December 14, 2023

Welcome back to Sneak. Smart Brevityβ„’ count: 1,091 words ... 4 minutes.

⚑ Situational awareness: The Senate voted 83-17 in favor of the annual must-pass National Defense Authorization Act, while the House voted 303-126 to condemn recent controversial testimony on antisemitism by university presidents.

1 big thing: The inescapable abortion campaign

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

It's like clockwork: Each time Republicans appear to be building political momentum, America is reminded of the GOP's gaping β€” and still unresolved β€” vulnerabilities on abortion rights.

Why it matters: The cascade of new restrictions and legal challenges triggered by the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade will guarantee the abortion debate remains salient throughout the 2024 campaign.

Take the past few days alone: The story of Kate Cox, a woman blocked from getting an abortion by the Texas Supreme Court after she discovered her fetus had a fatal genetic disorder, has generated national attention.

  • Cox left the state to obtain an abortion after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton threatened legal action β€” "including first-degree felony prosecutions" β€” against any doctor who performed the procedure.
  • The case has forced Texas to reckon with the human consequences of its near-total abortion ban: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and other skittish Republicans have pointedly refused to weigh in.

Zoom out: The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to review an appeals court decision that curtailed access to the abortion pill mifepristone β€” setting the stage for another major abortion case that's already causing heartburn for vulnerable House Republicans.

Between the lines: The latest Wall Street Journal poll exposes the deep hole President Biden and Democrats are in on virtually every issue except abortion.

  • Voters gave former President Trump double-digit leads over Biden on the economy, inflation, crime, border security, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and physical and mental fitness for office.
  • Biden's only double-digit leads over Trump are on abortion, honesty and respect for democracy.

The intrigue: Former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway met with Republicans on Capitol Hill today to call on candidates to talk more about promoting contraception and less about restricting abortion β€” a potential preview of the GOP's 2024 messaging.

What to watch: Expect Cox's and other women's stories to be featured heavily in Democratic campaign ads, especially after Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear romped to re-election with the help of a viral ad about a 12-year-old girl impregnated by her stepfather.

  • "This is to you, Daniel Cameron," Hadley Duvall, now 21, addressed Beshear's opponent. "I'm speaking out because women and girls need to have options. Daniel Cameron would give us none."
  • RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, who has criticized her party for its reluctance to address abortion head-on, has cited the ad as a key reason Beshear won while Republicans swept down-ballot races.

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2. 🚨 House authorizes Biden impeachment inquiry

Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), left, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and James Comer (R-Ky.). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

All 221 House Republicans β€” including retiring Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), an impeachment critic β€”Β voted this evening to authorize the impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

Why it matters: Republicans believe the formal vote will strengthen their ability to enforce subpoenas in their yearlong investigation of the Biden family's finances.

  • The White House and Biden campaign have responded by highlighting comments from GOP lawmakers acknowledging they have not yet uncovered evidence of wrongdoing by the president.
  • Biden allies also circulated a clip today of Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), after he was asked what Republicans hoped to gain from the impeachment inquiry, telling a reporter: "All I can say is Donald J. Trump 2024, baby."
Hunter Biden speaking today near the Capitol. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Republicans are also moving to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress, after the president's son defied a subpoena to testify behind closed doors and instead delivered a rare public statement today outside the Capitol.

  • "In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances. But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd. It's shameless," Hunter Biden, who was indicted on tax charges last week, said in his emotional remarks.
  • "[Republicans] ridiculed my struggle with addiction, they belittled my recovery, and they have tried to dehumanize me β€” all to embarrass and damage my father, who has devoted his entire public life to service," he continued.
  • "Let me state as clearly as I can: My father was not financially involved in my business β€” not as a practicing lawyer, not as a board member of Burisma, not my partnership with a Chinese private businessman, not in my investments at home nor abroad, and certainly not as an artist."

3. πŸ”₯ Progressives rebel over possible border deal

Immigration activists attend a press conference outside the Capitol with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and progressive Democrats erupted in anger today at reports that the Biden administration is considering major changes to border policy to secure a deal with Republicans on Ukraine aid.

Why it matters: Republicans have made clear that there will be no further Ukraine aid β€” a key priority for Biden β€” without substantial changes to asylum law and expanded authority for the detention and expulsion of migrants.

  • Although the White House and Democratic negotiators have not yet tipped their hand β€” and a deal still appears to be far off β€” a progressive rebellion is already brewing.
  • Members of the CHC expressed anger at being left out of negotiations, with some criticizing Biden for creating an opening for the GOP by pairing border funding with foreign aid in his initial request to Congress.

What they're saying: "I could not comprehend how a Democratic president who vehemently countered Trump's policies as a candidate is seriously putting forward the most Trumpian, anti-immigrant proposals," Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said at a press conference outside the Capitol.

The other side: "To the extent that I've heard some Democrats express concern, I think that's progress," Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) told reporters, referring to the inevitability of a compromise upsetting hardliners on both sides.

4. πŸ“Έ Parting shot: The new guy

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

From left: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) attend the first-ever Capitol Menorah lighting.

  • Caption contest: "[That feeling when] you're the new guy and your soul has yet to be crushed in this godforsaken place," McConnell press secretary Doug Andres tweeted in reference to Johnson's young speakership.

πŸ“¬ Thanks for reading tonight. This newsletter was edited by Brad Bonhall.