The real point of the GOP’s narrow coronavirus bill
with help from Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle
THE STATE OF NAY -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has teed up a Thursday vote on the GOP’s new “skinny” coronavirus stimulus bill, even as the Kentucky Republican is still working to lock down GOP support for the targeted package. The measure, which carries a price tag of around $500 billion, includes $300 per week in extra unemployment insurance, liability protections for employers that reopen during the pandemic, and a two-year tax credit for school choice, among other things.
But Democratic leaders rejected the “emaciated” proposal before the text was even released, setting up a showdown on the Senate floor later this week. Here is the joint statement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: "Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere. If anyone doubts McConnell’s true intent is anything but political, just look at the bill. This proposal is laden with poison pills Republicans know Democrats would never support.”
Of course, McConnell was not expecting this narrow bill to advance in the Senate. He is merely trying to unify his own party behind a stimulus proposal — something Republicans have so far struggled to do. So Thursday’s vote will not only provide some cover for vulnerable Republicans while forcing Democrats to go on the record opposing the bill, but it could also give the GOP more negotiating leverage if they finally succeed in coalescing around a plan.
But it’s an open question of whether 51 Republicans will vote for the bill, though top GOP lawmakers are predicting they’ll get there. An official whip count hasn’t been conducted yet, but at least one Republican — Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — has signaled he will vote against the measure over fiscal concerns. What to watch for: the GOP will meet today for the first time since the August recess. More on the state of play from Marianne and Bres: https://politi.co/2Zg56h2.
Related read: “GOP proposes ‘targeted’ virus aid, but Dems say not enough,” via the AP’s Andrew Taylor: https://bit.ly/2R5IH1l.
SLIDE TO THE LEFT? -- The Congressional Black Caucus was already undergoing a seismic shift, with the death of giants like John Lewis and Elijah Cummings. But there’s another force of change afoot in 2020: The election of Black progressives eager to shake up the establishment.
Insurgent candidates — like activist Cori Bush, who recently defeated Missouri Rep. Lacy Clay, a Black Caucus member — could mean big changes for the venerated institution that’s long valued seniority, Sarah and Heather report. Already, some tensions have begun to show. This summer, progressive Jamaal Bowman joined a CBC call to introduce himself shortly after he took down Rep. Eliot Engel in the Bronx. Days later, Bowman endorsed Bush — over the CBC incumbent — and outraged some of his likely new colleagues in the caucus.
Senior CBC members and aides say the new voices only make them more influential in the long run, especially if Joe Biden wins the White House and the Black Caucus yields even more power. Others argue that the talk from candidates is nothing new. “I’ve heard some of the newer people saying, ‘I’m going to go in and change the Democratic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus.’ Of course, we’ve heard that many times before,” said veteran Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “I don’t think there is any chance that somebody is going to come in and alter the direction of the Black Caucus.” The smart dispatch: https://politi.co/2R56EWO.
CASH DASH -- The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raked in $22.6 million last month —a record-breaking August fundraising haul for the campaign arm. The DCCC announced the massive haul following a private caucus call yesterday with House Democrats, where DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos touted the fundraising numbers but also warned that the RNC is “picking up the slack” where the NRCC has fallen short.
What else was said during the call: the DCCC highlighted new potential pick-up opportunities in CA-50, CO-03 and NY-01; expressed concern about the QAnon-supporting candidates running in the GOP; pointed to African American voters as key to winning some frontline races; and warned that results might not be available on election night, according to two sources on the call (h/t Heather Caygle).
Related read: “Poll: Race to replace Hunter in virtual tie,” from the ABC News affiliate in San Diego: https://bit.ly/35hKxVp.
MEANWHILE, in the battle for the upper chamber … “Control of Senate to Ride on Trump’s Fortunes,” via WSJ’s Natalie Andrews and Gabriel T. Rubin: https://on.wsj.com/3bJdlqT.
HAPPY WEDNESDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this September 9.
TUESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: Axios’s report on House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy warning against Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting drew the most clicks.
STRANGE SPENDING -- GOP Rep. Mike Turner is coming under scrutiny for spending campaign funds on hundreds of trips to restaurants — and occasionally to stay at lavish hotels. The story from our Ally Mutnick: “He has spent over $70,000 from his campaign account since 2017 to fund meals at some 370 meetings. The individual receipts are fairly modest in most cases — typically ranging from $12 to a few hundred dollars. But together, ethics watchdogs say, they suggest a consistent pattern: Turner uses his donors to subsidize his personal dining costs, expensing an average of two meals a week.
“Turner, a nine-term member who represents southwestern Ohio, is already facing increased scrutiny as he prepares for what might be his toughest reelection campaign since he was first elected in 2002. House Democrats are targeting his district, which President Donald Trump carried by 7 points in 2016, and he was outraised last quarter by his Democratic opponent, Desiree Tims. In a statement, Turner denied any impropriety and called the story ‘a political hit job initiated by my opponent.’” More: https://politi.co/3iiGRGw.
Related read: “Internal review: Hagedorn’s ex-chief of staff funneled printing contracts to brother, Hagedorn employee,” via Daniel Newhauser for the Minnesota Reformer: https://bit.ly/3iek3Yx.
PUFF, PUFF, PASS THE BILL -- House Democrats are pressing ahead with a landmark vote to decriminalize marijuana next week, framing it as a racial justice issue. But the push to legalize weed could also backfire in November, according to Paul Demko and Natalie Fertig. Here’s why: “It’s landing in the midst of a stalemate between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House over a new coronavirus aid bill, raising worries about the optics of focusing on marijuana during a pandemic.
“Republicans mocked Democrats at the Republican National Convention for declaring cannabis businesses essential enough to remain open during the early days of the pandemic, and repeatedly ridiculed them for including a provision to give banks legal cover for serving the marijuana industry in their most recent coronavirus relief bill.” More: https://politi.co/33r8UgX.
HILL HAPPENINGS -- NIH Director Francis Collins and Surgeon General Jerome Adams will testify in front of the Senate HELP committee at 10 a.m. today on “Vaccines: Saving Lives, Ensuring Confidence, and Protecting Public Health” … The House Select Committee on Coronavirus will hold a hearing at 1 p.m. today on holding a “free, safe and fair” election during the pandemic, which will feature testimony from actress and activist Kerry Washington, among others.
TOP-ED -- “Make the Senate Great Again,” by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for WSJ: https://on.wsj.com/35ofl6P.
IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREENE -- GOP congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene is once again under scrutiny for her controversial comments: this time, for bucking CDC guidelines and arguing that "children should not wear masks” because they are "unhealthy for their psychological, emotional, and educational growth" and "forcing boys to wear masks is emasculating." More on that from CNN’s Alex Rogers: https://cnn.it/2Zmj29d.
Your Huddle author doesn’t quite know how to evaluate some of what Greene says. Is this real or just for effect? Greene has embraced QAnon conspiracy theories and made racist remarks, but she also has said she wants to amass a social media following that competes with the progressive “squad.” However, there is at least one thing your Huddle host does know: this is going to be a huge problem for House Republican leaders, who are going to be constantly asked to answer for Greene’s behavior once she becomes their colleague. And it’s clear Greene has no plans to soften her rhetoric anytime soon.
In other Georgia congressional news … “After Ralston endorsement, dozens of lawmakers back Collins,” from AJC’s Greg Bluestein: https://bit.ly/3hkAxx6.
R.I.P. -- “Capitol Hill’s stalwart ‘Jesus Lady’ dies at 92,” by Roll Call’s Katherine Tully McManus: https://bit.ly/3k4SlOb.
POSTAL PROBLEMZ -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on the Postal Service board to suspend Postmaster General Louis DeJoy following a WaPo report that he pressured employees at his former logistics company to make campaign donations on behalf of GOP candidates. "The Postal Board of Governors should suspend Mr. DeJoy as postmaster general while these serious allegations are under investigation,” Schumer said on the floor.
Meanwhile, here is what Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) had to say about the DeJoy allegations, per the always amazing Hill pool: “Well, I mean, let's see where that goes. … If they were proven to be true that would be a serious matter, but I think until we kind of trace that down and figure out exactly what the facts are, it's probably hard to draw conclusions too quickly.”
Related read: “Meadows signals DeJoy will cooperate with congressional investigation,” via The Hill’s Brett Samuels: https://bit.ly/3bEmdhs.
Catherine Edmonson started on Monday as an associate at Teneo. She most recently was chief of staff for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).
Patrick McCormick returned to the staff of the Senate Energy Committee, where he will serve as special counsel. McCormick, who had served as chief counsel, left the committee in 2018 to join the private sector as regulatory vice president for a manufacturer of fuel cells.
The Senate gavels in at 10 a.m. to resume consideration on the nomination of Brett H. Ludwig to be U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. At 11:15 a.m., the Senate will proceed to three roll call votes. The Senate will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for the weekly party luncheons.
The House is out.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation holds its virtual 50th Annual Legislative Conference beginning at 11 a.m.
MONDAY’S WINNER: Patricia Bieze was the first person to correctly name Everett Dirksen as a former Senate minority leader who died while in office. He was replaced as minority leader by Hugh Scott Jr.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From Patricia: Name the Postmaster General who served under Presidents Washington, Adams and Jefferson and started a small government-run stage coach line between Philadelphia and Baltimore. The service ran so well that Congress considered expanding it from Maine to Georgia. The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess to [email protected].
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