International Crisis and Washington in Limbo


Good morning from Washington DC where the leaves are beginning to signal the change of the season while much remains the same in the House of Representatives. Last night your author took his seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter to “Boo at the Zoo” held at Smithsonian’s National Zoo.  The logjam and chaos ensued when trying to enter the zoo by car and get to a parking lot. While sitting in the car for minutes on end, I could only think of the current legislative purgatory in which we find ourselves. My mind also wondered to football where my underdog New York Giants defeated the Washington Commanders – reminding me that anything is possible. With those two thoughts converging, we remain hopeful that at some point the House will find its way to its parking lot and spike its metaphorical football to elect a new Speaker. We currently stand at nine candidates for Speaker of the House – which begs the question – can you too be Speaker?  Welcome to the Week Ahead!

The Administration

Last week, President Biden made the case for the United States supporting Israel following the attacks by Hamas. The President is also making the case for a funding package to include aid to Israel and Ukraine, while also giving a nod to Republicans by including funding for border security. Behind the scenes the administration is continuing to work to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza and on hostage negotiations.  The President is already facing Senate opposition to his grouping of aid to Israel and Ukraine together, as Republican Senator JD Vance (Ohio) is circulating a letter to colleagues outlining the differences in our nation’s approach to Israel versus Ukraine.  Minority Leader McConnell (R-Kentucky) has already signaled he is ok with linking aid to both Israel and Ukraine.

On the health care front, Secretary of Health and Human Services Becerra continues to speak about the importance of the Inflation Reduction Act on reducing health care costs. This Thursday he will speak at the National Press Club regarding his agenda of reducing health care costs and eliminating health disparities among other topics.  Later today the President will hold an event on Bidenomics. With government funding ending on November 17, the President must figure out a way to lean in on Congress in the coming weeks.

The Senate

The Senate returns to legislative business on Tuesday of this week.  The upper chamber plans to take up President Biden’s nominee for the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday. Additionally, Senators will resume discussions on the previously pending three-bill minibus which includes the fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills for Agriculture-FDA, Transportation-HUD, and Military Construction-VA.  On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold an Executive Session on nominations to include Monica Bertagnolli to be Director of the National Institutes of Health.  On Thursday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing entitled, “Unlocking Hope: Access to Therapies for People with Rare, Progressive, and Serious Diseases.” This Friday, the Senate HELP Committee will conduct a field hearing in New Jersey entitled, “Overworked and Undervalued: Is the Severe Hospital Staffing Crisis Endangering the Well-Being of Patients and Nurses?”

The House

The drama continues in the House where the Republicans find themselves leaderless after Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) called for the motion to vacate several weeks ago. The House Republicans cannot secure 217 votes to move on with the House’s business. Both Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) that have been nominated over the past two weeks and both their campaigns were unsuccessful. Jim Jordan had three votes on the house floor and Steve Scalise never made it to the floor, as each vote accumulated MORE opposition to his candidacy.  The other solution to move on with the House’s business was to nominate Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) to be the Speaker Pro-Tem to continue legislative business till the end of the year. That solution was quickly voted down in Conference.

As previously mentioned, we currently have NINE nominations for Speaker of the House. Most notably the current WHIP Tom Emmer (R-MN), Byron Donalds (R-FL), former NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), Mike Johnson (R-LA), and Kevin Hern (R-OK). Based off reports and our intel, it currently seems unlikely that any of these members will get to the voting threshold of 217. Rep. Emmer has a great infrastructure already established for getting votes and appears to be the current frontrunner. However, he faces opposition from former President Trump as Rep. Emmer has bucked Trump in the past. It will be interesting to see how the internal politics plays out this week. The conference will meet today and begin voting on a Speaker tomorrow. The lowest vote getters in each round get bumped off, well because – they are the weakest link.

As the country waits for the Republican Conference to find a Speaker, we have less than 30 days to fund the government, a foreign affairs package to aid Ukraine and Israel, and other legislative priorities for the remainder of the year. Time waits for no one – and House Republicans need to move quickly. Senate Republicans are also weighing into the matter, recognizing the standstill is not beneficial to the Republican Party for the 2024 elections or movement on any of the important issues which currently stand before Congress.

This week the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health will host a hearing on the long-term care workforce this Wednesday.  The hearing is entitled, “Supporting Access to Long-Term Services and Supports: An Examination of the Impacts of Proposed Regulations on Workforce and Access to Care.”  The subcommittee wants to focus on how proposed regulations on the health care workforce, to include the Biden administrations proposed rule on nursing home ratios, could affect access to care.

Create a great week!

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