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Congress is on the clock
As the so-called X date to raise the debt limit in order to avoid a catastrophic default is approaches sooner than observers originally thought, the path forward still feels murky.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Remember how I wrote in yesterday’s newsletter that members of Congress require a hard deadline to get any meaningful work done?
Well, they learned on Monday the so-called X date to raise the debt limit in order to avoid a catastrophic default is approaching sooner than observers originally thought.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that the government is on track to run out of extraordinary measures to continue borrowing money to pay the US’s bills without congressional intervention by June 1.
“Given the current projections, it is imperative that Congress act as soon as possible to increase or suspend the debt limit in a way that provides longer-term certainty that the government will continue to make its payments,” Yellen wrote.
••• A few more important points from the letter:
Yellen arrived at the X date based on a review of the tax revenue the government has received, which is below previous expectations.
The date when Treasury will be unable to pay the government’s bills could change as more information becomes available. “I will continue to update Congress in the coming weeks,” Yellen said.
As the US gets closer to the X date, business and consumer confidence could fall, short-term borrowing costs could spike, and the nation’s credit rating could be lowered. And if Congress fails to increase the debt limit this month? Everything you buy will cost more, your savings could vanish, and questions will be raised about the country’s role as a global leader and its ability to defend its national security interests.
The notion of solving what up to now has been an intractable mess in less than a month is already daunting. But it’s critical to remember that there are normal days and there are Congress days.
••• Here’s the breakdown:
The House is out this week and the final week of the month. The House, which is out this week and the final week of May, is only scheduled to be in session 12 days this month.
The Senate, including today, is scheduled to be in 14 days this month with a recess scheduled during one of the weeks the House is in.
Speaker McCarthy is wrapping up a congressional delegation in Israel while President Biden will be in Australia and Japan during the middle of the month.
All of this is subject to change. Congressional leaders can keep members in town if needed. But members hate being in Washington longer than they have to and will want to put this behind them ASAP.
••• Biden sets Big 4 summit: After Yellen sent her letter to McCarthy, President Joe Biden called the speaker, House Republican Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to invite the quartet to the White House on May 9 to suss out a path ahead.
“President Biden will stress that Congress must take action to avoid default without conditions and invited the four leaders to the White House to discuss the urgency of preventing default, as well as how to initiate a separate process to address the budget and fiscal year 2024 appropriations,” an administration official said in a statement.
In other words: The White House is still demanding Congress raise the debt limit before negotiating any disinvestments to next year’s budget, a position that House Republicans have compelled McCarthy to reject thus far.
A spokesperson for Schumer said the leader and President Biden spoke about the meeting and passing a clean debt ceiling.
“After three months of the Biden administration’s inaction, the House acted, and there is a bill sitting in the Senate as we speak that would put the risk of default to rest,” McCarthy said in a statement, referring to the legislation House Republicans passed along party lines last week to raise the debt limit through next year in exchange for cuts to the social safety net. “The Senate and the president need to get to work — and soon.”
See also: “Rebel Democrats risk empowering GOP extremists on debt limit” (Ed Kilgore / Intelligencer)
Leader Schumer on Monday said the House GOP’s bill has no future in the Senate and that committees would hold hearings to expose the damage the cuts contained in the legislation would cause to everyday Americans. (The first hearing, titled “The Default on America Act: Blackmail, Brinksmanship, and Billionaire Backroom Deals,” is scheduled for this Thursday at 10 AM ET.)
“Republicans cannot allow right-wing extremism to hold our nation hostage. For generations, Congress has made spending and revenue decisions as part of the annual budget process, which is currently underway,” Schumer and Jeffries said in a joint statement. “That is the appropriate place to debate and discuss our nation’s fiscal picture — not in a hostage-situation in which extreme MAGA Republicans try to impose their radical agenda on America.”
McConnell declined to comment when reporters asked if he will attend the meeting as he’s deferred to McCarthy and House Republicans up to this point.
“We had a good conversation this afternoon,” McConnell said of the call with the president. “And I’m sure we’ll be speaking again.”
••• What’s next: Schumer on Monday also put the House Republicans’ bill and legislation to suspend the debt limit through the end of next year on the calendar.
This doesn’t mean either bill will get votes but Schumer took the procedural step to ensure that the House bill is available for a bipartisan agreement on spending and revenue as part of the regular budget process once a clean debt ceiling is passed, per Schumer’s spokesperson.
Senate Democrats and Republicans meet this afternoon for their weekly party lunches so we should have a firmer idea of the politics of the debate.
Expect more of what we’ve already seen though. There’s really no upside for both parties to change course until after next week’s White House meeting.
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••• ALLRED TO CHALLENGE CRUZ: Democratic Rep. Colin Allred of Texas is expected in the coming days to announce his campaign for Republican Ted Cruz’s Senate seat.
Texas is viewed as one of — if not the only — pickup opportunities for Senate Democrats in 2024 as they defend a tough map while trying to protect their one-seat majority.
Allred, a former NFL player turned civil rights attorney, is beloved within the House Democratic Caucus, a formidable fundraiser and has the political acumen required to attract the coalition of liberals, suburban voters, independents, soft Republicans and nonwhite folks it will take to upset a statewide force like Cruz.
See also: “Allred set to launch Senate run against Cruz” (Daniella Diaz, Ally Mutnick and Nicholas Wu / Politico) … “Colin Allred to challenge Ted Cruz for Senate, sources say” (Gromer Jeffers Jr. / The Dallas Morning News)
••• CARDIN WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION: Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland announced he will retire once his term is up next year ending a nearly 60-year career in public service that saw him rise to Speaker of the Maryland General Assembly and the US House before spending the past decade and a half in the US Senate.
“I am proud of all I have done for Maryland,” the 79-year-old Cardin said. “I have given my heart and soul to our great state, and I thank Marylanders for trusting me as your representative for all these years.”
Cardin’s decision is expected to set off a fierce primary to succeed with implications for House Democrats as at least two members from the Maryland delegation — Reps. Jamie Raskin and David Trone — are expected to consider launching campaigns for the seat in the blue state.
See also: “Maryland U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin says ‘I have run my last election,’ as candidates line up to seek vacant seat” (Jeff Barker / The Baltimore Sun)
••• JAYAPAL ENDORSES LEE TO REPLACE FEINSTEIN: Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California earned a powerful endorsement from Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in her US Senate bid to replace Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2024.
“Barbara is a champion for justice who has been a persistent progressive voice in the US House and I know she’ll fight for our progressive values in the US Senate,” Jayapal said in a statement. “As a woman of color, so I know representation matters and I’m excited for Barbara to bring her voice and lived experience as a Black woman to the chamber so all of us can have a seat at the table.”
Lee — a former CPC co-chair who’s currently in third place in the state’s Democratic primary against Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, another CPC member — hopes Jayapal’s endorsement will amplify her progressive bona fides and attract voters of color to the campaign.
See also: “[San Francisco] Mayor Breed, other community leaders stump for Rep. Lee in Senate” (Ricardo Cano / The San Francisco Chronicle) … “Rep. Barbara Lee on ending AIDS by 2030” (Carmen Paun, Ben Leonard, Ruth Reader and Erin Schumaker / Politico)
Meeks, McCaul calls for special envoys to Sudan
••• MEEKS, MCCAUL CALL FOR SUDAN SPECIAL ENVOY: Reps. Gregory Meeks of New York and Michael McCaul of Texas — the top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — called on President Biden to appoint special envoys in Sudan to negotiate an end to the violence in the region and facilitate the establishment of a civilian government.
“The conflict between Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces has spiraled out of control, leading to hundreds killed, thousands injured, and a massive displacement and humanitarian crisis in East Africa,” Meeks and McCaul said in a statement. “This new conflict coincides with the 20-year anniversary of the start of the genocide in Darfur, and we have seen worrying reports of the warring parties trying to again mobilize communities in Darfur and elsewhere along ethnic lines.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday said the US has assisted in the departure of nearly 1,000 American citizens since the state of the crisis and that the government’s focus is on helping as many citizens depart who wish to do so safely as possible without risking US personnel.
See also:“800,000 refugees could flee Sudan, triggering regional crisis, UN warns” (Niha Masih and Rachel Chason / WaPo) … “US continues mass evacuation effort from Sudan with 2nd convoy” (Shannon K. Crawford / ABC News) … “Sudan rivals trade blame as fighting continues despite ceasefire extension” (The Guardian)
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President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will host President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Louise Araneta-Marcos of the Philippines for brunch at the vice president’s residence.
The Senate is in this morning and will take five votes split into two series to advance the nominations of Michael Farbiarz and Robert Kirsch to be US District Judges for the District of New Jersey. If the nominations are advanced, the Senate will vote to confirm Farbiarz and Kirsch this afternoon. The Senate will also vote to advance Orelia Eleta Merchantto to be US District Judge for the Easter District of New York.
The House is out.
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