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The Early 202

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

Dems to give nod to unions as leaders seek to avert rail strike

The Early 202

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

Aloha, Early Birds! The tributes are pouring in for outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a resolution to rename the Cannon Caucus Room in her honor, and the House Democratic Steering Committee voted unanimously last night to grant Pelosi the honorific title of “Speaker Emerita.” Thanks for waking up with us. You know the drill:

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In today’s edition …  House Democrats to elect new leaders; House Republicans haggling over rules … Macron’s visit: Some pomp and some business … A tribal summit at the White House …  but first …

On the Hill

Dems to give nod to unions as leaders seek to avert rail strike

In a significant development in the effort to avert a rail strike, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced late Tuesday that she will offer a vote on legislation that would give union members seven paid sick days. The decision comes after a growing chorus of Democrats voiced opposition to Congress passing a railroad deal they viewed as unfriendly to rail workers.

“After hearing from our members, we are in agreement that a nationwide rail strike must be prevented — and that more must be done to secure the paid sick leave that hard-working railroaders deserve,” she said in a statement.

The House is scheduled to vote today on legislation pushed by President Biden that would put in place the “tentative agreement” between workers and management reached in September. Some unions have refused to endorse that deal, and a potential strike looms as early as Dec. 9, which the administration says would cripple the economy by slowing a supply chain still recovering from problems created by the coronavirus pandemic.

The separate vote on the sick days bill would allow Democrats to vote for that proposal without changing the legislation that the White House wants enacted quickly.

  • Pelosi’s announcement in a “Dear Colleague” letter came shortly after a number of Democratic lawmakers voiced frustration over being asked to pass the deal without giving more to the unions, including Reps. Donald W. Norcross (D-N.J.), Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), to name a few.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would block quick passage of the legislation in the Senate if he didn’t receive a vote on his proposal to provide rail workers with seven paid sick days. But if the House paid sick leave bill passes and receives a vote in the Senate, Sanders would probably drop his amendment if he agreed with the House legislation, his spokesman said.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) predicted an amendment or separate bill giving workers paid sick days could pass the Senate with 60 votes.

“I think there will be a lot of sympathy for providing sick leave for workers,” Cornyn said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) appeared to be one of those sympathetic Republicans. He tweeted Tuesday that the “railways & workers should go back & negotiate a deal that the workers, not just the union bosses will accept.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), meanwhile, said the workers’ demands were “reasonable.”

The reality check:  Most Republicans, including Cruz and Rubio, have a long history of opposing expanded workers’ rights and paid sick leave.

Rubio co-sponsored legislation opposing union bargaining rights and has voted against paid sick leave provisions in the past. Although he supported unionization efforts at Amazon, he has an 11 percent lifetime rating with the AFL-CIO. Cruz’s is 9 percent.

But economic populism is on the rise in the GOP, and neither Cruz nor Rubio has ruled out a presidential run in 2024.

A vote on paid sick leave probably wouldn’t clear the 60-vote threshold to avoid a filibuster in the Senate, but it could force Republicans to go on the record about where they stand.

House Democrats to elect new leaders; House Republicans haggling over rules

House Democrats will huddle behind closed doors today and Thursday for leadership elections. They will elect new members to fill the caucus’s top three slots for the first time in 16 years. The top two slots — minority leader and minority whip — haven’t changed in an even longer time.

Those races won’t have much drama. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) and James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) are running unopposed for the top four positions. Democrats also created a new position for Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.): chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC). Neguse was pushed out of the No. 4 spot so that Clyburn could remain in leadership, although he’ll move down the hierarchy from his current position as the No. 3 House Democrat.

Jeffries would be the first Black American to lead either party in Congress.

“I haven’t really had the opportunity to reflect on that,” told reporters on Tuesday before emphasizing that his focus had been on the logistics of the leadership transition. “It’s a solemn responsibility that we are all inheriting and the best thing that we can do as a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment, is lean in hard and do the best damn job that we can for the people.”

The race to be the next chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) between Reps. Ami Bera and Tony Cárdenas, both from California, has become competitive and tense.

  • As we reported last week, a number of labor unions have major concerns with Bera leading the Democrats’ House campaign arm because they say he has a tense and mostly nonexistent relationship with unions.
  • Some members are worried Cárdenas could become a target of Republican attacks and negative campaign ads if he becomes DCCC chair. They point to a campaign finance violation and a 15-year-old sexual harassment allegation that was dropped. The Daily Beast reported last week that Cárdenas is one of many politicians who have received thousands of dollars of campaign donations from a wealthy Los Angeles real estate developer who is under indictment and also alleged to be a pornographic filmmaker.
    • Bera has also faced scandal. His father was indicted and served jail time for money laundering to benefit Bera’s campaign.
  • Bera has also faced scandal. His father was indicted and served jail time for money laundering to benefit Bera’s campaign.

Other contested races:

  • Four Democrats are running for caucus vice chair, the No. 5 position: Reps. Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Ted Lieu (Calif.), Joyce Beatty (Ohio) and Madeleine Dean (Pa.).
  • Seven Democrats are running for the four DPCC co-chair spots: Reps. Dean Phillips (Minn.), Susan Wild (Pa.), Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.), Veronica Escobar (Tex.), Lauren Underwood (Ill.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.) and Nikema Williams (Ga.).

In addition, a number of proposed rule changes could be voted on after receiving a favorable recommendation from the Democratic Committee on Caucus Procedures.

  • Having the Democratic leader nominate the DCCC chair. The trio of lawmakers — Reps. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Mark Pocan (Wis.) and Bradley Schneider (Ill.) —  putting forward  the proposal argue it would be better for the caucus if the DCCC was accountable to Democratic leadership rather than selected outright by the caucus as a whole. If this passes, the DCCC race above would be void.
  • The creation of a new leadership position represented by a member in a battleground district. It was proposed by Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.), who won reelection in a competitive seat.

One proposal that we are watching that wasn't recommended but could still be brought up for a vote would require waivers for committee chairs who want to serve for more than six years. It is opposed by most committee chairs and the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members have gained power as committee chairs under the seniority system.

Now to the Republicans.

As House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) searches for the 218 votes he needs to become speaker, he convened what is likely to be the first of many meetings between far-right and moderate members of the GOP conference. The meeting Tuesday came ahead of a debate over the party’s rules that will take place today and is an attempt to soften the divide between the different factions of the party, our colleague Marianna Sotomayor reports.

Members from MAGA acolyte Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) to moderate Rep. Don Bacon (Neb.) described the meeting as a frank discussion about the places where they can agree, in an attempt to set the stage for a united majority, Marianna adds.

Intraparty peace summits brokered by McCarthy are probably going to be his full-time job over the next two years should he be elected speaker.

  • McCarthy got a bit of a boost when conservative radio host Mark Levin slammed by name the “five boneheads” who are part of the “five saboteurs” for saying they won’t back McCarthy as speaker.

As for that debate on conference rules, votes will be held on proposals offered by members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, including an attempt to weaken the power of leadership. The proposals on the table are:

  • Allowing the members of committees to pick the chairs instead of the leadership-backed steering committee or the seniority system.
  • Banning earmarks.
  • Requiring that any legislation brought to the floor has the support of a majority of Republicans. This is an attempt to prevent the Republican leadership from relying on mostly Democratic votes on legislation that would, for instance, avoid a government shutdown or a government debt default.

At the White House

Macron’s visit: Some pomp and some business

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Washington on Tuesday night ahead of Thursday’s state dinner at the White House.

Here’s what’s on the agenda when he meets with Biden on Thursday:

  • Ukraine:  More than nine months after the Russian invasion, Paris and Washington are working closely to aid Ukraine. Biden is working to impose a price cap on Russian oil, while Macron is set to host a conference in Paris next month on supporting Ukraine. But the two governments view the war a little differently. Washington has sent most arms to Ukraine, but France and other European countries are dealing with more of the economic fallout. “There’s a difference of perception regarding who is taking the burden,” said Marie Jourdain, a former French defense official who’s now a visiting fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center. Macron has also seemed more open to negotiations between Russia and Ukraine than Biden. “We have a demanding political dialogue in the sense that we are allies who are not aligned, if I may put it that way,” a senior adviser to Macron told the New York Times.
  • China:  White House officials say China will be at the top of the agenda, too. Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Indonesia earlier this month, and Macron has said he plans to visit Beijing next year. “Our views on China are not identical,” a senior administration official told reporters on Monday. “But I think there is a strong view that we should be speaking from a common script.”
  • Trade:  One of Biden’s domestic triumphs this year — the climate bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act — is viewed more warily in France. The law “risks alienating European countries, which fear a permanent U.S. turn toward protectionism,” Célia Belin, a former French Foreign Ministry official, and Jourdain wrote this week in Foreign Affairs. “France and Germany are already pushing for similar subsidies for European industries, and Macron has even floated the idea of a Buy European Act.” Biden administration officials have defended the law and said that it includes business opportunities for European companies.
A state dinner primer

This is the first state dinner since 2019, when President Donald Trump hosted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Our colleague Roxanne Roberts has answers to all of your state dinner FAQs, including how many guests are expected on Thursday (about 300), the president who threw the most state dinners (Ronald Reagan) and what Trump said to Macron ahead of a 2018 state dinner.

A tribal summit at the White House

Biden will commit today at the White House Tribal Nations Summit to protecting Spirit Mountain and the 33,000 acres in Nevada that surround it under the 1906 Antiquities Act, a senior administration official tells Dan Michalski.

  • “The transformation of this 700-square-mile wedge between California and Arizona is likely to rank as the largest act of land conservation that Biden will undertake this term. The designation enjoys the support of tribes, local officials, environmental groups and the rural business community but has frustrated some renewable energy advocates, who warn it could undercut the nation’s climate goals.”
  • Biden will also sign a new memo on how federal agencies consult with tribes.

The Media

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