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Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Hill’s Morning Report — Congress faces a funding time crunch

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Editor’s note: The Hill’s Morning Report is our daily newsletter that dives deep into Washington’s agenda. To subscribe, click here or fill out the box below.

Lawmakers are scrambling to try to fund the government and pass a wide-ranging defense policy bill before a new Congress is sworn in. With government funding expiring at the end of next week on Dec. 16 and no concrete compromise in sight, it appears all but certain that lawmakers will have to pass a short-term extension as they try to reach a broader full-year funding agreement (CNN).

While the language for the omnibus spending bill has yet to be released, lawmakers on Tuesday debuted draft language of the other key piece of legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

House Democrats delayed action on the bill following an eleventh-hour push from Black lawmakers for an accompanying vote to protect voting rights. Legislators had reached a deal on the $847 billion defense legislation Tuesday night, and it was expected to sail through the House with bipartisan support when it hit the floor on Wednesday. But the plan hit a snag when members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) demanded simultaneous action on a separate measure to enhance the 1965 Voting Rights Act (The Hill). 

The Washington Examiner: The winners and losers of Congress’s NDAA fight.

Yahoo Finance: What’s in the NDAA for 2023.

Senate conservatives led by outgoing National Republican Senatorial Committee (NSRC) Chairman Rick Scott (Fla.), as well as Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Mike Lee (Utah) are ramping up the pressure on GOP leaders in the House and Senate to go along with a long-term stopgap spending bill to freeze spending into 2023, when Republicans will be in control of the lower chamber, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.

Conservatives secured a victory this week by pressing for the defense authorization bill to remove the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on military service members, which Democrats agreed to Tuesday. Now they’re flexing on the omnibus bill — which will fund the government — and appear to be gaining traction as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floated the idea of a short-term spending bill as a possible necessity at his Tuesday leadership press conference.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, cemented a major victory Tuesday night with the reelection of Sen. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff, securing the party a 51-49 majority in the chamber, which will reduce reliance on Vice President Harris as a tiebreaker for votes.

A visibly exuberant Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday celebrated Warnock’s reelection, calling him “a unique man with a great future.” He said the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, as well as public hearings from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection Capitol helped turn voters in Democrats’ favor (The Washington Post).

“The public began to realize how far right these MAGA Republicans had gone,” Schumer told reporters. “People said, ‘Wow, these MAGA Republicans are serious about turning the clock all the way back.’ … I think [the Jan. 6 hearings] played an important effect because people didn’t just read about something that happened once, but every night they saw on TV these hooligans, these insurrectionists being violent, beating up police officers.”

Analysts on both sides of the aisle are still seeking the full picture of what led to Democrats’ better-than-expected performance in the midterms. While Republicans blame the GOP’s losses on former President Trump and poor GOP candidates, many Democrats argue that their candidates’ wins came down to their party’s messaging, writes The Hill’s Julia Manchester

Democrats defied expectations up and down the ballot in 2022 despite facing historic headwinds and other challenges going into the midterms. Throughout the year Democrats braced for losses while Republicans tried to tie President Biden and his party to rising inflation, violent crime and the flow of migrants across the U.S. southern border. 

Herschel Walker’s loss in Georgia has Republicans wondering what the party can do differently during the 2024 cycle when the terrain is much friendlier, The Hill’s Al Weaver reports.

Chief on the list: improve “candidate quality,” as McConnell put it over the summer, followed by the inability to look beyond the 2020 election results and Trump’s continuing presence. But how Republicans will do so remains to be seen after the NSRC’s hands-off approach during the primary season, coupled with Trump’s recruitment efforts led to electoral disaster in the fall.

“Candidates matter,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is retiring at the end of the year, told The Hill. “We lost two or three or four races we didn’t have to lose this year.”

Scott and other conservatives place the blame for election losses on the GOP establishment in Washington, which they say failed to present a compelling governing vision to voters, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton

Bloomberg News: Warnock’s narrow victory solidifies Georgia as a battleground state for 2024.


Related Articles

The Hill’s Niall Stanage’s The Memo: Trump hit by double blow with Walker defeat, courtroom loss. 

The New York Times: The Trump Organization was branded a felon. Herschel Walker was defeated in Georgia. Donald J. Trump has had better Tuesdays.

The New York Times: Classified documents were found by a search team hired by Trump under a judge’s order, unearthed at a storage site in West Palm Beach, Fla., run by the General Services Administration. 

Politico: The Republican National Committee needs new leadership after the GOP results in midterm contests, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) said on Wednesday while clarifying he will not seek the chairmanship held by Ronna McDaniel. “Change is desperately needed,” he said.


LEADING THE DAY

MORE IN CONGRESS

The House on Thursday is poised to codify federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages, bringing the landmark Respect for Marriage Act one step closer to Biden’s desk for his signature (ABC News). Here’s an analysis of how the legislation picked up bipartisan support, which is considered an achievement during polarized political times, although the measure does not guarantee same-sex marriage as a constitutional right (The Washington Post).

How far will the House Jan. 6 investigative panel go toward implicating Trump in criminal referrals based on evidence gathered by the committee, which is expected to be shared with the Justice Department (The Hill). “This could help stiffen the spine of federal prosecutors,” Norm Eisen, counsel for Democrats in Trump’s first impeachment, told reporters. 

A roller coaster bid to be elected Speaker in January, waged by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), has triggered pushback from a small group of hardline GOP members who say he’s a Washington establishment figure. The House has not seen a multiple-ballot process to select a Speaker since 1923, but some lawmakers worry McCarthy might be in that situation nearly a century later. There’s also the prospect that moderate Republicans in the House, working with some Democrats, might select an alternative GOP Speaker, reports The Hill’s Emily Brooks.

Lawmakers face a rapidly closing window for Congress to move key marijuana legislation into law before the end of the year, despite broad bipartisan support (The Hill). 

ADMINISTRATION

Warnock’s narrow victory in Georgia on Tuesday is expected to help Biden in tangible ways, even in a divided government next year. With a 51-vote majority in the Senate, the president’s party controls committees and consideration of his judicial and other appointments, even if enactment of major new laws is out of reach.

The results in Georgia mean Biden will be less reliant on the demands of any single senator. And because the president is expected in the new year to announce his bid for reelection, the history-making 2022 midterms bolster Biden’s claims to wielding smart policies and effective political narratives that helped Democratic candidates and hurt Republicans, including presidential candidate Trump (The Hill). It was the first time since 1934 that the president’s party gained both Senate and governor’s seats in a midterm (The Washington Post).

Guns: Biden on Wednesday renewed his call to members of Congress to ban assault weapons this year while Democrats are still in the majority of both the House and Senate. “Together, we made some important progress: the most significant gun law passed in 30 years, but still not enough,” Biden said while advocating “common sense” legislation. He was the first president to attend the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, which has honored more than 1 million gun violence victims since the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. There is no expectation that during the lame duck session this month Congress will take up an assault weapons ban, which was enacted as part of a 1994 crime bill and then expired in 2004 (Politico).

Pentagon: The U.S. on Tuesday approved $425 million in arms sales to Taiwan for spare parts for F-16s and other systems (WOKV).


IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky is Time’s Person of the Year for 2022, the magazine announced Wednesday. The magazine’s editor, Edward Felsenthal, said choosing Zelensky and “the spirit of Ukraine” as person of the year was one of the “most clear-cut [decisions] in memory.”

“In a world that had come to be defined by its divisiveness, there was a coming together around this cause, around this country,” Felsenthal wrote.

He added that the “spirit of Ukraine” referred to Ukrainians around the world, including many who “fought behind the scenes.” The magazine said Zelensky had inspired Ukrainians and has been recognized internationally for his courage in resisting the Russian invasion of his country.

“Zelensky’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious,” Time said.

Russian forces killed at least 441 civilians extrajudicially outside of Kyiv in the first weeks of the invasion of Ukraine, in what likely amounts to war crimes, according to a United Nations report released Thursday, though the actual number of civilians summarily killed is likely to be “considerably higher.” The findings add to mounting evidence that Russian forces have targeted and summarily executed Ukrainian civilians in grave violations of international law (The Washington Post).

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, said Thursday that his reminders about Russia’s supply of nuclear weapons are a “factor of deterrence” in the war with Ukraine, not one of escalation, and that his army could be fighting in Ukraine for a long time, but said for now there will be no second call-up of soldiers (The Hill and Reuters).

The New York Times: Peru’s president is quickly ousted after moving to dissolve Congress. Pedro Castillo announced the move just before Congress voted to impeach him. Much of his government resigned to protest what political leaders said was a coup attempt.

Bloomberg News: Peru swears in Dina Boluarte as new president after Castillo’s “coup” attempt fails.

Reuters: The Nigerian military ran a secret mass abortion program in the war against Boko Haram.

The Washington Post: “Once-in-a-lifetime” find in central England of a 1,300-year-old necklace dazzles historians.


OPINION

■ Restore the enhanced Child Tax Credit to improve health and educational outcomes, by Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), opinion contributor (The Hill).

■ Jerome Powell’s choice: More misery or less misery, by Avraham Shama, opinion contributor (The Hill).


WHERE AND WHEN

👉 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.

INVITATION: Join a newsmaker event hosted by The Hill andthe Bipartisan Policy Center on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m. ET (hybrid), “Risk to Resilience: Cyber & Climate Solutions to Bolster America’s Power Grid,” withRep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Energy Department Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response Director Puesh Kumar and more. Information for in-person and online participation is HERE.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. 

The Senate will convene at 11 a.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Jeffery Hopkins to be a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Ohio.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. Biden and Harris will lunch together at 12:15 p.m. The president will speak at 2:10 p.m. in the South Court Auditorium next to the White House about $36 billion in relief for a major pension fund to avoid benefit cuts for union employees and retirees (The Hill). Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will join Biden. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will be in Fort Worth, Texas, to visit a Bureau of Engraving and Printing facility there at 10 a.m. CST for the official unveiling of history-making U.S. banknotes with the signature of a female head of the Treasury. Yellen and Lynn Malerba, treasurer of the United States and also chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will receive a tour and Yellen will address employees at 11:15 a.m. CST.

Special U.S. envoy for climate change John Kerry will speak during a Washington Post Live event, “This is Climate,” which begins at 9 a.m. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) will participate later in the morning with a focus on investments in clean energy and the outlook in Congress. Information is HERE.

Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending Dec. 3.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. 


ELSEWHERE

TECH

A slew of changes implemented by Elon Musk after his takeover as head of Twitter is changing the lens through which users and the general public view the platform along partisan lines, write The Hill’s Rebecca Klar and Dominick Mastrangelo. Musk, who has himself emerged a popular cultural figure among conservatives for aggressive pushback against his critics in the news media, has in recent weeks rolled back the platform’s content moderation policies which Republicans have long asserted are biased against them. 

Musk’s penchant for reshaping Twitter in a way that angers his critics came to a head last week, when the eccentric billionaire shared with an independent journalist a series of documents about the company’s previous content moderation procedures, seemingly in a bid to show bias at the highest level of the company’s leadership against the political right before his arrival.

The Verge: Apple will finally be adding end-to-end encryption to iCloud backups, the company said as part of a major set of security announcements on Wednesday.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has barred state workers from using the video sharing platform TikTok because of security concerns tied to its Chinese owners, ByteDance. In a Tuesday News release, Hogan — who also banned the state from using technology from several other Chinese firms — said the banned entities present an “unacceptable level of cybersecurity risk to the state,” and may be involved in acts such as “cyber-espionage, surveillance of government entities, and inappropriate collection of sensitive personal information.”

​​“There may be no greater threat to our personal safety and our national security than the cyber vulnerabilities that support our daily lives,” Hogan said in the statement (The Hill and NBC News).  

Hogan is not alone in his concerns about the app’s handling of user data. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) had hoped to attach his bill to prohibit federal employees from downloading or using the app on government-issued devices to the fiscal 2023 defense authorization measure, but the language didn’t make it into the final bill. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) in early November called for a more expansive national ban on TikTok that would prohibit millions of Americans from using the app, though they have yet to introduce the ensuing legislation (Roll Call).

Hogan and Rubio are both considered likely presidential contenders in 2024.

Axios: GOP-led states ban TikTok on government devices.

The New York Times: Indiana sues TikTok for security and child safety violations.

NEWS MEDIA

Hundreds of journalists and other employees at The New York Times began a 24-hour walkout on Thursday, the first strike of its kind at the newspaper in more than 40 years. Newsroom employees and other members of The NewsGuild of New York say their last contract expired in March 2021 and bargaining has dragged on. The union announced last week that more than 1,100 employees would stage a 24-hour work stoppage starting after midnight unless the two sides reach a contract deal. The NewsGuild tweeted Thursday morning that workers “are now officially on work stoppage, the first of this scale at the company in 4 decades. It’s never an easy decision to refuse to do work you love, but our members are willing to do what it takes to win a better newsroom for all” (CNN, NPR and ABC News).

SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared to search for a middle path in an election law clash with weighty stakes for American democracy involving a bid by North Carolina GOP lawmakers to reinstate a Republican-drawn voting map, reports The Hill’s John Kruzel.

A majority of justices did not appear eager to embrace a sweeping legal theory that would give near-total authority to state legislatures to design congressional districts and shape the rules governing federal elections (Politico).

CNN: Takeaways from Moore v. Harper, the historic Supreme Court arguments on election rules.

PANDEMIC & HEALTH 

The organization that has led the global effort to bring COVID-19 vaccines to poor and middle-income countries will decide this week whether to shut down that project, ending a historic attempt to achieve global health equity, while tacitly acknowledging that the effort fell short of its goal.

The program, known as Covax, has delivered 1.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to developing countries in challenging circumstances. But it was hindered by fierce vaccine nationalism in wealthy nations and a series of missteps that undermined demand for the shots (The New York Times).

With no monoclonal antibody treatments available to fight the coronavirus, vulnerable populations may be at even higher risk this winter as COVID-19 cases start rising after the Thanksgiving holiday. There aren’t currently any monoclonal antibodies on the horizon to replace those that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revoked authorization for, but there are potential antiviral drugs in the works that could help fight off infections. 

Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute developed a “decoy” drug that mimics the receptor on the surface of cells that the virus needs to bind to in order to infect the cell. This drug is still in early stages of development and would need to go through clinical trials. 

Another drug, developed by Shionogi, has received emergency authorization in Japan. It works by targeting specific enzymes that the virus needs to replicate (The Hill).

The Washington Post: Face masks may return amid holiday “tripledemic” of COVID-19, flu and RSV.

CIDRAP: Forty-two percent of U.S. adults likely have had COVID-19, but almost half of them say they didn’t.

CNBC: COVID-19 can live on these five grocery items for days — here’s how to consume them safely.

Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability 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): 1,083,362. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 1,780 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.)

THE CLOSER

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 Georgia runoff, we’re eager for some smart guesses about close and not-so-close elections.

In 1972, incumbent President Richard Nixon won reelection overwhelmingly, securing the electoral votes of every state except for _____ 

1. California

2. Massachusetts

3. Vermont

4. Wyoming

Then-president Barack Obama saw his party suffer deep losses in the 2010 midterm elections. How did he describe the results?

1. A thumpin’

2. A disaster

3. A shellacking

4. A calamity

Whose presidential victory was ultimately determined by a single vote in the House of Representatives?

1. John Quincy Adams

2. Rutherford B. Hayes

3. Andrew Jackson

4. John Adams

The closest election in Senate history — the 1974 race between New Hampshire Republican Louis Wyman and Democrat John Durkin — lasted for eight months and was ultimately decided by how many votes?

1. 57

2. 2

3. 355

4. 8

Email your responses to [email protected] and/or [email protected], and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


Stay Engaged

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!






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