The Hill’s Morning Report — House passes spending bill, narrowly avoiding shutdown
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The House on Wednesday passed a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown, moving the Friday funding deadline to next week and allowing lawmakers more time to pass an omnibus spending package for the remainder of fiscal 2023.
The so-called continuing resolution (CR) passed the House in a 224-201 vote, and now heads to the Senate, where it must pass and be sent to President Biden’s desk before midnight on Friday to avoid a shutdown. The measure will keep the government funded at current levels through Dec. 23. Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) didn’t wade into details about the broader spending deal Wednesday, only saying negotiators now needed to “do some allocation.”
“We’ve made the first big, big, big, big step,” Shelby said.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that the Senate could pass the measure as soon as Thursday, provided there aren’t any “unwelcome brouhaha” — or actions by one senator that could hold up the bill in exchange for concessions or amendments.
House Republicans largely voted against the one-week stopgap, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is signaling opposition to a broader spending deal, too. This comes in contrast to others in Republican leadership, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has expressed support for an omnibus to be enacted sooner, citing concerns about funding for defense and national security.
“We were basically negotiating with the House Democrats and the Democrats here because some of the House Republicans have not shown as much interest in getting an omnibus,” Shelby told reporters on Wednesday (The Hill and Politico).
McCarthy’s opposition to the omnibus is fueling tensions between Senate and House GOP leaders. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, McConnell’s Senate allies say that McCarthy’s criticisms are “not helpful” to their efforts to pass the year-end spending package. One GOP senator, who spoke anonymously with The Hill, said McCarthy is making it tougher to wrap up the unfinished business of the 117th Congress and stirring up conservative critics.
“I understand the politics of criticizing McConnell but they need to have a relationship,” the lawmaker said. “McConnell’s got pretty thick skin but I think there’s a way for McCarthy to try to placate conservatives in the House without attacking McConnell.”
McCarthy is also facing scrutiny as he negotiates a fragile path to the Speakership next year despite opposition from a handful of conservatives within his own conference who are resisting all entreaties to alter course for the sake of party unity. It has sparked a number of predictions — some of them more far-fetched than others — about how the day might evolve and who might emerge as the next Speaker if McCarthy falls short.
The Hill’s Emily Brooks and Mike Lillis have mapped out seven scenarios being floated heading into the vote, ranked from least to most likely.
▪ Politico: Come on down? House GOP weighs the right price to topple a speaker.
▪ The Washington Post: Where McCarthy stands with the GOP base.
▪ CNN: McCarthy’s impossible GOP math.
Increased migrant border crossings near El Paso, Texas, are drawing attention back to the border, The Hill’s Rafael Bernal reports, as Congress grapples with must-pass end-of-year legislation that could include an immigration deal. The focus on a chaotic border has fueled calls for draconian measures, including extending the much-criticized Title 42 border control policy, which was ruled illegal by a federal judge last month.
The Hill’s Niall Stanage: A surge of migrants into El Paso is raising new political risks around immigration for the Biden White House.
▪ The Hill: Democrats link surging violence toward LGBTQ community with GOP rhetoric.
▪ The New Republic: House Republicans gear up to investigate the Afghanistan withdrawal.
▪ Roll Call: No one reads congressional committee reports. But will they watch a documentary?
▪ The Atlantic: The crunchy-to-alt-right pipeline shows that those living on the fringe of the left and the right share more in common than you might think.
▪ Washington Monthly: Plenty of appellate and district courts are now acting like the Supremes — blowing up precedents and embracing slipshod legal theories.
▪ The Atlantic: “She Made an Idiot Out of Me”: Conversations with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s former canvassers reveal anger and disappointment with the newly Independent senator from Arizona.
LEADING THE DAY
Democrats are quietly discussing plans to propose a compromise state as the nation’s first-in-the-nation primary following vocal concerns about South Carolina from all corners of the party, writes The Hill’s Hanna Trudo. The informal talks between party officials, former campaign workers, strategists, and activists are centering around three states — Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina — as possible alternatives to kick off the 2024 nominating contest, with proponents citing their ample diversity and general election importance as upsides.
“There are still conversations happening behind the scenes about this,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “The White House put a lot of people in a difficult situation because nobody wants to be fighting the White House on this thing. I think there’s a process right now of conversations happening, people getting ducks in a row, and seeing if there’s a collective effort to make this push.”
When Biden put his thumb on the scale for South Carolina, the state he won handily in 2020, it rankled Democrats who saw the move as politically calculated and shortsighted in planning ahead for a general election that’s likely to be highly competitive in two years. It’s not that Democrats don’t like Biden’s choice, it’s just that they see more viable options in states that check all the same boxes and offer even more potential benefits in their swing state calculations.
The Trump Organization was held in criminal contempt in a secret trial last fall for failing to comply with several grand jury subpoenas and court orders related to a criminal tax fraud investigation, court documents unsealed on Tuesday show. Former President Trump’s company was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine for “willfully disobeying” four subpoenas and three court orders following the one-day contempt trial in October 2021 (The Hill and The New York Times).
Most unsuccessful Arizona statewide Republican nominees have formally contested their opponents’ certified victories, pushing vast allegations in arguing votes should be set aside or adjusted, moves that would flip the outcomes. The Hill’s Zach Schonfeld has a rundown of the election challengers.
The Arizona Republic: What’s next for Kari Lake, Mark Finchem election lawsuits.
In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is calling on legislators to end the state’s runoff system for general elections, arguing that the process places too heavy a burden on voters and election officials.
“Georgia is one of the only states in [the] country with a General Election Runoff,” Raffensperger said in a Wednesday statement. “We’re also one of the only states that always seems to have a runoff. I’m calling on the General Assembly to visit the topic of the General Election Runoff and consider reforms.”
His comments come just over a week after Georgia held its second Senate runoff election in less than two years, which saw Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) defeat Republican Herschel Walker. State law currently requires a candidate to receive more than 50 percent of the vote in a general election to win outright, and if no one hits that threshold, the race heads to a runoff between the top two candidates (The Hill).
Biden on Wednesday said the U.S. should have “societal guilt” over taking too long to address gun violence and school shootings in a statement to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. — where 20 children and six adults were killed.
“We should have societal guilt for taking too long to deal with this problem,” Biden said in the statement. “We have a moral obligation to pass and enforce laws that can prevent these things from happening again. We owe it to the courageous, young survivors and to the families who lost part of their soul 10 years ago to turn their pain into purpose.”
Biden referenced the progress made on gun policy reform this year. In June, he signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the first major gun safety bill in nearly 30 years (The Hill and The Guardian).
▪ The Washington Post: On the 10th anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., four survivors of elementary school shootings, ages 52 to 10, talk about what it’s done to them.
▪ The 19th: 10 years after Sandy Hook, Moms Demand Action volunteers are turning activism into political power.
Biden on Wednesday announced new trade opportunities and investments in Africa to establish the United States’s commitment to Africa’s future during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
“The United States is all-in on Africa’s future,” Biden said at the meeting, which included CEOs from more than 300 U.S. and African companies. “Improving Africa’s infrastructure is essential to our vision of building a stronger global economy that can better withstand the kinds of shocks that we’ve seen the past few years.”
The U.S. this week is hosting the summit for the first time since 2014, inviting 50 leaders from Africa and seeking to bolster future relations with the continent and counter Chinese and Russian influence (The Hill).
The Hill: These five African countries were not invited to Biden’s summit.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
The Biden administration is planning to send Ukraine advanced electronic equipment that converts unguided aerial munitions into “smart bombs” in order to target Russian military positions with a high degree of accuracy, senior U.S. officials told The Washington Post. Those familiar with the matter did not say whether Ukrainian forces would employ the kits on aircraft or ground-based weapons, or what specific systems in Kyiv’s arsenal could be augmented with the technology.
The offer comes as Russia continues to attack Kyiv and other parts of the country with drone and missile strikes that have taken out power and other infrastructure as the country heads into the cold winter months, while Ukrainian forces staged their heaviest shellings in the country’s eastern, Russian-controlled region (The New York Times and Reuters).
▪ NBC News: What the U.S. sending a Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine could mean for Russia’s war.
▪ The New York Times: Russia is building a vast network of trenches, traps and obstacles to slow Ukraine’s momentum. Will it work?
▪ The Washington Post: Russia is destroying Ukraine’s economy, raising costs for U.S. and allies.
A U.S.-led effort to push Iran off a United Nations panel that promotes women’s rights succeeded on Wednesday, marking the latest move in a broader campaign to punish the country for its crackdown on widespread protests. The U.N. Economic and Social Council voted to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women, with 29 member states voting in favor of the U.S.-drafted resolution. Another eight voted against the resolution and 16 abstained (Politico and The Hill).
Belgian police have seized roughly $1.6 million during searches in the Brussels region during corruption investigations within the European Parliament. The Federal Judicial Police announced the seizure on Wednesday, after a sprawling police probe into allegations of “criminal organization, corruption and money laundering” rocked the European Parliament. The list of people under investigation by Belgian and Italian police continues to grow, and include Eva Kaili, a now-former European Parliament vice president from Greece, (Deutsche Welle and Politico EU).
▪ Politico EU: EU’s Qatar corruption scandal brings French links under scrutiny.
▪ The Hill: EU to U.S.: We already have war, don’t give us trade war, too.
⚽ Defending World Cup champion France defeated Morocco 2-0 in Wednesday’s semifinal in Doha, Qatar. Theo Hernández scored on five minutes with an acrobatic finish, and substitute Randal Kolo Muani made the decisive goal late in the game, securing Franc entry into its fourth World Cup final — just four years after winning in Russia. Morocco, meanwhile, became the first African team to reach the tournament’s semifinal stage.
France will face Argentina in the final on Sunday (CNN).
▪ The New Republic: Morocco is the World Cup’s best story.
▪ Vox: How migration has shaped the World Cup.
■ Trump made a huge mistake by announcing early, by Rich Lowry, contributing writer, Politico Magazine. https://politi.co/3HCRDHk
■ FTX lesson No. 1: Don’t fall asleep in accounting class, by Michelle Hanlon and Nemit Shroff, contributors, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3HC431N
WHERE AND WHEN
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The House will convene at 9 a.m.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and proceed to a roll call vote on confirmation of Musetta Tia Johnson to be a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces at noon.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. At 11:05 a.m., he will participate in the U.S.-Africa Summit Leaders session on partnering on the African Union’s Agenda 2063 in Washington, D.C., followed by a 3:40 p.m. photo with summit leaders and a 4 p.m. closing session on promoting food security and food systems resilience. At 8 p.m., the president departs the White House for Joint Base Andrews, from which he will head to New Castle, Del.
The vice president will participate in a 2 p.m. U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit working lunch on multilateral cooperation.
The first lady will host a lunch for spouses of African leaders at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture at 10:15 a.m.
The second gentleman will attend the lunch for spouses of African leaders.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will participate in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday issued its smallest interest rate hike since June as the central bank attempts to curb high inflation without derailing a surprisingly resilient economy. The bank’s baseline interest range increased by 0.5 percentage points to a span of 4.25 to 4.5 percent, the highest level in 15 years.
The Fed’s smaller increase marks a turning point in its battle with high inflation after it issued four straight rate hikes of 0.75 percentage points earlier in the year. Even so, households will still see rates on mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards rise well into next year — and Fed leaders have pledged to keep interest rates high until inflation is finally quashed for good (The Hill and CNBC).
Democrats, meanwhile, are starting to feel good about the economy’s direction, writes The Hill’s Tobias Burns, with a five-month downward trend in prices and less aggressive action on interest rates signaling a possible change in fortunes.
“I think we’re in a better moment, I think we’re in a better moment,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who sits on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said Wednesday, cautioning that “inflation is [something] we still need to be dealing with.”
With both parties recognizing improving economic conditions, for some Republicans, like House Energy and Commerce Committee member Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), the only issue is timing.
“Decreasing inflation is always good, I just wish it was where it was before President Biden took office,” he said.
▪ The New York Times: What Fed rate increases mean for mortgages, credit cards and more.
▪ Bloomberg News: Chairman Jerome Powell says Fed still has a “ways to go” after half-point hike.
The Securities Exchange Commission says social media influencers used Twitter and Discord to manipulate stocks, NBC News reports. The regulatory agency charged them in what it says was a $100 million securities fraud scheme run by people who portrayed themselves as successful stock traders.
▪ The Washington Post: FTX’s Bankman-Fried donated about $40 million this political cycle. Here’s who benefited.
▪ The Atlantic: Crypto was always smoke and mirrors. The fall of FTX shocked everyone — except this guy.
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are on the rise, posing a major threat to nursing home residents and staff, writes The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel. Less than half of all nursing home residents and less than a quarter of staff are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Biden administration recently launched a new vaccine push focused on nursing facilities, but experts say the barriers have remained the same: messaging about the need for boosters, pandemic fatigue and lack of federal support for individual vaccine clinics. As the coldest months approach, the low vaccination rates portend a difficult and potentially deadly winter.
Long COVID has caused or contributed to at least 3,500 deaths in the United States, according to an analysis of death certificates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers and other experts said the results added to growing recognition of how serious long-term post-COVID-19 medical problems can be.
Long COVID describes a complex constellation of symptoms that may last for months or longer and can affect virtually every organ system; some of the most debilitating include heart issues, breathing problems, extreme fatigue and neurological and cognitive issues (The New York Times).
“It’s not one of the leading causes of death, but, considering that this is the first time that we’ve looked at it and that long Covid is an illness that we’re learning more about day after day, the major takeaway is that it is possible for somebody to die and for long Covid to have played a part in their death,” Farida Ahmad, a health scientist at the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC who led the study, told the Times.
Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.
▪ CNN: What parents should know about COVID-19 vaccine boosters for kids age 5 and under.
▪ WTOP: DC leaders, hospital association to discuss solutions to staffing shortages as “perfect storm” looms.
▪ NBC News: How dangerous is the flu? What to know about symptoms and signs of complications.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,086,199. 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.)
Take Our Morning Report Quiz
And finally … 🎄It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the upcoming holidays, we’re eager for some smart guesses about holiday traditions and milestones.
The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in what country?
1. The United Kingdom
What year was the first New Year’s Eve Times Square ball drop held in New York City?
Who was the first president to celebrate Hanukkah at the White House?
2. Calvin Coolidge
3. Harry Truman
4. Herbert Hoover
According to news reports, approximately how many people are expected to journey 50 miles or farther over the holidays?
1. 180 million
2. 30 million
3. 78 million
4. 113 million
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
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