With help from Nicholas Wu

ROILING REPUBLICANS — Regrets, they may have a few. Senators didn’t lock down a bipartisan sanctions package against Russia before leaving town and now President Joe Biden gets to go his own way.

Biden’s move to impose a “first tranche” of punitive measures against Russia has highlighted, once again, deep divides within the Republican party, from those who have cozied up to Russia in the past to some issuing praise of Biden deploying additional U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to boost NATO’s defenses.

Within Congress, plenty of Republicans are criticizing the timing (too late) and heft of the sanctions (they’d like them to be more crushing). Some would rather see the U.S. arm Ukraine to the gills rather than imposing economic pressure. But by and large they are on board with the path Biden has pursued, strongly supporting both NATO and Ukraine.

THE AMERICA FIRST FACTION — But there is a vocal group, both on and off Capitol Hill, who are arguing against any U.S. involvement in the region and warning against expanded U.S. commitment to NATO. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is championing this position within Congress, while Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance, Fox News host Tucker Carlson and others bolster this “America First” foreign policy viewpoint. They’d rather see Biden challenging China and addressing immigration in the U.S.

“I think a vast majority of our conference is in the ‘don’t let Putin get away with it’ camp,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, describing Hawley as an outlier. “To allow Putin to get away with the destruction of Ukraine and to think it won’t affect China is naive.” Andrew, Tara Palmeri and Meridith McGraw dig into the challenge for Republicans mounting a unified voice on Russia, where Trump fits in and what comes next: Republicans descend into foreign policy factionalism over Russia-Ukraine standoff

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has requested an all-senators briefing on Russia-Ukraine, which will get them up to date on the latest intel and developments but is unlikely to change any minds.

On Tuesday, a sweeping group of lawmakers, from Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), signed a letter demanding that Biden seek congressional authorization before directly involving U.S. troops in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Wednesday, February 23, where it’s really just a countdown of minutes until Huddle Trivia Night!

CUELLAR V CISNEROS UP CLOSE — In Laredo, Texas, Jessica Cisneros and Henry Cuellar are fighting it out in the final week before the Democratic primary that could yield a big shakeup for border district politics.

Cuellar is hammering his challenger with the same jabs that Republicans across the country are using to try and defeat Democrats: Saying she wants to defund the police and slash border enforcement.

“But Cisneros is largely depriving her foe of that red meat, running a progressive campaign in a tough district that sounds starkly different from liberal icons like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Bernie Sanders,” writes Sarah, from Laredo.

“I think people have this preconceived notion of what it means to be running as a progressive,” Cisneros, an immigration attorney based in Laredo, said in an interview. “It’s healthcare and jobs. That’s literally our bread and butter, and what we’re talking about at the doors.”

TRUCKER TROUBLES? — Several convoys of truckers are expected in D.C. this week and continuing into March. They’re protesting coronavirus restrictions and following the lead of truckers in Canada who occupied Ottawa for three weeks.

Troops move in: The Pentagon has approved a request for 400 members of the DC National Guard to support traffic posts and 24-hour command and control operations, ASAP through Monday, March 7 at 11:59 p.m. The same authorization approved a request for 300 National Guard members from outside the District of Columbia. According to DCNG, the guard will not carry firearms or take part in law enforcement or domestic-surveillance activities.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) will be briefed this afternoon by Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger about security precautions and the possibility of fencing being reinstalled around the Capitol. Her team has promised an update after the briefing.

PARTY FOUL — The DCCC is putting some distance between itself and Democratic congressional candidate Abby Broyles after she reportedly became intoxicated at a Valentine’s Day weekend party with middle school-aged girls, insulted the children, and vomited on a girl’s shoes.

“The DCCC is not working with Abby Broyles’ campaign and we condemn her abhorrent behavior,” spokesperson Chris Taylor told POLITICO. The race was already an uphill climb for Broyles, an attorney and former journalist who also lost to Sen. Jim Inhofe in 2020 by about thirty percentage points. She was running against Republican Rep. Stephanie Bice in Oklahoma’s 5th District, which has grown redder after the most recent round of redistricting.

Broyles responded to the controversy Tuesday evening in a series of tweets, calling the controversy a “painful attack on my character” and saying “the things I’m accused of saying are not who I am, nor do they depict the entirety of the situation that occurred.”

RASHIDA’S REBUTTAL — Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) will deliver a formal response to resident Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next week and is expected to hammer moderate Democrats in a moment where the president’s party typically tries to project unity. This type of critical rebuttal is usually championed by the party out of power and Republicans have Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds tee’d up to tear down Biden’s speech. Tlaib will be representing the Working Families Party and focus both on progressive victories and the intransigence of centrist Democrats. Holly Otterbein has more on Tlaib’s talking points, obtained exclusively by POLITICO.

Hearing alert!… House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) announced Tuesday night that her panel will convene a hearing “soon” to “move the House forward on recognizing Congressional workers’ right to organize.”

After a review of the pending regulations from 1996 on member office and committee staffers’ rights to unionize, the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights “determined no changes are needed for the House to extend federal protections to legislative branch employees who wish to unionize and collectively bargain.” Read the OCWR letter to Lofgren with the update.

Last week, Lofgren asked the OCWR to review the 1996 regulations, because there had been some concern that the 26-year-old regulations might need updating before anything could move forward, which could have significantly delayed action. The OCWR requested unanimously that Congress approve the 1996 regulations, so that the board can formally issue them — a green light for moving Rep. Andy Levin’s (D-Mich.) resolution that would do just that.


Biden interviews at least two Supreme Court contenders as announcement nears, from Sean Sullivan, Seung Min Kim and Tyler Pager at The Washington Post

Ukraine supplemental money bill could be in the offing, from John M. Donnelly at CQ Roll Call.

GOP Reps. Greene, Clyde accrue over $160K in combined mask fines, from Cristina Marcos at The Hill.


John LaBombard is heading to ROKK Solutions to take on a senior vice president role. He spent 15 years working in the senate, most recently as communications director for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Hannah Hurley will take the reins as communications director and Pablo Sierra-Carmona will be the new press secretary for Sinema.

Caroline Briscoe is joining Rep. Tom Tiffany’s (R-Wisc.) office as press secretary and digital director. She was previously press secretary for Jody Hice (R-Ga.).

Matt Bonaccorsi moves next week to be communications director for both the House Rules Committee and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who chairs the panel.

Jenny Donohue is now senior communications advisor at the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs. She was previously executive director of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Trudy Perkins is now acting chief of staff/communications director for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). She most recently was his comms director.


The House and Senate are out.


11:30 a.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds her weekly press conference (H-137).

TUESDAY’S WINNER: Eric Buetens correctly answered that Roger Taney was the first cabinet nominee in history to be formally rejected by the Senate. He was nominated by President Andrew Jackson to be Treasury Secretary.

TODAY’S QUESTION from Eric: What was triggered by a 1922 treaty between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Transcaucasus?

The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected]

GET HUDDLE emailed to your phone each morning.

Follow Katherine on Twitter @ktullymcmanus


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