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At the Races: Fiscal fun

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Lawmakers released a six-bill appropriations package early Thursday morning that, if passed, would avoid a partial government shutdown and the politics that would accompany that. 

But look at what members of both parties are pointing to as wins to see what they think will be resonant issues on the campaign trail this year.

Republicans praised the Homeland Security measure, including provisions that would increase Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention bed capacity, hiring at the Border Patrol and funding for border technology, our colleague Aidan Quigley reports, underscoring the party’s focus on immigration. 

Meanwhile, Democrats were more focused on wins that would boost funding for domestic programs, including child care and cancer and Alzheimer’s research. 

Passage of the package by this weekend would close the legislative door on the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, but battles are already brewing on the next one. Democrats, led by President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign, are criticizing a budget proposal for fiscal 2025 released this week by the Republican Study Committee, the largest group of House conservatives. That proposal endorses measures to raise the retirement age for Social Security, among other things, a change the group says would help stave off future cuts to the program that would occur under Biden’s budget proposal. 

The RSC annually releases a budget proposal although, like the president’s proposal unveiled March 11, it typically doesn’t go far. This year’s RSC plan includes 285 individual bills from 192 members. 

And that’s plenty of fodder for campaign attacks this year. The Biden campaign says Republicans want to slash Social Security, which Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer echoed by calling the plan “cruel” during floor remarks Thursday. It’s reminiscent of a 2022 proposal from Florida Sen. Rick Scott, chair of the NRSC at the time and a candidate for reelection this year, which Democrats used to argue that Republicans intended to cut the program, even as many Republicans said they didn’t support the plan.

Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern, the RSC chair, pushed back when conservative commentator Lou Dobbs said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that the RSC’s Social Security plan is a way of trying to block former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House.

Hern said he’s already endorsed Trump and said that “we don’t touch SSI for anyone on or near retirement.”

“I know that smart, fiscally responsible reforms will save SS, maintain benefits for everyone in and near retirement, and keep the program solvent long-term,” Hern said in a separate post

Starting gate

Coffee doesn’t buy you votes: That’s one of our nine takeaways from Tuesday’s elections in California, Illinois and Ohio. Another is how both Trump and Schumer got the candidate they wanted in the Ohio Senate primary. Daniela joined Politics Editor Herb Jackson and Editor-in-Chief Jason Dick to talk about the races on this week’s Political Theater podcast, which is also on YouTube.

Mace race: South Carolina’s legislature is asking the Supreme Court to let the state run this year’s election using the existing map, even as litigation continues over the design of Rep. Nancy Mace’s 1st District, which a trial court said likely violates protections against racial discrimination, CQ Roll Call’s Michael Macagnone reports.

Lenses make red look blue? The president’s campaign sees “multiple paths” to 270 electoral votes, including competing in Florida and Texas, CQ Roll Call’s John T. Bennett reports.

Statehouse focus: The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee plans to focus on reproductive health issues in key states where they hope to flip or maintain Democratic majorities this year, CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman reports.

ICYMI

Not happening: There’s no indication that Hill Democrats will use Congress’ role in counting electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2025, to enforce the 14th Amendment’s Insurrection Clause to stop another Trump presidency. “We’re not election deniers,” DSCC Chair Gary Peters tells colleague Ryan Tarinelli.

Mayer out: Wisconsin businessman Scott Mayer won’t run for Senate, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he doesn’t have the “desire to be in a bloody, really, really, really expensive primary” after Republican Eric Hovde launched a campaign last month to unseat Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin. 

Text alert: The DSCC launched a texting campaign in Nevada to draw attention to Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown’s record on abortion. 

Dropping out: Geoffrey Grammer withdrew from the Democratic primary race in Maryland’s 6th District and endorsed April McClain Delaney. Delaney, whose husband previously held the seat now held by Rep./Senate candidate David Trone, has been consolidating support in recent weeks. 

Swing state voting: Keystone Renewal PAC, The Sentinel Action Fund and the Republican State Leadership Committee PAC are launching an eight-figure vote-by-mail program in Pennsylvania. In a release, the groups said the “effort will help to expand their voter base by targeting low-propensity voters and persuadable swing voters and ensure that voters have the ability and know-how to cast their vote in the manner that works best for them.”

Endorsement watch: MoveOn Political Action endorsed Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Summer Lee for reelection and Democratic Rep. Andy Kim for New Jersey’s Senate seat. 

Congressional candidates step up: With Biden and Trump both securing their parties’ nominations, the presidential ad wars are over for now. But data compiled by the Wesleyan Media Project found that congressional candidates have more than filled the void. “As of March 10, $163 million had been spent this election cycle on broadcast television advertising in House and Senate races, amounting to over 300,000 ad airings,” the group found. That’s 28 percent more airings than the 2022 campaign at this point.

What we’re reading

TikTok mea culpa: Rep. Jeff Jackson, one of the House’s most prolific TikTokkers, apologized this week for a video he posted on the platform after a vote to force the sale of the app within six months or face a U.S. ban. Jackson, a Democrat from North Carolina who is currently running for state attorney general, voted in favor of the ban. He told The Charlotte Observer he doesn’t regret his vote, but he expressed remorse for this video. TIME magazine estimates the kerfuffle cost Jackson 200,000 followers.

The AK Guy: San Antonio Report caught up with the unconventional congressional campaign of YouTube gun rights advocate Brandon Herrera, who is facing fellow Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales in the May 28 runoff in Texas’ 23rd District. 

From denunciations to commendation: Semafor examines Trump’s evolving rhetoric regarding those charged with crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. He went from pledging that those arrested will be held accountable to embracing their cause and calling them “hostages.”

Trump territory: The Seattle precincts that backed Trump by the widest margin in Washington state’s March 12 presidential primary weren’t located in the city’s clubby, old-money neighborhood: They were part of the Chinatown International District, according to an analysis by The Seattle Times. While it’s hard to draw conclusions from a low-stakes primary in which the outcome was preordained, a Democratic political consultant told the newspaper that the shift toward Trump among working-class Asian voters could be a sign of a political realignment.

Rabbi reaction: Schumer’s speech last week criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a range of reactions. Among the most enthusiastic was from Schumer’s rabbi, Rachel Timoner. “In this speech, he said what most of us think,” Timoner, senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, told Politico New York. “There’s been a real fear in the American Jewish community of criticizing Israel. … He did something so great in breaking that silence.”

The count: 870,000

With an additional 78,000 announced Thursday, that’s how many public service workers — up from 7,000 in all previous administrations — have had their student loan debt canceled by the Biden administration, according to a White House news release.

Nathan’s notes

Nathan may say the only election that matters is the one on Election Day, but we can do better here

Key race: #WV02

Candidates: With Republican Rep. Alex X. Mooney leaving the House to run for Senate, the open seat in the safe red district has drawn a crowd. The Republican primary field includes retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Chris Walker, Army veteran Nate Cain, retired Army sergeant and cybersecurity engineer Joe Earley, Alex Gaaserud, who works in third-party logistics, and state Treasurer Riley Moore. The lone Democrat running is retired Navy officer Steven Wendelin.

Why it matters: Moore is part of a well-connected political family: His grandfather, Arch A. Moore Jr., was West Virginia’s longest-serving governor, and his aunt, Shelley Moore Capito, is the state’s junior senator. Moore’s cousin, Moore Capito, is a former member of the House of Delegates who is now running for governor. 

Cash dash: Moore had the biggest war chest, with about $500,000 at the close of the last reporting period, on Dec. 31. Earley had about $65,000. The remaining candidates all reported less than $10,000 in their campaign accounts.

Backers: Moore received an early endorsement from former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and also has the backing of McCarthy’s replacement, Speaker Mike Johnson, as well as that of Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, is supporting Cain.

What they’re saying: All of the candidates tout their conservative credentials, but several have taken aim at Moore’s family connections. Earley says he’s not part of “an entrenched legacy political family,” and Gaaserud says he belongs to a new generation of leaders “free from the grip of these powerful family dynasties.” 

Many voters have yet to tune in to the May 14 primary, said R. Scott Crichlow, a professor of political science at West Virginia University. “To say it’s flying under the radar could be an understatement. I haven’t seen a single ad or mailer,” he said. “The gubernatorial primary seems to be eating up all the political oxygen around here.”

Terrain: The district covers the northern half of the state and includes Morgantown, home to West Virginia University. It hasn’t been represented by a Democrat since 2001.

Wild card: West Virginia’s population fell by about 47,000 people from 2010 to 2018, and after the 2020 census the state went from three congressional districts to two. Mooney won the seat in 2022 by defeating fellow Republican Rep. David B. McKinley.

Correction: Democrat Kina Collins was the focus of opposition spending by the United Democracy Project in Illinois’ 7th District. At the Races last week misidentified the candidate whom UDP opposed.

Coming up

The Republican Central Committee vacancy committee in Colorado’s 4th District meets March 28 to nominate a candidate for the June 25 special election to serve the remainder of Rep. Ken Buck’s term after he resigns later this week. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who is running for a full term, is not running in the special election.

Photo finish

If it wasn’t obvious who runs the Republican Party by now, the organizers of the Columbiana County, Ohio, Lincoln Day Dinner on March 15 made it clear with their backdrop behind the dais where Senate candidates, from left, Matt Dolan, Frank LaRose and Bernie Moreno sat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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