The GOP's 11th-hour deal on border bill
With an assist from Jordain Carney and Nicholas Wu
BORDER, BORDER, BORDER — House Republicans are expected to pass a long-awaited border security and immigration bill in just a few hours after several 11th hour snafus between different factions of the party forced leadership to figure out a deal.
The House GOP legislation is stocked with items on the party’s immigration wish list, from restarting construction of a southern border wall to placing new restrictions on asylum seekers, but concerns from lawmakers came from language on E-Verify — a program that allows employers to check the immigration status of workers — and Mexican drug cartels.
There were several groups at play during the last-minute negotiations, including Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who had concerns that mandatory E-Verify would wreak havoc in the agricultural sector. Leadership cut a deal to include language that the Department of Homeland Security should “ensure any adverse impact” related to the agriculture sector are “considered and addressed” when implementing the requirements. Newhouse also got a leadership commitment to address his concerns as part of a final bill that heads toward Biden’s desk (the House bill cannot pass the Senate in its current form).
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), who had complained that the bill was not tough enough on drug cartels, said he worked out a deal with leadership to address his concerns in separate legislation moving forward.
As part of talks with Crenshaw and a coalition of members aligned with him, Republicans also inserted a change that rewrote a priority of another Texas Republican (Rep. Tony Gonzales), changing language requiring the Department of Homeland Security to submit a report to Congress on if a specific list of cartels met the requirements for being designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Instead, the bill now requires Congress to commission a report that includes a "national strategy" to address drug cartels and a determination about if there should be a designation to address cartels.
Who we are watching on the floor: Gonzales and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) both voted against an amendment to update the E-Verify and cartels language. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who missed votes on Wednesday, is also viewed as the GOP lawmaker most dug in against the bill. Republicans' thin majority means that with full attendance, it can only lose just four GOP votes on party-line legislation. But Speaker Kevin McCarthy has some additional wiggle room today with lawmaker absences and we expect this bill to pass.
Where do moderate Democrats stand? Democrats are largely expected to oppose the legislation when it comes up for a vote, Nicholas reports. Even vulnerable Democrats who have been critical of the Biden administration’s handling of border policy, like Texas Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar, have signaled they’ll vote against it. Meanwhile, Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) predicted no Democrats would support the legislation, telling reporters Wednesday: “Democratic members understand that that is not a solution. It's in fact only going to exacerbate the problem.”
What happens next? Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, who is introducing his own proposal to address Title 42 on Thursday (which we scooped in Huddle Wednesday) told reporters he hopes Republicans would sit down with Democrats and see if there is “any common ground” on the issue of immigration.
Reality check: The House Republican border bill is dead on arrival in the Senate in its current form.
GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Thursday, May 11, where today is Eat What You Want Day – so go hard!
TURNING THE TABLES — Last night the POLITICO Congress team invited lawmakers to turn the tables on our reporters, to ask us their toughest questions and even just maybe give us a light roasting. And they delivered. Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) asked Olivia where his $5 is, after a friendly bet was made. She thought he was faking a phone call to avoid her questions, but the joke was on her, he was calling into a radio show in North Dakota and put Olivia on air. Our bureau chief Burgess got roasted by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) for his tiny tie and working man’s wardrobe (making Mainers proud, TBH), but Burgess got his own shots in, asking Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) why he never made it to the top job in his party. (Hoyer’s team’s jaw was on the floor, but it was in good fun.)
But Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) took the whole room on a trip down memory lane, giving reporters, lawmakers and staff flashbacks to the Trump administration. She pulled up a years-old tweet (including having a print out of the tweet like reporters used to do in the Trump days) from Daniella about her apathy towards Taylor Swift, grilled Daniella on it, but then also asked all her colleagues to hold her accountable. Sound familiar? If it does, you might have been in the Senate basement during the Trump years. There were laughs, gasps and plenty of fun to go around.
Huge, huge thanks to Sens. Kelly and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), as well as Reps. Hoyer, Dean, Armstrong, Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) and Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) for participating!
FULL ROSTER AT JUDICIARY — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) may return this morning to the Senate Judiciary Committee, her absence from which spurred a firestorm of criticism and even calls for resignation. Feinstein returned to the Senate Wednesday after months away from Washington as she recovered from shingles. The 89-year-old’s absence left Democrats short of a critical vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee, preventing certain nominees from moving forward. After growing Democratic concerns about the impact of Feinstein’s absence on President Joe Biden’s nominations, her attendance at that meeting would send a strong message on her commitment to continue her service.
“The Senate faces many important issues, but the most pressing is to ensure our government doesn’t default on its financial obligations. I also look forward to resuming my work on the Judiciary Committee considering the president’s judicial nominees,” Feinstein said in the statement. The committee is scheduled to vote on a slate of nominees, including Michael Delaney for the First Circuit. But he has been held over in Judiciary for weeks and could face further problems on the floor, so Feinstein’s return isn’t guaranteed to spur action.
KILDEE IN THE CLEAR — Rep. Dan Kildee is cancer-free.
“I had a successful surgery to remove the cancer. The good news is—it’s gone. And I won’t need any further treatment, just continued monitoring over the next several years,” he said in a Wednesday statement. The Michigan Democrat had surgery for squamous cell carcinoma on April 17.
“It’s going to take a little bit longer for me to get back to 100 percent. But here I am, back in the office and going to work. Not a full schedule yet, but I’ll get there pretty soon,” he said.
SENATE DEMS TO MEET ON GUNS — With the Senate Democratic caucus meeting in just a few hours to discuss a way forward for gun reform, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Huddle he thinks leadership should start having votes on different gun bills to get all senators on the record on where they stand, something Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said after past major mass shootings that he might do.
Murphy, who is seen within his caucus as the leading voice on gun reform after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in his home state of Connecticut, said he’s tired of waiting for something to happen on gun reform.
“I'm going to be in listening mode tomorrow,” Murphy said in an interview with Huddle about Wednesday’s 12:45 p.m. caucus meeting. “I want to hear from my colleagues what they think the right path forward is.
He added: “At some point, if we can't get bipartisan legislation in front of the Senate, we probably need to have some votes and show the public where people stand. The question is whether we do that now, whether we do that later, what votes we have, what measures we bring before the Senate – that's the discussion we'll have tomorrow. I'm genuinely, genuinely interested in what my colleagues have to say.”
HIRING POWER, FIRING POWER — Congress wants the power to to hire and fire the Architect of the Capitol. (Loyal Huddle readers already know that the current process is…complicated.) Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, and Reps. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.) and Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.), from the House Administration Committee, have introduced legislation that would
- Establish a congressional commission for appointing the architect made up of the Senate majority and minority leaders, speaker of the House and minority leader, and the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Rules Committee, Committee on House Administration, Senate Appropriations Committee, and House Appropriations Committee. (The same group that right now suggests a few potential nominees for presidential appointment.)
- Authorize the commission to appoint, re-appoint, or remove an architect by majority vote (eliminating the president from this process.)
- Requires the architect to appoint a deputy architect within 120 days of a vacancy in the position, and authorizes the commission to do so by majority vote if the architect does not do so. (Former AOC Brett Blanton left that role unfilled for years.)
DEBT DERAILS DEFENSE — With both the House and Senate hitting pause on consideration of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, “there won’t be a price tag for military spending to inform debt ceiling talks between Republicans and Biden,” write Connor O’Brien, Joe Gould and Lee Hudson.
Speaking of the military… When asked by Alabama public radio station WBHM if he believed white nationalists should be allowed to serve in the military, Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville said in referring to the Biden administration, “They call them that. I call them Americans.”
His office wished to clarify and sent a statement to AL.com saying Tuberville “was being skeptical of the notion that there are white nationalists in the military, not that he believes they should be in the military.”
DEBT STATE OF PLAY — “Senior Hill aides have agreed to start more in-depth talks on government spending — though Democrats insist those are on a separate track from raising the nation’s debt limit. Biden has said he’d take a “hard look” at unspent Covid aid money in the talks. A top White House adviser is laying out ideas for energy permitting reform — one of the GOP’s biggest debt limit priorities,” Sarah and Burgess report. Don’t miss where things are at, ahead of another meeting between Biden and top Congressional leaders tomorrow.
WYDEN CROWS ABOUT CROW — Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is still fired up about just how unsatisfying Harlan Crow’s response to his request for a complete accounting of Crow’s gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
“The response is so far-fetched. It practically took my breath away,” he said Wednesday. He is still promising a “point by point rebuttal to his preposterous letter” soon. Wyden says Crow will have to face “some real cold reality” especially if Wyden gets his way and pursues “a full scale review of the gift tax.” Our colleague Benjamin Guggenheim got Wyden’s initial reaction earlier this week.
ICYMI: MANCHIN’S PROMISE — “Sen. Joe Manchin, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, said Wednesday he would oppose every Biden administration nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency in anticipation of a ‘radical’ regulation the agency is expected to propose Thursday regulating emissions from fossil fuel power plants that are driving climate change,” writes Josh Siegel.
Looks like Rep. George Santos and his staff read Politico’s newspaper. Speaking of Santos, there appeared to be a casualty from Wednesday’s scrum with reporters covering his indictment.
Meanwhile, Santos slayed in court, if you’re talking about his dramatic courtroom sketch (not the 13 counts against him.)
Congressional staffers wined and dined by NFL at 2023 draft as lawmakers scrutinize pro football, from Mark Alesia at Raw Story
OPM addresses gender pay gap, proposes ban on agencies’ use of salary history for new hires, from Drew Friedman at Federal News Network
Biden invites lawmakers to White House to discuss farm bill amid looming debt limit crisis, from Meredith Lee Hill
Lauren French started this week as a senior advisor for the State Department, focusing on congressional oversight and investigations for the spokesperson team. She’s an alumna of Congressman Adam Schiff, Ben Ray Luján, and the House Democratic Caucus.
Dhruv Yadav is now senior adviser for AAPI outreach, policy and fundraising for Vivek Ramaswamy’s presidential campaign. He previously was a legislative assistant for Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Ohio).
TODAY IN CONGRESS
The House convenes at 10 a.m. for morning hour and noon for legislative business. First and last votes are expected at 4:15 p.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will proceed to en bloc consideration of S.J. Res. 23, Critical Habitat CRA and S.J. Res. 24, Northern Long-Eared Bat CRA. At 11 a.m., the Senate will proceed to two roll-call votes on the adoption of S.J. Res. 23, Critical Habitat CRA and the adoption of S.J. Res. 24, Northern Long-Eared Bat CRA. Then at approximately 1:45 p.m., the Senate will proceed to one roll-call vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Bradley N. Garcia to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit.
AROUND THE HILL
9 a.m. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley will testify at the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Defense. (124 Dirksen)
10 a.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing to “examine opportunities for Congress to reform the permitting process for energy and mineral projects.” (366 Dirksen)
10:15 am Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and other Republican senators will hold a press conference on the end of Title 42. (Senate Swamp)
1:30 p.m. Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and House Democratic Women hold a press conference on “Republican policies focusing on women and family issues.” (House Triangle)
3 p.m. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) holds a press conference to urge action on legislation to ban stock trading by members of Congress. (Studio A)
WEDNESDAY’S WINNER: Marcus Swentkofske correctly answered that “What hath God wrought” was the first phrase tapped over a long distance line in Morse Code by inventor Samuel B. Morse from the first floor of the Capitol to Baltimore.
TODAY’S QUESTION: Becoming a state on this day in 1858, which state holds the distinction of having in its possession to this day, a battle flag captured from the 28th Virginia regiment during the Battle of Gettysburg?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected]
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Follow Katherine and Daniella on Twitter: @ktullymcmanus and @DaniellaMicaela