With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
The battle to become President JOE BIDEN’s top defender on Capitol Hill is on.
With Republicans sharpening their investigative knives for Biden (this week, House GOP Leader KEVIN McCARTHY released a list of more than a dozen lines of inquiry into the administration), the race to succeed outgoing Rep. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-N.Y.) as the top Dem on the House Oversight Committee is raging at a fever pitch.
Who will it be?
While Rep. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-Mass.) is technically next in line in seniority and is running for the job, most Democrats think the jockeying for the position is down to two outspoken, well-known and well-respected bulls from the D.C. suburbs: GERRY CONNOLLY (D-Va.) and JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.).
The race has become a bit contentious.
— The case for Raskin: A former professor of constitutional law at American University, Raskin spent years at the heart of House Dems’ investigations into former President DONALD TRUMP. Behind the scenes, he frequently pushed his party to do more to hold Trump to account. Publicly, after losing a son to suicide, he led the prosecution in the second Trump impeachment — in which he convinced the most members of the opposite party to convict their party leader than ever before in American history.
Raskin is a quick with a snappy quote and regularly appears on the cable TV circuit. He’s also adored among his colleagues, who have likened his unorthodox approach to a disheveled conductor of an improvisational jazz band. Earlier this week, our colleague Jordain Carney scooped that he’d received the endorsement of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
— The case for Connolly: A seven-term veteran, Connolly has served on the committee since he first took office in 2009 and has led panel subcommittees for six years. His allies also argue he’s battle-tested in the minority, with experience during BARACK OBAMA’s presidency pushing back against Republican inquisitors, including then-Oversight Chair DARRELL ISSA (R-Calif.), who once called him the “bane of my existence.”
Connolly allies have pointed out to members that Raskin signed the now-infamous Congressional Progressive Caucus letter calling for direct negotiations with Moscow regarding Ukraine — suggesting that the Maryland Democrat’s signature on the since-retracted statement raises doubts about his judgment. (The weekend the letter was released, Connolly happened to be in Europe with NANCY PELOSI, calling for steadfast loyalty to Ukraine.)
Others also point out that Raskin is already on five committees, arguing that his service on Oversight, Judiciary, Rules, Administration and the soon-to-be dismantled Jan. 6 panel means he already has enough on his plate.
The White House, we’re told, won’t be weighing inon this race. Biden has good relationships with both men: Connolly was a former staffer for Biden on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Biden personally called to check on Raskin in the wake of his son’s death, as well as to congratulate him on his impeachment trial performance.
Why it’s worth paying attention:
With Biden expected to mount a reelection campaign in the coming months, House Republicans aim to use their majority to control the narrative and flood the media with stories about myriad investigations into the administration — all aimed at causing maximum damage to the president’s 2024 hopes. (Think of how former chairs Issa, JASON CHAFFETZ (R-Utah) and, later, TREY GOWDY (R-S.C.) leveraged their positions to probe the IRS’s treatment of Tea Party groups, the 2012 terrorist attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and HILLARY CLINTON’s use of a private email server.)
The next Oversight ranker will be taking on not only incoming Chair JAMES COMER (R-Ky.), but also people like JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio), who will lead any impeachment efforts from his perch atop the Judiciary panel. The position is all the more important because of some private concerns about Rep. JERRY NADLER (D-N.Y.), who leads the latter committee for Democrats. While the caucus respects Nadler’s work during the Trump administration — and, thus far, no one is expected to challenge him — some in the party worry that the New York Democrat’s moment has passed and whisper that the party needs a fresh and lively voice to counter the GOP.
How this will work:
The Democratic steering committee, whose membership is still being formed, is expected to make a recommendation on the Oversight position in the coming days, but those endorsements don’t always mean much. The fuller Democratic caucus will ultimately decide who gets the position next Tuesday.
With a majority of the caucus’s support required to clinch the job, many are already predicting the matter could go to a second ballot, with Lynch being most likely to fall off after the first vote. Connolly, who is much more senior to Raskin (first elected in 2016), could benefit by picking up Lynch’s backers who oppose the idea of a more junior member leapfrogging older ones.
Either way, Democrats say they’re in a strong position to defend Biden on the Hill regardless of the outcome. It’s just a question of who gets the job.
Good Thursday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. WaPo reports “masks may return” amid a surge of respiratory illness this holiday season. Let us know if you are being more careful: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
TALKER — John Harris’ latest column: “Who Has the Courage To Take on Trump and Biden?”
INSIDE THE TWITTER FILES — “The strange backstory of Twitter, Hunter Biden and Elon Musk’s latest stunt,” by Ben Schreckinger
GOP AUTOPSY, PART 1 — “Republicans have a post-election epiphany on mail voting,” by Meridith McGraw: “There is a growing sense of alarm among the GOP ranks that the conspiracy theories [DONALD] TRUMP pushed about early voting and mail ballots not only hurt them dearly in the just completed midterms, but could take multiple cycles to remedy. Republican committees and groups have been working to educate voters on laws regarding early voting and are planning to ramp up those efforts. But they are up against not only Trump and his outsized megaphone but also a sizable swath of conservative leaders who now falsely state early voting and mail ballots are tainted.”
GOP AUTOPSY, PART 2 — “Georgia loss piles more pressure on Trump amid bad month,” by Alex Isenstadt: “The losses have raised new questions about Trump’s political strength and capped off what those close to him concede was a nightmarish month, one that has left the former president badly wounded just as he is embarking on a new campaign.
“Trump lieutenants have been forced to reckon with everything from the ex-president’s much-criticized dinner with the antisemitic rapper formerly known as KANYE WEST and Holocaust denier NICK FUENTES, to a campaign launch that was widely panned as low-energy, to a widening net of legal investigations on subjects including his conduct before and during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and his handling of confidential documents.”
— “Walker’s loss in Ga. spurs new GOP hand-wringing, calls for new strategy,” by WaPo’s Colby Itkowitz, Hannah Knowles and Dylan Wells
— “I Did What I Had To Do”: Christian Walker Opened Up About How He Helped Bring Down His Dad’s Campaign,” by BuzzFeed’s David Mack
— “Trump’s isolation deepens as Georgia loss adds to 2024 bid’s rocky start,” by WaPo’s Isaac Arnsdorf
— “‘Trump obsession is very bad’: Senate Republicans confront their problems after poor election showing,” by CNN’s Manu Raju, Clare Foran and Ted Barrett, featuring Sen. PAT TOOMEY (R-Pa.) on HERSCHEL WALKER’s loss: “It’s just one more data point in an overwhelming body of data that the Trump obsession is very bad for Republicans, but normal Republicans are doing extremely well.”
PHOTO OF THE DAY
COUNTDOWN TO 2023 — “Dems plot their own government funding plan as talks stall,” by Caitlin Emma: “As bipartisan negotiations on a sprawling year-end package to fund the government remain mired in gridlock, Democrats have a new negotiation plan: publicly releasing their own partisan proposal on Monday.” The plan is to vote in both chambers next week, even though it will certainly fail in the Senate, in hopes of breaking a deal loose.
TURNING ON THE MIDWESTERN CHARM — “Ope, sorry: Midwestern House Dems push for leaders between the coasts,” by Sarah Ferris: Rep. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-Mich.) “is launching what she’s dubbed the Heartland Caucus, a group of Democrats who plan to advocate on manufacturing, trade and other economic issues that they see as critical to repairing their party’s tarnished brand back home.”
Holy Toledo: Rep. MARCY KAPTUR (D-Ohio) vented about a House panel on economic fairness: “‘Ask JIM HIMES, the chairman of the committee from Greenwich, Connecticut,’ Kaptur said. She said when she described the struggles of working class people in Lorain, Ohio, or Flint, Michigan, or Kenosha, Wis., ‘The attitude of some on the committee was, “Oh well, let them move.”’”
GOSAR GOES THERE, THEN GOES BACK — After Rep. PAUL GOSAR sent a tweet on Wednesday that appeared to suggest he agreed with Trump’s call to terminate the Constitution, the Arizona Republican later deleted the tweet and said he was a defender of the document and that he was being misinterpreted. Read more from Nancy Vu for Congress Minutes
- Gosar’s original tweet, reposting Trump’s: “I support and agree with the former President. Unprecedented fraud requires unprecedented cure.”
- Statement from Gosar’s office: “Those who claim either Trump or Congressman Gosar don’t believe in the Constitution are acting in bad faith or are low IQ people unable to comprehend our language and our actions.” (h/t The Hill’s Jared Gans)
TOP-ED — Pelosi writes for WaPo: “I’m proud to protect marriage as one of my last acts as speaker”
AOC FYI — “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez under investigation by House Ethics Committee,” by USA Today’s Marina Pitofsky: “The committee in a statement on Wednesday confirmed the move, though it did not provide additional details on the topic of the investigation. It did confirm the Office of Congressional Ethics referred the matter to the committee in June.”
FOXX NEWS — Rep. VIRGINIA FOXX (R-N.C.) “received a rare waiver from the Republican Steering Committee to be considered for the top position on the House Education and Labor Committee in the next Congress,” Bianca Quilantan and Eleanor Mueller report for Congress Minutes. Foxx has been seeking the waiver “due to an internal GOP rule that bars members from serving more than three consecutive terms as a ranking member or chair of a committee. She is also running unopposed, and the steering committee is expected to make its chair and committee decisions in the coming weeks.”
WILL PETERS PETER OUT? — “Senate Dems’ victorious campaign QB reluctant to run it back,” by Marianne LeVine: “It’s not just [Sen. GARY] PETERS’ success at the campaign committee, which he steered to focus heavily on its ground operation, that has his party wanting him back. It’s also unclear who else would step up if the current chair doesn’t — and Democrats need a proven performer as they prepare to defend 23 seats in two years, from red states to battlegrounds.”
EXPLOSIVE STORY —Our colleague Daniel Lippman has a major investigation into the conduct of No Labels, the centrist group that has embarked on an ambitious $70 million project laying the groundwork for a unity ticket presidential campaign in 2024. But the story is different inside the walls of the organization. “Interviews with 14 former employees — including five who left in the last few months — and four other people familiar with No Labels reveals a cutthroat culture, one where staffers are routinely fired or pushed out, have little trust in management, and believe the workplace environment can be difficult for minority and female colleagues,” Daniel writes.
Among the allegations:
- There is lingering discord over the group’s decision to hire and ally with individuals who left prior jobs under allegations they’d sexually harassed women.
- Two female staffers recalled management telling female employees to dress more conservatively after a colleague was improperly touched by a male member of Congress at a No Labels event.
- Two former staffers said they witnessed one of the organization’s few Black employees being singled out to discuss race issues at a staff meeting.
- Staffers are bombarded with emails and demands by founder and CEO NANCY JACOBSON. They come at all hours of the day (e.g. on one Saturday earlier this year, Jacobson reportedly sent 65 emails to staff before 9 a.m.), sometimes with odd requests, such as changing the employer listed on their LinkedIn profiles to “America” to throw off a journalist trying to locate them.
CASH DASH — “Soros caps off midterm spending with $50M super PAC contribution,” by Elena Schneider
THE WHITE HOUSE
THE POLITICS OF GRIEF — “Biden at gun violence vigil: Shared grief and another call to action,” by Myah Ward and Olivia Olander: “Biden became the first president to attend the National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence, which has honored more than 1 million gun violence victims since the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting in Newtown, Conn. He said attendees had turned ‘pain into purpose,’ as he underscored his administration’s accomplishments on guns so far and promised the hundreds of people in a packed room that his work was far from done.”
ANOTHER ONE? — “Trump hosts event featuring QAnon, ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theorist at Mar-a-Lago,” by ABC’s Olivia Rubin, Will Steakin and Katherine Faulders
IMMIGRATION FILES — “U.S. appeals ruling that would lift asylum restrictions,” by AP’s Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, N.M.
WAR IN UKRAINE
MODERN WARFARE — “Ukraine used home-modified drones to strike Russian bases,” by Paul McLeary and Erin Banco: “The modifications showcase the ability of the Ukrainian defense industry to innovate, even as Russia is forced to buy cheap Iranian drones to conduct its air war.”
— “Biden administration weighs Ukrainian requests for access to U.S. stockpile of controversial cluster munitions,” by CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Alex Marquardt and Zachary Cohen
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
CHINA’S COVID PIVOT — “China Scraps Most Covid Testing, Quarantine Requirements in Policy Pivot,” by WSJ’s Selina Cheng
PULLOUT FALLOUT — “Taliban carry out 1st public execution since Afghan takeover,” by AP’s Rahim Faiez in Islamabad
ON THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY — “Peru’s President impeached and arrested after he attempts to dissolve Congress,” by CNN’s Claudia Rebaza, Tara John, Stefano Pozzebon and Hande Atay Alam
MEGATREND — “What’s Going On With the Housing Market?” by WSJ’s Nicole Friedman and Nick Timiraos: “Home buyers and sellers are trying to make sense of a downturn that’s full of contradictions: Demand has seized up but supply is still low; prices are sliding but not plummeting; and no one can agree on what comes next.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
NEW DETAILS ON COLORADO SUSPECT — “FBI got tip about shooting suspect a day before 2021 arrest,” by AP’s Colleen Slevin and Jim Mustian
NEW DETAILS ON UVALDE SHERIFF — “Uvalde sheriff had vital information about school shooter that was not shared,” by CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, Matthew J. Friedman and Rachel Clarke
LOOKING AHEAD — “State Battles on Abortion Access Are Ahead in the New Year,” by WSJ’s Laura Kusisto: “More than 20 states were expected to ban many or most abortions following the Supreme Court’s decision this summer in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. But in roughly half of those places, efforts to impose new restrictions have hit legal and political obstacles. Now, lawmakers are grappling with how to respond to an electoral season that saw voters signal resistance to sweeping prohibitions on abortion, including in some conservative-leaning states.”
MOMENT OF ZEN — “NYC’s rat-fighting mayor fined over infestation at own house,” by AP’s Karen Matthews
FLORIDA FILES — “Florida lawmaker charged with defrauding pandemic loan program,” by WaPo’s Andrew Jeong
Ann Romney wants George Clooneyto play her husband in a biopic.
Sheldon Whitehouse and Ro Khanna seem to have been listening to “Midnights” lately.
Bob Casey might be considering a makeover.
Fred Keller’s granddaughter is a big fan of the Rayburn subway.
Roger Wicker is a big Les Mis fan.
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Off-duty FBI agent fatally shoots person at Metro Center, police say,” by WaPo’s Peter Hermann, Justin George and Emily Davies: “D.C. Executive Assistant Chief of Police Ashan M. Benedict said the person who was shot assaulted the agent, and the two got into an altercation. He said one grabbed the other, and they tumbled over a wall that runs along the edge of the platform, away from the tracks. They fell about eight feet, he said.”
— “Pat Collins, ‘beat poet’ of local news, will retire after 49 years,” by WaPo’s Paul Farhi
IN MEMORIAM — “Doug Wong, Washington Post news desk editor, dies at 58,” by WaPo: “Doug Wong, a Washington Post journalist who edited breaking news stories on a wide array of subjects including politics, natural disasters, wars and criminal justice, died Dec. 3 at a hotel in Orlando while on vacation. He was 58 and a District resident. A spokeswoman for the Orange County (Fla.) Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause was hypertensive cardiovascular disease.”
OUT AND ABOUT — VP Kamala Harris hosted a holiday party Wednesday night at the Naval Observatory. SPOTTED:Dolores Huerta, Shannon Watts, Mini Timmaraju, Laphonza Butler, Gene Karpinski, Sean O’Brien, presidents from Divine 9 sororities and fraternities, A’shanti Gholar, Fatima Goss Graves, Caroline Wang, Khizr Khan, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Opal Lee, Shekar Narasimhan, Trey Baker, Kalisha Figures and Carissa Smith.
— SPOTTED at the National Association of Broadcasters’ first holiday party at its new headquarters on Tuesday night: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Ron Estes (R-Kans.), Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.) and Steve Womack (R-Ark.).
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Erik Berdy is joining Michael Best Strategies to launch a defense and national security practice. He most recently was special assistant for legislative affairs to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Trump and Biden administrations.
TRANSITIONS — Geoff Dietz will be director of federal affairs for The Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas. He was most recently a manager of government affairs for TotalEnergies. … Sara Guerrero will be comms director for Rep.-elect Robert Garcia (D-Calif.). She previously was western regional press secretary at the DNC and is a Cortez Masto and Schumer alum. … David Lauteri is now director of renewable energy policy at Quanta Services. He previously was head of legislative affairs for Mitsubishi Power. …
… Gabrielle Fong is now senior associate at early stage investment firm First In. She most recently was an intelligence officer at U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. Navy Space Command. … Sydney Gart is now a finance assistant at Fulkerson Kennedy & Company. She most recently was a finance assistant for Sen. Maggie Hassan’s (D-N.H.) campaign.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Ali-Jae Henke, industry director for government and advocacy at Google, and Brandon Henke, energy industry analyst at FERC, recently welcomed Talia August Henke, who joins big sisters Ruby and Odessa. Pic … Another pic
— Gillian White, senior VP at Capital B, and John Minor, an associate at Covington & Burling, recently welcomed Evan Nash Minor-White, who joins older sister Quinn.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: POLITICO’s Annie Yu and Danica Stanciu … WSJ’s Sabrina Siddiqui … Fox News’ Kerri Kupec … AP’s Pablo Martínez Monsiváis … NBC’s Cesar Conde, Tom Mazzarelli and Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner … Debra Saunders … Judd Legum … B.R. McConnon of DDC Public Affairs … CBS’ Brooke Lorenz … ABC’s Marc Burstein … Microsoft’s Ginny Badanes … P. Lynn Scarlett … Siemens’ Brie Sachse … Ann Coulter … retired Gen. Joe Dunford … Stephen Spaulding … Mark Piland of Rep. Ralph Norman’s (R-S.C.) office … former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim … Karen Keller … Preston Hill … Steve Bouchard … former Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) … Sophia Narrett … Honey Sharp … Courtney Johnson … Luis Rosero … State Department’s Anna Miller … Tom Bush … Lizzie O’Leary … Tanika Pradhan … Gillian Diebold of the Center for Data Innovation … Taylor Dibbert of the International Center for Journalists … Jeremy D’Aloisio of Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass.) office … Debbie Cox Bultan … Govind Friedland
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