After going 15 rounds to limp into the speaker’s chair shortly after midnight on Saturday, Kevin McCarthy won a first vote in a majority that is both narrow and bitterly divided. The House convened late yesterday afternoon to pass the rules package McCarthy hammered out with Freedom Caucus rebels.
The Rules Package passed 220-213, “largely along party lines, the House passed the rules under which it will operate for the 118th Congress,” the Washington Post reports. Repubican Tony Gonzales joined all the Democrats in voting no.
“Among the provisions: one that would make it easier for McCarthy’s detractors to start the process of removing him.”
“House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will face his first challenge in keeping his raucous conference united Monday, as Republicans aim to pass a rules package dictating the terms of the next session of Congress, a required step before moving on to legislation,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The package, which includes standard rules on decorum, also restores what is known as the motion to vacate the chair, a procedure that would allow one Republican member to ask for a vote to remove the speaker. It also outlines several key Republican priorities around spending, such as banning consideration of any bill that has the net effect of increasing mandatory spending. Both were added due to pressure from conservatives.”
“All Democrats are likely to vote against the rules package, so the vote will be the first indication of how Republicans will muscle through GOP-led legislation in the House, where they have a narrow majority of 222 Republicans to 212 Democrats, with one vacancy.”
Punchbowl News: “The rules package was at the center of McCarthy’s fight for the speakership. The 55-page document lays out the GOP priorities for the next two years and the procedures Republicans will use to run the chamber.”
“However, there’s also a secret three-page addendum that McCarthy and his allies hashed out during several days of grueling negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus. This pact includes the most controversial concessions McCarthy made in order to become speaker – three seats on the Rules Committee for conservatives, freezing spending at FY2022 levels, a debt-ceiling strategy, coveted committee assignments and more.”
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) told Fox News that he’s getting a seat on the Steering Committee in exchange for backing McCarthy for speaker.
Playbook: “The rules package that will govern how the House operates this session is scheduled for a vote this evening. It’s shaping up as McCarthy’s first big test in governing what is shaping up to be an ungovernable Republican majority.”
“The package is the closest thing to a contract drawn up between McCarthy and his internal critics. Alongside various side deals dealing with committee assignments, budget policy and other matters, the rules changes define the devolution of power away from leadership and towards the House Freedom Caucus. If tonight’s vote goes down, the entire project unravels.”
“McCarthy originally wanted to push the deal through the House immediately after members were sworn in on Saturday — the more scrutiny the rules package received the more difficult it would be to pass. But the late-breaking floor drama prompted a change of plans (and averted the hypocrisy of passing a package that includes a 72-hour-review rule for legislation just a few hours after it was revised.)”
Punchbowl News: “This is a tightrope walk. As with everything in this Congress, McCarthy, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer can only afford to lose four votes if they want to pass this package.”
Associated Press: “On Sunday, at least two moderate Republicans expressed their reservations about supporting the rules package, citing what they described as secret deals and the disproportionate power potentially being handed out to a group of 20 conservatives.”
“The concessions included limits on McCarthy’s power, such as by allowing a single lawmaker to initiate a vote to remove him as speaker and curtailing government spending, which could include defense cuts. They also give the conservative Freedom Caucus more seats on the committee that decides which legislation reaches the House floor.”
“They also raise questions about whether McCarthy can garner enough support from Republicans, who hold a 222-212 edge, on a critical vote in the coming months to raise the debt limit, given conservatives’ demand that there also be significant spending cuts, over opposition from the White House and a Democratic-controlled Senate.”
Wall Street Journal: “The full list of concessions hasn’t been released publicly and may never be, with some details still to be worked out, but here is what we know so far.”
“Let’s remember that a little temporary conflict is necessary in this town in order to stop this town from rolling over the American people.”— Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), quoted by The Hill.
The House may also this week take up measures on abortion restrictions and to create a “Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government” under the Judiciary Committee. The Senate convenes Tuesday for a pro forma session.
Playbook says the clock is ticking: “The concessions the California Republican awarded his critics to secure his position all but ensure that he will operate as speaker in name only. For the first time in decades, rank-and-file members will have as much power as their leader…
As far as we know, the “motion to vacate” has never successfully ousted a speaker, even though it’s been in existence for 200 years.”
That may change this year.
“Thousands of supporters of Brazil’s former president, Jair Bolsonaro, stormed the country’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential offices on Sunday to protest what they falsely believe was a stolen election,” the New York Times reports.
“It was the violent culmination of incessant rhetorical attacks by Mr. Bolsonaro and his supporters against the nation’s electoral systems.”
Wall Street Journal: “Television images showed protesters breaking windows inside Congress and swarming up the ramp at the entrance to the presidential palace, many dressed in Brazil’s green and yellow national colors, as riot police arrived on the scene.”
“Brazilian authorities were picking up pieces and investigating Monday after thousands of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace then trashed the nation’s highest seats of power,” the AP reports.
“The protesters were seeking military intervention to either restore the far-right Bolsonaro to power or oust the newly inaugurated leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in scenes of chaos and destruction reminiscent of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.”
New York Times: Masses arrested in Brazil after anti-democracy riots.
President Biden’s statement: “I condemn the assault on democracy and on the peaceful transfer of power in Brazil. Brazil’s democratic institutions have our full support and the will of the Brazilian people must not be undermined.”
New York Times: “At least 1,200 protesters were detained for questioning in the wake of the storming of Brazil’s capital buildings, a spokesman for the civil police said on Monday, as the authorities began dismantling the tent city where supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right former president, had been camping out since he lost October’s election.”
“Brazil’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered the removal of Brasília’s federal district governor from his post after thousands of protesters stormed the presidential palace a day earlier in what officials said was an attempt to overthrow the country’s newly-elected leftist president,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) said “that ousted Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro should be extradited from Florida after his radical supporters attacked key government institutions in Brasília over the weekend following his election loss,” the Washington Post reports.
Said Castro: “Jair Bolsonaro is in Florida, hanging out with Donald Trump. He’s a dangerous man. They should send him back to his home country of Brazil.”
“After watching supporters of former U.S. leader Donald Trump invade the U.S. Capitol two years ago, Democratic President Joe Biden is now facing mounting pressure to remove Bolsonaro from his self-imposed exile in suburban Orlando,” Reuters reports.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports Bolsonaro “has been admitted to a US hospital with severe abdominal pain a day.”
BBC: “How Trump’s allies stoked Brazil Congress attack”
BBC: “Mr Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was just one of several key allies of Donald Trump who followed the same strategy used to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 US presidential election.”
“And like what happened in Washington on 6 January 2021, those false reports and unproven rumours helped fuel a mob that smashed windows and stormed government buildings in an attempt to further their cause.”
Washington Post: How Bolsonaro’s rhetoric — then his silence — stoked Brazil assault.
“The Fulton County special grand jury that has spent the last eight months examining potential criminal interference in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election has completed its work and is being dissolved,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.
The judge “also scheduled a hearing on Jan. 24, during which parties — including the Fulton District Attorney’s office that advised the jury, the news media and, presumably, investigation targets — will argue whether the grand jury’s report should be made public. Jurors recommended that their report be published.”
“The grand jury’s final report, known as a special presentment, is expected to include a summary of its findings. It may also contain recommendations on whether anyone should be indicted, if a majority of jurors can agree.”
“A New York judge declined to throw out the state attorney general’s civil fraud case against former President Donald Trump, increasing the likelihood that he will face a trial this fall,” the New York Times reports.
President Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador will meet in Mexico City on Monday and Tuesday for a North American summit focusing on migration, trade, drug trafficking, and the continental economy.
“President Biden [made] his first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border since taking office, amid criticism from both parties of his immigration policy and as the administration begins a new push to drive down illegal crossings,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Associated Press: “Biden is due to spend a few hours in El Paso, Texas, currently the biggest corridor for illegal crossings, due in large part to Nicaraguans fleeing repression, crime and poverty in their country. They are among migrants from four countries who are now subject to quick expulsion under new rules enacted by the Biden administration in the past week.”
“The president is expected to meet with border officials to discuss migration as well as the increased trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which are driving skyrocketing numbers of overdoses in the U.S.”
Washington Post: “Three years after the novel coronavirus emerged, a new variant, XBB.1.5, is quickly becoming the dominant strain in parts of the United States because of a potent mix of mutations that makes it easier to spread broadly, including among those who have been previously infected or vaccinated.”
“China will soon be in sync with the rest of the world as Covid-19 becomes an endemic disease,” the South China Morning Post reports.
“China is battling unprecedented waves of Covid-19 infections after pivoting from its long-standing zero-Covid policy towards living with the virus. But the death toll remains unknown with Chinese authorities not reporting daily Covid cases since December 25.”
“Nearly half of top foreign policy experts think Russia will become a failed state or break up by 2033, while a large majority expects China to try to take Taiwan by force, according to a new survey by the Atlantic Council that points to a decade of global tumult ahead,” the Financial Times reports.
“Fighting raged in eastern Ukraine on Orthodox Christmas despite a Russian call for a cease-fire, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the largest package of military aid from the U.S. and its allies as ‘timely and strong,’” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“A Russian hacking team known as Cold River targeted three nuclear research laboratories in the United States this past summer,” Reuters reports.
Politico: “Top U.S. officials are increasingly tracking the movements and efforts of a Russian private military group outside of Ukraine as Moscow continues to use the organization to launch influence operations in Africa and Europe.”
“U.S. officials are also gathering intelligence related to the group’s activities in countries such as the Central African Republic, Mali and Serbia.”
A new study finds that “Russian influence operations on Twitter in the 2016 presidential election reached relatively few users, most of whom were highly partisan Republicans, and the Russian accounts had no measurable impact in changing minds or influencing voter behavior,” the Washington Post reports.
“Russian authorities on Monday announced parallel criminal probes against a famous actor critical of the war in Ukraine and a philanthropist who supports the Russian opposition, the latest in a months-long, sweeping crackdown on dissent,” the AP reports.
“The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear another longshot case alleging the 2020 election was fraudulent brought by a Utah man seeking to have hundreds of elected officials removed from office, including President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris,” CNN reports.
“The case had been dismissed by lower courts for various reasons, including a lack of jurisdiction. But it became a right-wing talking point in the run-up to the two-year anniversary of the January 6, 2021, insurrection because the justices discussed whether to hear it during their previously scheduled closed-door conference on the day of the anniversary.”
“A member of George Santos’ political team had a plan to raise money for the Republican congressman’s campaign: Impersonate the chief of staff of now House Speaker Kevin McCarthy,” CNBC reports.
“Wealthy donors received calls and emails from a man who said he was Dan Meyer, McCarthy’s chief of staff, during the 2020 and 2022 election cycles… His name was actually Sam Miele, and he worked for Santos raising money for his campaign.”
“The impersonation of the top House Republican’s chief of staff adds to an emerging picture of a winning congressional campaign propelled by fabrications and questionable tactics. Santos now finds himself in the sights of investigators and in danger of losing his political career even after he’s been sworn into office. In raising money for his campaign, Santos fed donors the same falsehoods he gave voters.”
“A complaint filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission accused Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who has admitted to fabricating key details of his biography, of wide-ranging campaign finance violations,” the Washington Post reports.
“The alleged wrongdoing includes masking the true source of his campaign’s funding, misrepresenting his campaign’s spending and using campaign resources to cover personal expenses.”
Joshua Green: “Experience has taught that writing off Trump is unwise, and governors who seem headed for the White House on a rocket ship often blow up on the launchpad. Even so, DeSantis’s showing offers a glimpse of what successful post-Trump Republican politics might look like: still combative and polarizing, still consumed with grievances, but less centered on Trump and more animated by issues and enemies that resonate beyond the MAGA base. What DeSantis has done as governor, and what he’s aiming to do in Florida’s upcoming legislative session, could have a lot more influence on Republican politics than Trump’s next controversy or legal travail.”
“As DeSantis moves toward a possible presidential bid, he’s expanding his fight against corporate America, this time going after big asset managers and Wall Street banks.”
“Florida has agreed to pay up to $1 million to two law firms to defend it following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial decision last summer to relocate nearly 50 Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard,” the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
“When combined, it represents a cost of around $35,000 for each migrant relocated through the program.”
The new subcommittee on “weaponization of the federal government” will be chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Axios reports. The new panel “will demand copies of White House emails, memos and other communications with Big Tech companies.”
Politico’s Kyle Cheney examines the role Jordan will plan in the new select subcommittee to investigate the investigators probing Jan. 6. The language creating the new subcommittee gives specific authority scrutinize “ongoing criminal investigations.”
As former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance notes: “This idea of “reviewing” criminal cases in progress is really about interfering with them & it violates separation of powers. MAGA Republicans know this. They’re setting up a situation where the AG will properly refuse to provide info, which they’ll use as a pretext to impeach.”
The Justice Department is unlikely to roll over and start providing investigative material in ongoing cases to the House GOP. There are serious separation of powers issues that should bolster Attorney General Merrick Garland’s resistance to this concerted attack on the rule of law.
But Jordan’s mission is still successful if he able to obscure, muddy and delegitimize the Jan. 6 investigations. With the House GOP complicit in the scheme that culminated in Jan. 6, these sorts of rearguard actions remain part of the original coup attempt. Now they’re aimed at preventing accountability. It’s part of the coverup.
It’s going to be a long two years.
The lack of regulations on the cameras showing the House floor last week was “a good thing,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) said Sunday, leaving himself open to the possibility of continuing to allow C-SPAN to document proceedings, Politico reports,
Said Roy: “Let me go look into the ins and outs of all of that. But I think it is — what the American people were able to see unfold on the floor was a good thing for our democracy and our republic, right?”
In one of their first acts in power, House Republicans removed the metal detectors outside the House chamber, USA Today reports. Meanwhile, Republicans are set to vote on a House Rules Committee package that will remove fines for members of Congress who fail “to comply with unscientific mask mandates and security screenings before entering the House floor.”
Joanne B Freeman at The New York Times: “This was far from the first time the House was mired in a stalemate over the speakership. It’s the 15th such battle in Congress’s history, and the ninth time that electing a speaker required more than three ballots.
Each of those times, the struggle was a litmus test of the state of party politics and the state of the nation. Our recent contest was much the same, exposing party fractures and irreconcilable differences, but unlike previous battles, it lacked a policy- and legislation-bound core. More than anything else, it was about power — a gap that reveals much about the state of the nation.”
Jim Tankersley at The New York Times: “Economists, Wall Street analysts and political observers are warning that the concessions he made to fiscal conservatives could make it very difficult for Mr. McCarthy to muster the votes to raise the debt limit — or even put such a measure to a vote. That could prevent Congress from doing the basic tasks of keeping the government open, paying the country’s bills and avoiding default on America’s trillions of dollars in debt.
The speakership battle that spanned more than four days and 15 rounds of votes suggested President Biden and Congress could be on track later this year for the most perilous debt-limit debate since 2011, when former President Barack Obama and a new Republican majority in the House nearly defaulted on the nation’s debt before cutting an 11th-hour deal.”
Charlie Sykes: “In the last several weeks, Donald Trump (1) expressed solidarity with the January 6 insurrectionists, (2) dined with a Neo-Nazi, (3) flung racial slurs at the wife of the senate GOP Leader, and (4) called for the termination of the Constitution so that he could be restored to power.”
“And, yet within minutes of being elected to the third highest Constitutional office in the land — in the early morning hours after the second anniversary of the attack on the Capitol — this is what My Kevin had to say: ‘I do want to especially thank Pres Trump. I don’t think anyone should doubt his influence. He was with me from the beginning. He was all in. What he’s really saying for the party and the country is we have to come together.’”
And then he took a selfie with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).