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In today’s edition: Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis face off in Iowa while Donald Trump sounds ready fo͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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January 11, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. What went down in Iowa
  2. Exit Chris Christie
  3. Conservatives put House on pause
  4. Congress’ emerging tax deal
  5. House’s wild Hunter hearing
  6. Taiwan elections
  7. Obamacare signups hit record

PDB: Quinnipiac poll: Biden, Trump neck-and-neck in Pennsylvania

Closing arguments at Trump civil trial … December consumer price index out at 8:30 a.m. … U.N. court hears South Africa genocide case against Israel

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Iowa’s CNN debate was a grudge match

REUTERS/Mike Segar

Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley battled for second place in the Iowa caucus on CNN, while Donald Trump sounded ready for the general election on Fox News. There was little love lost between the two Trump rivals, who spent far more time debating the minutiae of each other’s records than taking on the overwhelming frontrunner in polling of Iowa Republicans. DeSantis accused Haley of opening her state to Chinese investment and rejecting a transgender “bathroom ban,” while Haley rebutted him by continuously directing viewers to “DeSantis Lies Dot Com” and deriding his shaky campaign infrastructure that’s “blown through $150 million” only to hemorrhage support in polls. The two did team up for a stretch against Trump, with both deriding his lawyers’ argument that a president could order SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival without being indicted. Haley condemned Trump’s efforts to “scare the American people” with phony claims about his 2020 loss. “Trump lost it. Biden won that election,” she said. DeSantis warned that a “left-wing” D.C. jury would convict Trump before the election, dragging the party down. “It’s going to be about January 6, legal issues, criminal trials — the Democrats in the media would love to run with that,” he said. Meanwhile, on Fox News Trump walked back his “dictator” and “retribution” talk and criticized six-week abortion bans. But the Biden campaign also clipped and saved yet another incident of Trump boasting how he “terminated” Roe v. Wade.


Chris Christie ends his run with an open mic night

Getty Images/Sophie Park

Chris Christie suspended his presidential run before Wednesday’s debate and urged Republicans to denounce Donald Trump as a threat to the country, regardless of the personal cost. “Anyone unwilling to say [Trump] is unfit for the President of the United States is unfit to serve themselves,” he said, calling out recent Trump endorsers Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. and Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn. by name and saying they “know better.” Looking back on his own 2016 decision to endorse Trump, he apologized for putting his “personal ambition” ahead of what was right and warned that rivals who lined up behind Trump this cycle would live with their shame for years to come. In the short term, Christie’s exit clears space for the remaining candidates — especially Nikki Haley — to consolidate support in New Hampshire, where Trump is weakest in polls and the former South Carolina governor is strongest. Christie doesn’t sound too enthused about the remaining field’s odds of succeeding, though: In a “hot mic” moment before the speech, he was overheard saying that Haley was “going to get smoked, and you and I both know it” and that DeSantis had called him up “petrified” before his announcement, presumably worried his exit would bolster Haley.


Republican hardliners fire a warning shot

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

New year, same Republicans. A group of House Freedom Caucus members tanked the first procedural vote of 2024, signaling a ferocious fight ahead between GOP leadership and the far-right flank of the conference. The move, which led to votes being canceled for the day, was a warning shot by conservatives angry over the government spending deal Speaker Mike Johnson recently reached with Senate Democrats, as well as a sign that the basic rifts within the party that led to last year’s leadership ordeal remain open. “This was a statement, a protest to say ‘hey, we’re not going to just go along to get along like everything’s okay,’” HFC Chairman Bob Good, R-Va. told reporters immediately after the vote. He added that HFC members are also concerned leadership will rely on Democrats to pass whatever spending measure they plan to bring to the floor. Such a move would certainly inflame the hard right and could possibly trigger a vote to remove the speaker. But some are playing down the danger to Johnson’s job. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who led last year’s effort to oust Kevin McCarthy, told reporters he didn’t think there’d be a push to vacate Johnson over the budget. “Sometimes after a surgery, there’s a necessary recoup time before you can have the surgery again,” he told reporters.

Kadia Goba


Details emerge on Congress’ big new tax deal

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

While the House GOP spent the afternoon tumbling back into a state of chaos, there was in fact actual policy news on Capitol Hill Wednesday. As Joseph Zeballos-Roig writes, details are emerging about a potential bipartisan tax deal that would trade an increase in the Child Tax Credit for several business cuts. A few highlights: By 2025, the agreement would bump up the CTC’s maximum value to $2,100 from $2,000 today and let families take the full credit as a cash payment if they have no tax liability. (Currently, parents can only receive up to $1,700 as cash). Among its business cuts, the deal would bring back the ability of companies to deduct R&D expenses immediately, but only for domestic spending. Also, the whole package would only last through 2025, when Congress is set for a massive tax negotiation to deal with the expiring Trump cuts. Also on Wednesday, Senate Republicans held a closed-door conference meeting devoted to ongoing border enforcement negotiations. GOP senators say they’re pushing a cap on the number of migrants who can be allowed into the country under the administration’s parole power. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., expressed hope a deal can be struck by sometime next week, though he added “we’re not that close, by any means.”

Read more about what's in the potential deal. →


Hunter Biden shows up for a chaotic contempt hearing

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A House hearing on whether to hold Hunter Biden in contempt quickly turned into an NC-17 circus. The president’s son unexpectedly showed up early in the proceedings to demand Republicans let him testify in public as part of their investigation. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C. called him “the epitome of white privilege” and said he had “no balls to come up here” and should be arrested immediately. The younger Biden left the room when it was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s, R-Ga. turn to speak, which meant he wasn’t there when she (once again) displayed graphic images of him from a leaked sex tape. On the Democratic side, Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla. brought a photo of Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein together, and brought up an old New York Magazine profile in which Trump called Epstein a “terrific guy” who likes his women “on the younger side” (Trump has said the two had a falling out later on). Channeling the energy in the room, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. said Trump “incited an erection” before bursting into laughter and correcting herself. The day finally ended with the judiciary and oversight committees voting to advance a resolution recommending Biden be held in contempt.


Taiwan elections test U.S.-China ties


One of the thorniest issues in the U.S.-China relationship could become more complicated as Taiwan holds elections in the coming days, Semafor’s Morgan Chalfant reports. The election this Saturday pits Lai Ching-te, of the ruling independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party, against Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang (KMT) party, which favors more engagement with Beijing (an outsider, Ko Wen-je, is also in the mix). The race is tight: Final polls show Lai with a slight edge. A Lai victory would likely spur military or economic retaliation from Beijing, analysts say. A senior Biden administration official acknowledged that administration members were having “contingency conversations” about potential responses, but declined to discuss details. “We are deeply engaged in diplomacy with China to try to manage difficult situations. Our expectation is not that China is going to change its cross-Strait policy, it’s how we manage this difficult time and try to avoid unintended conflict,” the official said. China is already reacting negatively to U.S. plans to send an unofficial delegation to the self-governing island following the election. China has also attempted to sway the vote, despite warnings from President Biden and other officials not to interfere.

Read on for Morgan’s view of why an over-the-top military response from China isn’t a given. →


About Obamacare’s record enrollment

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A record 20 million Americans have now signed up for insurance plans on the Obamacare exchanges this year. Stepping back, there’s one thing that makes that milestone remarkable: It’s happening despite the demise of the individual mandate, the requirement that Americans buy health insurance that was once believed to be the keystone of the Affordable Care Act, without which its markets would fall into a death spiral. That turned out not to be the case. After Republicans repealed the mandate in their 2017 tax law, customers continued to buy ACA plans thanks to the law’s insurance subsidies, which Democrats have temporarily expanded through 2025 as part of the American Rescue Plan, helping to drive enrollment to its new highs. “The reality is that people want health insurance,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Cynthia Cox told Semafor. “It’s just a question of whether it’s affordable or not. And these enhanced subsidies have lowered the cost so much that people see it as a good deal.” The mandate wasn’t necessarily a ridiculous idea — experiences in state insurance markets suggested it was necessary — but it may go down as the ultimate example of nudge-style policy making that turned out to be less effective than just funding a program.

— Jordan Weissmann


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will start teeing up a short-term government funding bill today by filing cloture on an underlying legislative vehicle that can be replaced with a continuing resolution. This comes eight days before the first government funding deadline.

Playbook: Chris Christie dropped out yesterday to ensure “maximum impact in the race” and give Nikki Haley a chance to catch up to Donald Trump.

The Early 202: Donald Trump may be leading the GOP field in congressional endorsements, but one key group — the 17 most vulnerable House GOP members, who all represent districts Joe Biden won in 2020 — still haven’t backed the former president’s campaign.

Axios: Hunter Biden’s appearance at the House hearing yesterday was a “closely held secret” and he didn’t alert the White House ahead of time about his plans.

White House

  • President Biden and Speaker Mike Johnson spoke by phone about border security, according to the speaker’s office.
  • Biden announced six more judicial nominees, his 44th round since taking office. NBC noted earlier this month that while the Senate has confirmed more than 160 of Biden’s judicial nominees, the chamber has now fallen behind the pace set by the GOP-controlled Senate when it was confirming former President Donald Trump’s judge picks.
  • Biden acted on advice from the White House counsel’s office to stop bringing donors into the Oval Office. — Axios
  • White House officials instructed the Pentagon to disclose Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization last week “after learning there was no disclosure plan in place.” — Politico
  • First lady Jill Biden doesn’t sound like she has any reservations about her husband running for a second term in a new interview with MSNBC. “Democracy, our freedoms are what’s on the line,” she told host Mika Brzezinski.
  • The Biden administration is dolling out $623 million for electric vehicle chargers.


  • A police investigation found that Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. did not commit domestic violence against her ex-husband, after he recanted his accusation that she had punched him in the face at a restaurant.
  • Rep. Chris Deluzio, D-Pa., an Iraq War veteran who represents a swing district, became the first Democrat to call on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to resign over the lack of transparency surrounding his hospitalization.
  • Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I. isn’t itching for hearings on the circumstances surrounding Austin’s hospital stay just yet. “I think we’re trying first to establish what happened,” he told reporters, while adding that a hearing was “certainly a possibility.”
  • Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. briefed the Republican Study Committee over lunch on the ongoing Senate border security negotiations.
  • A bill that would allow hundreds of billions in frozen Russian assets to be used to rebuild Ukraine has quiet backing from the White House. — Bloomberg

Celebrity Sighting

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (@RepMMM) / X


  • The Securities and Exchange Commission for the first time approved bitcoin ETFs, though Chair Gary Gensler did not sound particularly happy about it.
  • U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai leaves for India today for a meeting of the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum.
  • Google is laying off hundreds of people working on its voice-activated Google Assistant software and eliminating a similar number of roles in other parts of the company, Semafor’s Louise Matsakis reports.


The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s New York civil fraud trial, Arthur Engoron, won’t allow the former president to deliver his own closing argument after all.


  • A new Quinnipiac University poll has President Biden and Donald Trump neck-and-neck in a hypothetical general election matchup in Pennsylvania: 49% of registered voters in the state support Biden and 46% back Trump (a difference that is within the poll’s margin of error). In the Pennsylvania Senate race, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. leads his GOP challenger David McCormick 53% to 43%.
  • While yesterday’s poll in Michigan showing Biden down 8 to Trump attracted a lot of attention, the Quinnipiac one showing him trending upwards isn’t a total outlier either. Big name pollsters this week showed solid leads for Biden over Trump in New Hampshire and Virginia.


  • Semafor’s Tim McDonnell takes a look at how Nikki Haley is winning over conservative climate hawks.
  • Correction: In yesterday’s Principals, we referred to the Medicare eligibility age as the Medicaid eligibility age at one point. We regret the error.

Foreign Policy

  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos next week and encourage Kyiv to “sharpen its plan for fighting Russia’s invasion.” — Bloomberg
  • Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas met virtually with Chinese officials to discuss fentanyl and other law enforcement issues.
  • The U.S. military shot down nearly two-dozen Houthi missiles and drones launched from Yemen.


Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.

What the Left isn’t reading: A gallery owner dealing Hunter Biden’s art told the House Oversight Committee that Democratic donors spent much of the money on his work.

What the Right isn’t reading: A European Union official said that while Donald Trump was president, he told European officials the U.S. wouldn’t assist Europe if it was attacked.

Principals Team

Editors: Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann, Morgan Chalfant

Editor-at-Large: Steve Clemons

Reporters: Kadia Goba, Joseph Zeballos-Roig, Shelby Talcott, David Weigel

One Good Text

Norma Torres is a Democratic congresswoman from California. She has written letters to the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing about the harrowing Alaska Airlines flight last week.

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