The Hotline, Latest Edition: Friday, March 5, 2021

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Spotlight: Delaying Down The Law

Nearly every Senate Republican has signaled they oppose President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Those facing reelection in 2022 are spending the days ahead of its passage on the Senate floor, social media, and Fox News, casting the coronavirus relief as too full of Democratic “wish list” items to classify as such.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) took a starring role in delaying the $1.9 trillion package by forcing a live reading on Thursday of the 628-page billHe and other Senate Republicans facing reelection in 2022, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and John Kennedy (R-LA), balked at the price tag. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Todd Young (R-IN) backed an earlier $618 billion counteroffer. Moran and Young oppose Democrats’ plan because it’s “partisan” and “wasteful.”

Sens. Lee, Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Thune (R-SD), Tim Scott (R-SC), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and John Hoeven (R-ND) have panned the funding formula for blue states. Rubio, Blunt, Thune, Lee, and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) bemoaned that only a fraction of its education money would be spent this year.

Murkowski, who along with every other Republican voted against taking up the bill Thursday, has said she’s undecided. “My state needs relief,” she told reporters Wednesday. But she said Alaska should be cared for “if Congress is going to move this much money out the door.”

— Zach C. Cohen

P.S. Please continue to send your thoughts to leah@nationaljournal.com.

Quote of the Day

“There’s a joke that the National Association of Attorney Generals, NAAG, stands for the National Association of aspiring governors.”

— Former Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher (D), who ran for governor in 1998 after serving as AG, Hotline reporting, 3/4.

TOP NEWS

KANSAS GOVERNOR: Don’t Colyer It a Comeback
Former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) is taking steps toward a bid, and has enlisted Mary Eisenhower, granddaughter of President Eisenhower, as his campaign treasurer.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Grocery Store Run
Grocery store tycoon John Catsimatidis (R), who had been preparing for another bid for New York City mayor, is considering running for governor instead.

TEXAS 06: The Outsider
Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and the Trumps reportedly urged 2020 NV-03 nominee Dan Rodimer (R) to enter the race, which could cause a headache for the GOP.

DEMOCRATS: Staying on Track
Biden met with a bipartisan group to push for an infrastructure spending package.


National

Curated by Matt Holt

DEMOCRATS: With COVID-19 Bill Set to Pass on Party Lines, Biden Looks to Infrastructure for Bipartisan Push
Progressives have made Kamala Harris a focal point when battling with the administration.
  • President Biden “tried to maintain bipartisan momentum for a new infrastructure program by meeting Thursday with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House. … Spending on infrastructure appears to be the next major priority for the Biden administration after its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package clears the Senate, likely along hardened partisan lines.” (AP)
  • HARRIS. Vice President Kamala Harris’ “profile and constitutional role have made her a somewhat unlikely focal point in the Biden administration’s first big tussle with progressives—a largely tactical debate that will have echoes throughout President Biden’s four-year term, as his administration struggles to tackle a host of priorities with a scant majority in Congress.” (Los Angeles Times)
  • COAL COUNTRY PROMISES. President Obama “dedicated millions of dollars to workforce development projects in Appalachia.” President Trump “even pledged the impossible: a revival of the region’s faltering coal industry.” Biden “is talking big, too, assuring residents that his climate plan will also create well-paying jobs there. But after generations of promises, communities once reliant on coal mining are understandably skeptical.” (New York Times)
  • CULTURE WARS. “Over the past few weeks, Republicans have simmered over the ‘cancellation’ of seemingly innocent family favorites, including the venerated Mr. Potato Head toy and Dr. Seuss books. … Fox News has covered it obsessively. In recent days, conservative legislators have made speeches at confabs and in the halls of Congress, warning about what they describe as out of control PC culture. And yet, even as it becomes all consuming on the right, White House advisers and Biden aides insist they’re unbothered by the culture-wars-du-jour.” (Politico)
  • APPROVALS. An AP/NORC poll (Feb. 23-Mar. 1; 1,434 adults; +/-3.4%) found Biden’s job approval rating at 60%, and 70% of Americans approved of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)
REPUBLICANS: DeSantis’ 2024 Stock Is Rising 
That is, of course, if President Trump doesn’t run again.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) “coronavirus calculus and adversarial relationship with the press has played out largely in his favor. … The governor’s approval ratings with Floridians have rebounded after plummeting last year. The 2024 buzz intensified last weekend after CPAC’s straw poll showed DeSantis winning 43% of participants’ support without Trump in the field.” He “serves as the poster child of Republicans who have embraced Trump without carrying his political toxicity and baggage.” (Washington Post)
  • HOTLINE ANALYSIS. There’s no question that DeSantis has positioned himself nicely in the post-Trump era. DeSantis, who gained Trump’s endorsement in the gubernatorial primary in 2018 by making himself a fixture on Fox News, knows how to communicate with the GOP base. He’s only 42-years-old, so if Trump does run again and clinches the nomination, there’s plenty of time for his ambitions to play out. Keeping an eye on how DeSantis operates over the next year—someone who has credibility with Trump’s base and big GOP donors—will give us clues as to how ambitious Republicans are waiting Trump out.
  • GOING ROVE. President Trump released a statement yesterday bashing former George W. Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, “who criticized Trump’s first speech since leaving office for being long on grievances but short on vision.” Trump: “He’s a pompous fool with bad advice and always has an agenda.” Rove responded: “I’ll continue to use my whiteboard and voice to call balls and strikes.” (Reuters) Trump also “lashed out at the Wall Street Journal editorial board for calling on Republicans to abandon him and blamed his GOP critics for the party’s Georgia Senate losses.” (The Hill)
  • FOX IN A BOX. “Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said Thursday that it is the job of Fox News to serve as the opposition to the Biden administration, clearly stating the political biases of a network that until 2017 billed itself as ‘fair and balanced.’” Murdoch: “The main beneficiary of the Trump administration from a ratings point of view was MSNBC … and that’s because they were the loyal opposition. That’s what our job is now with the Biden administration, and you’ll see our ratings really improve from here.” (NBC News)

Senate

Curated by Madelaine Pisani

LOUISIANA: Trump Endorses Kennedy
It’s the former president’s third endorsement of a Senator.
  • President Trump endorsed Sen. John Kennedy (R) on Thursday, saying he “stands strongly with the forgotten men and women of our Country.” Kennedy, who “was one of a handful of GOP senators who objected to the Electoral College’s vote in favor of President Biden,” is Trump’s third Senate endorsement after Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Tim Scott (R-SC). (Fox News)
NORTH CAROLINA: Richard Watkins Enters Primary With Science Message
He placed third in a 2018 Democratic House primary against Rep. David Price.
  • Virologist Richard Watkins (D) joined former state Sen. Erica Smith (D) and state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D) in running for Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) open seat. Watkins “received just 6.5% of the vote” in the 2018 NC-04 primary, finishing third and losing to Rep. David Price (D). (Raleigh News & Observer)
PENNSYLVANIA: Trump Campaign Alum John Giordano Considers Bid
He would add to the long list of Senate hopefuls in the state with links to Trump.
  • Attorney John Giordano (R), “who worked on Trump’s campaign” in 2016, “is considering running” for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey (R). Giordano, who also worked in the Bush administration and for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), “has been a generous Trump Victory donor [and] comes from a prominent Philadelphia-area family.” His father “was previously president of the Union League and is now CEO of the Philly Pops orchestra.” (Politico)
  • HOTLINE ANALYSIS. Giordano joins a wide array of Republicans considering a bid to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R), that spans from moderate never-Trumpers to those who want to run campaigns in the former president’s image. The challenge for Pennsylvania Republicans will be the unpredictability of such a crowded field. With several candidates who have ties to Trump or who will run on identical messaging, including former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite (R) and former U.S. Attorney William McSwain (R), Trump-aligned Republicans will have trouble consolidating his base without an actual endorsement. For Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the unpredictability of a crowded primary could lead to a candidate who has to work harder to consolidate the Republican base in a general election, in addition to appealing to the larger electorate.

House

Curated by Kirk A. Bado

RACE FOR THE HOUSE: DOJ Investigates Congressional Ties to Insurrectionists 
Republican members are facing more scrutiny.
  • The Justice Department is “examining records of communications between members of Congress and the pro-Trump mob that attacked the US Capitol.” The “investigators aren’t yet targeting members of Congress in the investigation” and “haven’t found evidence that members of Congress knowingly aided or were involved in the insurrection.” (CNN)
    • THEY SAW THE TWEETS. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA 19) “went through the social media posts of all the House Republicans who objected to the certification” of the Electoral College and issued a 2,000-page report, which covers posts from “Nov. 3, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021.” While it does not include any conclusions, the aides wrote, “Like former President Trump, any elected Member of Congress who aided and abetted the insurrection or incited the attack seriously threatened our democratic government.” (Punchbowl News)
    • ALL’S WELL THAT’S SWALWELL. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA 15) “filed a lawsuit Friday against” Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL 05), “whose actions he charges led to January’s insurrection.” (AP)
PRIMARY ROUNDUP: Kevin McCarthy Lobbies Trump Against Intervening in GOP Primaries 
He’s not gotten a commitment that the former president will back off.
  • Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been unsuccessfully “trying to persuade” President Trump “not to seek revenge against 10 Republicans who voted to impeach the former president.” On Wednesday, NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer said Trump getting involved in House primaries is “not gonna be helpful” to the party’s effort to retake the House. (Politico)
LOUISIANA 02: EMILY’s List Spends Nearly $500k for Karen Carter Peterson 
She’s said she is the more prominent progressive candidate running to replace Cedric Richmond.
  • EMILY’s List has spent $457,000 on media and mailings supporting” state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson’s (D) campaign to replace Rep. Cedric Richmond (D). “American Jobs and Growth PAC, a conservative Republican super PAC, spent $32,000 on digital ads opposing Carter Peterson” in the lead up to the March 20 special election. (Roll Call)
NORTH CAROLINA 11: Moe Davis Likely Won’t Run Against Cawthorn
Two other Democrats are running against the freshman Republican.
  • 2020 NC-11 nominee Moe Davis (D) said “barring earth-shaking changes to the dynamics of the race, he’s most likely out of the running” against Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R), even though he filed paperwork with the FEC. Despite mounting controversies for Cawthorn, Davis said “none of that alone would be enough to make up the 12 points he lost by in 2020 because his region leans so heavily toward Republicans.” (Raw Story)
NEW JERSEY 07: Malinowski Fails to Report Stock Trades 
This failure is similar to the one that plagued former Rep. Donna Shalala.
  • “Government transparency has been a cornerstone of” Rep. Tom Malinowski’s (D) “congressional tenure. But” Malinowski “failed to publicly disclose dozens of personal stock trades,” amounting to at least $671,000, “an apparent violation of the federal STOCK Act.” (Insider)
TEXAS 06: Dan Rodimer Roils Special Election for Wright’s Seat 
Ted Cruz and the Trump family urged him to enter the race.
  • 2020 NV-03 nominee Dan Rodimer (R) entered the race to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright (R) at the urging of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “and the Trump family.” Rodimer, who “has no previous ties to the district,” flew from Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Florida, to Texas on Wednesday in order to file. He “shocked Republicans in Washington and Texas with his decision to enter into a crowded field that has 22 other candidates.” (Politico)
  • HOTLINE ANALYSIS. This is Trump’s first and only foray into the five special elections slated for 2021, and his meddling is already causing headaches for Republicans. The race was closer than expected last year as Democrats made gains in the highly-educated south Dallas district despite losing ground elsewhere in the state. The former president’s heavy hand in promoting a carpetbagging candidate already saddled with his own baggage could open a lane for Democrats to notch a much-needed victory. National Democratic groups like the House Majority PAC and the DCCC could invest in the race if they see an opportunity to expand their narrow five-seat majority by 20% with a single win.

States

Curated by Mary Frances McGowan

IN THE STATES: Looking to 2022, GOP Governors Lift COVID-19 Mandates
They’re beholden to an electorate that’s been increasingly “radicalized by the pandemic.”
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) decision “to end his state’s mask mandate and lift all restrictions on business reflects a broader move by politically ambitious Republican governors,” who are “responsive to a Republican electorate radicalized by the pandemic and inflamed by animus against experts and government regulations.” Those governors “are jockeying to present themselves as chief adversaries to President Biden. And with vaccine distribution ramping up, there is political risk in delaying a return to normalcy.”
  • IVEY LEAGUE OF HER OWN. “Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Thursday bought her state … a little more time. She said she will extend the state’s mask mandate only through April 9.” (Washington Post)
KANSAS: Former Gov. Jeff Coyler Signals 2022 Bid by Hiring Campaign Treasurer
The Republican “stopped short” of formally announcing a bid.
    • Former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) “signaled Friday that he’ll make a comeback bid in 2022 by taking a step required to raise money for the Kansas governor’s race and bringing a granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower to his team. Colyer stopped short of formally announcing his candidacy.”
    • BROWNBACK, KOBACH, COMEBACK? “Colyer was governor for a little less than a year after serving seven years as” former Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) lieutenant governor. “He rose to the higher office in January 2018, when Brownback resigned to become U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom under” President Trump. In that primary, Trump endorsed former Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) over Coyler, the incumbent governor. (AP)
NEW YORK: Poll Finds Majority of Voters Don’t Think Cuomo Should Resign 
Republican grocery store tycoon John Catsimatidis is considering a run for governor.
  • “Reeling from multiple scandals and faced with crescendoing calls for his resignation,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) “has managed to retain the support of most voters in his state. But that support appears to come with a time limit attached.” According to a Quinnipiac University poll (March 2-3; 935 RVs; +/-3.2%), 40% of New York voters think that Cuomo should resign, compared to 55% who said he should not. However, the same poll found that 59% of New York voters didn’t think he should run for reelection. (New York Times)
  • SUPERMARKET SWEEP. Grocery store tycoon John Catsimatidis (R) “has been gearing up to run” for New York City mayor, but is now “considering a run for governor” following Cuomo’s ongoing scandals. (New York Post)
  • SPEAKING OUT. “Charlotte Bennett, one of the women accusing” Cuomo “of sexual harassment,” sat down for an interview with CBS News on Thursday and “detailed multiple instances in which the governor allegedly made inappropriate comments.” (CBS News)
VIRGINIA: Former Roanoke Sheriff Octavia Johnson Joins Crowded GOP Primary
The nominating convention will take place May 8.
  • Former Roanoke Sheriff Octavia Johnson (R) announced her bid for governor on Thursday, joining six other candidates at the May 8 nominating convention. “Johnson’s campaign kickoff Thursday was attended by about 18 supporters.” (Roanoke Times)
  • NEW VIRGINIA PAC. Nick Rathod, “Virginia-based political consultant and deputy director of intergovernmental affairs under President Obama,” formed Virginia People’s PAC, a “political action committee aimed at diversifying state and local campaigns in Virginia.” Its “goal is to recruit and train people of color for senior-level staffing roles on political campaigns. … The PAC does not plan to make any immediate endorsements in the state’s upcoming gubernatorial primary.” (Politico)