Pelosi, first woman speaker, to depart Dem leadership in seismic shift

Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful speakers in modern U.S. history, will cede the helm of House Democratic leadership after 20 years and take on an unfamiliar role: Rank-and-file member.

Since she reclaimed the top gavel in 2018, the first woman speaker — whose legislative prowess has powered her party’s agenda under four presidents — planned to give it up after this term. Yet her decision became more complicated, she has said, by the brutal assault of her husband Paul last month.

“I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” Pelosi said to a packed chamber that remained pin-drop silent as members took in her decision.

Then Democrats’ better-than-expected midterm election prompted personal pleas for her to stay from the president and Senate majority leader.

But in a floor speech attended by nearly every member of her Democratic caucus, including plenty of teary allies, Pelosi declared it was time for a “new generation” of leaders. Clad in stark white, the color of suffragists and her hue of choice for critical moments, the California Democrat delivered her farewell speech within a chamber where she has been a part of Washington’s biggest moments for decades.

Recalling her first visit to the Capitol at age six, she name-checked her biggest political inspirations, from Abraham Lincoln to civil rights leader John Lewis, as she touted her “fundamental mission to hold strong to our most treasured democratic ideals.”

She alluded to policy achievements she notched with three presidents while leading the caucus, conspicuously omitting Donald Trump.

Afterward, she received one of a half-dozen standing ovations from her caucus.

Pelosi will retain her House seat, at least for now, as she steers the caucus through tough legislative battles like government funding in the final two months of Democratic power. She is also expected to stay on for at least some of the 118th Congress to maximize pressure on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who will need to corral an extremely narrow majority starting in January.

The decision paves the way for the House’s biggest leadership shakeup in either party since the Republican revolution of 1994. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the current caucus chair, will seek the role of minority leader for the next Congress after months of steadily building support across the caucus.

He is not expected to face a challenger, after POLITICO reported that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) decided to forgo a leadership bid as he instead turns his focus to a potential Senate run.

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), who was crying as she left Pelosi’s speech, said in between sobs she was “joyful and sad.”

The plans of Pelosi’s two long-time deputies, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), also became clear immediately after Pelosi’s speech.

Clyburn, who remains close to the Biden administration, will seek a top elected position — assistant to the minority leader — and Hoyer will not seek a leadership position, but will also remain in Congress as a rank-and-file member, according to multiple people familiar with the decision.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) will seek the No. 2 position below Jeffries, minority whip, while Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), will seek the No. 3 position, which will now be caucus chair, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions. Clyburn’s position will fall outside of that seniority structure.

For most of the last two years, there was little question among Democrats that Pelosi would leave her leadership position after the November elections. She had promised her caucus in 2018 that she would only seek two more terms as leader, part of a bargain she made with her defectors to lock down votes for speaker after the caucus reclaimed the majority.

But some Democrats began questioning in recent days whether she had changed her mind, first after her husband, Paul Pelosi, was attacked in their home last month. After the party’s better-than-expected midterm performances, others began privately — or publicly — telling her to stay, arguing she was their best tactical weapon against a potential Speaker McCarthy.

Regardless, many Democrats have expected that Pelosi would stay in Congress, at least in the short term.

If Pelosi did leave Congress immediately, it would leave a vacancy until her district can hold a special election — a key absence that could give McCarthy more breathing room in his fight to claim the speakership when the full House votes on Jan. 3. His margin of error for that vote, assuming that all Democrats vote for a member of their party, will be between two and five seats.

Whenever Pelosi gives up her seat, Gov. Gavin Newsom would need to call a special election within 14 days. Voters would weigh in about four months later at the earliest.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) predicted the caucus would still rely on Pelosi’s wisdom even as a rank and file member.

“She’s always going to be a mentor to us. To me, she stands there just like John Lewis,” he said, getting emotional. “Every time we saw John Lewis and there was a seat next to him, we sat down and we asked him and we listened and we learned and we grew from there. I think Nancy Pelosi is going to be that person for us every minute every day.”

Nicholas Wu, Katherine Tully-McManus and Jeremy White contributed to this report.

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  • 9 часов, 23 минуты назад 01.12.2022Congress
    Friends to the left of him, critics to the right: McCarthy’s stuck in the chase

    House Republicans are playing high-stakes tug of war with Kevin McCarthy’s speakership dreams. And now both sides are digging in their heels.

    On the GOP leader’s right, conservatives are meeting with House rules officials to strategize ahead of a planned floor challenge to McCarthy during the speakership vote on Jan. 3. Meanwhile, centrist Republicans are making threats of their own to colleagues who’d bulldoze McCarthy — including that they’ll work with Democrats to recruit a GOP speaker candidate more to their liking.

    “We’re going to do vote after vote after vote for Kevin, and if they refuse to play ball — that’s why I’m saying we’re willing to work across the aisle to get an agreeable Republican — but we’re not going to get pushed around,” centrist Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said.

    Five Republicans so far are threatening to oppose McCarthy in that vote, a number that’s possibly enough to derail him given the slim GOP majority next year. But other GOP lawmakers have grown increasingly frustrated as those conservatives decline to float a viable alternate candidate, with some predicting that McCarthy’s foes don’t have a fallback plan or any possible consensus pick.

    One House Republican said they’re aware of a handful more members who are keeping their opposition private until just before the January vote. And while some of McCarthy’s fiercest public critics have openly claimed that there are about 20 hard nos in the conference, others believe the Californian will likely chip away at his opposition.

    But some of that opposition is only getting bolder. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Bob Good (R-Va.) both insisted this week that they are hard nos against the GOP leader — saying they would not vote present and would appear on the House floor to vote against him. Both said they planned to cast their votes for Biggs at the moment.

    Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), however, left the tiniest crack of hope that McCarthy could still win his vote.

    “An engineer will tell you anything’s moveable. Extreme circumstances is the only thing that would change my mind,” he told POLITICO, while also declining to say who he would support instead.

    Biggs gathered roughly a dozen other Freedom Caucus members for a closed door, hour-long Wednesday meeting in his office with House Parliamentarian Jason Smith, who walked them through rules and process of the speaker vote on Jan. 3, according to two people familiar with the sit-down.

    Good and Rosendale attended along with the Trump-aligned group’s chair, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.). Others in the room included Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Ben Cline (R-Va.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Michael Cloud (R-Texas) and Morgan Griffith (R-Va.). Rep.-elect Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) also joined, along with some staff.

    After the parliamentarian left, members in attendance spent an extra hour with Paulina Luna discussing strategy. As they exited the meeting, many declined to say what they discussed.

    “This is an internal discussion between members. Obviously we’re talking a lot about rules and how the place operates. It’s perfectly within the purview of members to do that,” Perry said, adding that their procedural options for Jan. 3 are “pretty apparent.”

    Perry hasn’t said if he would support McCarthy for speaker. Asked Wednesday about that possibility or the alternative of voting present, he responded: “I think that responsible people keep their options open as long as they can. That’s where I am.”

    Hedging like that has only further irritated centrist House Republicans, who still see McCarthy as the only speakership option after he won over the bulk of GOP members during an initial vote earlier this month. At the time, McCarthy garnered 188 votes to Biggs’ 31. Five others wrote in a different candidate, while one member abstained.

    Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who helped nominate McCarthy, said if the California Republican doesn’t ultimately get the speaker’s gavel “it would set a terrible precedent for the future because nobody else would put that work in.”

    “So our position is, Kevin is the only member of our conference that we would support,” added Fitzpatrick, the GOP co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.

    There’s growing speculation that McCarthy’s speaker quest could go into bitter January overtime with multiple ballots, which has sparked questions on how such voting would work among GOP lawmakers — many of whom have never been in the majority before. Unlike a 2015 bid for speaker, when McCarthy responded to rising opposition by dropping out to make way for former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), he said this week he plans to take the fight all the way to the floor.

    And once he gets there, Republicans won’t be his only problem. A group of centrist Democrats have discussed potential “back-up” plans if McCarthy can’t get to 218 votes, including working with moderate Republicans to try to come up with a mutually agreeable alternative.

    In a public warning shot to the Freedom Caucus, Bacon told POLITICO that he had spoken to a few Democrats who are discussing contingency plans. He added that he is preparing to support McCarthy on multiple ballots and vowed that if the Californian doesn’t become speaker, neither would a candidate from the conservative group.

    “Eighty-five percent of the people voted for Kevin, and it’s their duty to coalesce around a big majority,” Bacon said, adding that not supporting him after most Republicans backed him “weakens us, and it pisses us off.”

    Generally, members say there are signs McCarthy is making concessions to some Freedom Caucus members as the conference holds meetings to haggle over the rules that will govern their majority. And lawmakers in the group have credited McCarthy with meeting them halfway in some cases.

    In one case, Norman offered an amendment that would require leadership to give notice to the conference at least 10 days before any legislation that didn’t go through committee could come to the House floor. McCarthy reduced it down to five, according to one House Republican in the room.

    Perry emerged from Wednesday’s conference debate crowing that his members brought McCarthy to the table, after conservatives vented frustration that many of their rules changes were rejected earlier this month.

    “It was much more amicable today, as it should be,” Perry said.

    McCarthy also held a meeting Tuesday with members of the Freedom Caucus, leadership and other chairs of intraparty groups, including Fitzpatrick and Bacon, as they sought to find common ground on different rules demands across the disparate wings of the party.

    While the Wednesday conference meeting didn’t yield a significant breakthrough on all the major Freedom Caucus rules demands, Republicans felt they had significant breakthroughs on communication styles compared to a meeting about two weeks ago.

    “Everything was brought out. The good news — everything was brought out and discussed,” Norman said as he left Tuesday’s meeting.

  • 19 часов, 23 минуты назад 01.12.2022Congress
    Dems’ rail-strike challenge: Save the economy and your ties to unions

    House progressives forced Democratic leaders to boost paid leave for railroad workers before agreeing to avert a potentially disastrous strike. They may end up with little more than a symbolic win.

    The compromise arranged between Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team and an emboldened left hinged on a seemingly elegant solution to avoid a rail strike: House members voted on both the base labor agreement and a separate bill adding seven days of paid sick leave to it. When the two-part arrangement smoothed the way for final passage amid a chaotic negotiating scramble between Congress and the White House, it appeared to satisfy the restive liberal wing of a soon-to-expire House Democratic majority.

    But now House Democrats’ jubilant success faces the Senate buzzsaw.

    The party needs at least 10 GOP votes and all 50 Democrats in that chamber to pass anything on the rail strike — a supremely difficult task at the moment, both on the paid-leave front and maybe even for the labor agreement itself.

    “I was told that Democrats were going to keep it clean,” said Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee. “If the president wants to try to play some game and have it both ways, then there’s going to be some resistance.”

    When President Joe Biden asked that Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer move to avert the freight rail strike looming on Dec. 9, he handed their party a tough choice between economic calamity and offending union allies. And the compromise that the House passed only happened after a flurry of consultations with progressives, according to four people familiar with the situation.

    House liberals made clear they wanted the paid leave provisions added to the agreement, offering an amendment on Tuesday sponsored by Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said they were “in constant communication, both with leadership, the White House and the Senate” during those deliberations.

    By Tuesday, even centrists like Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) were openly warning Democrats not to stiff-arm railroad unions by leaving out their requests for more paid sick leave.

    “There’s no question that we cannot have a rail strike,” Wild said in an interview. “That may be the most bipartisan sentiment we’ve had in a long time. Having said that, I’m still concerned about the sick leave, as a very strong pro-labor member of Congress.”

    In the Senate, though, Democrats aren’t sure how they will handle the issue with a rapidly ticking clock and possibly calamitous effects on the holiday season. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) hasn’t decided how he will vote on the sick leave proposal, while Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said that he was leaning toward supporting it.

    GOP leaders said they don’t know exactly where their members’ votes are either, given lingering uncertainty about when and on what the Senate will be voting. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) predicted the paid leave provision would fall short of 10 GOP votes needed to break a filibuster, and at the moment it doesn’t appear there are any firm Republican votes in support.

    On Thursday the administration will dispatch Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to Capitol Hill to huddle with Senate Democrats on the path forward. Then it will be up to Schumer to figure out how to sidestep an economically disruptive strike while satisfying members who want paid leave included in the agreement.

    “Chuck’s got a lot of shit on his table right now. But this is a big one. Hopefully there’s a plan to move forward in a way that makes sense,” Tester said. “The rail shutdown, that would be disastrous. But you want to treat people fairly.”

    Right now most senators expect they will vote on the paid leave provision, and if it fails that they will then likely try to pass the base agreement bemoaned by progressives and rejected by some unions. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said that “we’re gonna get to vote on adding paid leave to any deal that we push on the parties. It’s going to be a good thing.”

    Schumer’s Wednesday afternoon effort to call up both House bills at a 60-vote threshold has been unsuccessful so far.

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who’d pushed for inclusion of the paid leave provisions, said Democrats could turn the vote “into a win.”

    “We’re fighting tooth and nail to include an amendment that gets these workers their paid sick days. And I think if we end up passing this with paid sick days, this will end up having been a good decision,” she said of the House’s procedural move.

    Negotiations between union leaders and the railroads were essentially at a standstill in recent weeks — daily Zoom calls between the parties were scheduled for an hour but rarely exceeded 15 minutes, according to union leaders. Lawmakers and union officials said railroads were not willing to offer more days of paid sick leave, and rank-and-file union members began preparing for a work stoppage on Dec. 9.

    Which leaves the Senate with little time to maneuver: Rail workers are set to strike next week if an agreement is not reached. And without unanimous consent, it could take several days to steer the legislation through the Senate. So if the paid leave provision falls, senators might be left with a zero-sum choice: Force through the deal without paid leave, or allow a strike that lets unions keep fighting for a different agreement.

    Given the economic risk of a rail shutdown ahead of the Christmas holiday, that means congressional progressives may have to swallow the temporary symbolic win of House approval for a paid leave boost that doesn’t survive the Senate.

    “That’s the most painful part of this: The idea that a worker could be terminated for doing exactly the most responsible thing, which is taking care of their health,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). On the other hand, she said, “a rail shutdown will be so detrimental to the farmers I represent.”

    Already the episode is rattling relationships between Democrats and labor, with Biden pushing to prevent a strike even as he positions himself as the most pro-union president in decades.

    And some conservatives are taking the opportunity for their own flirtation with working-class heroism.

    Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were noncommittal on the paid leave provision on Wednesday, but both said they oppose forcing workers to accept the underlying agreement. Labor stalwart Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) cited their stance in vowing not to accept the elimination of paid leave until he’s sure the GOP won’t cough up the votes.

    “Marco Rubio’s the populist — they’re there, man. They want to help workers,” Brown quipped of Republicans in his trademark deadpan. “They’re, like, the Trotskyite party.”

  • 23 часа, 23 минуты назад 01.12.2022Congress
    News The Buckshee

    Congress is considering whether to seat a delegate from the Cherokee Nation for the first time — a proposal nearly 200 years in the making.

    The non-voting delegate would be Kimberly Teehee, a former Obama administration adviser on Native American issues, who was appointed to the position in 2019. Non-voting members of Congress have no say on the final passage of bills, but they can speak on the House floor and introduce legislation.

    In 1835, the Cherokee Nation signed the Treaty of New Echota and ceded all ancestral land east of the Mississippi River in exchange for $5 million dollars — and a delegate seat in Congress.

    Thousands of Cherokee died along The Trail of Tears, as they were forcibly relocated to present-day Oklahoma. But no delegate from the Cherokee Nation was ever seated in the halls of the Capitol.

    Earlier this month, Congress held a historic first hearing to consider seating a delegate. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. spoke to POLITICO ahead of the historic hearing on Nov. 16 about America’s broken promise and the chance to make it right.

  • 1 день, 1 час назад 30.11.2022Congress
    How Jeffries made his ascension to House Dem leader ‘look easy’

    The strategy behind Hakeem Jeffries’ yearslong ascent to House Democratic leader, as his top allies see it, focused on making the outcome feel inevitable. And in the end, it did.

    The New York Democrat culminated a remarkably frictionless climb of the party ladder on Wednesday, securing every vote and avoiding a single challenger. He became the highest-ranking Black congressional leader in U.S. history just 12 days after formally declaring his run.

    “He makes it look easy, what is difficult. That’s another sign of a great leader,” Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) said.

    That effortless appearance took work: Behind the scenes, House Democrats’ biggest power transfer in two decades was hardly a shoo-in. Democrats across the caucus said Jeffries — along with his top lieutenants, Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) — succeeded thanks to years of careful maneuvering to consolidate support from every influential bloc in the party.

    And the powerful but unassuming trio, which has jokingly referred to itself in private as the “kids table” for the last two years, did it without a formal whip team. With Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants still in place, Jeffries and his two deputies instead wooed colleagues with a heads-down mentality, raising gobs of money and listening to what fellow Democrats wanted.

    Only one Democrat ever seriously considered challenging Jeffries: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who quickly realized it was too late to marshal a base that could counter the New Yorker’s formidable one. The only other two who might have ran, Pelosi’s No. 2 and No. 3, Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), also got out of Jeffries’ way.

    “The committed individuals to Hakeem Jeffries were so high that those considering challenging — it melted away. It became the obvious choice, and everybody just fell in,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), an early Jeffries supporter who’s long introduced him to others as the “first Black speaker.”

    Cleaver said he first committed to Jeffries two and a half years ago, back when a group of about 10 Democrats met regularly with the New Yorker to prepare for his eventual ascent.

    As another senior Democrat put it: “The race was over before anyone else knew what was happening.”

    Democrats were in high spirits Wednesday as they huddled for a closed-door meeting to elect the new triumvirate, with screams and hugs as senior members touted the importance of a new generation of leaders. Just before the leadership election, longtime supporter Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) had the entire caucus on their feet with a rousing speech in which he vowed Jeffries would be speaker in 2024.

    “The most important part of a relay race is how you pass the baton,” Meeks said, according to people in the room.

    It’s highly unusual that such a massive leadership shakeup would happen with total unity, particularly within a caucus that spent much of this Congress sparring as Pelosi sought to muscle bills through with a razor-thin majority. And it stands in stark contrast to House Republicans’ open battle over the speakership Kevin McCarthy worked hard to secure.

    But instead of a slugfest to replace Pelosi and Hoyer, Jeffries and his team quickly locked down support that ranged from conservative Blue Dogs to the progressive “Squad.”

    The slate of new Democratic leaders benefited from their representation of almost every slice of the big-tent party. Some supporters quipped that a focus group couldn’t have devised a better-suited trio for the party: a Black man, a progressive woman and a Latino man, collectively representing both coasts and a mix of progressive and moderate views.

    Lawmakers close to the troika insist there was never a single conversation where the three decided to run together, but that the decision evolved out of natural chemistry between Jeffries and Clark. They worked closely together in the lead-up to the 2018 midterms, then together led the caucus as chair and vice chair through a tumultuous two years under then-president Donald Trump.

    Aguilar lost a vice chair race to Clark after Democrats retook the House but began working more closely with her and Jeffries after he won the position in 2020. Several Democrats said they first noticed the three locking arms around President Joe Biden’s inauguration — the start of what was widely expected to be Pelosi’s final term as leader.

    The three have grown closer over the last two years, grabbing dinner together in Washington when possible and recently adding Zoom meetings to coordinate with all three groups of their aides.

    Not to mention that they’re known for delivering on the fundraising front, which played an enormous role in Democrats’ closer-than-expected 2022 midterm.

    “You would think, after two decades, it would be fighting — who’s going to take this opportunity?” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a senior centrist who recalled that Jeffries “was there for me in the primary” against a progressive challenger and again in November. “The caucus as a whole is almost like, collective: ‘We agree with the top three.’”

    In fact, many Democrats insist they’ve been telling Jeffries to run for the top position for years. (Some even encouraged him privately to challenge Pelosi in 2020, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.)

    Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who came to Congress the same year as Jeffries and later served on his whip team for 2018’s leadership elections, said he urged the New Yorker “a few years ago” to go for the top spot when it became open.

    “I knew pretty quickly he had a special set of talents,” Kildee said.

    Another longtime ally who’s helped Jeffries solidify support, centrist Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), said he first encouraged the new leader to run for New York City mayor, long before any opening in the party’s upper House ranks.

    Perhaps a harder task than winning over moderates, however, was courting progressives in and out of the squad — some of whom view leadership itself, let alone Jeffries’ past as a former corporate lawyer, with a dose of skepticism.

    But Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who’d cut against the party’s grain and unseated a longtime incumbent to get to Congress, said Jeffries had mentored him and understood his experiences as a Black man in politics. So when Schiff came to Bowman weeks ago about a potential run for the top slot, Bowman went to Jeffries to reaffirm his support.

    “When the Schiff thing was rumored, we did talk, and I may have communicated my support [for Jeffries] before he was even able to ask,” Bowman recalled. “It kind of happened organically.”

    The breezy transition at the top of Democrats’ leadership ticket was maintained despite some turbulence down-ballot. After Clyburn decided to seek what’s now the No. 4 position, rather than exiting leadership alongside Pelosi and Hoyer, Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) switched gears to seek a newly created perch running caucus messaging — avoiding a matchup against Aguilar.

    And Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) made an even sharper move, announcing on Wednesday a longshot challenge to Clyburn for No. 4 leader. Cicilline made a pitch to his colleagues that their leadership needs LGBTQ voices in order to be maximally diverse. That bid, coming the day after the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Clyburn, is already raising eyebrows in the party.

    But there could have been even more drama: Democrats say that even if Pelosi had stunned her caucus and decided to run again for minority leader, Jeffries wouldn’t necessarily have waited his turn.

    “I’m not so sure that, had she run, that he wouldn’t have challenged her,” Larson said.

  • 1 день, 9 часов назад 30.11.2022Congress
    The GOP’s same-sex marriage evolution: A slow, choppy tidal shift

    Thom Tillis has helped ink plenty of bipartisan deals over the past two years. His advocacy for protecting same-sex marriage rights still surprised some of his fellow senators.

    “When people first saw me get involved, they were scratching their heads,” the North Carolina Republican said in an interview just before the marriage bill passed the Senate on Tuesday.

    The second-term Tillis saw the opportunity to put his own mark on an issue central to LGBTQ rights just a few weeks after he leaped into summertime gun safety negotiations that divided the GOP. And he stuck out as a new face in the gang working on a same-sex marriage agreement, which included two longtime Republican advocates in Rob Portman of Ohio and Susan Collins of Maine as well as Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

    His decision to get involved was emblematic of a Republican Party that’s divided over how much to edge away from hardline positions on social issues as it tries to rebuild credibility with swing voters after a disappointing midterm performance. As much as some Republicans hope to counterbalance the chaos of the Trump years and a conservative Supreme Court majority’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage still plainly splits the GOP: Tillis, Collins, and Portman joined just nine other Republican senators to ultimately support the bill.

    Tillis said that it shouldn’t have shocked people to see him so out front on same-sex marriage way back in July: “That’s probably the libertarian side of me.” Tweaking the bill to allow more religious freedom exemptions, he added, helped Republicans deliver a stronger message to voters “that this is not about an extreme liberal, progressive end that would destroy religious freedom in this country.”

    “This was about settling something that is on the minds of millions of people and their families,” Tillis said. “And I thought it was worth doing.”

    Some political evolutions develop over decades, then accelerate in an instant. That’s how it happened for Democrats, who were divided over same-sex marriage during former President Barack Obama’s first term until then-Vice President Joe Biden announced his support 10 years ago. Obama followed, and the rest of the party was not far behind.

    It’s been a slower trickle for Republicans. Portman, Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were on a fairly lonely island in favor of same-sex marriage for years. And as he left Congress in 2016, former Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) — another early supporter — castigated his party for being too intolerant on the issue.

    This summer, 47 House Republicans’ surprising support for the same-sex marriage bill spurred a sustained push from Tillis, Portman and Collins to take action — a veritable GOP tidal shift. As former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) put it on Tuesday: “Times change. And senators change.”

    “I do feel that the young populations are much more accepting of diverse opinions when it comes to same-sex marriage. And I think this is something that in years to come is not going to be an issue. It shouldn’t be,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), whose state was one of the first in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

    Ernst and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) are the highest-ranking Senate Republicans to support the legislation as they prepare to ascend to Nos. 4 and 5 in GOP leadership next year. Two House Republican leaders, Elise Stefanik of New York and Tom Emmer of Minnesota, supported a previous version of the legislation. The Senate’s amended bill now goes back to the House, where it’s assured of final passage but the ultimate number of GOP supporters is in flux.

    The bill’s Senate GOP backers are a motley group, including moderates like Collins and Murkowski but also Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who objected to President Joe Biden’s election certification and routinely votes against bipartisan bills. Retiring Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) backed the effort, but fellow retiring Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) rejected it. Dealmaking Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) joined Tillis, as did Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the bipartisan band of five supporters decided in September to delay a floor vote until after the election; Baldwin and Sinema did not want to risk failure when they knew they could win after the midterms. By mid-November, recently re-elected Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) was on board, too.

    The square-jawed Marine veteran said he had to do his homework before he came around to the legislation: “I’m a skeptical person.” But he also saw an opportunity to both protect same-sex marriage rights if the Supreme Court ever revisited its 2015 Obergefell decision and simultaneously ensure that every state “would not be required to sanctify same-sex marriages in the future.”

    “We’re all doing the best we can to get it right. And I have high confidence that I’ve gotten it right,” Young said.

    LGBTQ advocates chafe at the fact that the bill does not truly codify a national right to same-sex marriage, instead repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and requiring all states to recognize marriages performed in other states should the high court reverse its earlier ruling. Supportive Republicans may not have gone further than they did, and the bill only squeaked by Tuesday, 61-36.

    Ernst said that she’s evolved on the issue and believes “in traditional marriage, but [I] understand that a lot of our population feels very differently on the issue.” Other Republicans indicated the ultimate legislation achieved a balance in what they could support.

    “I think marriage is between one man and one woman. Other people have a different point of view and people have relied upon Obergefell to make their life decisions. I don’t think you go back and unwind marriages that have been performed legally by various states,” Romney said.

    Though Republicans privately estimate perhaps 30 or so of their senators want the bill to pass, conservative backlash limited the whip count. Sinema has cut deals on infrastructure and gun safety but said that “the attempts to derail this piece of legislation were probably more focused and robust than any other bills I’ve worked on in the last two years.”

    “Real credit needs to be given to the 12 Republicans who are standing with conviction on this piece of legislation to protect religious liberties and to give peace of mind to families all across this country. Because the opposition was very, very strong,” Sinema said.

    When explaining her vote on the floor on Tuesday, Lummis alluded to a mountain of criticism back home, saying the days since she first signaled support for the bill “have been fairly brutal self soul-searching. Entirely avoidable, I might add, had I simply chosen to vote no.”

    Taking flak for stepping into the bipartisan breach was nothing new for Tillis, even before his summertime work with Sinema and others on gun safety. He’d felt it when he sought to protect then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller during a high-profile probe of former President Donald Trump. After initially opposing Trump’s border wall national emergency, Tillis reversed himself on it as he sought reelection.

    So as this Congress ends with another surprising Senate deal on the books, Tillis offered some advice: “Any time you do any bipartisan effort, you’re gonna get a little heat in either direction. You just have to keep moving.”

    Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

  • 1 день, 23 часа назад 30.11.2022Congress
    Conservatives sharpen their knives as McCarthy works to peel off skeptics

    “Knives Out” isn’t just playing on screen this week: Conservatives are digging in against Kevin McCarthy before the conclusion of a closed-door fight over consolidating the House GOP leader’s power.

    As House Republicans keep debating their rules for next year’s majority, the Freedom Caucus — home to several members seeking to derail McCarthy’s speakership bid — is pushing for institutional changes that they argue will restore power to rank-and-file members. Before that debate Wednesday, McCarthy allies likely will move to scrap or neuter some of the Freedom Caucus’ dozen or so proposals.

    Members of the pro-Trump group had clamored earlier this month to restore House members’ ability to oust the speaker, though that effort got silenced by a counter-proposal from Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) that requires a majority of the conference to back any anti-speaker vote. Freedom Caucus members accused leadership of lining up opposition to their initial round of changes while postponing more controversial ideas until this week.

    Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), who has a proposed rules change on the Wednesday agenda, said that “I don’t think the first [debate] was very productive” and that he hasn’t decided if he’ll back McCarthy for speaker on Jan. 3. Bishop added that he’s looking to see if Wednesday’s session will be “different in tenor than” the pre-Thanksgiving session, saying “I don’t think it has much utility if it’s not.”

    Among the Freedom Caucus-backed demands is one from chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) that would reshape the House GOP Steering Committee, a leadership-driven group of lawmakers that decides most gavels and committee assignments. Perry’s proposal would “relieve [the steering panel] of the responsibility to recommend committee chairs.” And he’s offering another that would require any amendment considered on the House floor to boast backing from “the majority of the Republican conference.”

    The House GOP will also consider a proposal to ban earmarks that was offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). They are under fierce pressure from conservatives and outside groups to adopt the proposal, but leadership allies are predicting that the conference will reject his bid and give McCarthy a valuable carrot in his search for the votes he needs to win the top gavel.

    A growing list of House Republicans is threatening to not vote for him as speaker, with open opponents currently numbering five. Three hard nos have emerged from Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), while Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) have sent strong signals they’ll vote no.

    And that makes the rules debate particularly prickly for McCarthy: He must balance the appearance of acquiescing to some conservative demands while also ensuring that whatever ground he gives doesn’t undercut him if he does become speaker.

    “If McCarthy wants to be Speaker, he should support the Freedom Caucus’ rules package,” said Cesar Ybarra, vice president of policy at the conservative outside group FreedomWorks. “McCarthy is not popular with the conservative base, so we understand why dozens of Republicans voted against him for Speaker earlier this month. This is a great opportunity for each member to have the ability to influence the legislative process, a practice that is currently stifled by leadership.”

    Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a Freedom Caucus member, argued that internal party rules will be “really important” next Congress because of the party’s “narrow majority.”

    “We’re gonna have to agree on how to work together to be pretty effective,” Davidson said.

    McCarthy critics are pledging that more skeptics will speak out over the next five weeks, creating a steady drip that highlights the fragility of his speaker bid as the floor vote nears.

    Biggs, who unsuccessfully ran against McCarthy earlier this month for the GOP speaker nomination, predicted Monday that the California Republican is still down roughly 20 votes, describing that group as “pretty hard nos.”

    “I was told by a number of people, who came after to me afterwards, who aren’t members of [the] Freedom Caucus, [that] ‘Hey, I voted for you’ or ‘I voted against Kevin,’” Biggs said on a Conservative Review podcast, adding that enough embers were lit to “prevent Kevin from getting the speakership.”

    McCarthy can only afford to lose a handful of Republican votes in January, perhaps as few as five. And he’s vowing to take the fight all the way to the floor, even if it means multiple rounds of voting ballots.

    By Biggs’ estimate, the California Republican has already flipped some GOP lawmakers who opposed him less than two weeks ago, though a faction of them were always viewed as less than committed opponents. Thirty-one House Republicans voted for Biggs during this month’s internal vote to nominate McCarthy as the conference’s speaker pick, while five others backed other write-in candidates and one Republican abstained.

    More rank-and-file House Republicans say they aren’t sure what sort of deals McCarthy is offering in these meetings, some of which are taking place one-on-one with the GOP leader.

    Conservatives were venting before Thanksgiving that many of their proposed changes got shot down because GOP leaders lined up opponents to speak against them during the first round of closed-door conference debate. This week isn’t likely to play out much differently, which could fuel a new round of angst toward the GOP leader.

    Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), a McCarthy ally who lost a primary race to a GOP colleague after redistricting, argued that a rules fight happens every Congress and cautioned more junior lawmakers to ignore Freedom Caucus-backed ideas.

    “There are certain members that will always advocate for rules changes, some of them the same rules changes that they’ve advocated for my entire career,” Davis said, adding that with time those members often realize they weren’t “such good ideas.”

    “That being said, Leader McCarthy has got to find a way to get the number of votes [to be speaker],” Davis added. “Which I think he will.”

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