The definition of chaos in Washington is when Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) loudly dares GOP colleagues to “bring it on” to try to oust him, and the Justice Department indicts the son of pro-background checks President Biden on a felony weapons charge.
The nation’s capital was in rough shape on Thursday and may not look much better next week.
The government appears highly likely to run out of financing without a new infusion at the end of the month. A GOP impeachment inquiry, just launched, could sour voters on House conservatives. House Democrats say they won’t rescue the majority, and a once-collegially productive Senate suddenly ground to a halt over appropriations.
McCarthy’s colleagues can’t agree on bedrock defense and national security spending measures — and some colleagues would rather shutter the government than keep the lights on, even short-term.
More about McCarthy, Hunter Biden and what the president calls “MAGAnomics” in a minute, but first there’s also a major labor strike and a hurricane in the headlines.
3 Things to Know Today:
▪ Biden plans to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky next week around the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York City.
▪ Seven million people are under tropical storm warnings in New England as Hurricane Lee approaches. The hurricane is expected to affect the Northeast U.S. and Canada before its anticipated landfall this weekend along the Maine or Nova Scotia shorelines.
▪ As pressure mounts on the House to pass a reauthorization of the U.S.’s long-term global HIV initiative, but the GOP lawmaker holding up the legislation is showing no signs of moving.
LEADING THE DAY
Members of the United Auto Workers union walked off the job at midnight after failing to reach agreements on a new contract with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler maker Stellantis (The Hill and NBC News).
UAW President Shawn Fain, who negotiated on behalf of his union’s 150,000 workers since July, said work stoppages are underway at three plants: a GM site in Wentzville, Mo.; a Stellantis center in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford assembly location in Wayne, Mich.
Fain, in a video on Thursday morning pointing up the chasm between the union and automakers, previewed “a new kind of strike against Ford, GM and Stellantis,” adding, “We’re calling it the stand up strike. This is a strike that starts small and builds over time as more and more of us stand up and join the fight.”
■ WHAT WORKERS WANT: The UAW had been seeking a 40 percent wage hike over four years (amounting to 46 percent compounded), along with cost-of-living increases; beefed-up retirement benefits, including pensions on par with what autoworkers previously received; and full pay for a shortened 32-hour workweek, down from 40 hours (NBC News). The union wants workers to benefit from corporate profits since the last contract in 2019, and to account for inflation.
■ IN TRANSITION: The U.S. auto companies, chasing Tesla and battling to dominate the next generation of the car industry, are embarked on a major transition that places expensive bets on electric vehicles to replace the combustion engine. Annual gross profits since 2019 have risen by 34 percent at Ford and 50 percent at General Motors. Stellantis, which formed when Fiat Chrysler merged with the French automaker Peugeot in 2021, reported that its annual gross profit rose by 19 percent from 2021 to 2022.
■ COSTLY: If the work stoppage spreads to many plants and lasts 10 days or more, it will be costly for the auto industry and the U.S. economy — perhaps as much as $5.6 billion, according to projections by Anderson Economic Group (Yahoo Finance).
■ POLITICS: Biden — who describes himself as the most pro-union president in history and wants to overcome iffy job approval ratings on the economy as he seeks a second term — risks a hit after predicting as recently as Labor Day that a strike would not occur (The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal). He’s considering emergency aid to suppliers, who could be affected by the strike (USA Today).
House lawmakers spent all of three days in Washington this week as GOP tempers flared, ambitions to get defense and homeland spending measures on and off the floor came to naught and McCarthy set aside, for the moment, efforts to placate GOP firebrands and in an about-face, called their bluff about ousting him as Speaker.
On to Plan F. The GOP majority will return next week with yet another option, which would appear to have long odds: working toward a 30- to 60-day stopgap spending bill and taking up major appropriations bills simultaneously. There are eight legislative days until the government runs out of funding. The odds of peaceful GOP coexistence and comity seem long.
“I always have a plan,” McCarthy deadpanned to reporters Thursday. “That doesn’t mean it happens. I had a plan for this week. Didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned.”
The stormy mood was contagious, spreading from the House to the Senate, report The Hill’s Alexander Bolton and Aris Folley. Conservatives — in what had been described hours before as a “united” chamber — began to drift apart, seeking changes to a noncontroversial spending package that had strong bipartisan support. Suddenly the bill came to a halt.
Axios: GOP spending turmoil comes to the Senate.
“WE’RE IN TROUBLE. It means what I told everybody in Idaho for the last six weeks to fasten their seat belts because it’s going to be a shit show — sorry, it’s going to be crazy for four months,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a powerful House appropriator, told reporters.
Senate Republicans, worried about a small band of House conservatives who oppose another dime for Ukraine aid, are on board with a plan to jam their House colleagues. They expect to add Ukraine funding to a stopgap funding bill and then send it back to the House shortly before the Sept. 30 deadline. Their idea is to pressure the Speaker to bring it to the floor and then turn to House Democrats for final passage. The downside of this plan is that collaborating with Democrats is seen by House renegades as a firing offense, perhaps inviting a motion to vacate McCarthy from his Speakership, a move that could halt all House floor action until the infighting was somehow resolved (Politico).
© The Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Brendan Buck, left, in 2016, was a top strategist to former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
4 QUESTIONS … with Brendan Buck, who served as counselor to former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and is now a Washington partner with consulting firm Seven Letter.
Alexis: Can you unpack what McCarthy has gained with an impeachment inquiry spread across three committees, aimed at the president and his relatives?
Buck: It’s not clear he gained a whole lot — conservatives see it for what it is — but he also probably didn’t have a choice. The conference has decided this is worth doing, and standing in the way would be futile. If anything, he’s bought himself a little time, but this thing is coming right back at him when these committees want to put articles of impeachment on the floor.
Alexis: Some Republicans believe McCarthy’s decision is a gift to the Biden reelection campaign. Are they right?
Buck: Sure are. Of course if they uncover a bombshell, that’s one thing. But if they move articles of impeachment based on what we have now, Biden will be able to play victim, set up a helpful contrast, and make Republicans look crazy. You can argue not doing this would depress the Republican base, but if the Biden folks are any good, they will have a field day with it.
Alexis: A government shutdown looms, but voters in the past blamed Republicans for similar budget impasses. Has something changed?
Buck: They blame the people who are forcing the shutdown, and some in the House seem eager to take the credit for it if we go there. However, there’s not much evidence that shutdowns have electoral consequences. We had a great big shutdown in 2013 and held our majority easily in 2014. But there’s even less evidence they accomplish anything. If you shut down the government, you get nothing for it. It’s a totally self-defeating exercise, and the biggest political consequence is giving the impression to your own voters that you’re worthless.
Alexis: You know politics, legislative strategy and communications. If McCarthy asked you today for advice, what comes to mind?
Buck: He’s proven himself capable of getting out of jams before, so he probably doesn’t need the advice, but I’m encouraged to see him stand up to the troublemakers who are threatening to remove him. The only way out is through. You can’t stay on defense forever, and McCarthy remains far more popular in the conference than the people threatening his job. It’s risky business, but if he can stomp out the motion to vacate now, he’ll be in a much stronger position when they need a long-term solution to fund the government in a few months.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will convene at noon on Monday.
The Senate will meet Monday at 3 p.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 11:45 a.m. He will head to New Castle, Del., at 6:25 p.m.
Vice President Harris will travel to Greensboro, N.C., and North Carolina A&T University for a moderated conversation with Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and actor Terrence J, both alumni of the university, as part of a college tour aimed at outreach to young people.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet this morning at the department with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and the two will hold a press conference at 11:45 a.m.
First lady Jill Biden will visit Emory University in Atlanta at 10 a.m. to highlight cancer research and treatment. She will join the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Hispanic Heritage Month at 11:45 a.m.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. and will include White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
© The Associated Press / Andrew Harnik | President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, at Fort McNair in June.
The president’s 53-year-old son was indicted Thursday on three charges tied to the possession of a gun while using narcotics. The younger Biden allegedly made false statements in 2018 about his drug use at the time and illegally purchased and possessed a handgun. The charges set the stage for a possible criminal trial for the younger Biden in 2024 during the height of his father’s reelection bid.
THE HISTORIC INDICTMENT closely follows the House GOP’s launch of an impeachment inquiry into the president in an effort to seek bank records and other documents from both Bidens, and after a plea deal with federal prosecutors sought by Hunter Biden fell apart in July (The Hill, The Washington Post and NBC News). Read the indictment HERE.
The Associated Press: Americans are sharply divided over whether Biden acted wrongly in his son’s businesses, a new AP-NORC poll shows.
A state judge Thursday rejected prosecutors’ request to try all 19 defendants together in the Georgia 2020 election interference case next month. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s ruling means former President Trump will not be tried in October alongside at least two of his co-defendants — Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell — who invoked their right to a speedy trial. Trump has looked to delay all four criminal cases he faces and previously argued he would not be ready for trial by October.
The decision marked a major blow to District Attorney Fani Willis (D), who repeatedly urged McAfee to keep the defendants together and try them at the same time. Though McAfee did not set a trial date for Trump, his ruling sets a motions deadline of Dec. 1, which would come before any eventual trial. Trump and his 18 co-defendants have all pleaded not guilty to the combined 41 charges they face (The Hill and ABC News).
The Hill: Tensions ran high Thursday at Chesebro and Powell’s election interference hearing in Georgia.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is grappling with his political future ahead of 2024. If he runs for reelection or president, the senator has signaled he would probably leave the Democratic Party and run as an independent. Manchin, who is one of few Democrats in deep-red West Virginia, told donors he believed he could win the Senate race — but only as an independent. He has also not ruled out a run for president and has supported No Labels’ message and proposition (The Washington Post).
MANCHIN’S DILEMMA is coming into focus after Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R) announcement this week that he won’t seek reelection in red-state Utah, which set off a scramble for the seat (The Hill). Some worry that if the West Virginia Democrat and Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — who herself left the Democratic party earlier this year — follow the Utahn out the door, they’ll leave a void in a chamber that’s handed Biden remarkable bipartisan deals.
Though Romney, Manchin and Sinema are oft maligned by both parties’ faithfuls, the possible 2024 departures of two or three of them would change the Senate, which passed several notable bipartisan deals in the last Congress due in part to the chamber’s moderate wing (Politico).
“You lose the center, you lose the moderates, you’re screwed. You really are screwed,” Manchin said. “I’m hoping the voters will wake up.”
TALKING ABOUT MONEY: Biden, who headed to Maryland to tout “Bidenomics” and contrast it with “MAGAnomics,” or Republicans’ economic vision, asserted that the funding they proposed this summer would raise costs for families, lower taxes for the wealthy and cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The White House earlier Thursday rolled out a memo that warned against so-called MAGAnomics, arguing that Biden’s and Trump’s differing economic agendas will “define the fall budget debates” as Congress works to avert a government shutdown later this month. On Thursday, Biden took direct swipes at Trump, targeting him about job creation under his administration. He brought up, as he has done in several recent speeches, that Trump is one of two presidents — alongside Herbert Hoover — who left office with fewer jobs than when he entered (The Hill).
▪ Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is making McCarthy’s job harder while inserting himself behind the scenes into Washington’s spending fight in a bid to elevate his standing among GOP presidential primary voters (Politico).
▪ Trump, under persistent grilling by Megyn Kelly on her SiriusXM radio show on Thursday, said he did not comply with a federal subpoena to turn over classified documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago because “I’m allowed to have those documents,” but wasn’t sure when his former lawyers assured the Justice Department in writing that all materials had been turned over. Trump’s criminal trial in May is expected to cover similar questions (The Hill). Kelly also put the former president on the defensive about his handling of COVID-19 and infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci (The Hill).
▪ Abortion rights backers filed to get on the 2024 Nevada ballot with a constitutional amendment (The Hill).
▪ The Democratic National Committee on Thursday gave New Hampshire Democrats another extension to comply with preparations for the primary calendar (The Hill).
▪ A third GOP presidential debate is set for November (in sunny Miami) (The Hill).
The United States is set to sanction more than 150 Russian-supporting individuals and entities over the war in Ukraine, the departments of State and Treasury announced Thursday. The oligarchs and entities that are sanctioned by the two departments are focused on Russia’s industrial base, the construction sector, the oil and gas industry and the financial sector (ABC News). Ukraine’s forces have recaptured a village in the country’s east after intense battles with Russian troops, the military said Friday (The Associated Press).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still visiting Russia, where he is expected to tour an aviation factory and inspect the country’s Pacific naval fleet this week. The visit is a display of closeness between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met in Russia’s far eastern Amur region and have indicated an interest in military cooperation (The Washington Post).
▪ The Wall Street Journal: The West is failing to peel Russia’s friends away to Ukraine’s side.
▪ NPR: In Ukraine, the focus is the fighting, but are negotiations possible?
▪ The Wall Street Journal: The Libya flood disaster that killed thousands was decades in making.
The Biden administration and Colombian government vowed to “end the illicit movement” of people through the Darién jungle. But as The New York Times reports, the number of migrants moving through the forest has never been greater — and the profits are too big to pass up.
© The Associated Press / Ivan Valencia | Migrants walked across the Darién Gap from Colombia to Panama in May trying to reach the U.S.