Jan 20, 2023 - Podcasts

The debt ceiling fight

The United States reached its $31.4 trillion debt ceiling on Thursday and the country is at its credit limit. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to act promptly.

  • Plus, 50 years post-Roe, a split in the anti-abortion movement.
  • And, the toll of burnout on women leaders like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern.

Guests: Axios' Josh Kraushaar, Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath and Oriana Gonzalez

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Erica Pandey, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi, Ben O'Brien and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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ERICA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, January 20th.

I’m Erica Pandey, in for Niala Boodhoo.

Today: 50 years post-Roe, a split in the anti-abortion movement. Plus, the toll of burnout on women leaders like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern. But first: the debt ceiling fight…and the reemergence of establishment Republicans. The week in politics is our One Big Thing.

ERICA: The United States reached its $31.4 trillion debt ceiling yesterday, and the country is at its credit limit. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to act promptly. Here for our Friday politics State of play is Axios’ Josh Kraushaar. Hey Josh.

JOSH KRAUSHAAR: Erica, great to be with you.

ERICA: So Josh, can you break down what it means to reach the debt ceiling?

JOSH: Well, it means that the government can't pay its debts if we do get past the point of no return, and that could lead to a whole lot of chaos, whether it's in the markets or whether it's even in terms of paying entitlement, spending for social security. medicare and so on. But this, this is a real crisis and one that a lot of democrats especially, is self-induced you know, the Republicans in the House are taking a hostage with a debt ceiling.

ERICA: What does the debt ceiling fight look like from here?

JOSH: Well, it's gonna be a staring game, and a battle of leverage. Republicans, now that they have the House majority believe that they should have some say in spending cuts, having the Democrats listen to what their voters had to say in the midterm elections. But ultimately, Democrats control the White House, they expanded their majority in the Senate. And, if Republicans do want to use that leverage, they could be negotiating against themselves and it could get dicey. But, I think Democrats think that there are enough Republicans that may call for a more sober course, and they also point to the divisions within the Republican party, as we just saw this month with a battle for the speakership.

ERICA: We're also gearing up for the 2024 election cycle and Senate candidates are beginning to pop up. You've been reporting that the GOP establishment is striking back. Can you dig into what that means?

JOSH: Yeah, I mean, when we covered all the big races, Senate races and beyond in the last midterm elections. All the big names we talked about from Dr. Oz to Herschel Walker to, you know, Blake Masters in Arizona. They were either Trump endorsed or they stood in the far right wing of the Republican party and raised a lot of electability questions. It turned out that they couldn't get elected in these swing states.

What we're seeing in 2023 and heading into 2024 is that Republicans are less worried about a Trump endorsement. They're less worried about losing a primary to a more right wing candidate. So we have in Ohio, Matt Dolan, who's a guy who ran last time, state senator, wealthy businessmen who co-owns the Cleveland Guardians baseball team. He's already in the Ohio Senate race.

But the names we're hearing about this early on are very established figures. So we're, the fact that we're even talking about more traditional Republicans expressing interest in running for Senate, whereas last time we were caring that they were too scared to run in a primary. They were worried about Trump. It's a sea change in what we're seeing, as far as the Republican political environment.

ERICA: Josh Kraushaar is a senior political correspondent for Axios. Thanks, Josh.

JOSH: Thanks, Erica

The toll of burnout on women leaders

ERICA: And in politics across the globe, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the surprising announcement this week that she'll step down from her position by February 7th.

PRIME MINISTER ARDERN: I know what this job takes and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice.

ERICA: Here with the story is Axios’ World editor Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath. Lauren-Whitney, why is Ardern stepping down?

LAURIN-WHITNEY GOTTBRATH: Well, the reason Ardern gave was simply because she's burnt out and she said she is human just like everyone else. And that's time for her to step down.

ERICA: Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Ardern had faced unprecedented threats during her time in office. Does her experience tell us anything bigger about the toll of leadership on women in politics around the world?

LAURIN-WHITNEY: I definitely think it does. You know, during Covid the country went on total lockdown. She says she did that to protect people's lives. But that's really when a lot of the hate started coming at her and the Labor Party in general. But I do think it kind of speaks to how women in politics in general are treated. I think there are plenty of studies that show that women are often disproportionately targeted with hate because of what they wear or how they do politics or even, you know, the fact that they go to a party and dance when we know men in politics are doing the exact same thing and aren't getting that kind of hate.

ERICA: What will Ardern’s legacy be?

LAURIN-WHITNEY: I think first and foremost is she was a compassionate leader. She's had a really hard time in office. She had a huge, domestic terrorism attack. That's where she really became well known on the world stage because of the compassion she showed to the Muslim community after the Christchurch attack. I think she'll really be remembered for the way she handled the Covid pandemic and just generally how she was in politics. And you know, she said it herself, ‘be kind in government’. She knew, you know, how to be empathetic but also get things done. And I think regardless of people's politics, it's not something we actually see every day, not just because she's a woman, not just because she's a mother, but she really was someone who I think a lot of people felt like they connected to on a more, sort of on the ground level, than other politicians who seem less accessible just because of the way they handle themselves.

ERICA: Axios’ World Editor Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath. Thank you for joining us.

LAURIN-WHITNEY: Thanks for having me.

ERICA: In a moment – anti-abortion activists look for the way forward.


A split in the anti-abortion movement

ERICA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo.

Sunday marks 50 years since the Roe v. Wade decision and with Roe now gone, anti-abortion activists are gathering in D.C. to celebrate. But, they're also divided on the way forward for their movement. Axios’ Oriana Gonzalez has more.

Oriana, how are both pro and anti-abortion groups marking the anniversary this weekend?

ORIANA GONZALEZ: On the anti-abortion side, this time is really about celebrating. I spoke to the vice president of government affairs at SBA Pro-Life America, and she said that that day, Sunday, is about reflecting on how far the anti-abortion movement has come. And one of the things they're really focusing on now moving forward is motivating anti-abortion lawmakers to pass restrictions and bans on the federal and state level, as well as looking at the 2024 presidential elections to make sure that they support candidates that are outspoken against abortion.So looking at the March for Life, which is happening in Washington D.C., those are kind of th. things that they really want to communicate.

On the abortion rights side, on the other hand, they're definitely kind of on response mode to the overturning of Roe. I spoke to Rachel Carmona, the executive director of the Women's March, which happening actually on Sunday, the day of the anniversary. And she says that now the abortion rights movement is really about reminding people that the fight is not over despite what the other side might claim. Abortion they say is still accessible in some states. They want to make sure that people know that they can still get an abortion, that we're not back to pre-Roe times, and particularly they really want to bring attention to the midterm wins for abortion rights, which they say show how supportive of abortion the electorate in general is.

ERICA: And you've also been reporting on this emerging split in the anti-abortion movement. What's going on there?

ORIANA: The anti-abortion movement used to be united by the goal of removing Roe. Now that that happened, there's this kind of heightened attention to the fact that there's a division within the movement, those that want to prosecute the people that provide abortions, and then those that want to prosecute the patients getting abortions. So major mainstream groups like SBA Pro-life America, The National Right to Life Committee, they have urged lawmakers to write laws that don't affect the patients because they say that patients are victims.

And then on the other hand, we have the so-called abortion abolitionists.They are taking this a step further and saying that there is absolutely no excuse for an abortion, including cases of rape and incest, and that even patients should be punished because they say that abortion is a sin. There's actually legislation being introduced in Oklahoma and in Missouri that if enacted could allow a prosecutor to go after a patient, which again is something that kind of the mainstream message around the anti-abortion movement has been against.

ERICA: Oriana Gonzalez covers healthcare for Axios. Thanks, Oriana.

ORIANA: Thanks, Erica.

ERICA: That’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our senior sound engineer is Alex Sugiura and Ben O’Brien also mixes the show. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Erica Pandey. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and Niala Boodhoo is back with you on Monday.

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