Ally Mutnick, Melanie Zanona, Marianne LeVine and Nicholas Wu contributed.
CASH COW — We’re about to find out how Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the presidential election — which culminated in an insurrection and a subsequent impeachment trial — has affected the early stages of the battle to control Congress next year. We have an early, but revealing, data point from the final day of the first fundraising quarter.
The top Democrat lining up against Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), KERRY DONOVAN, raised more than $614,000 in just 55 days for her 2022 campaign. That’s a massive haul for a challenger in the first quarter of the off-year. Donovan, a rancher and educator who serves as the president pro tem of the Colorado state Senate, is tapping into some of the blowback against Boebert, who boosted Trump’s false election fraud claims and enthusiastically backed the effort to object to the certification of Joe Biden’s win on Jan. 6.
Donovan launched her campaign in February with a video that knocked Boebert: “You deserve a congresswoman who cares more about getting results than getting headlines.” Donovan’s team said she didn’t take corporate PAC money and started her email fundraising list from scratch.
We saw this dynamic play out during the first Trump impeachment, when Intel Committee members from both parties enjoyed a financial windfall. Campaign-finance reports due on April 15 will give a more complete picture of how donors are feeling in the aftermath of the events of January and February. While corporations were scaling back their giving after the riot, small-dollar donors are another story entirely.
Will some of the most prominent pro-Trump voices — like Boebert and Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — be rewarded by the former president’s legion of donors? Will the left flood their challengers with cash? And what about the fundraising of the 10 GOP members who voted to impeach Trump? Some have already attracted primary challengers who are busy raising funds — many at the encouragement of the ex-president.
Democrats are excited about Donovan because they think they have a real chance of ousting Boebert, who only won her rural western Colorado district by 6 points in 2020 — and it will be redrawn this year by an independent commission. Dems have a better chance of victory here than in the deep-red seats held by other conservative firebrands; Greene, for example, won her northwest Georgia seat by 50 points.
Watch this space as we learn more about whether Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election — which spurred the insurrection — could fuel Democrats in 2022 and harm the very Republicans who have stood by him.
MEANWHILE … Rep. ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.), one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, will announce today that he raised a whopping $1.1 million for his re-election campaign — nearly three times what he raised in the first quarter of 2019. His Country First Leadership PAC also raked in $1.1 million from over 10,000 donors, with an average contribution of $46.
The Illinois Republican has doled out $100,000 to congressional candidates thus far. That includes Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), who also voted to impeach Trump, and Michael Wood, an anti-Trump Republican who is running in a special election in Texas. It’s a fascinating early sign that Never-Trump Republicans, too, could benefit from the post-insurrection, post-impeachment fallout.
INFRASTRUCTURE YEAR — This is where we’d make an “infrastructure week” joke, but that phrase no longer tells the full story. President Joe Biden’s drive to get his big infrastructure plan through Congress will take up much of the rest of this calendar year, and it’s going to remain the biggest-ticket item on Capitol Hill until it either passes or fails. In other words, you’re going to hear about it a lot over the coming months. Let’s go ahead and retire “infrastructure week” (sorry, Secretary Pete); 2021 is “infrastructure year,” but only if Biden and his party can deliver.
The coming legislative offensive won’t be anything like the one that got Biden’s $2 trillion Covid-19 relief plan through both chambers. Democrats of all stripes broadly saw a need for a massive investment in the economy to aid the pandemic recovery, and the bill made it to Biden’s desk pretty quickly despite his party’s razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate. What’s more, pushback from Republicans didn’t have much of a political impact because public polling showed that the stimulus was quite popular.
This time is different. Democrats are starting from scratch with a simple blueprint from the White House, and nobody really knows what the final package will look like. That’s in part because some moderate and progressive Democrats are already drawing lines in the sand, which could cause problems in a 50-50 Senate and a House Democratic majority that’s even slimmer than it was when the Covid-19 relief bill passed. And Republicans are already previewing their messaging to torpedo the effort, highlighting proposals to pay for the gargantuan bill through tax increases on businesses. That’s a message the GOP is more than happy to carry into 2022 and use against vulnerable Democrats.
Democrats need near-total unity. They can’t lose more than three votes in the House, and they need every Senate Democrat to support the final bill. And because they’re almost certain to use the reconciliation process to get around the Senate filibuster, Republicans will have even more chances to divide the party through a series of procedural hurdles. And while moderates and progressives alike pan the effort, don’t forget that every lawmaker — regardless of persuasion — will be jockeying to secure funding for infrastructure projects in their district.
The coming slog amounts to what Marianne, Sarah and Melanie describe as “a political ultra-marathon for Biden and his Democratic-led Congress.” Here’s how Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) put it: “I don’t mean it will be approved easily and people will be laying outside on the grass while the vote’s going on, sipping on iced tea. It’s going to be hard work.” More from the all-star trio here: https://politi.co/3u5X5Io
Related: “Climate activists on Biden infrastructure plan: Go bigger,” by Zack Colman: https://politi.co/3ueLNBE; “Biden looks for an infrastructure win where Obama and Trump failed,” by Megan Cassella and Tanya Snyder: https://politi.co/3dobj0D; “5 key takeaways from Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan,” by The Washington Post’s Heather Long: https://wapo.st/3drtgeC
HAPPY THURSDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill on this April 1, where Opening Day is finally upon us and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’ll be chilly for tonight’s first pitch here in D.C., where the Nats are hosting the Mets. Up in Philadelphia, where my Phillies are taking on the Braves, there’s a chance of rain — but that probably won’t stop the Phillie Phanatic from doing his thing. Tweet me @AndrewDesiderio with your playoff predictions. Go Phils!
WEDNESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: Roll Call’s story on Biden’s infrastructure plan was the big winner.
HART-LESS — Rita Hart, the Democratic House candidate who appealed her six-vote loss to the House Administration Committee, called it quits on Wednesday. Hart, a former Iowa state senator, withdrew her challenge to Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), citing a “toxic campaign of political disinformation.” Republicans had hammered Democrats for entertaining Hart’s objections even as the state had certified Miller-Meeks as the winner of her southeast Iowa district.
Hart had asserted that roughly two dozen ballots were improperly tossed out as November’s results were being tallied, and that those ballots could have flipped the outcome of the race. But, as Sarah and Ally note, Hart’s challenge was presenting problems for vulnerable House Democrats, who were worried about the optics of seeking to overturn an election after criticizing Trump and the GOP for trying to do the same. And, perhaps more significantly, the House might have had to actually vote on who gets to represent Iowa’s 2nd congressional district. More from Sarah and Ally: https://politi.co/3dmrQ5f
GAETZ-GATE — What on earth is Matt Gaetz doing? That’s the question Kyle and Matt Dixon are asking this morning with a smart story on the Florida Republican’s legal and PR strategy amid a Justice Department investigation.
Instead of keeping quiet, Gaetz has flooded the airwaves as part of a strategy that appears to mirror that of a certain former president. “My hope is that the truth will set me free, so I’m trying to get as much truth out as possible,” Gaetz said when asked about his actions since the New York Times first revealed the existence of the DOJ probe. But in the process, legal experts note, Gaetz might have made his defense more complicated. Kyle and Matt have much more on Gaetz’s legal quagmire: https://politi.co/2PG2CGR
Related: “Matt Gaetz’s dad says he wore a wire for FBI probe into DOJ extortion claims,” by Matt Dixon and Betsy Woodruff Swan: https://politi.co/3wgMHzC
MODS TO THE BORDER — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) will travel to the southern border on Thursday, where they will take a tour with Customs and Border Protection. They will meet with government officials to talk about cross-border international trade, as well as with migrant families. The visit comes amid a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Manchin and Cuellar will hold a press conference at 4:30 p.m.
HATE CRIMES UPDATE — Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that legislation addressing a rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans would receive a markup in the House Judiciary Committee on April 14 and would be on the House floor by May. “What is important is that we document what happened,” she told a virtual roundtable with Asian-American advocates. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) would appoint a Justice Department official to help expedite the review of Covid-related hate crimes and beef up state and local hate crime reporting. Advocates and some lawmakers have called for legislation to improve hate crimes reporting amid a spike in hate incidents against Asian Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said the Senate would act on the bill next month, though it currently lacks any GOP support.
BYRD BATH — Pelosi also said on Wednesday that Democrats were considering adding immigration-related measures to the next reconciliation bill, though the Senate parliamentarian, whom Pelosi referred to as the “Byrd lady,” would make the final decision. Asked about the status of immigration legislation, Pelosi said a comprehensive plan could face headwinds in the Senate because of the still-intact filibuster, but Democrats “can make a case about the budget implications of immigration” to the parliamentarian, she said.
Kirby Struhar started on Monday as a legislative aide and research analyst for the House Climate Crisis Committee Republicans.Kirby was previously a special advisor in EPA’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. He is also a Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) alum.
Artur Orkisz has joined the Royal Norwegian Embassy as a senior congressional affairs adviser. He was previously at the Polish Embassy.
TODAY IN CONGRESS
The House meets today for a pro forma session at 9:00 a.m.
The Senate will convene at 10:00 a.m. for a pro forma session.
AROUND THE HILL
Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds her (virtual) weekly press conference at noon.
WEDNESDAY’S WINNER: Stephen Díaz Gavin was the first person to correctly guess that Jeannette Rankin of Montana politician became the first woman ever elected to Congress in 1916. It wasn’t until four years later that women had the right to vote in the U.S.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From your Huddle host: What does Harry S. Truman’s middle initial stand for?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answer to [email protected].
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