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Democrats defend some GOP members against Q label


The calls for civility within the GOP are being wiped away after Donald Trump attacked Mitch McConnell as a “dour, sullen, unsmiling political hack.”

More on that in a minute. But first…

SCOOP: The House Democratic campaign arm’s plan to label the GOP as the GQP — the party of QAnon — is getting some push back. Not all Democrats agree with this broad attack, with multiple Democrats telling your Huddle host a few Republicans are being unfairly targeted.

They say most House Republicans absolutely deserve to be hammered with this message come 2022. But some GOP members stood up against the dangerous conspiracy theories from the start and are still being targeted by the DCCC.

“I want to see the Democrats and DCCC hold ourselves to a higher standard relative to truth, relative to fact and relative to principle,” Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) told me. “And should we forget the consequences of misinformation, then we become culpable.”

They are defending one Republican colleague in particular: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a moderate who co-sponsored a bill last year that put the House — including his own GOP colleagues — on record condemning QAnon. (Fitzpatrick won reelection by more than 13 percentage points.)

“Brian is a friend of mine,” added Phillips. “He’s a man of principle, a man of decency and the furthest from QAnon supporter.”

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) echoed this sentiment, while noting that he had first-hand experienced QAnon-inspired attacks from the GOP campaign arm. And while he says many deserve to be hit with the Q-attack, Malinowski says he wouldn’t agree “in any way” that Fitzpatrick is one of them.

“It’s totally fair to say House Republicans stood with QAnon after the majority of them voted with a QAnon-inspired mob against certifying the election,” Malinowski told your Huddle host. “I have zero sympathy for groups like NRCC complaining about this ad, given how they’ve used the actual QAnon messaging in their own ads.

“But Congressman Fitzpatrick was one of just three Republicans who stuck his neck out to sponsor my resolution condemning QAnon last year,” he added.

While those who are concerned by this approach appeared most passionate about defending Fitzpatrick, one Democrat noted Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) is also unfairly being hit with these ads.

The DCCC ad, which targets seven House Republicans and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, says the GOP members “stood with Q, not you,” because they voted against impeaching Trump after the Capitol insurrection. This includes Fitzpatrick and Bacon.

Fact Checked: “But none of the targeted Republicans is known to be an actual supporter of QAnon,” according to FactCheck.org, which labeled the DCCC ads as “misleading.” The website noted Fitzpatrick, Bacon, and Rep. Young Kim (D-Calif.) supported a resolution to censure Trump for his role in the attack, but a censure resolution was a non-starter for Democrats.

Malinowski and Philips aren’t alone. And your Huddle host is told members have raised the matter with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the DCCC Chair, but he wouldn’t commit to changing their approach.

“It really made me uncomfortable when I saw that ad,” another Democrat member told me. “This idea that we can we should just contribute to an atmosphere where facts are just not even relevant — I don’t want to be the party that does that.”

The DCCC declined to comment.

A Democratic strategist pushed back on the criticism, telling your Huddle host that this is a shift in how Democrats are branding Republicans and the party believes it is effective, citing driven headlines for multiple weeks. It also helps that QAnon’s name I.D. is growing, and they also think it will help drive swing voters to their fold.

To some, pulling the QAnon attack ads on Fitzpatrick and others creates an asymmetrical dynamic. They feel the NRCC was indiscriminate in its attacks against Democrats for embracing “socialism” even if they were centrist. So if Republicans won’t play by these same standards, it has some Democrats thinking all is fair in politics and war. But others worry failing to step in could mean the moderates will disappear, leaving just the Trump-wing.

As the GOP debates its own future, Democrats are also trying to figure out not only how to keep a working relationship with the non-MAGA faction, but also help some of them.

For example: One Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who represents a District Trump won, tells me she received a quick-turn-around opportunity to cosponsor a bill. And knowing that it would turn into law, she reached out to Republicans who had stuck to their principles during impeachment last month. Ultimately, some ended up becoming cosponsors, giving them a legislative win.

HAPPY WEDNESDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill on this Feb. 17, where no good Zoom fumble goes without some sort of marketable merch.

TUESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The Hill’s story on the key players to watch in minimum wage fight was the big winner.

MITCH SLAP: Trump’s scorching attack on McConnell is the latest explosion in the heated debate about the party’s future.

My colleagues report Trump’s drafts were even more personal: “A person familiar with the crafting of the statement confirmed that it could have been far worse. An earlier draft mocked McConnell for having multiple chins, the person said. But Trump was convinced by advisers to take it out.”

But some are defending Mitch: “I personally showed Trump polling in the Oval Office that had Team Mitch up 20 points. He knows this isn’t true,” tweeted Kevin McLaughlin, who served as executive director of the NRSC for the 2020 cycle.

It has some Republicans with dual alliances feeling quite uncomfortable: “Mitch McConnell was indispensable to Donald Trump’s success…They’re now at each other’s throat. I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been. I don’t want to eat our own,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Hannity.

Graham’s unsolicited advice? “Kevin McCarthy is the leader of the House Republicans — he has taken a different approach to President Trump. I would advise Sen. McConnell to do that.”

Lots more here from Matthew Choi, Marianne, Meredith McGraw, and Gabby Orr on the highly personal attack: http://politi.co/3dl5vqc

Related Reads: Ron Johnson: McConnell doesn’t ‘speak for the conference’ on Trump’s culpability for riot by our Anna Kambhampaty: http://politi.co/3prBs2A | Ron Johnson and the emerging hoax-ification of the Capitol riot by WaPo’s Aaron Blake: http://wapo.st/37nHQBN

GUESS WHO’S BACK? BACK AGAIN: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer privately told Dems yesterday that earmarks are coming back this Congress and he is guaranteeing this effort will be bipartisan, two sources on the call told my colleagues Caitlin Emma and Heather.

A spokesperson for House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro says they will share more information “in the coming weeks.”

The background: “Appropriators hope to recast the politically taboo spending practice of earmarks — which propelled several scandals on Capitol Hill during the early 2000s — as funding for ‘community projects’ in an attempt to break from its reputation as wasteful and secretive. Through the appropriations process, Democrats could fund a limited number of local projects from specific pots of federal cash, while banning money from going to recipients like for-profit businesses,” they report.

More here: http://politi.co/3rYjyWW

TICK TOCK, TICK TOCK: Hoyer outlined the timeline in a new letter, which he previewed on call with Democrats, Heather reports.

-Next week Equality bill and then Covid relief

-3/1 Week: Police reform and H.R. 1 bill on voting rights

-3/8 Week: Final passage of Covid relief after it comes back from Senate (if needed)

What wasn’t mentioned? Immigration, though that was a topic on Democrats’ caucus call on Tuesday and it is something leadership has to decide in the next couple of weeks.

Speaking of: Democrats and Biden prepare to unveil bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, aiming beore April, CNN’s Pricilla Alvarez and Lauren Fox: http://cnn.it/3psQhlB

MIN WAGE, MAX BATTLE: President Joe Biden indicated during a Town Hall event Tuesday that he is open to negotiating on the proposal to raise the $15 minimum wage, a key part of his Covid relief bill, Wapo’s Erica Werner reports: http://wapo.st/3armQvR

Related Reads: ‘There is no next time’: Inside the left’s minimum-wage fight by The Daily Beasts’ Hanna Trudo and Sam Brodey: http://bit.ly/2Nwifjd | Small-business tax cuts eyed as sweetener for minimum wage boost by Roll Call’s Paul Krawzak: http://bit.ly/3dgVDxT

Not to mention: ‘Hell or high water:’ Manchin tells Biden he won’t back push to skirt Senate rules on relief bill by CNN’s Manu Raju and Ted Barrett: http://cnn.it/37n0M3z

SUE YOU: The NAACP, Dem Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and civil rights law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the former president, Rudy Giuliani and two groups — the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers — alleging that they conspired to incite the deadly riots on Jan. 6 in order to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election. Reps. Hank Johnson (Ga.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.) will join the litigation as plaintiffs in the coming days.

Our Maya King has the story: http://politi.co/3bbEqDj

RSVP: Two Senate committees have invited a series of top officials to testify in a joint hearing next Tuesday on the security failures behind the insurrection last month. They invited D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee, former Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, former House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, and former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund. Let’s see who says yes.

NO CONFIDENCE: Ninety-two percent — or 611 out of the 657 Capitol Police officers — voted no confidence in Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman.

The six other members of the leadership also received no confidence votes, including Assistant Chief Chad Thomas with 96 percent voting no confidence, 84 percent for acting Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher, 85 percent for Deputy Chief Timothy Bowen, 91 percent for Deputy Chief Jeffrey Pickett, and 64 percent for Deputy Chief Eric Waldow.

But it is TBD what comes next. Roll Call’s Chris Marquette has more here: http://bit.ly/3s0r5oi

BOLSTERED: White House backs bipartisan calls for independent panel to study Jan. 6 riot by our Nick Niedzwiadek: http://politi.co/3qoo54y

Related Read: 9/11 Commissioners warn Democrats: 1/6 Commission won’t be easy by Kyle: http://politi.co/3qtheqG | Assistant House speaker: Capitol riot commission needed for ‘truth and accountability’ by our Daniel Payne: https://politi.co/3pnlV3L

DIRE SITUATION: “A grandmother slept in her car. Parents who ran out of firewood burned belongings to keep their children warm. A Richardson resident watched the battery level of her partner’s oxygen machine drain away, and desperately sought help to have it recharged.” by The Texas Tribune’s Shannon Najmabadi and Marissa Martinez: https://bit.ly/3bgVVC8

OUT THERE VAXXING: Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), a physician, helps with Covid vaccinations by ABC 12’s Lucy Nelson and Sydney Basden: https://bit.ly/3s0kRoq

CABINET CORNER:

The Senate HELP Committee has scheduled a hearing for next Tues, Feb. 23, on ⁦Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s nomination to be Biden’s HHS Secretary.

Ali Pardo is now PAC and political comms director for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). She previously was deputy comms director for the Trump campaign.

Doug Dziak is now senior counsel for the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. He most recently was general counsel and staff director for the Senate Budget Committee. …

Eric Heighberger is now minority policy director for the House Homeland Security Committee after most recently serving as COS at FEMA.

Scott Friedman, the deputy assistant secretary in the DHS planning office’s trade and economic security division, has joined the House Homeland Security Committee as a senior adviser to ranking member John Katko (R-N.Y.).

Anna Lenhart, a former TechCongress fellow in the office of Rep. David Cicilline, started Tuesday as senior legislative assistant on the staff of Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.).

The House is out.

The Senate is also out.

11 a.m.: The House Armed Services Committee will have a hearing on “Update on the Department of Defense’s Evolving Roles and Mission in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

12 p.m.: The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) holds its virtual “Emerge Latino” conference, beginning at noon, February 17-18 featuring various lawmakers.

1 p.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) holds a webinar on “The Path to Artemis III: Future of Human Deep Space Exploration,” focusing on “the role of Marshall Space Flight Center and greater Huntsville’s industrial capabilities in developing the necessary technology and hardware for sustained U.S. lunar operations” featuring guests including Rep. Terri Sewell, (D-Ala.) and Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.).

TUESDAY’S WINNER: Casey Burgat was the first person to correctly guess that Sen. Edmund Ross (R-Kansas) cast the deciding vote. He was expected to vote against President Andrew Johnson up until the night before the final roll call. (Quite a few noted in email that Johnson wasn’t impeached. The question was about the deciding vote in the 1868 Senate trial. He survived by just one vote.)

TODAY’S QUESTION: From Casey: With Sens. Tim Scott, Cory Booker, and Raphael Warnock, there are currently three serving black U.S. Senators. From the 1st Congress (1789-1971) up until the 106th Congress (1999-2001), which decade saw the most black senators serve in the U.S. Senate and how many served?

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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