The Hill’s Morning Report — Congress is running out of time for big fiscal deal

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The Hill's Morning Report — Congress is running out of time for big fiscal deal

The clock is running out for Congress to fund the government and avoid a shutdown by Friday at midnight. With the holidays fast approaching, lawmakers are facing a familiar time crunch on two must-pass bills — an omnibus government funding bill and the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Of the two bills, the NDAA is one step closer to passage. Its record $858 billion in spending priorities cleared the House on Thursday. The omnibus spending bill, however, is a different story (Vox). 

As congressional leaders and the White House struggle to reach a deal on a massive government funding package, they’re warning that Congress will almost certainly need to pass a short-term measure to avert a shutdown. While lawmakers had hoped to wrap up their work in the lame-duck session by Friday, they are now making plans to stay around right up until the Christmas weekend.

The two parties have yet to settle on top-line spending numbers for the omnibus bill set to fund the federal government through the fiscal year that ends in September 2023; without the numbers, appropriators cannot finalize the details. Currently, a $26 billion difference in domestic spending divides the two parties, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) the vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told NBC News. It’s a small piece of the $1.5 trillion package, but while Democrats want parity between domestic and defense spending, the GOP is seeking to reduce that number because of billions in new spending Democrats passed this Congress for inflation reduction and COVID-19 relief.

“We haven’t reached an agreement, we’re not near an agreement, but the circumstances are there … that we could reach one,” Shelby told NBC News. “Now, will it be before the 23rd? I don’t know that. The time compresses the schedule.”

While Senate Democrats are set to unveil their own funding bill through the fiscal year today in hopes of ending the stalemate, Congress is likely to pass a stopgap spending measure for one week to buy lawmakers more time to strike a deal — and extend their funding deadline to Dec. 23 (NBC News and Roll Call).

The New York Times: Leaders back away from raising the debt ceiling, punting the clash to the new Congress.

CNN: Democratic lawmakers make last-ditch effort to enhance child tax credit.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol is increasingly turning to the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a potential partner for carrying out its mission once the panel dissolves. While the two investigative teams have at times been at odds over the last year and a half, The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch reports the committee’s tune is changing. 

“If they would want to talk to some of our investigators or members of the committee, I think part of our duties and our oath of office is that we have to cooperate. And I see that cooperation being ongoing,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters Thursday. “If they have a particular interest in a subject or a subject matter, then we will be as cooperative as we can with respect to sharing it.”

The turf battle over transcripts is about to end with the release of the committee’s report on Dec. 21, when the panel plans to make public much of the evidence it has collected, including interviews and depositions with more than 1,000 witnesses. It will be the final official act of the committee, as its mandate ends with the release, but members hope to see their work live on through the Justice Department, a point made clear by the panel’s plans to make criminal referrals.

The Hill: GOP members who rebuffed Jan. 6 panel may face referral to ethics panel.

The Hill: Former US attorney predicts DOJ “on a path” to charge former President Trump.

Meanwhile, searches for an alternative to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) Speakership bid are slowly building momentum. As The Hill’s Emily Brooks reports, McCarthy faces possible hurdles on both sides: from his fiercest detractors who are teasing that there are viable GOP consensus substitutes and from a bipartisan contingency candidate if McCarthy cannot win the gavel after multiple ballots in the new GOP-majority House next month.

“If somebody were to come out now and we didn’t deliver enough votes to stop Mr. McCarthy, that there would be a real potential for blowback,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus who has mounted a protest challenge to McCarthy for the House GOP nomination. “They want to be very careful. So I think I think people are interested. They’ve expressed it to some of us … I think people are being wary.”

McCarthy needs a majority of those voting for a Speaker candidate to win the gavel on Jan. 3, but with just a slim majority of 222 Republicans to 212 Democrats and one vacancy in the new Congress, five or more members voting against him could keep him from the gavel or force multiple ballots for Speaker — a situation that hasn’t happened in 100 years.

Politico: Wanted by McCarthy critics: 1 qualified alternative speaker. His conservative opponents are making a lot of noise, but whether they can stay organized ahead of Jan. 3 is another matter.


Related Articles

NBC News: Republicans struggle in the Southwest as Latino voters stick with Democrats. “The GOP could potentially lose the Southwest for decades to come” if it doesn’t take a different tack with Latinos, one independent pollster in the region said.

The Washington Post analysis: The big Republican Latino realignment didn’t happen in 2022. What now?

The New York Times: After the midterm elections, abortion rights advocates hope to harness public support for the long term, while opponents look to advance new laws in sympathetic courts and legislatures.


LEADING THE DAY

MORE POLITICS

It’s a tale of two men vying for the 2024 presidential election, writes The Hill’s Amie Parnes. President Biden hasn’t officially announced another White House bid, but his informal reelection rollout is in motion — and things have generally been going his way since the midterms gave Democrats a lift. Trump, meanwhile, announced he was running for the White House again days after the midterms but has spent the ensuing weeks mired in negative headlines. 

Recent polls show Biden ahead of Trump in a potential match-up. A Marquette Law School poll out earlier this month showed Biden leading Trump, 44 percent to 34 percent. But Biden’s lack of official announcement and potential indictments facing Trump is sure to throw more curveballs into an already-tense rematch between the two politicians. 

And as The Hill’s Brett Samuels reports, four weeks after declaring his 2024 White House bid, Trump appears so far to be a candidate in name only. He has not held any formal campaign events. He has not traveled to early voting states, made any major staffing announcements or done much of anything to scare off would-be rivals.

“His announcement and post-announcement period went terribly,” one former Trump campaign adviser told The Hill.

The Hill: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) rejects Trump as leader of the party.

Politico: Why the Republican Party just can’t quit Trump. Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele talks about why the former president and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel are unlikely to pay the price for the party’s recent losses.

The Washington Post: Congressional Republicans divided on attacking Trump investigations.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) stole Democrats’ thunder after winning the Georgia runoff and expanding their majority by announcing Thursday that she will leave the Democratic Party to become an Independent, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, in a power play that may increase her leverage in the Senate but almost certainly complicates her path to reelection and further strains relations with the Democratic base. 

John LaBombard, a former senior adviser to Sinema, said her exit could “reset” expectations of how she will vote, which could ease some of the tensions that built up between her and Democrats when she broke with them on tax policy and Senate rules reform. 

“There’s some part of this I think could really serve as a helpful reset in expectations in the Democratic Party and Congress as a whole, and a good reminder that diversity of thought and opinion is okay,” he told The Hill. “Both parties for long-term success should really think hard about the kind of expectations they put on their more independent-minded members.”

Sinema’s decision is already having a significant impact on Arizona’s Senate race in 2024, writes The Hill’s Julia Manchester. While it remains unclear whether the senator will even run for reelection in two years, her announcement means Republicans and Democrats in the Grand Canyon State are already having to recalibrate ahead of what is expected to be a bitterly fought contest.

“It’s a new game of chess for Democrats and Republicans about how do you actually play the game to be successful statewide,” said Lorna Romero, an Arizona-based Republican strategist, who worked on the late Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2016 reelection bid.

Roll Call: What Sinema’s party switch means for the next Congress and 2024.

Politico: “She was likely going to lose her next primary, and that’s why she’s doing this. It’s not a principle change,” Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” noting that Sinema has voted with Senate Democrats in the vast majority of instances.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) wants to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to try to help his party regain control of the House in 2024. The Hill’s Rafael Bernal recently profiled the lawmaker, speaking to colleagues and fellow Democrats about his career and DCCC prospects.

​​“I’ve been fortunate to have a front row seat to Tony’s career in public service, from managing his first campaign for California State Assembly in 1996 to now serving together in Congress,” Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) told The Hill. “In his decades in office, he has never forgotten Pacoima and the working class community we come from in serving as their voice at all levels of government.”

ADMINISTRATION

The U.S.’s increased efforts to assist Ukraine and other Eastern European countries in shoring up their cyber defenses amidst the war appear to have been successful in countering destructive Russian cyberattacks and mitigating their impact, writes The Hill’s Ines Kagubare. Beyond Ukraine, the recent cyber investments seem to have helped countries such as Estonia and Ukraine, which have both reported that they’ve successfully thwarted cyberattacks launched by hackers tied to Russia. 

“My sense is that the U.S. and the U.K. have both been pretty helpful when it comes to hardening Ukraine’s cyber defenses during the war and have been reasonably successful at their counter maneuvers as well, including things like removing Russian malware from machines and helping thwart attacks on Ukraine’s electric grid,” Josephine Wolff, an associate professor of cybersecurity policy at the Tufts University Fletcher School, told The Hill.

The front lines in the war between the West and Islamic extremists have shifted to Africa, from Somalia on its eastern tip to the West African Sahel, a semidesert strip south of the Sahara. It’s in the Sahel where the U.S. and its allies are betting that Niger offers the best hope of stopping the seemingly relentless spread of al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Hundreds of American troops are joining Western allies in Niger to block the terrorist groups from advancing violence and influence in West Africa (The Wall Street Journal).

Axios: Biden’s overseas mining funding.

The New York Times: Vice President Harris swears in Karen Bass as Los Angeles’ mayor.


IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL

While more Russian drone strikes continued to destroy Ukraine’s electricity grid, Kyiv’s military demolished a hotel complex hosting dozens of Russian military personnel between Saturday and Sunday, using U.S.-supplied long-range artillery.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 1.5 million people in his country’s southern region were left without power after strikes late Saturday. Only critical infrastructure remained connected to the power grid, he said, adding that restoring service could take longer than after previous attacks (The Wall Street Journal).

Zelensky spoke with the leaders of the United States, France and Turkey ahead of planned Group of Seven (G7) and EU meetings today that could set further sanctions against Russia. Biden told Zelensky during a call on Sunday that the administration was prioritizing efforts to boost the country’s air defenses, the White House said. Zelensky said he thanked Biden for the “unprecedented defense and financial” aid from the United States has provided (Reuters).

CNBC: China expands hospitals and ICUs as it faces COVID-19 surge.

CNN: A Libyan man accused of being involved in making the bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988 is now in U.S. custody.

Reuters: EU chiefs shocked by European Parliament corruption probe.

Last week, security forces raided more than 150 targets in one of postwar Germany’s biggest counterterrorist operations. By Friday, 23 members of the cell had been detained across 11 German states, while 31 others were placed under investigation. The police discovered stashes of arms and military equipment as well as a list of 18 politicians and journalists they deemed enemies.

Among them was Prince Heinrich XIII, the 71-year-old descendant of a 700-year-old noble family, who was arrested last week as the suspected ringleader of the plan. The New York Times reports that, nostalgic for an imperial past, he embraced far-right conspiracy theories.


OPINION

■ The great delusion behind Twitter, by Ezra Klein, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3Fkq0zZ 

■ A question to conservative Christians on gay marriage: Why draw the line here? by E.J. Dionne, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3VQJhjk


WHERE AND WHEN

🎄 A note to readers: Morning Report will be helmed through Dec. 22 by The Hill’s Kristina Karisch; co-writer Alexis Simendinger will wrap up a newsy 2022 by taking a holiday break. 

👉 The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.

INVITATION: Join a newsmaker event hosted by The Hill and the Bipartisan Policy Center on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m. ET (hybrid), “Risk to Resilience: Cyber & Climate Solutions to Bolster America’s Power Grid,” with. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Energy Department Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response Director Puesh Kumar and more. Information for in-person and online participation is HERE.

The House will convene at noon. 

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Tamika Montgomery-Reeves to be a U.S. circuit judge for the 3rd Circuit.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8:45 a.m. At 12:40 p.m., he and First Lady Jill Biden will participate in a United States Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots event in Arlington, Va.

The vice president will be in Washington and has no public schedule.

The first lady will participate in the Toys for Tots sorting event with the president. At 6 p.m., she will host a virtual appreciation event for educators with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov at 1:30 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., Blinken will participate in a memorandum of understanding signing ceremony with the Tent Partnership for Refugees at the State Department. At 6:30 p.m., he will speak at a State Department reception for African innovators as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 3 p.m. 


ELSEWHERE

TECH

Twitter announced it will relaunch its subscription service today, although prices will be higher for Apple users in an apparent jab at the tech giant’s fees on in-app purchases. The social media company said users can subscribe to Twitter Blue, which includes a blue checkmark, editing abilities and 1,080-pixel video uploads, for $8 per month if purchased through the web and $11 per month if purchased on an Apple device.

CEO Elon Musk has taken aim at Apple’s 30 percent commission on in-app purchases, calling it a “secret 30% tax” in a tweet late last month (The Hill).

“Literally 10 times higher than it should be,” Musk said of the fee in May.

Fortune: Musk demands Twitter employees pledge they won’t leak information to the press — and is threatening to sue them if they do.

CNN: Musk says Twitter is rolling out a new feature that will flag “shadowbanning.” It’s complicated.

Business Insider: Musk says his politics are in the center but extremism experts say he’s using Twitter to increasingly empower right-wing viewpoints.

Hiring in tech, information and media is at its lowest level since July 2020, according to a Thursday report from LinkedIn, which points to “a painful recalibration of a sector that saw massive hiring gains throughout the pandemic.” And an NBC News tally of layoffs at companies that cut 100 people or more shows that about 91,000 people have lost their jobs in the tech industry this year.

Some would-be tech workers told NBC News that given the turmoil, they’re shifting plans at least slightly by entering adjacent fields, and they’re preparing themselves for a potentially exhaustive job search.

The Wall Street Journal: Survival lessons from past tech downturns.

The New York Times: Tech layoffs in the U.S. send foreign workers scrambling to find new jobs.

PANDEMIC & HEALTH 

As COVID-19 cases surge nationwide alongside unseasonably severe waves of flu and respiratory syncytial virus, state health officials are warning people that time is running out to get vaccinated before gathering with family over the holidays. While experts say this winter’s COVID-19 surge may be more mild, they worry whether hospitals — already dealing with staffing shortages — can handle the increased caseload from the “tripledemic” of viruses.

Nearly 30,000 people currently in the hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up 30 percent since Thanksgiving. A little more than 13 percent of Americans over the age of 5 have gotten their updated booster vaccine since it was released in September, according to the CDC (Politico).

“The situation in the hospitals is grim,” David Scrase, secretary of the New Mexico Health and Human Services Department, told Politico. “The death toll from this very serious virus continues to go up and really, hopefully, will create a sense of urgency in individuals and families to think about getting access to vaccines and also to treatments, should you test positive for coronavirus.”

The Hill: COVID-19, RSV or flu? How to tell the symptoms apart.

CNN: Face masks come back to forefront amid triple threat of COVID-19, flu, RSV.

Los Angeles Times: How to avoid COVID-19 and the flu this holiday season.

Information about COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot availability can be found at Vaccines.gov.

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,084,440. Current U.S. COVID-19 deaths are 2,981 for the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The CDC shifted its tally of available data from daily to weekly, now reported on Fridays.)


THE CLOSER

And finally … 🚀 It’s back! NASA’s Orion spacecraft is back on Earth after its journey around the moon. The crewless rocket — which NASA launched into orbit on Nov. 16 after multiple technical and weather delays  — landed in the Pacific around noon on Sunday, just off the coast of San Diego. 

The 322-foot Artemis I rocket bolted skyward in November at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., lifting the uncrewed Orion capsule on a 1.3 million-mile trek that looped twice around the moon. At the conclusion of its 25 ½-day mission, the capsule slowed from a dizzying 25,000 mph to just 300 mph after it entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

The capsule’s successful reentry brings to a close the space agency’s first Artemis mission, which was designed to test some of the technology needed to one day send people to the surface of the moon (Axios and Florida Today).

“The latest chapter in NASA’s journey back to the surface of the Moon comes to a close,” NASA spokesman Rob Navias said during the webcast of the splashdown. “Orion is back on Earth.”


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