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Behind the scenes at the Capitol—and beyond, by Grace Segers

The Other Montana Democrat to Watch in 2024

Yes, Senator Jon Tester is up for reelection—but also, Monica Tranel is looking to take the House seat held by Rep. Ryan Zinke.

Democratic candidate Monica Tranel in Bozeman, Montana
William Campbell/Getty
Democratic candidate Monica Tranel in Bozeman, Montana, in 2022

One could be forgiven for thinking of Montana as a fully red state. Republicans have won every presidential election there since 1996, with Donald Trump carrying it by 16 percentage points in 2020. The state legislature is ruled by a GOP supermajority, and the only statewide elected Democrat is Senator Jon Tester, who faces a challenging reelection bid this year.

Nonetheless, Democrat Monica Tranel is hoping she can flip Montana’s 1st congressional district, a purplish seat currently held by Republican Representative Ryan Zinke. The district is relatively new, established after the 2020 census due to Montana’s population growth (the new district increased the state’s congressional seats to a whopping two). Tranel came within throwing distance of defeating Zinke in their first matchup in 2022, when she lost by roughly three percentage points.

Given this overperformance in a district that supported Trump by more than six percentage points in 2020, the rematch has garnered national party support. In January, Tranel was added to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “red to blue” list of priority candidates who could flip Republican-held seats.

Outside observers nonetheless categorize it as a probable win for Zinke. Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate it as “lean Republican,” while the Cook Political Report designates the seat as “likely Republican.” One of the biggest challenges in reaching voters outside of the district’s more progressive enclaves, such as Missoula, is countering the increased polarization in politics.

Tranel told me that Zinke’s strategy was to “nationalize the race and make me into something I’m not, and then run against that person.” She recalled a recent meeting with members of a local union—once reliable Democratic voters—who were skeptical of her and her party. They echoed talking points that Tranel recognized from national right-wing media outlets, saying that Democrats and President Joe Biden “only ever lie.”

“I said, ‘Look, I’m not running for president. I’m running to represent you in Congress, in this seat. That’s what I’m looking to do,’” Tranel said when we met in a Missoula coffee shop last week.

Indeed, Tranel’s race may be affected by other candidates and issues on the ballot: This year, Biden and Trump will be at the top of the ticket, as will Tester. A state initiative to enshrine the right to an abortion up to around 24 weeks of pregnancy is also likely to make it onto the ballot in November. It’s still unclear how these other lines on the ballot will affect the turnout and outcome on Election Day.

Zinke is outpacing Tranel in fundraising; as of the end of March, he had $2.3 million in his campaign coffers, compared to Tranel’s $1.3 million in cash on hand. Al Olszewski, the chair of the Flathead County Republicans, who ran against Zinke in the 2022 GOP primary, said that Tranel would perhaps have an even more challenging race this year. In 2022, this was an open seat, but now Zinke is an incumbent with a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

“If you’re going up against a giant, how are you going to kill the giant?” asked Olszewski.

Tranel believes she needs to capture a segment of the electorate—rural voters—who, like those skeptical union members she met, have begun to turn away from Democrats in recent years. Nationally, Republicans have a significant advantage over Democrats with rural voters: According to Pew Research, 61 percent of registered voters in rural counties are Republicans. Still, in 2022, Tranel improved upon Biden’s 2020 performance in a few of the 1st congressional district’s more sparsely populated counties.

“Democrats have abandoned rural America to our own detriment and said, ‘We can’t win there; why bother showing up?’ But that’s my home,” Tranel said. “We have a lot of work to do. It’s not going to happen in one visit. It’s not going to happen in two. I’ve been doing it over and over again for four years, and it’s because I’m invested in the home that I live in.”

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

Vibe check: Big trouble in little DCA

Each week, I provide an update on the vibes surrounding a particular policy or political development. This week: An update on plans to increase flights to and from D.C.’s most convenient airport.

Now that Congress has funded the government, it’s time to turn our attention to what really matters: a niche yet intense battle over whether to increase the number of flights at Ronald Reagan National Airport (a.k.a. DCA).

This week, congressional negotiators released text of legislation to reauthorize funding the Federal Aviation Administration ahead of a May 10 deadline. The bill includes a controversial provision to add five new round-trip flights to Reagan National—10 flights in total—beyond the airport’s 1,250-mile perimeter. This provision quickly incurred the wrath of the four Democratic senators from Virginia and Maryland, who insinuated in a letter that it was included for the personal convenience of far-flung members of Congress.

“We understand the desire of senators to shorten their commutes home, but this proposal would benefit few while impacting many, first and foremost in safety but also in delays and in reducing the economic competitiveness of smaller destinations within the perimeter,” said Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, citing a recent near collision at the airport, as well as a 2023 memo by the FAA warning of increased delays if round-trip flights were added.

The so-called “DCA perimeter rule” bars nonstop flights to destinations more than 1,250 miles away, with exceptions for 10 major cities, in part to reduce congestion and ensure that Dulles International Airport remains the long-haul hub of the region. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told lawmakers this week that Reagan National had “the hardest-working runway in the national airspace.”

“We would be concerned about the pressure that that could put on the system. Of course, we stand ready to make good on whatever Congress provides,” Buttigieg said.

The issue of additional slots helped stall negotiations over the FAA reauthorization bill last year, amid intense lobbying from airlines. In 2023, United Airlines, which opposes the expansion, spent more than $9 million in federal lobbying efforts; Delta Air Lines, which supports adding more long-distance flights, spent around $5 million in federal lobbying.

Support for more DCA flights falls less along party lines than regional ones. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the measure’s biggest proponents hail from Western states, while lawmakers who live closer to Washington are more likely to be opposed. One exception is Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock, a supporter of DCA expansion who already has an abundance of daily direct flights home to choose from—but his state is also home to Delta’s headquarters.

Van Hollen told me on Wednesday that opponents of the expansion were pushing for an amendment process to strip that provision out of the bill. “You cannot present this bill as a safety measure when you’re compromising safety at National Airport,” Van Hollen said after a meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus. He added that he had raised the issue in the meeting. “I just asked all my colleagues how they would feel if Congress was dictating how many slots all their local airports had,” he said.

What I’m reading

Challengers is a brutal game of desire, by Annie Berke in The New Republic
Interpreting Shōgun was more than just translation, by Bethy Squires in Vulture
America is nowhere near peak stuff, by Amanda Mull in The Atlantic
Beating cancer used to be bipartisan. What happened? by Erin Schumaker in Politico
Nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain could roil Nevada U.S. Senate race, by Seema Mehta in the Los Angeles Times
How far Trump would go, by Eric Cortellessa in Time
Tears and despair at Florida abortion clinic in final hours before ban, by Caroline Kitchener in The Washington Post

Pet of the week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pet is Minnie the Moo, a houndlet submitted by King Williams. As evidenced by her chic apparel, Minnie was prepared for cold winter walkies in Tennessee this year. (One can only imagine her summer looks!)

The Supreme Court Could Change How We Think About January 6

The high court will weigh in on whether hundreds of rioters were properly charged in a case that may have big ramifications for prosecutions yet to come.

Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Another week, another blockbuster Supreme Court case that could have lasting consequences for American politics: On Tuesday, the nation’s high court heard arguments in a case challenging whether federal prosecutors could charge rioters in the January 6, 2021, siege of the Capitol using a law that criminalizes what is known as “obstructing an official proceeding.” The Justice Department has argued that defendants violated this law, enacted in the wake of the Enron scandal more than two decades ago, by attempting to prevent the certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory in 2020.

More than 350 people have been charged, and more than 100 have pleaded guilty or been convicted, under the statute, which has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Perhaps the most prominent person charged under the federal obstruction statute: former President Donald Trump.

But the justices seemed to be divided on the issue in arguments on Tuesday. Some conservative justices, who comprise the majority of the court, worried that the statute grants federal prosecutors overly expansive authority to target protesters. “Would a heckler in today’s audience qualify, or at the State of the Union address? Would pulling a fire alarm before a vote qualify for 20 years in federal prison?” Justice Neil Gorsuch asked.

Justice Clarence Thomas—whom Democrats hoped would recuse from the case, due to the efforts by his wife, Ginni Thomas, to overturn the 2020 election—questioned whether the law had been used in relation to other violent protests. (Although the case will not be decided for months, federal judges in lower courts have allowed several of the defendants who were imprisoned because of the law to be released from custody.)

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 includes a provision that applies to anyone who “alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals a record, document, or other object, or attempts to do so, with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding,” or “otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.” The Biden administration’s arguments rest on the word “otherwise,” maintaining that it is a catchall that refers to obstruction that goes beyond the shredding of documents. But Chief Justice John Roberts argued that “the general phrase is controlled and defined by reference to the terms that precede it”—in this case, “alters, destroys, mutilates, or conceals.” (This would not be the first time the executive branch has been stymied by the judiciary in using Sarbanes-Oxley: In 2014, the Supreme Court limited the interpretation of the law outside of corporate fraud cases.)

Perspectives on the case from Capitol Hill, somewhat predictably, were divided along party lines. GOP Senator Josh Hawley argued that the federal application of Sarbanes-Oxley in this case ran “far, far afield” of the original intent of the law. “You want to charge rioters, go right ahead. Charge them with trespass, charge them with assault, charge them with whatever,” Hawley said. “They have applied that so broadly, and they’ve completely lifted it out of the records context, and that could be applied to just about any situation to any government proceeding.”

If the Supreme Court were to limit the use of the law, it’s unclear what effect this would have on prosecutions relating to the January 6 riot; many defendants, including the former police officer who brought this case before the court, were charged with multiple other crimes. Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the federal case against Trump, has argued that a narrower reading of the law would not prevent the former president from being prosecuted under the statute. The two obstruction counts against Trump involve him conspiring to create false slates of electors, which Smith says would apply even under a stricter interpretation of the statute.

“I’m curious to see what the Supreme Court will say, but nothing in that particular legal adjudication affects in any way our sense of the criminal character of the violent and fraudulent assault on the 2020 election,” said Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who was a member of the House select committee that investigated the riot in 2022. “I don’t think there’s any cause for a narrowing construction of that statute. But I think that if it did happen, again, it doesn’t change the essential character of the events we’re talking about.”

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

Vibe check: The future of the Affordable Connectivity Plan

I’ve previously written in this newsletter about the Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps connect millions of low-income Americans to the internet—and which will end in May if Congress does not approve additional funding. The program grew from a pandemic-era benefit, and has been used by around 23 million households. Despite bipartisan and bicameral support for the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, which would boost funding for the program by $7 billion, the future of the bill is uncertain. Congress is preoccupied with a host of other priorities, including approving a supplemental package of aid to Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific.

Despite these complications, a group of Democratic representatives is pressuring Johnson to take up the legislation. I spoke with Representative Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, the chair of the New Democrat Coalition, about how her caucus of centrist Democrats is pushing to keep the Affordable Connectivity Act a priority. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

The ACP is set to end in May. Do you believe Congress can approve legislation to extend the program before that deadline?

I certainly hope so. I mean, that’s our goal. We’ve waited too long, obviously. This was a bipartisan bill when it passed; the extension has two dozen Republican co-sponsors. And we were hoping that they would help us to get it to the floor quickly. Now we’re really running up against the deadline. And so we want to make sure that we keep the pressure on the House Republican leadership.

These enrollees are all across the country, in red and blue districts, so we’ve got to put aside partisan politics and work together. It’s a lifeline for American families, for students doing homework, or people applying for jobs. We have very low unemployment, and our companies are looking for people to do jobs, to cover their job openings. And if you don’t have the internet from home, you can’t apply for the job. You can’t look up the bus schedule to get to the job. You can’t be in touch with your employer to send or receive messages.

The way America works and lives, and the way our communities function—for schools, for hospitals—everyone has the expectation that people will be available via the internet. And 23 million Americans have had this access to affordable internet. We’ve been closing this digital divide. This is true for low-income communities, but it’s also true for rural communities like my district to provide access to affordable broadband. We did this during Covid because it became immediately apparent how important it was for telework, for telehealth, for education online. And then now it’s being stripped away—just in my own state, we’re talking about 40,000 households. So that is a significant number of people who will no longer be able to participate in the normal course with our community and with our economy.

What do you believe is the best pathway for approving the Affordable Connectivity Program extension?

Well, the best pathway would be to just attach it to a bill that’s going to be considered, and get it to the president for his signature as quickly as possible. If the Republican leadership is unwilling to do that, then we would have to consider alternative pathways.

What kind of bill would you want to see it attached to?

Whatever passes the relevancy test. It’s such a popular bipartisan program. It shouldn’t be difficult to identify it—you know, a path to get this done. This should be a priority, really, with the deadline bearing down on us?

Well, that does bring me to my next question. There is a lot happening in Congress right now.

Yes, yes. Maybe we could attach it to Ukraine aid. [Laughs]

How do you convince Speaker Johnson that this is a priority?

I think it’s so popular that we should be able to do it on suspension, and now we’ve got a few extra days here. Let’s do it on Friday under suspension. That might be the way to go.

[Author’s note: Approving a bill under suspension of the rules requires a two-thirds majority to pass.]

The bill does, as you mentioned before, have significant GOP support. But there are a few Republicans who say that the ACP is redundant or that it has not truly connected a meaningful number of Americans. How do you respond to those criticisms?

Twenty-three million Americans is a meaningful number to me, and certainly 40,000 households in New Hampshire. We’re a state that has, I think we’re at 2.3 percent unemployment.… We can’t afford to have 40,000 people isolated, not connected to our economy and our society to the extent that they can’t fill out a job application, they can’t apply for a new position, they can’t go online to get new skills. Health care is a great example. So much of health care is working your way up from an entry level [licensed nursing assistant] to getting your credentials, working your way up to nurse practitioner. The way these things happen is that people take classes online, over the weekend, at night. And you’re just, like, squashing all of that talent. I wish I had a sophisticated word. I’m just thinking of just pushing people down. You’re not giving people the opportunity to thrive, and it will impact our economy.

I have one health care provider with 750 openings, they need to be able to communicate with everybody. And if you take 40,000 people out of the pool of potential applicants, just simply because they don’t have access to know about the position, to look online for a job, to fill out the application, to pull down their transcript from their school—everything happens online. Put yourself in the position of trying to apply for a job and not being able to go on a computer. It’s ludicrous in this day and age. And so to me the ACP is the equivalent of basic infrastructure. It’s like having public roads and high winds and phones and everything that we need to function. This is the modern version. The twenty-first-century infrastructure includes access to affordable internet.

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you a question related to the news of the week. So, specifically, consideration of the package of national security bills and what that could mean for Johnson if the House is able to pass this new legislation. Do you think Democrats would be prepared to vote to keep Johnson in office if there is a motion to vacate against him?

So what I have said publicly is that, first and foremost, we’re focused on the substance. So we are taking today to ensure and reassure ourselves that all the parts of the set package are included. So, aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, humanitarian aid to Gaza; there’s a fourth piece that has to do with Taiwan. We need to absolutely confirm that all of the pieces [are there]. But if I accept your proposition that all of the pieces will be passed, I have said publicly that if he’s a man of his word, and he told me directly, personally, that that’s what would happen, then I would personally have no reason to remove him from the chair.

That seems like a very conditional statement.

Entirely. Entirely conditional. And frankly, I wouldn’t even make that decision until that decision had been made by my leadership. You will see Democratic unity on this issue. We will negotiate together. This will be in conjunction with a decision that’s made by our leadership, Leader Hakeem Jeffries and our whip, Katherine Clark. I would never get out in front of them.

What I’m reading

‘I’m gonna O.J. you’: How the Simpson case changed perceptions—and the law—on domestic violence, by Sonja Sharp in the Los Angeles Times

The coiled ferocity of Zendaya, by Matt Zoller Seitz in Vulture

The truth about organic milk, by Annie Lowrey in The Atlantic

How climate change turned camels into the new cows, by Chico Harlan, Rael Ombuor, and Malin Fezehai in The Washington Post

Into the Tubi-verse, by John Wilmes in The Ringer

How the dream of a financial aid upgrade became a nightmare, by Grace Segers in The New Republic. (It was recently pointed out to me by my mother, of all people, that I often include my own stories in the “What I’m reading” segment. To which I respond: How else will I get people to read what I write?)

Pet of the week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pets are Ruby (right) and Jet (left), submitted by CJ Warnke and Rachel Williams. The two siblings, who received their names as part of a gem-themed litter, just celebrated their first birthday in March and are “the best of friends.” “Jet loves to play fetch with his mouse, and Ruby loves to come cuddle on the couch whenever she has the chance,” CJ says.

Republicans Are Betting That Trump Got His Abortion Position Right

The highly volatile issue has been a huge factor in recent elections, but GOP lawmakers seem to believe 2024 will be different.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump in Atlanta on April 10
Megan Varner/Getty Images
Former U.S. President Donald Trump in Atlanta on April 10

In the two years since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion has become a defining campaign issue for Democrats and a thorn in the side of Republicans. The topic was once again at the fore this week, when former President Donald Trump on Monday stated his belief that abortion access should be determined by the states. After weeks of mulling support for a 15- or 16-week national ban, he chose not to endorse federal limits; however, he did not say how his potential administration would approach abortion access on the executive level.

“My view is now that we have abortion where everybody wanted it from a legal standpoint, the states will determine by vote or legislation or perhaps both. And whatever they decide must be the law of the land—in this case, the law of the state,” Trump said in a video posted to his social media site, Truth Social. He also touted his nomination of three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, calling himself “proudly the person responsible for the ending” of Roe.

With few notable exceptions, this viewpoint was quickly embraced by many Republican lawmakers. “I think President Trump is right where he needs to be, and importantly, where a majority of Americans are,” said Senator Thom Tillis.

Although the Biden administration is working to tie Trump to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe, it may be difficult to define him by any particular position on abortion. He is, in many ways, a political Rorschach test: Strong abortion opponents know he would nominate conservative judges, while more centrist Republicans inclined to support him see him as “culturally moderate,” said John Conway, the director of strategy at the Republican Accountability Project.

“[Trump] understands that pro-lifers and evangelicals will go with him no matter what and that he needs to try to neutralize the abortion issue in 2024,” said Conway. “There are voters who understand that Trump is going to do what Trump is going to do to maintain political power.”

Republican Senator Kevin Cramer said that he believed Trump had been speaking from the heart in his announcement on Monday. “It was authentically him. I think it’s where he’s comfortable,” said Cramer.

But Trump’s vague positioning faced a challenge just a day after his announcement. On Tuesday, the Arizona state Supreme Court ruled that a nineteenth-century law prohibiting the procedure could go into effect on Tuesday. The 1864 statute bans abortion without exceptions for rape or incest, and would allow physicians to be prosecuted for conducting the procedure. The ruling was instantly blasted by vulnerable House Republicans from Arizona, as well as GOP Senate candidate Kari Lake, who had previously praised the law. Even Trump, who had just said that abortion should be left to the states, disagreed with the decision.

“It’s all about states’ rights, and it will be straightened out,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday, when asked if the ruling had gone too far. “And I’m sure the governor and everybody else have got to bring it back into reason and that it will be taken care of, I think.”

Trump said later on Wednesday that he would not sign a federal abortion ban if reelected, contradicting his position in his first term in office. However, it’s unclear whether his administration would take executive action to restrict abortion.

It’s difficult to know exactly how much of a motivating factor abortion will be in the 2024 elections, particularly in such close races. Arizona is a critical swing state, with congressional races that could determine control of the House and the Senate. There may be an initiative on the ballot in November that would amend the state constitution to expand abortion access in Arizona. (A similar initiative will appear on the ballot in Florida in November, and may also go to voters in states like Missouri and Montana.)

Representative David Schweikert, a Republican from Arizona facing a difficult reelection, criticized the ruling as “functionally overruling the legislature.” However, he said that he did not believe the ruling would affect the Senate race or his prospects of reelection in November. “It’s the fever delusion of the left,” Schweikert argued.

This view was echoed by Republican Representative Ryan Zinke, the former interior secretary from a swingy district in Montana. The ballot initiative to expand abortion access is “a Democratic push in Montana to mislead, quite frankly, and get the vote out,” Zinke said. “I don’t think it will be successful.”

As far as Trump is concerned, meanwhile, it’s unclear whether any position he might take on abortion would stick to him in the long term.

“One of the political advantages Donald Trump has always had is that voters understand that this man is not an ideologue,” said Conway. “Because Donald Trump can’t be tied down on any ideological issues, voters see him as someone who’s fighting for their interests.”

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

Vibe check: Unpacking the “bold willingness to delay” impeachment

When I started reporting for this week’s vibe check, I did so under the impression that the articles of impeachment for Mayorkas would be delivered to the Senate on Wednesday. Democrats, who control the chamber, then likely would have moved to table or dismiss the articles on Thursday—thus putting the issue to rest. Bada-bing, bada–Bob’s your uncle.

But such a scenario was not to be. Under pressure from Senate Republicans, House Speaker Mike Johnson delayed the transmission of the articles from the House until sometime next week. The outcome will likely be the same: All 51 Senate Democrats, and perhaps a small number of Republicans, likely will vote to table or dismiss the articles. Even if the impeachment did go to trial in the Senate, it would fall far short of the two-thirds vote needed to convict. So why delay the inevitable?

Short answer: Senators hate staying in the Capitol past Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Almost every week, there is a final vote at 1:45 p.m.; senators show up in jeans or other casual attire, ready to cast their votes and skedaddle out of the building. (This is why Thursdays are known on this side of the Capitol as “Senate Fridays.”)

This upcoming Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to address a joint session of Congress in the morning. That would have punted any consideration of impeachment articles to Thursday afternoon—right before senators’ flights out of town. As GOP Senator Mike Lee put it when he praised Johnson’s “bold willingness to delay” the delivery of impeachment articles: “Members will be less inclined to operate under jet fume intoxication on a Monday than they would on a Thursday.” (For his part, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We’re going to move this as expeditiously as possible.”)

GOP senators are expected to put forward their own motions in an effort to put the pressure on vulnerable swing- and red-state Democrats to hold the full trial. Still, despite its ostensible political benefit for Republicans, an impeachment trial is hardly a thrilling prospect. It’s been a little over three years since Trump’s second impeachment trial and a little over four years since his first. As someone who sat through both trials—indeed, the inception of my vibe check came from that coverage—I can confirm that the senators did not enjoy them.

Still, Senator Kevin Cramer noted that Republicans were perhaps more eager to undergo an impeachment trial this time around than they were when Trump was under the microscope. “The issue of the border is just such a wonderful one for us to talk about as Republicans, that I think there’s a little more enthusiasm for it,” he said. “The House did it, so here we are, and now we might as well make the most of it.”

Republicans have also argued it would be a dereliction of duty to dismiss or table the articles. (Of course, they didn’t feel this way when Trump was impeached the second time, when the vast majority of Republicans voted to dismiss the trial.) Senator Josh Hawley, who himself introduced a resolution to make it easier to dismiss articles of impeachment ahead of Trump’s first trial in 2020, argued that successfully dismissing the Mayorkas trial would “probably be the end of impeachment.”

“A future majority that wants to get rid of an impeachment is going to do that. It’s just easy, it’s done,” Hawley said.

Some Republicans do acknowledge that impeachment has become an increasingly political tool, although they insist Democrats started it with their first impeachment of Trump, in particular. Senator Thom Tillis said that he wanted a full trial to occur in order to figure out whether the complaints against Mayorkas were legitimate, rising to the level of an impeachment, or born of anger with the current administration.

“There’s a lot of frustration there. I don’t know if that’s what motivated it, or if there’s really meaningful evidence of a high crime or misdemeanor. I just don’t think we’ll get to the point where that even gets considered or entered into the record on the Senate side,” Tillis said.

Regardless of whether Republicans are actually clamoring to sit through an impeachment trial, the articles have been approved in the House and will eventually be sent over to the Senate.

“In the Senate, we just have to respond to what the House does,” said Senator Mike Rounds. “The House is the emotional animal, the Senate is supposed to be the adults in the room.”

What I’m reading

Shōgun is reinventing the TV epic, by Phillip Maciak in The New Republic

Arkansas led the nation sending letters home from school about obesity. Did it help? by Kavitha Cardoza in NPR/KFF Health News

The RFK-curious women of Bucks County, by Elaine Godfrey in The Atlantic

The deeply silly, extremely serious rise of ‘Alpha Male’ Nick Adams, by Ben Terris in The Washington Post

How Texas teens lost the one program that allowed birth control without parental consent, by Eleanor Klibanoff in The Texas Tribune

Fallout finds the fun in an apocalyptic hellscape, by Austin Considine in The New York Times

Pet of the week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pet was submitted by border collie aficionado Gayle Davis. Here is 7-year-old Lyel, one of her four border collies, reclining in a “pose that he utilizes whenever he wants to appear relaxed but is, in fact, letting me know he wants to be doing something active,” according to Gayle.

Can Abortion Rights Voters Turn Florida Blue?

Democratic Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell tells TNR that Sunshine State voters are “ready to come out to vote and protect reproductive freedom.”

Democratic Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is interviewed during a campaign event at the United Teachers of Dade headquarters in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Democratic Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is interviewed during a campaign event at the United Teachers of Dade headquarters in Miami.

This week, the Florida state Supreme Court issued two rulings with significant ramifications for abortion access in the state. In one decision, the justices overturned decades of precedent by ruling that the state constitution’s enumerated rights to privacy do not apply to abortion, which paves the way for a recently passed Florida law that bans the procedure at six weeks to go into effect beginning in May.

In their second ruling, however, the majority of justices found that a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy could go on the ballot. In other words, the state legislature has had its say, now Florida voters will have the chance to provide an electoral riposte—and overnight, that pending ballot initiative becomes one of the hot tickets in an already heady election season.

But these decisions have major implications for abortion access not only in Florida, the nation’s third-largest state by population, but throughout the South as well. In 2023, more than 84,000 abortions were performed in the Sunshine State, with nearly 8,000 out-of-state residents obtaining an abortion in Florida.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a former Democratic representative challenging incumbent Republican Rick Scott in the upcoming Florida Senate election, told The New Republic that she believes the two decisions by the state high court will not just be consequential for abortion access in the near future—but will have long-term political implications as well, in her state and beyond.

This interview with Mucarsel-Powell has been condensed and lightly edited.

What were your initial reactions to the state Supreme Court decisions released this week?

I had a lot of mixed feelings—because by them upholding the 15-week abortion ban, we know that in 28 days, the six-week abortion ban will go into effect. And it’s a near-ban on all abortions with hardly any exceptions for incest and rape. And I’m very concerned about the safety and the health of women in Florida and in the Southeast region. So many women from the Southeast region come [here] to receive care.

I’m really concerned to see a rise in maternal mortality rates. And it’s an issue that, as someone that came from Latin America, I have seen what happens when women don’t have access to this key critical reproductive health care. It affects, of course, Black women and Latino women disproportionately. And those are the first thoughts that came to my mind when I saw that.

And then at the same time, the good news is that Floridians are going to have the opportunity to make sure that they come out in November to protect their freedoms, their rights. This is an opportunity for us to make sure that we enshrine reproductive health care into the state constitution. But it’s not going to mean anything if Floridians come vote to make it a part of the state constitution to protect a woman’s reproductive health care and abortion care, if then Florida reelects Rick Scott [and] he goes back to the Senate and pushes the national abortion ban. And so I think that my race now is more critical than ever.

Do you think that engagement and interest regarding the ballot initiative on abortion will juice turnout in November, and perhaps get more people aware of your election and more excited about it?

I’ve been in Florida now seeing this grassroots movement and the energized groups that have been on the ground, that actually obtained over a million and a half signatures to make sure that we put this amendment on the ballot in November, and it included [around] 150,000 Republican registered voters. And I’ve been traveling across the state, and people in Florida are ready. They’re ready to come out to vote and protect reproductive freedom, and they’re ready to retire Rick Scott.

Everywhere I go, people know exactly who Rick Scott is. And they know that he’s someone that wants to push an abortion ban, that he proudly said he would have supported a six-week abortion ban if he was governor. And he also, of course, wrote that plan to sunset Social Security and Medicare. He wants to eliminate the [Affordable Care Act]. I mean, there’s so many issues in front of Floridians, and they understand, very well, the stakes. And I think that we are going to see huge turnout because of the amendment, but also because of all these issues, and because we have been present in the state in all these communities, talking to them directly about what it would mean if Rick Scott gets back into the Senate.

[Author’s note: When he was chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2022, Scott authored a proposal that would sunset all legislation after five years, including Social Security and Medicare. Under pressure from his own party, Scott later amended the plan to exclude entitlement programs.]

Florida has a significant Latino population, which has been critical in recent elections, but with whom Democrats have really struggled to engage. So how do you connect with Latino voters, but specifically on issues of abortion and reproductive care?

I’m a Latina, and I’ve been very present in my community for years before I was elected to serve in Congress, during Congress, after Congress. I have been speaking to our communities in Spanish radio, Spanish media, about issues that matter most to them. One of them is gun safety. Latinos understand what it means to live under government control, under political violence, political persecution. And I can tell you that my story is the story of so many Latinos living in South Florida, but also Floridians across the state. And so I feel very strongly that when you are present in our community, they come and vote for the person that’s going to represent them. And that’s what happened in 2018; it’s the same thing that’s going to happen now in 2024.

[Author’s note: Mucarsel-Powell was elected to the House in the “blue wave” of 2018.]

And let’s remember one thing: Argentina, Colombia, Mexico—very conservative countries in Central and South America—passed laws to protect access to abortion and reproductive rights. Because there’s a direct link to violence against women when you don’t have that care, that access to care, and also high levels of maternal mortality. And because of that, women organized in Latin America and were able to put pressure on the government to pass these laws. And so Latina women are Latinas for choice. They don’t want the government interfering in these private matters. They don’t want politicians making those decisions for them. Many of us have left that government to come to America to experience freedom and democracy. And that resonates because it resonates with me as a Latina, and it resonates with our communities in Florida.

[Author’s note: Argentina recently legalized abortion, and the procedure is decriminalized in Mexico and Colombia.]

Do you think that the National Democratic Party should be investing more in Florida and paying more attention to your race specifically?

I’m running because I want to represent all Floridians in the state. I have been called to serve. And I decided very early on that this is going to be my campaign to make sure that I have all the resources; that I have all the support inside of our state. Now I have also said that Florida is a state that’s worth fighting for and investing in. I have been saying this even before I launched my campaign to run for Senate. We are 20 million Americans living in the state of Florida under extremists that are trying to hijack the state, that have tried to paint a facade that is completely false that our state is red. The extremists up at the top—including Rick Scott, who is the poster child for extreme policies in Washington—don’t represent our values. We are a third independent voters, a third Democrats, a third Republicans. We are a bright purple state, and we are ready to vote for our rights, to protect our rights and freedoms in November. And so it would be a huge mistake for anyone to underestimate who we are in Florida.

On the ballot language on abortion: That amendment would protect abortion rights through viability, around 24 weeks. Some abortion rights advocates worry that protecting abortion through viability isn’t sufficient to ensure that everyone has abortion access. Do you believe that language, protection through viability, does enough to protect abortion rights?

I’m focusing on fighting to stop the six-week ban on abortion, and I completely support the abortion ballot measure the way that it’s written.

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

The Tragic Fallout of the World Central Kitchen Airstrikes

The IDF’s attack on food aid workers in Gaza is roiling Washington—and having a chilling effect on everyone working to stave off starvation.

One of the vehicles where employees from the World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip,  Majdi Fathi/Getty Images
Majdi Fathi/Getty Images
One of the vehicles that carried employees from the World Central Kitchen who were killed in an Israeli airstrike, in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip

This week, after Israeli airstrikes killed seven workers from World Central Kitchen—the globe-trotting food aid organization famous for showing up wherever there are people in need (including Washington, during government shutdowns)—multiple humanitarian organizations have suspended their operations in Gaza due to concerns about the safety of their staff. These workers were killed despite traveling through a “deconflicted zone” in armored cars clearly labeled with the World Central Kitchen logo and sharing their movements with the Israeli military. World Central Kitchen, a humanitarian organization founded by celebrity chef José Andrés, is among the groups pausing their operations in Gaza, even as more than one million Palestinians are on the brink of starvation.

Andrés told Reuters in an interview that the convoy had been targeted “systematically, car by car.” “This was not just a bad luck situation where ‘oops,’ we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” Andrés said. The strikes hit the convoy shortly after it left its warehouse in Deir Al Balah, where it unloaded over 100 tons of food aid.

Jeremy Konyndyk, the president of Refugees International and a former top official at USAID, called the strike on the World Central Kitchen convoy a “significant escalation,” notable in part because the organization had worked to coordinate their efforts with the Israeli military. But he also noted that many Palestinian aid workers have been killed since the onset of the war in October; the United Nations has reported that more than 180 humanitarian workers have died.

“Israel is trying really hard to portray this as a one-off, an accident and aberration, and it’s none of those things. The only thing that is different here is that it was international personnel,” Konyndyk said. “This one is different in degree—it is even more egregious, it is more severe, it is grotesque. But it is grotesque in a way that follows a pattern of [Israel Defense Forces] behavior.”

Anera, an organization that provides aid in the Middle East, which has partnered with World Central Kitchen and other groups, is also temporarily suspending its operations. The deaths of the humanitarian workers this week come after the killing of Anera worker Mousa Shawwa last month. As with the seven workers killed this week, Shawwa had shared his coordinates and movements with the Israeli military before his death. Sandra Rasheed, the Palestine director for Anera, said in an interview that aid workers in Gaza had been concerned about their safety after the death of Shawwa and his young son shortly thereafter.

“When April 1 happened, and the WCK convoy was deliberately and intentionally targeted and attacked, and there were seven people that were killed that day, that was a real big shocker to them. They were really worried, [and] they knew that it could have been them,” Rasheed said about the Anera workers, who coordinated closely with World Central Kitchen on the ground. Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that strikes occurred, he called them “unintentional,” and other Israeli military leaders have characterized them as an error—but this does not reassure Anera workers, Rasheed said.

The deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers have invited international condemnation, including some of the strongest criticism from President Joe Biden. (The Biden administration has continued to approve munitions and aid for Israel, although Congress has not approved new military assistance since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.) In Washington, Andrés is an institution, respected across the political class; the deaths of the World Central Kitchen staff may thus resonate with American politicians more than the everyday devastation of Israeli strikes in Gaza. Rasheed theorized that the international community had become accustomed to the deaths of Palestinians, which have topped 30,000, according to health officials in Gaza.

“When the world sees images of international aid workers who are going into a crisis situation, who are going there to serve and to support the people, and then they are killed, that is a shock for them,” Rasheed said.

The pause in operations is temporary, Rasheed said, noting that Anera is still working on aid procurement. However, she said that she would like to see accountability for the Israeli military and more pressure put on the U.S. to stop supplying weapons to Israel.

“Are we being naïve that that would happen? I’m not so sure. I think that the shock of what happened and even some of the initial language of what President Biden said, shows an indication that people are starting to think that people need to be held accountable, that this needs to stop,” Rasheed said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Biden said that he was “outraged” by the incident. However, Politico reported that, while privately “angry,” Biden did not plan on changing the country’s policy toward Israel anytime soon.

“It’s very hard for me to see any real prospect of Israeli behavior changing without the U.S. government majorly upping the ante. Netanyahu has shown repeatedly that he will happily ignore the guidance that he gets,” argued Konyndyk. “As long as the approach of the U.S. government is to urge him to change, rather than deploy leverage to force him to change policy, he won’t change.”

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

The Mifepristone Case Isn’t the Endgame for Abortion Opponents

The Supreme Court was skeptical of this week’s case, but less spurious legal challenges are on the horizon.

Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court
Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images
Demonstrators outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday

The Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared skeptical of arguments in favor of limiting access to mifepristone, a medication approved long ago by the Food and Drug Administration for abortions—at least on the grounds that the plaintiffs, a group of anti-abortion doctors who haven’t actually prescribed the drug, had standing to claim that its availability somehow injured them. Justice Neil Gorsuch mused that the case could be “a prime example of turning what could be a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly on an FDA rule or any other federal government action.”

This is the first major abortion-related case the Supreme Court has heard since the conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000, but attorneys for the plaintiffs—the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which set up shop shortly after Roe was overturned—asked the court to block rules the agency implemented in 2016 and 2021 that made it easier to access the drug, including by mail. (Medication abortion represented 63 percent of all U.S. abortions in 2023, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, and it’s believed that the rise in abortions since Roe was overturned is largely due to the availability of abortion pills by mail.)

The court will release a decision by early July at the latest, but even if mifepristone survives this ruling, abortion opponents will continue to bring legal challenges against the drug. States that have implemented abortion restrictions “will file copycat lawsuits to try to restrict access to medication abortion in every state in the country,” warned Julia Kaye, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project.

During oral arguments on Tuesday, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas indicated another potential legal avenue for restricting mifepristone: They frequently mentioned the Comstock Act, a nineteenth-century law that bans sending obscene material and drugs for abortions through the mail. The federal government effectively stopped enforcing the law nearly a century ago, and the courts have narrowed interpretation of the law to apply only to mailing explicitly illegal material. However, as my colleague Melissa Gira Grant wrote last year, abortion opponents have sought to revive the Comstock Act to block abortion medication.

“This case is just one inflection point in an ongoing assault by anti-abortion extremists against all of our freedoms, both from the state and local level to the federal level,” said Mini Timmaraju, the president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All, an advocacy group that supports abortion access.

A coalition of conservative groups, led by the Heritage Foundation, has prepared a nearly 1,000-page “playbook” for a potential Republican president in 2025, including plans to restrict abortion. This would include directing the FDA to rescind its approval of mifepristone and stopping “promoting or approving mail-order abortions in violation of long-standing federal laws that prohibit the mailing and interstate carriage of abortion drugs”—a reference to the Comstock Act.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, has mulled supporting either a 16-week or 15-week ban on abortion, with some exceptions. Republicans in Congress have also proposed bills to limit abortion, such as legislation that would roll back the FDA regulations allowing telemedicine prescription and mail delivery of mifepristone and even ban medication abortion altogether. Although efforts to restrict mifepristone tanked an agriculture appropriations bill last year, abortion opponents hope that a Republican in the White House and GOP majorities in both chambers of Congress could strengthen their hand.

On top of the 14 states that have banned abortion outright, 12 other states have passed at least one restriction on telehealth medication abortion. Meanwhile, blue states have begun adopting “shield laws” to protect doctors from prosecution should they prescribe abortion medication for out-of-state patients. Progressive groups have also championed state ballot initiatives to protect the right to an abortion in red states.

“We are in the states fighting around these ballot initiatives and fighting for governors, and A.G.s, and state legislatures that will uphold reproductive freedom,” said Timmaraju.

Vibe check: The scene outside of the Supreme Court

Each week, I provide an update on the vibes surrounding a particular policy or political development. This week: The scene on the ground at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The scene outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning was a familiar one, as anti-abortion and pro-Roe demonstrators held competing rallies. There were signs calling abortion a “human right” and signs declaring, “Abortion pills are murder”; anti-abortion rallygoers lying on the ground in protest and abortion supporters in Planned Parenthood pink dancing as Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” thumped from massive loudspeakers.

Shanay Watson-Whittaker, the director for Michigan campaigns at Reproductive Freedom for All, had traveled from her home state. Bedecked in the organization’s signature deep purple, Watson-Whittaker spoke of her six children in their mid-twenties. “This is about their future. It’s up to them what they want to do with their bodies, and I want to make sure that the government does not interfere with that,” she said. “I’m here to make my voice heard for them and their future.”

Inside the courthouse, most justices appeared skeptical about whether the anti-abortion doctors could prove concrete harm from mifepristone. Kaye argued that the case “should have been laughed out of court from the start,” adding, “We are certainly hoping that the justices will recognize that anti-abortion groups’ arguments in this case defied bedrock legal principles and are not based on a shred of credible evidence.”

But Kristen Day, the executive director of Democrats for Life, argued that “this is about providing medication to women without a doctor.”

“As Democrats, we support regulation. We support regulation in every avenue. And for some reason we’ve carved out abortion as, ‘Let’s give this to women without regulations and health and safety standards,’” Day said outside the court, as she waited to speak before the crowd of abortion opponents. (As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists noted in an amicus brief in this case, “Serious side effects occur in less than 1% of patients, and major adverse events—significant infection, blood loss, or hospitalization—occur in less than 0.3% of patients.”)

While mifepristone can be prescribed by a doctor or obtained through a clinic, including via telehealth, a patient’s ability to access it may depend on how strictly their state has restricted abortion; the legality of using mifepristone in a state where abortion is banned is murky.

In April, the Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in a case relating to a federal law allowing emergency access to abortion procedures. One thing is all but certain: When the court next convenes to consider a case relating to abortion rights, there will be protesters jostling outside, shouting to have their voices heard.

What I’m reading

Can this forgotten anti-poverty program be saved? by Grace Segers in The New Republic
Can a tribe’s religious freedom claims halt a major copper mine? by Taylar Dawn Stagner in Mother Jones
‘The whole bridge just fell down.’ The final minutes before the Key Bridge collapsed, by Lee O. Sanderlin and Adam Willis in The Baltimore Banner
In a secret game of prisoner swaps, Putin has held most of the cards, by Aruna Viswanatha, Bojan Pancevski, Drew Hinshaw, and Joe Parkinson in The Wall Street Journal
Living abroad, Jim McDermott finds his liberal utopia, by Ariel Cohen in Roll Call
Why some LGBTQ+ groups oppose the current Kids Online Safety Act, by Jasmine Mithani in The 19th
How Kate Cox became a reluctant face of the abortion rights movement, by Charlotte Alter in Time

Pet of the week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pet was submitted by Tom Grafton. Hank is pictured after a long day at the dog park.

The Popular, Bipartisan Bills That Can’t Get Passed

They’re good ideas, they poll well, and they enjoy the support of Republicans and Democrats. And they haven’t got a hope in hell.

Vermont Senator Peter Welch walks through the hallways of the Senate at the U.S. Capitol.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Vermont Senator Peter Welch introduced the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act in the Senate.

Every once in a while, a bipartisan group of lawmakers comes together to support a popular policy that fulfills the interests of industry leaders and everyday Americans alike. These instances are supposed to be the slam dunks of legislating, a time for lawmakers to prove they are interested in governing to the advantage of their constituents.

It’s all easier said than done.

So it goes with the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation to fund a program that aims to provide 23 million households with affordable internet access. Unless the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, receives an additional $7 billion in funding from Congress, April will be the final full month that households will receive the benefit. In early February, the program stopped accepting new enrollment.

“It’s a good thing that the program has broad bipartisan support. It’s a terrible thing that no one has been able to figure out how to turn that support into actual dollars for the program,” said Greg Guice, chief policy officer at the Vernonberg Group and spokesperson for the Affordable Broadband Campaign.

As a supplemental funding request, the ACP Extension Act was designed to be attached to a larger legislative vehicle. This week, Congress is considering the second tranche of bills to fund the government for the current fiscal year. It’s unlikely that the bill will be tacked onto this spending minibus, and it’s unclear when another opportunity to approve the additional funding for the ACP might arise. So the Federal Communications Commission, telecommunications companies, and low-income Americans alike are bracing for the end of the program.

Senator Peter Welch, the Democrat who introduced the bill in the Senate, said that while the funding bill was not the “last opportunity” to approve the ACP Extension Act, it nevertheless represented “the best opportunity” to get the measure over the goal line. “The ACP has a lot of support, but finding a vehicle to include it, on a practical level, is the challenge,” Welch told me.

The ACP provides up to $30 monthly discounts on internet bills for low-income families and up to $75 monthly discounts for eligible households on tribal lands. It is used by low-income Americans in urban, suburban, and rural areas; it benefits families in red and blue states alike. Indeed, eight of the states that rank highest for enrollment—Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Oklahoma—are largely controlled by Republicans. In November, 26 governors of both parties sent a letter to congressional leaders requesting Congress work with the Biden administration to extend the program.

According to a recent national survey by the Benenson Strategy Group, 49 percent of ACP participants are military families and 19 percent are households with seniors. That same report found that 95 percent of participants said they would struggle with costs if the program is not reauthorized, 75 percent said they fear losing online health care services, 65 percent fear job loss, and 81 percent of parent participants would worry about their child falling behind in school.

Research by the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society has shown that the ACP has helped connect more Americans to the internet. In a recent ethnographic survey, the AARP further found that internet access helps older Americans maintain connections and adapt to a changing world, with participants calling the loss of the ACP “unthinkable.” Some reports also demonstrate a clear economic benefit: Recent analysis by Benton found that every dollar spent on ACP subsidies “returns nearly two dollars in impacts to those using the program.”

ACP supporters outside of Congress comprise a broad coalition, from telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon to advocacy groups like the NAACP, the AARP, and the American Civil Liberties Union. It’s also popular with voters: A recent poll by the Digital Progress Institute found that majorities of Republican, independent, and Democratic voters support extending the ACP.

Nevertheless, the program has its detractors. Some Republican lawmakers have questioned whether ending the ACP would truly result in millions of Americans losing their internet access, with several writing in a December letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel that “it appears the vast majority of tax dollars have gone to households that already had broadband prior to the subsidy.” Senator Ted Cruz has also argued that the ACP is redundant, given a preexisting program called Lifeline intended to lower the cost of broadband. (The discount offered by Lifeline is far lower than that of the ACP, and it also has more stringent eligibility requirements.)

However, a recent survey by the FCC found that 68 percent of ACP recipients had inconsistent or no internet service prior to enrolling in the program, with the majority of those respondents citing affordability as the biggest roadblock to obtaining service. The survey also found that 29 percent of participants would drop their internet service provider if they no longer received the $30 discount monthly. The ACP—which was established by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law—replaced the pandemic-era Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which had around nine million participants. Many who received subsidies through that program then transferred to its successor.

With congressional action uncertain, the FCC is preparing for the wind-down of the ACP. Participants may receive a partial ACP benefit in May, with the amount determined by individual service providers. Qualifying ACP participants earning under a certain threshold could apply for Lifeline, although several providers that participate in ACP do not also participate in Lifeline. Some cities and states have their own internet subsidy programs, and several internet service providers have discounts for low-income and elderly users.

Even if Congress did approve legislation to extend the ACP, it would only keep the program solvent for the next year. A longer-term solution, Guice said, would be for the FCC to expand its revenue base for the universal service fund, which collects money from telecommunications companies with the goal of providing universal internet access. Unlike the ACP, the universal service fund is not subject to the congressional appropriations process.

“What we have now proven, I believe, is that if you leave it to Congress to figure out how to help low-income families get broadband, they’re clearly going to get it wrong,” said Guice. “That failure demonstrates why we cannot let low-income broadband services be provided for through the appropriations process.”

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

Vibe check: Progress on special immigrant visas for Afghans

The funding minibus that will theoretically be approved by Congress in the coming days includes a provision to add 12,000 special immigrant visas, or SIVs, for Afghans who helped the United States during its war in Afghanistan. The current cap is 38,500 SIVs, a congressionally authorized limit that was expected to be reached around the August anniversary of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

This number falls short of the 20,000 additional visas sought by the Biden administration. Still, advocates are celebrating the increase as a qualified victory—an improvement on the current situation, if still insufficient to address the overarching need.

“It’s not a silver bullet, but it is rare in this work that we’re able to celebrate our victories,” said Shawn VanDiver, the founder and president of #AfghanEvac, a coalition that helped to evacuate Afghans during the withdrawal. The authorization of additional SIVs provides “breathing room” for the program, as it grants additional time before the cap is reached and helps thousands of Afghans eligible for SIVs in the U.S. who arrived before completing their application process.

Adam Bates, the supervisory policy counsel at the International Refugee Assistance Project, or IRAP, said in a statement that the “authorization of additional visas extends a vital lifeline for Afghans who risked their lives on behalf of the U.S. mission in their country, but it’s not nearly enough to fulfill the promises the U.S. government made to Afghan allies.” IRAP has undertaken a class-action lawsuit challenging federal delays in SIV application processing.

“With an application backlog of more than 100,000 applicants, many of whom have waited for years, Congress must continue authorizing additional visas until every eligible applicant has one,” Bates said.

Representative Jason Crow, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, said that Congress would need to approve more SIVs next year. “We think [it] gives us time over the next year to process those who are in the immediate pipeline and have passed the chief admission approval or prepared for interviews, but certainly next year we’ll have to go back for more,” Crow said. The State Department has said that the agency is issuing 1,000 visas per month, meaning that the additional 12,000 will likely not last as long as some advocates would hope.

Remember the previous segment of this newsletter, when I talked about bipartisan and bicameral bills that, for whatever reason, are unable to pass? One such measure is the Afghan Adjustment Act, legislation that would expand eligibility for SIVs, streamline the SIV application and approval process, authorize additional SIVs, and provide Afghan evacuees paroled into the U.S. who are not eligible for SIVs with a pathway to permanent residency. A group of senators unsuccessfully attempted to tack on an amendment based on the Afghan Adjustment Act to a national security supplemental bill approved last month. (Another, slightly narrower bipartisan bill, the Afghan Allies Protection Act, has also been unable to garner sufficient support to be approved.)

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a co-sponsor of the Afghan Adjustment Act in the Senate, echoed the sentiment that increased SIV numbers were preferable to inaction. “Any number is better than none, but I still hope the Afghan Adjustment Act will be approved,” Blumenthal said.

Another co-sponsor of the bill, Republican Senator Jerry Moran, also praised the addition of SIVs to the minibus even as he called for the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act. “I don’t think it diminishes the political support or the need for the Afghan Adjustment Act, but it will help many Afghans who helped the United States have a future,” Moran told me.

However, with thousands of Afghans paroled into the U.S. having already applied for asylum, VanDiver worried that passing the Afghan Adjustment Act might eventually become a moot point. “I’d like to see adjustment, but the challenge is that Congress doesn’t seem willing to do it,” said VanDiver. “We’ll have most of the asylum [claims] adjudicated for these Afghans by the time Congress passes anything.”

Helal Massomi, the Afghan policy adviser at Global Refuge, a refugee advocacy and resettlement organization, argued that passing the Afghan Adjustment Act when it was first introduced would have solved some of the issues relating to SIV availability and backlog. “If there is a problem with SIVs right now, it’s because Congress doesn’t act on time, or act at all,” said Massomi, who herself had to evacuate from Afghanistan. “If they don’t pass the Afghan Adjustment Act, we will keep facing these kinds of problems.”

Moran said that “the urgency seems to be missing” from those in Congress who do not support the bill. “Even when there’s a sense of urgency around here, things happen without a lot of urgency,” Moran noted wryly.

Massomi also noted the time crunch regarding the impending presidential election. Former President Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, issued a ban on people from Muslim-majority countries entering the U.S. as one of his first acts in office, and may be less inclined to support efforts to expand SIV access.

“It’s time for the leadership in the House, the leadership in the Senate, to do something. If the administration changes, if we have another president, it will be extremely hard for Afghans to be resettled here,” Massomi said.

What I’m reading

Irish Wish is a crypto-fascist, AI-generated harbinger of doom, by Rachel Handler in Vulture

D.C.’s crime problem is a democracy problem, by Harry Jaffe in The Atlantic

Beyoncé has a country hit. How will country radio handle that? by Emily Yahr in The Washington Post

‘It feels like a mountain you never get done climbing’: Covid isn’t over for disabled and older adults, by Sarah Luterman in The 19th

Young people don’t want to farm anymore. Can Pennsylvania change their minds? by Marcia Brown in Politico

Pet of the week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pet was submitted by The New Republic’s own Alex Shephard. Harriet is nine and a half. “Last year, she barked 19 times. This year, she has barked zero times,” Alex says. “Sweet and stubborn, she is as fiercely loyal to her many friends as she is to her numerous enemies (the bus, the street sweeper, shopping carts, plastic bags blowing in the wind).”

Washington Is Leaving Haiti in Limbo

Aid to the embattled Caribbean nation is caught in a Capitol Hill logjam. But this is no ordinary partisan impasse.

A protester reacts while tires burn in the street during a demonstration following the resignation of its Prime Minister Ariel Henry, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Clarens Siffroy/Getty Images
A protester reacts while tires burn in the street during a demonstration following the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

This week, embattled Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry agreed to resign. He had spent the last week stranded in Puerto Rico, unable to return, as armed gangs took control of the airport in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. Henry’s announcement came after negotiations involving Haitian stakeholders, Caribbean leaders, and U.S. and Canadian officials resulted in the proposed creation of a presidential transition council. Henry, who was appointed—not elected—with international backing, had served as leader of Haiti since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Haiti has been wracked by violence in recent years, with gangs controlling 80 percent of Port-au-Prince.

Kenyan officials had previously vowed to lead a multinational security support mission in the form of a deployment of 1,000 police officers to help combat the gangs. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged an additional $100 million to finance the deployment; this brings the total promised contribution to $300 million, along with $200 million promised by the Department of Defense.

The Biden administration has also called on congressional Republicans to release a hold on an additional $40 million in pledged funds, arguing that it is necessary for a multinational force led by Kenya to deploy.

“The security force was needed months ago, but now it’s really needed,” said Senator Tim Kaine, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee that oversees Western-hemisphere policy. “It would be a disaster if they were to say, ‘Well, we can’t do it, because the U.S. isn’t meeting its commitment.’”

Lawmakers have released $10 million of the pledged funds, although a congressional Republican aide said that money had not yet been spent by the administration. On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson that “it is imperative that the United States ensures they have the resources to complete the mission.”

“The situation on the ground in Haiti has rapidly deteriorated while House Republicans have refused to deliver the resources necessary to carry out this mission,” Jeffries wrote. “It is not in America’s national security interests to hold up the transfer of funds that support security stabilization in Haiti, particularly given the present crisis on the ground.”

The State Department says that it has briefed Republicans in Congress on the planned deployment multiple times, but GOP lawmakers and staff say that they have not received key logistical information on how long the deployment would last and what the long-term goals are, not to mention how to transport the Kenyan force when the airport is currently closed. While the GOP congressional aide said that the White House has offered an organizational structure, this does not include specific price tags or timelines.

“We need to feel some level of confidence that this is an effective plan moving in an effective direction. And we’ve given money to support moving in that direction, but then they’ve not reciprocated with anything to kind of instill confidence,” the aide said.

Moreover, after Henry’s announcement this week, Kenyan officials said that the deployment is on hold until a new government is formed, raising further questions about how the United States can and should respond to the ongoing crisis.

“We remain confident that the mission will go forward,” a senior State Department official told reporters in a press call on Tuesday. “In all the conversations we’ve had, Kenyan officials have said that they intend to go forward and they intend to lead this mission.”

But Haiti has a complex history of international interventions, from its founding more than 200 years ago in a revolution by enslaved people overthrowing the French colonialist power. In 2010, thousands of Haitians died in a cholera outbreak that was sourced to a U.N. peacekeeping camp established after a devastating earthquake.

“You just have this cyclical pattern in Haiti of intervention, and things get worse after the intervention. And I think there is a knee-jerk reaction where people say, ‘Well, it’s entirely because of the intervention, so we shouldn’t have any interventions ever again,” said Sophie Rutenbar, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute who previously served as mission planning officer for the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.

The U.S. in particular must strike a delicate balance in offering assistance to Haiti, given how the Haitian people might interpret the superpower next door barging into their affairs.

“The role that the U.S. should play is following the people of Haiti, what they want to do, listening to them, and listening and letting CARICOM lead,” said Representative Gregory Meeks, the Democratic ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, referring to the coalition of Caribbean countries. “It should not be us imposing anything on anyone in Haiti. The voices of the Haitian people need to be heard.”

Representative Ayanna Pressley, a co-chair of the House Haiti Caucus who has a large Haitian population in her Massachusetts district, also highlighted her support for a transitional government. “The United States and international community must help restore security to Haiti and work toward a just and stable future that the Haitian people deserve,” Pressley said in a statement. “With Prime Minister Henry rightfully stepping down, that means facilitating the establishment of a representative transitional government led by Haitian civil society, disrupting arms trafficking to the island, and providing urgent humanitarian relief.”

Of course, some in Haiti have opposed the presidential transition council proposed by CARICOM, with gang leaders in particular arguing that they should have a seat at the table. “We Haitians have to decide who is going to be the head of the country and what model of government we want,” Jimmy Chérizier, a gang leader known as Barbecue, said this week. “We are also going to figure out how to get Haiti out of the misery it’s in now.”

Whether and when congressional Republicans release the hold on aid, the Kenya-led mission in Haiti will likely not be the end of American engagement in the country.

“The U.S. has a huge impact on Haiti concretely in terms of money, engagement, and aid, but it also has a big impact in terms of its symbolic [role] in the Haitian imagination,” Rutenbar said.

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

Vibe Check: Farm bill futures

And now we return to everyone’s favorite topic: the farm bill. (Well, it’s one of my favorite topics, anyway, and it’s my newsletter, so …)

Let’s cast our minds back: Congress was supposed to approve a new farm bill—the massive legislation that covers nutrition, farming, and conservation policy—in 2023, five years after the 2018 farm bill went into effect. But negotiations stretched into this year, with Congress passing a one-year extension of the 2018 measure. The House Agriculture Committee is expected to release text of its version in the coming weeks, with a committee markup and vote sometime this spring. But funding for the farm bill remains controversial, with Republicans seeking to claw back funds from one of Democrats’ signature legislative achievements.

Republicans are looking to repurpose about $15 billion in funding intended for “climate-smart” agriculture policies, as approved in the Inflation Reduction Act, the 2022 climate, health, and tax policy bill passed by Democrats. Republicans want to use those funds that have not been obligated for something other than fighting climate change. GOP lawmakers have also suggested restricting future updates to the Thrifty Food Plan, the method by which the federal government determines benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, also known as food stamps. The Biden administration updated the Thrifty Food Plan in 2021, which resulted in increased benefit amounts for SNAP recipients; the proposed change by Republicans would not affect current benefits.

“We don’t do any harm. We can find significant pay-fors without doing harm to either conservation or nutrition or the CCC,” Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn Thompson, a Republican, told me, also referring to the Commodity Credit Corporation, a line of credit tapped by the Department of Agriculture that GOP lawmakers would like to restrict. Under the GOP proposal, the Thrifty Food Plan could still be increased based on “cost of living adjustments,” Thompson said, but the plan would also “prevent any future administration from manipulating other variables.”

“But it would also prevent any future administration from arbitrarily cutting benefits. It’s kind of a firewall,” Thompson argued. (Thompson also recently laid out these arguments in an op-ed for Agri-Pulse.)

In 2018, the House version of the farm bill passed along party lines, thanks to GOP cuts to SNAP; Thompson hopes that this year will not be so partisan. Indeed, there are expected to be $75 billion worth of bipartisan programs in this year’s bill.

“At the end of the day, when you’ve got strong bipartisan policy, that normally results in strong bipartisan support,” Thompson said.

But Democrats are deeply displeased with these proposed Republican revenue streams. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, has argued that restrictions to the Thrifty Food Plan would lower the amount the formula is increased in the future, which in turn would result in smaller increases in SNAP benefits. Democrats are also largely against any rescissions in Inflation Reduction Act funding, and Stabenow—who is retiring at the end of this year—has threatened to block passage of the farm bill over these GOP proposals.

“[Republicans] double down on the cruelty [in] every farm bill, and I don’t want to be part of any of that,” said Democratic Representative Jim McGovern, a member of the Agriculture Committee. “I’m not going to support a farm bill that increases hunger in America. I’m not going to support a farm bill that goes after conservation programs.”

While introducing a farm bill would put pressure on members who represent agricultural interests in their districts, Democrats have thus far been largely united. For Representative Nikki Budzinski, a freshman Democrat whose southern Illinois district includes rural communities, passing a bipartisan farm bill is a major priority. But she put an emphasis on the “bipartisan”—meaning, without changes to the Thrifty Food Plan or the IRA’s conservation provisions. She argued that the nutrition, conservation, and farming elements of the bill are “very cyclical and interconnected”: Farmers produce the foods used by SNAP participants and use the climate-smart techniques prescribed by the IRA.

“I can’t support a bill that hurts our family farmers,” Budzinski said.

What I’m reading

Is the Rio Grande Valley just lost now to Democrats? by Luisita Lopez Torregrosa in The New Republic

No one’s children, by Steve Inskeep in The Atlantic

Biden’s highest-ranking trans official is learning the limits of representation, by Nathan Kohrman in Mother Jones

What’s the price of a childhood turned into content? by Fortesa Latifi in Cosmopolitan

Four years on, Covid has reshaped life for many Americans, by Julie Bosman in The New York Times

Pet of the Week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pet is Skippy, submitted by (Hoth Takes co-host) Haley Byrd Wilt. Skippy weighs just shy of five pounds and has only two remaining teeth, but nonetheless thinks he could fight a German shepherd and win.

The White House’s Slow Cease-Fire Shift Is Getting Tepid Reviews

Critics of the administration still feel it is falling short—but they believe the pressure they’re bringing is starting to be felt.

Kamala Harris speaks in Selma, Alabama, where she called for an "immediate ceasefire" in Gaza.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images
Kamala Harris speaks in Selma, Alabama, where she called for an “immediate cease-fire” in Gaza.

Over the weekend, Vice President Kamala Harris called for an “immediate cease-fire” in Gaza, and urged Israel to allow a greater flow of aid into the region. Harris called the situation in Gaza “devastating” and a “humanitarian catastrophe,” adding that “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.”

“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate cease-fire, for at least the next six weeks,” Harris said in remarks in Selma, Alabama, where her speech was frequently punctuated by applause and cheers.

Harris’s language was arguably more direct than any of the previous rhetoric that’s come out of the Biden administration, although her message was not a dramatic departure from the White House line. The White House has previously called for a six-week cessation in hostilities, and Harris urged Hamas—which she called a “brutal terrorist organization”—to accept a deal allowing for a cease-fire for the month of Ramadan, as well as a release of Israeli hostages. (NBC News reported that National Security Council officials toned down elements of Harris’s speech; the vice president’s office denies this.) The White House also authorized aid to be air-dropped into Gaza over the weekend.

Nevertheless, for critics of the Biden administration’s approach to the war in Gaza, a call for a temporary cease-fire doesn’t address one of their key demands: a reduction in America’s substantial financial support for Israel’s military campaign.

“Now they just have rebranded a humanitarian pause that they’ve always supported—a temporary humanitarian pause—as a cease-fire,” said Waleed Shahid, a progressive Democratic strategist who has previously worked with Senator Bernie Sanders and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Summer Lee. “They’ve gotten comfortable with using that word that millions of people have been chanting around this country and the world, but the substance of the policy has not really changed that much, which is continued U.S. weapons funding for an operation that is indefensible.”

Layla Elabed, the campaign manager for Listen to Michigan—which urged tens of thousands of voters in Michigan to vote “uncommitted” in protest of the Biden administration’s response to the war in Gaza—said in a statement that Harris’s remarks were proof that “the Biden administration is moving because of the pressure from uncommitted Democrats.”

“But let’s be clear: This is a temporary cease-fire, or what they used to call a humanitarian pause,” Elabed continued. “Our movement’s demands have been clear: a lasting cease-fire and an end to U.S. funding for Israel’s war and occupation against the Palestinian people.”

Senator Chris Van Hollen, one of the members of Congress who has called for a cease-fire, said that he believed there is still more the Biden administration can do to put pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I think that it’s good that we’re doing airdrops, but airdrops do not begin to provide assistance at scale,” Van Hollen said. “The fact that the United States is doing airdrops is a clear symptom and sign of the fact that the Netanyahu government needs to be doing a lot more and the Biden administration needs to be pushing them to do a lot more.”

This week, Harris also met with a member of Israel’s war Cabinet, Benny Gantz, on Monday. According to Axios’s Barak Ravid, the meeting allowed for Harris and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to vent their frustration with the Israeli response to the October 7 Hamas attack, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis. Gantz, considered a political rival of Netanyahu, also met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Gantz, whose visit to the U.S. was not approved by Netanyahu and has been controversial in Israel, did not meet with Speaker Mike Johnson.

“I thought he gave us reason to believe that our concerns should be Israel’s concerns in dealing with the humanitarian issues,” Senator Ben Cardin, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters after the meeting. “I think he heard that the situation should be a concern to all of us, to Americans and Israelis. We all have to deal with the fact that it’s unacceptable, and we all have a responsibility to respond to it.” (However, Cardin said that Gantz did not discuss a potential cease-fire.)

Harris’s remarks over the weekend are reflective of Biden’s need to maintain the support of certain key blocs of voters who traditionally vote Democratic.

“The fact that that speech was held in Selma gives me some indication that they see it as a broader problem with the Democratic electorate, including Black voters,” said Shahid. Last month, leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a prominent historically Black Christian denomination, called for an end to U.S. funding for Israel, citing the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinians as “mass genocide.”

The location of her remarks was significant: She delivered them at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the site of a historic civil rights protest nearly 60 years ago this month. Representative Al Green, who has called for a cease-fire, acknowledged that the decision to give these remarks in Selma “could be a coincidence,” but he added that it could also be a sign that “we may be facing another Edmund Pettus Bridge moment.”

“I hope that we don’t have this Edmund Pettus Bridge moment where, in the month of Ramadan, we find ourselves with something very ugly happening in Gaza that could have been avoided,” Green told me. “I’m grateful that she made the call, and my hope is that we will heed her warning … in terms of lives being saved.”

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

Vibe Check: Shutdown week

The good news: The government probably isn’t going to shut down this weekend, the deadline for passing six appropriations bills. Lawmakers reached a deal to fund several agencies, creating a “minibus” of spending bills that will likely be approved in both chambers of Congress. This package includes measures to fund agencies covered by the Agriculture, Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Transportation-Housing, and Urban Development bills.

The bad news: As difficult as it was to reach an agreement on these bills, this is the easy part. The agencies funded by this minibus tend to be less controversial, although there were several minor sticking points that contributed to the delay in releasing these bills. (For example, whether to include extra funding for a nutrition assistance program aiding needy women and children, a provision that did make it into the final package.) The measures considered this week represent only around 30 percent of the discretionary spending to be approved this year.

It may be more difficult to reach a consensus on the remaining spending bills, which must be passed by March 22 to avert a shutdown. This minibus would include Defense, Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Homeland Security, Financial Services, State-Foreign Operations and Legislative Branch measures. (Stop yawning! This is important!)

“It’s a lot of money, obviously. I think a lot of Democrats have a hard time sometimes with Defense, and some of our guys have a hard time with Labor-H,” said GOP Representative Tom Cole, using shorthand for the appropriations bills. However, he noted that when the two bills were paired in previous years, they ended up passing with more than 350 votes. They’ll need similarly large margins this year, as House leadership will use a procedural maneuver to put it on the floor without a formal vote in the Rules Committee, which will then require approval from two-thirds of the chamber.

Cole, who leads an appropriations subcommittee, also pushed back against some of the more far-right members of the Republican conference who have expressed frustration with the compromise funding bills, and with passing them as a group.

“You either govern, or you don’t. When you’re in the majority, you’re supposed to govern,” said Cole. “I regret that people think, ‘Well, I get to vote for defense and veterans, but then I don’t have to vote for anything else.’ Well, I’m sorry, but there’s a federal government out there.”

Hard-line conservatives are loath to accept that (a) the White House and Senate are held by Democrats and (b) Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the House, two factors that make it hard to contemplate passing appropriations legislation without the help of Democrats. After former Speaker Kevin McCarthy made a deal with Biden on government funding levels last spring, it became very difficult for current Speaker Mike Johnson to do anything but accept those numbers.

“We’re in a very difficult negotiating position right now, because of our thin margins and the fact that we’re having to do this under suspension,” said GOP Representative Steve Womack, referring to the floor procedure that will require the measure to receive two-thirds support on the House floor to pass.

“If [Johnson] is not going to get all of the Republicans to lock arms in supporting it, he’s going to have to raise the threshold and negotiate with Democrats,” continued Womack, the chair of the subcommittee overseeing the Financial Services appropriations bill.

Negotiations have largely moved past the subcommittee level, with final details being hashed out by congressional leadership. But this can cause frustration on both sides of the aisle, as rank-and-file members can be shut out from final talks.

“Republicans in the House basically refused to negotiate at the subcommittee level, so all of that is with leadership,” said Senator Chris Murphy, the chair of the appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Homeland Security measure, one of the thornier bills to negotiate.

But for the so-called appropriations “cardinals” leading the subcommittees, regardless of how difficult the second tranche of bills may be, it’s important to follow through.

When I asked Senator Jon Tester, the chair of the subcommittee overseeing defense appropriations, whether the next minibus would be more difficult to approve, he replied: “God, I hope not. I hope it’s easier.”

What I’m reading

Lauren Boebert doesn’t want to lose the House, by Ben Terris in The Washington Post

A lover of music, Hank Johnson’s newest mission is protecting hip-hop, by Tia Mitchell in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Joe Biden’s last campaign, by Evan Osnos in The New Yorker

Do Americans have a ‘collective amnesia’ about Donald Trump? by Jennifer Medina and Reid Epstein in The New York Times

Pet of the Week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pet is Maverick, submitted by Chris Branscum. Likes include: eating, playing, long naps, belly rubs, and soft blankets. Maverick is, according to Chris, “a serious cat.”

GOP Senators Say They Support IVF—Just Not a Federal Law to Secure It

Paying lip service to protecting the procedure is the easy part. But not everyone is willing to back up their words with legislation.

Bill Clark/Getty Images
Senator Tammy Duckworth discusses the Alabama Supreme Court ruling on in vitro fertilization.

On Wednesday, Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth brought forward legislation to protect access to in vitro fertilization, known as IVF, on the Senate floor. Duckworth attempted to approve the legislation via unanimous voice vote, a maneuver that requires only one senator to object to prevent its passage. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican from Mississippi, blocked it on the floor.

In the weeks since the Alabama Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling declaring that fertilized embryos inside or outside of the uterus are children—leading IVF providers to halt operations across the state—many Republicans have repeatedly expressed their support for the procedure. Despite being localized to one state, the court’s decision has had political repercussions across the country, including for federal GOP lawmakers and candidates.

It has further seeped into national campaign politics: The National Republican Senatorial Committee put out a memo last week that “encourages Republican Senate candidates to clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government to restrict IVF,” arguing that the Alabama ruling “is fodder for Democrats hoping to manipulate the abortion issue for electoral gain.” Democrats have indeed seized upon the issue, pointing out when GOP candidates have previously expressed support for fetal personhood. If an embryo is a child, the argument goes, then IVF is inherently under threat, because it often requires discarding fertilized eggs that are not viable.

Setting aside the purely political considerations, Republicans announcing support for IVF only raises further questions about what that endorsement means. For example, if every frozen embryo is a child, should a mother be required to carry it, even if physicians know it is nonviable and will result in a miscarriage? How should frozen embryos be handled?

When I asked whether a frozen embryo could be considered a person, GOP Senator Kevin Cramer replied: “I don’t know.” “I believe that life begins at conception,” Cramer continued, although he added that he was “not suggesting a federal definition.” “We need to demonstrate our compassion universally, and not just pick a political side and feign compassion.”

Senator Markwayne Mullin, whose wife underwent fertility treatment over seven years, offered a different perspective on when life begins. “When my wife and I, we first experienced a pregnancy, and I heard a heartbeat—that was life to me. I mean, that was my child,” said Mullin. When his wife later suffered a miscarriage, that was “a true death to us,” Mullin continued.

“When you start talking about that, I start looking towards a heartbeat, because that’s when life begins,” he said.

Senator Cynthia Lummis said, “It could be justified to say that the rights of a child do not apply to an in vitro situation, that they would only apply in vivo,” HuffPost reported. This would require an embryo to be implanted in a uterus.

Meanwhile, Senator Josh Hawley said determining how life should be defined is “more of a legal question.” However he said that “there may be a place here for a federal backstop to make sure that it remains available”—as long as it is focused purely on IVF, and not on abortion, an indication that he would steer clear of most Democratic proposals. (In Hawley’s home state of Missouri, a 2016 state court decision ruled that frozen embryos are not children; state legislators have since introduced bills attempting to overturn that ruling. Advocates for a proposed state constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights say it will also protect IVF access.)

Other Republicans argued that the issue should be left to the states. Senator Roger Marshall, a longtime ob-gyn who worked with patients struggling with fertility, acknowledged that determining how frozen embryos should be handled was a “tough question,” even as he reiterated his support for IVF. “I think it’s an incredible gift of knowledge that God has given us and that we should use that knowledge as physicians,” Marshall said. “I think the Dobbs decision clearly states that this should be dealt with at the state level, and would encourage state legislatures to protect in vitro fertilization.”

Indeed, the Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade, paved the way for the Alabama court to make its decision regarding embryos. Abortion rights and access to other reproductive procedures and care are intertwined in state law, and are now being determined on a state-by-state basis.

The Alabama decision opened a proverbial can of worms for lawmakers across the country who believe that life begins at conception, and has faced blowback from lawmakers—even those in the Yellowhammer State. State lawmakers in the Alabama legislature hastily brought forward a bill to establish legal protections to IVF providers; critically, it doesn’t address whether an embryo is considered an unborn child, an idea that formed the crux of the court’s decision that embryos should be protected under the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act. (Both chambers of the legislature advanced legislation to protect IVF clinics from lawsuits on Thursday.) In Florida, a hearing on a state bill to establish civil liability for the death of an unborn child was postponed.

Other states already have laws on the books regarding the legal status of embryos; for example, in Louisiana, an embryo fertilized in vitro is considered a “juridical person,” meaning that it has limited rights. As such, viable embryos cannot be deliberately discarded by physicians, although a nonviable embryo is no longer considered a juridical person. Frozen embryos need to be stored out of state to be in line with the law, which adds further costs for those undergoing IVF treatment.

“It seems as if there’s a certain respect being paid to the potential personhood,” said Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy about his state’s law. However, he stopped short of calling for a federal law modeled on Louisiana.

“Our Founding Fathers kind of said, if the states can work it out, let them work it out. And I’d like to think the states would look to Louisiana,” Cassidy said.

Author’s note: A few hours before the deadline for this newsletter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would step down as Republican leader in November. This is, to paraphrase another inveterate Senate Guy™, a BFD. To read more about the shadow race to succeed McConnell, check out my September article on the senators vying to replace him.

This article first appeared in Inside Washington, a weekly TNR newsletter authored by staff writer Grace Segers. Sign up here.

Vibe check: How Christian nationalism informs American politics

Each week, I provide an update on the vibes surrounding a particular policy or political development. This week: A new poll provides insight on the rise of Christian nationalism.

In his opinion concurring with the decision that embryos should be considered children, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court frequently invoked God, as well as the words of Scripture and Christian philosophers. Justice Tom Parker wrote that “even before birth, all human beings bear the image of God, and their lives cannot be destroyed without effacing his glory.”

Parker has previously espoused Christian nationalist beliefs and expressed support for the “Seven Mountains Mandate,” a strain of Christian dominionism that dictates the “seven mountains” of social influence must be conquered to impose fundamentalist Christian beliefs on society. (TNR contributor Elle Hardy wrote about this movement back in August 2022.)

Parker’s beliefs are in line with much of his state: According to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 47 percent of Alabamians qualify as Christian nationalism adherents or sympathizers. Along with North Dakota, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Louisiana, Alabama was one of five states where more than 45 percent of the population hold Christian nationalist beliefs.

“It’s not about cultural influence, it’s actually about political domination,” said Robert Jones, the president and founder of PRRI, about the tenets of Christian nationalism. “What this is about is using power to impose their views, even when they’re not achieving those through democratic means.”

Nationally, only about three in 10 Americans qualify as adherents or sympathizers of Christian nationalism, according to the survey, which was conducted over several months and based on interviews with 22,000 people. But on a state-by-state level, the survey found that Christian nationalist tendencies were strongly correlated with previous support for former President Donald Trump and Republican Party affiliation. Sixty-six percent of white evangelical Protestants and 55 percent of Hispanic Protestants hold Christian nationalist beliefs.

The tenets of Christian nationalism could have serious influence on the politics of this election year, particularly given that Trump is once again likely to be the Republican nominee for president. Trump himself has embraced that language: In a recent speech to the National Religious Broadcasters, the former president said, “I will fight even harder for Christians with four more years in the White House,” promising to combat “anti-Christian bias.” (Of course, what Trump means by “Christian” is “conservative Christian.”)

According to the PRRI, Christian nationalists were also more likely to agree that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” and that “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save the country.”

“I think we’re going to see more and more of these strong-arm tactics moving outside of the norm of democracy precisely because the demographics of this country are changing,” said Jones about the proliferation of Christian nationalist ideals among politicians. The U.S. was once a majority-white and Christian country, but in 2022, white Christians only made up 42 percent of the population.

“That sea change, or shift, has really set off this apocalyptic, in some way desperate reaction,” Jones continued. Indeed, in his speech before the National Religious Broadcasters, Trump said, “It’s the people from within our country that are more dangerous than the people outside.”

The country has already seen the effects of belief in violence as a tool for political change linked with support for Trump: On January 6, 2021, the former president’s supporters laid siege to the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 election.

“The real danger of the Christian nationalist worldview is that it casts political opponents as existential enemies, and it thinks of politics in black and white terms of good versus evil, God versus Satan,” said Jones. When that perspective is prevalent, it justifies the use of violence for political means. “We’re actually trying to defeat and vanquish people who have literally been cast as instruments of the devil.”

What I’m reading

“What can I even say without having to go to jail?” by Julianne McShane in Mother Jones

This ballot measure would restore Roe. Abortion rights groups are attacking it, by Rachel M. Cohen in Vox

A wild and dangerous 2024 experiment, by John G. Hendrickson in The Atlantic

They renounced Trump. Will they get fellow conservatives to vote Biden? by Kara Voght in The Washington Post

A backward movie for an upside-down world, by Bilge Ebiri in Vulture

The ‘Killmonger Cut’ is everywhere in games, by Trone Dowd in IGN

Pet of the week

Want to have your pet included at the bottom of the next newsletter? Email me:

This week’s featured pet is Khaleesi, submitted by Reese Gorman. She is extremely loud and demanding, and she loves to lick and have her belly rub. Khaleesi’s greatest mission in life is to kill all squirrels.