PAGING PELOSI — WaPo’s Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany scooped just before midnight that Rep. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-Mass.) and other House progressives plan to introduce a resolution today stripping Rep. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-Colo.) from her committee posts for Islamophobic comments. Their hope? To pressure Democratic leaders into taking action they’ve resisted taking since the spat with ILHAN OMAR began two weeks ago.
MCCONNELL’S DEBT CEILING ESCAPE — The idea started out promising, at least from the GOP’s perspective. Over the summer, MITCH MCCONNELL surprised much of Washington when he drew a bright line on the debt ceiling, demanding Democrats use reconciliation to raise the borrowing cap on their own. The idea was to force President JOE BIDEN’s party to vote to increase the $29 trillion debt by a specific number — then hammer them for out-of-control spending on the camping trail. Republicans cheered.
But while McConnell struck a deal with CHUCK SCHUMER on Tuesday that will ultimately achieve the same result, his method of getting there has left many of his own rank-and-file members unhappy. Instead of gumming up the works by forcing Democrats to use reconciliation, he agreed to a convoluted strategy that enables Democrats to bypass the filibuster.
It goes like this: At least 10 Republicans will have to join Democrats as early as Thursday in approving new legislation allowing Schumer’s party to temporarily raise the debt ceiling by a simple majority vote. Maybe they’ll get more GOP backing; but maybe not.
Senate Republicans, we hear, didn’t exactly embrace the plan when McConnell presented it at the weekly conference lunch on Tuesday — though McConnell predicted there will be enough votes joining him for passage. At least two Republicans who voted in October to temporarily lift the debt ceiling have said they won’t go along with the latest strategy; one of them, Sen. RICHARD SHELBY (R-Ala.), said, “We ought to keep our word with the base.”
Even McConnell’s own leadership team wasn’t thrilled. “I’m not supporting any raising the debt ceiling,” NRSC Chairman RICK SCOTT (R-Fla.) told Playbook after the lunch. “I’m gonna have to think it through,” Sen. JONI ERNST (R-Iowa) added. “It may be as good as we could do,” shrugged Sen. ROY BLUNT (R-Mo.), a McConnell ally who plans to support the agreement, in an interview. “It’s easier to second guess the leaders than it is to actually be one … I’m not going to do that.”
SO WAS IT A CAVE OR A WIN? — Here’s what the various factions of the party are saying:
1) The view from McConnell: “The red line is intact,” he declared to reporters Tuesday, suggesting he never moved the goalposts. The deal, he added, is “good for the country” and “good for Republicans.”
Translation from McConnell World: He got Democrats to own the debt ceiling increase, which is what he wanted all along. He didn’t care how they got there, or if they used reconciliation to do it, or another process. This solution will still allow the GOP to grill Democrats for reckless spending.
2) The view from McConnell critics: “I don’t think Republicans should be facilitating adding trillions in debt,” Sen. TED CRUZ (R-Texas) said.
Translation from this POV: McConnell took a stand — that Democrats should use reconciliation — then backpedaled and paved the way for them. In the process, he cleared the decks for Schumer and the Democrats to focus on passing Build Back Better before Christmas — and created a new precedent for bypassing the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling. (While the law is only “temporary,” what’s been done once can — and likely will — be done again.)
3) The view from sympathetic Republicans: “It’s impossible to please everybody, but [McConnell’s] responsibility is to the nation as well as to his constituents … It may be the least bad deal,” said Sen. KEVIN CRAMER (R-N.D). “I wouldn’t call it a great deal or a good deal.”
Translation: McConnell took the most responsible path. Even if he relented somewhat, Republicans couldn’t risk a default, especially in the middle of a pandemic.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MCCONNELL? He’s been under constant attack from DONALD TRUMP all year, including after the GOP leader agreed to the last short-term hike in October. The ex-president will almost certainly use this process to hammer him even more. But so far, at least, McConnell’s standing with rank-and-file Republican senators hasn’t been hurt by the debt ceiling machinations. He’ll probably be OK with that core constituency after this latest round, too.
Still, McConnell is cleaning up a mess he arguably made himself. The debt ceiling had typically been dealt with on a bipartisan basis in the Senate — until McConnell drew his red line. He could have left precedent alone and avoided this headache. We’ll see in the long run if it was worth it politically for the GOP.
More headlines: “McConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal,” by The Hill’s Jordain Carney … “House Republicans seethe over Senate GOP’s debt deal,” by Olivia Beavers and Burgess Everett … “U.S. House passes bill to speed passage of debt limit increase,” from Reuters
— 9:30 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— 10:50 a.m.: Biden will depart the White House en route to Kansas City, Mo., where he is scheduled to arrive at 1:45 p.m.
— 3 p.m.: Biden will tour the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, where he will deliver remarks at 3:30 p.m.
— 4:45 p.m.: Biden will depart Kansas City to return to the White House, where he is scheduled to arrive at 7:15 p.m.
Principal deputy press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to Kansas City.
The SENATE is in. Instagram CEO ADAM MOSSERI will testify before the Commerce Committee at 2:30 p.m.
The HOUSE will meet at 10 a.m.
THE WHITE HOUSE
VACCINE MANDATE BLOCKED … AGAIN — A federal judge in Georgia blocked Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contract workers across the country, CNN’s Tierney Sneed reports: “The order means that all three major Biden vaccine policies for people not employed by the federal government — the mandates for contractors, certain health care workers and employees of larger companies — are frozen across the country. The contractor mandate had already been blocked in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee after an order was issued in a separate case.”
TWO TENSION-FILLED HOURS — Two grafs at the top of NYT’s David Sanger and Michael Crowley story on the Biden-Putin meeting — which “American and Russian officials both described as tense but occasionally pierced by humor” — tell you pretty much everything there is to know about it, which isn’t much: “It is too early to tell whether the much-anticipated conversation, whose details were hard to elicit as both the White House and the Kremlin put their spin on it, will alleviate the immediate crisis in Ukraine, where roughly 70,000 Russian troops have massed, with more equipment and personnel arriving every day.
“Mr. Putin gave no indication of his ultimate intent, leaving the world guessing whether he was actually planning an invasion early next year, or trying to get the West to pay attention to his demands by manufacturing a crisis.” Five takeaways from Crowley
BANK COP NOMINATION PULLED — From WaPo’s Amy Wang and Tory Newmyer: “SAULE OMAROVA, Biden’s pick to serve as a top banking regulator, has withdrawn her nomination for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Omarova had faced pushback to her nomination from Republicans as well as moderate Democrats. During Omarova’s confirmation hearing last month, Sen. JOHN NEELY KENNEDY (R-La.) had suggested that her upbringing in Soviet-controlled Kazakhstan indicated a possible Communist loyalty.”
PROVING HER NAYSAYERS WRONG — In a private meeting this week, Black women leaders shared some policy recommendations with Vice President KAMALA HARRIS on policy. But they also made a more personal appeal to Harris: To prove her detractors wrong, Eugene reports.
“The Black community, they stressed, wanted to see more of her, and they wanted to be called on more to help out where they could, serving as her ‘ambassadors.’ There was a sense of shared protectiveness over the accomplishments of Harris as the first woman of color to serve in the executive office, with multiple women who attended the meeting saying they wanted to make sure that the first chance that Black women have to lead is successful.
“Harris urged those in attendance to give it to her straight, attendees said: What are people saying? she asked. And when they suggested the need for more public updates on what she’s been working on, Harris seemed receptive, including expressing openness to holding town halls on various topics she’s working closely on — from voting rights to other issues facing Black people in the country.”
BEHIND THE NUNES RETIREMENT — Rep. DEVIN NUNES (R-Calif.) announced his retirement this week, and NYT’s Jonathan Weisman writes that he was “prodded toward that decision in large part by the nonpartisan California Citizens Redistricting Commission, which this week is putting the finishing touches on new boundaries. The plan is likely to transform the district he has represented for 19 years from a dusty, rural swath that voted for Mr. Trump in 2020 by 5 percentage points into one centered here in Fresno, the fifth-largest city in California, which Biden would have carried handily.”
ON SECOND THOUGHT — MATTHEW DOWD, the former political strategist for GEORGE W. BUSH, ended his campaign for Texas’ lieutenant governor Tuesday, saying “he was dropping out of the race to make way for a more diverse field of candidates,” according to the Texas Tribune’s James Barragán.
DON’T CALL IT FILIBUSTER REFORM — After trying (and failing) to pass voting rights bills four times through the Senate, a group of chamber Democrats are considering other rules changes they think could free voting legislation, our Laura Barrón-López and Marianne Levine report in a new story up today. “Rather than the draconian step of tossing out the filibuster, they’re debating other possible rule changes to the chamber that could pave the way for election reform bills that are viewed by Democrats as paramount to combatting restrictive new voting laws and preserving democracy.”
CBP’S GOT A LEADER — The Senate confirmed CHRIS MAGNUS to lead the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency Tuesday “after months of confirmation setbacks that left the agency with a void at the top amid a record number of border arrests,” CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands report. “The vote was 50-47, with Republican Sen. SUSAN COLLINS of Maine voting in favor of Magnus.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
CHINA HITS BACK — Following the news of the Biden administration’s diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympic Winter games, China Tuesday accused the U.S. of “violating the Olympic spirit,” AP reports. Foreign Ministry spokesperson ZHAO LIJIAN said the move “seriously violates the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto ‘more united.’”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — The Google News Initiative is donating $500,000 to First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Defense Fund today, the media support organization will announce. PFDF is funding much of the legal team defending Nobel Peace Prize winning Filipino-American MARIA RESSA, who was arrested for reporting in the Philippines.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
HAVING A MELTDOWN — The Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville that was taken down this summer “will be melted down and turned into a new piece of public artwork, following a vote by city lawmakers early Tuesday morning,” WaPo’s Teo Armus reports. “The Charlottesville City Council voted 4 to 0 to hand it over to the only local bidder: the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, a Black-led museum that proposed repurposing the metal entirely.”
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
MEADOWS LATEST — The House select committee on Jan. 6 threatened to charge former chief of staff MARK MEADOWS with contempt if he did not participate in an interview Wednesday. Meadows notified the committee Tuesday that “he was no longer willing to sit for an interview with its investigators, reversing a deal he reached with the panel just last week to attend a deposition.” NYT’s Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman have more
Joe Manchin referred to Democrats as the third-person “they” (instead of the first-person “we”) at a WSJ event.
Dan Crenshaw called members of the House Freedom Caucus “performance artists” and “grifters” in a now-viral clip from a Houston-area campaign event over the weekend.
Nancy Mace talked big cats with “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin.
Chris Cuomo’s planned book on “the harsh truths that the pandemic and Trump years have exposed about America,” “Deep Denial,” has been canceled.
Julia Child’s 3,150-square-foot Georgetown home has been listed for $3.5 million, per Vanity Fair.
Jussie Smollett testified that Don Lemon advised the actor in 2019 after he was accused of faking a hate crime against himself.
Bob Dole’s former campaign manager remembers his former boss as “a pragmatist and a realist.”
Matt Gaetz said that if Republicans win back the House in 2022, he will mount an effort to make Donald Trump speaker of the House. (h/t Alexander Nazaryan)
Ray Dalio is in Washington this week meeting with Biden officials. He had dinner last night with Olivia Nuzzi, Ryan Lizza, Tim Mak, Kayla Tausche and Jon Swan at the home of Jamie and Michelle Fields Weinstein.
OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at the French Ambassador’s residence for the presentation of the American Abroad Media Award for “The French Village”: Josh Dawsey, Paula Dobriansky, Marc Ginsberg, James Jeffrey, Robert Satoff, John Hannah, Peter Ackerman, Ben Wittes, Christian Davenport, Max Neuberger, Diane Zeleny, Victor Shilbie, Anna Gawel and Wallace Karen.
— The Transatlantic Leadership Network launched the “Freedom of the Media” annual awards at the National Press Club on Tuesday night. Awardees included Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post, Fairouz Ziani of Al Jazeera, Lebanese MTV Chairman Michel Gabriel El Murr, Ukrainian journalist Natalie Sedletska and Bosnian publisher Mujo Selimović. More info
MEDIA MOVE — Julia Chan is joining The 19th News as editor in chief. She most recently was managing editor of digital at KQED. The announcement
TRANSITIONS — Sydney Pettit is now director of government affairs at CTIA. She previously was a legislative assistant for Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). … Lori Wallach is joining the American Economic Liberties Project as director of its Rethink Trade program. She currently is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. … Dilara Yilmaz has launched Yilmaz Communications, her own political and advocacy consulting group. She previously was chief comms officer for foreign policy and national security at the British Embassy. …
… Brendan Summers, Larry Sanders and Sarah Lindstrom are joining Blue State. Summers will be SVP of campaigns and previously operated his own consulting practice. Sanders will be a writer and previously was an email and SMS strategist at the DNC. Lindstrom will be a senior strategist and previously was digital director for Theresa Greenfield’s Iowa Senate campaign.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: POLITICO’s Annie Yu and Danica Stanciu … WSJ’s Sabrina Siddiqui … Fox News’ Kerri Kupec …AP’s Pablo Martínez Monsiváis … NBC’s Cesar Conde and Tom Mazzarelli … Debra Saunders … Judd Legum … B.R. McConnon of DDC Public Affairs … CBS’ Brooke Lorenz … ABC’s Marc Burstein … Microsoft’s Ginny Badanes … P. Lynn Scarlett … Siemens’ Brie Sachse … NBC’s Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner … Ann Coulter … Retired Gen. Joe Dunford … Stephen Spaulding of Common Cause … Mark Piland of Rep. Ralph Norman’s (R-S.C.) office … former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim … Karen Keller … Preston Hill … Steve Bouchard … former Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) … Sylvester Okere … Courtney Johnson … Luis Rosero … State Department’s Anna Miller … Tom Bush … Lizzie O’Leary … Rachel Sklar … Tanika Pradhan … Gillian Diebold of the Center for Data Innovation … Kathleen Bell
Did someone forward this email to you? Sign up here.
Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.