DEBT CEILING. “Speaker Kevin McCarthy urged the White House in a letter sent Tuesday to start more robust negotiations over raising the nation’s borrowing limit, the first major action in weeks on either side of the debt ceiling issue,” CNN reports.
“I don’t see how we get there. And this is a marked change from where I’ve been. I don’t even see a path to a debt ceiling agreement.”— House Financial Services Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), quoted by Punchbowl News, in what was termed a Kevin McCarthy-approved message.
Punchbowl News: “McCarthy is considering having the House pass a short-term debt limit increase – just a few months long – with some modest budgetary savings provisions attached. This move would, in House Republican leadership’s view, put the ball in Senate Democrats’ court. If this tactic works, a default on the federal government’s $31.4 trillion debt would be avoided and Republicans could still keep the pressure on Democrats for a permanent solution.”
“House GOP leaders also believe they’ll need to lift the debt limit by June, just six weeks after Congress returns from this upcoming recess.”
Playbook: “Democrats and the White House will continue to demand McCarthy lay out and pass a budget to prove that he’s even worth negotiating with, we’re told. There’s a concern that even if Democrats cut a deal with McCarthy, he won’t be able to deliver votes given his limited hold on the GOP conference.”
Punchbowl News: “House Republican leadership sources tell us that the House may not adopt a budget resolution before the federal government reaches the deadline this summer for defaulting on its $31.4 trillion debt.”
“House Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington (R-TX)… insists that his goal is to pass a spending blueprint. But it’s become increasingly clear that Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his top lieutenants would struggle to pass such a plan on the floor before the debt-limit deadline. It would be a very tough vote for vulnerable House Republicans with a lot of political downsides.”
“Here’s the catch – Biden has said that he wouldn’t negotiate with McCarthy until the House GOP releases a spending blueprint. And he wants the debt limit lifted with no preconditions. So what happens if House Republicans don’t do their own budget?”
“In the federal budget standoff, the majority of U.S. adults are asking lawmakers to pull off the impossible: Cut the overall size of government, but also devote more money to the most popular and expensive programs,” the AP reports.
“Six in 10 U.S. adults say the government spends too much money. But majorities also favor more funding for infrastructure, health care and Social Security — the kind of commitments that would make efforts to shrink the government unworkable and politically risky ahead of the 2024 elections.”
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), who’s feuding with other House Republicans over immigration legislation plans, issued an ultimatum: “Bring unchristian anti-immigrant bills to the floor and I am a NO on the debt ceiling.”
MANHATTAN GRAND JURY. The Manhattan grand jury did not meet on Wednesday and won’t hear evidence in the Donald Trump “hush money” case on Thursday, NBC News reports. This suggests there will not be a vote on criminal charges this week.
“The Manhattan grand jury examining Donald Trump’s alleged role in a hush money payment to a porn star isn’t expected to hear evidence in the case for the next month largely due to a previously scheduled hiatus,” Politico reports.
“The break would push any indictment of the former president to late April at the earliest, although it is possible that the grand jury’s schedule could change. In recent weeks, the Manhattan district attorney’s office hasn’t convened the panel on certain days. But it is District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prerogative to ask the grand jury to reconvene if prosecutors want the panel to meet during previously planned breaks.”
“The Manhattan grand jury that has been weighing potential ‘hush-money’ charges against Donald Trump since mid-January could have voted Monday — we just wouldn’t know it yet,” Insider reports.
“If they’ve already voted to indict, the district attorney’s office does not need to file the indictment immediately. Instead they could slow-walk the post-vote process for days, forestalling the moment when Trump is officially indicted, as is in their discretion and power to do, the experts said.”
Last week, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan and other House GOPers sent the Manhattan DA’s office a series of letters demanding testimony from DA Alvin Bragg about supposed shady coordination between the DAs office and the Biden DOJ — an assertion that traced neatly back to Trump. Jordan sent the letter less than 24 hours after Trump posted on Truth Social, elevating some Deep State conspiracy theory about the Biden DOJ planting anti-Trumpers in the DA’s office.
Of course, there’s no evidence of this at all — but it gave House Republicans an easy narrative to seize and act upon. (The letter was so over-the-top misleading that Bragg’s office, which rarely speaks about this case publicly, responded to the letter with a statement saying it wouldn’t be “intimidated” by the House GOP’s various attempts to run interference for Trump.)
At the time, Democrats like Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) were openly disturbed about what looked like direct coordination between the Trump team and House Republicans’ investigative priorities. Raskin told WaPo’s Greg Sargent this: “This is an extreme move to use the resources of Congress to interfere with a criminal investigation at the state and local level and block an indictment,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, told me. He likened the aggressive GOP enforcement of absolute “impunity” for Trump to “the kind of political culture you find in authoritarian dictatorships.”
Then the New York Times reported last week that the coordination between Trump’s legal team and House Republicans might run even deeper than previously reported: “Mr. Trump’s lawyers have quietly pushed the Republican-led House to intervene. Last month, a Trump lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, wrote to Mr. Jordan calling on Congress to investigate the “egregious abuse of power” by what he called a “rogue local district attorney,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The New York Times.”
That leads us to Tuesday, when CNN published an in-depth look at the extensive coordination between Trump’s team and top Republican members of Congress on issues not just tied to the House GOP’s latest attempt to probe Bragg’s investigation into Trump and the Stormy Daniels hush money payments. Donald Trump himself is not only in direct communications with influential members of the new House majority, like House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, but some House Republicans are taking it upon themselves to keep Trump personally apprised of the status of their investigations.
This bit from CNN is worth the read: “Stefanik and Trump spoke several times last week alone, where she walked him through the GOP’s plans for an aggressive response to Bragg.
GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who serves on the House Oversight Committee, which is conducting a number of investigations into President Joe Biden, also speaks to Trump on a frequent basis. Both she and Stefanik have endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential bid and are said to be interested in serving as his running mate.
“I keep him up on everything that we’re doing,” Greene told CNN. “He seems very plugged in at all times. Sometimes I’m shocked at how he knows all these things. I’m like, ‘How do you know all this stuff?’”
Multiple sources tell CNN that Trump and House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan speak regularly but declined to divulge whether those conversations included Jordan’s investigative efforts.”
A nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 54 criminal cases where Donald Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
“A Donald Trump supporter protesting the Manhattan district attorney’s probe of the former president pulled a knife on a family with two small children Tuesday outside Manhattan Criminal Court,” Politico reports.
Stormy Daniels is set to host a Q&A on her OnlyFans account ahead of a possible indictment of Donald Trump over paying her hush money to stay silent about their relationship.
MIKE PENCE. “A federal judge has ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to appear in front of a grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, sweeping aside two separate legal efforts by Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump to limit his testimony,” the New York Times reports.
“The rulings on Monday, by Judge James Boasberg in Federal District Court in Washington, were the latest setback to bids by Mr. Trump’s legal team to pare back the scope of the questions that prosecutors can ask witnesses close to him in two grand jury investigations.”
While the former Veep was granted an exemption from providing records and testifying about his official duties as president of the Senate, D.C. Chief Judge James Boasberg ruled that Pence must testify about conversations he had with Trump leading up to the insurrection.
“Mike Pence on Wednesday hinted that he may not pursue a legal battle to avoid testifying in the Justice Department’s criminal probe into Donald Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election,” the HuffPost reports.
Said Pence: “I have nothing to hide. I have written and spoken extensively about that day. At the end of the day, we’ll obey the law.”
NASHVILLE SHOOTING. ‘We’re Not Gonna Fix It’ This nihilistic take is brought to you by none other than Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) in response to the school shooting in his state Monday. Burchett argued that there’s nothing the government can do to stop school shootings because “criminals are gonna be criminals.”
“It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” Burchett told reporters. “And we’re not gonna fix it.”
“My daddy fought in the Second World War, fought in the Pacific, fought the Japanese, and he told me … ‘Buddy, if somebody wants to take you out and doesn’t mind losing their life, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do about it,’” he added.
Burchett also argued there’s not “any real role” for Congress to play in addressing gun violence, other than to “mess things up.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) has called for prayers in the wake of Monday’s deadly mass shooting at a Nashville elementary school, while noting that “there will be a time to talk about the legislation,” ABC News reports.
Tim Miller: “In Tennessee as of April 1, you can bring a loaded firearm to brunch without a permit but a guy could not dress up like Dolly Parton and sing Jolene without risking a misdemeanor.”
“Nashville police released footage Tuesday from body-worn cameras that depict officers confronting and opening fire on a heavily armed shooter who killed three children and three adults at a private Christian school there Monday,” the Washington Post reports.
“I think the things that have already been done have gone about as far as we’re going to with gun control.”— Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), on CNN.
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) described the school shooting in his home state as “a horrible, horrible situation,” but it’s not something he thinks Congress needs to address, USA Today reports.
Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) called Tuesday for armed officers in every school, Iowa Capital Dispatch reports.
Said Hutchinson: “My belief is that every school should have armed personnel. Ideally, it’s a school resource officer or a trained law enforcement officer, but in Arkansas we have allowed some of our rural schools to have training for the personnel there so that they can be able to respond in the event something happened.”
“President Biden said that he’s exhausted what he can do through executive action on gun control as he called on Congress to act following the nation’s latest mass shooting,” USA Today reports.
Said Biden: “I have gone the full extent of my executive authority, to do on my own anything about guns. The Congress has to act. The majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre, a crazy idea. They’re against that.”
He added: “I can’t do anything except plead with Congress to act reasonably.”
DOMINION v. FOX NEWS. Dominion indicated in a court filing this week that it wants some of Fox News’ most well-known figures to testify in person when the voting machine company’s defamation case goes to trial. Among those Dominion is interested in grilling IRL: hosts Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo, Laura Ingraham, and Bret Baier, as well as Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott and Fox News president Jay Wallace.
The company also said that it wants to hear from Abby Grossberg, the Tucker Carlson and Maria Bartiromo show producer who sued Fox News last week arguing her employer’s attorneys tried to force her to take the blame for the network repeatedly surfacing lies about the 2020 election.
“Lawyers for Fox News were met with skepticism Tuesday when they argued that Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch should be excused from testifying in court as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the company,” NBC News reports.
The supposed reason for why Murdoch can’t testify in person? The 92-year-old just got engaged and is going to be traveling more in the coming year.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) congressional Twitter account was restricted Tuesday after she shared an image about a “Trans Day of Vengeance,” the Daily Beast reports.
“Idaho already has some of the most extreme abortion restrictions on the books, with nearly all abortions banned in the state and an affirmative defense law that essentially asserts any doctor who provides an abortion is guilty until proven innocent,” the HuffPost reports.
“And now Idaho Republicans have set their sights on hindering certain residents from traveling out of state to get an abortion.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) told Punchbowl News that he’ll go to the Senate floor on Wednesday to seek unanimous consent on his bill to ban TikTok from operating in the United States.
Rep. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced in the Louisville Courier Journal that he opposes a ban on TikTok, calling it a form of censorship that would “emulate China’s speech bans.”
“If we really want to keep our children safe, we need to spend less time banning books and more time stopping the horrific gun violence in our schools.”— Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), on Twitter.
President Biden on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “walk away” from his current judicial overhaul legislation, saying he was “very concerned” about the health of Israeli democracy, and warning that Israel “cannot continue down this road,” the Times of Israel reports.
Biden also gave an emphatic “no” when asked whether he would be inviting Netanyahu to the White House, adding: “Not in the near term.”
Associated Press: “The exchange was a rare bout of public disagreement between the two close allies and signals building friction between Israel and the U.S. over Netanyahu’s judicial changes, which he postponed after massive protests.”
“President Biden urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a strong private message to halt his government’s judicial overhaul just hours before Netanyahu went on television and announced the suspension of the controversial plan,” Axios reports.
“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Tuesday that unless his nation wins a drawn-out battle in a key eastern city, Russia could begin building international support for a deal that could require Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises,” the AP reports.
“He also invited the leader of China, long aligned with Russia, to visit.”
Wall Street Journal: “As the war continues into its second year and Western sanctions bite harder, Russia’s government revenue is being squeezed and its economy has shifted to a lower-growth trajectory, likely for the long term.”
“The country’s biggest exports, gas and oil, have lost major customers. Government finances are strained. The ruble is down over 20% since November against the dollar. The labor force has shrunk as young people are sent to the front or flee the country over fears of being drafted. Uncertainty has curbed business investment.”
“The U.S. has stopped sharing information about its strategic nuclear stockpile with Russia in response to Moscow’s decision last month to suspend its participation in a treaty that limits the deployment of atomic warheads,” Politico reports.
“Republican lawmakers in Kentucky on Wednesday swept aside the Democratic governor’s veto of a bill regulating some of the most personal aspects of life for transgender young people — from banning access to gender-affirming health care to restricting the bathrooms they can use,” the AP reports.
“The votes to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto were lopsided in both legislative chambers — where the GOP wields supermajorities — and came on the next-to-last day of this year’s legislative session.
“More than two decades after Congress voted to green-light the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Senate voted 66-30 to revoke the law that authorized military operations for that war,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The bill now heads to the House, where it has bipartisan support but isn’t guaranteed to get a vote, due to continued opposition from some Republicans.”
“Alarmed by an even faster than expected slide in the number of babies born in Japan last year, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is preparing a policy package he says is a last chance to keep society functioning,” Bloomberg reports.
Edward Luce: “If the US has taken to heart one big lesson in the 21st century, it is that democracy is not created at gunpoint. The 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion reminded Americans of that. It does not follow that the safe space of Zoom will fare better.”
“President Joe Biden’s second summit for democracy, which is taking place this week, is both virtual and surreal. Among the participants are India, which is in the process of jailing opposition leader Rahul Gandhi on a trumped up defamation ruling; Israel, whose leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, wants to shut down judicial independence; and Mexico, whose leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is trying to end free and fair elections. With friends such as these, democracy hardly needs enemies.”
“Biden’s aims are noble, and it is noteworthy that neither Hungary nor Turkey, regarded in Washington and western Europe as illiberal democracies, was invited. But the president’s means are open to doubt.”
Associated Press: “China’s global campaign to win friends and influence policy has blossomed in a surprising place: Utah, a deeply religious and conservative state with few obvious ties to the world’s most powerful communist country.”
“An investigation by the Associated Press has found that China and its U.S.-based advocates spent years building relationships with the state’s officials and lawmakers. Those efforts have paid dividends at home and abroad, the AP found: Lawmakers delayed legislation Beijing didn’t like, nixed resolutions that conveyed displeasure with its actions and expressed support in ways that enhanced the Chinese government’s image.”
“Its work in Utah is emblematic of a broader effort by Beijing to secure allies at the local level as its relations with the U.S. and its western allies have turned acrimonious. U.S. officials say local leaders are at risk of being manipulated by China and have deemed the influence campaign a threat to national security.”
“Democrats are betting that the road back to the House majority rests with voters who care about abortion access — especially in blue states like New York,” Politico reports.
“The party lost seven battleground congressional seats in the Empire State, four of which were flipped from blue to red in 2022 — in addition to a handful of others in strongly blue California, New Jersey and Oregon. While advocates for abortion rights organized around specific constitutional or legislative abortion bans in swing states in 2022, many expect the priority of the issue to become more widespread next cycle.”
“Donald Trump finally returned this week to his old stomping ground, Fox News, after several months away,” the New York Times reports. “The chilly reception from some of his one-time media allies underscored his uneasy place at the moment in Republican politics.”
Aaron Blake: “Donald Trump’s long-awaited return to Fox News’s airwaves on Monday night after a months-long absence occasioned an altogether familiar exercise: His longtime ally Sean Hannity helpfully tries to coach him to give the right answers, and Trump utterly fails to oblige. A telling exchange results, but not in the way the host intends.”
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