaire that seemed tailored to provoke the left. But few, if any, of the disaffected have actually closed their Twitter accounts, instead opening new ones, often on a previously unknown startup called Mastodon. Now, they are monitoring Twitter to see how it all plays out.
The New York Times: Musk shakes up Twitter’s legal team as he looks to cut more costs. Twitter has stopped paying rent on offices and is considering not paying severance packages to former employees.
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
Masks are back, and, this time, they’re not there to protect against COVID-19. A “tripledemic” of the coronavirus, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus is sweeping through the United States. Several cities and counties, including New York City and Los Angeles County, have encouraged people to wear a mask in indoor public spaces once again.
Nationwide, COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations have spiked by 56 percent and 24 percent, respectively, over the past two weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there have already been 13 million illnesses and 7,300 deaths from flu this season. Those numbers are expected to rise in the coming months (The New York Times and U.S. News).
Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.
▪ DCist: Less than a third of D.C. nursing home residents and staff are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.
▪ The New York Times: When Black psychiatrists reach out to teens of color.
▪ Reuters: Positive Moderna, Merck cancer vaccine data advances mRNA promise, shares rise.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,085,251. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,981 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.)
And finally … 🌌 It’s dusty up there! While scientists have seen plenty of dust devils on Mars, they’ve now heard one for the first time. A vortex has made a direct hit on NASA’s Perseverance rover, peppering the spacecraft with dust and whispering into a microphone that the team had included in its package of instruments.
The findings, published Tuesday, come with a trove of data that has thrilled scientists who are aware just how much influence Martian dust has on the planet’s climate.
The fine-grained particles can damage scientific instruments on Martian landers and rovers and potentially blanket their solar panels, rendering them useless. Being able to study the rover’s recordings can provide insights into the way dust affects current Mars missions and maybe even future human exploration (The Washington Post).
“As the dust devil passed over Perseverance we could actually hear individual impacts of grains on the rover,” Naomi Murdoch, a planetary scientist at ISAE-SUPAERO, an aerospace engineering institute in Toulouse, France, and the author of the new report, told the Post. “We could actually count them.”