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Lawmakers Respond to Zawahiri Killing
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Lawmakers Respond to Zawahiri Killing

Plus, the Senate will take another crack at a veteran health care bill.

Good morning. Defying threats by the Chinese government, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has landed in Taiwan, becoming the highest-ranking American official to visit the self-governing island in more than two decades. She’s getting a warm welcome:

 

“We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan—and democracy itself,” Pelosi wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece published as she landed Tuesday. “Indeed, we take this trip at a time when the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Lawmakers React After Al-Qaeda Leader Killed by American Drone Strike

The United States has killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was Osama bin Laden’s deputy in planning the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and stepped into leading the terrorist organization after bin Laden was killed by American forces in 2011.

President Joe Biden announced the strike Monday night, saying his administration “will continue to vigilantly monitor and address threats from al-Qaeda, no matter where they emanate from.”

Zawahiri had been staying at a house in Kabul, Afghanistan. It renews concerns about Afghanistan authorities, now the Taliban, providing safe harbor to al-Qaeda terrorists. The strike comes nearly a year after the Biden administration carried out a calamitous U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Democratic lawmakers on Monday night praised the U.S. military, intelligence community, and the White House for their handling of the strike. Some members argued the strike shows the departure of American troops from Afghanistan has not gutted intelligence collection about terror groups and their activities, as some officials had feared.

“Zawahiri’s death represents a major victory in the fight against terrorism and we owe a debt of gratitude to the many dedicated national security professionals across administrations who have worked tirelessly to protect the American people from al-Qaeda and other terrorist threats,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks said in a release.

“The operation carried out by the Biden Administration should serve as a reminder that U.S. counterterrorism capabilities continue to be far reaching and effective in reaching targets, including in Afghanistan.”

Republicans likewise lauded the military and intelligence community, but they emphasized that Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul confirms the Taliban’s relaxed approach to the terror group in violation of the 2020 Doha Agreement that paved the way for American troops to leave the region. After two decades of war, the Taliban violently took power in the country amid the American withdrawal.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, said the loss of a leader “can be significant, but al-Qaeda is not out of the fight.”

“Visibility on terror threats in Afghanistan remain greatly diminished after the Biden administration’s hazardous withdrawal last year,” Risch added. “Only through continued pressure will we keep al-Qaeda and the Islamic State Khorasan from threatening Americans.”

And House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said the administration “must provide Congress with a classified briefing as soon as possible to discuss the resurgence of al-Qaeda in the region over the past year, the current foreign terrorist threat to America, and the steps we must take to keep our country safe and prevent terrorists from entering the United States.”

Senate Will Attempt to Pass Veteran Health Care Bill Again

We wrote to you in June about a bill to expand health coverage for veterans exposed to toxic substances. At the time, it passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support and looked likely to quickly become law.

That bill later passed the House with some small technical changes, meaning the Senate had to vote on it again. But it failed to advance last week when 25 Republican senators changed their positions and opposed a procedural vote that would have led to final consideration of the legislation. The vote was 55-42, falling short of the 60 votes required.

Some Republican senators, led by Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, have raised consistent objections for months to how the budgetary language in the bill is structured. Those concerns aren’t new to the legislation, though. Democrats accused Republicans who changed their votes of tanking it out of anger over a separate Democratic bill announced last week, which includes spending for climate priorities, tax hikes on businesses, and drug pricing provisions. Republicans have denied that charge.

Leo Shane III at the Military Times has a coherent explanation of the situation:

The problem centers on how some benefits spending in the bill will be classified in federal budgeting procedures. Sen. Pat Toomey has led the charge, saying it could amount to billions in extra discretionary government spending over the next decade.

“If we change [the law] to the way that the Democrats want, it creates room in future budgets for $400 billion of totally unrelated, extraneous spending on other matters,” he said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “That’s what I want to prevent.”

Toomey’s concerns are the same he raised in June, when he was one of the 14 senators who objected to the PACT Act’s final passage.

The bill has undergone minor technical changes since then. Several Republican senators who objected last week have justified their flip in recent days by insisting that Democrats only recently inserted the problematic issues into the bill, but the discretionary spending language provisions are the same as June, when the measure easily passed the Senate.

Read the rest of the story here, with statements from veteran advocacy groups and other lawmakers.

Despite the delay, senators expect the measure to pass soon.

“It will pass this week,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Monday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer likewise anticipates action on the bill “very soon.”

Toomey has been negotiating with Democratic leaders for a vote on an amendment to address the budget categorization issue, although it’s not clear whether leaders will require that amendment to receive 60 votes to succeed or a simple majority of 50. If the bill were to be changed, it would have to pass the House again, presenting another delay as House lawmakers are out on recess.

At an event last night, Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman said he believes the bill will pass this week, and it was worth it to hold up the package to attempt to change its handling of spending. He added, though, that he will back the final version, regardless of whether Toomey’s amendment passes.

What GOP Lawmakers Are Talking About

An analysis of Democrats’ $740 billion climate and drug pricing bill by the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation found that nearly 50 percent of the burden of tax hikes would fall on the manufacturing sector.

You can read the analysis here. Republicans are fiercely opposed to the bill’s tax increases, which would finance the spending priorities in the bill. McConnell on Monday highlighted the estimated impact on manufacturing.

“In the middle of a supply chain crisis, Democrats want huge, job-killing tax hikes that will disproportionately crush American manufacturing and manufacturing jobs,” he said.

Richard Rubin at the Wall Street Journal has a helpful piece about the JCT analysis and why manufacturing would be hit so much more than other industries:

The 15% minimum tax would take effect next year and apply to U.S.-based companies that report financial-statement profits averaging at least $1 billion over three years, according to legislation released this week that mirrors a House-passed bill from last year.

The proposal, if it becomes law, would raise companies’ tax bills until they hit that minimum rate. It would affect some companies that generate income in low-taxed foreign jurisdictions or use aggressive tax planning to drive their global tax rates far below the 21% U.S. corporate tax rate.

But much of the money would likely come from companies that report low tax rates now because their capital investments—in factories and machines, for example—are treated differently in tax and financial accounting.

Read the rest of his story here.

What Democratic Lawmakers Are Talking About

Democrats are lauding the bill’s climate provisions, saying they will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and further encourage a transition to renewable energy sources. Grace Segers at The New Republic has a rundown of what made the cut:

The climate portions of the bill largely employ the carrot rather than the stick, encouraging the transition to renewable energy for private companies and individual consumers. This includes billions in tax incentives to boost production of wind, solar, and battery power along with other clean energy. Producers may receive credits both for generating renewable power and manufacturing specific parts for projects such as solar panels or wind turbines … 

The Inflation Reduction Act will also create a Methane Emissions Reduction Program, which will reward companies that cut their methane emissions and punish those that do not. By 2026, companies in violation of federal limits could pay $1,500 per ton of methane that escapes into the atmosphere. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, is roughly 80 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, meaning that reducing such leaks is vital to prevent the planet from warming further. The bill would also invest $27 billion to create a “clean energy and sustainability accelerator,” commonly called a green bank, which would use public and private funds to invest in clean energy and infrastructure.

It also includes tax credits for people who buy new or used electric vehicles, and billions of dollars to incentivize consumer installation of heat pumps and solar panels to help homes become more energy efficient. Read the whole piece here

On the Floor

The House is out this week.

Along with debate on the Democratic climate and drug pricing reconciliation bill—and the veterans’ health care package—the Senate will consider a judicial nominee for a court in Virginia.

Key Hearings

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday morning on protecting frontline election workers. Witnesses from the Department of Justice, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and several state election officials and experts will testify. Information and livestream here.

  • The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will meet Wednesday morning to debate the need for Electoral Count Act reform. Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Manchin, two sponsors of a recent proposal to change the law, will appear. Information and livestream here.

  • While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to be holding high-profile meetings with Taiwanese officials on Wednesday, senators on the Foreign Relations Committee will debate a major Taiwan bill—the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022. The measure includes new defense support for Taiwan and elevates its position to a “major non-NATO ally.” Read more about the bill here. Committee meeting information here.

  • A Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee will meet Wednesday afternoon to examine gain of function research and lessons from the coronavirus pandemic. Information and livestream here.

  • FBI Director Christopher Wray will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing Thursday morning. Information and livestream here.

Worth Reading, From Rep. Peter Meijer

Of Note 

Haley Wilt is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.