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In today’s edition: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy heads to Washington to make a push for m͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
snowstorm Washington
sunny Dubai
snowstorm Nashua
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December 11, 2023


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Today in D.C.
  1. Zelenskyy to Washington
  2. Key Democrat warns of shutdown
  3. First CHIPS grant
  4. Dean Phillips’ Hunter warning
  5. Lawmakers at COP28
  6. India’s ‘crackdown’ memo

PDB: The Republicans who attended Javier Milei’s inauguration ceremony in Argentina

Biden to Philly … Iowa Poll: Trump crosses 50% mark … Israel says strikes are targeting three Hamas strongholds

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Zelenskyy heads to D.C. as Ukraine-border talks crawl along

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is coming to Washington this week for meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. His visit confirms what everyone already knows: That this is a critical week for lawmakers to pass more assistance for Kyiv as it fights against Russia’s invasion. Zelenskyy will meet with President Biden at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the “vital importance” of U.S. support, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. Perhaps more crucially, Zelenskyy is expected to speak to U.S. senators Tuesday morning and meet with Speaker Mike Johnson. The path forward for Ukraine assistance has become complicated as Republicans show no sign of relenting in their demand for stiffer border controls in exchange for their support. “Right now, Republican demands are unreasonable,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one of the key Democrats in the ongoing bipartisan border talks, said on NBC. “They don’t get Democratic votes.” He suggested Democrats are open to tightening asylum rules, and said he expects the White House to get more involved in negotiations with Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., this week. Lankford insisted on CBS that Ukraine funding would not pass without measures to address the influx of migrants at the southern border.

Morgan Chalfant and Joseph Zeballos-Roig


GOP pushing Washington toward a shutdown, says top Dem appropriator

REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo

The House GOP’s budget strategy is a “recipe for a government shutdown,” one key Democrat is warning. Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash. told Semafor’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig in an interview last week that her party would not agree to a bill that slashes spending any further than the debt ceiling pact Congress reached earlier this year. House conservatives are still insisting on additional cuts, even as they’ve appeared to walk back some of their more drastic demands. She also directly criticized Speaker Mike Johnson for “refusing to live with the agreement that’s been signed into law, negotiated by his party with the president.”

Congress needs to reach a deal to fund the government early next year or face a complete shutdown in February. Johnson has said that if Congress can’t agree on a full budget plan, he intends to pass a stopgap spending measure that lasts through the end of the fiscal year. But Murray says she’s “unnerved” by that fallback plan, and that it would be dead on arrival in the upper chamber. Johnson has suggested his proposal would freeze current spending levels. Murray points out that it would trigger a 1% across-the-board cut under the terms of the debt ceiling law, which she described as “devastating.” A new fact sheet from her committee notes that domestic programs would face a $70 billion reduction, while defense would see up to a $36.5 billion cut, compared with the toplines in the debt deal.


Commerce gives first CHIPS grant to Nashua facility making chips for fighter jets

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Commerce Department has settled on its first investment through the CHIPS and Science Act, Semafor’s Morgan Chalfant reports. The agency is promising $35 million to a subsidiary of BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H. to revamp an existing facility producing cutting-edge semiconductors for military aircraft like the F-35. The Commerce Department and BAE Systems Electronic Systems will unveil an agreement Monday for the funding, which officials said would help the company make improvements like replacing equipment at the existing facility to expand production of chips (potentially fourfold). The Biden administration is using the announcement to showcase the law’s national defense components. “We do not want to be in a position where critical national security needs are dependent on faulty, foreign supply chains,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. “We do not want to be in a position where another country can cut us off in a moment of crisis.” Officials expect more funding announcements early next year. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said back in October that she hoped to announce the first awards this fall, but argued it’s “more important to get it right than move fast.”


Dean Phillips: Biden impeachment probe ‘perhaps makes him unelectable’

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The House GOP impeachment probe is potentially fatal to President Joe Biden’s reelection bid, Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn. told Semafor’s David Weigel in New Hampshire. While Phillips said he’d vote against the GOP’s impeachment inquiry, he compared the broader issue to “the age question” as a factor that would drag down his primary opponent with swing voters. “I don’t see the evidence of it, but yes, when your own son and your own brother are clearly, at the very least unethical and at worst, doing illegal things — my goodness, of course the country pays attention to it,” said Phillips. “People do believe that it perhaps makes him unelectable — somehow, it conflates him with the Trump family’s indiscretions.” Phillips called Biden a “good man” who most voters had ruled out supporting, and doubted that impeachment would rally Democrats to Biden the way that Donald Trump’s first impeachment rallied Republicans. “I’ve never had anybody in my family indicted, not that I know of,” he said. “I haven’t had a family foundation shut down in New York for being unethical.”


Republicans’ message at COP28: No fossil phaseout

REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Congressional Republicans visited COP28 to let the world know they’re against even phasing down fossil fuels, let alone phasing them out. “Top line, I think it’s stupid,” Rep. Garret Graves, R-La. told Semafor, referring to the goal that for many negotiators here is the deciding factor for the summit’s success or failure. Graves was one of about a dozen members of Congress from both parties to visit the summit this weekend, whose views on fossil fuels ranged from stalwart industry defenders like Graves and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska to longtime climate hawks like Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. While the fossil fuel issue remains divisive, Graves said in a panel discussion that a bipartisan deal on the elusive goal of permitting reform remains within reach, and would likely have as its centerpiece restrictions on who has standing to sue over the environmental impact of infrastructure projects, and how long after construction they have to file suits. The delegation met Saturday morning with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, who Graves said advocated a similar policy. “Anytime I’m saying the same thing as John Kerry, I think there’s a deal in there,” he added. The biggest barrier, Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif. warned, is progressives who are so dead-set on impeding fossil fuel infrastructure that they gum up the works for renewable energy as well. “It should be climate advocates leading on this, but unfortunately we’re ass backwards,” he said. “We can’t solve the climate crisis without getting out of our own way.”

Tim McDonnell

For more from COP28 in Dubai, subscribe to Semafor’s Net Zero newsletter. Sign up here.


India reportedly circulated memo calling for Sikh separatist crackdown

REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier/File Photo

A memo issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs in April called for its North American consulates to orchestrate a “sophisticated crackdown scheme” against Sikh organizations and dissidents, including Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who the Canadian government says was murdered by India earlier this year, the Intercept reported. The memo, which the Intercept wrote doesn’t explicitly order activists killed, tells consulates to confront groups like Sikhs for Justice, the leader of which was the target of an attempted assassination plot in New York, according to a recent indictment unsealed by the Justice Department against an Indian national with government ties. India’s government denied the existence of the memo. “We strongly assert that such reports are fake and completely fabricated,” the Ministry of External Affairs said, according to the Times of India.


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: While Senate negotiators appeared to make little progress over the weekend on a border security deal, Democrats like Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. acknowledge that the crisis needs to be addressed. “We cannot ignore the reality of the numbers and where they’re coming from,” he said from a trip with other lawmakers to Guatemala. “We have to find a way, as painful as it may be, to bring some order.”

Playbook: House Republicans are expected to vote to formalize an impeachment inquiry into President Biden this week, and only one Republican (Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.) is a firm “no.” Half a dozen Republicans haven’t said how they’ll vote, and Speaker Mike Johnson only has three votes to lose.

The Early 202: Johnson has only definitively accomplished two of the six priorities he laid out for House Republicans when he was running for speaker: Passing a bipartisan resolution expressing support for Israel and starting negotiations with the Senate over the NDAA. (Admittedly, some, like “Return to legislating and effectively message on our top issues and priorities,” are a bit ambiguous.)

Axios: November’s U.S. job growth came almost entirely from three sectors — healthcare, government employment, and leisure and hospitality — which might help explain Americans’ general pessimism about the economy.

White House

  • President Biden is headed to Philadelphia — again! — today to announce a $22 million grant that will help the city fund its fire department.
  • The Bidens are hosting a Hanukkah celebration at the White House with hundreds of guests including Holocaust survivors, members of Congress, and local officials. Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of New York City’s Central Synagogue will lead a menorah lighting with second gentleman Doug Emhoff, according to a White House official.


  • Liz Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned from her post after the massive public backlash over the congressional hearing during which she struggled to answer questions about whether calling for genocide against Jews warranted punishment at the school. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. responded by also calling for the resignations of leaders of Harvard and MIT, who similarly stumbled in the hearing.
  • Three House Republicans traveled to Argentina to attend Javier Milei’s inauguration ceremony over the weekend as part of a CODEL, a person familiar with the trip told Semafor’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig. The roster included Reps. María Elvira Salazar, R-Fla.; Gary Palmer, R-Ala.; and Mark Green, R-Tenn. Green cut his trip short, however, when tornadoes struck his district.
  • Officials aligned with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will meet with Republican lawmakers at the Heritage Foundation this week to encourage them to end U.S. security aid to Ukraine. — The Guardian
  • Republicans in Congress allied with Donald Trump are already eyeing a legislative agenda if he wins in 2024 that would include bills to end birthright citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants and ban federal enforcement of mask mandates. — Axios

Outside the Beltway

Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, a Democrat, was elected the next mayor of Houston, defeating U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas in a runoff.


Democrats have spent months debating why voters are so unhappy about an economy that the stats suggest is pretty good. But could the vibes be improving? After declining for four straight months, the closely watched Michigan consumer sentiment index shot back up in December as Americans’ expectations for inflation for next year declined. The Index is still down at levels last seen in late 2011, when unemployment was above 8%. But there’s reason to expect more improvement: At Briefing Book, Stanford’s Neale Mahoney and Ryan Cummings calculate that inflation’s effect on consumer sentiment falls by about 50 percent per year.

Foreign Policy

The U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, drawing criticism from some Democrats (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. called it “shameful.”)


In a last-minute reversal, Donald Trump wrote on Truth Social that he would not be testifying at his civil fraud trial in New York later today, despite plans for him to be one of the defense’s last witnesses.


  • Donald Trump is the first choice of 51% of likely Iowa caucusgoers, according to a new NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll out this morning. Trump has expanded his lead over his Republican opponents, according to the survey, which has Ron DeSantis in second place with 19% (up three percentage points from October) and Nikki Haley in third with 16% (the same she received in October).
  • Trump edges out President Biden 47% to 43% in a head-to-head matchup, a lead that expands when potential third-party candidates are factored in, according to a Wall Street Journal poll. But Nikki Haley? She wallops Biden 51% to 34%.
  • Forty-eight percent of U.S. voters believe the U.S. is spending “too much” to support Ukraine financially and militarily as it fights the Russian invasion, according to a new Financial Times-Michigan Ross poll.


  • The RNC will no longer host primary debates this presidential election cycle.
  • Donald Trump’s campaign talked down reports about who would staff a second Trump term. “Let us be very specific here: unless a message is coming directly from President Trump or an authorized member of his campaign team, no aspect of future presidential staffing or policy announcements should be deemed official,” campaign officials Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita said in a statement.
  • Trump defended his “dictator” comments at a gathering in Manhattan. But he faced criticism from Ron DeSantis over a speech this weekend in which he said he’d been told by an unnamed general that his defense of his “Access Hollywood” remarks in 2016 was the “bravest thing I’ve ever seen.”


  • NBC News is demanding the Trump campaign remove a video with audio deceptively edited to seem like it comes from an NBC correspondent after the third presidential debate, Semafor’s Shelby Talcott and Max Tani report.
  • President Biden’s speech at last week’s White House media holiday party was an opportunity for him to dispel the “the undercurrent of concern that he’s too old for the job,” but he didn’t quite pull it off, Ben Smith writes in Semafor Media.
  • Elon Musk allowed Alex Jones back on X, following his 2018 suspension from Twitter over violations of the company’s “abusive behavior” policy.


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: South Carolina is removing The Walt Disney Company from its investment portfolio, citing the company’s “political agenda.”

What the Right isn’t reading: Kenneth Chesebro, one of Donald Trump’s co-defendants in Fulton County who was central to the 2020 fake electors plot, is cooperating with investigators in Michigan and Wisconsin in hopes of avoiding further charges, CNN reported.

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

Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone is founding director of Tech Tribe, a community for Jews in tech and digital media. Known for his popular social media work for Chabad, he’s also researched how to interpret Jewish law in space.

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