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Congressional chaos primed to spoil leadership’s July agenda
From making progress on must-pass bills to advancing domestic policy priorities, both chambers are embarking on a three-week sprint ahead of their month-long summer break with little room for error.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In one of its first actions since returning from the two-week July 4th recess, the House Rules Committee this afternoon will markup the National Defense Authorization Act to set up a procedural floor vote ahead of final passage this week.
The NDAA, a sprawling annual bill that authorizes funding and sets policy for US military programs, has been passed every year since 1961. But House conservatives, including Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), have threatened to block a rule from even passing out of committee. Roy, who serves on House Rules, is unhappy with what he described on Monday as glaring issues at the Pentagon that must be addressed to receive his support. (House Republican leadership can only lose two Republican votes on the rule.)
The NDAA is also one of several must-pass bills with looming late-September deadlines.
Congress has to fund the government, which will require both chambers to reconcile 12 appropriations bills written from dramatically different toplines. Senate appropriators are marking up their bills to the levels set in the deal President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy agreed to in their deal to raise the debt limit. The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee reneged on the deal in their bills, which allocate dollars based on fiscal year 2022 toplines that would require cuts to the social programs the president protected in the McCarthy agreement.
In fact, 21 House conservatives wrote McCarthy a letter on Monday warning the speaker of their intention to vote against any appropriations bills at the levels set in the debt limit deal. (McCarthy only has a five-seat majority.) They also demanded House GOP leadership hold all 12 bills from floor consideration until they all pass out of committee and repeal Inflation Reduction Act provisions, which just won’t fly with Senate Democrats and President Biden.
This is what happens when one chamber with a marginal majority attempts to govern as though they control the other house and the presidency. And it could lead to an unnecessary government shutdown based on McCarthy’s history of surrendering to the far-right flank of his conference.
There’s also the farm bill and the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, both of which expire at the end of September as well.
The former is the primary food and agriculture instrument of the US government that, for example, prevents critical programs like nutrition assistance from expiring, protects small farmers from industry consolidation, and improves initiatives to combat climate change. The latter green-lights funding and sets policy for the FAA, the largest federal transportation agency, at a time when public confidence in US air transportation has plummeted and airlines are facing disruptive workforce shortages.
Beyond the must-pass bills, each chamber has several other legislative priorities they hope will receive floor action.
House Republicans on Monday introduced the American Confidence in Elections, or ACE, Act — an anti-voting rights bill that would make it easier for big corporations, special interests, and wealthy individuals to influence federal elections with secret money. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a floor speech following the bill’s introduction that Senate Democrats would prevent the bill from becoming and reintroduce their own voting rights legislation to restore protections under the Voting Rights Act, among other provisions.
And before the July recess, House Republicans unveiled a tax bill that would provide the richest fifth of Americans almost $61 billion in tax cuts next year, while offering the poorest fifth an average of $40 per person. Expect House GOP leadership to try to move on this legislation before the break as well.
Across the Capitol, Schumer will attempt to shepherd a legislative agenda chock-full of domestic policy items that he announced in a letter to senators on Sunday. The list includes:
Lowering insulin and prescription drug costs.
Rail safety legislation to prevent another catastrophe like we saw when 38 cars of a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous material derailed in East Palestine, Ohio this past February.
Empowering Congress to claw back compensation from bank executives who oversee collapses, such as Silicon Valley Bank in March.
Cannabis banking to legalize the production, distribution, retail sale, and possession of weed in the US.
Schumer would also like the Senate to address the fentanyl crisis. (FWIW, the Biden administration just announced a new national response plan to address the rise of overdoses from fentanyl laced with the animal tranquilizer Xylazine.)
Additionally, Schumer will continue his campaign to pass comprehensive artificial intelligence regulation. The Senate this afternoon will receive its second of three all-senators briefings on AI. The focus of today’s: how the US uses AI to protect the nation and how it’s being used by American adversaries.
And, of course, there’s confirming more Biden judicial nominees to the federal bench — an evergreen pursuit of Schumer as majority leader to rebalance the courts after the Trump years.
This week’s House NDAA debate comes as President Biden attends the NATO Summit in Lithuania, where his immediate task will be to keep allies united around supporting Ukraine as it wages a fraught counteroffensive to reclaim territory stolen by Russia. The president will also meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine as Zelenskyy seeks expedited membership into NATO against the opposition of Biden and other member nations.
Biden ruffled feathers among congressional Democrats before he left by approving the delivery of cluster bombs to Ukraine for Zelenskyy’s forces to use in the counteroffensive.
The White House defended the president’s decision in part because Russia is using the weapons to attack Ukraine, while Ukraine would be using them to defend its territory and people. President Biden also said Ukraine needs the ammunition while the US produces more of the artillery Ukraine had been using to defend itself.
But critics on the Hill slam the move as a diminution of American moral authority since the weapons, banned in more than 100 countries, pose high risks to civilians, who can be killed or injured in an attack or afterward from the explosives. Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Sara Jacobs (D-CA) filed an amendment to the NDAA to prohibit the sale of the controversial weapons.
Back at home, both chambers are in session at the same time for just 10 or so days this month before heading home until September 12, which calls into question how much, if any, of this serious business gets done by then.
“Getting there won’t be easy,” Schumer said on Monday about the legislative priorities that lie ahead this month. “But we’re going to do everything we can to make them happen because every one of them will benefit the American people.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator Daily, your essential guide to the politicians, power brokers, and policies shaping the American creator experience. It’s Tuesday, July 11, 2023. If you’re near a 7-Eleven, go get your free Slurpee!
TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
3:15 a.m. President Biden participated in an official arrival ceremony in Vilnius with President Gitanas Nausėda of Lithuania.
3:30 a.m. The president participated in an official photo and guest book signing with President Nausėda.
3:45 a.m. President Biden had a bilateral meeting with President Nausėda.
6:50 a.m. The president participated in an official greeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Nausėda and a family photo with allied heads of state and government.
7 a.m. President Biden attended the meeting of the North Atlantic Council with heads of state and government and Sweden.
10 a.m, The Senate will meet with the first of three vote series scheduled at 11:30 a.m. to confirm Xochitl Torres Small to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and advance the nomination of Rosemarie Hidalgo to be Director of the Violence Against Women Office at the Justice Department.
11 a.m. President Biden will have a bilateral meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
11:35 a.m. Vice President Harris will hold a press call to announce lowering child care costs.
12 p.m. The House will meet with first and last votes expected at 6:30 p.m. on three financial services-related suspension bills.
1 p.m. The vice president will meet with disability rights leaders to discuss transportation accessibility.
2:15 p.m. The Senate will vote to advance the nomination of Kymberly Kathryn Evanson to be US District Judge for the Western District of Washington.
4:30 p.m. The Senate will vote to confirm the Hidalgo and Evanson nominations and advance the nomination of Tiffany Cartwright to be US District Judge for the Western District of Washington.
Editor’s note: Monday’s Today in Politics misstated the Senate schedule. The Senate met at 3 p.m. ET and voted at 5:30 p.m. ET to advance the Torres Small nomination. The House was the only chamber out. Your Supercreator Daily author apologizes for the error.
Supercreator covers Congress and national politics in depth — and in plain English — for the creative class. Subscribe today.
THEY DID THAT
Chuck Schumer wrote FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf a letter calling on the agency to investigate PRIME energy drink — a product marketed to kids and teens by influencers like Logan Paul — for claims, marketing, and dangerous caffeine content. Schumer said in the letter that the drink is the summer’s hottest status symbol for kids unbeknownst to their parents and cites medical experts who warn of health issues that can arise from too much consumption.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) raised $2.7 million in the second quarter for her re-election campaign and ended the quarter with almost $7.5 million cash on hand. Rosen received contributions from 12,000 new donors, according to the campaign. Nevada is a key swing state that is expected to determine control of both the Senate and White House next year.
Actor Hill Harper announced his candidacy for the Senate in Michigan. He is expected to run to the left of frontrunner Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) in the primary as both Democrats compete for the chance to succeed Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who will retire after serving six terms as the state’s first woman US senator.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-TX) announced he will challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for US Senate. The San Antonio state senator will first face Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) in what’s expected to be a competitive and high-profile Democratic primary next March.
Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner launched her 2024 campaign for Oregon’s 5th congressional district in a rematch with Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer. McLeod-Skinner lost to Chavez-DeRemer in the 2022 general election after upsetting seven-term incumbent Kurt Schrader in the Democratic primary. (President Biden won this district by almost nine points in 2020.)
Sen. Majority Whip and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) announced the committee will mark up and vote on Supreme Court ethics reform legislation on July 20. The markup comes in the wake of several investigations into unethical behavior by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — and follows a series of controversial decisions this summer on affirmative action, LGBTQ+ rights, and President Biden’s student loan debt relief plan.
Related: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wrote an op-ed defending the Supreme Court. “These escalating attacks on the left betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the court’s structure and purpose,” McConnell, whose legacy will be defined by his hardball tactics to reshape the federal judiciary in his image, said in the article. “It is an ideologically unpredictable body that takes cases as they come and produces diverse outcomes. Recent rulings put that reality in stark relief.”
President Biden welcomed Sweden to NATO as the alliance’s 32nd ally. Turkey had held up Sweden’s accession for months in pursuit of military and political concessions from countries, including the US. Sweden joins Finland as the two nations that have joined NATO since President Vladimir Putin of Russia invaded Ukraine with an objective to weaken the alliance and the West’s influence in Eastern Europe.
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