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Jan 13, 2022

Axios AM

Happy Thursday. Smart Brevity™ count: 1,396 words ... 5 minutes. Edited by Zachary Basu.

Breaking: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy refused the House 1/6 committee's request to interview him about his communications with former President Trump, and accused the panel of "abuse of power."

1 big thing: McCarthy's Trump House
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in the Capitol Rotunda in November. Photo: Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA via Reuters

Kevin McCarthy is signaling he'll institutionalize key Trumpian priorities if he takes over as House speaker next year — aggressive tactics targeting undocumented immigrants, liberals and corporate America, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

  • Why it matters: He'd govern with an edge and agenda in stark contrast to Paul Ryan, the last GOP speaker. McCarthy's vision would empower populists and pugilists to complete Donald Trump's Republican makeover.

Over the past year — and intensifying in recent months — McCarthy, 56, has been auditioning for a contest he failed at before:

  • On issue after issue, the man from Bakersfield is laying down markers to continue the dramatic GOP transformation that began in 2017.

"We're going to be more aggressive than in the past," McCarthy told Axios in an interview.

  • "We're not going to sit back and just take a 'no' for an answer. ... It can't be business as usual."

What we're hearing: Where Ryan was comparatively sympathetic toward undocumented immigrants, McCarthy is preemptively hardline.

  • Where Ryan focused on tax cuts and friendly relations with corporate America, McCarthy is excoriating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, threatening crippling regulations on social media companies and planning to inject an anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mindset into the work of every congressional committee possible.
  • Where Ryan tried for civil relationships across the aisle, McCarthy promises to strip high-profile Democrats of their committee assignments.

Between the lines: If Biden's low approval ratings and GOP strength in the generic ballot hold, the 2022 midterms may be the most favorable political environment for Republicans since the 2010 Tea Party wave election.

  • Ryan cast himself as a policy leader devoted to conservative principles such as shrinking the size of government.
  • McCarthy is more inclined to reflect the views of his conference — which may be even Trumpier a year from now than they are today.

Part 2 below.

2. Part 2: McCarthy's retaliation
Leader McCarthy and President Donald Trump visits a new section of the border wall in Calexico, Calif., in 2019. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

A taste of Kevin McCarthy's plans if he becomes speaker, as previewed in an interview with Axios' Jonathan Swan:

Immigration: McCarthy reiterated to Axios his recent pledge to Breitbart's Matt Boyle — that he'll not consider any legislation offering legal status to undocumented immigrants, preemptively ruling out comprehensive immigration reform.

Relationship with corporate America: After Jan. 6, many major corporations cut financial ties with Republicans who objected to certifying President Biden's victory. McCarthy hasn't forgotten, and he's signaled a hostile relationship with key emissaries of corporate America.

  • He's scolded the Chamber of Commerce — once a pillar of the Republican Party. He told Breitbart that "the Chamber left the party a long time ago," and noted its endorsements of House Democrats in 2020.
  • He traveled to Georgia last May to reinforce his vision of the GOP’s new relationship with business — siding with small businesses that oppose corporations pursuing "woke" social justice policies.
  • McCarthy told Axios he plans to inject tough-on-China initiatives into the work of numerous congressional committees — putting him at odds with some of the GOP's traditional donor class.

Economic orthodoxy: Trump's biggest legislative accomplishment was a huge corporate tax cut. But when McCarthy talks about Republicans' approach to some of the biggest corporations, he makes threats.

  • On Jan. 4, after Twitter de-platformed far-right GOP congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), McCarthy tweeted: "Twitter (all big tech), if you shut down constitutionally protected speech (not lewd and obscene) you should lose [Section] 230 [immunity] protection."

An enemies list: McCarthy has promised to escalate inter-party warfare by stripping multiple Democrats of their seats on important committees.

  • He says he'd retaliate against Pelosi, who stripped committee memberships from Greene and far-right Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), and blocked Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) from the Jan. 6 committee.
  • McCarthy told Breitbart he'd remove Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from the House Intelligence Committee; Swalwell from the Homeland Security Committee; and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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3. Biden approval hits 33%
Expand chart
Data: Quinnipiac poll. Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

A Quinnipiac University poll out yesterday gave President Biden a 33% approval rating, with 53% disapproval (1,313 U.S. adults; margin: ±2.7 points) — statistically in line with the 36% disapproval he tallied in November.

  • With Biden hitting the one-year mark a week from today, Quinnipiac polling analyst Tim Malloy said: "A rocky start for President Biden gets him low grades on his year one report card."

Between the lines: In the Quinnipiac polling graphed above, you see the lines cross — Biden goes underwater; more popular than unpopular — shortly after the fall of Afghanistan in mid-August.

🥊 "Stabbed in the back" ... N.Y. Times columnist Charles Blow says Biden's call to arms on voting rights — including an endorsement of breaking the filibuster — "came in the last days of the battle" ("Biden Fully Enters the Battle to Save Democracy … When It's Nearly Over"):

When Biden fully entered the battle, the other warriors were already bloody, bruised and exhausted. ...
[I]f voting protections fail, many in the Black community will feel like they have been stabbed in the back.

Keep reading (subscription).

4. Pic du jour

Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP via Getty Images

Kuwait City towers were wrapped in heavy fog today.

5. Our weekly map: Cases skyrocket
Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times. Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Daily COVID infections in the U.S. have more than doubled over the past two weeks, reaching an average of 760,000+ new infections per day, Axios' Sam Baker and Kavya Beheraj report.

  • COVID deaths are also on the rise, up from about 1,200 per day two weeks ago to an average of over 1,700 per day now.

Why it matters: The toll is a reminder that while Omicron isn't as deadly as past variants, it's still a serious threat for vulnerable people.

6. Inflation microcosm: Used cars
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics via FRED. Chart: Axios Visuals

Used-car prices continue to surge: As of December, they were up 37% compared to the previous year, Matt Phillips writes for Axios Markets.

  • Why it matters: Analysts are watching used-vehicle prices as a microcosm of the broader U.S. inflation story, encompassing both the disarray of global supply chains and the surge in demand for goods.

Between the lines: Used-car and truck prices were the second-biggest driver — after housing — of December's monthly increase in consumer prices, responsible for almost a quarter of the change.

What's happening: The global chip shortage has slowed vehicle assembly lines worldwide, driving a wave of buyers to the used-car market and prices sharply higher.

🔮 What's next: Not relief. A forward-looking gauge of wholesale used-car prices that tends to predict the direction of consumer prices surged yet again in December, suggesting upward pressure on cars — and inflation more broadly — shows no signs of abating.

  • Go deeper: Inflation hit 7% in December, highest since 1982.
7. 📚 Coming books

Cover: Penguin Young Readers via AP

Ibram X. Kendi will be out June 14 with a picture book carrying a hopeful message, AP reports.

  • Kendi, author of the bestselling "How to Be An Antiracist," said: "'Goodnight Racism' is not about what is; it is about what can be. ... It is about the good morning of an equitable and just world after wishing racism goodnight."
Mike Memoli with Joe Biden outside a town hall at the Cellar Peanut Pub in Newton, Iowa, on Jan. 30, 2020. Photo: Adam Schultz/Biden for President

NBC News White House correspondent Mike Memoli — who may hold the record for serving in Joe Biden pools — plans a book about President Biden, "The Long Run," coming from Twelve Books after the 2024 election.

  • Why it matters: Memoli has covered Biden, his family, and his inner circle of advisers for more than a dozen years.

Memoli, who rode Air Force Two for the L.A. Times for a stretch, first interviewed Biden in 2007 as an NBC embed in New Hampshire.

8. 📺 Charted: NFL nation
Graphic: Lev Akabas/Sportico. Used by permission

The NFL accounted for 75 of the top 100 most-watched TV broadcasts of 2021, Anthony Crupi writes for Penske Media's Sportico.

  • Live sports snapped up 94 of the top 100 slots, we see in this emojigram by Sportico's Lev Akabas.

The only non-NFL programming in the top 30 was President Biden's inauguration and first address to Congress.

  • The top 100 included 10 Olympics broadcasts, seven college football games and two college basketball games.
  • The others were the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade ... CBS' "The Equalizer," following the Super Bowl ... Oprah's special with Meghan and Harry ... and "60 Minutes" after the Capitol riot.

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