Stephen Boyd’s weekly Capitol Hill briefing for Alabama’s business, financial, defense and government affairs executives.
The House of Representatives and the Senate each return to legislative activity tomorrow and votes are expected throughout the week.
The Senate will resume consideration of President Joe Biden’s nominee, Joshua David Jacobs, to be Under Secretary for Benefits of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The House is poised to pass a number of noncontroversial bills—several relating to regulations of satellite telecommunications—before starting consideration on the biggest legislative item of the year: a bill to raise the debt limit. More on that below.
BIDEN IS IN. President Biden is expected to announce that he is running for re-election this week, possibly on Tuesday—the four-year anniversary of his previous campaign launch. As it stands, he will face minimal competition for the Democratic nomination despite a notable lack of enthusiasm within the party for his reelection bid.
POLLING UPDATE. At this moment, former President Donald Trump is the clear leader in Republican nomination for the Presidency. A recent NBC poll—conducted after Trump was indicted for alleged crimes in New York—reveals that 46% of Republicans nationwide favor Trump, 31% favor Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and 6% are for former Vice President Mike Pence. Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, and Asa Hutchinson each came in at 3%. In the Poll, President Biden’s job approval fell to 41%. Per NBC, “substantial majorities of Americans don’t want Trump or President Joe Biden to run for president in 2024, setting up a potentially divisive and uninspiring general-election rematch between the two men…” A lot can change between now and then, but should Trump and Biden face off in 2024, their combined age on election day will be 160 years.
DEBT LIMIT. Later this week, House Republican leaders will attempt to move first on the debt limit issue by passing legislation that would raise the debt ceiling into next year in exchange for a range of conservative cost-cutting measures. The legislation, the “Limit, Save, and Grow Act of 2023,” has very little chance of becoming law. Rather, if passed, it will amp up pressure on President Biden to come to the negotiating table on the issue, a place he has so far avoided by insisting on a “clean” debt limit increase. It will be harder for President Biden to hold that line as the summer deadline nears when Republicans can say “don’t blame us, we passed an increase.” But, if Republicans lose this week’s vote—or, more likely, fail to get the necessary commitments to even have the vote, it will be interpreted as a significant blow to Speaker Keven McCarthy’s hold over the narrow majority. As it stands, five Republican defects can kill their own leadership’s legislation. The U.S. government is more than $31 trillion in debt.
ENERGY. According to reports, the Biden Administration is preparing a new Environmental Protection Agency regulation to require electrical power producers using coal or natural gas to sharply cut emissions from plants by 2040, likely through the use of advanced “carbon capture” technology. The proposed rule is the interagency review process, which means that officials from other departments are weighing in on the changes before the formal administrative rule-making process begins. In Alabama, about half of all electricity consumed comes from coal and natural gas facilities; 38% comes from emission-fee nuclear power. Last week, the Biden Administration announced new proposed vehicle pollution standards to make all vehicles, including gas-powered cars and heavy-duty trucks, cleaner and more efficient. The proposed standards, which are aggressive and will be difficult for manufacturers to achieve, “would protect public health by cutting nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions – twice the annual U.S. emissions today,” as the White House described it.
ABORTION RULING ON HOLD. The Supreme Court paused a lower court’s ruling that would have limited access to mifepristone, a drug commonly used for abortions. In effect, mifepristone will still be available up to 10 weeks of pregnancy by mail while the challenge to the FDA’s approval of the drug is further considered in the court system.
MAKING CONGRESS BETTER. Mobile-native Kelle Strickland has been named President and CEO of the Congressional Institute, a well-regarded not-for-profit corporation in Washington, D.C. “dedicated to helping Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helping their constituents better understand the operations of the national legislature.” Strickland has a 20-year career of public service to the U.S. House of Representatives. She has served as Republican staff director and counsel at the House Committee on Ethics, and has worked in nearly every job in a congressional office, including intern, legislative assistant, and legislative director to former Congressman Jo Bonner (AL-01), and five years as chief of staff to Congressman Michael Burgess (TX-26). From 2017 to 2020, she served as chief of staff in the nonpartisan Office of the Sergeant at Arms.
ONE GOOD ARTICLE. This is probably the best explanation of how the House Republican majority functions that I have seen lately: Meet ‘the five families’ that wield power in McCarthy’s House majority, from The Washington Post, “As lawmakers streamed out of the leadership office late last year, many emerged with mixed reactions to the meeting. But one common observation emerged: McCarthy had intentionally brought in representatives from each of the Republicans’ five ideological caucuses, reminiscent of how ‘the five families’ in ‘The Godfather’ met to strategize in an effort to keep the peace.
The comparison stuck. Each week the House is in session, the chairs of the five caucuses meet in the speaker’s office to discuss how lawmakers in their individual factions feel about bills that are set to be voted on in the near term….”
The five families are sometimes referred to as the House Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Committee, the Problem Solvers Caucus, the Republican Governance Group, and the Main Street Caucus.