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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Jan. 6 committee sets up historic showdown

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

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Good morning, Early Birds! Please send your warmest congratulations to our amazing co-author, Theo Meyer, on his wedding. Thanks for waking up with us and see ya M💍nday! (P.S. Scroll to the bottom of this newsletter for a surprise)

In today’s edition … Theo sat down with NRCC Chair Tom Emmer to discuss abortion and the midterms … President Biden and lawmakers rush to address the baby formula shortage … Senate kicks Ukraine aid vote into next week … but first …

On the Hill

Jan. 6 committee sets up historic showdown after subpoenaing 5 House Republicans

The Jan. 6 committee's decision Thursday to subpoena five House Republican lawmakers sets up a tense and historic showdown over Congress' ability to force its members to participate in one of its own investigations – the outcome of which could have major political and legal ramifications.

None of the five House GOP lawmakers who were issued subpoenas – Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Andy Biggs (Ariz.) Mo Brooks (Ala.) and Scott Perry (Pa.) – has said if they will comply with the committee's request to answer its questions. 

Their initial reaction was to say they hadn't "seen" the subpoena yet (although McCarthy acknowledged his attorney had) but they strongly signaled they won't comply, calling the investigation "illegitimate" and a "Witch Hunt." 

As Felicia Sonmez, Jacqueline Alemany, Marianna Sotomayor and Leigh Ann report, the chair of the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the subpoenas were necessary because “several of our colleagues have information relevant to our investigation into the attack on January 6th and the events leading up to it.”

  • “These are people who were involved in discussions with the President. They were in communication with White House staff on January 6, leading up to it. Some were involved in the effort to overturn the election. Some spoke at the rally before the attack. One has said publicly that the President called him to rescind the election,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) explained.

"Committee members are trying to play down the unprecedented nature of the subpoenas of sitting members of Congress. Investigators had been working to identify precedents for subpoenaing sitting members, according to two people familiar with the inquiry. One example on which they’ve focused is the House Ethics Committee’s two-year-long probe into the personal finances of former congressman Charles B. Rangel,” Felicia, Jackie, Marianna and Leigh Ann write.

But the panel's inquiry is not an ethics case against an individual lawmaker, rather its members have described it as a comprehensive investigation into an assault on democracy spurred on by the sitting president of the United States.

Schiff dismissed the political ramifications or retribution awaiting Democrats should Republicans win control of Congress in the midterm elections. 

“I'm much more concerned that they would follow through with what McCarthy tried to do when he lacked the power to overturn the election,” he said.

Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said the decision to subpoena was ultimately made because, “It's a reflection of how important and serious the investigation is, and how grave the attack on the Capitol was.”

The five Republicans have been summoned to appear before the committee in the last week of May — less than two weeks before the committee is scheduled to begin a series of public hearings on June 9. 

The campaign

NRCC Chair Emmer said the midterms will be about the economy, not abortion

We spoke with the National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) on why he doesn’t think abortion will be a major issue in November, how he’s advising Republican House candidates to talk about the issue and why he's bullish on Illinois and Connecticut. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: How much will it change the course of the midterms if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade?

Emmer: I trust the voters are gonna make up their mind based on the candidates that they're presented with and the primary issues. It’s gonna be inflation, the economy. It's gonna be the crime wave that the Democrats, frankly, are responsible for with their “defund the police” nonsense. It's gonna be the border. It's gonna be education. It's gonna be the instability that this administration has created around the globe. Do I suspect [abortion] could affect some voters? Sure.

The Early: An NRCC spokesman said last week that Democrats in competitive races “will be forced to explain their extreme position on late-term abortion to voters.” Are you advising House Republicans to go on offense on this issue?

Emmer: Well, I'm actually asking [reporters] to ask the question. There was an article on one of our swing districts [in Pennsylvania] recently. They never asked [Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.)] what her position was. Does she agree with the White House or does she disagree with the White House? Does she support abortions up until the day that a child is born or not? I think that question should be asked.

The Early: The NRCC is targeting some Democratic incumbents in blue suburban districts, such as Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) in the Philadelphia suburbs and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) outside of New York. Do you think the abortion issue has the potential to be more salient in districts such as those?

Emmer: We've targeted 72 districts. The vast majority of those are districts that Joe Biden had some success in. But I think you're looking at probably the greatest political realignment of our time, since the Reagan years in. Reuters had an article out recently — a bunch of interviews in Phoenix, one of these swing districts that you’re talked about. Twenty-one women were interviewed, and they all said inflation is the No. 1 issue. [While most of the women Reuters interviewed said inflation was the issue that galvanized them, two named abortion.]

The Early: You recently traveled to the district of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, to raise money. Congressional Leadership Fund, the flagship House Republican super PAC, is already running ads there. How aggressively is the NRCC targeting Maloney for defeat?

Emmer: In the districts that we've targeted, it's not the person we're targeting. That makes no sense. It's the message. I've made it very clear to many of those people they have a choice they can make: they can retire or they're gonna lose next fall.

The Early: The exact boundaries of Maloney’s district and every other House seat in New York are in flux after New York's Court of Appeals struck down the Democrats’ gerrymandered map there in March. How much does that ruling bolster Republicans chances of retaking the House?

Emmer: We said from day one that our guys should never count on redistricting to gain a majority. It looks like it’s pretty much a wash regardless of what happens in New York. But I expect we're going to pick up one to three seats in Arizona. I expect we could pick up one or two seats in Texas. We could pick up one to four in Florida. We're looking at one to three in Connecticut, maybe one in New Hampshire. One in Maine. We could pick up two or three in New York, depending on what that ends up looking like. We could pick up a couple in Michigan. And one of the worst gerrymanders in the country by Democrats in Illinois — I believe they put one to five seats in play.

The Early: Democrats controlled redistricting in Connecticut and Illinois, of course. What do you see as the biggest opportunities there?

Emmer: I want to clarify, I'm not pointing at the left field wall. I think one to three seats in Connecticut are in play. And that means, sure, it's possible that we could win in Connecticut. [In Illinois], I think with their stretch of a gerrymander, [Democrats] put a lot of seats in the D+5 range, D+6. And I think in this environment, those seats are going to [be in] play.

On the Hill

Biden, Congress rushes to address baby formula shortage

Washington’s latest challenge:President Biden and lawmakers from both parties are scrambling to address a growing lack of baby formula in many stores that has made it difficult for some parents to feed their young children,” our colleagues Marianna Sotomayor and Ashley Parker report.

  • “On Thursday, Biden received an update from retailers and manufacturers, including Wal-Mart, Target, Reckitt and Gerber. Then administration officials announced they would cut bureaucratic red tape in hopes of getting more formula to stores more quickly, call on the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to crack down on formula price-gouging, and increase imports of formula to boost the domestic supply.”
  • Everything is a midterm issue: “The shortage is just the latest example of the challenges Democrats in particular must confront ahead of the midterm election as rising prices and supply chain issues continue under their watch. Republicans hope to capitalize on framing Democrats as a party that cannot govern to win over voters, especially moderates who have been financially squeezed.”

On the Hill

Senate kicks Ukraine aid vote to next week

As we scooped Thursday morning, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held up the $39.8 billion Ukraine funding bill because he wants an inspector general to oversee the funds. Senate leaders were unable to reach an agreement with Paul on Thursday, which means the Senate left town for the weekend without passing what the White House said was urgent legislation.

The attempt to placate Paul led to a rare moment in the Senate. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer were unified in pressing Paul to allow a final vote this week.

But Paul objected. He wanted the change made to the bill itself rather than have an amendment vote. So, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the Ukraine bill Monday night, starting the process that could take all week if they don't get Paul on board.

The Media

Weekend reeeads: 



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