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McCarthy faces moment of truth in debt limit battle

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McCarthy faces moment of truth in debt limit battle

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Greg Nash

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is seen during a press conference following the passage of The Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act on Thursday, April 20, 2023.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will face a moment of truth in the debt ceiling battle this week when he brings a bill to lift the borrowing limit to the floor — legislation that some Republicans have concerns with, threatening the measure’s chances of clearing the chamber.

The bill — which McCarthy unveiled last week — marks the GOP conference’s first legislative attempt at bringing President Biden to the negotiating table, after the two sides made no progress in the past three months. Republicans are looking to pair spending cuts with a debt ceiling increase, but the White House has said it wants a clean hike of the borrowing limit.

It is not clear, however, that the GOP bill has enough support to pass, leaving leaders in limbo heading into the high-stakes vote.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will address a joint meeting of Congress during a visit to the U.S. this week, a trip that is meant to honor the relationship between the two countries.

On the Senate side, the Judiciary Committee is on the lookout for an official response from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts after the panel’s chairman requested that he testify on the court’s ethical standards amid the controversy around Justice Clarence Thomas. And, last week’s decision by the bench to temporarily pause restrictions on an abortion pill from taking effect will be a topic of conversation on Capitol Hill this week, as abortion becomes a central topic heading into the 2024 presidential election.

McCarthy faces test with vote on debt limit bill

McCarthy on Sunday said the House will vote this week on the GOP’s debt limit proposal, exuding confidence on its prospects of passing the chamber — despite the fact that multiple Republicans expressed concerns with the measure last week.

“We will hold a vote this week, and we will pass it, and we will send it to the Senate,” the Speaker told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Republicans introduced the Limit, Save, Grow Act last week which would raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion or through March 31, 2024 — whichever is first — and includes what GOP lawmakers say is $4.5 trillion in “savings.”

The conference is hoping that passing the legislation will bring Biden to the negotiating table as the summer debt limit deadline inches closer. 

The bill, however, does not have an easy path to passage at the current moment, after a number of Republican lawmakers — conservatives and moderates — voiced issues with the measure last week. Republicans can only afford to lose five votes, assuming all Democrats oppose the legislation.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who has opposed debt limit increases in the past, said last week that he is “lean no,” and Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who has similarly voted against debt limit hikes, said he is undecided as he goes through the measure. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said she is leaning no, expressing concerns about clean energy provisions being repealed and the fact that Republicans separated their goal of balancing the budget from the debt limit negotiations.

And a number of other Republicans — including Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and George Santos (N.Y.) — want tougher work requirements for some benefit programs.

Conservatives, moderates and Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a close McCarthy ally, huddled in the Capitol last week to discuss the bill.

These lawmakers and their concerns will be a key focus heading into this week, as Republican leadership looks to pass their bill and pressure Biden to the negotiating table. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre last week said the GOP proposal was “a blueprint to devastate hard-working American families.”

“When we send this to the Senate, we’re showing that, yes, we’re able to raise the debt ceiling into the next year, but what we’re doing is, we’re being responsible fiscally and bringing our house back in order,” McCarthy said on Sunday. “It doesn’t solve all of our problems, but it gets us on the right path. And this gets us to the negotiating table, just as government and America expects us to do so.”

South Korean president visits Capitol Hill

Lawmakers will welcome South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to Capitol Hill this week, as the foreign leader travels to the U.S. for a state visit.

Yoon is slated to address a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday at around 11 a.m.

The South Korean president’s visit to the U.S. is meant to recognize the 70th anniversary of the alliance between Seoul and Washington. In a letter inviting Yoon to address Congress sent earlier this month, leaders of both chambers said “The relationship between the United States and the Republic of Korea is one of great importance and significance.”

“Your leadership has been instrumental in strengthening this partnership, and we believe the Joint Meeting would provide an ideal platform for you to share your vision for the future of the U.S.- Korea alliance and to highlight the progress that has been made in recent years,” they added.

On Wednesday, the White House is hosting a state dinner for Yoon.

Senate Judiciary Committee awaits response from Chief Justice Roberts

The Senate Judiciary Committee this week is keeping an eye out for an official response from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to Chairman Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) request that he testify about the bench’s ethical standards as Justice Clarence Thomas finds himself at the center of a controversy.

Durbin penned a letter to Roberts on Thursday asking that he testify at a hearing in early May “regarding the ethical rules that govern the Justices of the Supreme Court and potential reforms to those rules.” On Saturday, Durbin said he still did not hear back from the chief justice.

“At this point, the Chief Justice has not responded to my invitation for him to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 2,” Durbin said in a statement. “It is becoming clear that such an appearance by the Chief Justice may be the only way for the Court to set out with clarity any meaningful and credible reform.”

The request for testimony came after Durbin and other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee on April 10 asked that Roberts investigate a ProPublica report claiming that Thomas went on luxury trips paid for by GOP donor Harlan Crow.

On Saturday, the chairman released a response he received from Roslynn Mauskopf, the secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States, to the April 10 letter. Mauskopf said the letter had been referred to her, and that she forwarded it to the Judicial Conference Committee on Financial Disclosure which, according to Mauskopf, “is responsible for implementing the disclosure provisions of the Ethics in Government Act and addressing allegations of errors or omissions in the filing of financial disclosure reports.”

Durbin, however, is not satisfied.

“I don’t view that as an official response, and we’re still waiting for the Chief Justice to answer my invitation,” the chairman said during an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” Sunday.

The effort by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to scrutinize Thomas in the wake of recent reports comes as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the panel, remains sidelined from Washington as she recovers from shingles. The committee has been unable to advance partisan judicial nominees to the full chamber for votes because with her absence, the panel sits at an even split — a reality that is sparking frustration among some Democrats.

Two House Democrats called for Feinstein to resign earlier this month.

Abortion fallout

The Supreme Court’s ruling late last week regarding a widely used abortion pill is likely to reverberate on Capitol Hill this week, as lawmakers weigh in on the decision and look ahead to future legal proceedings.

The Supreme Court on Friday sided with the Biden administration and paused a Texas judge’s ruling that suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone, which had been approved for 23 years. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals paused part of that ruling but left alone provisions that blocked steps the FDA had taken in recent years to ease access to the drug. The Supreme Court’s stay, however, paused those remaining portions.

The decision from the bench puts the Texas ruling on hold as the Biden administration moves ahead with its appeal. In the meantime, however, the legal proceedings have moved the issue of abortion into the political spotlight, especially as the 2024 GOP presidential primary starts to heat up and polls show that the general electorate is largely supportive of legal abortion access.

During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) warned that the GOP will “lose huge” if it continues to push extreme positions on abortion.

“As Republicans, we need to read the room on this issue because the vast majority of folks are not in the extremes,” she said, later adding “we’re going to lose huge if we continue down this path of extremities.”


Andy Biggs

Joe Biden

Kevin McCarthy

Tim Burchett

Yoon Suk Yeol

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