House is home for the holidays, Senate sticks around

House is home for the holidays, Senate sticks around

With Marianne LeVine and Andrew Desiderio.

WHILE YOU WERE (HOPEFULLY) SLEEPING — The House vote to increase the debt limit by $2.5 trillion stretched past midnight and into Wednesday morning, just teasing the ominous X-date. In the end, both the House and Senate cleared legislation to raise the borrowing cap by a sum that is expected to last into 2023. Wednesday was expected to be the X-date by which the Treasury Department said the nation was at risk of defaulting on the nation’s $29 trillion in loans, which would spark an economic catastrophe. Jennifer and Caitlin have the full story on debt limit ping pong that wrapped up overnight.

ORDER OF OPERATIONS — Senate Democrats are trying to avoid ending the year stalled on two of their top priorities: elections reform and President Joe Biden’s social spending bill. And none other than Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) holds the keys to both.

During a private leadership meeting Monday, Democratic senators went back and forth on how to handle their two biggest tasks, with some pushing for both to be wrapped up by the end of the year, and others wanting to kick them to 2022.

Manchin, meanwhile, is in talks this week with Biden about the social spending plan and met with a trio of Senate Democrats Tuesday to discuss voting rights and rules change, signs that the West Virginia Democrat is still open to casting his critical vote for both measures.

“The dynamics are interwoven,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is urging Democrats to finish both the elections and voting reform bill and the social spending bill in December. “There’s no policy reason they have to be linked, but they do come down to the same person.”

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) said Tuesday that he would like to address voting rights before Biden’s social spending plan. “Voting rights should be the very next thing we do,” Warnock said. “We’ve got to get Medicaid expansion, we’ve got to get child care, we’ve got to get relief to farmers. All of those things matter. But the point I’m making in this moment is: We have to have a democratic framework to continue to push for those things.” More from Marianne and Burgess: Senate Dems’ choice: Election reform first, or Biden’s megabill?

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Wednesday, December 15, where we prefer to text about the Congressional Record, not have our texts entered into the Congressional Record.

Don’t miss it: Burgess finally gets the attention he deserves from the Washington Post’s Style Section and a promotion (?) to “the Politico Manchinologist.”

DEFENSE ON DECK — The Senate is on track to pass the annual defense policy legislation Wednesday morning. The $768 billion defense policy bill is the product of year-end negotiations between leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees and cleared the House last week 363-70, with more GOP votes than Democrats. Once the Senate votes on final passage, the bill will head to the White House for Biden’s signature.

LATE NIGHT CONTEMPT — Late Tuesday night, the House voted 222-208 to hold former House member and Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress, making him the second official who could face charges over his refusal to cooperate with the panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Two Republicans — Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) — joined Democrats in voting “yes.” Nicholas has more on the presentation of previously unreported messages Meadows received and what is next on contempt.

A CALL FOR HELP, STREAMLINED Both chambers quietly passed legislation by unanimous consent this week that empowers the Capitol Police chief to request assistance from the National Guard and Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department without prior approval from the Capitol Police Board. That has big implications for a post-Jan. 6 environment on Capitol Hill. The Senate’s joint investigation into the security failures on Jan. 6 found that the bureaucratic nature of the Capitol Police Board contributed to what was a slow response to the violence at the Capitol as pro-Trump rioters began to breach the building. The bill now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature.

A VOTING-RELATED INJURY Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was rushing from a Foreign Relations Committee hearing to the Senate floor for votes when he “slipped getting onto the subway and crashed to the floor, fracturing and dislocating his right shoulder, the side he writes with,” reports Jonathan D. Salant of NJ Advance Media. Menendez didn’t miss the next votes, but said he might end up needing surgery. “I’m going to survive and I’m one tough son of a bitch, so this too will pass,” he said.

WORDS TAKEN DOWN The House’s exit Tuesday night encapsulated the sky-high tensions and bad-faith feelings between the parties, closing out the year embroiled in procedural morass over whether lawmakers used offensive language during floor speeches. Accusations against Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were quickly dismissed, but charges that Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Pa.) unfounded allegation that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is affiliated with terrorist organizations was deemed to be offensive and in violation the rules of the House.

What does having “words taken down”actually mean? A House member can demand that words of another lawmaker be “taken down,” requiring the remarks in question to be read back to the House so that the speaker and parliamentarian can determine if they are offensive or violate the chamber’s standards of decorum. Perry didn’t back down and didn’t seek unanimous consent to have his own stricken from the Congressional Record, a common contrition in this situation. So the House endured the full procedural rigmarole. Because the vague House rule that prohibits members from engaging in “personalities” during debate doesn’t explicitly state what language is unparliamentary, the rulings are based on precedents.

Once Perry’s words were ruled out of order, he could not speak again on the House floor without permission from the chamber, but was permitted to vote. Omar told Sarah she was satisfied with the outcome.

ABOUT THE BILL — The mud slinging arose amid debate on a bill that would create an office within the State Department to combat Islamophobia globally. It cleared the chamber on party lines. While Democrats said the legislation was necessary in order to confront Islamophobia worldwide, Republicans said it was so “vague” as to allow executive-branch officials to crack down on protected speech for political purposes. Andrew has more.

WHEN WORDS AREN’T ENOUGH — There are plenty of year-end photo roundups, but your Huddle host is partial to one with a laser focus on Washington and Capitol Hill… naturally. Don’t miss Roll Call’s “Photos that defined 2021 on Capitol Hill,” from a photo team that doesn’t miss a thing.

SENATE SCHEDULE SET — While the House isn’t expected to return in the new year until Jan. 10, according to the Senate’s 2022 calendar, the upper chamber will be in town starting Jan. 3 and has a session scheduled for the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Anthony and Burgess have more takeaways here. Related: Susan Collins Says Senate Shouldn’t Be In Session For Jan. 6 Anniversary, from HuffPost.

DIPLOMATIC BRINKMANSHIP Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is in active talks with both Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), over lifting their holds on nominees for ambassadorships and other critical national-security positions, Andrew reports. The goal of the negotiations would be to confirm several nominees — before the end of the year — who have been subjected to Cruz’s and Hawley’s blockade of foreign-policy nominations. There are 54 ambassador nominees and dozens of others who have cleared committee hurdles and are lagging on the Senate floor, and members of both parties want to see as many of them confirmed as possible before lawmakers leave town.

But even if Schumer can negotiate with Cruz and Hawley, other GOP senators have holds on certain nominees, too.

CELEB SIGHTING — Angelina Jolie was back on Capitol Hill Tuesday. She talked to Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) about the Violence Against Women Act and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) about “ways in which we can support children and families at home and abroad,” according to a tweet from his office. She also sat down with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) to discuss Afghan women and religious minorities. “We appreciate all the work Ms. Jolie has done and her dedication to help the long-suffering Afghan people,” Graham and Shaheen wrote in a joint statement.

QUICK LINKS

After Kentucky devastation, critics seize on Rand Paul’s record opposing disaster bills, from Mike DeBonis at The Washington Post

Las Vegas airport renamed for former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, from The Las Vegas Sun

Marginalized by Her Party, Cheney Takes Center Stage in Jan. 6 Inquiry, by Catie Edmondson and Luke Broadwater of the New York Times

[Insert Metaphor Here]: The Two Escaped Zebras In Prince George’s Are Back In Captivity, from DCist

TRANSITIONS

Rachel Ledbetter, former communications director for Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) and a Sen. David Vitter alum, started at the US Chamber of Commerce this week as Senior Manager of Communications and Strategy.

Rep. Diana Harshbarger’s (R-Tenn.) office is adding Ian Orr as director of operations. Jake Corsi will be Harshbarger’s legislative correspondent.

Jaana Symeis is joining Meguire Whitneyas an associate. She most recently was a legislative correspondent for Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah).

TODAY IN CONGRESS

The House is not in session

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. with votes expected at 11:30 a.m.

AROUND THE HILL

10:45 a.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds her weekly press conference (Studio A).

Noon Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and other Senate Republicans hold a press conference on Democrats’ child care proposals (S-325).

2:30 p.m. Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the U.S. airline industry with major airline executives (253 Russell).

TUESDAY’S WINNER: Kevin Bohn correctly answered that Dr. George Calver, a George Washington University School of Medicine graduate, was the Capitol’s first Attending Physician. On December 5, 1928, the House passed a resolution directing the Secretary of the Navy to assign a medical officer to provide health care for Representatives.

TODAY’S QUESTION from Kevin: As Rahm Emanuel awaits Senate confirmation as U.S. ambassador to Japan, how many White House chiefs of staff have held different administration jobs in later administrations?

The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected]

GET HUDDLE emailed to your phone each morning.

Follow Katherine on Twitter @ktullymcmanus