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In this edition: Republicans once again talk about cuts to Medicare and Social Security, a bill to p͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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June 22, 2023


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Jordan Weissmann
Jordan Weissmann

Donald Trump warned them not to do it. The White House is ready to savage them over it. And yet, House Republicans are once again talking about tinkering with Medicare and Social Security. As Joseph Zeballos-Roig writes this morning, the large and influential Republican Study Committee is getting behind a budget proposal that includes cuts to the sensitive entitlements, even as the idea appears to have become increasingly politically unviable — showing just how hesitant much of the party is to let go of one of its least popular positions.

You know what idea is popular these days, though? Getting tough on bankers. A bill that would make it easier for regulators to claw back pay from executives at failed banks cleared a key Senate committee with overwhelming bipartisan support on Wednesday. Joseph has more details on how the legislation, written in response to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, even won over normally business-friendly Republicans.

And finally, Kadia Goba talks to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is definitely not feeling repentant after she was overheard cursing out Rep. Lauren Boebert on the House floor.

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☞ White House: The White House is ramping up its criticism of Republicans on abortion ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. In a new messaging memo shared first with Semafor, the White House accuses “extreme” Republicans of “threatening the lives of women” by pushing new restrictions on the procedure. It cites a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that 64% of OBGYNs believe overturning Roe v. Wade has worsened pregnancy-related deaths.

☞ Senate: Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. had what he described as a “productive conversation” with Google CEO Sundar Pichai about artificial intelligence and children’s mental health, the same day that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. outlined next steps for regulating AI. Meanwhile, Senate appropriators are set to start marking up budget bills today, setting in motion a likely clash with the House over spending levels.

☞ House: Lawmakers voted along party lines to censor Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. for suggesting President Trump colluded directly with Russia during the 2016 election, a rare rebuke of a sitting House member that capped off Republicans’ longrunning crusade against the former Intelligence Committee leader. Colorado GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert’s impeachment resolution against Joe Biden is looking likely to stall after lawmakers vote today on whether to refer it to the House Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees.

☞ Outside the Beltway: The North Carolina state senate approved two election-related measures Wednesday worrying voting rights advocates, one that requires absentee ballots to be received by election night in order to be counted and another that would reduce Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s power over the State Board of Elections. Cooper had vetoed both measures in the past, but they are expected to pass the state House now that Republicans have veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

Need to Know
REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. isn’t backing down after she was overheard calling Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. a “little bitch” to her face on the House floor Wednesday during a fight over their dueling efforts to impeach President Joe Biden. Asked whether there was any chance the two would reconcile after the confrontation, Greene told Semafor’s Kadia Goba: “Absolutely not.” She added that Boebert “has genuinely been a nasty little bitch to me.” Read more from Kadia the blowup and the bad blood behind it.

President Biden will host Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a state visit today that will be paired with several big announcements on defense and tech cooperation. The two countries will unveil deals for India to produce General Electric fighter jet engines and buy U.S. drones, and India will sign onto NASA’s Artemis Accords and join a State Department critical minerals program, according to senior Biden administration officials. Micron will also roll out plans for a new $2.7 billion semiconductor assembly and test facility in India.

Meanwhile, members of Congress are imploring India’s leaders to scale back its imports of Russian oil, after data showed shipments hit a high last month even as the international community tries to squeeze Russia over its war in Ukraine. Reps. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass. and Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa sent a letter to India’s ambassador to the U.S. encouraging New Delhi to reassess “its importation of Russian oil, to better align its energy policy with the values and interests at stake in Ukraine,” according to a copy shared first with Semafor.

China’s ambassador to the U.S. made “strong protests” to the White House and State Department yesterday after Biden referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as a dictator, according to the country’s embassy. “The relevant remarks by the U.S. side are erroneous, absurd and irresponsible, and form an open political provocation,” an embassy spokesman said. They also threatened an unspecified response if the U.S. doesn’t “take earnest actions to undo the negative impact and honor its own commitments.”

A six-hour appearance by special counsel John Durham before the House Judiciary Committee offered little in the way of new information about his years-long investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. Republicans largely praised Durham’s effort, but some like Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. expressed disappointment he didn’t more aggressively pursue DOJ officials and other people of interest. “I think you let the country down,” Gaetz told Durham.

Morgan Chalfant and Jordan Weissmann

Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: In the wake of Greene and Boebert’s spat, Punchbowl looks at whether — and if so, when — House Republicans might vote to impeach Biden. Many House GOP members believe the vote will eventually happen, but top Republicans including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky. aren’t saying whether the current probe into Biden and his family will ultimately lead to impeachment.

The Early 202: Along those lines, the Washington Post notes that a Biden impeachment vote would put vulnerable Republican House members in a tough spot ahead of 2024. Some of them are pushing back: “There may be an allegation, but there’s nothing proven in my mind that warrants an impeachment,” said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.

Playbook: The big question ahead of Biden’s meeting with Modi today, Politico writes, is whether the president will press the prime minister on his government’s human rights record in private or during the news conference the two will take part in this afternoon.

Joseph Zeballos-Roig

Republicans are talking entitlement cuts again, despite Trump’s warnings

REUTERS/Amr Alfiky


A new budget proposal from the largest House GOP faction is reigniting a battle over the future of Social Security and Medicare, leaving them at odds with former President Trump and prompting attacks from the White House.

Last week, the 176-member Republican Study Committee detailed changes it would make to entitlement programs in an effort to extend their lifespan. For Medicare, it would begin offering seniors assistance to help buy private health coverage that competes against government insurance plans; it would also gradually raise the Social Security eligibility age to 69 for those who aren’t close to retiring.

The proposals put the group at conflict with the GOP’s presidential frontrunners. Trump has repeatedly insisted he will not touch Social Security and Medicare if he is re-elected, and urged Republicans currently in Congress not to cut “a single penny” from the programs. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has similarly promised not to touch entitlements for seniors, after coming under attack by Trump over his votes to do so in the past.

The proposal has also given the White House an opportunity to escalate its attacks on Republicans after the debt limit deal that was signed into law. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates assailed Republicans in a Wednesday strategy memo, saying “the House GOP is tripling down on a bold policy message: telling the American middle class to go to hell.”

“We’re in a place to put legislation forward to talk about policies that we believe will work,” Rep. Kevin Hern, chair of the RSC, told Semafor. “People can be critical of it on both sides of the aisle, and I’m sure there will be as there has been, and that’s okay.”


As the longtime policy shop for Capitol Hill conservatives, the RSC has spent decades putting forth entitlement reform proposals with little hope of passing. But at this point, the exercise seems like a bit more political trouble than it can possibly be worth.

Sure, many traditional Republicans are still intellectually devoted to the cause of trimming Medicare and Social Security. But with the party’s likeliest standard-bearers practically swearing in blood not to fiddle with the popular programs, it’s not clear how any of these proposals would ever become law.

Could Republicans force President Biden to accept cuts? That seems far-fetched. The GOP just spent the entire debt ceiling fight promising that they would absolutely not touch Social Security, after all.

And while the vast majority of the Republicans who back them come from safe red districts, these kinds of proposals can still tarnish the party’s national image among seniors.

Voting for them can still come back to haunt members, too. As a congressman, DeSantis backed a number of essentially symbolic budget resolutions put forward by the RSC that sliced entitlements. Now those votes have become attack fodder for Trump.

Even some Republican entitlement reform advocates are blanching at the RSC’s effort.

“I think we’re wiser to talk about a process of a bipartisan nature,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told Semafor, adding he’d released legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to establish bicameral panels tasked with finding ways to bolster the dwindling Medicare and Social Security trust funds. He argued that was a more viable route rather than Republicans releasing a party-line document that’s “easy to attack.”


Will the RSC’s proposal actually get a vote?

Hern thinks yes: He’s expecting the sprawling plan to reach the House floor as an amendment to the GOP’s so-far unfinished budget resolution. If the party fails to produce one, talks are underway to find another way to vote on the RSC plan, per a House GOP aide familiar with the situation.

Republicans appear determined to take this messaging vote, even if much of the public hates the message.


Other key Republicans insist these measures are less extreme than Democrats have suggested. They point out Biden lacks a Social Security solvency plan of his own.

“These are not unusual proposals. Every bipartisan commission that looks at strengthening either Social Security or Medicare raises the importance of these issues,” Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota told Semafor. “We have an actuarial time bomb.”


Bill to punish executives at failed banks easily clears Senate committee

REUTERS/Leah Millis

It seems that even business-friendly Republicans want to get a little tougher on bankers these days.

In a lopsided, 21-2 vote Wednesday, the Senate Banking Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill making it easier to punish executives at failed banks by clawing back their pay and imposing other potential penalties.

The legislation, known as the RECOUP Act, was crafted in response to the market-rattling demise of several large regional banks earlier this year, including Silicon Valley Bank, First Republic, and Signature, whose executives earned millions in compensation while steering their businesses towards collapse. SVB attracted special ire for paying out bonuses to employees just hours before it was taken over by the government.

“I would say in very limited circumstances where we find what is clearly either egregious wrongdoing or clear malfeasance, there has to be some sort of a penalty to be paid by those who were making money,” Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., a Banking Committee member who backed the bill, told Semafor.

The bill, introduced by Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and ranking member Tim Scott, R-S.C., included compromises that helped win support from Republican lawmakers who tend to prefer a lighter touch on financial oversight. While it gives regulators the option to claw bank executives’ pay after a collapse, it would not require them to, unlike a competing bill by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Crucially, the measure also exempted community banks.

The committee vote suggests the bill has a strong chance of passing the full Senate. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. said he liked its chances in the GOP-controlled House as well.

“I think it’s a bill that’s pretty palatable to a lot of Republicans, and many, many Democrats,” Cramer told Semafor. “A simple majority in the House doesn’t require a majority of either party. It just requires a majority.”

Joseph Zeballos-Roig


The United States fell 16 to spots to 43rd in the World Economic Forum’s annual gender equality rankings. The fall was caused in part by a decline the country’s political empowerment score after the group changed how it counts women in government ministerial roles.


One Good Text

Christopher O. Koya is a legislative director for Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa. who participated in the inaugural Congressional Sneaker Day on Capitol Hill yesterday.


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: The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to meet this morning and potentially decide whether to release transcripts of testimony from IRS whistleblowers who accused the Justice Department of mishandling the investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes.

WHAT THE RIGHT ISN’T READING: Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del. announced plans to run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Sen. Tom Carper.

Principals Team