Democrats have a simple message for Senate Republicans: get on board with our Covid relief plan, or get stand back. One way or another, they say, they’re moving forward with passing a massive coronavirus package.
But their decision to move full speed ahead comes as moderates from both parties are calling on them to slow their roll and instead seek a bipartisan agreement, which they argue is possible despite Republicans already rejecting President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid proposal.
Here is the state of play of the next coronavirus aid package.
GOP WHO? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in separate press conferences Thursday that they could begin moving towards the reconciliation process as soon as next week.
In other words, Democrats would skip around securing GOP support.
“The Senate, as early as next week, will begin the process of considering a very strong Covid relief bill,” Schumer said, noting a preference to reach a bipartisan agreement with the GOP. “But if our Republican colleagues decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will have to move forward without them.”
NOT SENATE-IN-STONE: The plan to turn to bypass Republicans using the reconciliation process is not locked in just yet.
Senate Democrats and Biden officials, who hopped on a call Thursday to talk about their next steps, have not made a final decision about their next steps and whether they will ditch the GOP or keep seeking their support, sources tell Heather and Burgess.
MODERATE MODERATORS: Moderates, meanwhile, are urging negotiations to continue as the parties seek to iron out large differences on the cost and scope of the next Covid bill.
Biden is involved. My colleagues also report that he is working to recruit moderate Republicans to join their Covid push, like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. And a bipartisan group of senators continue to meet and hold discussions about the coronavirus legislation.
But Dem leaders appear skeptical and increasingly dismissive about holding out for a deal, with Pelosi insisting they can’t wait much longer. (Flashback to the last $900 billion coronavirus relief package, which took months of negotiations to break through the gridlock…)
And there are also signs Democrats are not willing to bend much on their big Covid bill, with Schumer calling for “only big bold action” to respond to the crisis and dismissing the possibility of “dramatically” cutting up Bidens $1.9 trillion dollar package.
TURNING UP THE PRESSURE: The two newly elected Dem senators from Georgia — Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock — are pushing their Dem colleagues and Biden administration officials to swiftly pass a new round of stimulus checks, the Post reports.
Ossoff and Warnock in a call Thursday underscored that they believe their campaign promise to secure a new round of stimulus checks helped them win their seats — and thus the Senate majority — and so they want to see the newest round of checks sent out pronto. WaPo’s Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein with the story: http://wapo.st/36mpgtv
Related: Jayapal pushes Biden to go further on progressive priorities by our Ben Leonard: http://politi.co/36iIct1
REDLINE FOR REPUBLICANS?: Republicans are warning that if Democrats move forward with the forceful reconciliation approach, then they would only undercut Biden’s ability to have bipartisan cooperation down the line.
“That would be a big mistake this early on,” warned Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). And Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is not seeking reelection next year, told NPR in an interview that Democrats would poison the well with reconciliation and “set the tone for the administration.”
An important point to keep in mind: Democrats can only use the reconciliation tool a handful of times this year. And in doing so, they could anger Republicans who they need to work together with at some point in the coming months as other major agenda items pop up, say immigration or infrastructure.
HAPPY FRIDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill on this Jan. 29, where something “remarkable” has finally happened in recent days that isn’t totally divisive.
THURSDAY’S MOST CLICKED: Channel 3 crew’s story about being threatened with arrest after asking Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene a question during town hall meeting was the big winner.
A Capitol and nation divided:
TENSIONS ARE SKY HIGH: If you haven’t picked up on it already, the tensions are at a new high in Congress following the insurrection, impeachment, and other ugly partisan clashes that only added to the sense of distrust and betrayal among lawmakers.
It is so bad that some are afraid to be in the same room as one another. Some lawmakers are refusing to work with some of their colleagues across the aisle. And Pelosi has also claimed that “the enemy is within.”
“This is a real tension,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who was in the House chamber on Jan. 6. “I don’t know if that’s repairable.” More here from colleagues Sarah and Melanie: http://politi.co/36msoW9
NO GREENE SCREEN HERE: It was no secret that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was going to be controversial. But just weeks after being sworn in, the storm is building around the freshman after old posts calling for violence against Dem leaders came to light as well as a video of her peddling a false conspiracy theory that the devastating 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary was a hoax.
Pelosi went after House GOP leaders on Thursday for elevating Greene to the House Education Committee, particularly in light of her Sandy Hook comments, arguing that she should not be seated on the key panel. “It’s absolutely appalling,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi and other Dems are turning up the pressure on Republicans to take action against her and her long record of extremist comments. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) is planning to introduce a privileged resolution to expel Greene from office, meaning it will receive a floor vote as early as next week. While it is unlikely Democrats will secure the two-thirds support needed in the House, every GOP member will have to go on the record when it comes responding to Greene’s outlandish remarks.
Democrats are weighing other measures as well. Sarah and Melanie have the details: http://politi.co/36oVLXX
AS former Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) highlighted, members have been booted off of committees for far less: “I was once stripped of a committee assignment for voting differently from Paul Ryan on a budget resolution.”
Related Reads: GOP ignored its early fears about Marjorie Taylor Greene scoops Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene: http://bit.ly/3cm3dqo | Big campaign donors stick by election denier Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene by Daniel Newhauser in the Georgia Recorder: http://bit.ly/3t6sRFH
MURDER, SHE WROTE: Another congressional confrontation escalated on Thursday after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) not only dismissed working with Sen. Ted Cruz to probe the actions of the Robinhood app, but also suggested that Texas Republican “almost” had her “murdered 3 weeks ago” with his actions over challenging the 2020 election certification.
It didn’t stop there. Cruz responded by saying this partisan anger isn’t healthy. And his former staffer, now Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), demanded in a letter addressed to Pelosi that the New York progressive apologize “immediately” for “in essence” accusing Cruz of murder. Or, he said, they “will be forced to find alternative means to condemn this regrettable statement.” Our Ben Leonard has more: http://politi.co/3acl9kF
A BIG SHORT: Key congressional leaders and lawmakers across the political spectrum are in agreement: They want to have hearings to examine why the platforms like Robinhood chose to essentially freeze individual investors from purchasing GameStop and AMC stock, while hedge fund companies and other big investors were able to keep making bets about the downfall of the volatile stocks, which were skyrocketing due to a Reddit forum. More here from Politico’s Kellie Mejdrich on how GameStop furor has united AOC, Trump Jr. and Cruz alike: http://politi.co/36mB6DM
FLOODGAETZ ARE OPEN: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) took his effort to oust a fellow GOP colleague to new heights on Thursday when he led an anti-Rep. Liz Cheney rally in front of the Wyoming state capitol building, firing off one insult after another.
Trump is all on board. Gaetz told Playbook’s Tara Palmerijthat Trump helped him with his speech the night before the rally. With Trump’s greenlight, it’ll be interesting to see how McCarthy responds, if at all, after he warned GOP members that he won’t put up with Republicans publicly attacking one another. But yes, McCarthy was totally ignored here.
SAYIN’ LATA TO MY HATAS: How freshman Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) feels about the people coming at him over his impeachment vote: https://bit.ly/3ac5ulw
TRUMPISM STILL ON THE TICKET: The various battles unfolding on Capitol Hill all largely start and end with Donald Trump. And guess what? He isn’t going anywhere.
McCarthy met with Trump Thursday to discuss how they will work together to win back control of the House in 2022. The GOP leader, after condemning Trump for failing to tell a dangerous mob to stand down as people blood spilled in the Capitol, is still bowing to the former president, asking for his help in the upcoming elections.
If that isn’t a clear sign about how much support Trump still has in the party, then you’re not paying attention. This is still Trump’s party, plain and simple. More here from our own Gabby Orr and Meridith McGraw: http://politi.co/3osR1qu
Related Reads: McCarthy seeks thaw with Trump as GOP rallies behind former president by NYT’s Maggie Haberman: http://nyti.ms/3cmSNa6 | RNC invites Trump to speak at spring meeting by our Alex Isenstadt: http://politi.co/3r1UYnD
NOT UNIFYING ON FORTIFYING: There is a growing debate on the Hill about how fortified the Capitol complex should be after the deadly Jan. 6 attack, with some warning that permanently walling off lawmakers from the public is not the right approach as others push to boost safety measures.
Acting USCP Chief Yogananda Pittman on Thursday said the security around the Capitol needs “permanent fencing” and “back-up forces” that can help quickly respond as security threats arise.
Same page? These two?: GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) tweeted that she is “adamantly opposed” to this idea, which D.C. Mayor Murial Bowser separately echoed, also tweeting: “We will not accept extra troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture in DC.”
Caitlin Emma and Andrew have more: http://politi.co/2KYb1Dt
Related Reads: The House is boosting travel security measures for lawmakers amid heightened threats scoops CBS’s Rebecca Kaplan: http://cbsn.ws/3ah2wfh | Who could have predicted the Capitol riot? Plenty of people — including Trump allies by WaPo’s Aaron Blake: http://wapo.st/2Yqua44
FIRST IN HUDDLE: A handful of recognizable GOP freshmen firebrands — including Greene as well as Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo) and Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) — had all made separate pushes to be placed on the House Oversight Committee, your Huddle host is told.
All three, however, did not ultimately land spots on this requested panel, which was instead filled with more moderate rank-and-file GOP members.
There certainly was a draw for them. In addition to a broad jurisdiction, they would’ve also been able to pit themselves against members of the progressive Squad, like Ocasio-Cortez — a combination that would’ve surely created a perfect storm for hearings to devolve into partisan chaos.
NO SENATE RUNS HERE: Both Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) separately announced Thursday that they would not pursue a Senate bid in their respective states.
SPEAKING OF ‘RADO… Here’s another important story from Paul: U.S. Census delays are threatening to upend Colorado’s new redistricting process. http://bit.ly/39oJl4a
Samuel Negatu is joining the Biden-Harris Administration as Director of Congressional Affairs for the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). He previously served as Legislative Director for Rep. Jimmy Gomez, and as Legislative Counsel for Rep. Matt Cartwright.
Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) set his staff members, including John Rader as his Chief of Staff, Adam Telle as chief adviser, Clark Milner as his chief counsel, Judd Deere will serve as Deputy COS for Communications, Jim Durrett as Deputy COS for Operations, Julia Hahn as Senior Communications Advisor, Jonathan S. Greenstein as Senior Policy Advisor, Betsy Van Dam as Executive Assistant and Scheduler. (More here… GOP senator stocks office with 13 former Trump staffers by Daniel Lippman: http://politi.co/3pyd9Ru)
Sean Smith is leaving the private sector after a decade of serving as Sen. Tim Scott’s communications director, the longtime Hill staffer announced Thursday.
The House is out until 3 p.m. on Monday.
The Senate also stands adjourned until 3 p.m. on Monday.
Pretty quiet. And TBH, we all deserve a little quiet.
THURSDAY’S WINNER: Dan Cohen was the first person to correctly guess that NASA invited Sen. Jake Garn and Rep. Bill Nelson on two Space Shuttle missions in 1985 and 1986 in an effort to secure more funding. Garn and Nelson both served as subcommittee chairs on the Appropriations Committee and the position they both held was payload specialists.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From Dan: With the retirement of Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), a key bipartisan tradition begun by California Sen. George Murphy will pass into new hands in the next Congress. What critical position of institutional leadership does Sen. Toomey occupy, one also once held by Sens. John McCain, Rick Santorum and even appointed Sen. George LeMieux, that will pass on to a new Senator in the next Congress?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answer to [email protected].
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