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D.C. Memo: Emmer leadership put to the test over debt ceiling

Plus: several donors but little money for Trump from Minnesota, and Craig votes against D.C. police reform.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy listening to Majority Whip Tom Emmer during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy listening to Majority Whip Tom Emmer during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
REUTERS/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

WASHINGTON – Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, has his work cut out for him as House Republicans this week released a bill that would raise the U.S. debt limit and cut federal spending.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hopes the budget-cutting plan will pass the House next week, but he can only afford to lose four or fewer GOP lawmakers in the closely divided chamber, which means Emmer, the House majority whip, really needs to use his powers of persuasion to keep his Republican colleagues loyal. A handful of GOP lawmakers say they are undecided on McCarthy’s plan.

It would increase the debt limit by $1.5 trillion, enough to stave off a default until spring of next year, just as the 2024 elections are heating up. It would also cut funding for a number of social programs and clean energy initiatives.

The United States is on a trajectory to default on payment obligations as soon as June — an event Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned would cause economic and financial collapse.

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McCarthy’s budget would bring discretionary spending back to 2022 levels – a $130 billion cut – rescind unspent COVID-19 funds, impose tougher work requirements on  food stamps and Medicaid recipients, ease regulations on energy projects – including federal permitting of mining – and end some tax breaks for clean-energy projects, including electric vehicles.

Emmer tweeted “House Republicans have a plan to limit Washington spending, save taxpayer money, and grow the economy. It’s time for Joe Biden and the Democrats to put politics aside…”

The GOP plan would also end an $80 billion funding boost to the Internal Revenue Service that’s designed to increase audits of the wealthy, update antiquated computer systems and provide better support for taxpayers. It would also block President Biden’s student debt relief plan.

The plan, which House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called “a ransom note,” isn’t expected to win any Democratic support in the House and suffer rejection by the Democratic-controlled Senate. It was called dead on arrival by the White House, which wants a “clean” bill that would raise the debt limit with no conditions.

“MAGA House Republicans are holding the American economy hostage in order to take a hatchet to programs Americans rely on every day to make ends meet,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Nevertheless, McCarthy wants the bill to pass the House in the hopes of reaching an agreement with the White House.

Meanwhile, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes Reps. Dean Phillips, D-3rd District, and Angie Craig, D-2nd District, has released a proposal for avoiding a default on U.S. debt if the White House and congressional leadership fail to reach an agreement.

The group of centrists proposed suspending the debt ceiling through Dec. 31, 2023, and, if certain steps are followed, increasing the debt limit through Feb. 28, 2025 — after the 2024 elections.

The steps that would be taken to increase the debt limit include the creation of a spending bill with unspecified “deficit stabilization controls” to fund the federal government next year, and the establishment of an independent commission to recommend a package of spending reforms that would receive an up-or-down vote in Congress.

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“It’s reasonable and common sense,” Phillips said of the Problem Solver’s plan. “By definition it’s bipartisan.”

The Problem Solvers Caucus, committed to finding common ground on key issues facing the nation, was founded in 2017 an has 31 Democrats and 32 Republicans.

As of right now, the leaders of House Democrats and House Republicans prefer to stay dug in and have shown little interest in a compromise plan.

Like most Democrats, Phillips is critical of McCarthy’s proposal, saying he’s “deeply bothered” by its proposed cuts to social service programs and to the IRS because that investment would cut the deficit by auditing tax cheats, which would result in new revenues.

“There are hundreds of good reasons we invested in the IRS,” Phillips said.

Craig, meanwhile, said she preferred the debt ceiling be lifted “without preconditions.”

“And I’m urging Republican leadership to engage in a good faith conversation with Democrats about where we can cut spending outside of the debt ceiling process,” Craig said.

Trump campaign raises little money in Minnesota

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign took in $14.4 million in the first three months of 2023, but little of that money came from Minnesota residents.

A review of Federal Elections Commission records show that the Trump campaign raised only$105,582 in Minnesota the first quarter of the year. That’s not much more than his GOP rival, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who raised $97,200 from donors in the state.

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While he did not raise a ton of money, Trump had more than 300 campaign contributors in Minnesota, many of whom gave less than $200. But the Trump campaign says fundraising has soared since the former president was indicted in late March.

In the weeks since then, Trump’s campaign has raised another $15 million, his campaign says.

Craig joins GOP on move to kill D.C. police reforms  

Rep. Angie Craig, who was assaulted in the elevator of her D.C. apartment building earlier this year, was one of 14 House Democrats to vote with House Republicans to nullify the city’s police reform legislation.

The District of Columbia policing reforms focus on improving police accountability and transparency, include officer discipline and use of force reforms and improved access to body camera recordings.

With Craig’s support, the House voted to nullify a similar D.C. police reform proposal earlier this year, and the Senate followed suit after President Biden surprised Democrats by saying he would sign the bill that blocked the District of Columbia’s effort.

But this time, Biden said he would veto any attempt to nullify D.C.’s police reforms.

The statement of administration policy on the resolution says that while Biden does not support every provision of the D.C. policing bill, “he will not support congressional Republicans’ efforts to overturn commonsense police reforms such as: banning chokeholds; limiting use of force and deadly force; improving access to body-worn camera recordings; and requiring officer training on de-escalation and use of force.”

Every Minnesota Democrat besides Craig voted against the move in the House this week to block the D.C. policing bill. All Minnesota Republicans voted for it.