Dems rail against House GOP for skipping town
Without a deal between the White House and Speaker McCarthy to close a deal, lawmakers headed home for a long weekend in their districts as the economy hangs in the balance.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Four-day workweeks are the norm in Congress, however, the current moment is anything but: We’re now six days from the earliest date the US government could default on its debt if Congress fails to raise its borrowing limit.
After the House wrapped up its business early Thursday morning and rank-and-file Republicans left the chamber to head home, more than 80 Democrats stuck around to call out Republicans for supporting cuts to the social safety net and ask five GOP members to sign their petition to raise the debt limit without their funding proposals attached.
“It is unfortunate that House Republicans have chosen to get out of town before sundown when we are facing a dangerous default and the possibility of our economy crashing,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters on Thursday morning.
House Republicans view this as political posturing though.
There’s not even a deal between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden to raise the debt limit and set the terms of next year’s federal budget.
Even if an agreement is reached, it will take a day or two to draft legislative text and members will have 72 hours to read it and 24 hours to get back to Washington.
Without a bill to vote on, House Republican leadership saw it as counterproductive to keep members in town during a holiday weekend they use to fundraise for their re-election campaigns and spend quality time with their constituents.
As Supercreator reported on Thursday, House Democrats have stepped up their attacks on House Republicans not out of desire but of necessity.
The White House has remained true to its legislative strategy of working behind the scenes to broker a deal that can reach the president’s desk. There’s always a hesitance by top aides to send Biden in front of the press where he’s known to go off-script and overshare, which could derail the progress negotiators have made in recent days.
Still, Democrats argue there’s no bully pulpit more powerful than the president’s. And the risk of a folksy gaffe or two is worth the reassurance Americans would feel from Biden lending his voice to all the backroom machinations that have occurred over the past week.
Jeffries said on Thursday he believed President Biden has acted responsibly during the crisis.
“It’s my expectation that if Republicans continue to play games with the American economy, threaten default, and drive us into a very dangerous situation that we’ll begin to hear from the Biden administration, if not the President himself,” the top House Democrat said a day earlier. “I have full confidence in the goodness of President Biden, who wants to find the resolution that protects everyday Americans and is engaging in good faith discussions to try to arrive at that conclusion.”
For more: “Inside the Treasury Department team monitoring early economic warning signs as default threat looms” by Jeremy Diamond and Allie Malloy at CNN
“Pizza on the ways means Capitol negotiations have heated up” by Jonathan Tamari at Bloomberg Government
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House Dems accuse GOP of leaving vets high and dry
There’s intense outrage among House Democrats toward Republicans for traveling home to honor those who died in active military service while actively voting against veterans’ interests in Washington.
House Republicans obviously reject this notion.
But while the House GOP’s plan it passed last month doesn’t explicitly call for disinvestments in the Department of Veterans Affairs, it would require a 22-percent cut to the veterans’ health care to comply with the funding levels set in the proposal.
“They had a choice. They went ahead and protected some companies that were going to get tax credits,”
Ted Lieu, the House Democratic Caucus vice chair, said on Thursday. “But they specifically did not do that for veterans. So we know they want to cut veterans’ funding. And if we default, that’s going to hurt veterans in a very big way.”
The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee postponed a scheduled markup on the bill that funds military construction and the Veterans Affairs Department, a move made to empower Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the budget talks with the White House, Chairwoman Kay Granger said.
“This is not, as they have said, due to debt ceiling negotiations, Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the committee said in a statement on Tuesday. “House Republicans did not release any 2024 spending bills until after they passed their Default on America Act, and they have now come to the realization that their default plan is unworkable.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, and the top Democrat on the MILCON-VA Appropriations subcommittee, said moving forward with the markup would have forced
“They didn’t want to come to that committee and have that stain on their record of having disrespected and broken the promise that we made a year ago to our veterans to make sure that we were going to protect them from toxic exposures, that we weren’t going to have the entire rest of the discretionary budget dollars swallowed up by the cost of their health care,” she said.
And since they lacked the votes to pass the cuts out of the committee, Democrats argue House Republicans are trying to extract them in exchange for raising the debt limit.
“They are trying to bully the president into making [the cuts] because they want the president to share in the blame,” Mark Takano, the top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said.
Politics aside, Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado said that servicemembers understand the sacrifice that comes with the oath they take.
“But it’s a reciprocal oath. It flows two ways. They take that oath because our country makes an oath to them that if they need care, that if they give their lives in service to this country that our nation will be there for their family, for their children,” the Army vet said. “That is an oath that should be without question, that should be unbreakable. And yet here we are: Because of gamesmanship by the House Republicans, it is in question. It’s unacceptable. We are here to call it out.”
Hurdles abound as lawmakers work to avoid default
The Senate will return after the holiday next Tuesday to consider legislation if a debt limit and budget agreement is reached by President Biden and Speaker McCarthy and passed by the House.
Any hopes that the upper chamber would expedite this process were dashed by Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who announced on Thursday that he would object to any request for unanimous consent to advance the legislation to a floor vote in protest of the reported terms of a possible deal.
Lee’s announcement is unsurprising. He is among a handful of Senate conservatives who grind the legislative process to a halt on virtually any funding bill.
But without UC, the risk of default before the so-called X date increases. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer will have to schedule time-consuming procedural votes and negotiate an agreement with Republican leadership on votes for proposed amendments.
Of course, this all requires a deal — and while Biden and McCarthy’s aides have started to plot the contours of an agreement, congressional and administration sources close to the talks say they’re still fragile enough to unravel in the 11th hour.
House GOP leadership is uncertain how many votes they’ll be able to deliver for McCarthy and will work this weekend to mobilize a majority of members to support the final package.
This could be a major lift — and ultimately a disappointment if the speaker has to mostly rely on Democratic votes after weaponizing the debt limit to appease the far-right flank of his conference.
There’s also no guarantee the White House will be able to bank Democratic votes as a formality. The White House and House Democrats have a complicated relationship and frontline and progressive members want the administration to know it has to earn their votes.
The bottom line is that while you’re away hopefully enjoying a relaxing long weekend, there’s still a lot of work for your elected officials to do between now and the end of it to make sure you don’t return to an unprecedented economic catastrophe.
TODAY IN POLITICS
All times Eastern
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:30 a.m.
He and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will host a ceremony for the Louisiana State University Lady Tigers women’s basketball team to celebrate their 2023 championship at 2 p.m. Vice President Kamala Harris will speak and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend. President Biden will welcome the University of Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team for their championship celebration at 5 p.m. Emhoff will attend.
President Biden and Dr. Biden will travel to Camp David for the weekend at 6:30 p.m.
The House and Senate are out.
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THEY DID THAT
Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio kept speaking against Republican debt-limit inaction — even after her mic was turned off.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey called for Supreme Court expansion after it rolled back the EPA’s authority to combat water pollution.
Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois introduced a bill to create a national graduate nursing program.
Reps. Judy Chu of California and Al Green of Texas introduced legislation that would preempt discriminatory state land laws like one Florida recently passed.
Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York became the latest lawmaker to call for California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s resignation.
The White House introduced the first national strategy to counter antisemitism.
President Biden vetoed a bill to overturn a DC police accountability law.
Former President Barack Obama expressed solidarity with the writers on strike.
A district court judge let the Oath Keepers founder have it during the sentencing for his role in the insurrection.
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton asked corporations to prove they honored the commitments they made after George Floyd’s murder.
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