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Inside the House Democrats’ all-out campaign against the GOP’s Israel aid bill
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries held sway over a coordinated effort to minimize support for the controversial measure. That didn’t stop some members from ultimately voting their values.
👋🏾 HI, HEY, HELLO! Welcome to Supercreator, the premier politics newsletter for the creative class. Who’s still noshing on leftover Halloween candy?
In this issue:
Lawmakers propose immigration courts fix
Farm bill leaders eye CR-attached resolution
AI policy overtakes DC—and beyond
House, Senate notch funding wins
But first things first: Shoutout to all the rebels like me who don’t count Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups as their favorite candy. (KitKat hive, stand up!) A few more Halloween-themed takeaways—courtesy of the latest Navigator Research survey—before we get to the pressing news of the day:
Snickers came in at a distant second to Reese’s.
Related: Dads have a stronger preference towards Snickers as their number-two pick, while Moms are partial to M&Ms.
Candy corn is most commonly cited as Americans’ least favorite Halloween candy. The abomination does have a net positive favorable rating, though.
Onto more pressing matters, though: We’re almost at the end of the first full week of the MIKE JOHNSON (La.) speakership, and he’s picked up where his predecessor KEVIN McCARTHY (Calif.) left off: Siding with the right flank of his conference to jam through a bill that could have earned Democratic support had it excluded a poison pill.
Allow me to explain: The politics of the House GOP Israel bill
The House approved $14.3 billion in US aid to Israel as it avenges a series of coordinated attacks by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas—that killed more than 1,000 Israeli citizens and more than 350 Israeli soldiers—with an aggressive ground invasion in the Gaza Strip.
12 pro-Israel Democrats withstood a fierce whip operation from their leadership and joined almost all Republicans to pass the bill. Reps. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (Ga.) and THOMAS MASSIE were the only Republicans who opposed the legislation.
The funding meets an emergency request for the White House. But in one of his first meaningful acts holding the top gavel, Speaker Johnson splintered the Israel aid from a broader national security wish list from the Biden administration that included billions in assistance for Ukraine, Taiwan, and the US southern border.
Most significantly, House Republicans are breaking with emergency funding precedent and not only requiring the Israel aid be paid for but with resources approved in the Inflation Reduction Act to bolster the IRS.
Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.) said before the vote that the Senate won’t consider the legislation. And the White House issued a veto threat on President JOE BIDEN’s behalf. Sens. PATTY MURRAY (D-Wash.) and SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine)—the two top Senate appropriators—are working on a separate measure that includes all the national security priorities excluded from the House Republican bill.
House Minority Leader HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-N.Y.) offered a forceful rebuke of the bill during a closed-door meeting on Thursday morning in the basement of the Capitol, multiple Democratic members told me.
“Anyone who didn’t get Jeffries’ message either wasn’t there or they just don’t care,” one House Democrat who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about a private meeting said. Another member who attended the meeting agreed with this characterization.
I’m told House Minority Whip KATHERINE CLARK (Mass.), House Democratic Caucus PETE AGUILAR (Calif.) and Reps. GREG MEEKS (N.Y.), ADAM SMITH and ROSA DeLAURO, the top Democrats on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, also opposed the bill in front of the entire caucus.
Aguilar would tell reporters during his weekly press conference moments after the private caucus meeting that leadership opposed the bill because it believes a bipartisan solution will emerge from the Senate that looks out for US allies and partners in a responsible way.
“The speaker could have started out his tenure in a very different way. We could have put 400 people on support of a bill to send aid to Israel,” Aguilar added. “He chose not to do that and to politicize those efforts. It's wrong, it's dangerous. The Democratic caucus will not support that.”
Another member confirmed that leadership also warned members who voted for the bill that they risked breaking with the Democratic-controlled White House and Senate at a time when House Democrats wanted to present a united front.
A third House Democrat called the Inflation Reduction Act one of President Biden’s signature achievements undergirded by the IRS enforcement provisions, which represented a key plank of the law.
The thought of politicizing aid to America’s closest ally in the Middle East was one thing. But to do so with a pay-for so fundamental to Bidenomics was a bridge too far for some members.
“It was conditional,” a senior Democratic aide whose member voted against the bill told me after the vote. “You can’t put conditions on aid. You can’t do that to allies.”
It didn’t help that the IRS clawback is fiscally irresponsible.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said reallocating the IRS dollars to cover Israel aid would add $12.5 billion to the deficit over the next decade and decrease revenue by $26.7 billion during the same time period.
Moskowitz told reporters on the House steps that he was clear from the beginning that he would be a yes vote. He also didn’t hold back in his criticism of his colleagues across the aisle.
“It’s disgusting behavior,” the first-term congressman and a descendent of a Holocaust survivor said. “And it was disgusting for Republicans to do this in the Jewish people’s greatest time of need since the Holocaust.”
In addition to Moskowitz, Reps. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (Fla.), LOIS FRANKEL (Fla.), JARED GOLDEN (Maine), JUAN VARGAS (Calif.), ANGIE CRAIG (Minn.), DON DAVIS (N.C.), GREG LANDSMAN (Ohio), DARREN SOTO (Fla.), HALEY STEVENS (Mich.) and FREDERICA WILSON (Fla.) voted yes on the bill.
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Now, let’s go inside my notebook for the rest of the news I reported this week:
LAWMAKERS PROPOSE IMMIGRATION COURTS FIX
Sens. MICHAEL BENNET (D-Colo.) and LISA MURKOWSKI (R-Alaska) and Reps. DAN GOLDMAN (D-N.Y.) and MARÍA ELVIRA SALAZAR (R-Fla.) introduced a bill that would create a children’s immigration court specialized to handle sensitive cases, which the lawmakers say would reduce strain on immigration courts nationwide.
Goldman told me that the bill was able to attract bipartisan and bicameral support because it doesn’t propose a change in policy or for new funds to be appropriated.
“This is simply a recognition of the unique needs of children and those with kind hearts and big hopes who simply just want to make sure that children get the proper process, information and support that they need as they go through any judicial proceeding,” he said. “And it’s a recognition that there are different needs that are not being met, and it’s simply a desire to focus and train those in the system to be able to deal with those needs.”
Bennet said he believed that there wasn’t a problem Congress couldn’t solve if it put the kids’ interest first.
“I think one of the things you see here is that when it comes to kids at the border and acknowledgment that their situation is different from the adults that arrive,” he told me. “Republicans and Democrats can work together to recognize those differences and come up with policy suggestions about how we improve the system for the benefit of the kids, as well as for the American people.”
Although the issue is urgent, floor time is at a premium so it’s uncertain if and when the bill would receive consideration in the Republican-controlled House.
Goldman expressed frustration that several bipartisan measures are waiting to reach the House floor.
“But because [former Speaker] KEVIN McCARTHY (R-Calif.) was held hostage by the extreme right, and now the new speaker is squarely a part of the extreme right, a lot of those bipartisan bills do not come to the floor,” Goldman added. “Hopefully, this will be added into some legislation that can be passed.”
Rep. GEORGE SANTOS (R-N.Y.) outlasted a motion to remove him from Congress on Wednesday evening after an expulsion resolution failed by a vote of 179-213, a surprisingly wide margin.
31 Democrats voted against expulsion, while 24 Republicans voted to boot Santos, the first openly gay LGBTQ Republican elected to Congress. 19 members voted present.
“I think he’s clearly not going to be in Congress much longer,” Rep. ROBERT GARCIA (D-Calif.), who with Reps. RITCHIE TORRES (D-N.Y.) and Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution to expel Santos from the House in May. “So whether it was tonight or another day, he’ll either be removed or he’ll plea, or he’ll get beat in reelection.”
Rep. SYDNEY KAMLAGER-DOVE (D-Calif.) told me the vote reflected the crisis Republicans face as a party that’s turned pro-insurrectionists and anti-establishment.
“How do you wrap your head around being a family-values person and then supporting someone who has been under investigation for all these crimes,” the Los Angeles congresswoman said.
Santos was indicted in May for allegedly drawing unemployment benefits for a year during the pandemic despite holding a six-figure job at an investment firm. He was indicted on additional charges in October. (Kamlager-Dove called Santos a “welfare queen” in May after he voted for a border security bill that would help recover dollars lost to unemployment fraud during the pandemic and improve the integrity of the government’s insurance programs to prevent future fraud.)
The House approved a motion to refer the Garcia-Goldman-Torres resolution to the Ethics Committee by a vote of 221-204, along party lines and with seven Democrats voting present. None of the five New York Republicans who sponsored the October expulsion resolution voted to remove Santos in May.
The resolution was introduced by Rep. ANTHONY D’ESPOSITO (R-N.Y.) and four members of the New York Republican delegation—Reps. MARC MOLINARO, MIKE LAWLER, NICK LaLOTA and BRANDON WILLIAMS.
Following the vote, Santos characterized the resolution as a political stunt by his colleagues in swing districts. He also claimed the result was a victory for due process. (Molinaro, D’Esposito, Lawler and Williams each represent a district President Biden won in the 2020 presidential election and have faced criticism for voting with House conservatives on various partisan bills.)
Rep. JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.) said he voted against the measure, which required a two-thirds vote in favor because it would be an unsustainable precedent to set to expel people from Congress who have not been convicted of a crime and without internal due process.
“If and when Santos is convicted of these serious criminal offenses or ethics charges, I will certainly vote to expel him,” Raskin, the top Democrat on the powerful House Oversight Committee, said in a statement. “Until then, it’s a very risky road to go down, and we have to stick by due process and the rule of law, as obvious as the eventual result seems.”
On Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee announced it has contacted almost 40 witnesses, reviewed 170,000 pages of documents, and authorized 37 subpoenas in its investigation into Santos. (Torres and Goldman filed an ethics complaint in January over Santos’s financial disclosure reports.)
House Ethics said it would announce its next action in the investigation on or before Nov. 17.
FARM BILL LEADERS EYE CR-ATTACHED EXTENSION
Amid the debate around how to keep the government open beyond the middle of this month and the Biden administration’s national security supplemental funding request is a discussion about the future of the farm bill.
More than a full month after the legislation that funds and implements US and global food aid and agriculture programs expired, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee told me Congress would likely need to pass an extension to the current farm bill as lawmakers to reauthorize it in the spring fully.
“That happened to us last time in 2013. That’s not unusual,” Sen. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-Mich.) said. “I’d love to have this whole thing done now. It’s been just one barrier after another at this point.”
Stabenow added that given the technicalities of how the programs work, the extension would have to be for one year, not three months at a time, the length of past continuing resolutions, for example.
JOHN BOOZMAN (Ark.), the top Senate Republican on the Agriculture Committee, told Aris Folley at The Hill that he hopes an extension would be attached to CR Congress will have to take up this month to fund the government.
“We’ll attach it to whatever’s moving,” Stabenow said with a chuckle.
Hakeem Jeffries told me that failing to extend the farm bill would hurt everyday Americans, the nation’s farmers, and vital nutrition programs. Still, he said House Democrats hadn’t come to a decision about what an extension would look like.
He drew a red line at reports Republicans have proposed $50 billion in farm bill clawbacks.
“It’s not happening,” Jeffries said. “So let’s end the games, let’s end the ideological crusade and let’s actually engage in authentic efforts to find common ground between Democrats and Republicans.”
The next farm bill will be Stabenow’s swan song. The six-term senator announced in January that she would not seek reelection in 2024.
AI POLICY OVERTAKES DC—AND BEYOND
Artificial intelligence dominated Washington and abroad this week.
As I reported in Monday’s newsletter, President Biden signed a sweeping executive order on the safe development of AI. The president then met with a Senate gang—led by Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER (D-N.Y.)—about regulating the technology through robust legislation. Senators also held the third and fourth sessions on AI focused on its intersection with the workforce and AI’s use in sectors like finance, health care and law enforcement.
Across the pond, Vice President KAMALA HARRIS delivered a major policy speech in the United Kingdom on Wednesday about the Biden administration’s vision for the future and its steps to make it a reality. Harris followed up the speech with her participation in two sessions of the Global Summit on AI alongside fellow leaders, heads of AI companies, and members of civil society.
House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair TED LIEU (Calif.) commended the president on the executive order and pointed to its incorporation of a framework he and Rep. HALEY STEVENS (D-Mich.) asked the administration to include that would require agencies to set best practices from the National Institute of Standards and Technologies for how they regulate AI.
But it’s unclear how much attention the issue will receive from Speaker Johnson. Schumer said Wednesday after his White House meeting that he worked closely with former Speaker McCarthy, whom he described as interested and eager to work across the aisle.
“I’m hopeful that the new speaker will have the same attitude,” he added. “I’ve not yet talked to him.”
HOUSE, SENATE NOTCH FUNDING WINS
After two months of fits and starts, the Senate finally passed its first three 2024 funding bills on Wednesday in a minibus package that appeared on a glide path before leaders faced snags during the amendment process.
The bills received unanimous support from the Senate Appropriations Committee this summer and cruised through final passage with an 82-15 vote to give the Senate bipartisan bragging rights.
Across the Capitol, the House passed their Legislative Branch bill, the sixth of the 12 measures that fund the government hours after the Senate acted on the minibus. But it received just four Democratic votes, a continuation of the party-line tallies that have defined the previous five bills that cleared the chamber.
As I noted above, Congress must pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open while both chambers work out an agreement to fund agencies and departments for the fiscal year. But the theory is that each bill each body passes increases the negotiating power it has in a fiercely divided government.
It’s unclear which package of funding bills the Senate will take up next. But four bills unanimously advanced out of the Appropriations Committee—Energy and Water, Financial Services, Interior and Environment, and Legislative Branch—so it’s a safe bet those could be next.
The House will return to the floor at 10 p.m. tonight for a third vote series on pending amendments to the Interior and Environment funding bill. House Republican leadership punted the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill to next week after it ran into a math problem ahead of a previously scheduled floor vote tomorrow.
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