GOP Infighting Heats Up as McConnell Gets a Challenger

GOP Infighting Heats Up as McConnell Gets a Challenger

Sen. RIck Scott
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, November 15, 2022

It’s been a week since Election Day and Republicans are just now on the verge of cementing a House majority that they expected to lock up long ago. As of Tuesday afternoon, the GOP had 217 of the 218 seats needed to control the House. Here’s an update on the election fallout.

GOP Clashes Heat Up as McConnell Gets a Challenger

Republicans recriminations continue to fly over the party’s election letdown. “It was a hugely underwhelming, disappointing performance,” Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who cruised to reelection, told reporters Tuesday.

As the finger-pointing continued and GOP members grappled with the future direction of the party, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) managed to take a step toward securing the speaker’s gavel he has long coveted.

The 57-year-old was easily reelected by House Republicans as their leader, despite a challenge from Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, the former head of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, who got 31 votes to McCarthy’s 188. McCarthy still faces a struggle ahead as he tries to quell dissent among conservatives and line up the 218 votes he’ll need to become speaker when the full House convenes in January.

McConnell faces a challenge from Rick Scott: On the Senate side, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott announced to his colleagues that he will challenge Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell for the top GOP leadership spot.

Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has clashed repeatedly with McConnell over the past year. Early in the year, Scott released a proposed agenda for the party that included, among other things, a controversial plan that would require Social Security and Medicare to be renewed by Congress every five years. McConnell pointedly rejected the Scott plan an emphasized that he would set the Senate GOP agenda. The sniping between the two senators and their allies continued in recent weeks and months as they argued over election strategy and campaign spending.

“I believe it’s time for the Senate Republican Conference to be far more bold and resolute that we have been in the past. We must start saying what we are for, not just what we are against,” Scott reportedly wrote in a three-page “Dear Colleague” letter Tuesday. Scott also urged his colleagues not to raise the federal debt limit until they win concessions from Democrats on government spending, indicating that he favors the kind of brinkmanship that rattled financial markets and raised questions about U.S. governance in 2011. “We shouldn’t be raising the debt ceiling unless we’re gonna do structural change, we’re gonna cut costs,” Scott said in a television appearance.

Some Republicans reportedly also criticized McConnell for backing the idea of passing an omnibus spending package by the end of the year. The GOP leader has faced a steady drumbeat of attacks by former President Donald Trump and his allies. He has also faced calls from some Republican senators to postpone the elections for party leadership posts, scheduled to be held Wednesday morning, until after the December 6 runoff in the Georgia Senate race. He has told reporters he has the votes he needs to stay on as GOP leader but reportedly left open the election timing, in a possible sign of growing discontent among his members. “You don’t lose an election like this without there being some change,” Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) said Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reportedly mocked Scott in a speech on the Senate floor. “If Republicans want to follow Rick Scott’s lead, make our day,” Schumer said. “Following Senator Scott is like following a blind man right over the cliff.”

But a McConnell adviser sought to paint Scott as the Democrats’ dream candidate: “If you liked Republicans losing Senate campaigns, while saddling the party with tax increases and Medicare cuts, then you’re going to love Rick Scott’s campaign for leader,” Josh Holmes told The Washington Post. “It does have a constituency, but unfortunately for him, it’s entirely within the confines of the Democratic conference.”

The bottom line: There’s a lot of maneuvering happening between now and January 3, when the next Congress convenes, but it’s already clear that gridlock is the most likely outcome for the next two years and Republican infighting will be a major story line. Trump, as is his habit, will only add to the turmoil by announcing another White House run tonight.

White House Wants Another $48 Billion for Ukraine Aid and Covid Response

The Biden administration is asking Congress to provide another $37.7 billion in aid for Ukraine, as well as $10 billion to fund the response to Covid-19 and other infectious diseases. The request was sent by Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Tuesday.

Here’s how the White House explained the need for the request:

Ukraine: “We must continue to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and stand resolute in the face of Russia’s brutal war. Since the beginning of Putin’s war, the United States has rallied the world to support Ukraine. Together, with strong, bipartisan support in Congress, we have provided significant assistance that has been critical to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield—and we cannot let that support run dry. To date, roughly three-quarters of the funds previously provided by Congress have been disbursed or committed, with even more expected by the end of the year. That’s why we are urging Congress to provide $37.7 billion through the duration of this fiscal year to ensure Ukraine has the funding, weapons, and support it needs to defend itself, and that vulnerable people continue to receive lifesaving aid. The request also addresses the critical global food and energy shortages caused by Russia’s invasion.”

Covid-19: “There remains an urgent need for additional COVID-19 funding to help us stay prepared in the face of an unpredictable virus. While COVID-19 is no longer the disruptive force it was when President Biden took office, we face the emergence of new subvariants in the United States and around the world that have the potential to cause a surge of infections, particularly as we head into the winter months—a time when viruses like COVID spread more quickly. We know how to manage this moment, but as the Administration has long made clear, we need additional resources to ensure that we have the necessary services and supplies to keep the American people safe. That’s why we are requesting $8.25 billion to help prepare for a possible winter surge, smooth the path to commercialization for vaccines and therapeutics, accelerate research and treatment for long COVID, and develop next-generation vaccines and treatments.”

The White House is also requesting $1 billion to combat Covid-19 in other parts of the world, as well as $750 million to fight other infectious diseases, including monkeypox.

Aiming for the lame-duck: Democrats are racing to address emergency funding requests and other budgetary priorities before Republicans take control of the House in January. The emergency funding would likely be folded into an omnibus bill covering the rest of fiscal year 2023; the continuing resolution currently providing funding for the government expires on December 16.

Republicans have opposed previous requests to provide new funding for the Covid-19 response, and some — including McCarthy — have expressed doubts about providing additional aid to Ukraine. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), a rising star on the far right who is expected to have considerable influence in a Republican House, said earlier this month that “under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tuesday that the new request was “urgent to make sure that we get them everything that we can possibly get into the omnibus so that they have the weapons to continue the momentum moving through the winter.”

Numbers of the Day

$3.1 billion: Walmart proposed a $3.1 billion settlement with state attorneys general to resolve allegations that it contributed to the U.S. opioid crisis by failing to appropriately oversee the dispensing of the addictive drugs at its stores.

Most opioid manufacturers and distribution companies have already reached multi-billion-dollar settlements and earlier this month, CVS and Walgreen’s, the two largest pharmacy chains in the country, proposed similar deals that would see each company pay about $5 billion.

“With the largest pharmacies now settling, it represents a shift in the opioid litigation saga. For years, the question was whether companies would be held accountable for an overdose crisis that a flood of prescription drugs helped spark,” Geoff Mulvihill of the Associated Press reports. “With the crisis still raging, the focus now is on how the settlement dollars — now totaling more than $50 billion — will be used and whether they will help curtail record numbers of overdose deaths, even as prescription drugs have become a relatively small portion of the epidemic.”

$391.5 million: Google has agreed to pay nearly $400 million in a settlement with 40 states investigating the company’s location tracking practices. “This $391.5 million settlement is a historic win for consumers in an era of increasing reliance on technology,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.” The investigation was prompted by a 2018 Associated Press story that revealed that Google still tracked location data for users who had opted out of such tracking.

8 billion: There are now 8 billion humans on planet Earth, according to the United Nations. “This unprecedented growth is due to the gradual increase in human lifespan owing to improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine,” the UN said in a statement. While it took 12 years for the global population to go from 7 billion to 8 billion, it will take about 15 years to add the next billion as population growth slows. The latest projections show the human population peaking at about 10.4 billion people in the 2080s.

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