The Hill’s Morning Report — Government shutdown averted as Senate passes spending bill
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Senators on Thursday passed a short-term spending bill that moves Friday’s government shutdown deadline to next week, giving negotiators more time to patch together a larger funding deal for fiscal 2023. The Senate voted 71-19 to pass the continuing resolution (CR), sending the legislation to President Biden for approval. The legislation passed the House Wednesday on a vote of 224-201.
The bill freezes funding levels through Dec. 23, and appropriators on both sides of the aisle have been working to pass an omnibus spending package by the end of the month, with sights set on final passage by Christmas Eve. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) acknowledged Thursday that there’s still “a lot of work to do” on a broader spending deal.
“No drama, no gridlock, no government shutdown this week,” he said on the chamber floor as voting began.
A group of Republicans joined Democrats in passing the spending bill on Thursday. However, others in the GOP have pushed against a one-week CR in favor of a stopgap bill that would kick the funding deadline into the new year to give their party more influence on how the government should be funded for fiscal 2023, which began in October. Senate Appropriations Committee member Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who voted against the CR, told The Hill ahead of the vote that he would have only backed the measure if it moved the deadline into next year (The Hill and The Washington Post).
“I think most Republicans are gonna listen to the Republicans that just gave us the House back, and why would you do that when we’re gonna have more input into it, even though it might be a process, a little bit of turmoil, why would you do that now?” Braun said.
Roll Call: House Appropriations Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is confident the sprawling spending bill can pass by Christmas, but acknowledges “crazy things” can happen.
The Senate on Thursday also passed the annual defense authorization bill, sending the $858 billion measure to President Biden’s desk for signature just before the year-end deadline. The measure, formally known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, 83-11.
The vote caps weeks of wrangling over floor timing and policy changes, such as language demanded by conservative Republicans to end the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which has been in place since August 2021. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) praised the passage of the bill after months of negotiation, calling it “the most significant vote of the year” (The Hill and The Washington Post).
“I’ve said it before and I’m not the only one saying it — the world is a more dangerous place than I’ve ever seen before in my lifetime,” he said.
Progressive lawmakers, meanwhile, are raising the alarm over the final figure of the soon-to-be signed NDAA, writes The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell. They say the behemoth piece of legislation they say comes at the expense of domestic priorities. The bill, which lays out how the Defense Department will allocate its budget in fiscal 2023, came in at $85 billion higher than what the Biden administration first requested earlier this year following congressional negotiating. But liberals in both the House and Senate have labeled the final figure as a money grab that does more for padding the pockets of defense contractors than it does for actual military readiness.
While the omnibus spending package is getting closer to passage, the expected exclusion of marijuana banking reform has spawned a battle within the GOP, writes The Hill’s Al Weaver. The push to legalize marijuana is broadly popular, putting Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) in a tricky position as he prepares to chair the Senate GOP campaign arm in 2024 and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) takes a hatchet to one of his main projects in the upper chamber. Proponents were hopeful the item would be included in either the NDAA or the omnibus, but are likely to be left empty handed heading into 2023.
“Guys like me have been trying to make the case to my conference that this is not some kind of crazy bill,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), who, along with Daines and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), have led the GOP’s SAFE Banking effort. “It’s a bill about safety and small businesses.”
The Hill: Senate rejects Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) energy permitting amendment to the defense bill.
Efforts are ramping up to support House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for Speaker, as a handful of hard-line conservatives threaten to keep him from winning the gavel in a Jan. 3 House floor vote. Some centrist members in the Republican Governance Group have taken to wearing buttons that read “O.K.” — forecasting they will vote for “Only Kevin” (The Hill).
“We definitely are doubling down on our support for Kevin McCarthy and we’re making it very clear that we’re going to support him through and through no matter how many ballots it takes,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told The Hill.
McCarthy’s ongoing Speaker battle has paralyzed the House, Politico reports. The GOP leader confirmed he’s postponing key committee contests, delaying the conference’s ability to prepare bills, call hearings or even pay staff.
House Republicans are rallying around Elon Musk’s so-called “Twitter Files” to fuel their accusations of anti-conservative censorship, previewing the hostile tech agenda the GOP will launch when they take control of the chamber in January, The Hill’s Emily Brooks and Rebecca Klar report. Republicans set to chair key House committees have pledged to call in ex-Twitter staff to testify at hearings and probe the companies’ content moderation decisions highlighted in the four-part “Twitter Files” series. Conservatives are trying to prop up the information revealed in the four Twitter threads as examples of the partisan imbalance favoring Democrats they’ve long accused Twitter of using, despite the threads largely showing internal debates among employees over high-profile decisions and lacking details of influence from Democrats.
▪ The Washington Post: Twitter abruptly suspends more than half a dozen journalists.
▪ Vox: Why the “Twitter Files” actually matter. Twitter’s previous management made some controversial political decisions. Some of them haven’t held up.
▪ Roll Call: Top tax writers diverge on lame-duck Social Security fix.
▪ Reuters: Puerto Rico independence vote bill passes the House, although the measure has little chance of being taken up by the Senate.
▪ The Washington Post: Biden announces visit to Africa next year. He also formally announced U.S. support for the African Union to permanently join the Group of 20.
▪ The Hill: National Archives releases thousands of JFK assassination records.
LEADING THE DAY
House Democrats are urging their incoming leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), to move quickly in choosing the head of the party’s campaign arm, warning that a long delay will lend a strategic advantage to Republicans heading into the 2024 presidential cycle, writes The Hill’s Mike Lillis.
Jeffries, who is poised to replace Pelosi at the top of the party next year, has been newly empowered to hand pick the leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The powerful post had been an elected position — chosen by the full Democratic Caucus — since 2016, but that changed post-midterms last month, when rank-and-file members voted to revert it back to an appointment at the discretion of the leader. The shift grants Jeffries sole authority to choose the figure who will lead the Democratic efforts to win back control of the lower chamber in 2024, and represents the single most significant decision of his nascent tenure at the top of the party. As he weighs the choice, his colleagues are urging him to be deliberate — but not chew on it for too long, lest GOP operatives get a leg up on the campaign season.
▪ NBC News: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicts Democrats will hold the Senate majority again in 2024.
▪ The Hill: Schumer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urge Biden to run in 2024: Public has “gotten wise” to former President Trump.
▪ NBC News: Biden allies plot 2024 strategy focused on Trump, even if he fades away.
Trump unloaded Thursday on polling showing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis beating him in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. DeSantis led Trump 52 percent to 38 percent in a Wednesday Wall Street Journal survey. Even though DeSantis is not expected to announce whether he will run until after Florida’s legislative session in the spring or summer, he quickly emerged as the leading alternative to Trump among GOP voters after a sweeping double-digit reelection victory over Democratic former Gov. Charlie Crist in November.
“DeSantis is rising and Trump is increasingly scared of being left for dead by the Republican Party,” Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor who is backing the Florida governor, told NBC News. “Trump is not going to let DeSantis grab his throne without a fight. We are on the eve of nothing less than a civil war in the Republican Party.”
▪ Vox: DeSantis’s vaccine “investigation” is all about beating Trump.
▪ Politico: DeSantis builds his conservative resume as Trump flounders.
▪ The Hill: House Democrats introduce legislation to bar Trump from office under 14th Amendment.
The administration is considering expanding its support for the war in Ukraine as Kyiv worries that Russia could make a new push to take the capital as soon as January, Politico reports. In addition to the Patriot missile defense system, the White House is also weighing sending other weapons — such as Joint Direct Attack Munition kits, which convert unguided aerial munitions into smart bombs, and Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs.
Trump’s former national security advisor is putting his support behind remarks by McCarthy that the U.S. should not sign a “blank check” on Ukraine, writes The Hill’s Laura Kelly, calling for close scrutiny on the use of military and economic support.
Robert O’Brien, who served as national security advisor from 2019 until the end of the Trump administration, told The Hill in an interview last week that while he views robust support for Ukraine as necessary, it should come with strict oversight.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Ukraine’s critical infrastructure has been decimated by two months of relentless Russian missile and drone attacks, blowing a hole in the country’s economic projections. Before the strikes, Ukraine expected to need at least $55 billion — more than the whole country’s prewar annual spending — in foreign assistance next year to meet basic expenses. Now some officials believe Kyiv could end up needing another $2 billion a month (The Washington Post).
“What do you do when you can’t heat your house, you can’t run your shops, factories or plants, and your economy is not working?” Oleg Ustenko, an economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told the Post. “We are going to be requiring more financial assistance, and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is doing this to destroy unity among allies.”
Russia fired dozens of missiles at infrastructure in Ukraine today, forcing emergency power shutdowns across the country amid freezing temperatures and killing and wounding people in their homes in the south. The latest Russian attacks followed warnings from Ukrainian officials that Moscow plans a new all-out offensive early next year (Reuters).
▪ The Washington Post: “Wiped out”: The war in Ukraine has decimated a once feared Russian brigade.
▪ The New York Times: An alternate reality: How Russia’s state TV spins the Ukraine war.
After 62 matches over the course of nearly a month, the stage has been set for the World Cup’s final showcase in Doha, Qatar. On Sunday, reigning World Cup champion France will face off against Argentina, which is chasing its fourth title. According to FIFA’s most recent rankings, Argentina is No. 3, while France is No. 4 (CNN).
USA Today: France has World Cup fever — not the good kind — ahead of final vs. Argentina.
Traumatized by COVID-19, but ruled by a party that never apologizes, The New York Times reports. Gripped with grief, anxiety and depression, many in China want a national reckoning over the hard-line “zero COVID” policy. Holding the government to account may be a quixotic quest.
The New York Times: A bribery case cracks open the European Parliament — and finds hidden cash. Prosecutors say the glamorous lifestyle of a European lawmaker masked a Qatari corruption scandal, but it also exposed how vulnerable Brussels is to foreign influence.
➤ STATE WATCH
Conservative states are looking to force a series of quick decisions on Title 42, teeing up litigation that, if successful, could leave in place for more than a year the policy that allows the turning away of asylum seekers, writes The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch. A group of nearly 20 GOP-led states are moving to intervene in a case, hoping to challenge a decision from a federal judge who struck down Title 42 after determining the government failed to consider less drastic measures when implementing a major shift in immigration policy amid the pandemic.
The states’ effort to angle their way into the suit is accompanied by a request to halt the lifting of Title 42 and a pledge to appeal to the Supreme Court as the policy is set to terminate just days before Christmas.
▪ NBC News: Trump invoked Title 42 after the pandemic broke out. Here’s what the measure is all about — and what a change could mean for migrants and border cities.
▪ The Washington Post: Trump and COVID-19 slowed down immigration. Now employers can’t find workers. Economists estimate that “two years of lost immigration” is responsible for close to half of the 3.5 million workers missing from the labor force.
The New York Times has featured 12 of the thousands killed this year by what has become the leading cause of death for American kids: gun violence.
■ Falling inflation rates are great news — unless you’re a GOP politician, by Jennifer Rubin, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3BAwyJp
■ Putin’s leaning tower of Jenga, by Jonathan Sweet and Mark Toth, contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3FqGE0A
WHERE AND WHEN
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The House will convene on Wednesday, with votes postponed to 6:30 p.m.
The Senate will convene on Monday at 3 p.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. At noon, he will participate in a town hall in New Castle, Del. and speak with veterans and veteran survivors about the PACT Act. Biden will return to the White House at 1:55 p.m., and depart for Wilmington, Del. with the first lady at 8:55 p.m.
The vice president has no public schedule.
The first lady heads to Wilmington, Del. with the president at 8:55 p.m.
The second gentleman will visit a local 988 call center in Hyattsville, Md. at 10 a.m., where he will meet with workers and receive a tour. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm and DHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam Delphin-Rittman will join the visit.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard at 2 p.m. at the State Department.
The Federal Reserve’s 2-percent target for inflation is coming under scrutiny from economists, lawmakers and investors, The Hill’s Tobias Burns reports, who are all expressing doubts about not only whether 2-percent inflation is possible but if it’s even still desirable.
The economy, meanwhile, has shown signs of slowing as retail sales and manufacturing dropped last month, but the labor market remained resilient as employers largely held onto workers. Retail sales fell in November by the most in nearly a year — reflecting the strain of inflation and a shift toward spending on services. As initial applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest in two months, the labor market continues to be a bright spot. However, a separate measure of unemployed workers who’ve been out of a job for a longer period has climbed to the highest since February (Bloomberg News).
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Retail sales, manufacturing declines point to a slowing economy.
▪ Vox: The last time the Fed curbed inflation without crashing the economy, explained.
A majority of voters think the economy will be in worse shape in 2023 than it is now and roughly two-thirds say the country’s economic trajectory is headed in the wrong direction, according to a new poll from The Wall Street Journal. The pool, conducted Dec. 3-7, suggests a recent burst of positive economic news hasn’t altered the way many feel about the likely risk of a recession.
The Hill’s Sylvan Lane breaks down where Americans pulled back their spending the most last month.
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
Americans can once again order four free COVID-19 tests through the mail as part of the Biden administration’s plan to deal with an increase in cases sparked by indoor holiday gatherings. The tests can be ordered on COVIDtests.gov and will start to ship the week of Dec. 19, according to a senior administration official. The government is urging people to test themselves when they have symptoms — and before visiting with family (NPR).
The 2022 winter season has been one of prolonged misery for many families, as sniffles, sore throats, coughs and trips to the emergency room mount with the return of illnesses that were kept at bay during the pandemic. It’s like “a big bomb of viruses went off,” Christina Lane, who runs a pediatric practice in New Albany, Ind., told The Washington Post. As we approach year four of the coronavirus pandemic, Lane and other doctors agree the overlapping viral surges and how they are playing out are unusual and concerning, leading to patients with back-to-back respiratory illnesses.
“When you take a pandemic and then add co-circulation of other viruses in the mix, you might expect to see some weird things,” Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona, told the Post.
Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.
▪ CNBC: Long COVID-19 medical costs average $9,500 in the first six months, as patients become “health-system wanderers.”
▪ The New York Times: How a sprawling hospital chain ignited its own staffing crisis. Ascension, one of the country’s largest health systems, spent years cutting jobs, leaving it flat-footed when the pandemic hit.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,087,014. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,703 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 … 👏👏👏 Bravo to winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the upcoming holidays, we posed trivia questions about holiday traditions and milestones.
Here’s who guessed and Googled their way to a perfect score: Patrick Kavanagh, Ki Harvey, Harry Strulovici, Joe Erdmann, Amanda Fisher, Bill Grieshober, Pam Manges, Randall Patrick, Robert Bradley, Steve James, Stan Wasser, Luther Berg, Jerry LaCamera and TK.
They knew that the first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany.
In 1907, the first New Year’s Eve Times Square ball drop was held in New York City.
The first president to commemorate Hanukkah at the White House was Harry Truman, in 1951.
And finally, according to news reports, approximately 113 million people are expected to journey 50 miles or farther over the holidays this year.