RIP, Norman Lear. The legendary television producer, best known for bold and influential hit sitcoms including “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Good Times,” died Tuesday at the age of 101. And farewell to former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday that he will retire from Congress at the end of the month “to serve America in new ways.” McCarthy, 58, has been in Congress for nearly 17 years, including 269 days as speaker before being ousted from that job two months ago. “I go knowing I left it all on the field,” he wrote.
Here’s what else is happening as we wait for tonight’s Republican presidential debate starting at 8 p.m.
Senate Republicans Block Ukraine Aid Bill Over Border Policy
Republican senators on Wednesday blocked a procedural vote on a $111 billion national security package that includes roughly $61 billion in aid for Ukraine as well as funds for Israel and immigration enforcement. All 49 Republicans plus independent Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against moving forward on the bill, leaving Democrats well short of the 60-vote threshold.
“Tonight is a sad night in the history of the Senate and in our country,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote. “If there’s a word for what we most need now it is to be serious. If Republicans in the Senate do not get serious very soon about a national security package, Vladimir Putin is going to walk right through Ukraine and right through Europe.”
Although senators in both parties have spoken in support of providing additional aid to Ukraine, Republicans are demanding that any supplemental spending package include significant changes in immigration policy. “If they want money for Ukraine and Israel, they’re not going to get it unless they close the border,” Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said.
Democrats want to focus on the aid for allies and accuse Republicans of demanding too much. “You’ve got Republican leaders saying this isn’t a negotiation, this is about putting a gun to the head of Ukraine and getting whatever we want,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told Politico. “That’s not the way legislation customarily works.”
Schumer insisted that Democrats had made a fair offer to allow Republicans to bring up any border amendments to the aid package at a 60-vote threshold. He said that offer still stands and that Democrats are open to compromising with Republicans.
Biden pushes package: Speaking at the White House earlier Wednesday, President Joe Biden said it is urgent that lawmakers pass the security package and said he is willing to make “significant compromises” on border policy to ensure that aid to Ukraine continues to flow.
“I’ve made it clear that we need Congress to make changes to fix what is a broken immigration system, because we know, we all know it’s broken, and I’m willing to do significantly more,” Biden said. “But in terms of changes of policy and to provide resources we need at the border, I’m willing to change policy as well.”
At the same time, Biden criticized Republicans for refusing to compromise. “Republicans think they can get everything they want without any bipartisan compromise. That’s not the answer,” he said. “And now they’re willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield and damage our national security in the process.”
The aid package “cannot wait,” Biden added. “Congress needs to pass supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess. Simple as that,” he said. “Frankly, I think it’s stunning that we’ve gotten to this point in the first place. Republicans in Congress are willing to give Putin the greatest gift he can hope for and abandon our global leadership.”
Tempers flare: A dozen or more Republican senators walked out of a Tuesday briefing on Ukraine led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as conservatives protested what they said was a lack of focus on border issues. “Their lack of preparedness to discuss and their clear apprehension to utter a word as it pertains to border security policy was not just an oversight, it was intentional,” said Sen. Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana.
It's not clear exactly what set of border policy changes would satisfy Senate Republicans at this point, but one recent GOP proposal reportedly was virtually the same as H.R. 2, the immigration bill passed by the House in May — a hardline set of policies that Democrats have said are unacceptable.
That leaves senators looking for a way to make a deal, but lacking an obvious path to get there. “You're not going to find something that gets every Democrat or Republican,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a Republican from South Dakota. “But we need to find something that gets hopefully the majority of both.”
The bottom line: The effort to provide more aid to Ukraine has stalled, and there are worries that the delay could become permanent. The Senate is scheduled to leave town for the week on Thursday afternoon and has just one more week on its schedule for the rest of the year.
Quote of the Day
“Hopefully no one dies.”
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican from Georgia, commenting on her party’s shrinking majority in the House now that former speaker Kevin McCarthy has announced plans to retire at the end of the year, before the end of his current term. McCarthy’s decision means that Republicans will start 2024 with an even smaller margin of 220 seats to 213 for Democrats as they await the results of special elections to replace McCarthy and Rep. George Santos, the New York Republican who was expelled last week for ethics violations.
Number of the Day: $4.8 Billion
The Biden administration said Wednesday that it has approved $4.8 billion in additional student debt relief for more than 80,000 borrowers, bringing the total debt cancellation under President Biden to $132 billion for more than 3.6 million borrowers. The Supreme Court earlier this year struck down Biden’s signature student debt relief plan, but the president said in a statement Wednesday that he is “continuing to pursue an alternative path to deliver student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible.”
Fed Chair Jerome Powell Is NOT Time Magazine’s Person of the Year
On Monday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell was named one of nine finalists for Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Powell was joined on the shortlist by luminaries such as Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, King Charles III of the United Kingdom, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Barbie. Powell was cited by Time for his “key role managing high inflation in the U.S., trying to architect the so-called ‘soft landing’ of reducing inflation by raising interest rates without causing a recession—a goal felt in the wallets of Americans and economies across the world.”
Time announced Wednesday that its person of the year is Taylor Swift. The music superstar did boost GDP, after all. She follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnky, who was awarded Time’s title last year, and Elon Musk, who was chosen in 2021.
Fiscal News Roundup
- Republicans Block Ukraine Aid Bill Over Border Objections – New York Times
- Biden Calls on Congress to Approve Aid to Ukraine: ‘This Cannot Wait’ – New York Times
- Biden Appeals for Ukraine Aid, Calls Reluctance of Congress ‘Stunning’ – Washington Post
- Biden Willing to Make ‘Significant Compromises’ on Border Policy Amid Fight for Ukraine Funding – The Hill
- Dems Assess Wreckage of Border Talks: ‘They Never Should Have Started’ – Politico
- Sen. Murray: Johnson's Funding Fallback Would Be 'Absolutely Devastating' – Politico
- House Set to Weigh Warrantless Spy Powers as Part of Defense Policy Bill – The Hill
- Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy Will Retire From Congress at End of Year – Washington Post
- Trump Says He Wouldn’t Be a Dictator ‘Except for Day One’ – Washington Post
- Biden Administration Cancels Nearly $5 Billion More in Student Loan Debt – CNN
- Why Doctors and Pharmacists Are in Revolt – New York Times
Views and Analysis
- Maybe It’s Better If US Bonds Were Boring Again – Jonathan Levin, Bloomberg
- Will the Supreme Court Help the Right ‘Starve the Beast’? – Robert Kuttner, American Prospect
- America Is Having Yet Another Drug Shortage. Here’s Why It Keeps Happening – Emily Tucker, New York Times
- Who Gets Paid for Not Cutting Down Trees? – Matt Levine, Bloomberg
- Kevin McCarthy Delivers an Elbow to the GOP’s Skinny House Majority – Jim Geraghty, Washington Post
- Democrats Can Win if They Make the 2024 Election About Healthcare – Eleanor Clift, Daily Beast
- Renewable Energy Could Be a Casualty in the War on Inflation. Here’s Why – Jim Tankersley and Brad Plumer, New York Times