1. COMPLIMENTS OF THE HOUSE: House Republicans are increasingly saying that in their chamber, life’s a Mitch. They’re fuming over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decisions to cut deals with Democrats and President Joe Biden, Politico reports. McConnell’s decision to cut a deal that would allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling risks inflaming these tensions even more.
Here’s where things stand:
McConnell is hoping to grease the wheels for another debt-limit increase: Essentially lawmakers are using unrelated legislation to bypass the Senate filibuster by allowing Democrats to raise the debt ceiling on a simple-majority vote. But this workaround still requires 60 votes to pass, so McConnell has to find nine more GOP votes for it. The House passed the legislation with only one Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, voting in favor of it.
- Some Senate Republicans are already upset: “It’s a terrible idea,” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah told NBC News. “This is nuking the filibuster.”
- But the deal may still pass with a comfortable margin: That’s because in true Washington form it combines something difficult (the debt-ceiling workaround) with something most lawmakers want (in this case averting spending cuts to safety-net programs like Medicare.)
McConnell and his allies say this is the best deal they can get: Senate Republicans, Politico reports, argue that the filibuster ties their hands in the minority. This is a near-constant headache that House lawmakers never suffer. As for the debt ceiling, the GOP points out that Democrats would still have to pass the actual increase themselves and would have to specify an amount — the latter detail is almost certainly coming to an attack ad near you by next November.
- Republicans are still miffed: “It would be a new precedent to say in a rule in legislation in the House you can set up a 50-vote bill in the Senate,” Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, told Politico. “That’s never been done before. It’s dangerous.”
2. Lawmakers are prepared to hold Mark Meadows in contempt: The House’s Capitol riot panel has made clear that Meadows, Donald Trump’s final White House chief of staff, will be held in contempt if he doesn’t appear for his scheduled testimony later today. Meadows’ attorney abruptly ended their promise of cooperation with the investigation into the insurrection, arguing that lawmakers would not respect Trump’s claims of executive privilege. Meadows is the third Trump ally the committee has advanced or is prepared to advance contempt proceedings against.
- A federal judge set Steve Bannon’s contempt trial for July: Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, set the date after hearing dueling arguments from prosecutors and Bannon’s defense team over the proper pace for the criminal proceedings. More on what’s next for Bannon, a longtime Trump ally.
3. Biden warns Russian President Vladimir Putin about the costs of invading Ukraine: President Joe Biden told Putin that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would trigger a global response far surpassing the West’s reaction to the annexation of Crimea, The New York Times reports. The two sides released dueling readouts of the two-hour video call, with the Kremlin saying Putin warned Biden “that Western military activity in and around Ukraine was approaching a ‘red line’ threatening Russia’s security.” The White House said there was no “finger-wagging,” but Biden made clear an array of economic penalties including repositioning of NATO troops, and the completion of the Nord Stream pipeline, were all on the table if Putin were to go too far. More from the tense virtual summit.
- The Treasury Department is already cracking down on money laundering: The Biden administration is set to crack down on all-cash deals in the housing market, a type of transaction beloved by Trump and many Russian oligarchs close to Putin. More on the news.
4. A Democratic lawmaker plans to introduce an effort to strip Rep. Lauren Boebert of her committee assignments: Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts plans to introduce a resolution later today that would punish Boebert for repeatedly implying that Rep. Ilhan Omar is a terrorist, The Washington Post reports. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chided reporters for asking whether she supported such an effort, which would follow punishments of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar. Pressley and other liberal lawmakers have repeatedly called on party leaders to take decisive action against Boebert. More on where the situation stands.
5. Omicron may not be worse than the Delta variant: A picture is starting to emerge of a virus that could be easier to catch yet less serious. In fact, some early research has suggested Omicron may have picked up some seasonal-coronavirus genetics, meaning it may have just become more related to some of the other coronaviruses that cause common colds. “It almost certainly is not more severe than Delta,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told AFP. More on where the global response stands.
6. Rep. Matt Gaetz says he’s talked to Trump about House speakership: Yesterday wasn’t Gaetz’s first time pushing the idea of Trump becoming speaker. He campaigned on the promise at a “Save America” rally in July in Sarasota, Florida, according to the ABC affiliate WTXL. The Florida Republican wouldn’t share what Trump’s response had been to the possibility of becoming House speaker.
7. Australia joins the US in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the boycott was both “in Australia’s national interest” and “the right thing to do,” the Associated Press reports. Like Team USA, Australian athletes will still be able to compete in Beijing. A Foreign Ministry representative, Zhao Lijian, told reporters earlier that the US’s diplomatic boycott “seriously violates” the apolitical nature of the Olympics, but he declined to elaborate on how China might retaliate. More on the response to the US boycott.
8. Harper Collins has pulled Chris Cuomo’s coming book: Google Books describes “Deep Denial,” which was set to be published next year, as “a provocative analysis of the harsh truths that the pandemic and Trump years have exposed about America.” Cuomo was fired from his primetime slot on CNN over the weekend over his involvement in the sexual-harassment scandal of his brother, Andrew Cuomo. More on the Cuomo-related fallout.
9. Elon Musk says civilization is at risk if people don’t have more kids: Musk told a Wall Street Journal event that elites fearing overpopulation were worried about the wrong thing. “If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words,” said the Tesla CEO, who has six kids. Musk’s comment shines a light on a heated demographic debate.
10. Another billionaire is blasting off into space: This time, the Japanese fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa says he’ll give away money while he’s orbiting the Earth.
Today’s trivia question: Which three presidents have Library of Congress buildings named after them?