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In today’s Principals, a look at the (still not fully known) concessions Kevin McCarthy made to his ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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January 9, 2023


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Steve Clemons
Steve Clemons

Kevin McCarthy is Speaker of the House, but that’s only the beginning. Morgan Chalfant outlines what he promised conservatives to win the speaker perch — that we know of — including a new select subcommittee to investigate  the “weaponization of government” (strap in for that one.) And Joseph Zeballos-Roig and Kadia Goba look at the Democrats who hope McCarthy and Co. have committed to a budget plan that might require politically unpopular changes to Medicare and Social Security.

Brazil’s January 6th is January 8th. Thousands of protestors raided the Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential Palace, and Brazilian President Lula has promised to hold insurrectionists accountable. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro appears to be camping out in Florida. That isn’t sitting well with some American lawmakers, who see the far right leaders behind insurrections in both countries increasingly joined at the hip.

PLUS: One Good Text about the action in Brazil with Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.

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White House: Biden made his first visit to the southern border as president on Sunday, telling reporters he learned officials on the ground need “a lot of resources” and pledging “to get it for them.” He’s scheduled to meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador later today.

Chuck Schumer: The Senate majority leader wants to cultivate the same kind of close relationship with Hakeem Jeffries as he enjoyed with his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi. “They are in the minority, so it’s harder, but the minority can still get a lot done,” he told Politico recently.

Mitch McConnell: McConnell’s ranks in the Senate shrunk by one on Sunday, rendering the upper chamber 51-48 temporarily. Now-former Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, officially stepped down on Sunday.

Kevin McCarthy: The speaker, in his first test, must rally support around his rules package that is already being rejected by Rep.Tony Gonzales, R-Texas and possibly Nancy Mace, R-S.C from the middle.

Hakeem Jeffries: The minority leader will face his first leadership test today as he tries to hold back Republicans from voting to repeal funding to hire 87,000 IRS agents. It’s a doomed effort if Republicans stick together. Welcome to the minority.

Need to Know

Two days after officials in Washington marked the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, an eerily similar series of events played out in Brazil where supporters of the country’s former hard-right President Jair Bolsonaro, fueled by his false claims of a rigged election, stormed government buildings. Brazilian authorities arrested hundreds of people. In an address Sunday, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, called the rioters “fascists” and said he held Bolsonaro responsible for triggering the attack. Bolsonaro, who has been residing in Florida, criticized the rioters but said he rejected Lula’s effort to blame him.

In the U.S., the developments immediately drew comparisons to Jan. 6. “These fascists modeling themselves after Trump’s Jan. 6 rioters must end up in the same place: prison,” tweeted Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the select committee investigating the attack that just disbanded. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas tweeted Sunday that former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should not be able to avoid accountability for his “crimes” in Florida, and told Semafor that the Biden Administration “should revoke Bolsonaro’s visa — and if the Brazilian government requests his extradition, we should cooperate fully to ensure he faces justice.” Notably, Brazil’s attorney general has called for the arrest of a former Bolsonaro minister, who is also reportedly in the U.S.

Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. patched things up after a tense encounter on the House floor late Friday night as he continued to object to Kevin McCarthy’s speaker bid. Both men tweeted about their “productive working relationship.” Gaetz said Rogers shouldn’t face “punishment or reprisal” for physically confronting him and Rogers apologized for “briefly” losing his temper.

Morgan Chalfant

Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: In addition to wondering if McCarthy gave up too much to conservatives, some House GOP moderates aren’t happy that three of the first bills they will vote on aim to tighten restrictions on abortion.

Playbook: The GOP rank-and-file is “eager to get down to business,” Politico writes, which means the rules package is not necessarily in trouble today despite some moderates venting concerns. McCarthy can only lose four votes if all Democrats vote against it.

Axios: The subcommittee on “weaponization of the federal government” will be chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, according to Axios, which reports that the new panel will examine the “politicization of the FBI,” Biden administration officials’ interaction with tech companies, and Anthony Fauci’s handling of COVID-19 misinformation, among other topics.

The Speaker Saga

What Kevin McCarthy gave the rebels

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

In order to win his speaker’s gavel Friday night, Kevin McCarthy had to cede some of its power.

But the details of the deal he struck with GOP hardliners for their support are still not fully known — even among members of Congress — and the public concessions have already rattled a few moderates. Some even threatened to vote against a formal rules package heading to the floor Monday, in part because of concerns about side-deals McCarthy may have made that have yet to be put in writing.

“I want to see what promises were made,” Rep. Nancy Mace. R-S.C., a McCarthy supporter on the fence about the vote, said on CBS News.

Here are the highlights we know so far about McCarthy’s bargain — and how they might affect how he governs.


The only specific edit to the rules package to win conservative votes is a change to the “motion to vacate the chair,” which would once again allow just one member to call for a vote to remove the speaker, returning the threshold to where it was before Nancy Pelosi raised it in 2019.

It’s essentially an enforcement mechanism for the rest of the deal, as holdouts cited trust issues with McCarthy as a major concern. McCarty allies were worried it would give them too much power to disrupt the caucus.

“I’m not going to say there won’t be one person who tries to abuse that motion,” Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But I’m confident McCarthy is going to be able to be given the green light to govern.”


The most important tool in leadership’s arsenal is deciding which bills come to the floor and under what circumstances.

But in order to secure the speakership, McCarthy is said to have promised the House Freedom Caucus three seats on the all-important House Rules Committee, which makes those decisions, as well as what amendments can be offered and how long debates go on.

If true, that should be enough for them to veto plans by leadership unless Democrats step in.

“That’s the real juice here,” Liam Donovan, a Republican lobbyist and former National Republican Senatorial Committee staffer, told Semafor.


As part of the original rules package announced more than a week ago, House Republicans will vote later this week to establish a new select committee to investigate the “weaponization of the federal government.” It’s billed as a redux of the Church Committee, which probed alleged abuses by the intelligence community and Internal Revenue Service in the 1970s.

The select committee’s exact mandate is not yet clear, but there’s broad expectation that it will in part look into the Justice Department’s ongoing investigations into former President Trump, according to the New York Times.

Matthew Miller, who served as a DOJ spokesman under the Obama administration, told Semafor, said the panel could cause headaches for department leaders — including by demanding Attorney General Merrick Garland and others testify — but is unlikely to have an actual impact on ongoing investigations.

“The House can make a bunch of noise and eat up a lot of the leadership’s time dealing with their investigations,” Miller said, but the DOJ will be “well within its rights to tell them to pound sand and can expect the courts to back them up.”


Conservative rebels wanted assurances that McCarthy would pursue major spending cuts and use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to obtain them.

To that end, McCarthy reportedly agreed to work to balance the budget over 10 years, in part by capping discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, a move that would set up a high-stakes fight between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House.

It’s still unclear how ironclad these commitments are and what role they’d play in key negotiations on spending and raising the debt ceiling. But what’s public is already unnerving defense hawks, even as some conservatives say they expect to shield Pentagon spending.

Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he plans to vote against the Rules package because of the potential cuts to the defense budget. “How am I going to look at our allies in the eye and say, I need you to increase your defense budget, but yet America is going to decrease ours?” he said.

—Morgan Chalfant

The Loyal Opposition

What Democrats make of the speaker deal

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

As Kevin McCarthy’s bargain slowly comes to light, there’s one promise that Democrats are especially eager to hear more about: Any commitments to major spending cuts.

Some reporting suggests McCarthy agreed to pursue a resolution committing them to a balanced federal budget within a decade. It may only be symbolic — GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania called it “aspirational” earlier on Friday — but Democrats are hoping it pushes Republicans to identify more specific cuts, especially to entitlement programs, that could serve as grist for campaign attacks.

“Republicans don’t talk about repealing Obamacare anymore and there’s a reason why,” Colin Seeberger, a senior communications advisor at Center for American Progress Action Fund, said. “Come 2025, they may never again want to talk about entitlement cuts.”

The White House and newly sworn-in Congressman are already re-emphasizing their commitment to Social Security and Medicare, which some in the party think was an underrated part of their 2022 ads and messaging. A return to Tea Party-era proposals of benefit changes, privatization plans, or outright cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security could give those attacks some added credibility.

“I’m concerned about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and our party is going to be there to fight against that no matter what,” Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla. told Semafor in the wee hours of Saturday morning following the final speaker vote.

—Joseph Zeballos-Roig and Kadia Goba

One Good Text ... with Rep. Joaquin Castro


Stories that are being shared less widely across left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.

WHAT THE LEFT ISN’T READING: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hand-delivered a letter to Biden yesterday that reportedly contained recommendations for how he can secure the southern border.

WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: Special counsel Jack Smith added two corruption experts to his investigative team.

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— Steve Clemons