The Hill’s Morning Report — McCarthy gets first big win as Speaker
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Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) persuaded at least three GOP holdouts on Thursday to change their positions and vote to eject a three-term Democratic colleague from membership on an influential committee (The Hill).
McCarthy is having a tougher time pulling fellow GOP members together for an as-yet blurry strategy to achieve significant budget savings that Republicans want while figuring out what to do about additional borrowing to pay the nation’s bills, which conservatives oppose, report The Hill’s Aris Folley and Mike Lillis.
The news media described Thursday’s vote as a whip test, watching closely as the Speaker, who a month ago needed 15 ballots to assemble a sufficient number of Republicans to win the top job, worked behind the scenes to smooth objections from colleagues by offering modest concessions. Republicans voted to remove progressive and past critic of Israel Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
House Democrats supported Omar, who delivered an emotional floor speech before the vote, which left many of her colleagues in tears (NBC News).
“I am Muslim. I am an immigrant and, interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I’m being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy?” Omar said.
With a party-line vote of 218-211, the Speaker achieved his long-expressed goal to remove the congresswoman from the panel. Republican Rep. Dave Joyce (Ohio) voted “present.”
Many Democrats denounced the House resolution — aimed at Omar’s past antisemitic remarks, for which she apologized — as political retribution after the Democratic-led House in 2021 voted to strip Republican firebrands Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.) of committee assignments after colleagues said they openly promoted violence against liberals.
“It’s not about accountability. It’s about political revenge,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) told reporters ahead of the GOP vote.
Republican members in both chambers who are eyeing the complex battle over budgeting and the nation’s rising debt say there is uncertainty surrounding their party’s plan to leverage a win from President Biden and Democrats.
McCarthy’s future as Speaker could turn on how he pacifies the lower chamber’s right flank while satisfying the demands of more moderate members, not to mention House appropriators.
“Members like me are pushing them for more specifics,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) told reporters on Wednesday. “Everybody agrees that we should quickly get to a point where we have some specifics in mind of how this would work so that we just put some fiscal brakes on when we raise the debt [limit].”
Vox: Republicans kicked Omar off the Foreign Affairs Committee to get revenge on Democrats. McCarthy on his own last week removed California Democrats Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
▪ The Hill: Marijuana banking legislation went nowhere last year, but a handful of Democratic senators are not giving up, especially those representing states where cannabis businesses seek more avenues for financing and expansion.
▪ Roll Call: Years of efforts to drag Congress into the 21st century will continue with the House Administration Subcommittee on the Modernization of Congress. ModCom, for short.
▪ New York magazine: The GOP can’t remember why it took the debt ceiling hostage.
LEADING THE DAY
🚨The Pentagon on Thursday said a suspected Chinese high-altitude spy balloon has been flying over the United States conducting surveillance this week, but was not shot down out of concern among top generals that debris could cause damage below. The balloon was observed on Wednesday over sparsely populated Montana. The state is home to several U.S. nuclear missile silos. The Defense Department is taking undisclosed “mitigation steps” to prevent Beijing from gathering additional intelligence (The Washington Post). Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told journalists on Friday that Beijing is “learning about the verification of the matter,” adheres to international laws and has no intention of violating any country’s airspace (South China Morning Post).
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with President Xi Jinping of China during a trip that begins on Sunday. He will be the first U.S. secretary of state to meet the Chinese leader in nearly six years and the first of Biden’s Cabinet secretaries to visit China. Biden and Xi agreed in Bali, Indonesia, in November that they should find ways to stabilize the turbulent U.S.-China relationship. Blinken’s visit marks a new phase of stepped-up engagement between the two countries following a very difficult period that was further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will visit China later this year. Yellen met Liu He, the top Chinese economic official, in Zurich last month (Financial Times).
🇺🇸 Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday is likely to touch on gun violence, police reform, the economy and the war in Ukraine, all issues at the forefront of Americans’ minds. A new Marist poll, meanwhile, shows that more than 60 percent of Americans believe the state of the country is not strong (The Hill). Newly elected Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R), a former Trump press secretary and daughter of a former Arkansas governor, will deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union address (Fox News).
The Hill: Here are the guests invited to Biden’s speech.
West Wing turnstile: On Thursday, Biden announced that White House economic adviser Brian Deese is leaving his position later this month (The Washington Post). A successor has not been named; Deese told MSNBC on Thursday that “the president has not made any decision on that front.”
Biden and Vice President Harris are off to Philadelphia today, a rare joint trip for the two leaders that will be a mix of touting accomplishments and looking ahead to 2024, write The Hill’s Alex Gangitano and Brett Samuels. At the Belmont Water Treatment plant, they will announce $500 million in federal funding for Philadelphia water upgrades and lead service removal (6ABC).
The White House has stepped up its efforts to show off its work from the first two years in office as it sharpens its message ahead of an expected re-election announcement this spring. David Thomas, former deputy director of legislative affairs for former Vice President Al Gore, said seeing Biden and Harris together “reinforces that they are a ticket.”
“People like to see the president and VP together. There’s comfort in knowing that they work together well and they have a good relationship,” Thomas said.
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Biden comes to Philly to cast past accomplishments as a case for 2024 success.
The only real point of contention for the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting in Philadelphia this weekend is a proposed overhaul of the 2024 presidential primary calendar. The DNC on Saturday is expected to approve a new lineup for the party’s presidential primaries, deferring to Biden, who has championed South Carolina’s primary opening on Feb. 3, with New Hampshire and Nevada jointly following three days later, Georgia coming next on Feb. 13 and Michigan two weeks after that (WMUR).
The New York Times “The Daily” podcast: A revolution in how Democrats pick a president: Iowa’s caucus could be replaced with South Carolina’s primary as the party’s first test of candidates.
A coalition of left-leaning activist groups, including local groups in Arizona, have filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee accusing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) of improperly using Senate staff for personal errands, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, in a sign that Sinema will likely face a nasty reelection race if she decides to run for a second term.
▪ Deseret News: Why Arizona’s Senate race could split Democrats.
▪ CNBC: Sinema pulls in cash from Wall Street, real estate titans as she mulls reelection bid.
▪ AZ Central: Sinema led rival Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) in fundraising, but he topped her after she left Democratic Party.
▪ Politico: Arizona Republicans fear they may blow it again. Sinema’s party switch has opened the door, but the fear is their candidate may walk into the frame.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday endorsed Rep. Adam Schiff (D) in California’s high-profile Senate primary, backing the former House Intelligence Committee chairman — on the condition that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) opts not to run again.
“If Senator Feinstein decides to seek re-election, she has my whole-hearted support,” Pelosi said in an email to Politico. “If she decides not to run, I will be supporting House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, who knows well the nexus between a strong Democracy and a strong economy.”
Feinstein, who is 89, is widely rumored to be planning to retire at the end of her term, and Schiff is not the only California Democrat expected to throw his hat in the ring as a potential successor. Rep. Katie Porter was the first to announce her candidacy, and Rep. Barbara Lee has privately told colleagues she intends to seek the seat. Also expressing interest is Rep. Ro Khanna, who has said he’ll consider a bid “over the next few months.”
Florida Democratic leaders will meet later this month to elect a new party chair in what many Democrats see as the first step in trying to reclaim Florida’s status as the nation’s premier swing state. The Hill’s Max Greenwood and Amie Parnes report that the state party is trying to revive after an unsparingly brutal midterm election cycle and GOP dominance in what is increasingly labeled a red state. For the Democratic Party, it’s a steep climb.
The Washington Post: Republicans rally around conservatives who lost their elections.
Former President Trump on Thursday raised the nightmare scenario for Republicans in the 2024 presidential election: He might refuse to endorse the party’s nominee if he loses his primary race. The former president’s warning, made on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show, comes as he escalates efforts to try to scare off or damage potential party rivals who are maneuvering ahead of their own possible campaign launches (CNN).
“It would depend. I would give you the same answer I gave in 2016 during the debate. … It would have to depend on who the nominee was,” Trump said.
Back in 2015, Trump threatened a third-party White House run if the Republican National Committee was unfair to him during the 2016 primary season (The Hill).
One of the Republicans expected to jump into the 2024 race later this month is former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as U.N. ambassador under Trump. The Hill’s Niall Stanage asks five key questions about Haley as she prepares to enter the race, from her appeal to voters to what would happen if fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott, also threw his hat in the ring.
Documents: FBI was expected to search former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home for classified documents with his consent (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
In Kyiv, air raid sirens sounded today during a visit to Ukraine by European Union leaders but there were no immediate reports of fresh missile strikes after the sirens (Reuters). “There will be no let up in our resolve. We will also support you every step of the way on your journey to the EU,” European Union chairman Charles Michel wrote on Twitter on Friday morning under a picture of himself on a central Kyiv square.
The U.S has agreed to send longer-range bombs to Ukraine as it prepares to launch a spring offensive to retake territory Russia captured last year, officials said Thursday. The new weapons will have roughly double the range of any other offensive weapon provided by Washington, and the ground-launched small diameter bombs will be part of a $2.17 billion aid package it is expected to announce today. The package also, for the first time, includes equipment to connect all the different air defense systems Western allies have rushed to the battlefield and integrate them into Ukraine’s own air defenses, to help it better defend against Russia’s missile attacks (ABC News).
As his military pressed its eastern campaign with missile strikes on a key Ukrainian military hub, Russian President Vladimir Putin used a speech in the city once called Stalingrad on Thursday to invoke the Soviets’ defeat of the Nazis in a decisive World War II battle and vow that Russia would be victorious. His remarks came as Ukrainian officials warned that Moscow was opening a new offensive aimed at capturing more of eastern Ukraine, which could give Putin his first significant battlefield success in months (The New York Times).
“We are again and again being forced to resist the aggression of the collective West,” Putin said. “The legacy of generations, values and traditions — this is all what makes Russia different, what makes us strong and confident in ourselves, in our righteousness and in our victory.”
▪ The Washington Post: Who’s sending what to Ukraine: A new wave of Western weapons, explained.
▪ Reuters: Ukraine’s new weapons will force a Russian shift.
Spiraling violence between Israelis and Palestinians and fierce opposition on the Israeli street to proposed judicial reforms are overshadowing a unique moment of alignment between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding Iran. As The Hill’s Laura Kelly writes, the administration has effectively ceased diplomacy with Tehran to rein in its nuclear program, making coordination between the U.S. and Israel — which could include a military option — to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon more urgent. Netanyahu is also pushing for the U.S. to be at the center of opening relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the pathway to which is increasingly clear as the Biden administration has toned down criticism of the kingdom over its positions on oil production and human rights concerns.
▪ The New York Times: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a Pope and a nation revitalize one another.
▪ The Washington Post: Canadian Parliament votes unanimously to accept 10,000 Uyghur refugees.
▪ The New York Times: A U.S. ambassador finds himself on hostile ground in Hungary. David Pressman, a gay human rights lawyer, has been accused by pro-government media of undermining traditional values, violating diplomatic conventions and meddling in the judiciary.
■ Here are the ways the debt limit fight could end. Most are terrible, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/3Ygt4ow
■ Wealth taxes have always been a bad idea, by Allison Schrager, Bloomberg Opinion columnist. https://bloom.bg/3HyMsX0
■ The South also rises: How the Korean nuclear threat could gradually, then suddenly, lead to war, by Andrew Latham, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3DC3gLE
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 noon on Monday.
The Senate meets at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8:30 a.m. Biden and Harris will travel to Philadelphia where they will announce federal funding for water and lead pipe upgrades during a visit to the Belmont Water Treatment Plant at 3:15 p.m. They will join the Democratic National Committee winter meeting at 5:15 p.m. for a reception at the Sheraton Philadelphia Hotel and deliver speeches at 6 p.m. Biden will travel from Philadelphia to Wilmington, Del., to spend the weekend. The vice president will return to Washington tonight.
The secretary of state will meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin at 1:30 p.m. They will answer press questions at 2:45 p.m.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will travel to Charlotte for an event with North Carolina Democratic Reps. Alma Adams and Jeff Jackson to highlight the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act on health care and drug costs, including insulin. They will hold a press conference at a Black-owned drug store, Doc’s Pharmacy.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. will report on employment in January (data that analysts are eager to review).
First lady Jill Biden will fly to San Diego this afternoon to visit the Family Health Centers clinic to highlight federal support for access to cancer screenings and early cancer detection efforts for underserved communities. In the evening, she will speak to the crew and families of the USS Gabrielle Giffords combat ship in San Diego as part of the White House Joining Forces program.
A year of rising interest rates and falling stock prices has shaken the tech industry, and tens of thousands of layoffs from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and dozens of other companies have made it clear: Silicon Valley’s golden age is over. Speeches about austerity have replaced the free-flowing stock grants and workplace perks. On Wednesday, Facebook parent company Meta called 2023 the “year of efficiency” and said it would remove layers of middle management in an effort to make decisions faster and be more productive.
“We closed last year with some difficult layoffs and restructuring some teams. And when we did this, I said clearly that this was the beginning of our focus on efficiency and not the end,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. His comments came as the company posted its third straight quarterly revenue decline (The Washington Post).
Nationwide, layoffs hit a more than two-year high in January as tech firms cut jobs at the second-highest pace on record to brace for a possible recession. The layoffs impacted 102,943 workers, a more than twofold jump from December and an over five-times surge from a year earlier (Reuters).
▪ MarketWatch: PayPal, Salesforce cut hundreds more employees as tech layoffs continue.
▪ Fortune: Meta may have spent more than $88,000 per person when it laid off 11,000 in 2022.
▪ Vox: Where will all the laid-off tech workers go?
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
The White House on Thursday announced new investments aimed at families with children who have cancer (The Hill), outlining a series of efforts aimed at reducing deaths and augmenting support for patients. The National Cancer Institute will launch a public-private partnership for data integration for research, education, care and clinical trials, called CC-DIRECT, to help families find care for a child diagnosed with cancer and information about research initiatives such as clinical trials and optimal treatments.
🐟 When humans sheltered in place for weeks early in the coronavirus pandemic, they allowed what was already a fairly sedentary lifestyle for many people to descend into endless hours spent in front of screens and awaiting food deliveries. Yet in the realm of couch potatoes, The Washington Post reports, we’re amateurs.
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences describes a species of fish washed by floods into dark Mexican caves has been essentially sheltering in place for the last 160,000 years, undergoing genetic changes that reset its metabolism. Over thousands of generations, the Mexican cavefish has adapted to life huddled away in the fish equivalent of a dingy den with little light or food — and it might prove a blueprint for how we humans could evolve too.
▪ The Hill: White House outlines new investments to help families with kids fighting cancer.
▪ The New York Times: GoodRx leaked user health data to Facebook and Google, the Federal Trade Commission says.
▪ The Washington Post: Long-term exposure to pollution linked to depression, study finds.
A group of congressional lawmakers on Thursday called on Biden to reinstate the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to a Cabinet-level position in order to better address the overdose epidemic in the U.S. In their letter, the Congress members commended Biden for prioritizing the opioid epidemic in his State of the Union address last year (The Hill).
“Overdose deaths increased almost 60 percent between 2019 and 2021, and from September 2021 through August 2022 (the most recent twelve-month period available) more than 107,000 Americans died from overdoses, equal to 293 deaths every day,” the lawmakers said. “Tragically, overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45.”
Information about the availability of COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots can be found at Vaccines.gov.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,109,687. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 3,452 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 this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! As February begins, our puzzle homed in on fresh headlines about endings.
🥇Many talented trivia masters went 4/4: Pam Manges, Nicholas Ginimatas, Jerry Leonard, Brent Tracy, David Letostak, Lisa Addona, Frank Ballmann, Michael Cutler, Barbara Maher, Tim Mazanec, Bill Grieshober, Linda Macklin, Stephen Dimino, Dan Mattoon, Jeremy Serwer, John van Santen, “Kiddoc,” Glen Smith, Frank Yoakum, Stan Wasser, Greg Best, Candi Cee, Richard Baznik, Ted Kontek, Patrick Kavanagh, Paul Muraca, Jeff Gelski, Terry Pflaumer, John Wheby, Catherine Hicks, Tim Burrack, Cliff Grulke, Amanda Fisher, Harry Strulovici, William Say, Richard Fanning, Linda Muse, Jim Dykstra, Lori Benso and Frank Hatfield.
🥇More winners this week! Tim Abeska, Mark Roeddiger, Manley Glaubitz, Jack Barshay, Kathryn James, Joan Domingues, Peter Sprofera, Tom Chabot, Bob McLellan, Joe Atchue, Robert Bradley, Jane Heaton, Paul Harris, Ki Harvey, Lou Tisler, Luther Berg, Steve James, Rick Pilonhome, Michael Palermo, Jerry LaCamera, JA Ramos and Stuart Babendir.
They knew that the Biden administration announced the U.S. pandemic public health emergency will conclude in May.
Famed quarterback Tom Brady, after retiring and un-retiring last year, said in a Twitter video released on Wednesday, “I’m retiring for good.” He’s 45. (The New York Times unretired its copy from last year and published it on Thursday.)
The last Boeing 747, aviation’s 50-year-old workhorse, rolled out of the company’s Washington state manufacturing plant as No. 1,574 on Tuesday (The New York Times).
TV celebrity Dr. Phil this week announced a surprise spring finale for his daytime show after a 21-year run (he appears to have in mind a prime-time new beginning with an unidentified network).
We want to hear from you! Email: Alexis Simendinger and Kristina Karisch. Follow us on Twitter (@asimendinger and @kristinakarisch) and suggest this newsletter to friends!
Source: The Hill
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