Scott Challenges McConnell

Happy Wednesday! What a week yesterday was. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Polish officials said Tuesday that a missile killed two people after landing in Przewodów, a village in southeastern Poland that borders Ukraine. The development prompted President Joe Biden to convene an emergency meeting of G7 and NATO leaders, and the group agreed to support Poland’s investigation into what happened and then “collectively determine our next steps.” Russia rained dozens of missiles down across Ukraine yesterday—targeting electrical infrastructure in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, and other cities—but denied responsibility for “any strikes on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish border.” The White House seemed to concur, with Biden saying the missile was “unlikely” to have come from Russia based on its trajectory, and three anonymous U.S. officials telling the Associated Press that, according to preliminary assessments, the missile that struck Poland was fired by Ukrainian forces in an attempt to intercept Russian strikes.
  • Former President Donald Trump formally launched his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday, filing with the Federal Election Commission and delivering a lengthy speech at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. Trump managed to stick to the teleprompter for most of his hour-plus remarks—hammering his successor on his handling of the economy, immigration, foreign policy, and more—but he veered off-course a handful of times to hint at his 2020 stolen election claims and announce he is a “victim.” Trump will reportedly not have a formal campaign manager, but longtime GOP operative Chris LaCivita and Trump allies Susie Wiles and Brian Jack are set to have big roles in the operation.
  • Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney on Tuesday struck down a Georgia law banning abortions once a baby has a detectable heartbeat at about six weeks of gestation. McBurney ruled the law invalid because it violated Supreme Court precedent when passed in 2019, though he noted that a new ban passed now would not fail that test. Georgia has filed an appeal. 
  • U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan struck down Title 42 on Tuesday, blocking the Biden administration from continuing the pandemic-era immigration policy—which was first issued by the Trump administration to expel migrants at the southern border without opening asylum proceedings—on the grounds that it’s “arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.” The Biden administration doesn’t plan to appeal the ruling, but asked Sullivan if the order could take effect on December 21 to give the Department of Homeland Security time to prepare for the change in policy.
  • A newly declassified Government Accountability Office report revealed that, of the 49 U.S. warplanes examined from 2011 to 2021, only four met their annual readiness goals most years and 26 didn’t meet their goals a single time—including planes likely to be crucial in any conflict with China. The readiness goals track fleet preparedness by measuring how often planes are able to fly and complete at least one mission.
  • House Republicans held their leadership elections as planned on Tuesday, voting 188-31 to nominate Rep. Kevin McCarthy for speaker over Rep. Andy Biggs, a challenger from the Freedom Caucus. It’s a strong start for McCarthy, but—as long as all 435 House members are voting—he’ll need to secure the support of 218 representatives by the full House vote in January. House Republicans also elected Rep. Steve Scalise—who ran unopposed—to serve as majority leader, Rep. Tom Emmer to serve as majority whip, and Rep. Elise Stefanik to serve another term as conference chair.
  • Blake Masters and Adam Laxalt—Republican U.S. Senate candidates from Arizona and Nevada, respectively—formally conceded their respective races on Tuesday. Masters claimed there were “obviously a lot of problems” with the election, but admitted he had “no path forward.” Laxalt, meanwhile, said he congratulated his Democratic opponent Catherine Cortez Masto on her win, adding he was “confident” that any election challenge would “not alter the ultimate outcome.” Kari Lake still hasn’t admitted defeat in Arizona’s gubernatorial race—her campaign says it’s “collecting stories and curing ballots”—but incumbent GOP Gov. Doug Ducey reportedly called Democrat Katie Hobbs yesterday to congratulate her on her victory.

Festivus Comes Early for Senate Republicans

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listen during a news conference after a policy luncheon with Senate Republicans. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

For the first time since becoming leader of the Senate Republican Conference in 2007, Mitch McConnell has a challenger for the top job. He claimed to “welcome the contest.”

During a post-election lunch for GOP senators that lasted more than three hours—and reportedly featured a “tense” back-and-forth between McConnell and Sen. Rick Scott—the junior senator from Florida finally launched the leadership bid he’d been hinting at for months. “It’s time for the Senate Republican Conference to be far more bold and resolute than we have been in the past,” he wrote in a letter to colleagues announcing his intentions. “There is a Republican Party that is alive and well in communities across America. It is time there is one in Washington, D.C., too.”

Like Rep. Andy Biggs’ short-lived effort to block Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid, Scott’s challenge—which is supported by former President Donald Trump—is all but assured to fail. “I think the outcome is pretty clear,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “I have the votes. I will be elected. The only issue is whether we [hold the vote] sooner or later.”

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