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3 issues dominating Capitol Hill right now
From the Nashville school shooting to the debt ceiling and federal budget to TikTok, here are the latest news and notes on what has members buzzing this week.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator Daily, your weekday morning guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping the American creator experience. It’s Wednesday, March 29.
Consider it the storm before the calm: Congress is scheduled to start a two-week recess its two-week on Friday. And although the legislative agenda in both chambers is pretty light, the debate on a series of hot-button issues is as intense as ever.
I’ve rounded up the three that are top of mind among leaders and the rank-and-file and emptied my notebook of all the intel I’ve gathered from this week’s fast-and-furious news cycle.
Dems demand action after Nashville shooting, GOP attacks trans community
We’re two days removed from the school shooting in Nashville and nowhere closer to meaningful gun violence prevention legislation than before three nine-year-olds, three adults and the shooter lost their lives on Monday.
Hakeem Jeffries and Katherine Clark — the top two House Democrats — will host a press conference this morning on the front steps of the House with their members to call for action on gun violence. And later this afternoon, Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts will reintroduce the Gun Violence Research Act, which would empower the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct or support research on gun safety or gun violence prevention.
These are symbolic measures that will ram smack-dab into a stonewall of congressional Republicans who would rather blame the gun violence epidemic on the mental health crisis instead of the guns themselves.
Democrats see this as just a talking point based on the GOP’s overwhelming opposition to a gun-safety law President Biden signed last year that invested millions into mental wellness. And they welcome the approval of more resources as long they’re paired with gun-violence-prevention funding as well. Don’t hold your breath though.
What’s especially gross but not all that surprising about some of the reactions on the right is the thinly veiled transphobia espoused by some conservative lawmakers and talking heads based on incomplete reporting about the Nashville shooter’s gender identity.
Twitter temporarily suspended the official account of Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia for claiming that “antifa is organizing a Trans Day of Vengeance,” perhaps an allusion to Trans Day of Visibility on Friday. The day before Greene said people can “stop blaming guns now” and focus on “how much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness” the shooter was taking.
Republican Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio used his Twitter fingers to suggest that the Democratic Party’s embrace of inclusivity “isn’t compassion, it’s dangerous.”
And Fox News host Tucker Carlson last night accused the trans equality movement is targeting Christians.
The facts just don’t bore this out, y’all.
It’s worth noting that at least six transgender or gender non-conforming people have been murdered through the first three months of 2023, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The ACLU is tracking 434 anti-LGBTQ bills in the US as of Tuesday. And Black transgender and gender non-conforming people face some of the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people according to a new analysis released this month by the National LGBTQ Task Force in partnership with the National Black Justice Coalition and the National Center for Transgender Equality. It’s not hyperbole — or “wokeism” 🙄 — to believe that the anti-trans comments from Greene, Vance and Carlson are pouring fuel on the fire.
Their rhetoric is also a distraction from the fact that Republican members of Congress, who control the House and are constitutionally empowered to write and pass laws, would have you believe that mass shootings at schools, festivals, concerts, movie theaters or grocery stores are inevitable in a free society. If you disagree, you’re constitutionally empowered to organize and vote their asses out.
People are naturally looking to President Joe Biden for guidance and action. But as he admitted to reporters yesterday, he’s exhausted much of his executive authority on this issue. Plus, the next Republican president can simply undo these orders of their own. For long-lasting reform, Congress has to step up.
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Biden, McCarthy trade letters on the debt ceiling and budget but still miles apart on solution
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden on Tuesday exchanged letters calling for the other to take action on the federal budget and debt ceiling that they know won’t happen.
In McCarthy’s letter, he listed non-defense spending, unspent COVID-19 emergency funds, increased work requirements for programs like SNAP and proposals to unlock American energy production as his conference’s starting point for negotiations.
“I have no interest in brinksmanship — only I’m doing what is best for the American people. We cannot solve the nation’s fiscal problems overnight, and House Republicans are not demanding we do so,” McCarthy said in the later. “But we cannot continue to kick the can down the road and ignore America’s ballooning national debt, all while you continue to spend trillions more, including through unaccountable executive fiat.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to the letter with a statement that reiterated the administration’s position that the debt ceiling and federal budget are two separate issues with the former requiring congressional action without preconditions and the latter a negotiation reserved for a later date once House Republicans release their own budget resolution.
“Speaker McCarthy and his extreme MAGA caucus have refused to put out a budget,” Jean-Pierre said. “All we’ve heard from them is a list of devastating cuts to law enforcement and border security and proposals to take health care away from Americans and raise health care and child care costs. All to pay for their tax giveaway to the super-wealthy and corporations. In fact, their proposals don’t reduce the deficit at all.”
The president responded to McCarthy with a request for House Republicans to release their budget by the end of the week. But there’s no guarantee that they’ll release a budget plan at all before the deadline to raise the debt ceiling this summer and fund the government come fall, let alone by the end of the week.
This is all politics, to be clear. McCarthy’s letter isn’t considered a legislative tactician and is viewed as a weak speaker by members, aides and outsiders from both parties. He’s under intense pressure from the most extreme faction of his conference to project strength on the president and extracts as many concessions as possible without giving much in return. His letter was more of a billboard to his folks than a serious note to the White House.
Not to mention, the items he outlined in the letter are bread-and-butter Republican asks. But it was devoid of the details of how his members would enact this agenda without touching military spending or slashing Medicare and Social Security. As long as this is the case, the White House will exploit the GOP’s ambiguity to their political advantage.
Timing — not patriotism or fiscal responsibility — will ultimately be the catalyst here. And until McCarthy and Biden have to reconcile this looming crisis, they’ll continue to claim the moral high ground in the public domain even if doesn’t move either side closer to compromise.
Dems split on TikTok ban as Hawley attempts to fast-track his own
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri later today is expected to request approval by all senators to approve his bill to ban TikTok in the US through a procedure known as “unanimous consent.” The request is expected to fail as members in the House and Senate agree that tech companies in general and TikTok in particular present national security and data privacy concerns but are divided about how to actually address them.
Democratic Sen. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota announced in a statement that she is against a ban joining fellow House Progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman of New York in opposition. Summer Lee, a first-term progressive from Pennsylvania, later said she didn’t support blocking TikTok in the US either.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar on Wednesday told reporters that the debate among his members has more to do with a generational divide, not an ideological one.
“These are also members that have recently won campaigns, have platforms and engage in constituents and people across the country using some of these social media platforms a little more adept at it than I am personally, he said. “So I trust that that's the environment they were raised in and part of the reason why they came to Congress is to engage and to have these discussions. I don't begrudge that at all. I think it's healthy. It's great. We need to also overlay that when you get here our ability to govern, our desire to govern with an eye toward national security, with an eye toward competitiveness, with an eye toward protecting the personal privacy rights of individuals across this country.”