The unofficial guide to official Washington.
The unofficial guide to official Washington.
You will now start receiving email updates
You are already subscribed
Something went wrong
By RACHAEL BADE, EUGENE DANIELS and RYAN LIZZA
With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks to the media following a meeting at the White House in November. | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
ABOUT LAST NIGHT — Senate Appropriations Chair PATRICK LEAHY (D-Vt.) announced Sunday night that Democrats would NOT proceed as planned with a vote today on their own spending package, citing “sufficient progress in negotiations … over the weekend.”
Government funding runs out Friday. Talks have stalled for weeks as the parties wrangle over funding levels, with Republicans thus far refusing to give Democrats the nondefense plus-ups they desire. Could the distant chime of jingle bells finally be having an effect?
There’s no way an omnibus can be negotiated, drafted and passed in the next five days, so expect another stopgap to move this week. Beyond that? There’s already chatter about negotiations dragging right up to and even through the holiday season. We’ll see who blinks first. More from Roll Call
THE WEEK AHEAD — Tuesday: JOHN J. RAY III, CEO of FTX Group, and SAM BANKMAN-FRIED, founder and former CEO, will testify at House Financial Services about the collapse of the company. President JOE BIDEN will hold a signing ceremony for the Respect for Marriage Act on the South Lawn. … Wednesday: Biden will open the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. …Friday: Government funding will expire at midnight. …Saturday: Turning Point USA’s AmericaFest will open in Phoenix.
PLAYBOOK REALITY CHECK — As KEVIN McCARTHY struggles to nail down 218 votes to be speaker, chatter of late has turned to the intriguing alternative of a “unity candidate” — a scenario where a small group of moderate House Republicans would band together with Democrats and elect a centrist speaker next year.
Sorry, but this is what SARAH LONGWELL on CNN Sunday smartly dubbed “AARON SORKIN ‘West Wing’ fantasy politics.” We want to disabuse you this morning of any notion that this threat is anything other than that — a threat.
Let’s first acknowledge that, yes, there are moderate Republicans vowing to pursue this should their hard-right colleagues continue targeting McCarthy. We caught up with Rep. DON BACON (R-Neb.) outside McCarthy’s office Thursday, and he floated soon-to-be-former Reps. FRED UPTON (R-Mich.) and JOHN KATKO (R-N.Y.) as possible alternatives.
“If these five or six will not play ball at all, then I will work across the aisle with Democrats,” Bacon said, referring to the handful of anti-McCarthy hardliners.
Democrats are also stoking speculation about a potential cross-party coalition. Rep. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-Ariz.) trollishly raised it two days after the election. Colorado Gov. JARED POLIS later floated former Rep. JUSTIN AMASH, the Republican-turned-Libertarian, while WaPo columnist JENNIFER RUBIN tossed out the idea of a Speaker LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.).
We should also note that this has happened before in state legislatures. A centrist coalition led by longtime Texas House Speaker JOE STRAUS helped keep the hard right in check for a decade in Austin. And last week, Rep. BRUCE WESTERMAN (R-Ark.) stood up in a House GOP Conference meeting to warn his colleagues that he’d seen an intraparty split upend Little Rock a decade ago.
“I wanted to make sure that everybody is aware of all the other things that could happen,” he told Playbook, “because I went through that experience, and I had enough speaker drama for any one lifetime.”
BUT, BUT, BUT … there are myriad reasons this is not a serious possibility in Washington:
1. You would need to convince nearly every Democrat to vote for a Republican speaker. We could only find one instance in recent history where a lawmaker backed a leader from the opposite party: In 2001, the late Rep. JAMES TRAFICANT (D-Ohio) voted for Rep. DENNIS HASTERT (R-Ill.). Democrats immediately stripped Traficant of his committees in what would be the beginning of a parade of horribles for the colorful Youngstowner, culminating in his conviction on federal corruption charges and his expulsion from the House in 2002.
These days, the partisan divide on the Hill is even more pronounced. And for many Democrats, a newly muscular left could make it hard to justify voting for any Republican to lead the House. “It’s primary bait,” one senior Democratic aide told us Sunday night.
Incoming Minority Leader HAKEEM JEFFRIES dismissed the idea in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” last weekend, and most Democrats we spoke to are refusing to even weigh in on this idea on record. If they won’t even talk about this speculatively, how can you expect them to call out a Republican’s name during the Jan. 3 roll call?
2. There’s no real back channel trying to make this happen. Moderate Republicans needed to be laying the groundwork yesterday to convince like-minded Democrats that the political risk is worth taking. But we hear from lawmakers that those conversations aren’t happening.
One Democrat told us they approached Problem Solvers Caucus leader JOSH GOTTHEIMER to gauge how serious that chatter was, and the New Jersey Democrat downplayed the idea right away. Upton, we’re told, has also panned this notion privately. If that group of centrist members isn’t engaging, it’s hard to imagine other Democrats following suit.
3. Democrats would want something in return for electing a GOP speaker. Rep. RO KHANNA (D-Calif.), for instance, told Fox News last week that he’d want Democrats to have equal subpoena authority. Other Democrats could reasonably demand committee chairmanships, promises not to impeach Biden or other administration officials or other plums.
4. Centrist Republicans would also be at political risk. Working with Democrats to elect a speaker chosen mostly by the other party is a surefire recipe for a primary challenge — even if the deal didn’t come with the kinds of governing concessions that Khanna and others are discussing.
“Look, Don Bacon is not going to go back to Nebraska and explain why he was only one of fewer than 10 Republicans to vote for a Democrat-majority-chosen speaker,” one conservative aide told Playbook. “I’ll eat my hat.” And finally …
5. Democrats want to see the GOP squirm. As one Democratic lawmaker gleefully told us last week, “Get the popcorn ready on Jan. 3.” The party abhors McCarthy and can’t wait to see him and House Republicans flounder, arguing that they are reaping what they’ve long sown. No Democrat is leaping at the opportunity to short-circuit what could be days, if not weeks of GOP drama.
NOW THAT’S NOT TO SAY all this “unity speaker” talk is pointless. There’s a reason why McCarthy allies have been promoting it as though it were a real possibility; the thinking is that such a threat could scare conservatives who oppose McCarthy into submission by threatening them with the possibility of a Democrat-blessed, even-less-palatable leader. But conservatives we’ve spoken to say they’re not buying it.
To be sure, crazier things have happened in Washington, and, as one lawmaker said to us, if McCarthy still can’t get the gavel after multiple votes on Jan. 3, all bets are off. But at this point the idea of a “unity speaker” seems no more realistic than a Speaker ANDY BIGGS (R-Ariz.).
Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Any other unlikely but tantalizing political scenarios you’d like to tout? Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
A message from Instagram:
Parents have support when it comes to keeping their teens safe on Instagram.
How: Once supervision on Family Center is set up, parents can see who their teen follows, who follows them and any reports their teen shares.
Set up Family Center today.
WHOA IF TRUE — In a development with potentially huge ramifications for energy, climate and, eventually, politics, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have taken a significant step in nuclear fusion research, FT’s Tom Wilson scooped, with Energy Department officials set to make a big announcement at the lab Tuesday.
While physicists have toiled for decades to harness fusion energy, “no group had been able to produce more energy from the reaction than it consumes — a milestone known as net energy gain or target gain,” Wilson writes, until Livermore scientists did so in the past two weeks, according to his sources.
“Although many scientists believe fusion power stations are still decades away, the technology’s potential is hard to ignore,” he adds. “Fusion reactions emit no carbon, produce no long-lived radioactive waste and a small cup of the hydrogen fuel could theoretically power a house for hundreds of years.” Says one fusion expert, “If this is confirmed, we are witnessing a moment of history.”
A message from Instagram:
8:45 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
12:10 p.m.: The Bidens will leave the White House for a U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots event at 12:40 p.m. at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va. They’ll return to the White House at 1:40 p.m.
Press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will brief at 3 p.m. with national security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ MONDAY — The VP has nothing on her public schedule.
THE SENATE will meet at 3 p.m. to take up TAMIKA MONTGOMERY-REEVES’ judicial nomination, post-cloture, with a confirmation vote at 5:30 p.m.
THE HOUSE will meet at noon, with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.
BIDEN’S WEEK AHEAD:
Tuesday: The president will sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law with a South Lawn ceremony.
Wednesday: Biden will host the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, including remarks at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, a small group multilateral meeting with leaders and an East Room dinner.
Thursday: Biden will take part in a leaders’ session on the African Union’s Agenda 2063, a family photo with the African leaders and a closing session on food security and food systems resilience.
Friday: The Bidens will head to Wilmington, Del.
STEP INSIDE THE WEST WING: What’s really happening in West Wing offices? Find out who’s up, who’s down, and who really has the president’s ear in our West Wing Playbook newsletter, the insider’s guide to the Biden White House and Cabinet. For buzzy nuggets and details that you won’t find anywhere else, subscribe today.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
NASA’s Orion Capsule splashes down after a successful uncrewed Artemis I Moon Mission on Dec. 11, 2022 seen from aboard the U.S.S. Portland in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, Mexico. | Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty Images
DEMOCRACY WATCH — Two new groups, Pro-Democracy Center and Pro-Democracy Campaign, operated a massive, secretive $32 million campaign to protect democracy from “Stop the Steal” efforts in the midterms, Zach Montellaro scoops this morning. Led by DAVID DONNELLY, they “funded 126 groups across 16 states,” focusing on local and state-level efforts to back ballot measures, get voters to the polls and expand voting access.
CASH DASH — MAGA Inc., the super PAC behind DONALD TRUMP’s 2024 presidential campaign, has built up a crucial small group of big donors looking to put Trump back in the White House, even as other supporters have abandoned him, CNBC’s Brian Schwartz reports. Top donors appear to include TIMOTHY MELLON ($1.5 million), STAN PATE’s BPH Properties ($500,000), TILMAN FERTITTA’s Splitco Holdings ($100,000) and ANTHONY LOMANGINO ($100,000).
2024 WATCH — Sen. MIKE BRAUN (R-Ind.) and Indiana Lt. Gov. SUZANNE CROUCH are both likely to jump into the state’s GOP gubernatorial primary today, Adam Wren reports. It’s likely to be a tough and crowded field: Businessman ERIC DODEN is already in the race, and state Commerce Secretary BRAD CHAMBERS could yet join. (MITCH DANIELS is more interested in Braun’s seat.)
CAROLINA DREAMING — “Trump who? GOP senators rave over a potential Tim Scott presidential run,”by Marianne LeVine
JUST POSTED — “Young voters’ enthusiasm for Democrats waned during midterms,” by AP’s Will Weissert and Hannah Fingerhut
THE WHITE HOUSE
PAGING ROSA DeLAURO — “Let’s make a deal: White House ready to bargain over expanded Child Tax Credit,”by Adam Cancryn: “The White House has privately signaled to Democrats that it would support a compromise deal to revive the expanded Child Tax Credit, even if it includes work requirements it once opposed. … [S]hould the long-shot deal get done, it would pair a multiyear expansion of the Child Tax Credit’s benefits sought by Democrats with a set of corporate tax breaks that Republicans and business groups want to include into a year-end bill.”
“Save whales or eat lobster? The battle reaches the White House,”The Guardian
D-TRIPLE-CHECKING — House Democrats still haven’t figured out their next DCCC chair yet, with California Reps. AMI BERA and TONY CÁRDENAS interviewing with incoming House Dem leader Hakeem JeffriesNick Wu and Ally Mutnick report this morning. Various factions of the caucus are pulling in different directions — and Jeffries could end up picking someone else entirely.
TESTING THEIR LIMITS — “Term-limit plan sparks generational battle among House Dems,”by Nick Wu: “The vehicle for the grumbling is a recent caucus rules change proposal by Rep. BILL FOSTER (D-Ill.) that would act as a form of term limits, requiring any committee chief to survive a secret-ballot vote in order to serve more than three terms.” The plan has a familiar set f opponents: senior members of the congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses.
THE LONG ARM OF #METOO — Tackling intimate partner violence, workplace sexual harassment and military sexual assault has emerged as an underdiscussed area of fruitful bipartisan collaboration in Congress this year, The 19th’s Grace Panetta reports this morning.
MR. SMITH (ALMOST) GOES TO WASHINGTON — Though he’s still in Europe recuperating from an injury, DOJ special counsel JACK SMITH is barreling full steam ahead on the criminal investigations into Trump, CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Kristen Holmes, Paula Reid and Jeremy Herb report. More details: “Smith is expected to set up a physical office for the two investigative teams away from the downtown Justice headquarters … Smith will operate more like a US Attorney … rather than as a de facto-department head like [ROBERT] MUELLER.”
THE GOP RESPONSE — Some staunch Trump allies in Congress are attacking the Justice Department’s investigations into the former president — but other Republicans are stepping away, preferring to focus on other areas of oversight, WaPo’s Jackie Alemany, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey report.
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
COMMITTEE LATEST — The House Jan. 6 committee wrapped up its meeting Sunday weighing the possibility of criminal referrals, CNN’s Annie Grayer, Zachary Cohen, Pamela Brown and Paul LeBlanc report. But “it is unclear if those recommendations were officially adopted. A source described the meeting as ‘successful’ but did not elaborate.”
— The panel’s forthcoming report “will begin with a voluminous executive summary describing former President Donald Trump’s culpability for his extensive and baseless effort to subvert the 2020 election,” Kyle Cheney and Nick Wu report this morning. With eight chapters and thousands of footnotes, the draft report will likely be approved at a Dec. 21 meeting.
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
ON THE HORN — Biden and Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY had a call Sunday to discuss the war and American support for Kyiv, the White House announced. More from Reuters on Zelenskyy’s “diplomatic flurry” Sunday
WAR REPORT — U.S. forces killed two Islamic State fighters in Syria on Sunday, the Pentagon announced. The commandos’ principal target was a man who used pseudonym Anas and was reportedly “involved in plotting and enabling terrorist attacks,” per the NYT.
— But as Islamist militants gain ground in West Africa, the U.S. and Western allies are working to halt their advance in Niger, WSJ’s Michael Phillips reports from Ouallam, “a test ground for the U.S. strategy of deploying relatively small numbers of American troops — there are around 800 now in the country — to train local forces.”
SEEKING JUSTICE — The news that Lockerbie bombing suspect ABU AGILA MASUD is in U.S. custody came as a sudden jolt of relief to many loved ones of the hundreds who died 1988, Olivia Olander reports.
HOW YELLEN DID IT — Yellen,Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN and other U.S. officials had to work hard to get holdout Poland to sign off on the West’s plan for a Russian oil price cap, WSJ’s Andrew Duehren and Laurence Norman recount. Originating partly as an idea of MARIO DRAGHI, the deal involved months of work and then plenty of last-minute scrambling and negotiations. Ultimately, they got “a tool unlike any previous Western penalty on an oil-rich nation.”
HOSTAGE TRADE FALLOUT — “How Politics Compounded a Hostage Family’s Grief,”by The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott Calabro …“Sources describe Paul Whelan for Viktor Bout trade Trump says he turned down,” by the Washington Examiner’s Katherine Doyle … “‘The Merchant of Death Is Back in Action,’”by Elaine Shannon in POLITICO Magazine … “After the honeymoon, former detainees say, comes ‘surviving survival,’”WaPo
ANNALS OF DIPLOMACY — Reps. TROY CARTER (D-La.), JAMES McGOVERN (D-Mass.) and MARK POCAN (D-Wis.) met with Cuban President MIGUEL DÍAZ-CANEL and other top Cuban officials in a visit to Havana, per the AP.
A message from Instagram:
YELLEN TALKIN’ — Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN sounds hopeful that inflation will ease next year without torpedoing the labor market, in a new “60 Minutes” interview with CBS’ Norah O’Donnell.
CAN POWELL PULL IT OFF? — As the Fed meets again this week to raise interest rates, a surprising confluence of positive economic news has raised hopes that the central bank might actually be able to steer the economy to a fabled “soft landing,” Victoria Guida reports. There’s a long way to go on inflation. But after months of rate raises, “[t]he damage to financial markets and the broader economy has been relatively modest, and inflation is showing signs of easing.”
Related reads:“Investors Grow More Confident Fed Will Pull Off a Soft Landing,” WSJ … “Fed’s Message That Rates Will Stay on Hold for ‘Some Time’ Clashes With 2023 Rate-Cut Bets,”Bloomberg
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
Karen Bass, the first Black woman elected Los Angeles mayor, left, is sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris, a longtime friend and former California attorney general in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. | Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo
MADAM MAYOR — KAREN BASS was sworn in Sunday as the new mayor of Los Angeles, and an emergency declaration on homelessness in the city will come Monday as her No. 1 priority, the L.A. Times reports. “The goal of the emergency order will be to speed up and centralize the process of deploying resources to help get money appropriated and resources redirected to addressing the homelessness crisis.”
THE PIPELINE — “Thousands of Teens Are Being Pushed Into Military’s Junior R.O.T.C.,”by NYT’s Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Ilana Marcus in Detroit
WINTER IS COMING — “Hospitalizations signal rising COVID-19 risk for U.S. seniors,”by AP’s Carla Johnson and Laura Ungar
TWEETING THROUGH IT, PART I — Liberals in D.C. hate ELON MUSK’s new ownership of Twitter — but most of them aren’t planning to leave, citing few good options, NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald and Scott Wong report. Said MOLLY JONG-FAST: “Until there is a viable alternative, I will be at Twitter and you will have to pry my fingers from my phone.”
TWEETING THROUGH IT, PART II — In case there was any question about how right-wing Musk has personally become, his controversial, trollish tweet Sunday morning cleared matters up: “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci.”
THE VIEW FROM 1600 PENN — “Why The White House isn’t stressed about Elon Musk’s Twitter,”by Semafor’s Max Tani: “Biden’s team believes Twitter is largely valuable for just two things: Selling its message to journalists and other influential figures. Encouraging friendly activists to put pressure on those elite voices. … The administration does not consider Twitter a vital part of any political strategy that reaches beyond the chattering classes.”
POLITICO’s exclusive interview with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will take place on Thursday, January 19 at 1:30 PM EST – live from the Davos mountaintop. Register today to join us online.
Brian Mast tried to call out Sheila Jackson Lee for having a flag in a trash bin, but she retorted that it was being transported as part of an office move by the Architect of the Capitol, not her office.
OUT AND ABOUT —Tom and Susie Kahn hosted a dinner at their home Sunday night honoring and thanking Lithuanian Ambassador Audra Plepyte, whose country has a close relationship with Freedom House. SPOTTED:Mike Abramowitz, Michael Chertoff, Jane Harman, Richard and Faith Morningstar, Sushma Palmer, Mark Goodman and Bob Dickie.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Sharon Yang is joining the White House Counsel’s Office as deputy comms adviser, where she’ll be a spokeswoman on oversight issues. She is a Building Back Together, Kamala Harris, Jon Ossoff and Tim Kaine alum.
— Warwick Sabin is now VP of public affairs and comms at Interfaith America. He most recently has been executive director of strategic engagement at the Aspen Institute, and is a former Arkansas state legislator.
TRANSITIONS — Roy Loewenstein is now press secretary for oversight at the Department of Education. He most recently was deputy comms director for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). … Dezenhall Resources is adding Patrick Burgwinkle as VP (previously at the DSCC), Annie Moore as senior director of digital (previously at the Republican State Leadership Committee), Mark Emerson as director (previously at Proof Strategies), and Kaci Donegan as associate, and shifting Eric Dezenhall to chair, Steven Schlein to CEO, and Fred Brown and Mike Bova to SVPs. …
… Dan Crawford is now VP for public affairs at SKDK. He previously was national press secretary and director of campaign comms at the Hub Project. … Tahra Jirari is joining Bullpen Strategy Group as media relations director. She previously was a comms associate at the Niskanen Center. … Demri Scott is joining ANSER’s team at the Pentagon as an OSD legislative analyst. She previously was military legislative assistant for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
BIRTHWEEK (was Sunday): Megan Capiak
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Cassidy Hutchinson … Lanny Davis … Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson … Christian Martinez of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office … Targeted Victory’s David Pasch … Broderick Johnson … POLITICO’s Taylor Miller Thomas and Yu Wu … Becky Perlow … Nora Boustany … Peter Fenn … Ed Senn … Charli Huddleston of the National Association of Manufacturers … Bret Wincup … Jeff Burton … Google’s José Castañeda (3-0) and Nick Pearson … Lawrence Duncan of Monument Advocacy … Fox Business’ Liz Claman … former Reps. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) and Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) … Rebecca Neale … Jamie Brown Hantman … Todd Bertoson of Capitol Hill Policy Group … Danny Russel … Tina-Maria Henry … Tanner Hishta … Dawn Laguens … Maren Hesla … Riley Nelson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation … AP’s Seth Borenstein
Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.
A message from Instagram:
Teens’ experiences on Instagram should be positive and supportive.
That’s why we have tools to help teens see less sensitive content and help them spend less time on our platform.
Learn more about our tools and set them up today.
© 2023 POLITICO LLC