BATTLE FOR THE SENATE — Democrats face a brutal Senate map in 2024, but they got two shots in the arm this morning: Sen. TIM KAINE (D-Va.) announced he’ll run for reelection, and news broke that Rep. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-Ariz.) will jump into his state’s race Monday.
Neither development is a shock, but some Democrats had started to feel heartburn this week over the prospect that Kaine, who’s living with long Covid, would bow out and open up another seat in a purple state. The former VP nominee said today that he’d weighed the decision and concluded that there’s “a whole lot more I want to do,” Marianne LeVine reports from Richmond.
Kaine has already started to take some steps toward his reelection campaign, including fundraising. He has $3.9 million in the bank currently.
One possible challenger to Kaine: Republican HUNG CAO, who made a Northern Virginia congressional race competitive last fall but lost to Rep. JENNIFER WEXTON, has been encouraged to run and is considering his next steps, a source close to Cao tells us.
Gallego will make his announcement with a video in both English and Spanish on Monday, Newsweek’s Adrian Carrasquillo scooped. A longtime critic of Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA, Gallego’s entrance into the race makes him the Democratic frontrunner to take on the newly independent incumbent. Gallego is making extra effortsto turn out and persuade the Latino electorate in Arizona, Carrasquillo reports.
But a potential three-way content — with marquee names like KARI LAKE and BLAKE MASTERS looming on the GOP side — means nobody knows how this race will play out. Democratic Rep. GREG STANTON has already bowed out of a potential bid.
DYNAMIC TO WATCH — DONALD TRUMP warned his party that “under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security” in a new video shared with Meridith McGraw. The former president has often been willing to buck GOP orthodoxy and strike a more populist note on entitlement reform. But it’s an especially striking statement at this moment, as congressional Republicans look to build support for spending cuts ahead of the debt ceiling showdown later this year.
While Trump’s video also slams President JOE BIDEN over immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border, his comments on spending are the most striking: Trump tells Republicans to limit their cuts to issues like foreign aid and climate investments. “Cut waste, fraud and abuse everywhere that we can find it,” he says. “But do not cut the benefits our seniors worked for and paid for their entire lives. Save Social Security, don’t destroy it.”
Trump’s stance could box in his fellow Republicans: Democrats are already licking their chops at the prospect of attacking the GOP on Social Security and Medicare, and now their bête noire agrees with them.
But the true target of Trump’s stance may not be on Capitol Hill:Rolling Stone’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Tim Dickinson reported yesterday that the Trump team sees entitlements as a crucial area to hammer Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS in a potential presidential primary. “Trump and his lieutenants are itching to portray DeSantis as the ‘establishment’ figure — the one who is preferred by the supposedly squishy party bigwigs like Senate minority leader MITCH McCONNELL. … One area in which Trump and his allies smell that kind of weakness in DeSantis is on Social Security.”
Meanwhile, on the Hill, establishment moderates are indeed thinking through tweaks to entitlement programs: “Sens. BILL CASSIDY, R-La., and ANGUS KING, I-Maine, are drafting legislation to ensure the solvency of Social Security that might involve the creation of a sovereign wealth fund,” Semafor’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig scooped. It’s not related to the debt ceiling debate, though.
Happy Friday afternoon, and thanks for reading Playbook PM. What surprising Senate retirements or reelection decisions are you hearing whispers about? Drop me a line at [email protected].
WAR IN UKRAINE
PAGING STATE AND TREASURY — Rosatom, the state nuclear power entity in Russia, has been secretly assisting the Russian defense industry to power the war in Ukraine, WaPo’s Catherine Belton reveals. That’s prompting fresh calls for sanctions on Rosatom, which the U.S. and Western allies have largely avoided up until now because they could have economic ramifications for nuclear power worldwide. “Experts said they feared Russia could be using Rosatom’s current non-sanctioned status as a way to obtain components that would otherwise be embargoed.”
TANKS BUT NO TANKS — In remarks today in Germany, Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN implored Western allies of Ukraine “to dig even deeper” in support of Kyiv, WaPo’s Dan Lamothe and Loveday Morris report from Ramstein Air Base. But the stalemate over which countries will be willing to send tanks is ongoing — and by the end of the meeting, it was still unresolved.
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS — The L.A. Times’ Melanie Mason and Benjamin Oreskes have an interesting dive into the longstanding friendship of LA Mayor KAREN BASS and Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY, fellow Californianswho have “a genuine affinity that has spanned two decades and both coasts. The next two years will test whether that kind of personal chemistry can still yield substantive accomplishments,” as Bass petitions for more federal resources to fight homelessness while McCarthy looks to cut spending.
PULL UP A CHAIR — RNC member LORI HINZ, who’s aligned with HARMEET DHILLON, accused fellow member TAMARA SCOTT, a supporter of current Chair RONNA McDANIEL, of bigotry against Dhillon’s Sikhism, NBC’s Marc Caputo reports. Hinz said Scott warned that a Dhillon victory could damage the RNC’s Faith Advisory Board work. Scott didn’t respond to NBC’s request for comment.
2024 WATCH — More MIKE POMPEO-NIKKI HALEY sniping: In his new book, the former secretary of State blasts Haley’s role as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. as “far less important than people think,” The Forward’s Jacob Kornbluh reports. “She gave fine remarks about Israel, but didn’t do much else.”
SO MUCH FOR THAT — Trump has dropped his lawsuit trying to stop New York AG TISH JAMES from getting documents in his private trust — one day after the judge in the case fined Trump and his lawyer almost $1 million for frivolous litigation in a separate case. More from CNN
PLAYBOOK REAL ESTATE SECTION — A new Secret Service proposal would create a guardhouse at Mar-a-Lago, with security features in line with other former presidents’ residences but a design that matches the Palm Beach vibe, Bloomberg’s Sri Taylor reports. “The building would don copper-colored clay tile roofing and stucco walls … New planting beds with colorful and tropical greenery — cocoplum shrubs and crotons — line its perimeters.”
INFLATION NATION — WSJ’s Danny Dougherty and Nate Rattner crunch the numbers and conclude that over the past six months, inflation has likely slowed to pre-pandemic levels — about a 1.9% increase in prices year over year.
WHO RUNS THE WORLD — This Congress, the “Four Corners” of top appropriators will all be women for the first time ever. Reps. ROSA DeLAURO (D-Conn.) and KAY GRANGER (R-Texas) and Sens. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine) and PATTY MURRAY (D-Wash.) sat down with NBC’s Scott Wong, Julie Tsirkin and Kate Santaliz to talk about progress for women on the Hill and their fiscal plans for the year. “It’s really a difficult time,” Granger says. “We can make it through. But I’m absolutely convinced that we have to stand together.” Granger also says calls from some Republicans for defense cuts are a nonstarter.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
THE MIGRANT FLIGHTS — After DeSantis provoked a national firestorm by sending dozens of migrants seemingly unaware to Martha’s Vineyard, local attorney RACHEL SELF and Bexar County, Texas, Sheriff JAVIER SALAZAR worked together to aid the migrants and investigate the situation, WaPo’s Joanna Slater reports from Stoughton, Mass. Now, they’ve reached “an unexpected outcome” for the migrants: “The group of 49 people, nearly all from Venezuela, became eligible for a type of visa available only to victims of crimes who are assisting in law enforcement investigations, a process that also shields them from deportation.”
WHERE THE ACTION IS — Congress keeps failing to pass a federal data privacy law. So much of the momentum is shifting to state capitals, where “at least 15 states [are] already introducing legislation in 2023 to expand protections for children’s privacy, biometric information and other types of data,” WaPo’s Cristiano Lima reports. “If passed, the measures could up the pressure on lawmakers in Washington.”
BOOGIE WOOGIE WOOGIE — In the ongoing international dispute over U.S. incentives for domestic electric vehicle manufacturing, American labor unions sent a letter to Biden this week urging him to stand firm on the tax credit program, WSJ’s Yuka Hayashi reports. “The labor unions said in their letter that the IRA has the potential to be a gamechanger for American communities hit hard by decades of offshoring.”
MOTHER NATURE’S SON — “White House Aims to Reflect the Environment in Economic Data,”by NYT’s Lydia DePillis: “A White House report said the effort would take about 15 years. When the standards are fully developed and phased in, researchers will still be able to use gross domestic product as currently defined — but they will also have expanded statistics that take into account a broader sweep of nature’s economic contribution, both tangible and intangible. Those statistics will help more accurately measure the impact of a hurricane, for example.”
FED UP — Another Fed official, JOHN WILLIAMS, said last night that the central bank still has “a ways to go” in raising interest rates before it can feel confident that it has sufficiently tamed inflation, NYT’s Jeanna Smialek reports. Williams said ongoing signs of economic strength despite recent rate increases adds to the belief that the Fed can go further.
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
YELLEN ABROAD — “Janet Yellen Pledges to Deepen Africa Ties as U.S. Wards Off Russian, Chinese Influence,”by WSJ’s Andrew Duehren in Dakar, Senegal: “Yellen pledged further U.S. investment in and trade with Africa as she began a three-country tour of the continent, where the Biden administration is trying to deepen ties in the face of Chinese and Russian influence. … She said the U.S. would aim to help African officials translate those demographic changes into economic growth—and not societal unrest.”
MORE LAYOFFS — Vox Media announced it’s letting go of 7% of its staff across several teams, including editorial. The memo, via CNN’s Oliver Darcy
— Daily Kos’ guild said management plans to lay off 28% of unionized employees.
OUT AND ABOUT — Pete Williams, David Gardner and Nancy Palmer hosted a party last night for Jim Popkin’s new book, “Code Name Blue Wren” ($27.99), which tells the story of U.S. intelligence analyst-turned-spy for Cuba Ana Montes. SPOTTED: Andrea Mitchell, Ken Dilanian, Shane Harris, Carol Leonnig, Daniel Lippman, Josh Meyer, Aram Roston, Ian McCaleb, Kevin Bohn, Liz Voyles, Kathy O’Hearn, Jeanne Meserve and Jeffrey Blount.
— Paramount Consulting Group hosted a reception last night to build support for Atlanta to host the 2024 Democratic National Convention. SPOTTED: Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Birmingham, Ala., Mayor Randall Woodfin, Montgomery, Ala., Mayor Steven Reed, Little Rock, Ark., Mayor Frank Scott, Savannah, Ga., Mayor Van Johnson, Richmond, Va., Mayor Levar Stoney, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, Steve Benjamin, Shirley Franklin, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Doug Jones, Tharon Johnson, Candice Franklin, Mona Mohib, Scott Binkley, Clayton Cox, Michael Tyler, Howard Franklin and Jonathan Martin.
— SPOTTED at Bullfeathers for a going-away party for Elliott Hulse, who’s moving to Tokyo for his work at the World Bank: Hunter Morgen, Ninio Fetalvo, Kaelan Dorr, Brian and Teresa Morgenstern, Clay Shoemaker, Kamran Daravi, Jill Barclay, Hunter Ihrman, Raj Shah, Naji Filali, Tyler Ross, Kelsey Kilgore, Katie Armstrong, Ali Pardo and Conor Maguire.
MEDIA MOVE — Jessica Floyd is now press and booking manager at Punchbowl. She previously was a director at SKDK.
TRANSITIONS — Grayson Westmoreland is now a senior professional staff member for the House Oversight GOP. He previously was legislative director for Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), and is a House Veterans’ Affairs alum. … Jackie Maffucci is now deputy director of congressional, legislative and intergovernmental affairs for the Office of Personnel Management. She most recently was senior policy adviser for Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). …
… Marian Currinder is joining Freedom House as director for U.S. democracy. She most recently was a professional staff member for the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. … Raghav Vajjhala is now senior officer/associate director for enterprise IT operations at the SEC. He most recently was CIO and chief data officer at the FTC.