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Kevin McCarthy faces the heat; White House takes on Trump tax ideas; Google antitrust trial kicks of͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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September 12, 2023


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Today in D.C.
  1. McCarthy under pressure
  2. Congress’ natsec to-do list
  3. White House vs. Trump on taxes
  4. Google stands trial
  5. Trump’s Electoral College issue

PDB: White House slams House defense bill

Wes Moore on Principals Live at 11 a.m. … Microsoft’s Brad Smith at Senate AI hearing … Punchbowl: Kevin McCarthy to back impeachment inquiry

edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


McCarthy’s September from hell begins

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy is still sounding confident as the House returns this week for what’s widely expected to be a nightmarish September. The speaker told reporters on Monday evening that he believes a government shutdown can still be avoided and he’s “not at all” worried about losing his grip on the gavel. He even dared one of his chief tormentors, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to force a vote to oust him: “He should go ahead and do it.”

The mood is less sanguine around the rest of Capitol Hill. Congressional aides have begun talking about a shutdown as an inevitability, and there’s widespread doubt about whether McCarthy can evade one while still holding onto his job. One puzzle he’ll need to solve: Conservatives are asking for major concessions as part of any deal to keep the government running, including steeper budget cuts and changes to border and defense policy, but they haven’t coalesced around one single set of demands. “Some people feel very strongly about holding the spending level,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, the frequent frontman for the House Freedom Caucus, told Semafor. “Some people want to see policy changes, some people want to see both right now.”

Meanwhile, the office of Gaetz, who’s lately ratcheted up pressure on McCarthy over impeachment, said he’ll be delivering a floor speech on Tuesday afternoon to “lay out his vision for the House of Representatives moving forward.”

— Joseph Zeballos-Roig


In other House business …

REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson/File Photo

The House will have to balance its brewing fight over funding the government with some pressing national security bills. First, the House and Senate still need to mesh their two versions of the National Defense Authorization Act, after the House passed a more partisan bill targeting abortion policy and DEI programs. The two chambers have just started conversations on a compromise package, according to a Senate aide who said it was too early to sketch out a timeline. And the White House’s request for $24 billion in additional aid for Ukraine faces opposition from a handful of House Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned in a floor speech Monday that “both Russia and China will be emboldened” if the U.S. doesn’t follow through with more help. Speaker McCarthy will likely look to separate the funding out from an expected stopgap funding package and potentially tie it to Republican border security policies.

— Morgan Chalfant and Kadia Goba


White House flames Trump’s (unofficial) tax plan

REUTERS/Kevin Wurm

The White House didn’t waste any time attacking Donald Trump’s hypothetical tax plan. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the GOP frontrunner and his longtime economic advisors have discussed dropping the corporate rate to 15%, offsetting some of the cost with revenue from the across-the-board 10% tariff on imports the former president has floated. White House spokesman Andrew Bates blasted out a statement to reporters denouncing the idea as “another wave of deficit-increasing tax welfare for big corporations” that would be “directly tied to unprecedented price increases on American families.” We’ll see if this idea sticks past the leaking-to-the-media phase, but it’s worth noting that voters were generally sour on Trump’s corporate tax cuts and tariffs during his first term.


The non-Trump trial everyone is watching

REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo/File Photo

The stakes are high as the Justice Department kicks off its antitrust case against Google in court today. In its first monopoly trial against a tech behemoth since the government’s showdown with Microsoft over 20 years ago, the DOJ and a group of state attorneys general are accusing Google of abusing its market power to maintain dominance in online search, both by preloading its software on Android smartphones and by striking multi-billion-dollar deals with companies like Apple and Samsung to make it their default search engine. Google will argue that the company achieved market dominance by “offering a superior product” and that it’s easy enough to download other search engines, writes The New Yorker. Key to remember: A loss wouldn’t just clip Google’s power, but could also ripple through the business practices of its partners who signed the deals at the heart of the DOJ’s case.


The Electoral College may not save Trump

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The tie may not go to Trump in 2024. While polls are close, the New York Times’ data guru Nate Cohn writes that the Electoral College math has shifted since Biden’s victory. Democrats performed disproportionately well in swing states in the midterms, and Cohn says the latest national and state polls tell a similar story. Driving the trend: Trump is “faring unusually well among nonwhite voters, who represent a larger share of the electorate in noncompetitive than competitive states,” while struggling with white voters in battlegrounds like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Cohn speculates that issues like abortion and democracy may boost Democrats in purple states where Republicans exert some power, while crime, inflation, and immigration help Republicans more in safely blue states like New York and California, where a combined NYT/Siena sample finds Trump doing 10 points better than in 2020.

Principals Live

This morning at 11 a.m., Steve Clemons is hosting an exclusive live 1:1 interview with the Maryland Gov. Wes Moore at the Gallup building. RSVP here for you and your team. And if you can’t make it in person, catch the livestream.


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will tell members of the House GOP caucus this week that he’s endorsing an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, calling it the “logical next step” after congressional probes of Hunter Biden.

The Early 202: Even backing impeachment might not be enough to get some Freedom Caucus members on board with McCarthy’s plan to pass a short-term funding bill, though: “You’re not going to treat one for the other with me, and I think a lot of members feel that way,” said Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry, R-Pa.

Playbook: Today’s House Rules Committee meeting, where members will debate the rule for the annual defense bill, will be a good gauge of where things stand between McCarthy and hardline members of his caucus.

Axios: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. is preparing to air his grievances with McCarthy on the House floor and has floated a plan to team up with House Democrats to oust him. But some House Dems say they aren’t interested.

White House

  • The Office of Management and Budget welcomed House Republicans back to Washington with a memo today criticizing their appropriations bills and accusing McCarthy of ignoring a budget deal reached over the summer to raise the debt ceiling. Biden has no public events on his schedule today.
  • The White House announced that eight additional companies, including IBM, Nvidia, Scale and Palantir, have pledged to follow voluntary safeguards for the development and use of AI.
  • The Biden administration moved to release $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds that had been blocked by U.S. sanctions in order to clear the way for a prisoner swap that will free five Americans held by Iran and five Iranian nationals imprisoned in the U.S. The move inspired outrage from Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
  • The FDA signed off on updated COVID-19 vaccines as cases rise. Moderna and Pfizer say they plan to recommend pairing them with annual flu shots this year.


  • The House plans to vote on legislation to fund the Pentagon this week that the White House has (unsurprisingly) threatened to veto over changes to abortion policy, pay raises for junior enlisted members, and a prohibition on money used to collect climate data, among other provisions.
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. is seeking feedback from the FEC and FTC on how to better crack down on scammers that use political action committees and nonprofits to enrich themselves through telemarketing schemes. Blumenthal makes a brief appearance in the HBO docuseries “Telemarketers,” which tells the story of one elaborate phone fraud operation.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom irked Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. and Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev. by saying he would appoint a Black woman as “caretaker” — and not Lee, a current Senate candidate — to fill Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s, D-Calif. seat if she leaves office. In the meantime, don’t get used to hearing about the drama surrounding Feinstein’s family legal dispute over her late husband’s estate: It’s headed to private mediation.


With new census data expected to show a spike in poverty rates today, a White House official blamed Republicans for not renewing the pandemic Child Tax Credit expansion. Left unsaid: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. opposed its extension as well.


  • Federal prosecutors in Virginia dropped their long-running case against Bijan Rafiekian, a former business partner of Michael Flynn, who was charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey years ago.
  • Attorneys for former President Trump want U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to recuse herself from the federal case involving his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, saying her prior public statements about his connection to Jan. 6 “unavoidably taint these proceedings.”


  • The Washington Post’s Ben Terris went on an exhausting journey to identify Tim Scott’s girlfriend, without success. “He wouldn’t tell me her name, and the campaign declined to make her available to chat, even off the record,” Terris concluded. “Technically I can’t verify that she exists, except to note that for a presidential campaign to essentially reverse-catfish America would be insane.”
  • Vice President Harris is headed to a donor retreat in Chicago on Wednesday. — Axios
  • Ron DeSantis met with family members of 9/11 victims and attended a ceremony at the Twin Towers site on Monday morning, while Vivek Ramaswamy was well-received by firefighters during the FDNY Pipes and Drums Tribute that evening.


Voters are feeling better about the economy, according to a Wall Street Journal poll, led by a 9-point bump among Democrats and independents who say things are going well. But three in five respondents still disapprove of Biden’s economic record.

National security

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is headed to Russia for talks with Vladimir Putin about supplying Moscow with weapons. A deal on arms supplies would establish “the foundations of a new anti-Western military axis,” Semafor’s Jay Solomon writes.


Ramaswamy is rolling out the “second season” of his podcast, Semafor’s Max Tani reports.

Big Read

The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner profiles New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, tracing his eclectic religious upbringing in New England, his longtime friendship with fellow Times reporter Michael Barbaro, and his unusual bond with the paper’s left-leaning readership. “Douthat, who joined the Times in 2009, occupies an all but vanished position: he is a Christian conservative who lives among liberals, writes for them, and — even when he is arguing against abortion, or against ‘woke progressivism’— has their respectful attention,” Chotiner writes.


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: New York City is cutting overtime pay for police officers and other city workers.

What the Right isn’t reading: A trial is underway over a controversial voting law in Texas, which caused Democratic lawmakers to stage a 38-day walkout in 2021 — a case that will have implications for how Texans can vote in 2024.

Principal of the Day

What issue are you spending the most time on right now?

Since it’s August recess, I’m spending most of my time meeting with constituents to hear their input for the remainder of the Congressional session. That includes things like appropriations projects we can fund, as well as federal agencies in my district that would be impacted by a government shutdown. As Vice Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, I am also preparing for the debates in Washington over funding the government and doing everything in my power to prevent a shutdown.

What’s something you read recently that stuck with you?

LA Times: Asylum seekers from Muslim-majority countries disproportionately imprisoned at Texas border

Who’s a Republican you talk regularly to, and why?

I don’t want to name names for fear of getting them in trouble, but I have working relationships with a number of Republicans, many of which may surprise readers!

Favorite DC Dive?


Favorite Minnesota haunt?

Too many to name! Will go with Afrodeli.

Top of your Spotify playlist?

Ha igu nicin hanti la-aan by Ahmed Yaasin Digfer