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In today’s edition: The White House previews President Biden’s State of the Union speech, the race t͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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March 1, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. Biden’s SOTU plans
  2. GOP leadership kickoff
  3. Ceasefire hopes dim
  4. Tax fight amps up
  5. Jamaal Bowman’s prize
  6. Trump and TikTok

PDB: Congress passes short-term funding bill

Biden meets with Meloni Navalny funeral in Moscow… WaPo: How Biden is shaped by conversations he has outside the White House

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


What to look for in Biden’s State of the Union

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden will recap his domestic policy wins at next week’s State of the Union, offering a potential preview of his reelection message as polls show him struggling. According to a White House official, topics will include expanded semiconductor production and lower drug prices. “You will hear the President lay out the historic achievements he has delivered on for the American people and his vision for the future,” the official said. Biden will also discuss efforts to protect democracy and abortion access, in addition to plugging his “unity agenda” with calls for bipartisan action on curbing fentanyl, supporting veterans, ending cancer and enacting privacy legislation. After visiting the border Thursday, Biden may also needle Republicans with some new executive actions in the wake of their refusal to pass a bipartisan Senate proposal. It’s unclear how much Biden will focus on the global crises, like Russia’s war in Ukraine, but some hoped he’d make it a focal point. “The president should give a speech on why it’s so important for us to stand up to Russia,” Evelyn Farkas, who served in a senior role at the Pentagon under Barack Obama, told Semafor recently. “If he’s not going to do it at the State of the Union, he needs to do it somewhere soon.”

Morgan Chalfant


The contest to replace McConnell kicks off

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

And they’re off! Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas on Thursday became the first Republican to publicly announce his bid to replace Mitch McConnell as GOP leader. One of the Kentuckian’s longtime lieutenants, Cornyn emphasized his leadership experience and promised to help fix a “broken” Senate. Another favorite for the job, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. kept things more private: A spokesman told Politico the minority whip “is reaching out to each of his colleagues directly to discuss the future of the Senate Republican Conference and what they would like to see in their next leader.” Both men have reportedly been busy “burning” up the phones since Wednesday. But another potential candidate may already be the Mar-a-Lago favorite: Donald Trump appears to have urged Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., the current head of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, to go for the job. When reporters caught up to him, Daines said he’d told Trump he wasn’t ruling out a run, but that the “most important thing I can do [at] this moment is to make sure we have a Senate majority in November.”


Biden walks back ceasefire prediction as Gaza death toll rises

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

President Biden said he was “hopeful,” but acknowledged his prediction of an imminent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war was premature as the situation on the ground in Gaza dramatically worsened. After dozens of Palestinians were killed near a convoy carrying food in Gaza City, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry blamed Israel for firing on the crowd, while the Israel Defense Forces said most of the people were killed in a stampede. Biden faced more pressure from his party over the incident. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. called on Israel to immediately pause its military campaign and for Biden to put pressure on Israel to reach a deal on a “longer-term cessation of hostilities,” while Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. said Biden needed to get large-scale humanitarian aid into Gaza “NOW.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testified in a hearing that upwards of 25,000 women and children had been killed in the military campaign, but the Pentagon later said it could not independently verify the figure and that he was referring to the Gaza Healthy Ministry’s estimates.


Capitol Hill’s tax fight gets rough

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The fight over Congress’s $78 billion tax bill is starting to get a little nasty, Semafor’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig writes. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. thrashed House Republicans who backed the deal in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, accusing them of getting “played by Senate Democrats doing the bidding of the Biden administration.” Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho — the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee — blasted out a statement vowing not to “rubber stamp” the package, which combines corporate deductions popular among lawmakers with an expansion of the Child Tax Credit that has attracted some significant criticism from conservatives. Speaking to Semafor, Crapo said he couldn’t say how soon a deal might be reached, but insisted that he wouldn’t bless a bill unless it had the support of most Republicans. “I never put deadlines,” he said. Some Democratic aides say they’re concerned Crapo is essentially slow-walking the legislation in order to kill it, and the measure’s lead Democratic author doesn’t sound like he’s in the mood to make the sorts of major changes Republicans are batting around. “A lot of the issues that have been mentioned, we dug into them in considerable detail over seven months of negotiations,” Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore. told reporters on Thursday morning.


Rep. Jamaal Bowman, stealth winner of the New York map fight

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y. scored a prized piece of real estate in the map Gov. Kathy Hochul signed on Wednesday. Co-Op City, the heavily Black-populated housing development in the Bronx, is now part of his district again after being previously cut out when a judge-appointed special master changed up the lines before the 2022 midterms. The addition could help him in his competitive primary against Westchester County Executive George Latimer, whose challenge AIPAC is backing in response to Bowman’s criticisms of Israel. Another new addition is more personal: Cornerstone Academy for Social Action Middle School, which Bowman founded and where he served as principal. “I gave 10 and a half years of my life as a middle school principal and community activist in that community, so I’m obviously ecstatic to have it back,” Bowman told Semafor’s Kadia Goba.

Read on for Kadia's view. →


The Biden campaign has TikTok to itself

REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

President Biden’s campaign is slowly building up its audience on TikTok after its splashy Super Bowl entrance, but don’t expect Donald Trump to join him this cycle. A person close to the campaign told Semafor’s Shelby Talcott that they “doubt” Trump would ever create an account. Widespread conservative distrust of its Chinese parent company ByteDance likely makes it a bridge too far for Trump, especially after he tried to ban the app as president. “If you weigh the possible positive impact on young voters versus the certain negative impact on our base, it’s a wash at best,” a second person close to the Trump campaign told Semafor. Underscoring the point, a group of Republican lawmakers urged Biden to “delete your account” on national security grounds last month in a joint letter, including potential Trump VPs like Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. One MAGA outlier: Vivek Ramaswamy, who has over 400,000 followers on the app, doubling the Biden campaign’s early total.

Live Journalism

A world class line-up of global economic leaders has been announced for the 2024 World Economy Summit, taking place in Washington, D.C. on April 17-18. Speakers include Brian Moynihan, CEO, Bank of America; Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; Suzanne Clark, President & CEO; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; John Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of New York; José Muñoz, President & COO, Hyundai Motor Company; Jared Bernstein, Chair, White House Council of Economic Advisors; Richard Lesser, Global Chair, Boston Consulting Group; Sim Tshabalala, CEO, Standard Bank and Gretchen Watkins, President, Shell USA, Pat Gelsinger, CEO, Intel; Sen. Ron Wyden, (D) Oregon and more. Speakers, Sessions & Registration here.


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: Sen. John Cornyn’s, R-Texas fundraising prowess is an advantage for him in the race to replace Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell: He has raised $13 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republicans on the ballot this cycle.

Playbook: Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, says President Biden should talk about protecting Social Security during his State of the Union. “The single line there is: ‘Republicans want to cut taxes for billionaires and cut Social Security. Democrats want to protect Social Security from cuts and ensure billionaires pay their fair share in taxes,’” he said.

The Early 202: Asked what Biden could do to convince Arab American voters not to stay home in November, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro replied: “We need a solution that ends the war. We need every hostage to be returned home.”

Axios: The super PAC supporting Donald Trump is paying for radio ads in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan aimed at Black voters. “President Trump will protect our daughters’ sports teams,” the narrator says in the ad.

White House

  • President Biden dared Donald Trump to “join” him in passing immigration legislation during their dueling trips to the border. Trump, meanwhile, criticized Biden’s policies and said the U.S. is “being overrun.”
  • President Biden wants to see progress from the G7 on a plan to transfer seized Russian assets to Ukraine before a planned meeting in June. — Bloomberg
  • Biden will welcome Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to the White House today for a visit that’s likely to focus heavily on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • Vice President Harris will be in Durham, N.C. today, where she is announcing new funding from the American Rescue plan for women- and minority-run venture capital funds.
  • A White House plan to convert unused office buildings into housing near transit facilities isn’t workable for many developers. — Bloomberg


  • The House delayed a government shutdown by passing a short-term government funding bill in a 320-99 vote, a strong bipartisan showing despite pushback from some conservatives. The Senate quickly followed suit with a 77-13 vote on the stopgap funding bill. Text of the funding bills that Congress aims to pass before next Friday is expected out this weekend.
  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. is preparing a discharge petition that would force a vote on his bipartisan foreign aid and border security package if it garners enough signatures.
  • Homeland Security Chair Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., decided not to retire from Congress after a pressure campaign from Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. and Donald Trump. This is the third Republican in the 118th Congress to reverse course about seeking reelection, following Reps. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind. and Pat Fallon, R-Texas.
  • Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala. will deliver the Republican rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union address next Thursday.
  • Senate Democrats aren’t the only ones keeping an eye on who succeeds Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. as GOP leader. “It remains to be seen who will emerge in his place. But it is my hope that is someone who recognizes that when you ascend to a leadership position, you have a pragmatic responsibility to exercise the common sense that the American people want to see,” House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. told reporters.
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas scheduled a markup for next Thursday where lawmakers will consider a resolution holding Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress. The resolution is for what McCaul says is Blinken’s failure to turn over certain documents to the panel in its investigation of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Sen. Jack Reed (@SenJackReed) / X

Outside the Beltway

The Alabama legislature voted Thursday to shield doctors who provide in vitro fertilization from criminal or civil liability if the embryos created don’t take or are destroyed. The move was intended to encourage clinics to restart IVF operations after the state Supreme Court ruled embryos are people.


The Fed’s favored inflation gauge — the core Personal Consumption Expenditures Index — jumped by the most in almost a year during last month. A reason to freak out? Maybe not. January inflation prints have tended to run hot over the last several years, possibly due to seasonal factors.


  • The Massachusetts Air National Guardsman charged with posted secret military documents online, Jack Teixeira, plans to plead guilty on Monday after previously pleading not guilty to the charges.
  • Special counsel Jack Smith proposed a July 8 trial date for Donald Trump’s classified documents case.
  • The EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework is expected to withstand legal challenges and likely won’t face substantive changes as it reaches its one-year anniversary, U.S. Commerce Department official Alex Greenstein said on Thursday at a Semafor event.


Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas holds only a narrow 43-38 lead over Amanda Edwards — who used to be her intern — in the district’s March 5 primary, according to a new poll from the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.

On the Trail

National Security

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin apologized in a congressional hearing Thursday for how his recent hospitalization was handled, conceding that he should have been more transparent with the White House.

Foreign Policy

  • Iran is stepping up shipments of attack drones to Sudan, Semafor’s Jay Solomon reports. U.S. and Arab officials said they believe Tehran is trying to use its closer relations with the Sudanese Armed Forces to project more power in the Red Sea.
  • “It is likely that there is going to be a war between Hezbollah and Israel within the next six to eight months,” Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Steven A. Cook writes for Foreign Policy.


  • The White House is demanding Fox News retract its coverage of bribery allegations against Hunter Biden following the arrest of the FBI informant who made the claims. — The Hill
  • The New York Times launched a leak investigation related to an Intercept report concerning internal debate about the publication’s Gaza coverage. — Vanity Fair

Big Read

The White House has adopted a novel new approach to intelligence, TIME reports: strategic declassification. The effort started in the fall of 2021, when U.S. spies in Russia raised the alarm that Moscow was about to invade Ukraine, and has grown into a “broad program to share secrets when it serves strategic goals,” according to the publication. The White House has now declassified intelligence across several conflicts — soothing tensions in the Taiwan Strait, pressuring Iran to stop arming Houthis, and disputing false claims from Hamas. “This is a game changer,” said national security spokesperson John Kirby. “I hope they never put it back in the bottle.”


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: Vice President Harris said the Biden administration would pay college students through the federal work-study program to register people to vote and work at the polls.

What the Right isn’t reading: The Missouri GOP is seeking to remove a Republican candidate for governor with ties to the Ku Klux Klan from the ballot.

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

Ben Cline is a Republican congressman from Virginia.

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