On The Hill
SETTING THE TABLE: Moderate Democratic and Republican lawmakers, increasingly frustrated with the shutdown stalemate, are urging party leaders to at least restart a conversation about ending the longest shutdown in government history. A handful of House Democrats are starting to quietly step away (and even outright abandon) Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) hardline strategy of rejecting funding for President Trump's "immoral" border wall. Their message: we don't all represent San Francisco.
- “Leadership is rejecting speeches before they're being given,” a Democratic Hill aide told Power Up of Trump's Saturday afternoon speech proposing a way to end the impasse, dismissed by Pelosi before Trump had even delivered his remarks. “It just looks bad. And we're hearing from people in our district who are struggling.”
“Give Trump the money,” Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), whose district Trump won by 30 points in 2016, said in an interview with Fargo, N.D.-based radio station KFGO. “I’d give him the whole thing . . . and put strings on it so you make sure he puts the wall where it needs to be. Why are we fighting over this? We’re going to build that wall anyway, at some time.”
- Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) called for a bipartisan solution in a letter to be sent to Pelosi urging "an immediate reopening of government followed by debate in House committees regarding border security. This would allow Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leadership to explain in detail how funds would be used and whether the proposed expenditures would have the reported results presented by the President,” according to a statement released by her office. Politico's Burgess Everett and Rachael Bade first reported the existence of the letter, but it's unclear how many lawmakers are expected to sign on.
- More from Luria's office: “The draft letter also calls for a guaranteed House vote on a DHS funding package by the end of February, and a process that would allow members to offer amendments to address current gaps in protections for DREAMers; those enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS); and those under Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).”
Big caveat: Pressure is undoubtedly mounting on rank-and-file Democrats — and Republicans — to end the shutdown as the 800,000 furloughed workers its affecting are set to miss a second paycheck. But Pelosi is a master of keeping her caucus united and its an open question whether any of her members would defy her strategy to break the impasse.
That is something the White House is hoping to determine come Thursday via dueling votes on the Senate floor.
- The bills: Senate leaders agreed to bring to Trump's plan to the floor to provide $5.7 billion in border funding in exchange for temporarily extending protections for “dreamers.” Leaders are also planning to vote on a House-approved measure to reopen the government immediately until Feb. 8 while border security negotiations continue.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) change of strategy, per The Post's Seung Min Kim: “Believing Pelosi was boxed in by her caucus and unable to negotiate with Trump, McConnell coordinated a new shutdown strategy with the president to reopen the government, according to people familiar with the discussions. In doing so he went back on his word that he would take up a bill to fund the government only if it had the approval of both Trump and Democratic leaders.”
- “Both measures are expected fall short of the 60 votes need to pass, leaving little hope they represent the clear path out of the mess,” The Associated Press's Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor report. “But the plan represents the first test of Senate Republicans’ resolve behind Trump’s insistence that agencies remain closed until Congress approves $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. For Democrats, the votes will show whether there are any cracks in the so-far unified rejection of Trump’s demand.”
Nonetheless, the show votes are a welcome respite for the more centrist lawmakers used to shining as dealmakers during times of government dysfunction.
- “The fact that there’s floor time for anything is a move in the right direction,” another Democratic Hill aide told us. “I think generally, a lot more lawmakers are starting to feel pressure with folks missing paychecks almost now twice. But there is frustration."
- “It's still a starting point and what we needed to get people to the table to discuss a fair and reasonable solution,” a GOP Hill aide said.
“It's helpful when presidents are specific and reliable,” a second GOP Hill aide told us, referring to Trump's shifting stances on the shutdown. “But Democrats should also realize that appropriations bills don't get signed into law without a president's signature. When he’s making reasonable requests, those requests should be taken seriously.”
A message from the Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard:
Notable rules change at the House Oversight Committee, flagged to us by Power Up reader and former Oversight staffer Kurt Bardella. The change, Bardella said, will make it easier for interviews to be conducted as the committee, lead by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), is expected to lead the charge on investigating the Trump administration.
- “A change to the House Rules approved a few weeks ago reads as follows: 'Oversight and Reform Committee Depositions. Subsection (l) removes the requirement that Members be present during counsel-led depositions, returning to the standard of the 111th Congress.'”
- “Previously, the rules stipulated that a member of the Committee had to be present at any deposition. Eliminating this rule empowers investigative staff and will result in depositions being able to proceed at a much faster pace without the burden of having to work around Members' schedules. It might seem like a small thing, but as someone who worked at the committee I can tell you it is significant,” Bardella writes.
- New members: Pelosi announced that some of the most high-profile freshmen will serve on the key committee, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Get ready for fireworks.
TRACKING THE SHUTDOWN'S SIDE EFFECTS: The Post's Danielle Paquette, Lisa Rein, Jeff Stein, and Kimberly Kindy report that despite orders from the Trump administration to return to work to process refunds without pay, “Hundreds of Internal Revenue Service employees have received permission to skip work during the partial government shutdown due to financial hardship, and union leaders said Tuesday that they expected absences to surge as part of a coordinated protest that could hamper the government’s ability to process taxpayer refunds on time.”
- “But IRS employees across the country — some in coordinated protest, others out of financial necessity — won’t be clocking in, according to Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, and several local union officials. The work action is widespread and includes employees from a processing center in Ogden, Utah, to the Brookhaven campus on New York’s Long Island,” The Post reports.
- Hardship provision: “Many of the IRS employees who are choosing not to come to work despite getting called back are taking advantage of a provision in the union contract that allows them to miss work if they suffer a “hardship” during a shutdown, according to the labor groups.”
Not just the IRS: The FBI Agents Association released a 72-page report on Tuesday stating "that the shutdown is hampering the ability of agents to perform their 'duties and fund necessary operations and investigations,'" per The Post.
Plus the USDA's meat inspectors . . .: “USDA meat inspectors also have begun calling in sick — in numbers large enough to trigger an agency crackdown. The inspectors were told Jan. 11 to bring in a doctor’s note, even if they were ill for a single day, records show. Six days later, after protests from union leaders, agency officials reverted to existing policy, which calls for a doctor’s note after three days,” The Post reports.
"HOLA, I'M MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES”: Vice President Pence expressed his “unwavering support” for the Venezuelan people ahead of protests today against President Nicolás Maduro. In a video released on Tuesday, Pence calls Maduro “a dictator with no legitimate claim to power” who has never won a legitimate election. He stopped short of explicitly recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaidó, the president of the national assembly, but Pence's strongly worded statements are "the most explicit backing yet by the Trump administration as opposition leaders try to unseat Mr. Maduro," the New York Times's Edward Wong reports.
- “The National Assembly has rightly called Mr. Maduro’s rule illegitimate, following a sham election last May. It has called for protests on Jan. 23 because on that date in 1958 the Venezuelan people toppled their country’s military dictatorship,” Pence wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
- Florida's members of Congress met with Trump at the White House to discuss the crisis: “We encouraged the president today to follow through with what he’s already declared, which is that Maduro is illegitimate,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) “The next logical step is to recognize the president of the National Assembly as the rightful president.”
- Responding to Pence, Maduro fired back: Speaking on state television he said "he had ordered 'a total and absolute revision' of Venezuela’s relationship with the United States... 'Who elects the president of Venezuela? Mike Pence?'" per the Times.
Wednesday's protests will be a test for Guaidó, a member of the hard line opposition party Voluntad Popular: “He has called on Venezuelans to take to the streets to protest the government. If they heed his call, this would be the first mass mobilization in the country since a bloody crackdown against demonstrators in 2017 left more than 100 people dead in clashes with security forces, according to the United Nations," the Times's Ana Vanessa Herrero and Nicholas Casey, on the ground in Caracas, report.
Context: Trump's strongman style is having an effect on authoritarian leaders around the world, report The Post's Griffe Witte, Carol Morello, Shibani Mahtani and Anthony Faiola. "... in interviews on four continents, diplomats, rights activists and foreign officials said that after two years of Trump using the world’s most powerful megaphone to cheer authoritarians, bully democratic allies and denigrate traditional American values, the impact on how others govern is becoming clear."
From the Courts
NEW CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY: The Supreme Court refused to stop the administration from implementing “broad restrictions” on LGBT troops serving in the military while the issue wends its way through the lower courts. In a 5-4 decision, the high court justices lifted the national injunctions on the policy, reversing an “Obama administration rule that would have opened the military to transgender men and women and instead barred those who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth and who are seeking to transition,” report The Post's Robert Barnes and Dan Lamothe.
- The decision could be a harbinger of how the court's conservative majority will rule. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh voted to allow the restrictions on LGBT service members to be put in place, my colleagues report.
- “The liberal justices:” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan opposed lifting the injunctions on the policy.
- “No ban:” Pentagon spokeswoman and Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason said the “proposed policy is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that DoD be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”
- Winding path: Trump initially issued sweeping restrictions on LGBT troops in a 2017 tweet, which was rejected by the courts. His then-Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, then amended the policy to make exceptions for 900 transgender individuals currently in the military and for those who identify with the gender of their birth. The policy was approved by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit but injunctions in lower courts remained in place.
In the Media
- What Bernie Sanders is reading: Kamala Harris raises $1.5 million in first 24 hours by Politico’s Christopher Cadelago
- What Trump isn’t tweeting about: Former MS-13 Member Who Secretly Helped Police Is Deported by ProPublica’s Hannah Dreier.
- On procrastination and social media (read while procrastinating on social media): How I get it done: Serial Host Sarah Koenig by New York Magazine’s Lisa Ryan
- Another Dem jumps into the race: Pete Buttigieg Thinks All the 2020 Democrats Are Too Old by The Atlantic’s Edward Isaac Dovere
- ICYMI: Exclusive: Iraqi scientist says he helped ISIS make chemical weapons by WaPo’s Joby Warrick.
- The most consequential majority leader in modern history?: Mitch McConnell Got Everything He Wanted. But at What Cost? By New York Times Magazine’s Charles Homans.
- Leftward leaning: Democrats and their voters have shifted left as 2020 nears. They’re betting the rest of the country follows. By the Post's Dave Weigel and Jenna Johnson
Go have yourself a slice today. (A personal favorite: key lime).