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Governing under the shadow of scars, pressures and fatigue: If there’s a shared theme this week to describe events ahead on Capitol Hill, between two world leaders in San Francisco and war in the Middle East, that may cover it.
We’ll get to the California meeting between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping and Israel’s war in Gaza, below. But first, a big question: Will the world’s greatest democracy keep its government operating beyond Friday?
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who on Saturday announced an untested, complicated funding plan, appears to believe that impatience with chaos and perhaps bipartisan surrender can work some mathematical magic on floor votes by the end of the week. No matter what, analysts predict he’s reached the end of his brief honeymoon.
The Speaker presented a stopgap spending plan with two timelines that would flop over into an election year. One would stretch some funding to Jan. 19 (buying more House and Senate time for debate) and another spending bill would cover the balance of the budget through Feb. 2, which would also delay but not resolve major appropriations disagreements.
▪ The Hill: Senators’ battle over Ukraine aid tangled with U.S. border security.
▪ The Hill: The looming shutdown poses a major test for the new Speaker and veteran Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to place House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories,” Johnson said in a statement.
But, but … there are hurdles:
▪ House conservatives would not achieve the deep spending cuts or ideological policy add-ons they previously said were red lines, and some GOP hardliners immediately vowed to vote against the Johnson plan.
▪ The White House panned the proposed “laddered” continuing resolution (CR), saying it’s an “unserious” waste of valuable legislative time when the government is days away from turning out the lights.
▪ Senators on both sides of the aisle, who have a distinctly different approach to the budget, believe the dual-timeline concept is unnecessary and overly complex. “We are going to proceed in the Senate on a clean CR without gimmicks, without ladders,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), adding that the bottom line will be to avert a shutdown this weekend.
▪ And, what about additional assistance for Israel, Ukraine and U.S. border security? Unresolved.
3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY
▪ Out: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) suspended his GOP primary bid for president late Sunday, stunning donors and his campaign staff. “I think the voters who are the most remarkable people on the planet have been really clear that they’re telling me, “Not now, Tim,”” the candidate told Fox News two months before Iowans start to vote in caucuses.
▪ Down: Ratings agency Moody’s threw cold water on its U.S. outlook Friday, citing budget deficits and rising polarization in Congress. The Treasury Department protested and the Speaker blamed “reckless” Democratic fiscal policies for the downgrade from stable to negative.
▪ Shuffle: U.K. former Prime Minister David Cameron today is back in government unexpectedly, but this time as foreign secretary and a member of the House of Lords, after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shook up his cabinet and fired Interior Minister Suella Braverman. James Cleverly is Braverman’s successor.
LEADING THE DAY
© The Associated Press / Alex Brandon | President Xi Jinping (left) and President Biden met a year ago at the Group of Seven summit in Bali, Indonesia, and will meet Wednesday in San Francisco.
U.S. & CHINA
The meeting is the message.
During Biden’s sit-down Wednesday with Xi, he plans to urge China’s leader to resume military ties with the U.S., White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS on Sunday. The meeting, only the second between the two leaders since Biden’s election, will take place on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
“The Chinese have basically severed those communication links. President Biden would like to reestablish that,” Sullivan told CNN. “This is a top agenda item.”
The administration has spent months dispatching officials to meet with Chinese counterparts to reestablish contacts and try to ease tensions in the interest of averting misunderstandings and potentially dangerous miscues between two superpowers.
BIDEN’S MESSAGE to Beijing remains that U.S.-China economic competition is manageable.
“The United States has no desire to decouple from China. A full separation of our economies would be economically disastrous for both our countries, and for the world,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng when they met last week in San Francisco. “We seek a healthy economic relationship with China that benefits both countries over time” (The New York Times).
The Associated Press reports that the U.S. wants to make clear that it seeks no change to the status quo in Taiwan. Washington recognizes Beijing as the government of China and does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. But China has perceived American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent. Concern about the issue is heightened as Taiwan prepares to hold presidential elections in January.
WHAT CHINA WANTS: Xi last year told Biden the Taiwan question was central to “China’s core interests, the bedrock of the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and the first red line that must not be crossed in China-U.S. relations.” Xi will look this week for strong language from the U.S. opposing Taiwan’s independence, analysts predict.
Biden also is expected to encourage Xi to use China’s influence to encourage Iran to stay out of the Israel-Hamas war. China buys a lot of Iranian oil, and the U.S. believes Beijing has leverage with Tehran.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at noon.
The Senate convenes at 3 p.m.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8 a.m. in Delaware. He and first lady Jill Biden will arrive at the White House at 10:05 a.m. Biden at 11:30 a.m. will host the Vegas Golden Knights to celebrate the team’s 2023 Stanley Cup victory. The president at 4 p.m. will meet with Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo in the Oval Office.
Vice President Harris will join the president at 11:30 a.m. for the White House event with the Golden Knights.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet at 9:30 a.m. with Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s head of presidential administration, at the State Department.
The Treasury secretary is in San Francisco through Friday, where she willhost the APEC finance ministers meetings and join Biden during his itinerary this week. Yellen today will host two APEC sessions among counterparts, followed by a working lunch with finance ministers and the APEC Business Advisory Council. In the afternoon, Yellen will host three finance ministers’ sessions. In the evening, she will take press questions, followed by a dinner speech to business leaders.
The first lady will celebrate the Class of 2023 National Student Poets at the White House at 1 p.m. and deliver remarks. She will host a tea at 3:30 p.m. to mark the Thanksgiving season with African American women faith leaders, community leaders and advocates from the Southeast.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff at 7 p.m. PT will speak during the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Legal Network Torch of Justice event at Sinai Temple.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 2 p.m. and will include national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
© The Associated Press / Evan Vucci | Then-President Trump in 2020 at the White House.
TRUMP POLICY & POLITICS
Voters have a general idea what to expect in a potential second Biden-Harris term (the president’s campaign slogan is “finish the job”). But what about another Trump term? Here are some updates describing the former president’s plans for deportation raids, tariffs and mass firings.
During rallies and in interviews, the GOP frontrunner often improvises, reprising boasts about the four years he was in office, embroidered with promises about where he’d head next. Behind the scenes, his campaign team and transition advisers are preparing detailed policies and executive actions, which amount to amped-up revivals of the past and strategies to reverse Democratic changes since 2021.
During his years in the White House as a newcomer to governance, Trump learned that those with power to thwart his policies resided within his West Wing and worked inside the federal bureaucracy. Opponents challenged him in court, critics investigated his actions in Congress, elected state officials said no and global counterparts balked. The ultimate rebuke came from voters, who sent Trump back to Mar-a-Lago early in 2021. The former president and his allies kept score.
First things first: Trump is fighting 91 felony indictments. He understands that if elected, he could halt pending federal cases or pardon himself if he’s convicted.
IMMIGRATION: Trump is crafting plans to round up undocumented people already in the United States on a vast scale, perhaps millions annually, and detain them in large camps while they await deportation flights, sidestepping due process and court hearings, The New York Times reports. Trump would try to redirect military funding as a way to work around Congress and the appropriations process, according to the Times. Such moves would be vigorously challenged in court.
MIGRANT CHILDREN: The former president last week defended his administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents while in the U.S., arguing during an interview with Univision that his former program worked to deter illegal migration, suggesting he’d revive it. Under a pending proposed Biden administration court settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, yet to be approved by a judge, Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy would be temporarily barred.
JUSTICE AND LAW: Trump, if elected, wants to appoint people sympathetic to his views to investigate and prosecute prominent former officials who became critics of his time in office. In addition, associates are drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow deployment of the military to respond to civil demonstrations — anticipated should Trump take office in 2025, The Washington Post reported.
“DEEP STATE”: “I am your warrior. I am your justice. … I am your retribution,” Trump said during a March campaign rally. At that time, the former president released a list of proposals to root out what many conservatives view as opponents within the federal bureaucracy. Trump’s list pledged to “overhaul federal departments and agencies, firing all of the corrupt actors in our National Security and Intelligence apparatus” (NBC News). The former president wants to revive one of his executive orders, known as “Schedule F,” which would reclassify tens of thousands of federal employees involved in policy decisions as at-will employees who could be fired more easily. Federal workers want to head Trump off and are appealing to the Office of Personnel Management for new rules, ASAP.
TRANSITION IN WAITING: Project 2025 — part of a $22 million presidential transition operation at a scale never attempted before in conservative politics — is led by the Heritage Foundation, ready to deploy should Trump or another Republican nominee be elected (The New York Times). Because Trump’s 2017 transition was chaotic, more than 50 conservative groups teamed up with Heritage beginning last spring to focus on populating the government with vetted conservatives.
EVs: The move to electric vehicles, embraced by automakers and the Biden administration, but a slowing trend with consumers, is on a list of Trump campaign policy targets (with possible GOP changes) released last summer. The former president warns that autoworkers will be collateral damage as high-wage jobs disappear along with combustion engines. “You’re going to lose your beautiful way of life,” Trump said during a September rally in California. “For autoworkers, Biden’s forced transition is a transition to hell,” he added. The United Auto Workers recently announced lucrative tentative contract agreements with three major U.S. automakers. Biden, who campaigns as the most pro-labor president in history, applauded the deals.
▪ Virginia moderate Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger is expected to announce today that she will run for governor in 2025 and not seek reelection to Congress next year.
▪ Citing dysfunction in Congress, longtime New York Rep. Brian Higgins (D) announced Sunday he will resign in February in a heavily Democratic district.
▪ Former Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a national co-chair of the No Labels group who says his political aim is to prevent Trump from being nominated by the GOP, called on Biden Sunday to step aside because he’s “not the strongest” Democratic nominee to beat Trump (he didn’t name an alternative).
▪ House Republicans who won in districts Biden carried in 2020 are worried about GOP-backed abortion messaging, fearful their party’s candidates will be defeated next year. Axios has an informative map HERE.
▪ Independent Green Party presidential aspirant Jill Stein is the last thing Biden needs right now. Her third-party candidacy is one of a half dozen bids that could potentially weaken the Democratic ticket in 2024.
▪ Televised GOP presidential debates, which Trump opted to skip, are attracting declining audiences. Why? Here’s one reason: Months of voter surveys showing Trump’s lead may undercut rivals’ electability arguments.
▪ There’s a story a day about voting blocs Biden could lose in 2024. Young voters are one category. Explanations: Biden’s advanced age, the administration’s stance behind Israel vs. Palestinians and younger voters’ awareness that they wield political power and think Biden takes them for granted.
© The Associated Press / Leo Correa | On Sunday, Israeli air strikes continued in Gaza, seen from southern Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reacting to rising international pressure as the Palestinian civilian death toll climbs in Gaza, on Sunday defended continued air and ground strikes by Israel Defense Forces as well as his country’s overall strategy to “demilitarize and deradicalize” Hamas.
More than 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to Gazan health officials. Netanyahu, asked for Israel’s accounting of the dead in Gaza, declined to offer an estimate and rejected as inflated the statistics coming from the Gazan Health Ministry.
Interviewed on U.S. news programs, the prime minister reiterated his rejection of a case-fire and said Gaza after the war must be under Israeli security control, but he said its future governance has yet to be determined. He said he sees no future administrative role there for the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (The New York Times).
MORE AIRSTRIKES near Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, invited new condemnations of Israel’s tactics. Without providing evidence, Israel has accused Hamas of concealing a command post inside and under the compound, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff. Health officials and others countered Israel’s claims Sunday that it was helping to evacuate infants and the injured from the damaged hospital, which had no electricity to maintain sick and injured patients, The Associated Press reported.
Netanyahu asserted Sunday that Israel is committed to protecting civilian lives in Gaza but he said that Hamas ultimately is to blame for casualties (The Hill).
Biden on Sunday spoke with Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar and the two leaders agreed that all hostages held in Gaza must be released without further delay, the White House said in a readout of the call. Qatar is an intermediary with Hamas.
U.S. senior Middle East adviser Brett McGurk this week is expected to travel to Israel and other countries in the region to discuss efforts to secure the release of the hostages held by Hamas, Axios reported.
The Hill: Washington is striking Iranian assets as U.S. military are targeted in the Middle East, but experts question whether the tit for tat deters attacks.
■ The return of the isolationist Republicans, by Paul A. Gigot, editorial page editor, The Wall Street Journal.
■ With the death toll in Gaza rising, Palestinians are not just numbers, by Farah Stockman, editorial board member, The New York Times.
© The Associated Press / Patrick Semansky | The White House Blue Room Christmas tree displayed last year.
And finally … 🎄 Americans have barely begun squabbling over Thanksgiving turkey vs. ham or apple vs. sweet potato pies before famous Christmas trees managed to sashay into weekend headlines.
The biggie at Rockefeller Center in New York City arrived early Saturday from Vestal, N.Y. Twelve tons of evergreen wonder will be dressed up with 50,000 lights to dazzle after a ceremony Nov. 29.
The White House selected a 19-foot Fraser fir from North Carolina’s Cline Church Nursery to decorate the Blue Room. It will be cut down this week to make its way to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Minnesota will use a temperature-controlled van to ship a mighty, 10-foot Fraser fir to Vice President Harris’s residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington. “It’s a very beautiful color — silvery blue on the bottom,” said Myra Olson of Happy Land Tree Farms.
Morgantown, W.Va., bade farewell Friday to a 63-foot Norway spruce selected from the Monongahela National Forest and destined to adorn the U.S. Capitol this season.
Do Christmas trees possess bipartisan healing powers? “We need to work together and solve our problems together, and I think this tree will do it for us,” Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom said during a ceremony.
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