Schumer on six-bill minibus: Proud to keep government open ‘without cuts or poison pill riders’

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hailed a package of six government funding bills on Sunday as “good news” that prevents a government shutdown “without cuts or poison pill riders.”

Schumer and congressional leaders unveiled the long-awaited package Sunday afternoon, with hopes to get the set passed before a March 8 partial government shutdown deadline. Congress made an extension to the previous week’s funding deadline in order to introduce and pass the package.

“It’s good news that Congress has finally reached a bipartisan agreement on the first six government funding bills that will keep the government open,” Schumer said in a statement . “We are proud to be keeping the government open without cuts or poison pill riders.”

The six spending bills fund focus on funding the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, Energy, Justice, Commerce and Energy through this fall. In total, the bills are about $450 billion.

Both Democrats and Republicans responded to the package by taking victory laps on certain inclusions. GOP members touted cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the funding package, while Democrats hailed protections for certain welfare programs.

A number of conservative Republicans have urged Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to throw out the negotiations and instead pursue a one-year funding measure with universal budget cuts.

The funding bills are expected to be introduced and voted on this week in the House, where they will likely need bipartisan support, and are likely to pass the Senate. 

“The clock is now ticking until government funding runs out this Friday,” Schumer said. “Between now and the end of the week, the House must quickly pass and send the Senate this bipartisan package.”

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Jen Psaki: ‘Real legacy’ of Mitch McConnell is ‘a cynic focused on power’

MSNBC’s Jen Psaki slammed Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s (Ky.) “real legacy” as a “cynic focused on power.”

Psaki discussed McConnell’s announcement last week that he would be stepping down  from his leadership role in the Senate Republican conference next November. She said on “Inside with Jen Psaki” that his latest news is the “perfect moment” to discuss his legacy, “specifically his unwavering devotion to winning and winning at any cost.”

 In heated remarks, Psaki suggested that McConnell was for or against issues based on how politically beneficial they were to him. 

“He was for campaign finance reform before he realized that opposing it would mean raising far more unrestricted money, and that could politically be helpful to him. He was for voting rights until he realized that suppressing the vote might help Republicans win elections,” she said. 

She then pointed to McConnell holding up former President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court for 11 months in 2016, saying, at the time, it should be the choice of the American people in November.

“But that didn’t last long. Fast forward just a couple of years to 2020 when he flipped on his own McConnell rule to Russian Amy Coney Barrett into the court just weeks before the election, because it’s never been about sticking with principles for him. It’s been about power,” she added.

 She also said McConnell saw Trump as a “means to an end” because he could nominate conservatives to federal courts. She also noted that despite McConnell saying Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, he voted to acquit him in his second impeachment case.

“And so, Mitch McConnell was arguably the most powerful figure in Republican in the Republican Party is leaving his post as Republican Senate Leader diminished. That’s apparent from the lack of action on new Ukraine aid despite his insistence and his inability to keep his conference together to pass a bipartisan border bill, which tanked at the behest of Donald Trump,” she said. 

“And yet, despite all that, McConnell thinks about Trump, which we know he’s already said that if he is the Republican nominee, he will support him. And that’s the real legacy of Mitch McConnell, a cynic focused on power only to be swallowed by the monster that he enabled to obtain it,” she concluded.

The Hill has reached out to McConnell’s office for comment.

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Senate GOP lawmaker says it’s not a ‘close call’ when it comes to Trump vs. Biden’s mental fitness

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) appeared to brush off concerns about former President Trump’s mental acuity and, instead, spotlighted President Biden, who has faced mounting scrutiny on his mental fitness and ability to carry out a second term.

CBS News’s “Face The Nation” anchor Margaret Brennan brought up Trump’s apparent mix-up over the weekend when he confused former President Obama and Biden and also suggested U.S. troops were serving in Ukraine.

Asked if he is comfortable about Trump’s mental fitness, Sullivan said, “Yes, yes. Compared to the current president? 110 percent. And as your polling shows, I think the American people have real concerns [about] where President Biden is with regard to his fitness for office, particularly his mental acuity.”

“And relative to President Biden or relative to former President Trump, I don’t even think it’s a close call when you see the two in action,” he continued.

It’s not the first time Trump has appeared to mix up Obama and Biden’s names, and in November, he claimed  he had previously done so sarcastically to show “others” may have a “very big influence in running” the United States.

Both Trump and Biden have faced criticism for gaffes made in recent months. Trump is 77, 4 years younger than Biden. However, the current president has received an onslaught of criticism , especially following a special counsel report last month that called into question  the president’s well-being.

At 81, Biden is the oldest sitting U.S. president, and if reelected, he would be 86 at the end of his second term. Last week, he pushed back on concerns  about his age and said what really matters is “how old your ideas are.”

“You got to take a look at the other guy, he’s about as old as I am, but he can’t remember his wife’s name,” Biden said last week on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” in reference to Trump’s recent speech in which he appeared to mix up his wife, Melania Trump, with Mercedes Schlapp, the wife of American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp and a former aide to Trump.

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Oklahoma lawmaker on Alabama IVF ruling: ‘This is not the position of Republican Party’

Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling on frozen embryos is “not the position” of the GOP.

Mullin reflected on his and his wife’s fertility struggles on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, saying that the recent ruling  from the Alabama Supreme Court was not in line with the Republican Party’s beliefs.

“Well, listen, as you know, my wife and I, we struggled for seven years to have children. And it was tough. It was something that was very difficult for us month after month after month. And we went through all types of fertility,” he said.

The state Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos are people last month and therefore subject to wrongful death of a minor legislation should something happen to them, which has since prompted multiple in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics to shut down  operations. Mullin also expressed optimism that the Alabama legislature will pass legislation to protect access to IVF, but noted that he would support federal action if necessary.

“And so anyone that’s out there thinking that — in Alabama, thinking, oh, my goodness, what’s going to happen, we have been trying to have children, we have been wanting to have children, now that’s going to be affected, I can tell you, that’s not the position the Republican Party stands, he said.

“We understand that. I’m not the only one in the Republican Party, for that matter, the only one in politics, that has struggled having children. This had nothing to do with politics. This is the ruling of a court that I believe that the Alabama state legislators are probably going to fix.  But, as I reiterate, this is not the position of Republican Party or the pro-life movement at all,” he said.

When asked if he would support IVF protections on the federal level, he said he would if the state could not get it done. The Alabama House of Representatives and state Senate both passed bills  last week stating that IVF providers civil and criminal immunity from prosecution or legal action related to the service they provide.

“Yes, Dana, if we need to do this federally, we absolutely will support it. And you will see a lot of support, maybe complete support in the Republican Party,” he said. 

“I can’t obviously speak for all my colleagues. But I think the state legislature in Alabama is going to resolve this issue. And, hopefully, we don’t have to do this federally. But if we do need to, I can assure you I will be right in the middle of that fight fighting for it,” he added.

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Ron Johnson leaves open door to running for Senate GOP leader

Sen. Ron Johnson  (R-Wis.) left the door open on Sunday to running for Senate GOP leader after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced his plans to retire from the top post.

NewsNation’s Chris Stirewalt asked Johnson on “The Hill Sunday” whether he would consider taking the job as the next Senate Republican leader, noting that he sent a letter to his GOP colleagues asking for a defined process for electing the new leader. Johnson said the letter was meant to encourage Republicans to come together to define their roles and the party’s goals.

“In terms of replacing the leader but what this letter is primarily about, you know — I don’t think people truly understand the profound dysfunction within Congress,” he said.

Johnson said that the GOP has not effectively counted Democrats’ goals in Congress and suggested McConnell was not being transparent enough.

“What Republicans have not done is effectively counter the destruction of the radical left, the destruction of the Democratic Party. That’s what we need to do. So what I asked for in this conference is let’s discuss, discuss a mission statement. Let’s establish goals,” he said.

“And then let’s figure out exactly the process for electing a new leader. I’m hoping in that discussion of mission statements, leaders will emerge that will embrace it. They’ll talk about how they’re going to have a much more collaborative process, utilize the talents within the conference. That hasn’t happened,” he said.

“We’ve had a leader that pretty well does things on his own, doesn’t tell the conference what he’s up to. By the time we find out it’s too late to reverse course,” Johnson continued.

Stirewalt then noted that he “did not hear a no in there” on whether Johnson would keep the door open to being the next leader of the Senate Republican conference.

NewsNation is owned by Nexstar Media Group, which also owns The Hill.

Senate Republicans are now discussing who they should put forward as their next leader as three potential candidates  have emerged: Sens. John Thune  (R-S.D.), John Cornyn  (R-Texas) and John Barrasso  (R-Wyo.). Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) had also advised former President Trump to stay out of the leadership race in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

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