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No deal in sight, time not on their side
President Biden and Speaker McCarthy prepare to meet again this afternoon to break a budget stalemate and avoid a first-ever US default threatened by House conservatives.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
President Joe Biden returned to the US late last night after several days of international diplomacy at the G7 Summit in Japan.
He was originally scheduled to travel from Hiroshima to Papua New Guinea and Australia but returned home in hopes to break a dangerous stalemate with House Republicans on a budget framework and stave off a first-ever default on US debt.
Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are scheduled to meet this afternoon after the two spoke on the phone on the president’s way back to the States.
Meanwhile, negotiators for both leaders emerged from a two-hour-and-twenty-minute huddle in the US Capitol on Sunday evening with no deal in sight and time against their side.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated her estimate on the Sunday Shows that the government will run out of money to pay its bill by early June and as soon as the first of the month.
The House is scheduled to be in recess next week. The Senate is out this week. It’s incredible that we’re this close to catastrophe.
Freeze over: If a budget agreement is reached, it’s likely to rescind unspent COVID-19 funds and include a compromise to speed up American energy production.
But House Republicans are also looking to cap federal funding at 2022 levels while proposing an increase to military funding without cuts to Social Security; Medicare and veterans’ benefits. These cuts will require federal agencies to dramatically require their annual budgets and cut social programs for low-income families and individuals, older adults, and people with disabilities.
The White House countered with an offer to freeze spending at current levels, which, when adjusted for inflation, would qualify as a funding reduction, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Garret Graves, a Louisiana congressman and McCarthy’s top negotiator, told reporters on Sunday that still violates one of the speaker’s lines in the sand: “The numbers are foundational here. The speaker has been very clear — a red line is spending less money. And unless and until we’re there, then the rest is irrelevant.”
McCarthy confirmed after his phone call with President Biden that his position remained unchanged.
“Washington cannot continue to spend money we don’t have,” he said in a tweet.
No new taxes: The White House agrees, which is why President Biden has proposed a combination of spending cuts and new revenues from taxes on wealthy individuals and big corporations.
Without these taxes, Biden argues:
Big Oil would continue to receive billions in subsidies on top of their record profits at the expense of 21 million Americans who rely on Medicaid.
100,000 teachers and assistants and 30,000 law enforcement officers’ jobs will be cut to protect the pharmaceutical industry’s $200 billion in excess payments.
1 million Americans could lose food assistance while tax cheats and crypto traders run amok.
“It’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely on their partisan terms,” Biden said during a press conference in Hiroshima before he left the G7. “They have to move as well.”
But congressional Republicans are uninterested in new taxes, in part because they say that spending, not revenue, is the problem. And once the debt ceiling crisis is over, the GOP has indicated it wants to make the 2017 Trump tax cuts permanent before they expire in 2025.
This extension would add $3.5 trillion to our debt over the next decade, according to the CBO. And the White House said it would wipe out any savings House Republicans gain from their cuts to domestic funding.
“House Republicans at once maintain that in the name of reducing the deficit, we urgently need to harm middle-class families, Border Patrol agents, and our manufacturing class,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said on Saturday. “But that we also need to turn around and explode the deficit with a $3.5 trillion giveaway to big corporations and the wealthiest taxpayers. These numbers say more than any words about who they are fighting for.”
The break-glass option: Watching from the sidelines, Senate Democrats are skeptical House Republicans are negotiating in good faith, and that even if they are, Speaker McCarthy has enough votes from his conference to pass a negotiated agreement.
Last Thursday, nearly a dozen of these Democrats sent a letter to President Biden urging him to invoke the 14th Amendment to avoid default in case negotiations fall apart.
The following afternoon, 66 House progressives joined their Senate colleagues in a separate letter that encouraged Biden not to feel forced to choose between a default and a bad deal because the Constitution empowers him to invoke the 14th Amendment to ensure the full faith and credit of the US is preserved.
House progressives worked on the letter for a couple of days last week before it was released and discussed the option as part of their weekly meeting last Tuesday, according to a senior House Democratic Aide.
President Biden told reporters on Sunday that he’s looking into whether or not he has the authority while adding he believes he does.
“The question is could it be done and invoked in time that it would not be appealed, and as a consequence, pass the date in question and still default on the debt,” he said. “That’s a question that I think is unresolved.
A spokesperson for the Progressive Caucus declined to comment on if the members of the 100-member group who didn’t sign on to the letter disagreed with the legal analysis that Biden has the constitutional authority to unilaterally avoid default through the 14th Amendment.
Related articles: “The debt limit is just one of America’s six worst traditions” by Jon Schwarz at The Intercept … “The poor are being held hostage in the debt ceiling standoff” by E.J. Dionne Jr. at WaPo … “How Wall Street is preparing for possible US debt default” by Davide Barbuscia and Pete Schroeder
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Harris cheers Griner on in her first game back
Before WNBA superstar Brittney Griner returned to the court in her first game back in a Phoenix Mercury uniform, she received a surprise visit from the most powerful woman in the nation: Vice President Kamala Harris.
Griner had 18 points, six rebounds, four blocks and two assists in her first game.
Harris also met with the Los Angeles Sparks before the game. She received an honorary jersey from the Sparks at center court after the action.
”She’s on her way home”: President Biden secured Griner’s release last December after 10 months of wrongful detention in Russia.
“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner,” Biden said at the time. “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”
The US traded Griner for Victor Bout, a Russian arms dealer nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” who had served 12 years in prison and was scheduled for release in 2029. The swap did not include Paul Whelan, another American wrongfully detained in Russia under false espionage charges. Since Griner’s release, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has also been wrongfully detained under sham spying allegations.
VP spotlights maternal health: Vice President Harris was in town to tour Baby2Baby, a nonprofit that serves women and families in California and the nation by distributing donated essential items and promoting maternal and child health outcomes.
“You will find that in many states in our country, sadly, but in particular some of the states, in particular in the south, where we see higher rates of maternal mortality,” Harris said during the tour. “Because we’re talking about in certain areas, rural areas and others, where there is what we call ‘maternal health deserts,’ where there are no OBGYNs, where there are no clinics or hospitals that are there to meet the daily needs other than a crisis moment, an emergency moment for those moms. So we are targeting our resources based on where we know there is a need.”
The first stop of Harris’s tour was the Baby2Baby warehouse where she heard the history, operation, and impact of the organization and viewed supplies such as diapers, car seats, and clothing. During the second stop, she viewed where staff and volunteers put together the Baby2Baby packages.
Maternal mortality in the US is higher than in any high-income nation with Black women three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women in America. And although an estimated 80 percent of these deaths are preventable, the crisis is worsening: Maternal deaths increased by 40 percent between 2020 and 2021, according to recent CDC data.
Last week, Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois on Monday reintroduced the Black Maternal Momnibus Act, a package of 13 bills to address every driver of maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities in the US.
BG’s homecoming: Griner on Sunday scored 27 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks in her first home game back in Phoenix — in front of 14,040 fans, the largest Mercury crowd since 1998.
“It was emotional in the back, just hearing, seeing some of the clips and then coming out,” she said after the game about the pre-game tribute she received. “But no, it was really good. It was really good. Part of the process of healing is just kind of letting it out. So, yeah, nah, I got choked up a little bit.”
Griner is working on a memoir about her experience in Russia that is scheduled for release next spring.
Related articles: “Kamala Harris makes surprise trip to Brittney Griner’s first WNBA game back” by Christopher Wiggins at The Advocate … “Griner receives raucous 'welcome back' to WNBA, then nets 18” by M.A. Voepel at ESPN … “Brittney Griner has the right to change her mind” by Jemele Hill at The Atlantic … “Paul Whelan tells CNN he’s confident ‘wheels are turning’ toward his release” by Jennifer Hansler at CNN
House Dems raise record funds in first four months of 2023
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the organization responsible for electing House Democrats, announced late last week that it raised $9.1 million in April, part of an off-year record $46.8 million raised in the first four months of 2023.
The committee says it has $25 million cash on hand and is now completely debt-free as it works to retake the House majority next year.
“Early success is critical to building strong infrastructure and the DCCC is off to an excellent start creating an operation that will deliver a Democratic majority on Election Day,” Chris Taylor, a Democratic strategist and Principal at CIVIL, a public affairs agency, said to Supercreator.
The Jeffries factor: House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries single-handedly outraised the National Republican Congressional Committee by $2.3 million in April, according to his office.
This is an indication to the Democratic donor class and members that he can hold his own following in the footsteps of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is known for her fundraising prowess.
“Have no doubt about it: Hakeem Jeffries is a fundraising powerhouse with the muscle and grit Democrats will need to ensure we’ve got cash in the bank to protect and pick up seats in Congress,” Taylor said.
The NRCC raised $5.6 million during the same period and ended April with $23.9 million cash on hand and $3.8 million in debt.
A closer look: Brittany Gibson at Politico reports that filings with the Federal Election Committee show that the stellar numbers are due in part to increases in membership dues and sizable transfers, including from Jeffries’ leadership political action committee, which have been greater than Speaker McCarthy‘s so far and more than Pelosi’s leadership PAC transferred to the DCCC at this point last cycle.
Here’s a snapshot of the contributions from longtime House Democratic incumbents:
Whip Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the second-ranking House Democrat and the highest-ranking woman in the caucus, gave $500,000 — twice as much as last cycle’s first quarter.
Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina has nearly doubled his contribution to DCCC in the first quarter of this year, giving nearly $300,000, compared with the $150,000 he gave in the first quarter in 2021.
Greg Meeks of New York tripled his DCCC from $50,000 in 2021 to $150,000 this cycle.
“That always happens in a new term,” Pelosi said to Politico. “It’s really important to show their support for a new leader.”
What to watch: Small-dollar donations, which theoretically counterweight the influence of wealthy special interests, are down for both parties. As we get deeper into the election cycle, it will be interesting if either committee reverses this trend.
Related: The DCCC launched two four-figure digital campaigns targeting vulnerable House Republicans who voted to refer the Santos expulsion resolution to the House Ethics Committee last week.
The ads will run thru Memorial Day when members will in their districts.
The first campaign targets New York Republican Reps. Nick LaLota, Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler, and Brandon Williams.
The second will run across competitive House districts in the following 14 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
“Vulnerable House Republicans have proven they are too weak to buck party leadership and — instead of expelling serial grifter and indicted criminal George Santos from Congress — they are protecting him,” DCCC spokesperson Viet Shelton said in a statement. “Voters deserve better than hypocritical representatives who put their party above their people and the DCCC will continue to hold these Republicans accountable.”
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All times Eastern
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. The president will also meet with Speaker McCarthy this afternoon. Biden’s week ahead:
Friday: The president and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will welcome the Louisiana State University Tigers women’s basketball team and University of Connecticut Huskies men’s basketball team to the White House to celebrate their 2023 national championships in separate ceremonies. Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend the LSU ceremony. Emhoff will also attend UConn’s ceremony. President Biden and Dr. Biden will travel to Camp David for the weekend.
Sunday: President Biden and Dr. Biden will travel from Camp David to Wilmington, Delaware before returning to the White House.
Monday: Biden will host a Memorial Day breakfast. The president and Dr. Biden will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Harris and Emhoff will attend. President Biden will also speak at the 155th National Memorial Day Observance. Dr. Biden, Harris, and Emhoff will attend. The president and first lady will then travel to Wilmington.
Vice President Harris will travel from Los Angeles at 12:40 p.m. and arrive in Mountain Valley, California at 2:10 p.m. to convene a roundtable at 3 p.m. with tech CEOs to discuss US semiconductor research and development and manufacturing. Harris will speak about the CHIPS and Science Act at 4:30 p.m. before leaving California at 6:10 p.m. and arriving in Washington DC at 10:55 p.m. Harris’s week ahead:
Tuesday-Thursday: The vice president will be in DC and have no events on her public schedule.
Saturday: Harris will travel to West Point, New York to give the commencement address at the US Military Academy.
The House is in at noon with first and last votes expected at 6:30 p.m.
The Senate is out.
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