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In today’s edition, Israel strikes Iran, Mike Johnson gets a bipartisan coalition, and how a TikTok ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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April 19, 2024


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Today in D.C.
  1. Israel strikes Iran
  2. Johnson’s coalition government
  3. Behind the revised TikTok bill
  4. Williams on hikes
  5. The Trump twelve
  6. Becerra on COVID-19 origins

PDB: Abortion laws affect drug prescribed for miscarriages

Senate votes on FISA … Trump campaign to send thousands of election workers to poll sites… WSJ: China tells Apple to remove messaging apps

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Israel strikes Iran

Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters

Israel carried out a strike on Iran in retaliation for the Iranian missile and drone attack over the weekend. The Israeli government has not publicly confirmed it launched the attack, but an anonymous Israeli official told the Washington Post that the strike was meant to send Iran a message that Israel could strike inside the country. The Wall Street Journal characterized it as “a limited strike aimed at avoiding an escalatory cycle that could push the countries closer toward war,” quoting one analyst who said the strike was “more symbolic.” The strike reportedly occurred at an Iranian military base in Isfahan and caused little damage. Still, Iran-backed militias may yet target U.S. forces stationed in the region, an expert warned. There’s no official word yet from the White House, which made clear following Iran’s attack over the weekend that while the U.S. would step in to defend Israel, it would not join in a counterattack. Axios reports that the Biden administration was notified in advance by Israel. “We were not surprised,” one U.S. official told the outlet. President Biden, meanwhile, is considering transferring $1 billion in new weapons to Israel, the Journal reported.


Rare bipartisan alliance pushes aid bill forward

REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

The House has been operating as an unofficial bipartisan coalition for months now, but the Ukraine package is making it plainer than ever before. It’s virtually unheard of for the minority party to help out on votes in the Rules Committee, but on Thursday night the Democrats on the panel voted to advance the foreign aid package, which would have failed without their support. Democrats have already supplied the votes for various legislation amid GOP infighting before. But this time they are helping Speaker Mike Johnson move the new package at every level — committee and floor — and are poised to save his job from a potentially imminent coup attempt that would otherwise have the votes to succeed.

A speaker who serves at the pleasure of the opposition party and can only bring up key bills with their support sounds like No Labels’ dream, but it’s the reality that this Congress has been building towards throughout the year. And Democrats may have to bail out Johnson’s speakership more than once before this Congress ends: On Thursday, he rejected a push by some of his own supporters to give him more running room by raising the one-person threshold for a motion to vacate (a rule change that also would have required Democratic help to pass). “The speaker should not be held over a barrel by one or two or three members who think it’s their right to undermine the majority,” Rep. Mike Lawler, R-NY., told reporters.

— Kadia Goba and Benjy Sarlin


How the revised TikTok bill got on a fast track

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

A revised House bill to force a sale of TikTok is on course to pass in a matter of days thanks to painstaking negotiations between the bipartisan cosponsors, House and Senate leaders, and a key Senate Democrat who now backs the bill. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell on Wednesday came out in support of the recently revised bill, which would give China-based ByteDance up to a year to divest TikTok (180 days longer than the original House-passed legislation), after previously expressing some skepticism. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the top Democrat cosponsor, said he and China committee Chair Mike Gallagher had been “speaking with leadership on all sides for weeks” and described Cantwell as very engaged and “open minded” in the process. “She has really studied it,” he told Semafor. “I spent one hour with her going through the markup of the bill, line by line, and so she really got into the nitty gritty.”

Cantwell told Semafor she was in “constant contact” with Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi about the legislation. “We think that if you have a longer date, you will have more of a true divestiture opportunity,” she said. Speaker Mike Johnson announced the bill, which a TikTok spokesperson said would “trample the free speech rights of 170 million Americans,” is getting hitched to the broader foreign aid package, which should help it move quickly. “Nothing is final until the votes are cast, so we’re not taking anything for granted,” Krishnamoorthi said. Meanwhile, TikTok is doubling its ad buys.

Morgan Chalfant and Joseph Zeballos-Roig


N.Y. Fed president says interest rate hikes conceivable

Getty Images for Semafor

Would the Federal Reserve ever consider raising interest rates, given surprisingly sticky inflation? John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, didn’t rule it out when asked during Semafor’s World Economy Summit. “It’s not my baseline,” he said. “Of course, you never know what can happen. If the data are telling us that we would need higher interest rates to achieve our goals, we would obviously want to do that.” The mere suggestion that a hike could be on the table led Treasury rates to pop on Wall Street. The conference also included a bit of dueling over the Fed’s performance: Former governor Kevin Warsh, who has often been talked about as a potential chair under Donald Trump, suggested the central bank’s handling of inflation amounted to its “biggest economic policy error in the last 45 years.” J.P. Morgan Chase President Daniel Pinto countered later that its performance had been “really good.” “It may take a bit longer till they can cut rates,” he said, “but at the end, it’s not such a big deal because the economy is still growing.”


The 12 jurors who will determine Trump’s fate

Twelve jurors have now been selected in the Trump hush money trial. The court still needs to find alternates, and don’t assume the current lineup is permanent — the day began with two previously chosen jurors being dismissed, one under mysterious circumstances, the other after she said she feared her identity would be revealed. While the participants are anonymous, Judge Merchan admonished the press for publishing revealing details; Fox News host Jesse Watters even devoted a segment Wednesday night to the now-dismissed “Juror 2,” saying the available facts about her should worry Trump. The judge also asked that reporters refrain from discussing jurors’ physical appearance, or accent, in ways that could make it easier to identify them. “This is just a matter of common sense,” he said.


HHS secretary presses China to open up on COVID-19 origins


The COVID lab-leak theory is just “speculation,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told Kadia Goba at the Semafor World Economy Summit. Xavier repeatedly declined to side with the FBI’s finding that the virus likely emerged from a Chinese lab incident instead of through natural transmission from an animal to human, an issue that has long divided the U.S. intelligence community. “We’re all still trying to figure this out. It would really help if China were more transparent,” Becerra said. “We’ve seen a lot of data, but not all the data. It’s speculation still. Everyone’s guessing.” In response to Becerra’s comment pressing China for more accountability, Chinese embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said China has been “actively supporting and participating in global scientific origins tracing of COVID-19” and dismissed the lab leak theory. “Relevant parties should stop stirring up the ‘laboratory leak’ theory, stop smearing China and stop politicizing the issue of origins tracing,” Liu said.

Morgan Chalfant


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: Members of the House Freedom Caucus voiced concerns about removing Speaker Mike Johnson during a meeting Thursday evening, despite their anger at Johnson over the foreign aid bill. Some members “were unhappy about the possibility of Johnson being replaced by” Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

Playbook: Johnson has the benefit of support from Donald Trump, who posted to Truth Social yesterday about Europeans needing to do more to support Ukraine but did not come out against the aid package for Ukraine like some of his closest allies on Capitol Hill have. Trump purposefully “did not come down on one side or another,” one person familiar with his thinking said.

The Early 202: Some House Republicans are encouraging Johnson to remove Reps. Chip Roy, Ralph Norman, and Thomas Massie from the powerful Rules Committee, “where the three of them wield an effective veto over the House agenda.”

Axios: The Biden administration, which was notified ahead of time of Israel’s plans for the strike, “has warned Israel that escalation with Iran wouldn’t serve U.S. or Israeli interests.”

White House

  • President Biden is giving a speech at the IBEW Construction and Maintenance Conference in Washington later today.
  • Biden announced new sanctions on Iran targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s Defense Ministry, and Tehran’s missile and drone program in retaliation for the attack on Israel.
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan held a virtual meeting with Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi during which he raised U.S. concerns about a planned Israeli operation in Rafah.
  • White House chief of staff Jeff Zients wants more federal employees to return to work.


  • Speaker Mike Johnson isn’t going to try to change the threshold for bringing a motion to vacate.
  • The House overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning Iran’s attack on Israel, but 14 members — 13 progressive Democrats and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. — voted against it.
  • The Senate is expected to take more votes today on legislation to extend Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Attorney General Merrick Garland penned a letter to Senate leaders urging them to pass the legislation before today’s deadline.
  • House Republicans are losing another of their own: Rep. Jake LaTurner, R-Kans., said he will not seek reelection after this term. He has only been in Congress for three years and is 36.
  • Wall Street firms BlackRock and MSCI steered billions of dollars in U.S. retirement savings and other investments to Chinese companies that the U.S. government says are tied to China’s military and human rights buses, an investigation by the House select committee on China found. — WSJ
  • Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and retired Gen. Jack Keane wrote to Speaker Mike Johnson expressing strong support for the foreign aid package. “We support aiding Ukraine because that is the best way to help Americans; the best way to reduce the risk that future generations will have to take up arms in Europe, the Middle East, or Asia,” they wrote in the letter. “Winston Churchill warned that while free nations sleep, dictators plan. No nation is ever served by ignoring the ambitions of its enemies.”
  • Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wisc., called Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. “tubby” in an argument on the floor; Gaetz told reporters later Van Orden was “not a particularly intelligent individual.”
  • New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne remains in the hospital more than a week after experiencing diabetes-related cardiac issues. “There has been no change in the congressman’s condition,” a spokesman for the Democrat said Thursday.

Outside the Beltway

More than 100 pro-Palestinian student protesters were arrested after camping out at Columbia University. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s daughter was suspended from Barnard College for participating in the demonstration.


Poland arrested and charged a man with assisting with a Russian plot to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

On the Trail

  • Donald Trump’s combined operation has 270,000 fewer unique donors than at this point in the 2020 race, “another troubling sign” for GOP fundraising this year. — FT
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign said he qualified for the ballot in Michigan via the Natural Law Party.
  • President Biden twice suggested this week that cannibals ate the remains of his military veteran uncle, Ambrose Finnegan, but an official account indicates his body was lost at sea following a plane crash.
  • David McCormick, the Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate, sounds nervous about an upcoming New York Times story touching on his childhood biography.

National Security

The Justice Department is launching a new “specialized gun intelligence center” and carjacking task forces to reduce violent crime. — AP

Foreign Policy

  • The U.S. vetoed a resolution at the United Nations that would have given Palestine full membership in the organization.
  • The White House is renewing its effort to achieve an agreement for the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel. — WSJ
  • A helicopter crash in Kenya killed the country’s military chief Francis Ogolla.


  • Apple has removed WhatsApp and Threads from its app store in China, saying it was ordered to by the government. – WSJ
  • Google has fired 28 employees after protesting labor conditions and the company’s contract to provide cloud computing and AI services to Israel’s government and military.


  • U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy met Thursday with jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Moscow. “Despite the continued wait for the start of his trial, Evan remains in good spirits, buoyed by the continued messages of support,” the U.S. Embassy said in a message posted on X, along with the hashtag that journalism is not a crime.
  • South Korean automaker Hyundai says it has paused advertising on X after antisemitic and pro-Nazi posts appeared next to its sponsored posted on the platform. — NBC

Big Read

Some pharmacists are afraid of being jailed for dispensing the FDA-approved misoprostol, which is prescribed for miscarriages, preventing stomach ulcers, and abortions, due to murky laws in states with bans on abortion, NBC says. In Idaho, where abortion became illegal with some exceptions after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade in 2022, the drug went from “something that wasn’t on the radar but now sends up an alert in the pharmacy,” one Boise pharmacist said. The Idaho Board of Pharmacy said it’s not providing guidance to pharmacists who dispense medications that could be used to terminate a pregnancy due to the “uniqueness of every situation.” Alison Tanner, senior legal counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, was quoted as saying, “Pharmacists are understandably scared by these incredibly strict abortion laws that have been enacted, and they are afraid that they might be charged with a felony simply for doing their job.”


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: Denver plans to spend $90 million on services for new migrants after slashing funding for programs across city government agencies.

What the Right isn’t reading: A new rule finalized by the Biden administration allows the lease of public property for conservation purposes just like oil companies lease land for drilling.

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

Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform. He responded to remarks from House Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington earlier this week over his criticism of the congressman’s push for a bipartisan fiscal commission. Arrington later apologized. “Texan came out of me a little bit,” he said, according to The Hill. “But, you know what, it lets me know that maybe I’m getting close to doing something that could help the country.”

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