The Hill’s Morning Report — House GOP pivots on debt-ceiling strategy
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House Republicans are making a mid-course budget shift, downplaying earlier demands to leverage the fate of the debt ceiling with a blueprint for spending cuts to get President Biden to the negotiating table.
It’s a strategic recalibration at a time when the GOP can’t agree on some detailed fiscal 2024 budget ingredients, despite unity achieved on other issues in the majority. Amid a banking crisis, the Federal Reserve’s rising interest rates and recession worries, the business community and most economists are warning against political hostage-taking using the debt ceiling. Some Republicans initially said they planned to meet a mid-April deadline for their budget process, a timeline that has slipped, report The Hill’s Emily Brooks and Aris Folley.
“The only thing that will ripen this negotiation is the Speaker and the president sitting down and talking,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), chairman of the Main Street Caucus.
That sit-down may happen in late April. Or it may not. Biden says the House GOP must produce and pass a budget plan, arguing that his blueprint has been public since March 9. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is trying to steer conservatives who initially demanded a goal of budget balance over 10 years, has sounded for weeks like a leader with an outline written in pencil rather than a man promoting detailed budget charts.
There’s another wrinkle: Biden wants Congress to pass an increase in the debt ceiling free of unrelated add-ons and partisan measures that would be seen as deal-breakers among Democratic lawmakers. But House Republicans envision using the must-pass debt measure as a way to get components of their flagship energy bill, the “Lower Energy Costs Act,” through Congress.
“I would like this to be part of a debt ceiling negotiation,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Tuesday. The energy bill includes provisions that would streamline the permitting process for energy projects, which has some bipartisan appeal, at least with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) (The Hill).
The Hill: House Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday probed the “fiscal state of the union.”
Members of the House Financial Services Committee fumed on Wednesday about what they said was a lack of regulation as officials from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Treasury and Federal Reserve testified about the problems identified inside banks that collapsed this month (The Hill).
Democrats on the panel said banks need higher liquidity requirements and their own type of insurance policies, known as contingent convertible bonds, to avoid turning to the FDIC-controlled deposit insurance fund created with assessments paid by banks to backstop depositors’ accounts.
Bloomberg News: FDIC faces $23 billion in costs from bank failures. It wants big lenders to pay.
“We have a lot to learn from the two side-by-side failures of Silicon Valley Bank, with total assets of less than 1 percent of GDP, and Credit Suisse, with total assets greater than 100 percent of Swiss GDP, and the difference, I believe, is contingent capital,” Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) said.
The Fed has promised its account of what went wrong by May 1. Some in Congress would like to see an independent investigation.
After months, if not years, the Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution to repeal authorizations for the use of military force against Iraq (The Hill). Prominent Senate Republicans are warning the Speaker not to hold a House vote without making major changes to the measure, laying bare a growing GOP divide over national security, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports. Congress in 2021 easily passed a measure to eradicate a 2002 authorization (NPR). If McCarthy doesn’t call for a vote, House members could file a discharge petition to force a roll call if they get 218 signatures.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)has accused supporters of the resolution of putting U.S. troops in danger. McConnell’s statement, echoed by Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.), serves as a stern message to McCarthy to let the measure languish in the House. The clash over what McConnell dismissed as a “theoretical” debate over war powers in Iraq is a prelude to this year’s congressional battle over defense spending.
Republicans are increasingly split over the expanding U.S. commitment to military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. That topic was the subject of a Wednesday House oversight hearing with inspectors general, as well as a defeated amendment on Tuesday introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
The senator proposed a version of his “Special Inspector General for Ukraine Assistance Act” to attach to the repeal of the use of force authorizations against Iraq. His amendment proposing a new office to oversee billions of aid dollars dedicated to Ukraine’s defense against Russia was soundly rejected, 26 to 68 (Business Insider).
Puck: Biden’s private Ukraine deadline: The D.C. foreign policy establishment is growing restless as the White House resists calls to articulate a more specific strategy if Ukraine fails to make significant gains by the fall.
COVID-19 emergency: The end had been scheduled on May 11 under the Biden administration, but the House, joined on Wednesday by the Senate in a 68-20 vote, moved to terminate a 2020 COVID-19 pandemic national emergency order by former President Trump. The House in February voted 229-197 to end the national emergency order, with 11 Democrats on board. Biden, who had envisioned an orderly wind-down of the public emergency in May to benefit states, the health care community, insurance coverage and pharmacies, is nevertheless expected to sign the resolution (Roll Call).
▪ The Hill’s Julia Manchester reports: 2023 is shaping up to be the year of the 50+ woman.
▪ The Hill: Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) will return to the Senate the week of April 17, according to Democratic sources. The senator has been absent since mid-February after checking himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for treatment of depression.
▪ Axios: Ajay Banga, Biden’s nominee to lead the World Bank, describes an ambitious course.
▪ The Washington Post: Convincing Gen Z to work in the federal government.
▪ The Hill: WATCH: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) got in a heated shouting match about gun control on Wednesday evening.
LEADING THE DAY
After days of suspense and a looming possible indictment of former President Trump, the New York grand jury hearing evidence in a hush money probe is not scheduled to meet again about the case until late April. The jurors are set to consider another case next Monday and Wednesday ahead of a previously scheduled two-week hiatus, but Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) could always change the schedule.
Bragg is probing Trump’s involvement in a payment that his fixer, Michael Cohen, made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. While the district attorney has taken a series of steps in recent weeks that typically signal prosecutors are close to a final charging decision, there has been no indictment. While Trump predicted he would be arrested last week, that did not come to fruition, and the former president repeatedly attacked Bragg. On Wednesday, Trump said he had “gained such respect” for the grand jury (Politico and The Hill).
In The Memo, The Hill’s Niall Stanage asks whether Bragg is pumping the brakes on the Trump case.
▪ ABC News: Former Vice President Mike Pence says he has “nothing to hide” from the grand jury in the Trump Jan. 6, 2021, probe.
▪ Politico: Most Americans think criminal charges should disqualify Trump from running again, poll shows.
Republicans say they have a good argument to make when it comes to the election cycle question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” As The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports, inflation is high, crime is up and immigration remains out of hand, operatives say. But Democrats — and even Republicans opposed to the former president — are quick with a rebuttal. “Do you really want to go back to the Trump era?” They consider the Trump presidency to be among the darkest times in American history, pointing to a president who was impeached twice, as well as his potential indictment and other lingering court battles. It’s a double-edged sword for Republicans, particularly as Trump remains a front-runner for the GOP nomination, and some in the party are looking forward, not back.
“It’s an invitation to run with Trump, whether or not he’s on the ticket,” said Republican strategist Susan Del Percio, who opposes the former president.
▪ CBS News: GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley says Trump has a “hard 25 percent” of the Republican vote.
▪ The Washington Post: GOP donors open to other Trump challengers as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) tries to find footing.
▪ The Hill: Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is airing his first presidential ad in New Hampshire and Iowa.
Battle lines are forming among progressives as they look to take down the more establishment-aligned Rep. Adam Schiff in California’s Democratic Senate primary, The Hill’s Hanna Trudo reports, as candidates vie to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) was the latest high-profile progressive to weigh in on the race, endorsing Rep. Barbara Lee (D), who is running for the seat along with Schiff and Rep. Katie Porter (D) — who has the backing of longtime ally Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Progressives see the race as a rare chance to elevate their liberal platform as other Democrats move to the center ahead of 2024, though it’s also once again shining a light on some of the old alliances among those on the left.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, voters will have the final say next Tuesday in a consequential state Supreme Court election that will determine the high court’s ideological makeup and its expected decisions on key issues such as abortion and redistricting. Though the judicial election is technically nonpartisan, voters must decide between Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, identified as a liberal candidate, and former state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative candidate. The Hill’s Caroline Vakil breaks down five things to know ahead of Election Day.
▪ The New York Times: Michigan Democrats rise and try to turn a battleground blue. With a strong governor, a legislature passing a raft of liberal measures and a looming early presidential primary, Democrats are testing the promise and pitfalls of complete control of the state.
▪ NPR: Dangers for both parties on the economy, crime and transgender rights, new poll shows.
▪ The New York Times: Kentucky GOP lawmakers on Wednesday voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear (D)’s veto of a bill that places new restrictions on transgender youth, including banning access to transition care.
Led by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Democratic senators on Wednesday grilled former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz over widespread allegations of illegal union-busting tactics at the coffee chain under his leadership. Workers at nearly 300 Starbucks stores have voted to form a union since December 2021 in an effort to secure stronger wages, safety standards and more consistent scheduling, but amid a crackdown on organizing efforts, Starbucks drew more than 80 unfair labor practice charges from the National Labor Relations Board over the past 18 months, more than any other company (The Hill and Politico).
“Over the past 18 months, Starbucks has waged the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country,” Sanders said. “The fundamental issue we’re confronting today is whether we have a system of justice that applies to all, or whether billionaires and large corporations can break the law with impunity.”
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
During an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited President Xi Jinping of China to visit the country. Xi visited Moscow last week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a trip that China labeled as a “new chapter of China-Russia friendship.” Biden said on Friday that he does not take the growing relationship between the two countries “lightly.”
“We are ready to see him here,” Zelensky told the AP. “I want to speak with him. I had contact with him before full-scale war. But during all this year, more than one year, I didn’t have.”
Days after Xi’s visit to Russia, Putin announced a transfer of nuclear weapons to Belarus, a move that’s likely intended to raise fear in Western allies who could see it as escalation in the conflict.
Turkey’s Parliament, meanwhile, is expected to ratify Finland’s bid to join NATO today, clearing the final obstacle for the country on Russia’s border to join the Western military alliance and dealing a diplomatic and strategic setback to Putin (The New York Times).
▪ Yahoo News: “This is like a movie”: Ukraine’s secret plan to persuade three Russian pilots to defect with their planes.
▪ The Associated Press: Ukraine by rail: Inside Zelensky’s efforts to buoy a nation.
▪ The New York Times: The iron- and steel-producing factories of Ukraine’s rust belt have made body armor, helmets and armored plates for vehicles — and steelworkers risked their lives rolling out heavy machinery at the beginning of the war to help physically block the Russian advance.
▪ Vox: What U.S. weapons tell us about the Russia-Ukraine war.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Russian security service detains Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.
Just hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went on TV and announced the suspension of his government’s controversial judicial overhaul, Biden in a strong private message urged Netanyahu to halt the plan. The White House for months has called on Netanyahu to ensure broad consensus around the reform, believing that the Middle East’s sole democracy is under exceptional scrutiny. Biden’s message reflects the tensions between the two allies — and how engaged the president became in trying to persuade the Israeli leader to stop the legislation (Axios).
▪ Politico: Israel: Biden’s favorite Middle East ally is spoiling his democracy party.
▪ The Washington Post: Biden-Netanyahu spat bursts into full view.
Taiwan will not let external pressure prevent it from engaging with the world, President Tsai Ing-wen said Wednesday as she headed for New York after China threatened retaliation if she met with McCarthy. China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly warned U.S. officials not to meet Tsai, seeing it as showing support for the island’s desire to be seen as a separate country (Reuters and The Wall Street Journal).
▪ Politico: What to expect when Taiwan’s president visits the U.S.
▪ The New York Times: The ouster from Parliament of India’s best-known opposition leader shows how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party is manipulating the judiciary, critics say.
▪ The Guardian: Paris breathes easier as refuse workers’ strike called off in France and trash is cleared.
▪ The Associated Press: King Charles III to speak to German parliament, meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
▪ ABC News: Pope Francis is in the hospital with a respiratory infection.
➤ STATE WATCH
Amid the ghastly cadence of multiple mass shootings — including the Monday attack at the Covenant School in Nashville — that have prompted calls for more comprehensive gun control, Republicans in statehouses have been steadily expanding access to firearms. One of them was Tennessee, where the governor insisted that tighter gun laws would never deter wrongdoers (The New York Times).
“We can’t control what they do,” Gov. Bill Lee (R) said.
⚖️ A GOP bill in Texas would bar state officials from helping enforce any federal oil and gas law that contradict the state’s own laws. The measure would put the nation’s largest producer of fossil fuel emissions on a collision course with both the Biden administration and future attempts to slow climate change (The Hill).
▪ The News & Observer: North Carolina legislature quickly overrides Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) veto of pistol permit repeal.
▪ News From The States: Idaho bans nearly all abortions — and just declined to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage.
▪ The Washington Post: Armed with AR-15s, armed groups on the right and left around the country exploit the weapon as a tool, a symbol and a response to mass shootings.
🌳 In Georgia, a fight over a proposed police training facility in Atlanta has escalated in recent months, writes The Hill’s Zack Budryk, with the police killing of an anti-deforestation activist signaling a potential violent new front in clashes between radical environmentalists and the state. Atlanta has the most forest cover of any major U.S. city, with one 2010 study estimating the tree coverage as more than half of the city. Last year, the city began construction of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, or Cop City, on 85 acres of the South River Forest. The project has drawn a broad, overlapping coalition of opponents on the left, from anarchists to anti-police brutality activists to environmentalists opposed to deforestation.
■ No more “thoughts and prayers” — pass the gun laws America needs, by former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3G1zPUG
■ The only realistic answer to Putin, by David J. Kramer, John Herbst and William Taylor, contributors, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3ZpDLFy
WHERE AND WHEN
📲 Ask 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 9 a.m.
The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the Fire Grants and Safety Act.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. in the Oval Office.
Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff are in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The vice president will participate in a bilateral meeting with President Samia Suluhu Hassan (The Associated Press). Harris and Tanzania’s president will deliver statements to the press at 2:10 p.m. EAT, followed by an expanded bilateral session between officials. Harris will visit the National Museum and the U.S. Embassy Bombing Memorial and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony. Later, Harris will visit the SNDBX co-working space to meet with local entrepreneurs. Emhoff has a separate schedule: He meets with U.S. embassy staff and families at 9:30 a.m. EAT. He will join President Jakaya Kikwete and Ambassador Pindi H. Chana, who is the minister of culture, arts and sports, for a tour of Jakaya M. Kikwete Youth Park facilities and meet with young female athletes at 11 a.m. EAT. Emhoff will meet at 2:15 p.m. EAT at a local restaurant with female leaders to talk about challenges facing fishery communities in Tanzania. The second gentleman will speak at 3 p.m. EAT at the Sea Cliff Hotel about the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Heshimu activity and marine biodiversity. The vice president and Emhoff this evening will join Hassan for dinner at 7 p.m. EAT at the State House.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will deliver brief remarks at 12:30 p.m. about “advancing technology for democracy” as part of the Summit for Democracy. He will moderate a session at 12:45 p.m. about democracy in the digital age. The secretary will offer closing remarks at the Summit for Democracy at 5:35 p.m. in Washington.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will receive the Paul A. Volcker Award at 3:45 p.m., during the National Association for Business Economics policy conference. She will deliver remarks.
Economic indicators: The Labor Department will report at 8:30 a.m. on unemployment claims filed in the week ending March 25. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports at 8:30 a.m. on gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of last year, plus another GDP estimate for all of 2022.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 2 p.m.
The White House Historical Association from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. will host a panel discussion at Washington’s Decatur House about “Women and Journalism in the White House,” blending top journalists and academics who will expand on “the important role that women have played in the media coverage of the White House and presidencies.” Registration and information is HERE.
➤ HEALTH & PANDEMIC
The World Health Organization’s vaccine experts have revised their global COVID-19 vaccination recommendations, and healthy kids and teenagers considered low priority may not need to get a shot. The guidance is being issued to reflect the Omicron stage of the pandemic and countries’ high population immunity levels. “The public health impact of vaccinating healthy children and adolescents is comparatively much lower than the established benefits of traditional essential vaccines for children — such as the rotavirus, measles, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines,” the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization said in a news release (CNN).
Al Jazeera: WHO says no extra COVID-19 booster needed for medium-risk adults.
The overdose-reversing drug Narcan could soon be available to buy over the counter without a prescription as the country continues to grapple with the opioid epidemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Wednesday. “Today’s action paves the way for the life-saving medication to reverse an opioid overdose to be sold directly to consumers in places like drug stores, convenience stores, grocery stores and gas stations, as well as online,” the FDA said in a statement (NPR).
▪ Today: What is Narcan, the first over-the-counter opioid overdose drug approved by the FDA?
▪ The New York Times: Over-the-counter Narcan could save more lives. But price and stigma are obstacles.
Information about the availability of COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots can be found at Vaccines.gov.
Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,060 for the most recent week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Data is 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 recent headlines about spycraft, we’re eager for some smart guesses about international surveillance and all things clandestine.
Be sure to email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com — please add “Quiz” to your subject line. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
China uses _____ to spy on millions of Americans, including children, according to lawmakers who objected during a blistering hearing last week.
- Scientists in the United States
- Intercept probes on undersea cables
Russia trained and controlled a spy based in Washington who used a cover as a _________, the Justice Department revealed in court, according to recent news accounts of the spy’s 2022 arrest.
- Brazilian graduate student
- Military aide in the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Tech contractor at the CIA
- Personal chef to a top U.S. Cabinet official
Which country on Wednesday launched a spy satellite into orbit?
Netflix debuted a popular new spy thriller just days ago, featuring a character named Peter who works out of the White House basement. Who’s his employer? Bonus point: name the show.
- National Security Agency
- Russian intelligence GRU
- British intelligence MI6
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