Key events

Imagine the January 6 committee, but controlled by Republicans and investigating not Donald Trump’s attempts to cling to power, but an array of alleged scandals involving Joe Biden and his Democratic allies.

According to Politico, some in the GOP are pondering giving Democrats a taste of the medicine they spent the past two years serving them when they investigated Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss. They’re pondering aggressive uses of subpoenas, hearings and contempt citations to tar the Biden administration ahead of the 2024 election, all modeled on the January 6 select committee that held tightly scripted, closely watched hearings throughout last year.

“They’ve almost changed the rules … [Are] we going to continue that pattern? Look, we want to get as much information as we can get, and they’ve written a new playbook, so we’ll have to talk about it as a committee and as a conference,” James Comer, Republican chair of the House oversight committee, said in an interview with Politico.

Or as Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole put it: “Turnabout is fair play, and they were warned this at the time — on everything from kicking members off committees … two impeachment efforts, everything else.”

But to some Republicans, the idea of a January 6-style inquiry into Biden’s misdeeds – perhaps the “weaponization of the federal government” the House GOP says it will investigate – is risky and counterproductive.

“If we get into a tit for tat — I don’t think that will serve Republicans, Congress or the American people well,” North Dakota’s Kelly Armstrong said in the piece, which also notes that Democrats involved in the January 6 committee are skeptical that its tactics can be effectively replicated by the GOP.

Progressives and the right wing of the Republican party are polar opposites politically, but there may be unusual common ground in both sides’ apparent willingness to cut defense spending, the Guardian’s Joan E Greve reports:

Progressives have recently found themselves in an unfamiliar position: in agreement with members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.

Some of the latter caucus’s members have recently called for re-examining the amount of money spent by the US military, echoing demands that progressives have issued for years. Although progressives are clear-eyed about their ideological differences with “America first” Republicans on foreign policy, they encourage a renewed debate over the Pentagon’s budget.

“The idea that effective American foreign policy requires this [level of spending], I think, is not only wrong,” said Matt Duss, a former foreign policy adviser to progressive senator Bernie Sanders, “it’s just absurd and unsustainable.”

The Freedom Caucus reportedly pushed for spending cuts as part of their negotiations with Kevin McCarthy, who offered concessions to fellow Republicans to secure the House speakership earlier this month. One of those concessions involved a promise to cap fiscal year 2024 discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, after Republicans expressed outrage over the $1.76tn omnibus funding bill that Joe Biden signed into law last month.

If such a fiscal policy were evenly applied to all federal agencies, the department of defense would see its budget cut by $75bn compared with this fiscal year.

That possibility has simultaneously sowed division among House Republicans and attracted the interest of progressives. They hope the latest dust-up over the Pentagon’s budget will spark what they consider to be an overdue conversation over US defense spending, which will hit a record high of $858bn this fiscal year.

In an a video that stretches for more than three minutes, Democratic House representative Ruben Gallego alternates between English and Spanish in describing his upbringing in Arizona, decision to serve in the Marines and his reasoning for challenging Kyrsten Sinema.

The ad is short on personal attacks against Sinema or the Republicans and more focused on telling Gallego’s story. Here it is below:

Growing up poor, all I had was the American dream. It kept me going: as a kid sleeping on the floor, a student scrubbing toilets, a Marine losing brothers in Iraq.

Today, too many Arizonans see their dream slipping away. I’m running for the U.S. Senate to win it back for you! pic.twitter.com/ofUvUYRcTP

— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) January 23, 2023

Republicans are gleeful over Ruben Gallego’s entrance into Arizona’s Senate race, because it raises the possibility of a three-way split between voters that could benefit the GOP.

“The Democrat civil war is on in Arizona. Chuck Schumer has a choice: stand with open borders radical Ruben Gallego or back his incumbent, Senator Kyrsten Sinema,” Philip Letsou, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement.

If Democrats and independents split their ballots between Sinema and Gallego, it could allow a GOP candidate to retake Arizona’s Senate seat in 2024 – a year where Democratic senators from several red states will also be seeking re-election.

Democrat Ruben Gallego announces run for Kyrsten Sinema’s senate seat

After spending months alienating her ostensible allies in the Biden administration and Democratic party at large, senator Kyrsten Sinema last year announced she would leave the party and continue representing Arizona as an independent. Sinema said she would continue to work with her former allies in the Senate, but her decision nonetheless infuriated Democrats, and today a popular congressman announced he would run against her in the 2024 election. The Guardian’s Joan E Greve has the latest:

The Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona announced on Monday that he will run for the Senate, teeing up a potential battle against incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema next year.

Gallego, a marine combat veteran who has served in the House of Representatives since 2015, made the widely expected announcement in a campaign video that was filmed in his Phoenix area congressional district.

In the video, Gallego explains his unlikely journey to the House as the son of an immigrant mother who struggled to make ends meet. If elected, Gallego, who is of Mexican and Colombian descent, would be the first Latino to represent Arizona in the Senate.

“Growing up poor, the only thing I really had was the American dream,” Gallego says. “I’m running to be the senator of Arizona because you deserve somebody fighting for you and fighting with you every day to make sure you have the same chance at el sueño americano.”

The announcement comes after months of speculation. Whispers of Gallego’s plans grew louder last month, when Sinema announced she would switch her party affiliation from Democratic to independent, although she continues to caucus with Senate Democrats.

“At a time when our nation needs leadership most, Arizona deserves a voice that won’t back down in the face of struggle,” Gallego said at the time. “Unfortunately Senator Sinema is once again putting her own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans.”

Joe Biden said he had “no regrets” about how he handled the matter of classified materials dating from his stints as vice-president and senator that have been found at a former office and at his home in Delaware.

That didn’t sit well with Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator who acted as a power broker in the past Congress and spoiler for progressive priorities. “I think he should have a lot of regrets,” Manchin said in a Sunday appearance on NBC News, adding that if he was in a similar position, he would hold his staff accountable, but “the buck stops with me.”

Here are his full comments:

Speaking to CNN, fellow Democratic senator Dick Durbin was similarly critical of Biden, but hit back at Republicans’ insistence that what the president did was no different than Donald Trump’s stashing of government secrets at Mar-a-Lago. “At its heart, the issue is the same. Those documents should not have been in the personal possession of either Joe Biden and Donald Trump. But what happened and followed from it is significantly different,” Durbin said. “Donald Trump defied those who knew the documents were in place, and ultimately led to, involuntarily, a court order and a search of his Mar-a-Lago hotel resort to find out how many documents were there.”

Joe Biden, “embarrassed, as he should have been,” Durbin said, allowed the justice department and other agencies to search his property for additional classified material. “It is outrageous that either occurred, but the reaction by the former president and the current president could not be in sharper contrast,” Durbin said.

Here’s his full interview:

Democrats express frustration with Biden over document discoveries

Good morning, US politics blog readers. Joe Biden might have spent the weekend outside Washington DC, but he could not escape the growing furor over classified documents turning up in his possession. The latest batch were discovered when the president made the unusual step of allowing federal agents to search his residence in Wilmington, Delaware, during which they seized six more items. His Democratic allies are walking a fine line between shaking their finger at a lifelong politician who should have known better when it comes to classified material, and making the case that Biden is being far more transparent than Donald Trump, who stands accused of doing nearly the same thing, albeit in greater quantities and far more deliberately. “It diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it,” Democratic senator Dick Durbin told CNN in an interview Sunday, when asked about the president’s handling of the secrets. Expect to hear more about this today.

Here’s what else is going on:

  • Kyrsten Sinema has a challenger for Arizona’s Senate seat: Democratic House representative Ruben Gallego. After repeatedly infuriating progressives, Sinema left the Democratic party last year to serve as an independent, though she says she’ll continue to work with Biden’s allies. Democrats will have to decide whether to support her re-election, or back a risky bid to oust her in a swing state.

  • The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, briefs reporters at 2pm eastern time, who will surely pester her for more details about the documents investigation.

  • Tensions with China will probably rise again when the Republican House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, makes a visit to Taiwan in the coming months, Punchbowl News reports. Beijing reacted with fury when his Democratic predecessor Nancy Pelosi did the same last year.

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