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In the minds of House ultra-conservatives, a battle to make a point about the nation’s escalating debt and most expensive drivers of federal spending is worth risking a shutdown.
But the legislative strategies that could shutter the bureaucracy Oct. 1 won’t put any kind of dent in the entitlement engines behind forecasts of soaring spending over the next decade and won’t target the programs with the biggest dollar signs.
Today in addition to shutdown warnings, we’re eyeing a second Republican presidential debate, a House impeachment hearing Thursday and lawmakers’ reactions to the indictment on Friday of New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez. Plus, a tentative deal reached on Sunday could resolve the Writers Guild strike.
IT’S POSSIBLE in the House that firebrands on the right will find themselves frozen to the sidelines later this week as House and Senate negotiators work with Democrats to assemble enough votes to keep the government open. The fiscal hawks could lose their shutdown showdown on substance and on politics — and they will be deeply upset.
“The people back in my district, they’re tired of the way this town works,” said Rep. Elijah Crane (R-Ariz.), who joined other conservatives in the last week to stymie Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s attempts to move a few appropriations bills (The Washington Post).
“They understand there’s no appetite to spend money we don’t have, and they expect me to do whatever I can to stop it, and to change how we do business. It’s not always the most comfortable thing,” Crane said.
McCarthy, too, might be sidelined if he lacks the juice to overcome a rare blockade by a small number of Republicans who object to passing any of the 12 appropriations measures that fund the government, including defense and homeland security. Not all of their demands are in sync. Some are vaguely conceived, forcing the Speaker to express his exasperation.
Reuters: McCarthy will push an ambitious plan this week to win approval of four large bills: Defense, Agriculture, State-Foreign Operations and Homeland Security.
President Biden and other administration officials over the weekend stepped up their warnings about a possible shutdown. Congressman Crane insists he is doing what his constituents want. The president on Saturday argued the opposite. “It’s time for Republicans to start doing the job America elected them to do,” he said during an event in which he railed against “extreme Republicans” who he said could force air travelers to face delays, impact food safety and Head Start (The New York Times).
The White House last week began highlighting popular or necessary federal programs that could be impacted if there’s a lapse in funding.
MCCARTHY AND SENATE LEADERS from both parties may end up trying a work-around to avert a shutdown, but it would involve Democratic votes and pit the House and the Senate, now the Mars and Venus of governance, into a serious cliffhanger by the end of the week.
Congress does not resume work until Tuesday, so everything is down to the wire after much intraparty feuding and threatened political paybacks.
House Republican renegades know what they don’t want. They oppose a stopgap spending bill, arguing they’d be buying more time to repeat the same arguments into November or December. They object to voting for individual spending measures for all of the next fiscal year. They don’t favor more funding for Ukraine. They’re not keen on adding to the deficit with higher disaster relief funding. They want to hold spending at 2022 levels, while senators of both parties favor higher spending, including more aid to Ukraine.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to avoid a lapse in funding by moving first on a stopgap measure that will pass the upper chamber, then send that bill to the House and pressure McCarthy to put it on the floor for a vote, where it would pass with bipartisan support, leaning on the Democrats. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports why some GOP senators fret about that option.
EVERYONE IS LOOKING FOR PLAN Z. Here are some of the options being discussed (The Hill).
McCarthy, still counting votes, on Saturday did a U turn about possibly stripping out funding for Ukraine assistance (Politico). “It became too difficult to do that, so we’re leaving it in,” he told reporters.
Guaranteed: That won’t be the final public reversal the Speaker makes this week.
3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY
▪ NASA landed an unmanned spacecraft in Utah Sunday with a payload taken from an asteroid after a journey to deep space. “Touchdown for science!” NASA said about the historic first.
▪ The Justice Department’s special counsel in charge of investigating Hunter Biden will testify to the House Judiciary Committee on Oct. 18, the chairman said Sunday.
▪ Catch up fast: Here’s what we know about the bribery indictment of Menendez, who last week voluntarily relinquished the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but says he’s innocent. It’s his second criminal indictment as senator. Some Democrats want him to step down.
LEADING THE DAY
…with Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington who specializes in congressional rules and procedure. Reynolds talked with Morning Report about the history that precedes the current shutdown showdown. Her replies were lightly edited for length.
Kristina: How did we get here? Why does it feel like Congress is on the verge of a shutdown every year?
Reynolds: Congress has long struggled to complete its appropriations work on time, but in recent years, the process has started to bear more and more of Congress’s political conflict — both between and, as we’ve seen this year, within the parties. In the Senate, narrow majorities and polarized parties have made it more difficult to consider the appropriations bills separately. As the membership in the chambers turned over, fewer members have experienced the process as it is designed to work.
Kristina: What is the long-term effect of regularly funding the government with stopgap bills and having to face the possibility of a shutdown annually?
Reynolds: In addition to disrupting programs and services for Americans who need them, short-term continuing resolutions and constantly threatened shutdowns generate uncertainty for agencies. What’s more, planning for and executing shutdowns is costly; the time spent by an agency determining who would keep working, for example, is time spent not performing other functions.
Kristina: How would the appropriations process need to change to prevent threats of shutdown in the future?
Reynolds: Most fundamentally, dysfunction in the appropriations process is a symptom of the broader challenges and dynamics facing Congress; the best way to a more functional appropriations process is a more functional legislative process, generally. Even specific changes, like two-year agreements on overall spending levels coupled with annual appropriations bills, only work if there is the political will to stick to those agreements.
Kristina: In today’s hyper-partisan, polarized congressional environment, are changes like that even feasible?
Reynolds: Hard to say! I do think that the appropriations committees have often found ways to keep doing the bulk of the work of bill-writing in recent years, so all is not lost. But the environment that makes change hard is itself a cause of the problems in the first place.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House returns to work on Tuesday at noon.
The Senate will meet for a pro forma session at Tuesday at 3 p.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. Biden will host leaders representing the Pacific Island Forum at a summit at 10:30 a.m. in the East Room. He will host a meeting at 3 p.m. with advisers to discuss Historically Black Colleges and Universities, accompanied by Vice President Harris.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak about U.S.-Korea relations at 9 a.m. at a forum in Washington hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He will join Biden at a meeting of Pacific Island leaders at 10:30 a.m.at the White House. The secretary this afternoon will be part of a joint signing ceremony with Niue Premier Dalton Tagelagi. In the evening, Blinken will participate in a joint statement signing ceremony with Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown. Blinken will speak at 6:45 p.m. at a signing ceremony with Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Alice Albright and iKiribati President Taneti Maamau. The secretary will be the dinner speaker at 7 p.m. at the second U.S.-Pacific Islands Forum Summit, co-hosted by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the department.
First lady Jill Biden will host a reception at 4 p.m. at the White House for the White House Historical Association’s 2023 Presidential Sites Summit.
Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra will be in Dumfries, Va., to talk about Latino health equity at an 11 a.m. event at a local restaurant with Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D).
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
MICHIGAN ON THEIR MINDS: Both Biden and former President Trump will travel to the Great Lakes State this week as the Detroit auto workers strike continues. Biden will be in Michigan on Tuesday to join the picket line; Trump, meanwhile, will speak to union leaders in the state on Wednesday while his GOP presidential rivals attend the second Republican presidential debate in Simi Valley, California (Detroit Free Press and CBS News). It’ll be a test for pro-labor Biden, who has yet to receive an endorsement from the striking union, the United Auto Workers. Late Friday, Trump posted on Truth Social that Biden was only visiting Michigan because Trump was visiting himself; Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg rejected that claim Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” (Politico).
“You’re not going to find somebody who has more consistently stood with unions,” Buttigieg said of Biden. “Having said that, it’s also the case that these auto companies can thrive in a win-win deal that does what the president has called for, which is to say that record profits should lead to record pay and record benefits for the workers who are creating all of that benefit.”
👉In other strike news: The Writers Guild of America and Hollywood’s top media companies reached a tentative agreement Sunday that could resolve the writers strike and bring a close to one of the longest walkouts in entertainment industry history. Picketing was suspended Sunday night (NBC News). No deal yet for actors (The Associated Press).
As Trump skips the debate this week, he’s once again leaving the rest of the field competing with him for airtime and attention even as he’s absent from the debate stage. As the Hill’s Jared Gans and Julia Mueller report, while the GOP candidates on stage will only have a handful of minutes to share their message and stand out, Trump’s appearance meeting with striking autoworkers grants him undivided attention at the center of a pressing, national issue. The split screen between the candidates on stage and Trump could again limit the effectiveness of the night even for the hopefuls who come out on top on Wednesday.
Axios: UAW strike scrambles political allegiances.
MAKE OR BREAK: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing a critical moment in the debate as he looks to give his campaign a boost amid falling poll numbers. A CNN/University of New Hampshire poll released this week showed the governor dropping 13 points in the critical early state, falling behind candidates Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But a knock out performance could give DeSantis the much needed boost in the polls that Ramaswamy and Haley saw after their performance at the first debate last month (The Hill).
Another candidate looking to stand out during the debate is Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who has signaled he could be taking a more aggressive approach toward his rivals. It would mark a contrast from the positive, optimistic candidate that the South Carolina Republican has projected on the campaign trail, but after a lackluster first debate performance, some Republicans say Scott might need to change course (The Hill).
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUP: With more than a year until the 2024 election, Trump is opening up a widening lead in the polls against Biden. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, Biden’s job approval rating is 19 points underwater, while his approval for handling the economy and immigration are at career lows. While the Post-ABC poll shows Biden trailing Trump by 10 percentage points at this early stage in the election cycle, the sizable margin of Trump’s lead is significantly at odds with other public polls that show the general election contest as a virtual dead heat.
TRUMP’S LEAD IN THE POLLS can be attributed to many factors, but as The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in The Memo, on three of the most controversial topics facing the nation — abortion, immigration and the war in Ukraine — Trump has staked out more electable positions than his foes on both right and left would like to acknowledge.
▪ There’s a reason Trump is trying to straddle both sides when it comes to states’ abortion restrictions.
▪ The Biden-Harris campaign views young Black voters as essential if Democrats want to hold the White House after next year. Can the president and Vice President Kamala Harris energize that demographic? They’re working on it. But South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn (D) hedged on Harris, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she’s part of the Democratic Party’s future but it’s not “a given” she will be a successor to Biden.
▪ The New Yorker’s David Remnick writes “the prospect of a presidential election as a contest of the ancients is not a heartening one, and the anxieties it provokes cannot be dismissed as ageism.”
▪ What to do with a talkative presidential candidate who is also a criminal defendant? In Trump’s case, The Hill digs into the Justice Department’s request for a narrow gag order.
▪ Need a Trump legal tracker to sort out his calendar? The Hill has that covered.
Churches and local community groups across Florida have stepped up efforts to teach Black history after the state’s controversial move to reject AP African American Studies, The Hill’s Lexi Lonas and Tiah Shepherd report. While Florida has pulled the College Board’s course, with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) calling it “indoctrination,” state residents are uniting in their churches, parks and homes to learn about the history of Black Americans, including material in their lessons that draws on books that have been removed from school shelves.
“I’m seeing it even with my own daughter who’s 17, a high school senior,” Sharon D. Wright Austin, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, told The Hill. “She and some of her friends have talked about maybe just […] reading on their own and like just meeting here at her house or maybe her going to her friend’s house and just reading different books and talking about different books.”
▪ The Washington Post: More than 260 houses of worship have signed onto the effort to teach Black history in Florida. “We don’t want to whitewash anything,” one organizer said. “We want to tell the truth.”
▪ NPR: Protestors in Florida read from banned books, defying the state’s education policies.
The U.S. is caught in the middle of a diplomatic war between India and Canada, after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations that Indian agents were behind the killing of a Sikh Separatist leader in the country. The allegation comes amid the Biden administration’s charm offensive toward India as part of efforts to counter China, with many questioning the U.S. relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While the U.S. reportedly worked closely with Canada in investigating the apparent murder, Biden has not publicly commented on the allegations, highlighting his tricky balancing act. All eyes are now on whether Trudeau will present evidence to support his claims, and just how bad relations between Ottawa and New Delhi will get before the U.S. is forced to step in (The Hill).
Ukrainian forces and their armored vehicles punched through Russia’s main defensive line on the war’s southern front and are operating on the other side over the weekend, in a modest but crucial gain for Kyiv as it seeks a major breakthrough in its grueling counteroffensive (The Washington Post).
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Early in the war, the West was shocked at the Russian military’s poor performance. But Moscow has fixed many errors and adapted on the battlefield.
▪ The Associated Press: President Emmanuel Macron said France will end its military presence in Niger and pull its ambassador after the recent coup.
■ Vivek Ramaswamy is confused, by Carlos Lozado, columnist, The New York Times.
■ Looking for an immigration bill that can pass? It’s health care, by Kristie de Peña and Cecilia Esterline, opinion contributors, The Hill.
And finally … 🦞 Summer is over, yes, but today we can console ourselves with National Lobster Day, a marketing invention wisely created three years ago by Maine Sens. Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I) with the unanimous support of their colleagues.
It falls at the height of lobster harvesting season when the crustaceans are hailed via restaurant menus (the Red Lobster chain, for one), online shipping companies and in favorite recipes published in the news media.
Does anyone really need an excuse to enjoy a spiny seafood specialty, despite high prices per pound, depending on retail outlets and how far from Maine buyers may be? Once upon a time in the 1700s, lobsters were fed to animals.
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