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D.C. Memo: More like parliament flunk-adelic

There’s no (FY22) money in politics, a lame rally and the Senate parliamentarian throws a wrench in Dems’ plans.

image of us senate flour
Democrats’ budget plans were dealt a blow Sunday when the Senate parliamentarian ruled planned immigration policy changes fell outside what is allowed for budget reconciliation votes.
REUTERS

Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me celebrating the first day of fall by lighting some pumpkin-scented candles. In homage to my Minnesota roots, I also stockpiled a few “Honeycrisp Apple” candles from Trader Joe’s. Love those things. That’s about all I feel in the mood for; it’s still regularly in the 90s in D.C. If there’s one thing I miss about living in Minnesota, it’s how perfect the month of September is. Anyway, before I get too caught up in nostalgia, let’s talk about why we’re all here: There’s no (FY22) money in politics, a lame rally and the Senate parliamentarian throws a wrench in Dems’ plans.

The U.S. government might get funded. Then again, what about Israel’s Iron Dome?

It took me a few minutes to verify that this was real: The U.S. government, which must be funded before the beginning of the next fiscal year (a.k.a. eight days from now) could ground to a funding standstill because lawmakers are fighting over whether or not to fund a missile defense system…in Israel.

Let’s back up. Because Congress is still drafting a $3.5 trillion budget for FY2022 (for a variety of reasons that you can read about here and here), and it’s not likely that budget will pass in the next week, lawmakers need to pass a continuing resolution that basically keeps the government operating at current budget levels for a set period of time.

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The House passed the continuing resolution Tuesday night to extend current federal funding levels for health care and other programs through December 3, and the Senate still needs to vote on the measure.

But before the House passed the continuing resolution, there was some drama. Some Democrats nixed a measure that would give around $1 billion to Israel to fund the Iron Dome, which is an air defense system used to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and other artillery fired from up to 45 miles away. House progressives led by Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), the chair of the Progressive Caucus, reportedly threatened to withhold their votes on the continuing resolution if the funding stayed in.

Third District Rep. Dean Phillips was not happy with this decision.

“I’m incredulous that certain D colleagues would shut down our government rather than defend one of our most important allies and only Jewish nation in the world from indiscriminate rockets fired by terrorists who refuse to even recognize their right to exist,” Phillips said on Twitter.

Seventh District Republican Rep. Michelle Fischbach joined Phillips in frustration. She issued a press release after the vote calling the resolution a “blank check for President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, and the progressive Democrats who are desperate to pass their $3.5 trillion socialist wish list.” Fischbach continued, saying that Speaker Pelosi “bowed to the Progressive Caucus and inexplicably removed our longstanding commitment to Israel to help fund the Iron Dome that protects innocent citizens from terrorist rockets from this legislation.”

Rep. Betty McCollum from Minnesota’s Fourth District had some heat for Republicans: “Disappointingly and somewhat shockingly, every House Republican voted to shut down the government. Because this bill included an increase in the debt ceiling to finance expenditures already incurred by the federal government, Republicans knowingly voted to default on the U.S. government’s fiscal obligations – which would undoubtedly have catastrophic consequences for our economy and millions of American families,” McCollum said in a statement.

McCollum has long been a critic of Israeli policy in Congress, and has been an outspoken advocate for Palestinians, particularly Palestinian children, who have been harmed in conflict with Israeli forces.

In the time it took to edit this newsletter Thursday afternoon, the House has now passed a standalone bill to fund the Iron Dome. Democrats couldn’t afford more than three defections from their own party and still pass the continuing resolution in the House, so party leaders removed the Iron Dome funding from the spending bill to get votes from progressives.

Senate parliamentarian is not on Dems’ good side

Speaking of budget: For the past several weeks, Democrats in the House have been fighting to draft and pass their budget bill — called the Build Back Better Act — which contains a host of progressive priorities like universal child care, two years of free community college and a permanent family and medical leave program.

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But a wrench was thrown into Dem’s plans by a lesser-known figure called the Senate parliamentarian, who said that immigration reform included in the budget was more policy-focused than money-focused and didn’t fit into the budget reconciliation process.

Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar was definitely not happy about this, and took to Twitter to say that the ruling “is only a recommendation.” She said the White House “can and should ignore it.”

As a reminder, in the current Senate, split 50-50 down the aisle, most bills need to get 60 votes to pass. Without a 60-vote majority, opposing members can filibuster a bill, essentially killing it.

But using the budget reconciliation process only needs a simple majority in the Senate — 51 votes, with a 50-50 tie ending in a vote by Vice President Kamala Harris. Budget reconciliation votes can’t be filibustered.

Instead of giving you every detail about Dems’ immigration problem here, I’m going to direct you to this story we just published with everything you need to know about why this happened.

The ‘Justice for J6’ rally was pretty lame

D.C. was buzzing this past weekend because of a highly anticipated visit from right-wing activists to the nation’s capital. Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally argued that many of the hundreds of people charged in connection with the breaching of the Capitol were not violent and were exercising their “constitutional right to engage in political protest.”

There was a ton of pre-rally chatter on social media before the event, enough so that the Metropolitan Police Department deployed all of its officers in the city on Saturday. The Capitol grounds, which were poorly prepared for the mayhem on January 6, were secured this time with metal fences and hundreds of officers. And no president or former president issued any speeches to embolden followers this time, either.

In the end, there were more journalists and police officers at the rally than there were protesters. I wasn’t there to watch, but if you want to see some images from the rally, Washingtonian Magazine has some good ones.

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And for just a little bit more on January 6: According to a new poll, “46 percent of [Minnesota] voters thought Jan. 6 was an insurrection, while 42 percent believe it was a legitimate rally that was derailed by the acts of a few violent extremists, and 12 percent aren’t sure. Sixty percent of Minnesota voters surveyed said President Joe Biden was indeed the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election. Another 26 percent said he wasn’t, and 14 percent said they weren’t sure. … Forty-one percent of those polled said they did not believe Trump incited his supporters, and 8 percent said they weren’t sure.”

DOD admits drone strike a mistake

You may have heard over the last few weeks about a U.S. military airstrike in Afghanistan that killed 10 civilians, including at least seven children. The New York Times published an investigation into the airstrike finding that the armed drone fired based on evidence that a vehicle was carrying an ISIS bomb and posed a threat to troops at the Kabul airport, but that those claims were wrong.

This report forced the Department of Defense to admit that the strike was a mistake.

“This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport, but it was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology,” U.S. General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the US General Command, said Friday.

Omar wasn’t happy with this response: “Sorry isn’t enough,” Omar said. “Thousands have been killed in covert, unaccountable drone strikes over the past two decades. We should be demanding accountability for anyone involved in this and a full inquiry into this and the entire drone program. We owe it to the families of victims to acknowledge these crimes, compensate the families, and allow international criminal investigations into these attacks.”

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What I’m reading

  • Our drug supply is sick. How can we fix it?” New York Times. The generic drug supply, at least in my experience, has issues. Name-brand drugs can be so expensive that people can’t afford them, but generics are often so cheap that companies just stop making them or cut corners in order to get any form of profit out of them. This opinion piece does a great job of outlining the issues with the broken prescription drug supply system in the U.S., and also outlines the turn to nonprofits as a potential solution. Shout out to Memo reader Jim S. for sending this my way.
  • Why I violated Texas’ extreme abortion ban,” The Washington Post. A Texas doctor stepped forward over the weekend to say he had performed an abortion that is illegal under the state’s restrictive new law to force a test of its legality. A slew of lawsuits against this doctor are expected to follow his public admission, with the leader of Texas’ largest antiabortion group telling The Post they are “exploring all of our options to hold anyone accountable who breaks the (Texas) law.”
  • Six rules that will define our second pandemic winter,” The Atlantic. Recommending another Ed Yong story? Me? What a surprise! Really, though, this article is a great read, despite making me come to terms with the fact that we have lived with COVID-19 for almost two years now. Last winter I was sure we’d be in the clear by now. But now, during our second pandemic winter, Yong and his coauthors Katherine J. Wu and Sarah Zhang tell us how we should be thinking about the role of vaccines, how to interpret confusing milestone data, and that rare events seem more common at scale (like with, say, a country of over 300 million people).

That’s all from me today. Thanks for reading. As always, feel free to send any questions, comments or your favorite way to celebrate the start of fall to ahackett@minnpost.com, or follow me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.