Originally published by POLITICO Playbook on Nov. 30, 2021 -
See "Transitions" for Steve Savastano announcement
BAH, HUMBUG — The consensus is in: Most people on Capitol Hill are kissing Christmas — or at least most of December — goodbye this year. “We could be in every weekend between now and Christmas, so … sorry,” Sen. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-Mich.) told reporters Monday night. Sen. PATRICK LEAHY (D-Vt.) is so worried about being here on Christmas that he and his wife bought a holiday tree for their home in D.C.
Here are some reasons for the growing pessimism:
1) MCCONNELL THWARTS SCHUMER’S NDAA PLANS — Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER kicked off his long December to-do list with a step backward thanks to his GOP counterpart. Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL on Monday night rallied Republicans against an effort to shut down debate and start voting on the National Defense Authorization Act, which Schumer hoped to dispense with by mid-week in order to move on to the gazillion other things he has to complete before the end of the year.
Republicans said they want more time to take up amendments. But Schumer was furious at what his party believes is an intentional effort to cause a year-end legislative pileup — and possibly thwart passage of President JOE BIDEN’s Build Back Better Act. Schumer’s office noted that he was willing to allow more amendments than McConnell had permitted in the past four NDAA bills combined.
NDAA “was supposed to be the easy part" of Schumer’s December, Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine noted in a state-of-play story Monday night. So much for that.
2) SHELBY LUKEWARM ON CR — While Democrats barrel ahead on a stopgap funding bill to keep the government running until late January, Sen. RICHARD SHELBY (R-Ala.), the top GOP lawmaker on the Appropriations Committee, was noncommittal about whether the GOP would accept such a plan. Democrats need 10 Senate Republicans to support a continuing resolution, or CR — and typically the lead appropriator has significant sway. “I’d like February,” he said nonchalantly when asked about a late-January CR. “March would suit me. April. May. … I think it gives us more time to seriously sit down.”
Republicans aren’t in any rush because they want to extend Trump-era spending and policies that are still on the books. Democrats are eager to enact their own priorities. They’re nowhere near a deal.
3) GOP APPEARS TO STICK WITH DEBT CEILING RECONCILIATION DEMANDS — McConnell has been as tight-lipped as Schumer about their talks on raising the debt ceiling. But Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) told reporters Monday that the GOP leader still wants Democrats to use reconciliation — and that might actually be fine with him. “I understand there was an agreement from the Republicans to do a very quick reconciliation by itself for the debt ceiling only, which I think that that’s our responsibility to make sure that we take care of the debt ceiling. And Democrats are now in control, so we want to make sure that we do it and do it right.”
This could be problematic if Schumer is still hellbent against such a move. We’ll be interested to see if he changes his tune on this strategy and uses it as a way to get Manchin to support final passage of BBB.
BIDEN’S TUESDAY (Eastern times):
— 9:30 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— 10:45 a.m.: Biden will deliver remarks and sign bills into law. VP KAMALA HARRIS and VA Secretary DENIS MCDONOUGH will also attend.
— 11:30 a.m.: Biden will depart the White House en route to Rosemont, Minn., where he will arrive at 2:25 p.m.
— 3:50 p.m.: Biden will visit Dakota County Technical College, where he will deliver remarks at 4:30 p.m.
— 5:45 p.m.: Biden will depart Minnesota to return to the White House, where he is scheduled to arrive at 8:05 p.m.
— 10 a.m.: The VP will also participate in a virtual rally with advocacy organizations to celebrate the House’s passage of the Build Back Better Act.
— 11:35 a.m.: Harris will ceremonially swear in JONATHAN KAPLAN as ambassador to Singapore.
— 11:50 a.m.: Harris will ceremonially swear in DAVID COHEN to be ambassador to Canada.
The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 12:30 p.m. Press secretary JEN PSAKI will gaggle on Air Force One on the way to Minnesota.
THE SENATE will meet at 10 a.m. to take up the NDAA, and will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly conference meetings. Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN and Fed Chair JEROME POWELL will testify before the Banking Committee at 10 a.m.
THE HOUSE will meet at 2 p.m. to take up several bills, with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.
CHRIS CUOMO UNDER FIRE FOR HELPING HIS BROTHER — CNN star CHRIS CUOMO is coming under a wave of criticism after New York A.G. TISH JAMES released records depicting just how hands-on he was in helping shape his older brother’s response to the sexual harassment controversy that ended his governorship. Explosive testimony and text messages detail how Cuomo used his journalism network to pump sources for information about stories reporters were working on regarding allegations against ANDREW CUOMO.
Chris Cuomo brushed off criticism of his involvement or suggestions that he crossed an ethical line given his position as a prime-time TV host, as Nick Niedzwiadek reports. “How do I protect my family? How do I help protect him?” the CNN anchor told state investigators in sworn testimony July 15. “[I] probably should have been thinking more about how I protect myself, which just never occurred to me.”
But his critics aren’t going to let this slide so easily. “Chris Cuomo Must Go,” reads the headline on a piece by David A. Graham in The Atlantic that argues the “anchor betrayed his obligation to his viewers.”
CNBC and WaPo have more on the story, including Cuomo’s push to help his brother’s team draft statements denying reports of sexual harassment claims. CNN issued a statement vowing to review the newly released documents.
“The thousands of pages of additional transcripts and exhibits that were released today by the NY Attorney General deserve a thorough review and consideration,” CNN spokesman MATT DORNIC said, per CNBC. “We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days.”
THE WHITE HOUSE
GROUNDHOG DAY — The emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant has the pandemic looming above Biden’s presidency once more, threatening another potential wave “that could endanger the White House’s plans to focus on Biden’s legislative agenda and efforts to battle inflation and a bottlenecked supply chain,” reports Jonathan Lemire. The administration is trying to move faster than it did on Delta, but it’s hampered by the world’s current lack of knowledge about Omicron — and Americans’ unwillingness to keep restricting themselves.
THE KAMALA-PETE ROAD TRIP — Harris is set to travel to Charlotte, N.C., with Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG on Thursday to promote the president’s infrastructure package, The Charlotte Observer’s Danielle Battaglia reports. The trip comes amid a flurry of stories about a Buttigieg presidential bid and Harris’ perceived lack of ability to clear the field if Biden doesn’t run in 2024. A source told our friends at West Wing Playbook that the trip has been planned for a while, suggesting it’s not an attempt at cleanup. Right.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: NOEM RAKES IT IN — Two weeks after KRISTI NOEM announced that she was running for reelection, the South Dakota governor set a record for the largest single fundraising event in state history. At least, that’s according to her new campaign manager JOE DESILETS, who started on the job two weeks ago and was driving his truck out to South Dakota when he reached out to Playbook to boast about her numbers.
In addition to the $10 million she has raised in her time as governor, Noem raised another half-million since her announcement. She currently has $6.5 million in her war chest. Desilets says $330,000 of that came from a single Sioux Falls fundraiser, about double what he said was previously the largest fundraiser on record in the state (about $170,000).
Noem is a safe bet for reelection: She’s a darling of MAGA world in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the governor’s mansion since 1978. But Noem is seen as a possible 2024 contender or running mate, so the money could be of use down the road.
OMAR-BOEBERT CALL GOES OFF THE RAILS — The attempt to make peace — if you could call it that — didn’t go well. During a private phone call Monday with Rep. ILHAN OMAR (D-Minn.), Rep. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-Colo.) said she tried to make amends for her Islamaphobic rhetoric, but Omar insisted she make a more acceptable public apology. Boebert, per her own recounting, then told Omar she owes the public an apology. Then Omar hung up the phone and Boebert went off in an Insta video. Our Hill team has more on the drama.
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
SELECT COMMITTEE LATEST — The House select committee on Jan. 6 plans to meet Wednesday “to vote on whether to recommend if the full House should hold Trump ally JEFFREY CLARK in contempt of Congress,” CBS’ Zak Hudak reports. “He would be the second Trump ally to be found in contempt of congress for failing to comply with a subpoena from the panel. Clark has refused to answer questions from the committee, claiming the information they sought was protected by executive privilege.”
MOMENT OF TRUTH — Three D.C. Circuit appeals judges will hear arguments today in DONALD TRUMP’s lawsuit trying to prevent the release of his White House records for the Jan. 6 investigation. Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein set the table by noting that all three are Democratic appointees, and a decision against Trump “could deal a fatal blow to Trump’s push to maintain the secrecy of his pre-Jan. 6 maneuvers.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
IN IRAN — Sources tell Axios’ Barak Ravid that “Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon.”
THE POST-ROE BATTLE IS ALREADY ON — Alice Miranda Ollstein reports this morning that each side of the abortion rights fight is deep into preparations for the development they both expect next year: that the Supreme Court will “significantly pare down or completely overturn” Roe v. Wade.
“That’s set off an intense ground game, one which could radically reshape reproductive rights for millions of people. Abortion rights groups are amassing millions in donations, recruiting volunteers to help people travel across state lines for the procedure, and developing a grey market to deliver abortion pills straight to patients’ doorsteps — even in states that have banned them. …
“Conservative groups are equally busy: drafting model legislation that will prohibit abortion, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying lawmakers to enact new bans, and sending an army of door-to-door canvassers to key swing states to blunt any political backlash the decision could cause.”
Jill Biden on Monday unveiled the White House holiday Christmas decorations, complete with a massive White House gingerbread house; trees decorated in photos from FLOTUS’ own family Christmas albums as well as pictures of other first families of old — including one of Donald and Melania Trump hidden on the rear of one tree; and an old photo of her dressed up as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas as second lady. (h/t to CNN’s Kate Bennett, who covers the first ladies and is always tweeting good color)
Mitt Romney was spotted shopping at the H Street Whole Foods. Even senators worth $300 million gotta eat!
Dr. Oz is expected to announce his bid for Senate any day now, per the Philly Inquirer.
Debbie Dingell’s Dearborn, Mich., office was broken into and vandalized, according to her office. No staff were present. Police are investigating the scene.
YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) warned of the consequences if SCOTUS scuttles abortion rights: “I think if you want to see a revolution, go ahead, outlaw Roe v. Wade and see what the response is…”
OUT AND ABOUT — THE OTHER CAFE MILANO: Several notable Washingtonians broke bread (and rigatoni) on the other side of the world to celebrate the launch of a new program, Access Abu Dhabi, connecting minority and female entrepreneurs with business opportunities in the UAE. SPOTTED: D.C. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio, Ashley Davis, Kate Goodall, Patrice King Brickman, Franco Nuschese, Sarah Omolewu and several other business figureheads and celebrities who came together for a joint book party and panel at the second outpost of the power dining spot to recognize authors from the program’s inaugural envoy: Wanda Durant, Hill Harper, Patrice Evra and Marc Morial. The discussion was moderated by “Shark Tank’s” Kevin O’Leary.
— D.C. comms exec John Arundel teamed up with French distiller Remy Cointreau on Saturday at Whisky Charlie to raise funds for NEXTforAUTISM and honor Vince De Paul, the Los Angeles-based actor/producer in town promoting his new film, “Tesla” with Ethan Hawke. “They call Washington ‘Hollywood for ugly people,’ but you'd never believe it with this fetching crowd,” said Arundel, CEO of Perdicus Media Strategies. SPOTTED: Reem Sadik and David Grimaldi, Mark Vlasic, Lauren Miller, Annie Totah, Crystal Martin and Bash Kazi, Amra and Damir Fazlic, Barbara Hawthorn, Julie Chase, Davis Richardson and Anne Deno.
MEDIA MOVES — Natasha Korecki is joining NBC as a senior national political reporter. She currently is a White House correspondent for POLITICO. … Nathalie Baptiste will be an opinion writer at HuffPost. She currently is a writer at Mother Jones.
TRANSITIONS — Adam Elias is now SVP of federal government affairs at Bank of America. He previously was director and head of government affairs at Barclays. … Ahmed Elsayed is rejoining Rep. Tony Cárdenas’ (D-Calif.) office as chief of staff. He most recently was national press secretary for Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and is a John Delaney alum. … Jeremy Crane is now comms director for Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas). He previously was press secretary for Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.). …
… Jonathan Lamy is now SVP of public affairs and policy at Live Nation. He was previously EVP of comms at RIAA. … Sarah-Lloyd Stevenson is now a senior manager and telehealth policy lead on Amazon’s public policy Americas team. She previously was a director at Faegre Drinker Consulting, and is a White House, HHS, and Roger Wicker alum. … Steve Savastano is joining Go Big Media as senior director of data and insights. He previously led the client services team at Data Trust.
ENGAGED — Jared Michael, CFO and general counsel of CRAFT Media Digital, and Rachel Hicks, a federal lobbyist for McDonald’s, got engaged at an intimate dinner at the Prime Rib on Nov. 23. The couple surprised family with the news on Thanksgiving. The two met at a D.C. party in early 2011. Pic
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Ted Hesson, immigration reporter at Reuters and a POLITICO alum, and Fátima Terry, a talent management senior digital expert for the U.S. Digital Service and a DOD alum, recently welcomed Siena Seraphina Hesson Terry. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) … South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (5-0) … Larry Summers … CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Lauren Pratapas … Alex Clearfield of National Journal … Sergio Gor … Scott Erickson of Wolf Global Advisors … Michael Beschloss … Steve Haro … POLITICO’s Andy Glass … William Daroff of the Conference of Presidents … Amijah Townsend-Holmes … Travis Waldron of HuffPost … Jodi Rudoren of The Forward … James Sonne … Reuters’ Jonathan Landay … Rudy Takala … Amy Pritchard … Crystal Carson … Sam Jacobson … Edelman’s Ben Mahler … Bruce Kieloch … Erica Orden … former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings … Nick Rubando … Wesley Donehue … José Bayona, senior adviser to NYC Mayor-elect Eric Adams … Diana Astiz