In today’s edition … What we’re watching: Biden to mark anniversary of Uvalde school shooting … DeSantis to officially join the presidential fray in conversation with Elon Musk … The deepening radicalization of Trump … Roberts says Supreme Court will address ethics issues — but offers no specifics … but first …
Democrats demand clearer debt messaging from White House
As debt limit talks between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) team and the White House remain far apart, House Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with how the White House is handling the negotiations.
Some Democrats, especially those who face tough reelections next year, have privately groused that the White House has bungled the messaging, is putting Democrats in a terrible negotiating position and could be forced to eat most of McCarthy’s demands.
“I’ve never seen such a massive, surprising and consequential potential failure,” said one Democratic member of Congress who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. “We’ll see where this comes out, but by definition we’re only measuring success on how much we lost.”
Some Democrats point to substandard messaging from the White House and the lack of visibility from the president, who was in Japan at the G-7 meeting for several days last week and has since not spoken publicly at length about the debt limit, which is expected to be reached in as little as eight days.
It’s a stark contrast to McCarthy and his top negotiators, Reps. Garret Graves (R-La.) and Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who have been holding court with reporters multiple times per day and hammering home their party’s message.
“It’s frustrating,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who represents a swing district. McCarthy “feels free to negotiate in public, and that’s not really a productive way to try to come to a conclusion.”
But Kildee acknowledged that McCarthy’s tactic seems to be working for him.
- The parameters of the debate have — at least publicly — revolved around the measures in the bill that House Republicans passed last month to raise the debt limit: cutting spending, clawing back unspent covid relief funds and imposing work requirements for social safety net programs, among other conservative priorities.
Republicans have rejected, with limited public pushback, the White House’s proposal to keep spending flat next year as well as their proposals to raise revenue by closing tax loopholes.
The White House rejects this narrative and says that the president has been clear that any agreement needs Democratic votes. “We got to get something we can sell to both sides,” President Biden said in the Oval Office before meeting with McCarthy Monday.
Asked what Republicans were offering to win Democrats’ votes for a potential deal, McHenry gave a brief answer: “the debt ceiling,” our colleagues report, suggesting no other concessions on their demands.
“That’s what they’re getting,” Graves added.
- Earlier in the day Tuesday, Graves said they were negotiating from the bill House Republicans passed.
“I think it’s a really good bill,” Graves said. “It’s reasonable.”
Democrats have lost the opportunity to put Democratic priorities on the table, the concerned Democrats said.
“People are pissed,” one lawmaker said of the mood among Democrats.
The White House should have immediately put on the table Democratic priorities, Democratic aides and lawmakers said.
- “When someone’s demanding only cuts, that’s when you introduce demands for revenue generation or the corporate tax rate, rescind the Trump tax cuts,” one lawmaker said, adding that the White House should have also included other priorities like gun violence prevention or other Democratic issues.
“This is not a negotiation exercise. This is a concession exercise,” the lawmaker said.
A White House official said that the president has “fought for the Inflation Reduction Act and student debt limit relief to be off the table in these negotiations,” as well as work requirements for social programs.
House Democrats want House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to play a bigger role in the negotiations and in the public relations strategy, but understand the difficult position he’s in and that Jeffries can’t get out in front of the president.
And there are concerns among liberal Democrats that their concerns will go unheeded.
- “I think the backlash will be significant if somehow we were to get bullied into a bad deal,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s chairwoman. “I think it’s very bad for the for the people of America. I also think it’s a terrible dynamic for negotiations going forward.”
Responding to concerns about the White House, Jeffries and his leadership team have increased their interactions with reporters, including speaking to reporters after McCarthy returned from the White House for his meeting with the president.
Jeffries has been more aggressively criticizing Republicans than Biden has, saying they are “trying to hold the American people hostage.”
“We are aligned with them, with the leadership in both the House and the Senate, and that continues and we have been aligned with them for the past several months,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday when asked about the Jeffries’ messaging. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
Kildee hopes the White House strategy of keeping the negotiations behind closed doors pays off.
“We’re still in the middle of the movie,” he said. “Let’s see how this movie ends before drawing any conclusions.”
Thanks to Marianna Sotomayor for her help reporting.
Today is the first anniversary of the shooting last year at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers. The massacre prompted Congress — led by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.),and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — to pass rare if limited gun restriction legislation.
Biden will mark the anniversary this afternoon. We’ll be watching to see if he urges lawmakers to take further action or says he’ll act on his own through executive authority.
DeSantis to officially join the presidential fray in conversation with Elon Musk
Today is the day: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is expected to announce his entry into the 2024 presidential race this evening during a live audio conversation on Twitter Spaces with the social media platform’s billionaire CEO, Elon Musk.
The conversation with Musk will be moderated by David Sacks, “an investor and former PayPal executive who attended a DeSantis donor retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., earlier this year and said at the time that he hoped DeSantis would run for president,” our colleagues Hannah Knowles and Faiz Siddiqui report.
The announcement is a win for Musk, who has become an influential figure in Republican politics by endearing himself to the political right. Soon after he assumed control of Twitter, he “endorsed Republicans in the midterm elections, predicting a ‘massive red wave.’ He suggested that Anthony Fauci should be prosecuted, and he elevated baseless conspiracy theories about the attack on Paul Pelosi. He engaged repeatedly with fringe-right voices on Twitter as hate-speech and misinformation thrived. All of this was before his more recent efforts to downplay white supremacism and his attacks on George Soros,” our colleague Philip Bump writes.
- “DeSantis’ aides have been watching Twitter become an increasingly friendly space for conservative firebrands under Musk’s leadership, allowing them to speak directly to their conservative audience and bypass traditional media — something that was once Trump’s superpower,” per NBC News’s Dasha Burns and Matt Dixon.
- “That DeSantis is announcing his candidacy on Twitter is a testament to the platform’s newly achieved status on the right,” Philip writes. “DeSantis used to give favored status to Fox News, including at one point signing legislation live on the channel’s morning show. While he will still reportedly give an interview to the right-wing cable news channel after the Twitter event, the allure of the social media platform’s metrics was apparently too much to resist.”
The deepening radicalization of Trump
Our colleagues Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Adriana Usero chronicle the radicalization of former president Donald Trump as he seeks a second term. From the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to sexual assault to foreign and domestic policy, “Trump’s positions have become even more extreme, his tone more confrontational, his accounts less tethered to reality,” according to a Washington Post review of Trump’s speeches and interviews with former aides.
“Where he was at times ambiguous or equivocal, he’s now brazenly defiant,” they write.
- What changed? “The hardening of Trump’s stances comes as he has been operating for more than two years without the official apparatus of the White House, putting fewer gatekeepers and layers of review between him and the public,” our colleagues write. “It also follows a long list of grievances he has accumulated from his eight years in politics.”
For example: “When The Washington Post first reported that Trump bragged about groping women in a 2005 tape from the set of ‘Access Hollywood,’ he started shedding support from top Republicans only weeks before the 2016 election,” our colleagues write. “He scrambled to privately apologize to his shaken running mate and release a video apology. He also apologized for his remarks during a debate the next night with Hillary Clinton.”
- “But later, Trump started privately questioning whether the remarks caught on tape were really his. And in a videotaped deposition for the lawsuit by writer E. Jean Carroll accusing him of sexual abuse and defamation, Trump took a different tack: standing by his assertion that famous men can have their way with women. Trump doubled down on that defense during the recent CNN town hall.”
Roberts says Supreme Court will address ethics issues — but offers no specifics
Breaking the silence: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Tuesday night that he was ‘confident’ that the Supreme Court will convince the public that the court ‘adheres to the highest standards of conduct,’” our colleague Robert Barnes reports.
- “Accepting an award at the American Law Institute, Roberts did not directly comment on the controversies that have surrounded the court’s members and their financial disclosures or the mounting congressional pressure for a specific code of conduct for the Supreme Court.”
- “But he said that disturbances outside the court have not affected the nine justices: ‘Inside the court there is cause for optimism,’ he said.”
- “Then he added: ‘I want to assure people that I’m committed to making certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct. We are continuing to look at things we can do to give practical effect to that commitment. And I am confident that there are ways to do that consistent with our status as an independent branch of government and the Constitution’s separation of powers.’”
The comments from Roberts come as Justice Clarence Thomas faces renewed scrutiny over his relationship with Texas billionaire Harlan Crow. Crow declined the Senate Judiciary Committee’s request for a full accounting of gifts worth more than $415 that he gave to Thomas.
- “We do not believe the Committee has the authority to investigate Crow’s personal friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas,” Michael D. Bopp, Crow’s attorney, wrote in a letter addressed to committee chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). “Most importantly, Congress does not have the constitutional power to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court. Doing so would exceed Congress’s Article I authority and violate basic separation of powers principles.”
- Trump lawyers seek meeting with AG Garland over special counsel actions. By Devlin Barrett.
- South Carolina Senate passes 6-week abortion ban, sends bill to governor. By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Rachel Roubein.
- Driver who crashed near White House told officials he was prepared to kill Biden and ‘seize power.’ By NBC News’s Tim Stelloh, Daniel Barnes and Daniel Arkin.
If you’re already thinking ahead to your Memorial Day weekend plans, The Post’s Voraciously team has you covered.