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There’s the sense of urgency we’ve been waiting for
The negotiating table has shrunk and Biden scrapped the last two stops on his international trip as he works to close a deal. Plus: An oral arguments preview on the appeal to the mifepristone ban.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
If you want meaningful proof that the White House and Congress have embraced a sense of urgency in the debt limit and federal budget talks, consider two significant developments from Tuesday.
1. The White House called in their closers.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy emerged from the White House after an hour-long meeting with President Joe Biden and the three other top congressional leaders with news that the negotiating table has shrunk, a clear acknowledgment that time is of the essence.
The White House going forward will be represented by budget chief Shalanda Young, an alum of the House Appropriations Committee who has earned the respect of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and has been through several contentious budget negotiations throughout the years.
Young will be joined by Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president and the Senate liaison during the Clinton administration, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Louisa Terrell, who served on Biden’s staff when he was a senator and as chief of staff to Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and legislative aide to then-Sen. Barack Obama.
McCarthy has dispatched Rep. Garret Graves as his top deputy in the talks, an indication of the fifth-term congressman’s influence in the House Republican Conference despite not holding a plum official leadership position.
The speaker had been pushing for a small group of negotiators in public and private in recent days. And now that he has it, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is the leader who’s expected to be most impacted.
Schumer has been a fierce critic of McCarthy and a vocal advocate for Democratic policy priorities. But this issue was always going to be resolved by Biden and McCarthy, a truth Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries seemed to understand more than Schumer and that is now reflected by who is leading the crunch-time discussions.
“This is the way to get an outcome. This has always been a two-way deal. Always,” McConnell said on Tuesday. “It’s a shame it took this long.”
2. Biden cut his overseas trip short.
President Biden canceled stops in Australia and Papua New Guinea and will return to the US on Sunday after the G7 Summit to meet with the top four congressional leaders on the debt limit and a federal budget framework ahead of the early June deadline when the government is expected to go broke.
“The president has made clear that members of Congress from both parties and chambers must come together to prevent default, as they have 78 times before,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.” “The president and his team will continue to work with congressional leadership to deliver a budget agreement that can reach the president’s desk.”
White House officials previously maintained Biden planned to execute the full eight-day trip.
”Look, on any presidential trip, doesn’t matter where he goes or when, events back home and around thee world can affect travel. But right now, there’s no plans to curtail the trip or cut it short or to not go,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday. “We’re planning on going and we’re planning on executing it, and as is the case with any trip, you watch events as appropriate and make the best decisions as you can.”
But both sides remain far enough apart as the X date approaches. And the optics of an American president out of the country on important international business while seven in 10 voters are worried about the possibility of the federal government defaulting on its debt would have been terrible even if our friends down under are disappointed now that Biden isn’t coming.
Work requirements on social programs continue to be a pain point in the discussions.
McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday morning that work requirements help people get a job and previously indicated that they remain a red line for his conference.
“Every data point shows that and it helps people move forward,” he said. “So the public wants it. Both parties want it. The idea that they want to put us into a default because they will not work with [us] on that is ludicrous to me.”
But research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released in March found that expanding work requirements would make it harder for people to meet basic needs and do little to improve long-term work opportunities and outcomes.
And Democrats say there are already work requirements for most of the programs.
“The average SNAP benefit, by the way, is $6 per person per day. That’s who Republicans are. They would rather cut that or eliminate it and take food out of the mouths of kids in order to make a political point,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar told reporters on Tuesday. “If they want to cut SNAP, they should tell us who they want to cut SNAP from — from kids, from individuals with disabilities, from seniors? But again we get broad strokes and they just talk about these work requirements.”
There’s been a casual assumption that the Senate will inevitably pass whatever bill makes it out of the House if McCarthy and Biden’s negotiators reach an agreement. But Senate Democrats including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and John Fetterman have floated the possibility they could oppose a plan with work requirements that pushes too many people into poverty.
But we’ve gotta have an agreement between the principals first before we know which side will revolt most forcefully.
“There is still work to do,” Biden said after the Big Four meeting. “Defaulting on the debt is simply not an option.”
The calendar remains a challenge though.
The Senate is scheduled to be in recess next week and the House the following. Thursday is the last day both chambers will be in session at the same time before the expected default date.
“At the end of the day, if we need to be back, we’re gonna be back,” McCarthy said.
Related reading: “Why Biden caved” by Russell Berman at The Atlantic
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator Daily, your weekday morning guide to the politicians, power brokers, and policies shaping the American creator experience. Today is Wednesday, May 17, 2023. It’s also International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Shoutout to all the allies out there in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
Three-judge panel to hear abortion pill appeal
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this afternoon will hear oral arguments from the Biden administration on its appeal of a lower court decision to ban the abortion pill mifepristone in a case with implications for abortion and miscarriage care in all 50 states whether the one you live in has protections in place or not.
“Even though abortion remains legal in approximately half the states at this point, we’re talking about removing an option for safe and effective abortion care even in places where [the right to access an] abortion is currently protected,” Angela Vasquez-Giroux, vice president of communications and research at NARAL Pro-Choice America, said to the Supercreator.
The Fifth Circuit has earned a reputation as the nation’s most conservative court and demonstrated hostility to abortion, which has abortion rights advocates on edge even though they view the merits of the District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision as weak.
”We have to be prepared for all possible outcomes,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told reporters on Monday.
A recording of the oral argument is expected to be posted shortly after the hearing.
Ahead of the arguments, NARAL released new polling that found an overwhelming majority of voters oppose restrictions on abortion care and reject the claim from anti-abortion politicians that a 15-week national ban is a compromise on abortion rights.
A few of the key findings:
Seven in 10 voters oppose one-size-fits-all abortion bans with 58 percent who strongly agree they are dangerous. Most Democrats and independents prefer to leave abortion care to patients and their doctors.
73 percent of voters agree that abortion restrictions “have gone too far,” including a majority (51 percent) of those who voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 and more than three in four independents.
Just 26 percent of voters think a 15-week ban on abortion care is “reasonable.”
“Voters across party, gender, and racial lines continue to tell politicians to stop interfering with decisions about abortion care,” NARAL President Mini Timmaraju said in a statement. “It’s time Republican politicians start listening.”
In April, Kacsmaryk decided mifepristone was improperly approved by the FDA in 2000 despite its high efficacy and low mortality rates.
The case was brought by anti-abortion organizations and societies represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a hate group as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and filed in federal court in Amarillo, Texas — a city in the state’s panhandle, where most cases are automatically assigned to Judge Kacsmaryk. (Kacsmaryk has ruled against access to abortion care without parental consent and issued opinions that enable discrimination against the LGBTQ community and limit the rights of immigrants.)
The lawsuit claims that the FDA exceeded its authority and used an improper process when it approved mifepristone over 20 years ago. The plaintiffs also argued that the FDA insufficiently studied the drug’s safety and effectiveness and attacked the agency’s decision to allow patients to receive mifepristone through the mail.
The Fifth Circuit narrowed Kacsmaryk’s decision by reducing the window during which mifepristone can be used from 10 to seven weeks and block a pandemic-era policy that made the drug available by mai but the Supreme Court blocked the two lower court rulings restricting access to mifepristone during the appeal, which kicked the case back to the Fifth Circuit.
After this afternoon’s arguments, a decision could come in a matter of weeks, although experts expect it to likely be a few months.
If the Fifth Circuit rules against the Biden administration, the decision will be put on hold under the Supreme Court stay and mifepristone should remain available until the high court declines to hear the case or, if it chooses to review it, issues a decision.
In this scenario, the court could take up the case as soon as the next term, which starts in October with a decision by late June — months before the presidential election. It’s also possible the process could move slower and all of this happens the following year.
“But, of course, the hope is that the Fifth Circuit follows the rule of law and does what should have been done from the very start and throws this case out,” Dalven said.
Related reading: “3 judges who chipped away abortion rights to hear federal abortion pill appeal” by Kevin McGill at AP News … “As an obstetrician, I need mifepristone to stay legal — and not just for abortions” by Rieham Owda at Ms. Magazine … “Doctors behind mifepristone ban called ‘Christians’ a top threat” by Dell Cameron and Dhruv Mehrotra at Wired … “Why Trump’s position on a federal abortion ban is meaningless” by Melissa Gira Grant at TNR
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President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before honoring the 2021-2022 recipients of the Medal of Valor. The president will then travel to Anchorage, Alaska en route to Hiroshima, Japan.
Vice President Harris is in DC and has no events on her public schedule.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff this afternoon will attend the Congressional Club Luncheon in Washington, DC. Dr. Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland this evening will arrive at Bethel Airport in Bethel, Alaska, and join Democratic Rep. Mary Petola of Alaska to speak about the White House’s investments to expand broadband internet in indigenous communities.
The House is in this morning and will consider two law enforcement bills.
The Senate is in this morning with three vote series scheduled. The first is to advance the nomination of Jeremy Daniel as US District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. The second is to confirm the Daniel nomination and advance the nomination of Darrel Papillion to be US District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The final votes are on a resolution to overturn a rule that excludes supplemental public health benefits from consideration when determining admission to the US or permanent legal residence and to advance the nomination of Nancy G. Abudu to be US Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit.
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