What to Know in Washington: House Democrats Face Potential Rift

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A decision by House Democratic leaders to hold a vote on an anti-Semitism resolution that indirectly rebukes one of their own members, Ilhan Omar, has drawn the ire of her allies, threatening to open a generational rift in the party.

The freshman’s name doesn’t appear in the resolution, which could go to the House floor as soon as tomorrow, but it denounces anti-Semitism by describing tropes similar to some of those she has invoked. Omar has apologized for some of her controversial remarks and defended others.

“I am told everyday that I am anti-American if I am not pro-Israel. I find that to be problematic and I am not alone,” Omar (D-Minn.) wrote in a March 3 tweet.

The fact that the resolution doesn’t specifically refer to Omar has done little to calm her supporters among progressives, including fellow freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who said there are far worse examples of offensive behavior and statements in Congress. In some cases Omar’s supporters defended her underlying point that historic ties between the U.S. and Israel should be reexamined.

The vote risks new tension between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and high-profile freshmen who thus far have been supportive of her leadership strategy and agenda. Debate over the resolution has exposed a divide between older Democrats who sharply criticized Omar and some younger progressive freshmen in a historically diverse class of lawmakers. The differences challenge the unity Pelosi has cited as the party’s greatest asset in setting a bold agenda for their House majority.

A vote on the resolution was initially scheduled for today but was delayed as House leaders finalized the text. Asked yesterday about the timing for the vote and the content of the measure, Pelosi said, “Congress is working its will.” Pelosi said she had met personally with Omar regarding her comments. Read more from Anna Edgerton.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Omar speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in November as Pelosi looks on.

Also Happening on the Hill

Nomination Talks Stall: Efforts to forge a compromise on the Senate Republican push to shorten debate time on nominees has stalled as Democrats demand the restoration of the “blue slip” practice of giving home state lawmakers veto power over the president’s judicial picks. “I said, restore the blue slips and then let’s talk about a compromise,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

The Senate Rules Committee recently approved the proposed rules change on a straight party-line vote that would cut to two hours from 30 the maximum debate for lower court nominees and other executive branch nominees. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) are trying to persuade seven or more Democrats to give them the 60-vote minimum needed to change the chamber’s rules. But Schumer told reporters at a press conference that Democrats want Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to honor the blue slip tradition. Read more from Nancy Ognanovich.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have accelerated the pace of confirming President Donald Trump’s appeals court nominees with more expected in coming days. McConnell said prior to the confirmation yesterday of Allison Jones Rushing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that he’s got two more in the pipeline for this week and more to be considered next.

McConnell is leading Trump’s charge to remake the federal judiciary with conservative appellate judges, having steered 32 through the Senate since the president took office a little more than two years ago.

The chamber yesterday voted on a procedural motion to end debate and advance the nomination of Chad Readler to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said that she ultimately wouldn’t support Readler, but his confirmation is still likely to come today. Read more from Patrick L. Gregory.

Finishing Disaster Package in 10 Days: The Senate and House are accelerating their work on a disaster aid package that could move in both chambers before lawmakers head for a 10-day break March 15, aides said.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) is working with the panel’s top Democrat, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and members of the Georgia delegation on the details of a disaster package that could be inserted into a House-passed measure, passed, and sent back to the House before the next recess, they said.

The starting point is the $13.6 billion plan to help Gulf Coast states struck by Hurricane Michael last fall, they said. The measure also includes funds for other areas, including $600 million for Puerto Rico. Read more from Nancy Ognanovich.

Green New Deal Vote May Get Delay: Senate Republicans may hold off on their showdown with Democrats over the Green New Deal until later this month, they said yesterday. “It may be likely after the March recess,” Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso(R-Wyo.) told Bloomberg Environment. If so, Republicans’ plan to force Senate Democrats to vote on the deal, including many with presidential ambitions who embraced the ambitious climate and jobs plan, would wait until the Senate returns from a recess March 25. Read more from Dean Scott.

Carbon Tax Debate: The House’s tax-writing panel is taking its first steps toward what will become a fractious debate: whether a carbon tax is the best way to tackle climate change and how to use the more than $1 trillion in new revenue it would generate. A carbon tax remains a red flag for most Republicans—including those who hold the majority in the Senate. But moderate House Democrats also worry about how it might affect those with low incomes. Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who offered the first Republican-led carbon tax bill last summer, predicted that “it’s not going to happen anytime soon.” Read more from Dean Scott and Kaustuv Basu.

Infrastructure Fixes: Fixing the country’s aging infrastructure requires a reliable revenue source — in the short term, the federal motor fuels tax. That’s the message members of the House Ways and Means Committee will hear today. The tax-writing panel’s hearing marks the first where infrastructure pay-fors will take center stage. House Democrats have set aside floor time this spring to take up a public works bill. Shaun Courtney has more as infrastructure action heats up.

Government Overhaul: A major initiative by the Trump administration to overhaul dozens of federal departments and agencies is unlikely to advance before the 2020 presidential election, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said yesterday. “Just a loss of trust,” Lankford, said reflecting partisan tensions as Trump seeks a second term. “We’re in a presidential election mode; and my Democratic colleagues are going to try to oppose anything that he brings forward,” Lankford said. Any government reorganization is more likely to happen in a second Trump term, he said on a conference call with reporters to tout an annual report his office compiles on alleged government waste. Read more from Cheryl Bolen.

Security Clearance Demands: The White House is pushing back against a demand by House Democrats for information on security clearances for top officials, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in an early sign of how the Trump administration plans to resist a multitude of probes. “The committee has failed to point to any authority establishing a legitimate legislative purpose for the committee’s unprecedented and extraordinarily intrusive demands,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. He called for “negotiations in good faith” rather than “legally unsupportable ultimatums.” Read more from Shannon Pettypiece.

Movers & Shakeups

Gottlieb Resigns: Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is resigning, ending a tenure where he approved a flood of drugs and pushed for sharp curbs on e-cigarettes to halt what he called an epidemic of youth use. Gottlieb earned a reputation as an attentive and media-savvy regulator in a Trump administration that’s taken a more hands-off approach in many other areas of oversight. A medical doctor, Gottlieb won over the agency’s staff and became a celebrated figure among pharmaceutical companies , biotechnology firms and medical-device makers for moving swiftly to bring more innovative treatments to the marketplace. As FDA chief he also became a trusted adviser on prescription-drug prices and other health issues to Trump, who said on Twitter yesterday that Gottlieb “will be greatly missed.” Read more from Anna Edney and Margaret Talev.

Despite Trump’s comments, JUUL Labs and other e-cigarette manufacturers may be breathing a sigh of relief. The tobacco industry is celebrating Gottlieb’s departure because it “could lead to the easing of intensified scrutiny on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kenneth Shea. Similarly, Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog said Gottlieb’s resignation “calls into question whether or not the FDA will in fact enforce harsher regulations” targeting youth nicotine use. Jacquie Lee and Jeannie Baumann have more.

Third-in-Command at DOJ: Trump will nominate Jessie Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, to be third in command at the Justice Department, according to two U.S. officials who asked to remain anonymous because the announcement hasn’t been made. Liu is being picked to be associate attorney general, a high-ranking position that oversees the department’s antitrust division, civil division, tax division and other components. Read more from Shannon Pettypiece and Chris Strohm.

What Else to Know

Trump’s Schedule: Trump today will meet with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) at the White House a 2:45 p.m., according to White House daily guidance. While the White House guidance didn’t include a topic for the meeting, Kinzinger has a rank of lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard whose unit recently deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border. Kinzinger was highly critical of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) decision to pull the Wisconsin Air National Guard, the detachment Kinzinger belongs to, from the border, Chelsea Mes reports.

Trump will also meet with former U.S. hostage in Yemen Danny Burch and his family at 2 p.m.

China Trade Deal: Trump is pressuring U.S. trade negotiators to cut a deal with China soon in hope of fueling a market rally, as he grows increasingly concerned that the lack of an agreement could drag down stocks, according to people familiar with the matter. As trade talks with China advance, Trump has noticed the market gains that followed each sign of progress, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. He watched U.S. and Asian stocks rise on his decision to delay an increase in tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled for March 1, one of the people said. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin.

Democratic State AGs Will Continue EPA Scrutiny: Democratic attorneys general are confident their success rate in challenging Trump climate rollbacks won’t change, even though they’ll face savvier new EPA and Interior Department leaders more experienced in Washington policy making. “The original leaders of EPA and the Department of Interior were perhaps more eccentric than their successors,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) told reporters. Read more from Abby Smith.

Fresh Look for Wall Street Pay Limits: Wall Street could face fresh restrictions on bonus payments as regulators appointed by Trump consider dusting off post-crisis rules that have long been on the back burner, according to two people familiar with the matter. U.S. agencies including the Federal Reserve have discussed re-proposing the regulations after previous attempts to approve them in 2011 and 2016 failed, said the people, who asked not be named because the efforts are very preliminary. Required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the controversial rules were meant to curb incentive pay that could encourage traders to take the kinds of dangerous risks that contributed to the 2008 meltdown. Read more from Jesse Hamilton.

Industry in the Middle on Fuel Rules: The White House has issued an us-versus-them challenge to carmakers: back an administration plan to roll back fuel-economy standards or risk Trump’s wrath by siding with California’s stringent emissions requirements. That message was delivered during a tense conference call between Trump administration officials and auto executives in late February, according to five people familiar with the call who spoke on the condition they not be identified discussing the private conversation. Joining the call for the White House were senior officials with the EPA and the NHTSA, one of the people said. Read more from Ryan Beene.

Extending Debt Limit Deadline: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a letter to congressional leaders to notify them of special measures invoked to extend the debt limit deadline, this time regarding part of the federal retirement system. Mnuchin said he “will be unable to invest fully the Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund) of the Thrift Savings Fund,” part of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, in U.S. interest-bearing securities, Ben Livesey reports.

Federal Worker Raise: Federal workers still smarting from pay delays due to the government shutdown are now wondering when Trump will issue an executive order needed to provide the average 1.9 percent raise he signed into law. “It’s either a political decision—a punitive measure against federal families—or sheer incompetence,” Steve Lenkart, executive director of the National Federation of Federal Employees, an AFL-CIO affiliate, told Bloomberg Law. Federal employees and their unions were vocally opposed to the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended Jan. 25. The president may be getting back at them by dragging his heels on the executive order, Lenkart said. Read more from Louis C. LaBrecque.

Mueller Slams Manafort’s Lack of Remorse: Paul Manafort has failed to accept responsibility for his crimes, Special Counsel Robert Mueller told the Virginia judge who will sentence him in two days. In their final submission to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, prosecutors working for Mueller accused the former chairman of Trump’s 2016 election campaign of shifting blame to “everyone from the Special Counsel’s Office to his Ukrainian clients.” The filing came in response to Manafort’s bid for leniency. Read more from Andrew Harris and David Voreacos.

Trump Org Subpoenaed: New York’s insurance regulator issued a subpoena to the Trump Organization’s primary insurance broker, a person familiar with the matter said. The subpoena, from New York’s Department of Financial Services, asks Aon Plc for details about its relationship with the Trump Organization and Trump himself, the person said. There’s no indication that Aon, which often works as an intermediary between insurance companies and businesses seeking policies, is suspected of any wrongdoing. Read more from Greg Farrell and Katherine Chiglinsky.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com

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