Congress Avoids a Shutdown

Happy Monday! Among those anxiously anticipating a government shutdown were former President Jimmy Carter’s birthday party planners at the Carter Library, who moved the 99-year-old’s celebration up a day in case the government ran out of money. Although we’re happy Carter’s birthday went off without a hitch this weekend, we’re even happier that the National Park Service’s annual Fat Bear Week contest is still on! 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories 

  • Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Sunday denied reports that he’d been amassing Serbian forces near the Kosovo border last week in possible preparation for offensive action. The alleged buildup followed clashes in Northern Kosovo earlier this month, when approximately 30 heavily armed ethnic Serbs started a gunfight with Kosovo police that killed four people—three of the gunmen and one police officer. After the fight, Kosovo authorities recovered a cache of weapons sufficient to arm several hundred people as well as explosives and other equipment. “Serbia does not want war,” Vučić said, reiterating the country’s aim of becoming a European Union member. A Kosovo Serb politician based in Serbia, Milan Radoičić, claimed Friday that he helped plan the attack without the knowledge of the Serbian government. U.S. officials called on Serbia to demobilize its troops, and the United Kingdom, at the direction of NATO, announced Sunday that an additional 200 troops will be deployed to Kosovo to bolster the peacekeeping mission in the country.
  • Ukraine hosted a forum on Friday for more than 200 defense companies in a bid to work directly with arms manufacturers, boost Ukraine’s fledgling defense industry, and reduce reliance on Western arms shipments. The German government approved a joint venture last week between a German weapons company and Ukraine’s state-owned defense group. French officials and manufacturers also met with Ukrainian defense officials on Thursday to discuss partnerships for weapons production. 
  • ​​The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, increased 3.5 percent year-over-year in August, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Friday—up slightly from a 3.4 percent annual rate one month earlier. But after stripping out more volatile food and energy prices, core PCE increased at a 3.9 percent annual rate—compared to 4.3 percent in July. On a month-over-month basis, core prices were up 0.1 percent—the slowest monthly increase since November 2020. Consumer spending, meanwhile, increased 0.4 percent month-over-month in August, down from 0.9 percent in July.
  • Rep. Dean Phillips—a Minnesota lawmaker who co-chairs the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee—announced yesterday that he would step down from his leadership role on the committee. “My convictions relative to the 2024 presidential race are incongruent with the majority of my caucus, and I felt it appropriate to step aside from elected leadership to avoid unnecessary distractions during a critical time for our country,” he said in a statement. Phillips has called for a primary challenge to President Joe Biden and has publicly contemplated running against the president.
  • A federal judge blocked provisions of North Carolina’s 12-week abortion ban on Saturday. The preliminary injunction halted enforcement of a requirement that surgical abortions administered beyond 12 weeks—allowed in cases of rape, incest, life-limiting abnormalities or to save the life of the mother—must be performed in a hospital, not abortion clinics. The ruling also blocked enforcement of a provision requiring doctors to document early pregnancies with an ultrasound before prescribing a medication abortion.
  • Scott Hall—a Georgia bail bondsman involved in an attempt to illegally breach voting equipment in search of evidence of fraud—pleaded guilty on Friday and became the first defendant in the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 18 others to make a deal with prosecutors. Hall pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts and received a sentence of five years probation, a $5,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service. Felony charges were dropped as part of the deal, which also required a written letter of apology to the state and Hall’s testimony against others in the case. Meanwhile, a federal judge denied a request on Friday by Jeffrey Clark—a former assistant attorney general at the Justice Department—and three other defendants in the case to move their trials to federal court.
  • The United Auto Workers expanded their strike last week for the second time, instructing 7,000 more workers to walk off the job at a General Motors plant in Michigan and a Ford factory in Chicago as progress in contract negotiations with car manufacturers stalled. In total, 25,000 workers are now on strike—approximately 17 percent of the union’s 146,000 members.
  • The more than three-year-long pandemic pause on student loan payments ended yesterday, and payments will resume for millions of Americans this month. The Department of Education has instituted a year-long “on-ramp” for loan repayment where “financially vulnerable borrowers who miss monthly payments during this period are not considered delinquent, reported to credit bureaus, placed in default, or referred to debt collection agencies.” 
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and the longest-serving woman in Senate history, died at the age of 90 on Thursday night. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is reportedly planning to appoint Laphonza Butler to fill the late senator’s vacant seat. Butler is the president of Emily’s List—a political action committee that funds female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights—and a former California labor leader and adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign. The seat will be up for election next November, and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee were all already running to replace Feinstein before she died. Newsom said last month that he would intentionally not appoint one of the current candidates as it “would be completely unfair” to their campaigns.
  • Gen. Charles Q. Brown succeeded Gen. Mark Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday. Biden nominated Brown back in May, and he was confirmed by the Senate last month—he begins a four-year term in the post.

A Shutdown Averted 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks with members of the media following passage in the House of a 45-day continuing resolution on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks with members of the media following passage in the House of a 45-day continuing resolution on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

It was a weird week on Capitol Hill. But hey—what’s new? 

On Friday, we thought the most bizarre moment of the week might be Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, rising in opposition to a heretofore unthinkable Republican-led continuing resolution (CR)—a stopgap measure to keep the government funded before all 12 appropriations had passed—to warn that the bill’s GOP backers wanted to “defund the police.” 

But that Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass effort was nothing compared to what ensued on Saturday, when a sitting Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, pulled a fire alarm in a very-much-not-on-fire House office building, in what seemed to be a stalling tactic to give his caucus time to read a different, Republican-backed CR to fund the government through November 14. (He claimed, rather absurdly, that it was an accident.) 

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