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UAW goes on strike; Hunter under the gun; DeSantis’ latest reset.͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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September 15, 2023


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Today in D.C.
  1. UAW strike
  2. Hunter Biden indicted
  3. McCarthy cracks
  4. DeSantis’ comeback plan
  5. Republicans’ college attitudes
  6. Politico’s Lizza to NYT?

PDB: Hakeem Jeffries to huddle with impeachment managers

Zelenskyy coming to Washington … Biden in touch with UAW leader and auto execs … Fox Poll: Trump at 60% in primary


UAW goes on strike

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Around 13,000 auto workers went on strike Friday after United Auto Workers leaders and Detroit’s major automakers failed to reach a deal on contract negotiations — the first time in the union’s history that its members walked out of all three companies, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, simultaneously. The strike will initially target only three factories, but UAW president Shawn Fain said it could expand to more based on the companies’ response. President Biden spoke with Fain and auto execs ahead of the strike, and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. plans to join the picket line with workers at the Ford assembly plant in Wayne this morning. The auto talks present unique challenges for Biden, who has presented himself as the “most pro-union president in history,” but also can’t afford much economic disruption in general. The negotiations also touch on the transition to electric vehicles, one of Biden’s top priorities, and an issue Donald Trump is hoping to use to peel off union voters skeptical of automakers’ plans. On Friday morning, Trump declared electric cars “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL DISASTER” on Truth Social.


Hunter under fire

REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson/File Photo

Hunter Biden’s gun charges put President Biden in a difficult position. For Democrats, though, the response is a no-brainer: Throw the book at him, and hold his father blameless. “If Hunter Biden committed crimes, he should be held accountable,” Rep. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y. told reporters, citing the indictment by a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney as proof of the Biden DOJ’s independence. “I’ll say something you’ll never hear Republicans say, which is that the rule of law should function against people of all political parties,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. said. On the Republican side, the charges were largely dismissed as crumbs to throw them off the White House’s trail. “This is the least of all the crimes he has committed and the one crime that you can’t tie his father to,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky. If you need a refresher on how we got here, check out the New York Times’ lengthy piece from August on how Hunter’s plea deal fell apart.


The GOP’s Godfather II moment

Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo

After a foul-mouthed war of words on Thursday, House Republicans are at least slightly hopeful they might reach a temporary deal to avoid a shutdown, Joseph Zeballos-Roig and Kadia Goba report. Leaders of the establishment-leaning Main Street caucus said they had been in “productive” talks with Freedom Caucus hardliners about a short-term spending patch to keep the government open, with border funding being a key point of discussion. The Republican Study Committee, the largest bloc within the House GOP conference, also released a statement saying they favor “a short-term, conservative continuing resolution.”

Before then, the GOP conference appeared to be teetering on the edge of open civil war. At a morning conference meeting, Speaker Kevin McCarthy challenged conservatives to follow through on their threats to try and oust him, declaring: “If you want to file a motion to vacate, then file a fucking motion.” He vented to Punchbowl News that a “small group of his members” wouldn’t vote for any kind of spending legislation, and that he was “not quite sure what they want.” Later, he conceded to reporters: “I had a plan for this week. It didn’t turn out exactly as I planned.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., McCarthy’s lead antagonist, responded with a bit of trademark trolling. “I’m concerned for the speaker that he seems to be a little rattled and unhinged,” he told CNN. But the speaker was far from alone in his mood. One Republican lawmaker told Semafor that Republicans had perhaps reached “the Godfather II stage” where “the whole family kills each other.” Another mafia-minded member predicted the speaker would survive: “He’s like Tony Soprano: Everybody thinks they’re going to kill him and he comes out alive,” Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn. told Axios, neglecting a popular interpretation of the show’s finale. We’ll see if the latest gangland meetings bring about a truce.


Team DeSantis bets on COVID, LGBT backlash

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Ron DeSantis is down about 50 points to Trump in multiple polls and struggling to stay in the 2024 conversation. So what’s the plan? Play the hits, Shelby Talcott writes: DeSantis is ramping up his COVID talk on the campaign trail, calling out scattered mask mandates, criticizing new boosters, and tying it all to Trump’s record. Meanwhile, the DeSantis-allied super PAC Never Back Down is running Iowa ads featuring drag queens, a breastfeeding transgender parent, and the transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, while attacking Trump for inviting transgender women to compete in his beauty pageants in 2012. Both topics tripped up Trump a bit in a podcast chat with Megyn Kelly, where he claimed he was unaware he’d awarded Dr. Anthony Fauci a presidential commendation (“I don’t know who gave him [it]”), and pleaded ignorance over his 2016 support for letting Caitlyn Jenner use a women’s bathroom (“It hadn’t exploded. I mean, nobody talked about it, really.”) At the same time, Trump has been attacked on both of these issues for months. Why would they start working now?


Republican parents are lukewarm on college

If your kid could do anything after high school, would you want them going to a four-year college? Just over half of Republican parents answer yes to that question, compared with 74% of Democrats in a new survey out this week from Gallup. It’s the latest data point illustrating the stark divide between the two parties on the value of higher education that has opened up over the past 8 years. Gallup’s previous polling this year has shown Republican confidence in higher education cratering compared to Democrats since 2015, potentially reflecting both the post-Trump political realignment that pushed college-educated voters out of the GOP, as well as the growing sense among conservatives that campuses are hostile to their beliefs. Conservative gripes about higher education date back decades, though: The big question now is whether they translate to fewer Republican families sending their children to college, which could have enormous social implications.

— Jordan Weissmann


Lizza in talks with Times

Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Politico may be losing one of the writers of its flagship news product. Three people with knowledge of the discussions told Semafor that the New York Times has been in serious talks with Politico Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza about a role helming one of the paper’s signature political newsletters. Two New York Times staffers read-in on the talks said that Lizza would likely help the paper relaunch the On Politics newsletter, which has been dormant since the death last year of its former author, respected editor Blake Hounshell. Lizza did not respond to a request for comment.

— Max Tani


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: As negotiations within the House GOP conference continue over a stopgap funding bill, some GOP members are hopeful the bill will get a vote as soon as next week — and others seem resigned to a shutdown on Oct. 1.

Playbook: Moderate Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio summed up his assessment of why support for impeachment built over the recess like this: “Six weeks was a pretty long time to be back in district, where you tend to be sometimes in your own echo chamber.”

The Early 202: Vivek Ramaswamy dismissed criticism of his plan to unilaterally cut several federal agencies, saying there are “competing views” but that “a lot of legal academics… agree with me.”

Axios: Some Republicans are worried about House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky. taking the lead on the Biden impeachment inquiry after he’s repeatedly exaggerated or distorted the findings of the committee’s Biden family investigation.

White House

  • President Biden named former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker as special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery at the State Department.
  • Elizabeth Whelan made her 24th trip to Washington to ask for help freeing her brother Paul Whelan, who was jailed on bogus charges by the Kremlin nearly five years ago. She met with White House and State Department officials, and told Semafor she requested a second meeting with Biden but was turned down due to his busy schedule.


  • The Senate’s work on its “minibus” appropriations package will slip into next week after Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. objected to the funding bills being bundled together.
  • House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries is summoning the Democrats who were responsible for overseeing Donald Trump’s impeachments for a meeting next Tuesday to strategize on how to respond to the new impeachment inquiry into Biden, Semafor’s Kadia Goba reports.
  • A group of House Republican chairs urged the Commerce Department to impose more sanctions on Huawei and the Chinese chipmaker SMIC.

Outside the Beltway

Planned Parenthood is offering abortion services in Wisconsin again after a judge ruled an 1849 ban does not apply to medical abortions. Activists are counting on the newly liberal state supreme court to uphold the decision.

National Security

  • The Biden administration is redirecting $85 million in foreign military financing allocated for Egypt, according to a congressional notification seen by Semafor. Citing Egypt’s detention of political prisoners and “intimidation and harassment” of U.S. citizens, the administration is sending $55 million to Taiwan and $30 million to Lebanon.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy plans to visit Washington next week as part of a broader trip to the U.S.


The president has spent months touting “Bidenomics” to voters. On Thursday, he put a name to its nemesis: “MAGAnomics.” In a speech in Maryland, Biden attacked Republican proposals to cut funding for health care, child care, and education; raise the retirement age; end new drug price negotiations; and pursue further tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. “Apparently, they think corporations, which made record profits in recent years, pay too much in taxes,” Biden said. “It’s unbelievable.” On one level, “MAGAnomics” is perhaps not the best branding when Trump is leading Biden by double digits on who would better handle the economy. But the Biden campaign also wants to make the election a choice about policy, rather than just a referendum on the state of the economy today — and they think they have plenty of juicy targets on the other side.


Donald Trump is leading his GOP primary opponents by huge margins in South Carolina, despite two of them — Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott — having been elected to statewide office there.


  • The third Republican debate will take place in Miami in early November. — CNN
  • Trump told Meet The Press moderator Kristen Welker that it’s “very unlikely” he pardons himself as president. The full interview airs Sunday.

Big Read

Now that he’s been indicted for gun charges, it’s a good time to go back and check out this June piece from Politico asking whether Hunter Biden is about to become the “next poster child for the Second Amendment.” Biden is facing charges for lying about his drug use on a gun license application, but recent Supreme Court rulings have called into question the constitutionality of the statute he’s accused of violating. His attorneys have already warned the Justice Department that they plan to challenge the law in court. But how do gun rights groups feel about it? “Second Amendment advocates haven’t reached a consensus on whether to support gun rights for people who use hard drugs,” Politico 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: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deflected when asked if Vice President Harris was the best running mate for Biden.

What the Right isn’t reading: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley denied ever recommending a U.S. military attack on Iran, disputing claims made by former President Trump.

The Team

Editors: Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann, Morgan Chalfant

Editor-at-large: Steve Clemons

Reporters: Kadia Goba, Shelby Talcott, Joseph Zeballos-Roig, David Weigel

One Good Text

McKay Coppins is a writer at The Atlantic and the author of the forthcoming book Romney: A Reckoning.