What to Know in Washington: McConnell Stands Fast Against Trump

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A stonefaced Mitch McConnell walked onto the Senate floor yesterday to push back against isolationists in his party, mere hours after Donald Trump cast serious doubt on the strength of US alliances.

The veteran Republican Senate leader has become the last serious bulwark within the party against Trump populists’ animosity toward international commitments, embodying the party’s old order and its Ronald Reagan-inspired obligations to standing strong in global strategic competition, promoting free markets, and allying with the interests of American business.

Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

McConnell has steered clear of Trump for years and wouldn’t address the Republican presidential front-runner’s comments at a Saturday campaign rally that he’d encourage Russia to invade NATO members who hadn’t met defense-spending commitments.

McConnell’s remarks, an endorsement of swift Senate approval of aid to Ukraine and the importance of US alliances, laid bare the global risks of Republicans’ embrace of isolationism.

“Our partners don’t have the luxury of pretending that the world’s most dangerous aggressors are somebody else’s problem, and neither do we,” he said.

For McConnell, the benefits of helping Ukraine defend itself are obvious and manifold — from curbing Vladimir Putin’s broader ambitions to rebuilding the US military manufacturing base and deterring China and other adversaries. Steven T. Dennis has more on McConnell’s outlook.

Senators yesterday advanced the $95 billion foreign aid package to support Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan and send humanitarian relief to Gaza (H.R.815; BGOV Bill Summary).

The vote signaled that the aid plan will almost certainly have enough support to pass the Senate, despite opposition from some factions of the GOP. The next in a series of votes is scheduled for tonight, though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated hopes that lawmakers could reach a unanimous agreement to accelerate the process. Senators are anticipating a live quorum call shortly after the chamber convenes. Read more in Congress Tracker.


  • President Joe Biden will deliver remarks at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. shortly after 11 a.m.
  • Around 2:30 p.m., the president and First Lady Jill Biden will welcome King Abdullah II and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan to the White House.
  • The president and king will deliver remarks around 4 p.m., following a meeting.
  • Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will deliver a briefing at 1 p.m.


  • The House is back tomorrow with plans to vote on reversing Biden’s LNG export pause.
  • Senators return today to continue work on a foreign aid package for countries including Ukraine.
  • For the full agenda read BGOV’s Congress Tracker.

Also Happening on the Hill

Photographer: Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) during the House Democratic Issues Conference in Leesburg, Virginia, on Thursday.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS strategized at a party retreat last week what messages might most appeal to voters in swing districts. They range from specific policy proposals on the economy and abortion security to more partisan jabs highlighting the chaos that has engulfed House Republicans since they took control last January. Read more about the arguments Democrats plan on using on the campaign trail.

REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-Wis.), who broke with most of his colleagues by refusing to vote for the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, said he won’t seek reelection in November. Read more.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.) will run for re-election in the House this November, he told Punchbowl. “I want to be chairman of the House Oversight Committee next year,” he said.

People, Power, and Politics

Photographer: Samuel Corum/Sipa/Bloomberg
Biden speaks in the White House in Washington, DC, on Thursday.

IN ONE BRUTAL WEEK, the communications paradox of Biden’s reelection campaign was laid bare: whether it’s better to confront or ignore the news media as concerns about his age and acuity dominate headlines. Biden’s team managed to find the worst of both worlds, fanning worries about how their campaign will manage the 81-year-old president over the next nine months. Read more.

BIDEN touted the S&P 500 index’s record high as a sign of economic strength, making a rare comment on the stock market after the tough week in his reelection bid. Read more.

  • More Americans trust Trump to handle the economy than Biden, the Financial Times reported. Read more.

BIDEN’S REELECTION CAMPAIGN has launched a TikTok account in a bid to reach younger voters. The move reflects a broader media strategy by the campaign that relies less on traditional media and seeks to reach younger voters who are more likely to receive information on apps. Read more.

TRUMP said there’s “no way” Taylor Swift can endorse Biden for re-election, saying she could not be “disloyal to the man who made her so much money.”

  • “I signed and was responsible for the Music Modernization Act for Taylor Swift and all other Musical Artists,” Trump said on Truth Social. Read more.

A PROMINENT LAWYER is potentially working on an effort to prevent Biden and Trump from winning the 2024 election by helping the centrist political group No Labels run a third-party “unity” ticket featuring a Republican and Democrat. Read more.

TUESDAY’S SPECIAL ELECTION in New York’s 3rd district which polls show is a toss-up, has morphed into a referendum on immigration, Israel, and abortion.
A Democratic win will almost certainly create more chaos in the House. A GOP victory could demonstrate how Biden’s handling of immigration has tainted the party’s brand in down-ballot races. Read more.

Defense & Foreign Affairs

DEFENSE SECRETARY Lloyd Austin was admitted into care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center late yesterday with “symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue.”

  • The Pentagon chief has transferred the functions and duties of the office to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, according to a statement from the Pentagon.
  • The White House and Congress were notified. Read more.

BIDEN urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to shield civilians in Gaza from an Israeli military operation in the southern city of Rafah, saying it shouldn’t proceed without a “credible and executable plan” for their safety and support. Read more.

What Else We’re Watching

Photographer: Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg
The Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on Jan. 5.

CONSERVATIVE and LIBERAL SUPREME COURT JUSTICES have flipped their positions on standing over the years, with conservatives now more apt to find it exists in order to allow them to take up challenges to hot-button issues. Read more.

OPPOSITION to expanding Medicaid programs to cover more low-income individuals is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain amid growing public support for adoption across states, policy analysts say. Read more.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington at jbaumann@bloombergindustry.com; Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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