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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Republicans rally around a 2022 message: Revenge

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1932, Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway, Democrat of Arkansas, became the first woman to be elected to the Senate. She had been appointed two months earlier to serve out the remainder of the term of her late husband, Thaddeus Horatio Caraway.

The big idea

Republicans rally around a 2022 message: Revenge

Impeach President Biden! Boot House Democrats from their committee assignments! Subpoena top Democrats! Go after Hunter Biden! Put “Big Tech” out of business if they comply with the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection!

Republicans, their eyes on retaking one or both chambers of Congress come November, have yet to unite behind a slate of specific policies they’ll enact if they beat Democrats this year. But there is one thing a growing chorus of GOP voices is loudly promising: revenge.

In some ways, not lashing themselves to specific policies makes political sense: Republicans clearly hope this election will be a referendum on Biden and what they describe as his tragic mishandling of inflation, immigration, Afghanistan, and the pandemic, not a choice between the president and, say, former president Donald Trump and his falsehoods about 2020.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly told GOP donors last month he would not be putting forward a legislative agenda, saying Republicans should instead stay laser-focused on Democratic failings, Axios reported.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has put out some tentative policy feelers — he promised a “Parents Bill of Rights” in November and designated Republican policy “task forces” in May and June 2021 — but what role, if any, they’ll play in the 2022 campaign is unclear.

On the other hand, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) made headlines last week when he predicted House Republicans would impeach Biden “whether it’s justified or not” because “the Democrats weaponized impeachment” when they twice formally accused Trump of wrongdoing.

“They used it for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him. And one of the real disadvantages of doing that … is the more you weaponize it and turn it into a partisan cudgel, you know, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Cruz said.

(House Democrats didn’t impeach Trump because of a difference of opinion. They first impeached him in December 2019 over his efforts to leverage U.S. foreign aid to Ukraine to get that country to help his reelection by announcing an investigation into Biden’s family. They impeached him a second time in January on the charge of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection after a months-long campaign of falsely claiming he’d been cheated out of a second term.)

“That’s not how impeachment is meant to work, but I think the Democrats crossed that line,” said Cruz, who described Biden’s handling of immigration across the southern U.S. border as “probably the strongest grounds” for impeaching him.

Republicans have introduced at least six impeachment resolutions targeting Biden, some citing his withdrawal from Afghanistan, others the border, where Trump faced just one at this point in his presidency. They've predictably gone nowhere in the Democrat-controlled chamber.

‘Day of reckoning'

McCarthy hasn’t embraced impeachment, but he did warn back in August there would be “a day of reckoning” for Biden after the suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members at Kabul airport during the Afghanistan withdrawal.

And McCarthy appears to be a member of the revenge caucus: He has repeatedly warned Democrats of potential Republican retribution come January 2023, chiefly in the form of a GOP majority booting members of the minority party from committees.

In November, after Democrats kicked GOP Reps. Paul A. Gosar of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia from committees, McCarthy not only said he’d reinstate them but threatened a future GOP majority will do unto Democratic lawmakers as they did to Gosar and Greene.

“I think the majority is going to have to approve any of those members on the committees on which they can serve,” he said. “This isn't about threats, but it's about holding people accountable.”

He repeated that threat this week in an interview with Breitbart, saying a new GOP majority would evict Democratic Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California, from the House Intelligence Committee and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“The Democrats have created a new thing where they're picking and choosing who could be on committee,” said McCarthy, who told Breitbart Republicans would apply “this new standard” if they take over.

Dems aren't the only target

Nor are Democrats McCarthy’s only targets for retaliation. In September, he warned telecommunications and tech companies they would be “subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States” if they shared records with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

While we’re on the topic of that committee, some Republicans have vowed sweeping reprisals after the House voted last month to refer former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows to federal prosecutors for criminal contempt. 

Writing in The New Republic, Matt Ford focused on Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.):

“‘The Democrats are setting a new bar,’ Bishop said on the House floor. ‘Even while the handwriting is on the wall, may you enjoy the fruits. Let the contempt resolutions and criminal referrals flow [as] freely and quickly as a river. Merrick Garland. Ron Klain. Hunter Biden. Chuck Dolan. Marc Elias. Andrew Weissmann. Alejandro Mayorkas. Let them come. This is the choice that is being made by the Democrats.’”

Looming over all the talk of revenge or retaliation or retribution is Trump, still making false claims widespread fraud decided 2020 and demanding on a nearly daily basis that Republican officeholders — what else? — avenge him.

What's happening now

December prices rise 7 percent, compared to a year ago, as 2021 inflation reaches highest in 40 years

“Prices rose at the fastest pace in 40 years in December, increasing 7 percent over the same period a year ago, and cementing 2021 as a year marked by soaring inflation wrought by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” Rachel Siegel reports. A few key takeaways:

  • 2021 was the worst year for inflation since 1982
  • Prices were up 0.5 percent in December compared to the month before
  • Steep increases in the cost of housing, and used cars and trucks, powered the overall rise in prices

Trump abruptly ends NPR interview after he is pressed on baseless election fraud claims

“Trump hung up on ‘Morning Edition’ host Steve Inskeep nine minutes into what NPR said was scheduled to be a 15-minute interview that was broadcast Wednesday,” John Wagner reports.

Americans visited IRS refund website 632 million times last year as challenges swamp tax agency ‘in crisis’

Jeff Stein has the details on the report, which states that: “There is no way to sugarcoat the year 2021 in tax administration: From the perspective of tens of millions of taxpayers, it was horrendous. … 2021 was the most challenging year ever for taxpayers.”

After NATO meeting, Russia open to further talks in move that may cool Europe’s tensions

“The high-stakes meeting between NATO and Russian officials Wednesday yielded no firm agreements, but the alliance said that both groups want to continue discussions — an outcome that officials and analysts said may avert an invasion of Ukraine,” Perry Stein and Robyn Dixon report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

In America, a child is shot every hour, and hundreds die. Here are 13 young lives lost in 2021.

“Often, children killed by bullets are memorialized only by brief news reports or anguished obituaries. But the way they lived matters as much as the way they died,” John Woodrow Cox, Emily Davies, Lizzie Johnson and Reis Thebault write.

“The 13 children profiled here were funny: the 6-year-old who wanted to be a doctor so she could give shots to all the doctors who had given her shots. They were generous: the 12-year-old who used his chore money to take his family out to McDonald’s. And they were ambitious: the 15-year-old who wanted to be a nuclear physicist. These are their stories, one for each month of a violent year."

Four ways Americans are feeling inflation

“We’re seeing inflation across the board, but it’s been extraordinarily high for necessities like food, energy and health care,” Leah Hartman, a finance and economics lecturer at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, told Abha Bhattarai. “By this point, it’s hitting everybody.”

… and beyond

Harry Reid: From Capitol cop to powerhouse Senate majority leader

“On Wednesday, Mr. Reid will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda, just down the hall from the chamber where he ensconced himself and then presided as majority leader from 2007 to 2015. His tenure included a three-year period from 2008 to 2011 when the Senate produced an extraordinary burst of legislation, including the Affordable Care Act, a flurry of policymaking that seems almost unthinkable today with the chamber mired in dysfunction and stalemate,” the New York Times’s Carl Hulse reports.

“‘Harry Reid was a very complex person,’ said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, a frequent target of criticism from Mr. Reid but also someone who provided him with critical votes for the economic stimulus bill and the banking overhaul during the Obama era, among other measures. ‘He could be incredibly kind and caring, and he could be utterly relentless. It was a real mixture, but he did care about the Senate and the senators.’”

The rise of omicron

White House promises to provide schools 10 million free coronavirus tests per month

“The new investment is expected to double the number of coronavirus tests that schools conducted as of November, the White House said. A fact sheet said the administration ‘will do all that it can to keep schools safely open for all students,’” Laura Meckler and Dan Diamond report.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says he’s ‘extremely unwell’ after testing positive for coronavirus

“Justice, who is vaccinated and boosted, said in a news release that although he was ‘surprised’ he tested positive, he was ‘thankful to the Lord above that I’ve been vaccinated, I’ve been boosted, and that I have an incredible support system, especially my loving family,’” Timothy Bella reports.

The Biden agenda

Biden health officials grilled over state of pandemic

“In their first appearance before Congress since the omicron variant began its U.S. rampage, federal health officials faced tough questions about confusing federal guidance about what people should do to avoid spreading the virus and frustration over the scarcity of at-home rapid tests,” Felicia Sonmez, Lena H. Sun, Rachel Roubein and Salvador Rizzo report.

Biden administration approves 5 more Guantánamo releases

“A U.S. government review panel has approved the release of five men who have been held for years without charge at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to a flurry of decisions released by the Pentagon on Tuesday, but they are unlikely to be freed soon as the Biden administration works to find nations to take them,” the NYT’s Carol Rosenberg reports.

The Biden agenda is meeting a dead end

“Although President Biden is now championing voting protection as the most pressing domestic issue, top Democratic lawmakers see little path to passage of anything like what the party’s base is demanding,” Axios’s Alayna Treene writes. “Why it matters: As midterm campaigning ramps up, Biden’s biggest accomplishments could well be in his rear-view mirror.”

Gerrymandering as a mini-golf course, visualized

Politicians in all but a few states have something urgent to quarrel about these days: maps! Control of the U.S. House is on the line — or within the lines. How the maps are drawn can make a big difference in which party winds up on top. Try your hand at reading these carved-up congressional districts by playing them as nine holes of mini-golf, designed by our reporters Dylan Moriarty and Joe Fox.

Hot on the left

The bold economic move Joe Biden refuses to make

“As Senator Elizabeth Warren sees it, President Joe Biden can solve a lot of problems—for millions of Americans financially, and for himself politically—with a single move that neither Senator Joe Manchin nor any Republican in Congress could veto. The president, she says, should unilaterally wipe out up to $50,000 in student-loan debt for every federal borrower in the country,” Russell Berman writes for the Atlantic.

Blanket, permanent loan forgiveness would alter the long-term finances of individual Americans more directly than any other single unilateral action by a president. The estimated $1.7 trillion in total outstanding student-loan debt is roughly the cost of the Build Back Better Act that Biden is trying to push through Congress. Canceling up to $50,000 per borrower would wipe away about $1 trillion of that debt. If left untouched by the courts, the president’s action would, at the expense of ballooning federal deficits, eliminate entirely and forever the student loans that 80 percent of the nation’s borrowers currently owe to the government.”

  • “One Democratic aide suggested that the White House could be holding back a move on student-loan forgiveness as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ option later in the year if negotiations over his legislative agenda fail irreparably.”

Hot on the right

“He’s the shadow front-runner”: In 2024, Mike Pence is gearing up to go rogue

“'You hear it here first, [he’s the] shadow front-runner,’ texted one of Mike Pence’s longtime friends after the former vice president’s November appearance at the University of Iowa. Pence had just delivered a speech that may come to be seen as a pivotal moment should he cement what already seems obvious: He’s running for president, and doing so regardless of who his opponents might be," Tom Lobianco reports for Vanity Fair.

“Pence, who’s known as much for his anti-LGBTQ positions as his awkward stiffness, has been loosening up—an observation that, this side of New Year’s Day, mere months from midterm elections, has those close to him betting on a bid.”

  • “I definitely have noticed a change where he’s more comfortable being himself,” said Alyssa Farah, Pence’s former spokeswoman.
  • “Pence’s political stock continues to rise every month while Trump relitigating his loss to Biden makes him look smaller in the rearview mirror,” said Scott Reed, a longtime Republican operative who ran Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign for president.

Today in Washington

The president and the first lady will attend the funeral of Gen. Raymond Odierno at 12:45 p.m., where Biden will deliver remarks.

In closing

Can you imagine 👀

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.