Editor’s note: The Hill’s Morning Report is our daily newsletter that dives deep into Washington’s agenda. To subscribe, click here or fill out the box below.
Congress has 99 days to avert a government shutdown.
With the September funding deadline creeping closer — and the upcoming summer recess reducing the number of days Congress will be in session — lawmakers must act quickly to avoid a possible shutdown this fall. With tensions still high following Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Biden’s bipartisan debt ceiling deal, the regular appropriations process in the coming months is sure to turn into a tense battle.
Senate and House Republicans are headed for a showdown over the National Defense Authorization Act as Senate Republicans on the Appropriations Committee are expected to push for more funding than what was agreed to in the debt-limit deal, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, while House Republicans are planning to pass their spending bills below the caps set in the debt limit deal. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is siding with defense hawks, declaring Wednesday the defense spending number in the Biden-McCarthy deal is “inadequate.”
But despite work on some spending bills, lawmakers have spent the past week concerned with other, more political matters.
The House on Wednesday voted along party lines to censure Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) over his work investigating former President Trump’s ties to Russia, the first time such an action has been brought against a lawmaker in the 21st century (CNN). And now, as some members of the House are calling for Biden’s impeachment, even Republican leaders in Congress seem to see the dangers in launching a hasty effort to do so.
House Republicans on Thursday neutered an effort to impeach Biden over his policies at the southern border, punting the resolution to a pair of committees and avoiding — for now — a politically perilous vote that threatened to split the GOP and undermine the party’s various investigations into the White House. The 219-208 party-line vote ended a two-day clash between GOP leaders and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), a conservative firebrand who stunned Washington Tuesday by introducing a procedural measure to force a floor vote on her impeachment articles despite McCarthy’s objections (The Hill and The New York Times).
As The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in The Memo, the dangers for the GOP are threefold in pushing impeachment so early. First, the effort could seem unfair in itself; second, it could discredit the work being done by Rep. James Comer’s (R-Ky.) Oversight Committee, which has launched broad investigations into the president and his family; and third, that voters could grow weary of such antics in a nation that faces much more substantive challenges.
But Boebert, undeterred, has promised to bring her resolution up “every day” if it looks like leadership is simply delaying. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — whose public feuding with Boebert is well-documented — has her own set of impeachment resolutions ready to go as well.
Republican strategist Dan Judy described the move as “frankly stupid,” adding, “the party needs to be focused on the problems facing Americans rather than this sideshow.”
Meanwhile, one mystery surrounding disgraced Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) was solved Thursday when a federal court on Long Island released the names of two individuals who backed his $500,000 bond. Santos had sought to keep their names secret, an unusual move in such cases.
One was his father, Gercino dos Santos Jr. The other was his aunt Elma Santos Preven. Their support allowed Santos to walk free after he was charged in May with 13 crimes including fraud, money-laundering and theft, to which he pleaded not guilty. The House Ethics Committee released a statement Thursday saying its investigation of Santos is running concurrently with the Justice Department’s prosecution (NPR).
▪ The Washington Post: Ethics panel expands Santos probe to include conduct covered in federal indictment.
▪ Politico: House fails to override Biden’s veto of bill repealing student debt relief.
▪ Roll Call: Senate Democrats reject measure to block pistol brace rule.
Over in the Senate, any chance that Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) will lift his hold on military promotions over the Pentagon’s abortion policy anytime soon has dimmed drastically as Senate Republicans struggle to make a deal with him to end the months-long saga, writes The Hill’s Al Weaver. The Senate Armed Services Committee this week failed to move along a bill that would have overturned the Pentagon’s policy that covers travel for military members to receive abortion services. Couple that with the bitter back-and-forth between Tuberville and the Biden administration and the lack of progress in talks with Republicans as the holds are set to enter their fifth month with no end in sight.
“Either side could make a move and right now neither side seems to think that these nominations are important enough to override the position that they find themselves in,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Hill. “So we’re at a stalemate.”
▪ The Hill: Supreme Court rules against Navajo Nation in Colorado River case.
▪ Vox: The Supreme Court’s latest opinion means innocent people must remain in prison.
▪ Politico: Meet Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the Freedom Caucus firebrand you may not know well — but should.
LEADING THE DAY
The GOP presidential field is beginning to look like an improvisational conga line.
“I didn’t expect to have 12 candidates in this race,” former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told Fox News while campaigning in New Hampshire on Thursday. He was asked about the newest rival in the pack, Will Hurd, a moderate Republican from Texas and former CIA agent, once the sole Black House Republican in Congress.
“Let’s see who catches on,” Hutchinson said, agreeing that the anti-Trump wing of the primary field has grown larger, sparking concern among rivals who oppose former President Trump that he could wind up the beneficiary amid aspirants who are governors (past and present), a former vice president, a mayor, a senator, a businessman and an ex-congressman (The Hill).
For about an hour Thursday, there were a few gasps when The New York Times reported that Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a Trump ally and former governor,was weighing whether to get into the presidential primary contest. It set off Sunshine State speculation about possible candidates for a Senate seat, and the Times’s Jonathan Swan tweeted that Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) was mulling the prospect. Scott quickly denied interest in a White House bid, saying he will stick with his quest for reelection to the upper chamber (The Miami Herald).
▪ The Associated Press: Biden today will receive reelection endorsements from three groups that support abortion rights.
▪ Politico: Biden can barely say the word, but “abortion” is set to define his 2024 pitch.
▪ The Hill: GOP presidential candidates try to navigate the abortion policy minefield.
▪ The Atlantic looks at the Democratic governor of Michigan: “Why not Whitmer?”
Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed a new era in their countries’ relationship Thursday, after the Indian leader made a White House visit and was honored with a state dinner. The two leaders touted deals on defense and commerce aimed at countering China’s global influence.
The U.S.-India partnership is “stronger, closer and more dynamic than at any time in history,” Biden told reporters at a joint press conference with Modi after the two leaders emerged from Oval Office talks where differences on Russia and human rights were on the table. Washington wants Delhi to act as a strategic counterweight to China, and while neither Biden nor Modi criticized Beijing directly, they alluded to its government (The Associated Press and Reuters).
“The dark clouds of coercion and confrontation are casting their shadow in the Indo Pacific,” Modi said Thursday to a joint session of Congress. “The stability of the region has become one of the central concerns of our partnership.”
Modi’s visit to the U.S. has not come without criticism. He has faced opposition over legislation amending India’s citizenship law to fast-track naturalization for some migrants, which excludes Muslims, and critics have noted a rise in violence against Muslims and other religious minorities by Hindu nationalists during his rule. A half-dozen progressive House Democrats boycotted Modi’s speech to Congress on Thursday, in protest of what they criticize as his abysmal human rights record (The New York Times).
▪ The Hill: Lawmakers, high-profile figures mingle at Modi state dinner, shying away from politics.
▪ The New York Times: How India profits from its neutrality in the Ukraine war.
▪ Reuters: The U.S. will ease visas for skilled Indian workers as Modi visits.
▪ NBC News: Biden says he sees “no real consequence” to calling Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator.” Earlier Thursday, the Chinese embassy said China’s ambassador to the U.S. has made “strong protests” to senior White House and State Department officials.
▪ The Hill: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says it’s “critical” to work with China after Biden calls Xi a dictator.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
As officials in Moscow said the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, will meet with nuclear authorities in Russia today, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Russian forces were preparing a “terrorist act” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest atomic power station.
Ukrainian “intelligence has received information that Russia is considering the scenario of a terrorist act at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — a terrorist act with the release of radiation,” Zelensky said in a Thursday video on social media. “They have prepared everything for this.”
Zelensky did not provide further details but said Ukraine would share “all the evidence” with Kyiv’s international partners — “all of them.” Moscow, meanwhile, rejected the claims (The Washington Post).
▪ The New York Times: Belarus is fast becoming a “vassal state” of Russia.
▪ Reuters: The Africans fighting on Russia’s front line in Ukraine.
▪ The Associated Press: Diplomats from Western countries, developing economies to meet in Denmark for Ukraine talks.
A Russian court ruled Thursday that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, accused of spying and imprisoned for three months, will remain in pre-trial detention (The Guardian).
A growing conflict between Kosovo and Serbia is threatening to become a major diplomatic crisis for the U.S. during an already tense time in Europe. As The Hill’s Brad Dress reports, with war raging in Ukraine, Washington is trying to deftly navigate a series of violent clashes and boiling tensions in the independent state of Kosovo, which remain unresolved more than a month after the conflict first erupted.
Last weekend, the standoff grew worse after Serbia — which has placed its combat forces on high alert — arrested three Kosovan police officers and ignored international calls to release them. Kosovo responded to the arrest by closing its borders with Serbia. Meanwhile, the heads of both countries are refusing to negotiate with each other, setting off a U.S.-declared emergency in the western Balkans that could spiral out of control at the worst time possible for Western leaders.
▪ Al Jazeera: EU holds talks with Kosovo, Serbia leaders amid tensions.
▪ Euronews: Serbian trucks stage blockade at Kosovo border.
▪ The Washington Post: New weapons, tactics further entangle the U.S. in Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
▪ The Washington Post: Spain rescues scores of migrants from capsized boats near the Canary Islands.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday that the Fed is committed to bringing inflation down but noted that it won’t have to move at the aggressive pace it took last year (CNN Business).
On Wednesday, he told a House panel that additional interest rate hikes are likely in 2023 despite the Fed’s decision to hold off this month while assessing inflation and other economic indicators.
A larger-than-expected rate increase from the Bank of England, announced Thursday, added to investors’ fears about the global economy (The Wall Street Journal).
Senate Republicans asked Powell about potential new banking regulations, specifically whether small banks will be subject to higher capital requirements in the wake of three bank failures last spring. The chairman said a proposal is in the works and has been circulated within the Fed, but he declined to comment on specifics.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Banking Committee and a Powell critic, asked the chairman Thursday whether he accepted responsibility for circumstances that contributed to recent bank failures.
“At the Fed, you are the one who lobbied, who drafted and who voted for weaker rules and you were ultimately responsible for the team of Fed supervisors who fell down on the job,” Warren said.
Powell, as he has in the past, responded that “under the law, the vice chair for supervision” has full responsibility and that his own focus is “moving forward.”
“Yeah, well, that kind of sounds like not taking responsibility for what you’ve done in the past,” Warren said (CNN Business).
Electric vehicles: The government will lend Ford Motor Co. $9.2 billion for the construction of three EV battery factories to help the U.S. catch up with China’s dominance. In May, Ford struck lithium deals necessary for batteries amid its leap toward higher EV output (Bloomberg News). Ford is preparing a new round of layoffs, which are expected to hit U.S. salaried workers (The Wall Street Journal).
Housing: Home sales in May rose amid scarce inventory on the market and the largest annual price drop since 2011 (The Associated Press). Mortgage rates ticked lower for a third week (CNN Business).
Jobs: U.S. applications for unemployment claims last week, reported Thursday by the Labor Department, remained relatively elevated. The numbers of jobless claims for the past two weeks were the highest since October of 2021, despite a robust labor market (MarketWatch).
Wallets: Tipping, by most accounts, has gotten out of hand, The Hill’s Daniel de Visé reports. Pre-pandemic, it was customary to leave a 15 percent gratuity for a server after a restaurant meal or 20 percent for exceptional ministrations. Nowadays, customers are nudged to select 18, 20 and 25 percent tips for takeout coffee under the penetrating gaze of a barista holding a Square reader. It’s gone too far, marketing experts say.
■ Dictators’ dark secret: They’re learning from each other, by The Washington Post Editorial Board.
■ Why ranked choice voting is a win for Republicans, by Saul Anuzis and Stan Lockhart, opinion contributors, The Hill.
WHERE AND WHEN
📲 Ask The Hill: Share a news query tied to an expert journalist’s insights: The Hill launched something new and (we hope) engaging via text with Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. Learn more and sign up HERE.
The House will meet at 9 a.m.
The Senate will convene at 2 p.m. on Monday for a pro forma session.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 11:45 a.m. in the East Room will meet with CEOs of American and U.S. companies, along with federal officials, to discuss technology, AI and innovations (Yahoo Finance). Biden and Vice President Harris will speak at 4 p.m. about abortion rights at The Mayflower Hotel at an event hosted by EMILY’s List and other pro-choice organizations ahead of the one-year mark since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The president and first lady will return to the White House in the evening.
The vice president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a 12:50 p.m. lunch in honor of Modi at the State Department. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff will attend.
The secretary of State at 9:30 a.m. will speak in Washington at the ministerial meeting of the Summit Implementation Review Group. He will visit an exhibit at the Organization of American States at 10:30 a.m. in honor of former President Carter. Blinken will address the OAS general assembly at 10:45 a.m. Blinken and Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Homeland Security Department, will co-host and deliver opening remarks at the anniversary ministerial of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection in Washington at 4 p.m. Blinken will speak at 5:15 p.m. at an event hosted by the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will travel to Fairview Heights, Ill., for a tour and to deliver remarks at 8 a.m. at the Planned Parenthood Fairview Heights Health Center about reproductive health and “a tale of two states” when it comes to abortion. He will travel to St. Louis for a 10:45 a.m. event at Planned Parenthood Central West End Health Center to discuss what he calls “a public health crisis across the nation” tied to the impact of state abortion bans. He will be joined by Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and other officials.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in Paris with a full itinerary today at the conclusion of the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact. She participated early this morning Paris time in a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m.
➤ THE DEEP
A pilot and four passengers aboard OceanGate’s Titan submersible died during a catastrophic implosion, most likely Sunday, during a high-risk tourist adventure to view the wreckage of the Titanic in the northern Atlantic, U.S. Coast Guard searchers and the search team’s experts indicated Thursday.
“On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families,” Rear Adm. John Mauger said during a solemn news conference (The New York Times).
A robotic underwater vehicle, deployed as part of an unprecedented multinational search operation that riveted the world, spotted pieces of the submersible in a debris field about 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic wreckage at the bottom of the inky depths. The Coast Guard expressed confidence that the debris, including a piece of a tail cone, was consistent with the submersible and was not from the rusting hulk of the famous ocean liner.
Experts said recognizable pieces of the submersible’s chamber, designed to protect passengers from the undersea pressure, were indicative of an implosive event that would not have been survivable. At a news conference, the Coast Guard and its advisers suggested the evidence so far pointed to a dramatic event in the water column during descent Sunday, although an investigation and evidence-gathering are expected to result in an official determination.
The Wall Street Journal reported that a top secret military acoustic detection system designed to spot enemy submarines first heard what the U.S. Navy suspected was the Titan’s implosion hours after the submersible began its voyage. The Navy began listening for the Titan almost as soon as the sub lost communications, according to a U.S. defense official. Shortly after its disappearance Sunday, the U.S. system detected what it suspected was the sound of an implosion near the debris site discovered Thursday and reported its findings to the Coast Guard commander on site, U.S. defense officials said.
Experienced submarine and submersible divers previously explained publicly that even a pin-prick sized hole in the Titan’s carbon fiber and titanium construction could result in instantaneous implosion because of the crushing forces per square inch under the sea.
Asked about the prospects of recovering remains of the victims at great depths and in shifting currents, Mauger said he did not have an answer. “This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there on the sea floor,” he said.
Presumed dead are Stockton Rush, the chief executive of OceanGate, who piloted the submersible, and passengers Hamish Harding, a British businessman and explorer; Shahzada Dawood, a British-Pakistani businessman, and his teenage son, Sulaiman; and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French maritime expert who had been on more than 35 dives to the Titanic wreck site (The Associated Press).
OceanGate, which charged up to $250,000 per person for deep ocean expeditions, designed the Titan to hold up to five passengers in a tight space with no seats, a flat floor and a single, thick porthole about 21 inches in diameter. Descent from the surface to the Titanic wreck should have taken more than two hours under successful circumstances. Here’s a closer look at OceanGate’s design, which did not have safety certification by independent experts in the submersible industry.
Vox: The messy legal fight that could follow the deaths of the Titan passengers.
➤ HEALTH & WELLBEING
Former White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Thursday at The Hill’s Future of Health Care Summit that he is worried about the future of the country due to what he called the “normalization of untruths.”
As The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack noted, Fauci has already made appearances in 2024 campaign ads, albeit not from his own participation. DeSantis has used Fauci’s likeness through artificial intelligence in campaign ads to generate photos depicting him hugging Trump, which the former health official humorously said was “wonderful.”
“I worry about the country a lot because what we’re seeing — and I think anybody who just takes a deep breath and looks at what’s going on — that we are in an arena, an era, of what I call the normalization of untruths,” Fauci said. “There are so many misrepresentations and distortions of reality and conspiracy theory, that it almost becomes normalized. We should not accept that as the new normal because when facts are no longer accepted as facts, when distortions occur and when reality is distorted, that will undermine the foundations of the social order and of our democracy. And history has shown us that.”
▪ Mother Jones: The hell of providing health care in a post-Dobbs America.
▪ Reuters: Biden to sign executive order expanding access to contraception.
▪ The Associated Press: The Navajo Nation declares a widespread Medicaid scam in Arizona a public health state of emergency.
➤ GOOD READS
Are you stalled in the airport security line? Waiting at a restaurant for a friend? Lolling on the sofa with time on your hands? Morning Report flags some intriguing human interest journalism you might have missed:
❤️ Alexander Sway’s girlfriend wanted a $10,000 Birkin handbag. He spent 60 hours making her a replica (The Wall Street Journal).
💬 Young people have no idea what we used to do after work. Let me regale you (Slate).
🏀 Tyrell Terry: “I can’t continue this fight any longer” (The New York Times).
⚡ Amber Escudero-Kontostathis survived a White House lightning strike. Could she survive what came next? (The Washington Post).
📲 After four University of Idaho students were killed, TikTok and Reddit sleuths swarmed the campus. The community is still struggling with the wreckage they left behind (The Atlantic).
And finally … 👏👏👏 Kudos to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners, who solved our puzzle about U.S. presidents and their wayward relatives.
Victoriously Googling or guessing their way through four questions: Pam Manges, Lou Tisler, Luther Berg, Randall S. Patrick, Paul Harris, Stan Wasser, William Grieshober, Clare Millians, Harry Strulovici, Richard Baznick, Phil Kirstein, Patrick Kavanagh, Ki Harvey, Steve James and Robert Bradley.
They knew that during a tumultuous U.S. election year, former President Carter juggled some controversy when his brother, Billy Carter, became a paid agent for the government of Libya.
Former President George H.W. Bush navigated a savings and loan crisis at a time when his son, Neil Bush, was a director of Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan Association, which went bankrupt, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion.
Former President Nixon, according to information received by Senate Watergate investigators, directed the Secret Service to listen to phone conversations involving his brother, F. Donald Nixon, because he feared potential political headaches. Defeat in the 1960 presidential contest taught Richard Nixon something about his sibling, who was revealed amid that contest to have pocketed a $205,000 loan from billionaire Howard Hughes to try to save a supermarket business, which failed.
Roger Clinton, former President Clinton’s half-brother, went to prison for more than a year in 1985 for cocaine possession at a time when his sibling was governor. His brother in 2001 handed him a presidential pardon.
We want to hear from you! Email: Alexis Simendinger and Kristina Karisch. Follow us on Twitter (@asimendinger and @kristinakarisch) and suggest this newsletter to friends!
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.