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In today’s edition, Mike Johnson witnesses another defeat, Japan’s Fumio Kishida addresses Congress,͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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April 11, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. Surveillance vote implodes
  2. Kishida addresses Congress
  3. Biden meets Japan, Philippines leaders
  4. Trump clarifies on abortion
  5. Biden vs. the Ballot
  6. GOP tax talk

PDB: What’s driving inflation

Biden moves to expand gun background checks … Fate of hostages in Gaza uncertain … WSJ poll: Biden losing support among Black swing state voters

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


The House is in chaos — again

Samuel Corum/Getty Images

It took just one day for House Republicans to melt back down after returning from their recess, as Speaker Mike Johnson’s long-struggling effort to renew a key surveillance tool scheduled to expire next week collapsed yet again Wednesday afternoon. Nineteen GOP members tanked a rule vote on legislation that would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows spying on foreigners but can sweep up some Americans’ communications, halting efforts to put the bill on the floor. The failed vote followed a Tuesday night Truth Social broadside by Donald Trump urging Republicans to “KILL FISA,” which played a role in the FBI’s investigation into links between his campaign and Russia.

This marks the third time the surveillance bill — which has united privacy-minded lawmakers and deep-state skeptics against it, but is considered critical by the White House and national security hawks — has been derailed in the House. It’s also Johnson’s fourth defeat on a rule vote in his six-month tenure, meaning he has now lost one more than Kevin McCarthy. Johnson’s path forward is unclear. “We will regroup and reformulate another plan,” Johnson said. But some Republicans are already wondering whether the chaos could delay other priorities: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., worried that Ukraine aid could be further pushed off. “The plan was to bring something next week but I don’t know if that’s gonna be impacted by this,” he said.

Jordan Weissmann and Kadia Goba


Kishida expected to nudge Congress on Ukraine

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Expect Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to address the war in Ukraine during his speech today before the U.S. Congress, where military aid is still stalled. “The prime minister has been saying that today’s Ukraine may be tomorrow’s East Asia,” Maki Kobayashi, spokeswoman for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters during a briefing in Washington Wednesday evening. Japan has unexpectedly emerged as a major supporter of Kyiv, pivoting away from Russia, joining international sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s nation, and recently hosting a conference on rebuilding Ukraine post-war. House Speaker Mike Johnson is struggling to find a path forward on Ukraine assistance, which faces opposition from a faction of the GOP — including one especially vocal member willing to oust him over it.

Morgan Chalfant


Biden’s historic three-way meeting

REUTERS/Adrian Portugal/File Photo

It’s a big week for the China hawks at the White House. A day after committing to tightening military ties with an eye on Beijing, President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will be joined by Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for a first-of-its-kind meeting between the leaders of the three countries. The agenda will be dominated by the South China Sea, where China has fired water cannons at Filipino vessels and clashed with ships trying to resupply marines stationed at the contested Second Thomas Shoal. A senior Biden official said a joint statement between the three countries will contain “very strong language.” Following joint naval exercises this week, the three leaders will unveil plans to team up their coast guards on patrols later this year. While much of the focus in Washington is on Taiwan, the South China Sea is “more dangerous in terms of unexpectedly moving up the escalation ladder towards potential conflict between China and the United States,” the Center for a New American Security’s Lisa Curtis told Semafor.

Morgan Chalfant


Trump says he won’t sign abortion ban

REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer/File Photo

Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday he would not sign a federal abortion ban even if it were to cross his desk as president, going further than his prior remarks emphasizing states’ rights. It was a reversal from promises he made as a candidate in 2016 and stood by when he was in the White House. His remarks came a day after Arizona’s Supreme Court upheld an 1864 law banning all abortions except to save the life of the mother. While in Atlanta for a fundraiser yesterday, Trump said the court went too far. “That’ll be straightened out, and as you know it’s about states’ rights.” He predicted Arizona’s governor and others “are going to bring it back into reason.” But Republican lawmakers in Phoenix on Wednesday shut down discussions of a proposed repeal of the Civil War-era law. “Donald Trump owns the suffering and chaos happening right now, including in Arizona, because he proudly overturned Roe — something he called ‘an incredible thing,’ and ‘pretty amazing’ just today,” Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler said.


Could two red states keep Joe Biden off the ballot?

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose — REUTERS/Gaelen Morse

Republican election officials are threatening to keep Biden off the ballot in Ohio and Alabama, saying the Aug. 19 Democratic National Convention is scheduled too late to qualify. It’s normally a routine issue, Semafor’s David Weigel reports — in 2020, the Republican National Convention had the same scheduling problem, but made few headlines because each state quickly found a resolution. But this time Democrats are taking it more seriously, suspecting it may be payback by partisan secretaries of state for failed challenges to Trump’s ballot position over the Constitution’s insurrection clause. Potential responses include having the DNC attest that Biden will be the nominee ahead of time (Trump’s Alabama solution last time), lobbying state legislatures to grant a waiver (Ohio’s approach), or holding a virtual convention to nominate him before the official one. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the courts, where they’d cite legal precedents that parties must be treated similarly.


Top Republican says higher taxes needed for Social Security reform

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

Another top Republican says his party will have to swallow new revenue raisers if it wants to fix Social Security’s finances any time in the near future. Rep. Tom Cole, the new head of the House Appropriations Committee, told Semafor that it would almost certainly take a bipartisan deal to prevent the entitlement program from going insolvent less than a decade from now. “Now, I don’t particularly — as a Republican — like tax increases,” he said. “But the reality is, I think, if you’re going to have a bipartisan deal, revenue and reform, they both have to be on the table.” Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington similarly told Semafor this year that any long-term deficit reduction deal would need new revenue as well as spending cuts. The comments drew a fierce round of attacks from anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, whose group, Americans for Tax Reform, has sought to bury Arrington’s proposal for a bipartisan fiscal commission.

Kadia Goba

Digital Infrastructure

Jared Bernstein, Chair, White House Council of Economic Advisors; Steve Case, CEO, Revolution; Kathy Grillo, SVP, Public Policy and Government Affairs, Verizon, Joe Dominguez, CEO, Constellation Energy; Kevin Scott, CTO, Microsoft and Brandon Wales, Executive Director, CISA will join the Digital Infrastructure session at the 2024 World Economy Summit to discuss the critical role of connectivity in economic development, how AI is changing digital infrastructure, and the key investments needed to gain a competitive edge in the global landscape. Register for this session here.

April 17 | 9 a.m.-12 p.m. ET | Washington, D.C.


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. is jumping into the race to replace Patrick McHenry as the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee.

Playbook: Donald Trump’s circle isn’t particularly pleased with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s threat to put Speaker Mike Johnson out of a job. “100 percent distraction. Unwanted. And just stupid,” one “Trump insider” said.

The Early 202: There’s a lot of partisan rancor in Washington, but President Biden’s effort to form closer ties with Japan — in part to counter China — is widely supported. The idea “a tremendous amount of bipartisan support,” said Trump’s former ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty.

Axios: The commander of U.S. Central Command is headed to Israel today to meet with senior Israeli military officials and “coordinate in advance of a possible attack by Iran and its proxies.”

White House

  • President Biden said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had responded to his calls for an increase in aid deliveries to Gaza but that Israel still needs to do more. “It’s not enough,” he said at a press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
  • Robert DeNiro, Kristi Yamaguchi, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, and Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the guests at Wednesday night’s lavish, cherry blossom-adorned White House state dinner. Paul Simon — who is “a favorite” of first lady Jill Biden and Kishida, according to the Washington Post — performed.
Mandel NGAN / AFP


  • Speaker Mike Johnson is planning a trip to Mar-a-Lago Friday where he’ll join Donald Trump for a press conference about “election integrity.” The move is widely being interpreted as an effort to signal his closeness with the former president — and beat back a potential motion to vacate by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
  • Mark your calendars: House Republicans now plan to send impeachment articles against Secretary of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Senate next Tuesday, two sources tell Semafor’s Kadia Goba.
  • Speaking of which: Senate Republicans are trying to use the impeachment to deliver political pain to John Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, two vulnerable Democrats in November, Politico says.


  • Any hopes that the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates in June were essentially put to bed on Wednesday, when the government reported yet another round of higher-than-expected inflation numbers. There’s some nervous talk about whether inflation might further reaccelerate. But spending categories are driving it? Aside from energy, the two biggest contributors this month were housing and auto insurance, which together now are responsible for most of the inflation over the past 12 months. As the New York Times recently wrote, one reason motor vehicle premiums have been on a tear is simply that cars themselves became more expensive, making them costlier to cover.
  • The European Central Bank is expected to signal it will begin cutting rates from record highs in June, cementing an earlier and more aggressive downward path than the Fed.


  • Donald Trump lost a third attempt to delay the Monday start of his hush money trial in New York.
  • Former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in jail for perjuring himself in a 2023 civil fraud case. Weisselberg admitted to giving false testimony about the size of Trump’s apartment in New York during a deposition.
  • The Justice Department is conducting an antitrust investigation of Nippon Steel’s planned takeover of U.S. Steel. — Politico


  • Thirty percent of Black men surveyed in a new Wall Street Journal poll of seven swing states said they were likely to support Donald Trump, a warning sign for President Biden that his opponent is growing support among the key Democratic constituency.
  • The Biden campaign has been talking up their chances in North Carolina and a Quinnipiac survey finds the state is indeed competitive, with Biden statistically tied with 46% to Trump’s 48%. In the governor’s race, Democrat Josh Stein leads Republican Mark Robinson by a 52-44 margin.

On the Trail

  • Ron DeSantis privately told donors and allies he’s going to help fundraise for Trump’s campaign. — NBC
  • That was fast: Donald Trump slipped off the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as his media company’s shares lose value.
  • Independent presidential candidate Cornel West has chosen Black Lives Matter activist and California State University, Los Angeles professor Melina Abdullah as his running mate.

Foreign Policy

  • The U.S. and its allies believe Iran strikes on targets in Israel are “imminent.” — Bloomberg
  • Hamas told Israel it doesn’t have the 40 hostages needed for the initial phase of the potentially forthcoming ceasefire deal, raising concerns that more hostages may be dead than previously known. — CNN
  • Barbara Streisand, Sean Penn, and a host of other big names signed onto an op-ed in CNN putting pressure on Congress to pass Ukraine aid. “If Russia breaks through, this will be our fault,” they wrote.
  • The Biden administration should focus on winning competition with China, not “managing” it, House China committee chairman Mike Gallagher and former Trump China adviser Matt Pottinger write in Foreign Affairs.
  • The EU’s controversial Migration and Asylum Pact — which gives the bloc greater control over migration, restricts entry to the region, and makes it easier to deport asylum seekers — was approved by the European Parliament over the shouts of pro-migration activists in the chamber’s open gallery.

Big Read

Vladimir Kara-Murza is serving a 25-year sentence in a Siberian prison for criticizing the Kremlin and the war against Ukraine. The dual U.K.-Russian citizen and U.S. resident may be the next dissident to die in prison, The Wall Street Journal says. Due to two poisonings that have heavily damaged his nervous system, his doctors say he could die within two years if he doesn’t receive proper treatment. Friends and family are appealing to the U.S. and U.K. to include him in any prison swaps with Russia, including those that may involve Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen who has been held for more than year on an allegation of espionage. Kara-Murza, a former journalist who became a political operative, specialized in connecting opposition groups and developing international ties, had lobbied for sanctions against Russia’s government to loosen its grip on the country’s political system.


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: American small businesses aren’t feeling particularly optimistic.

What the Right isn’t reading: Sixty-four percent of U.S. registered voters view Donald Trump’s criminal charges in New York as at least “somewhat serious,” according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll

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

Tom Suozzi is a Democratic congressman from New York who recently traveled to Ukraine with a congressional delegation.

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