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The Early 202

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

Republicans in disarray

The Early 202

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

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In today's edition …  He's running! Isaac Arnsdorf with the latest from Mar-a-Lago on Trump's presidential announcement … Cherokee Nation delegate gets House hearing, but vote unclear … What we're watching: The Senate vote on its same-sex marriage bill … Senate report details medical mistreatment of female immigration detainees … but first …

On the Hill

Republicans in disarray

Republicans are having a tough week.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) faced a challenge from the right Tuesday in his bid for speaker.

He easily won enough votes — 188 — to become Republicans’ nominee for speaker, while his challenger,  Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), collected only 31 votes. But McCarthy will have to win over almost all of those dissenters in early January, when he’ll need 218 votes to become speaker when the full House votes who should succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

That won’t be an easy task. Several House Republicans are making clear that they want big concessions in exchange for their votes — and some are saying, for now at least, that McCarthy won’t get their vote.

This morning, meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will face a challenge of his own.

At issue in both chambers is the party’s disappointing performance in the midterm elections and who should take the blame for failing to win control of the Senate and barely regaining the House, in what many Republicans expected would be a “red wave” year.

During a three-and-a-half-hour “airing of grievances” among frustrated Republicans, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who led the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle, launched a challenge to McConnell. McConnell shrugged it off and said he is confident he has the votes.

“I want to repeat again — I have the votes, I will be elected,” McConnell told reporters. “The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is expected to offer a motion to delay the leadership vote today at a conference meeting scheduled for 9:30 a.m. If that motion fails, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who just won reelection, will nominate Scott for leader.

The tensions aren’t likely to ease any time soon.

  • The discord came hours before Donald Trump announced “his presidential reelection bid from Florida, injecting another note of turmoil on the Hill between those who remain staunch allies to the former president and others who are beginning to publicly question whether Trump contributed to the party’s stunning failure to win more seats last week,” Liz Goodwin, Marianna Sotomayor, Amy B Wang, Jacqueline Alemany and Leigh Ann report.

“I think it's not good for the party when we air grievances publicly like this, especially when we still have the Dec. 6 election hanging in the balance,” said a senator who attended the meeting, referring to the runoff election in Georgia between Democratic Sen. Raphael G. Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. The senator, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intraparty tensions.

Inside the room

McConnell — whose allies ran the Senate Leadership Fund, which poured $259 million into Senate races this cycle — and Scott have been publicly feuding for the better part of a year over midterm strategy and spending for candidates.

Earlier this year, Scott released a policy plan that Democrats used as fodder on the campaign trail because they said it threatened Social Security and Medicare.  McConnell criticized Scott’s proposal and said that a specific plan could wait until after Republicans won the Senate.

That feud spilled out Tuesday when a number of senators stood to complain about how the Republican conference has been run and that Republicans didn’t win more Senate seats.

  • “Senator Scott disagrees with the approach that Mitch has taken in this election and for the last couple of years, and he made that clear. And Senator McConnell criticized Senator Scott's management of the NRSC,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who isn’t supporting McConnell.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who plans to back Scott and has complained about how the Senate operates since he was elected in 2018, said about 20 people spoke and most of them had concerns.

“There was finger-pointing at the leader. There was finger-pointing at the NRSC. There was finger-pointing at Trump. There was finger-pointing  at the candidates who had gone too far to the right and denied elections in the primaries,” said a senator who attended.

McConnell mostly listened, only to stand and interject when something “out of line” was said, according to two people. After speaking, he would sit back down and listen.

In his closing speech, McConnell said he knows that not everyone likes him, but he is willing to take the arrows to ensure every senator is successful.

Differing autopsy results

A major challenge for Republicans is they are in disagreement on what happened in the last election. Members on the right generally argue that Republican leaders didn’t fight hard enough, didn’t have an agenda and provided Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) with the votes needed to pass legislation, such as infrastructure and chip manufacturing bills, that most Senate Republicans voted against.

McConnell and others believe that independent voters rejected the embrace by many in the party of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election and extremist stances on a number of issues.

Scott’s letter to Republican senators announcing his run for leader included a list of 14 “complaints about how the Senate operates,” including that McConnell was too willing to cooperate with Democrats and that some Republican senators “say there is not a way for their views to be heard.”

Former senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.), a former majority leader who later served as minority whip under McConnell, said he expected McConnell to win easily and that dealing with criticism from fellow Republicans was part of the job.

“Leadership in the House and the Senate in Washington is a windy place to be,” Lott said. “Just look at the record of what's happened to former speakers and former majority leaders. It's pretty hard to ride that bucking bronco longer than about six or seven years.”

The campaign

‘I’m a victim’

Donald Trump is running again. Trump, as expected, announced a third presidential campaign on Tuesday night at Mar-a-Lago, two years after he refused to concede defeat in the 2020 election. His efforts to overturn the results culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

  • “Trump becomes the first former president to run again since Theodore Roosevelt, and the first since Grover Cleveland to do so after losing reelection,” our colleague Isaac Arnsdorf reports from Palm Beach, Fla. “He is the only president to be impeached twice, and the only one impeached by a bipartisan vote.”

Trump mostly avoided re-litigating the 2020 election in an announcement speech that lasted more than an hour — although he called for an end to early voting and the exclusive use of paper ballots — but he didn’t shy away from re-litigating his grievances more broadly.

“I’m a victim, I will tell you, I’m a victim,” he said.

Some former Trump White House aides criticized the speech in real time, including Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting White House chief of staff, who suggested that Trump’s claims about the power of endorsement in the midterms were misleading:

Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), meanwhile, is circulating draft legislation that would bar Trump from holding office.

On the Hill

Cherokee Nation delegate gets House hearing, but vote unclear

The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing today on seating a Cherokee Nation delegate in the House, the first of its kind. The hearing comes after the Cherokee Nation officially relaunched its long-delayed campaign to seat its delegate — Kimberly Teehee — in September.

The Cherokee Nation released a video — shared exclusively with The Early — ahead of the historic hearing. In it, tribal leaders from across the country urge the House to pass a resolution “in return for what they sacrificed and what they lost.” 

As we reported in September, the right to send a nonvoting delegate to the House is afforded to the Cherokee Nation by the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. Under the treaty, the Cherokee were forcibly removed from their ancestral land in the South. Thousands of Cherokee people died during the exodus to present-day Oklahoma, now known as the “Trail of Tears.”

“Treaties matter,” Teehee said in a statement. “It is time for the United States to deliver on its commitment. The Cherokee Nation has fulfilled its part. We’re asking the United States to do the same.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. is expected to appear before the committee today alongside Lindsay Robertson, a University of Oklahoma professor of Native American law, and Mainon Schwartz, a legislative attorney for the Congressional Research Service.

Seating a delegate “would be a historic victory for treaty rights and the sovereignty of all Indian Tribes,” Hoskin is expected to say in prepared remarks before the committee. “It would show Indian Country how much this chamber truly honors Tribes and strives to meet its solemn treaty obligations.”

Although the hearing is not expected to end in a formal vote, “it paves the way for further action by the House,” per a senior Democratic aide. Teehee called the move a “step in the right direction.”

The Cherokee Nation hopes to seat Teehee by the end of the year. “The next step is for the House to bring a resolution to the floor for a vote to seat the delegate,” Hoskin said. “We’ve had productive conversations with members of both parties on this topic and we are confident that we will get the job done before the year is out.”

What we're watching

Same-sex marriage: The Senate today is set to take its first procedural vote on legislation that would protects same-sex marriage.

A small bipartisan group of senators has been working to find the 10 Republican votes necessary to pass it. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who led the negotiations, said on Tuesday that she thinks she has the votes.

Baldwin told The Early she expects the bill to “squeak through” on the procedural vote today but predicts that there will be more Republican support on final passage. “I feel very encouraged that when it comes to a vote on final passage, there will be robust bipartisan support for the bill,” she said.

We’ll be watching the vote count on a bill, voted on after the election, that got the support of about 15 percent of the House GOP conference earlier this year.

House call? We’re also keeping an eye on whether the House majority is called for House Republicans today. Republicans have secured 217 seats — leaving them one seat shy of the majority. Democrats have 209 seats, with nine races — most in slow-counting California — still uncalled.

In the agencies

Senate report details medical mistreatment of female immigration detainees

⚠️: “Women held at a privately run immigration jail in Georgia were probably subjected to unnecessary gynecological procedures, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities did not halt a years-long pattern of what medical experts called ‘aggressive and unethical’ treatment, according to a report published Tuesday by a bipartisan Senate panel,” per our colleagues Maria Sacchetti and Nick Miroff.

  • “The 108-page report, the result of an 18-month investigation, examined claims made by immigrant advocates and a whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, who worked as a nurse at the Irwin County Detention Center in rural Georgia.”
  • “The inquiry did not substantiate claims that women at the facility, operated by the for-profit company LaSalle Corrections, had been subjected to mass hysterectomies, as advocates initially claimed. But the investigation found that Georgia physician Mahendra Amin appeared to have performed ‘excessive, invasive, and often unnecessary gynecological procedures’ on dozens of women detained for deportation proceedings between 2017 and 2020.”

The Media

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Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @LACaldwellDC and @theodoricmeyer.

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