Congress is battling the clock and the calendar with fewer than three legislative days to fund the government.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who demonstrated to his colleagues this summer his appetite for backroom deals, is in a bind. Without a surefire route to adoption of a short-term measure to fund the government after Sept. 30, Schumer started the preliminary process on Thursday, expecting to work with colleagues over the weekend to try to hatch an eleventh hour plan that can get enough votes between Tuesday night and next Friday.
Schumer on Thursday started the clock by teeing up a legislative vessel to hold the contents of a stopgap bill that’s still being worked on (The Hill).
The House is ready to move next week once a funding bill comes across the Capitol from the Senate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday (Roll Call). But Schumer next week needs 60 votes to cut off debate and move ahead with the legislative language that would fund the government with language favored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that would change the federal construction permit process for oil and gas interests.
It’s a gamble.
Pelosi told reporters the plan calls for the Senate to vote Tuesday night “after sundown” to try to end debate and turn to the spending bill. Lawmakers are out of session on Monday and most of Tuesday for Rosh Hashanah, so the time crunch impacts both chambers.
Schumer has been scrambling to make good on a deal he struck with Manchin in exchange for the centrist senator’s critical “aye” vote in August for Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act.
Manchin’s language, as unveiled late Wednesday and potentially grafted to a continuing resolution to fund the government next week, has struggled to gain traction, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reported. Schumer could rapidly switch gears next week to strip out the Manchin language, if necessary.
“I can’t see how it’s going to pass,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to the GOP leadership said.
“I’d be surprised if it gets 60 votes. I’d be surprised if it gets all the Democrats,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), told Roll Call on Thursday.
At least two Democrats said they would vote against a combined bill with Manchin’s provisions included, and there may not be enough Republicans willing to be the backstop, although Manchin got a boost on Thursday when Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) endorsed his measure (Fox News).
▪ The Hill: Republicans are lining up against Manchin’s permitting reform bill.
▪ Politico: Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) say they would vote against a continuing resolution with Manchin’s language attached. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Thursday she wants a separate vote on the West Virginia senator’s permitting measure.
▪ Politico: Schumer 2.0: How a surprise same-sex marriage decision explains the Senate leader.
Meanwhile, the House on Thursday passed four policing and public safety measures with bipartisan support. Lawmakers, who spent weeks ironing out an agreement to approve the bills before leaving Washington this month, said they do not expect the Senate to act because of GOP resistance. House passage overcame last-minute opposition from progressive Democrats (The Hill).
▪ The Hill: Lawmakers slam big bank CEOs for failure to increase interest rates on their customers’ savings accounts.
▪ The Hill: Republicans block a bill requiring dark money groups to reveal donors.
▪ Business Insider: The House may finally vote — next week — on legislation to ban members of Congress from trading stocks
LEADING THE DAY
➤ POLITICS & INVESTIGATIONS
After Ohio House GOP candidate J.R. Majewski embellished his service record to voters — falsely claiming he served in combat in Afghanistan following Sept. 11 — the party’s campaign arm is axing a nearly $1 million ad buy targeting his opponent (Politico and Axios).
The move comes after the Air Force confirmed there was no service record for Majewski that matched his description. While Majewski told supporters he was an Air Force combat veteran who had faced “tough” conditions in Afghanistan, records indicated he instead spent six months at an air base in Qatar, loading and unloading planes (Associated Press via The Hill).
Majewski didn’t directly address the inconsistencies in a statement, saying “I am proud to have served my country.”
Politico on Thursday reported that the National Republican Congressional Committee canceled a $960,000 ad buy in the Toledo, Ohio market meant to help boost Majewski. He is running against Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the longest-serving woman in the House. Kaptur’s district had been redrawn to encompass an area that former President Trump would have carried narrowly, making her one of the most vulnerable incumbents.
Even before the discoveries about his service record, the national GOP worried about Majewski’s close alignment with MAGA Republicans.
Herschel Walker, the Republican running for the Senate in Georgia, has also come under fire for misrepresenting his past. When Walker ran a food distribution company, he pledged that 15 percent of profits would be donated to charities — including the Boy Scouts of America and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
But The New York Times reports that there is little evidence the money actually made it to its intended destinations. One of the four charities declined to comment, and “the other three said they had no record or recollection of any gifts from the company in the last decade.”
While The Times’ reporting could not conclusively prove his company didn’t donate profits, Walker has given misleading or false information about himself during various points in his campaign — falsely claiming to have graduated with honors from the University of Georgia when he didn’t graduate at all, and claiming to have worked in law enforcement, which proved untrue (The New York Times).
Indiana Sen. Mike Braun (R) is likely to run for governor in 2024, though the senator on Thursday said he’s not yet making an official statement (Politico). But Braun has been reaching out to Republicans across the state to inform them of his intentions, according to IndyPolitics.
An Indiana judge on Thursday blocked enforcement of the state’s new law banning most abortions to allow for court challenges from Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers. After the Supreme Court struck down the national right to abortion in June by overturning Roe v. Wade, Indiana was the first state to enact a sweeping abortion ban (Reuters).
▪ Axios: Abortion looms over 2022 state ballots.
▪ NPR: The Veterans Affairs Department says it will provide abortions in some cases even in states where it’s banned.
Trump will hold a rally tonight in Wilmington, N.C. (WNCT). Despite facing multiple investigations — including into his keeping of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence — his approval ratings have remained largely stable. A new New York Times/Siena College poll shows 44 percent of voters view Trump favorably, and 53 percent view him unfavorably. These numbers are comparable to earlier in the summer, as well as approval ratings for the former president in the past few years (The New York Times).
Some GOP senators, meanwhile, are expressing criticism of how Trump handled classified government documents found at Mar-a-Lago, especially after he asserted Wednesday on Fox News that he could declassify documents by “thinking about it” (The Guardian).
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told CNN that there is a process for declassifying documents, “and I think it ought to be adhered to and followed. And I think that should apply to anybody who has access to or deals with classified information.”
“I think the concern is about those being taken from the White House absent some way of declassifying them or the fact that there were classified documents removed — without sort of the appropriate safeguards,” he said. “I think that is what the Justice Department is getting at.”
Other senators who criticized Trump about the matter include Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a staunch ally of the former president (CNN).
Trump is beginning to hit roadblocks in court, too, writes The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch. A federal appeals court granted a Justice Department request to allow investigators access to the roughly 100 classified documents seized by the FBI.
The Washington Post: Mar-a-Lago special master Raymond Dearie asks Trump lawyers whether they believe FBI lied about seized documents.
Meanwhile in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is facing scrutiny over his controversial decision last week to fly dozens of migrants to the Massachusetts resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, The Hill’s Max Greenwood and Amie Parnes write.
While some conservatives lauded the move as a powerful protest of the Biden administration’s approach to border security, Democrats and members of Florida’s vast Hispanic community have been vocal in their criticism. The migrant flight from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard — and DeSantis’s promise of more to come — have already prompted a slew of legal responses. A Texas sheriff said on Monday that his office would investigate the legality of the flight, while a Florida state lawmaker is preparing to file a lawsuit seeking to block DeSantis from transporting more migrants from the southern border.
▪ Reuters: DeSantis travels the US with 2024 in the air.
▪ The Hill: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is giving the confrontational right flank of the House GOP a seat at the table as he aims to shore up its support for him as a future Speaker.
▪ The New York Times: There will likely be no debates in Nevada’s Senate race, after Republican Adam Laxalt refused an invitation. He agreed to two other debates, but Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto accepted invitations from different sponsors.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ INTERNATIONAL & ADMINISTRATION
Voting began today in sham, Russian-ordered referendums in Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions of Ukraine as part of the Kremlin’s new strategy to absorb large swaths of territory into Russia in order to argue it is defending Russians and Russian land. The annexation plan is viewed by the United States and the West as without legal force and an escalation of Russia’s aggression.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote Thursday in a post on Telegram that territory in eastern Ukraine would be “accepted into Russia” after the completion of the “referendums” and he vowed to strengthen the security of those areas. To defend that annexed land, Medvedev said, Russia is able to use not only its newly mobilized forces, but also “any Russian weapon, including strategic nuclear ones and those using new principles,” a reference to hypersonic weapons (The Washington Post).
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday at a heated meeting of the United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is a member, clashed with his Russian counterpart over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
“Wherever the Russian tide recedes, we discover the horror that’s left in its wake,” Blinken said. “We cannot, we will not allow President Putin to get away with it.”
He said Russia’s withdrawal from the Ukrainian cities of Izyum and Bucha revealed dead and tortured civilians, evidence that could not be dismissed as the actions of rogue fighters (The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer).
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied the U.S. charges and accused Ukrainian forces of killing civilians in the eastern Donbas region “with impunity.”
▪ The Hill: U.S. and allies pledge to punish Putin over Ukraine during United Nations showdown.
The initial full day of Russia’s first military mobilization since World War II produced emotional showdowns at draft centers and some protests on Thursday. It appears Russia could be considering far more than the 300,000 new conscripts claimed by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, The Guardian reports.
Shoigu on Wednesday said Russia would be targeting draftees with recent military experience. But the actual number in an order signed by Putin is secret. Some think it could be far higher.
The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe reported Russia was seeking to draft more than 1 million people into the army, citing a source, according to the Guardian. That reporting has not been confirmed by other news outlets, but if accurate suggests Putin is risking domestic unrest. Video and anecdotal evidence and reporting from around Russia has shown large drafts taking place even in small towns, suggesting that the numbers could be far higher than publicly described by the Kremlin.
In the United Kingdom, the government today said it would borrow heavily to fund a large package of tax cuts in an effort to fire up the British economy, which is weighed down by inflation pressures. The plan is to cut payroll taxes, freeze a tax on corporations, jettison a tax on banker bonuses and provide stimulus in the form of energy subsidies to taxpayers over the next two years (The Wall Street Journal).
South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol was overheard insulting American lawmakers at a Global Fund event in New York, after briefly chatting with Biden about issues including U.S. electric-vehicle subsidies.
“What an embarrassment for Biden, if these idiots refuse to grant it in Congress,” video footage showed Yoon telling his foreign minister. The comments were caught on his microphone (Bloomberg).
At home, Biden on Thursday told Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi (D) that the administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are “laser-focused” on the storm-ravaged island. “We’re surging federal resources to Puerto Rico, and we’ll do everything we can to meet the urgent needs you have,” Biden said during a briefing about Hurricane Fiona’s destruction convened in New York City. “To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years later, they should know: We are with you,” the president added. “We’re not going to walk away.”
Puerto Rico’s power grid failed and roads and bridges were destroyed after Fiona made landfall on Sunday as a Category 4 storm, delivering punishing winds and flooding rains. Hundreds of thousands of residents were still without power this week and lacked clean water. The island’s infrastructure was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and the effects of the latest storm have called into question how the repaired power grid could fail so badly again during Fiona (The Hill).
▪ CNBC: Biden promises federal government will fully cover a month of aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona
■ Gov. Ron DeSantis emulates Trump, but the act is weak, by David Atkins, contributor, Washington Monthly. https://bit.ly/3R5orcW
■ Putin has just made the world a far more dangerous place, by Fareed Zakaria, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3DOuiAn
■ Putin is not liberating my family. He is subjugating them, by Sasha Vasilyuk, guest essayist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3StfDi0
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m. on Monday for a pro forma session.
The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session.
President Biden will deliver remarks at a Democratic National Committee event at 1 p.m. Biden will welcome Elton John — who is currently on a farewell tour and in concert in Washington on Saturday — for a South Lawn musical performance at 8 p.m. to celebrate “the unifying and healing power of music” and to honor “history-makers in the audience, including teachers, nurses, frontline workers, mental health advocates, students, LGBTQ+ advocates and more.” The event is a collaboration with A+E Networks and The History Channel (The Hill).
Vice President Harris will meet at 2:50 p.m. in her ceremonial office with a group of young members of NAACP to discuss civil rights.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen today will chair a meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council.
First lady Jill Biden will speak at 2:30 p.m. during a White House Historical Association dedication ceremony held at Decatur House honoring former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and featuring a new garden sculpture by Chas Fagan. The first lady will join the president and speak at 8 p.m. during the Elton John event on the South Lawn.
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
People who had COVID-19 are at higher risk for a host of brain injuries a year later compared with people who were never infected by the coronavirus, a finding that could affect millions of Americans, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday (Reuters).
The yearlong study, published in Nature Medicine, used medical records without patient identifiers from millions of U.S. veterans to assess brain health across 44 different disorders. Among those who had been infected with COVID, brain disorders were 7 percent more likely to occur.
That translates into roughly 6.6 million Americans who had brain impairments linked with their COVID-19 infections, the team said. “The results show the devastating long-term effects of COVID-19,” senior author Ziyad Al-Aly, of Washington University School of Medicine, said in a statement.
▪ The New York Times: Why the omicron variant of COVID-19 might stick around.
▪ The Atlantic: The “end” of COVID is still far worse than we imagined.
▪ Bloomberg: COVID infection linked to more type 1 diabetes in kids and teens.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,055,922. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 347, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rising interest rates, which affect mortgages and home sales, make it tougher for young people to afford today’s real estate prices and borrowing costs. The trend may force young people to rent for longer periods than they would like or to remain at home with parents or other relatives, writes The Hill’s Adam Barnes.
Even with a cooling housing market and lower prices, interests are still proving a major stumbling block for first-time buyers.
“Those buyers were of course already frustrated by a lack of inventory, which made purchasing a home difficult in recent years,” Robert Dietz, chief economist and senior vice president for economics and housing policy for the National Association of Home Builders, told The Hill. “But now that lack of inventory challenge is being replaced by a dramatic decline in housing affordability.”
Real estate firm Redfin lists August’s median national home price at $406,500.
▪ CNBC: Here’s how long it would take a typical millennial to save enough to buy a home.
▪ Forbes: Mortgage rates spike to 6.29 percent as home affordability gets tighter.
And finally … 👏👏👏 Bravo to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! Puzzle masters recognized newsy quotes and identified the darnedest things some leaders have recently said.
🥇Victorious today: Stan Wasser, Paul Harris, Patrick Kavanagh, Lou Tisler, Kathleen Kovalik, Jaina Mehta, Donna Nackers, Robert Bradley, André Leblanc, Barbara Golian, Daniel Bachhuber, David Letostak, James Rose, Jon Berck, Ki Harvey, Kane Martin, Richard Fanning, Chuck Breidenbach, Karen Daniel, Joan Domingues, Terry Pflaumer, Randall Patrick, Ted Kontek, “Rick,” Rich Davis, Len Jones, Harry Strulovici, Jeremy Serwer, Rick DeCroix, Stephen Delano, Pam Manges, Steve James and Michael Palermo.
They knew that Biden, on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday, said the pandemic is “over.”
Putin told Russians during a televised address on Wednesday that his willingness to use Russia’s nuclear arsenal “is not a bluff.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) surprised some fellow Republicans during a Monday TV interview when he said abortion is “not a states’ rights issue.”
Reporters this week asked British Prime Minister Liz Truss again about her August comment, made when she was foreign secretary, that the “jury’s out” whether France (and its president) is the United Kingdom’s friend or foe.