Schumer, Jeffries team takes shape
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D) has a new partner in legislating: House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
Both New Yorkers, the duo has spent recent weeks building up a close relationship that will be essential for navigating the next two years of divided government.
“I know he can work with the other side when it’s necessary,” Schumer said in late November of Jeffries’s new role, adding he looked forward to talking to Jeffries on the phone “four or six times a day” like he did with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The dynamic between the two will be especially key as House Democrats prepare for life in the minority for the first time since 2017, with the party focused on advancing its agenda while pushing back on GOP-led investigations targeting President Biden.
Schumer notably had a very close relationship with Pelosi, late last year praising his “dear friend” and calling her leadership part of a “magnificent era” in American history.
“We’ll never see someone like Speaker Pelosi ever again in our lifetime,” he said.
Jeffries, Pelosi’s hand-picked successor to lead the Democratic caucus, represents a younger Democratic Party, having been in Congress just a decade. Schumer, for his part, brings to the relationship more than four decades of experience on Capitol Hill.
Schumer has said he plans to discuss priorities for the new Congress with GOP leaders, who are themselves grappling with differences in opinion over the future of their party, including disagreements over the role of former President Trump.
“We want to get things done in a bipartisan way to help the American people,” Schumer said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
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- Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the federal government hasn’t ruled out the possibility that nefarious activity was to blame for a computer system outage that delayed and canceled flights all over the U.S. Wednesday.
- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) isn’t calling for Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) to resign over fabrications about his resume and questions about his finances even as New York Republicans increase pressure on the embattled freshman lawmaker.
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says his hip surgery for a fracture was successful after his office announced he had hurt his hip on Tuesday.
What to watch coming out of the Speaker saga
Last week’s Speaker saga resulted in more than Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) Speakership. Negotiations between McCarthy and those who repeatedly voted against him ended in several reported concessions — many not included in the House rules package — that stand to effect where power lies in the chamber.
McCarthy’s reported commitment to give House Freedom Caucus (HFC) or caucus-adjacent members three seats on the Rules Committee was likely the most significant concession, according to American Enterprise Institute (AEI) senior fellow Kevin Kosar and Brookings Institute senior fellow Molly Reynolds.
The Rules Committee is where members “can have a direct say over whether legislation gets to the floor and when it gets to the floor, what amendments are in order, what amendments are not,” Kosar, who is also a contributor to The Hill, said.
The committee is made up of nine majority and four minority members. Reynolds said in an email that three “HFC types” and four Democrats “could vote down a rule in committee that the HFC types oppose.”
While wrangling ahead of Speaker elections is nothing new, Kosar said the difference this session was “to have such a strong, concerted pushback against this new model of a Speaker-dominated legislative process.”
Demands for Rules Committee seats, seats on the Steering Committee and a return to offering amendments on the floor “are going to affect the way the chamber is run because they’re going to weaken the Speaker,” Kosar said.
The congressional experts had somewhat different takes on other potential changes emanating from the Speaker battle. Kosar said the results changed the process so that “members can participate a bit more. And I think that’s a healthy thing.”
“Politicians in both parties have for years complained that they come to Washington with ideas of what it means to be a legislator then quickly find themselves not being lawmakers,” Kosar said. “They feel that they’ve largely been kind of shut out of the legislative process and forced to work on the margins.”
Reynolds wrote, “I think drawing attention to the centralization of power in the House is important. I’m not entirely sure that the promised changes will effect a decentralization of power over the medium term, however—but understanding the degree to which power resides in the hands of party leaders is notable.”
Reynolds noted some Republicans who resisted backing McCarthy “were motivated, at least in part, by their desire for a significantly smaller federal government” while “I think some were motivated by a desire to grow their own personal public platforms. And I think some were motivated by a desire to grow their own power within the House.”
- Some of the reported commitments made last week involve spending policy. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton has more on debt limit and spending-related concessions here.
- The AEI and Brookings fellows mentioned some of these as among the most significant changes to come out of last week, with Kosar underscoring the concession to vote on spending bills individually, instead of in an omnibus.
Along with shifts in power in the chamber and spending policy battles, another thing to watch coming out of the Speaker election is what becomes of the Freedom Caucus, whose split “was pretty intense and pretty fundamental,” Kosar said.
Some of McCarthy’s most vocal supporters last week, such as GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), and some of his longest-enduring opponents — caucus chair Scott Perry (Pa.) and Rep. Bob Good (Va.) — all belong to the HFC.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) election as House Speaker could prove to be a boon for a small group of lobbyists within his inner circle, The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom reports.
- McCarthy has relied on a small handful of lobbyists for advice and fundraising as he climbed the ladder to become the second in line to the presidency.
- McCarthy’s closest K Street allies include John Stipicevic, Ben Howard and Jeff Miller. But firms and corporations have been rushing to scoop up top McCarthy aides since it became clear he would be the new House Speaker.
Read more about McCarthy’s lobby ties here.
And check out Karl’s latest weekly roundup of news from the lobbying world, including these recent hires.
A new poll suggests broad grassroots support for pro-Trump attorney Harmeet Dhillon in her bid for chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), even as many RNC members have lined up behind current chair Ronna McDaniel.
A poll from the Convention of States Action and the Trafalgar Group obtained first by The Hill found 86 percent of GOP voters support Dhillon while 14 percent back McDaniel.
The survey of more than 1,000 registered GOP or Republican primary voters was conducted Jan. 9-11 and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, according to the groups.
As The Hill’s Brett Samuels reported last week, a survey from the same groups in late December found nearly three-quarters of respondents saying the party should elect someone new.
McDaniel said on Newsmax when asked about that poll, “I think there’s a lot of disinformation intentionally being pushed out in this scorched-earth campaign being run by my opponent.”
A number of GOP donors publicly endorsed Dhillon this week while in November a majority of RNC voting members backed McDaniel.
Voting will take place at the RNC’s winter meeting this month.
SUPER PAC SPENDING: THE CONCESSION BEYOND THE CHAMBER
While most negotiations in last week’s Speakership battle took place between Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the conservatives who initially opposed him, a noteworthy agreement unfolded outside the chamber: Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) President Dan Conston said in a statement the group “will not spend in any open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts and CLF will not grant resources to other
super PAC’s to do so.”
CLF’s communications director Calvin Moore told NotedDC in an email that there were two races the group spent in the last cycle meeting that criteria: Texas’ 8th and 38th District primaries.
The group spent more than $700,000 in support of Morgan Luttrell in the 8th and $25,000 in support of Wesley Hunt in the 38th.
Other bits from the agreement: Conston said, “CLF has never spent a dollar against a Republican incumbent before and obviously will continue that policy in the future.”
- Club for Growth President David McIntosh said the agreement “fulfills a major concern we have pressed for” and that the group would support McCarthy for Speaker if its other concerns were met in the House rules agreement.
- The statement on the agreement said, “No one in Congress or their staff has directed or suggested CLF take any action here.”
CLF spent the second-most of any outside spending group in the 2022 cycle, behind the Senate Leadership Fund, according to Open Secrets data. And 94 percent of the group’s total $227 million in outside spending on federal elections was spent in the general election.
As for Club for Growth Action, the group’s political arm, 56 percent of its $70 million was spent during the primaries.
Earlier demands: In December, McIntosh and several conservatives demanded CLF stay out of open primaries (without specifying safe districts).
McIntosh said, “Congressional Leadership Fund should be prohibited from spending money or providing grants to any super PAC to engage in open Republican primaries or against any Republican incumbent.”
Seven members and members-elect wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter listing demands of Speaker candidates: “In the 2022 cycle, far too many competitive candidates lost in November after political action committees (PAC) associated with Republican Leadership (i.e., the Congressional Leadership Fund) spent large sums of money in GOP primaries, leaving them battered in the general election and with empty war chests.”
Those seven members were among the group that opposed McCarthy on several rounds of voting last week.
Running debate: The debate over leadership-affiliated PAC involvement in primaries has manifested several ways in both parties.
When House Majority PAC, the largest Democratic House PAC, spent $1 million supporting primary candidate Carrick Flynn in Oregon’s 6th last year, for example, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Bold PAC and several other 6th District primary candidates criticized the PAC’s involvement. (Flynn lost the primary and Andrea Salinas (D) won a close general election.)
In a different vein last year, Senate Leadership Fund president Steven Law questioned whether the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) — the party Senate campaign arm — was too hands-off in primaries, while the group defended its approach.
Biden back from first Mexico, border trip as president
President Biden has returned from his highly anticipated trip to Mexico and the U.S. southern border, but the trip was overshadowed by news about classified documents found in a private office from Biden’s time as vice president and unrest in Brazil.
What happened: During the trip Biden met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to discuss the migrant surge on the border, climate change initiatives and drugs.
“Looking back on our shared history, it is clear that the stronger and safer we both are is when we stand together,” Biden said ahead of his sit-down with Lopez Obrador.
Looking ahead: It’s unclear what will come from the summit. The spread of fentanyl, which has become the leading cause of death for people age 18 to 49 in the U.S., has been fueled by Mexican drug cartels.
Catch the full recap of Biden’s trip from The Hill’s Alex Gangitano here.
NUMBER TO KNOW
Amount corporate PACs and industry trade groups have given to members of Congress who rejected the 2020 election results after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, according to an OpenSecrets analysis.
ONE MORE THING
Governors give their pitches
Governors across the country have started delivering their State of the State speeches, where they identify their priorities in 2023 and tout achievements.
Here are a few excerpts:
ARIZONA: KATIE HOBBS (D)
Hobbs, a Democrat who was elected in a heated and closely watched election last fall, told lawmakers her “door will always be open” but her speech was also heavy with allusions to her election over GOP rival Kari Lake, who has baselessly claimed the election was rigged and sought to overturn the results.
- “Chasing conspiracy theories, pushing agendas for special interests, attacking the rights of your fellow Arizonans or seeking to further undermine our democracy will lead nowhere,” Hobbs said in her speech. “Let’s work together to make a significant impact in the lives of the families and communities of this state, today and for years to come, by lowering costs, investing in public education, securing our water future, tackling the affordable housing crisis and other real issues that are holding back too many.”
IOWA: KIM REYNOLDS (R)
Reynolds, who is starting her second term and is currently the chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association, acknowledged the historic turnover in state legislators, or as she put it, “more new members than any time in recent memory.” She also didn’t shy away from pushing back on critics.
- “We’ve been told time and time again that our bold agenda would wreck our economy, demolish our education system, and lead to the collapse of state government,” she said. “We’ve heard these accusations from political opponents, as expected, but we’ve also heard them from members of the media and even from so-called experts.”
NEW YORK: KATHY HOCHUL (D)
Hochul, a Democrat who swept into office in 2021 upon the resignation of Andrew Cuomo, outlined efforts to make the state “more affordable, more livable and safer.”
- “The pervasive unease that wormed its way into our day-to-day lives, the social isolation and the economic distress, led to a nationwide rise in crime and gun violence that we are now combatting,” she said.
Catch up on all of the State of State addresses here.
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