Dems lob a pair of debt limit Hail Marys
Congressional Democrats view Republicans as bad-faith negotiators so they’re looking to bypass the GOP altogether to avoid a first-ever default. It’s unlikely to work though.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
While negotiators from the White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office on Wednesday met at the US Capitol to find common ground on a framework for federal spending priorities that can earn the Republican votes needed to lift the debt limit before a US default early next month, congressional Democrats pursued two Hail Marys that signal how dire the situation is trending.
House Democrats filed a discharge petition that would enable members to raise the debt limit by a simple majority without any of the proposed Republican spending cuts attached.
“It is important that all legislative options be pursued in the event that no agreement is reached,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a letter to his members.
210 House Democrats signed the petition as of last night. Democratic Rep. Mary Petola of Alaska was back home participating in an event with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden but said she planned to sign it. 218 signatures are required to force a floor vote.
But Speaker McCarthy dismissed the effort because even if it worked, it would be after the so-called X date when the government runs out of money to pay its bills.
“So is that even sensible? Is that even being productive? Is that even reasonable? Is that responsible?” McCarthy said on Wednesday during a press conference. “It seems to me that would be playing into a Biden default. I think America is tired of those political games.”
Over in the Senate, a growing number of Democrats are calling on President Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment to avoid default, which they say empowers him to bypass the GOP and raise the debt limit unilaterally.
Sens. Tina Smith of Minnesota, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont circulated a letter yesterday endorsing the move.
To be clear, it would be an unprecedented action that the White House has explored but seems to have no interest in pursuing.
“We cannot let the crazies do this to America,” Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said in a tweet. “That means a thorough look at the Constitution.”
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia wasn’t ready to go that far though: “I don’t think it’s one we need to yet. We've got time to do it, and do it right. They're working. Let them have it. They're doing a good job. Give me a break,” he said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer encouraged compromise from his members during a floor speech Wednesday morning but to no avail.
“Nobody will get everything they want in these discussions, and I hope nobody — nobody — draws red lines in the sand,” he said. “Nobody should ever use default as a hostage, where they say unless you do this, we will default because the consequences would be disastrous.”
More Schumer: “Bipartisanship was the key to averting default under President Trump, it has been the key to averting default under President Biden, and it will be the key to averting default before June 1st.”
In related news: Schumer on Wednesday met with big bank CEOs to call on them to pressure congressional Republicans to pass a clean debt ceiling.
Work requirements for social programs still remain a concern for Democrats who have grown increasingly concerned that President Biden will agree to Republican demands in order to make a deal.
The fear is that if Biden caves now, Republicans will continue to chip away at the social safety net.
Before traveling to Japan for the G7 Summit, Biden told reporters that he had red lines on work requirements but then said, “It depends on what they are.”
Moments later he said he wouldn’t accept any work requirements on health care programs, which could leave SNAP vulnerable to harsher restrictions.
These mixed signals are what give progressive Democrats such heartburn.
House Democrats were unambiguous about the issue, however.
“It’s entirely unreasonable to think that at this particular point in time, in the context of a debt ceiling showdown that has been manufactured as part of an effort to avoid a default that these types of so-called work requirements can be imposed on the American people when there are already significant work requirements that exist under the law,” Leader Jeffries said on CNBC.
Jeffries added that 145 Republicans voted against an amendment that would impose work requirements in the 2018 farm bill, including then-Republican Leader McCarthy.
Steven Horsford, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, called the GOP’s proposal to cut Medicaid, TANF, and SNAP cruel and ill-advised.
“Unsurprisingly, they believe that the people who should pay for their massive tax cuts over the years are women, children, the sick and the disabled. It’s a recipe for expanding racial and gender disparities, which seems to be their modus operandi,” Horsford said in a statement.
Thursday is the final day both chambers are in session before the X date with the Senate scheduled to be in recess next week and the House the following.
Dick Durbin, the number-two Senate Democrat, said leadership will make a call on whether senators will remain in DC by tomorrow.
Related reading: “The GOP’s work requirement scam” by Eric Levitz at Intelligencer
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House GOP punts Santos expulsion resolution to Ethics
The House on Wednesday referred a resolution to expel embattled first-term Republican Rep. George Santos of New York to the Ethics Committee.
The vote was 221-204 with seven Democrats voting present.
The expulsion resolution was offered by Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California on Tuesday who argues Santos, who was recently indicted on 13 federal felony charges and has admitted to several lies and falsehoods about his life and career, is unfit to serve in the body.
Garcia introduced the resolution in February.
House Republicans, even those who have called for Santos’s resignation since he was sworn in January, say they voted to refer him to the committee because they say it ensures he preserves his right to due process.
But House Democrats viewed the motion to refer Santos to Ethics as an off-ramp created by House Republican leadership for members to avoid holding one of their own accountable because of the sluggish nature of Ethics investigations and precedent of the Justice Department will request the committee to slow down or halt their investigations into indicted members altogether.
“Referring the motion to expel Santos from Congress to an existing Ethics investigation is a blatantly obvious effort to protect Santos from accountability for the fraud he perpetrated to win his seat in Congress,” Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman of New York said in a statement ahead of the vote. “If they vote for this, it will be clear that their promises were nothing more than political posturing and it will confirm their complicity in Santos’s continued presence in the House of Representatives.”
Another member of the New York delegation saw it differently.
“The committee will move very expeditiously. He won’t be here for long,” Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, who has called for Santos to step down, said to CNN. “Whether he cuts a deal or resigns if the committee makes a recommendation to expel him. What the Democrats are doing is bullshit. It’s just politics.”
In a memo released on Wednesday, the House Democrats’ campaign arm said these types of investigations take 624 or roughly two years to compete on average.
“Put simply, a motion to refer expulsion to the Ethics Committee only serves to protect George Santos for the remainder of his term.”
Santos represents a district Biden carried in 2020. And if he resigned or was expelled and Democrats flipped the seat in a special election, House Republicans would see their razor-thin majority shrink from four seats to three. (Santos was the deciding vote on the debt limit and spending cuts bill House Republicans passed last month along party lines.)
House Democratic leadership recommended members vote no but did not formally whip against it. Leader Jeffries called the vote one of conscience that each member had to make for themselves.
A vote to expel would have required a two-thirds vote. The House could have also tabled the resolution, which would have required the same simple majority the Ethics referral required.
Trump takes credit for abortion restrictions
Despite his distinction as the first president to be impeached twice and indicted on federal charges, former President Donald Trump’s legacy will be the three conservative Supreme Court justices he nominated to complete the anti-abortion movement’s 50-year push to overturn Roe v. Wade.
But instead of sitting there and eating his food, the former president continues to remind voters that he’s proud that people who can get pregnant have fewer rights to bodily autonomy than the previous two generations.
Case in point: Trump on Wednesday took to his social app Truth Social to claim responsibility for “kill[ing]” Roe, a decision that has galvanized voters against Republicans in every local, state, and national election since — and figures to do so for the foreseeable future.
“Without me, there would be no 6 weeks, 10 weeks, 15 weeks, or whatever is finally agreed to,” he wrote about the various bans that have passed state legislatures and been proposed as national standards. “Without me, the pro Life movement would have just kept losing. Thank you President Trump!!!”
Obviously, abortion rights groups and national Democrats are taking notice and plan to keep reproductive health care front and center in 2024
“Donald Trump boasting about his anti-abortion record — and taking credit for all the abortion bans nationwide — underscores how out of touch he and his Republican colleagues are with the American people. He has no concern for the pain and chaos he caused for millions of people across the country,” Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, said in a statement to Supercreator. “This sick game of anti-abortion one-upmanship he’s playing with [Republican Gov.] Ron DeSantis [of Florida] just keeps placing them further and further away from the American public.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement that Trump’s record of proudly appointing justices who overturned federal abortion protections and supporting national abortion bans speaks for itself.
“Expect to hear more anti-choice extremism as Trump and the rest of the 2024 GOP field battle over who has the most MAGA anti-abortion record.”
Related reading: “The abortion access map is being dramatically redrawn this week” by Zachary B. Wolf at CNN … “Ron DeSantis just made it clear he’s going to fight Trump on abortion” by Kevin Breuninger at CNBC … “As US abortion laws tighten, more Americans are looking overseas for access. Here’s what’s happening” by Haley Ott at CBS News
WH announces new investments in youth mental health crisis response
The Biden administration this morning announced a series of new actions to address the mental health crisis, several of which are focused on bolstering resources for school-based services for young people.
“It is quite clear that America is in a mental health crisis,” Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “The nation’s mental health crisis is even more acute among young Americans.”
A key focus of the actions is creating healthy and supportive environments to improve youth resilience and promote the importance of social connection.
The White House is also investing in its infant and early childhood mental health program to improve outcomes for kids from birth up to 12 years of age through improved interventions and treatment services.
The administration is also scaling up the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline with a $200 million investment for states, territories, call centers, and tribal organizations to strengthen their operations. The funding will specifically focus on supporting mobile crisis response teams to ensure adults and youth experiencing mental health crises in high-need areas receive faster access to care. (988 receives approximately 100,000 calls, chats, and texts each week, according to the administration.)
A senior administration official declined to comment when Supercreator asked if the White House believed members of Congress are treating the current moment as a mental health crisis with the same urgency as House Republicans propose deep cuts to funding for federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services.
The official did point to President Biden’s budget proposal, which calls for investments to guarantee the equal treatment of mental health conditions and substance use disorders in insurance plans, expand access to mental health services in schools, and deliver more mental health services at lower costs as critical to addressing the nation’s mental health crisis.
The official added that 988 has been an essential component of the White House’s ability to ensure people in a crisis have access to trained mental health crisis responders who can help them in their times of distress and make referrals for follow-up care if needed.
Rice said the increased isolation, burnout, and trauma of COVID-19 have contributed to spikes in depression and anxiety for adults and youth.
In 2021, two in five American adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression and 44 percent of high school students reported struggling with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, exacerbated by the pandemic, social media, and gun violence.
“President Biden knows and believes that mental health is health care, period,” Rice said. “These announcements are delivering on the president’s commitment to create a mental health system that works for everyone and to connect Americans to the mental health care they deserve.”
Related reading: “The mental health crisis is costing local governments” by Sabrina Moreno at Axios … “Artificial intelligence’s loneliness crisis” by Ryan Heath at Axios … “Amid a mental health crisis, foster children are forgotten” by Thomas B. Leith at Undark magazine …
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President Biden this morning received his daily intelligence briefing before arriving in Hiroshima, Japan to participate in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan.
Vice President Harris this afternoon will speak about the debt limit during a virtual briefing.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi, Japan this morning.
The House is in this morning and will vote on legislation to support local law enforcement officers and condemn efforts to defund or dismantle local law enforcement agencies.
The Senate is in this morning and a confirmation vote is expected on the nomination of Nancy Abudu to be US Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit.
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