June 08, 2023

Welcome back to Sneak. Smart Brevity™ count: 892 words ... 3.5 minutes.

🔥 1 big thing: Pence scorches Trump in '24 entry

Data: Axios reporting and campaign announcements; Chart: Thomas Oide and Tiffany Herring/Axios
Data: Axios reporting and campaign announcements; Chart: Thomas Oide and Tiffany Herring/Axios

Former Vice President Mike Pence jumped into the campaign today by doing what he'd avoided for years: blasting former President Trump as unfit, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

Why it matters: This is a dramatic break from his typically muted criticism of Trump — which he'd maintained even after a Trump-inspired mob rushed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

  • "Anyone who puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States," Pence said, recounting how Trump pressured Pence, as president of the Senate, to reject states' electoral counts on Jan. 6, 2021, and overturn the 2020 election.
  • "And anyone who asks someone else to put themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again."

Pence said Trump had "demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice. ... I chose the Constitution, and I always will."

  • "I prayed for him," Pence said of Trump. "I had hope he would come around and see he'd been misled about my role that day. But that was not to be."

The other side: “Good luck trying to sell that to Republican primary voters who are watching Joe Biden and the current administration tear our Constitution to shreds ever single day," said Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for a Trump-backing super PAC.

Bonus candidate: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a former software executive, is entering the race on a long-shot candidacy.

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Live updates from his CNN town hall.

2. McCarthy's backbencher blowback

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Frustrations from establishment House Republicans spilled out into the open today after right-wing lawmakers succeeded in blocking nearly a week’s worth of House votes, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.

  • "The Dysfunction Caucus does what it does best," Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told Axios. "This hurts the GOP conference, Congress and the country."

Between the lines: One major source of frustration is a lack of clarity about what the McCarthy rebels are demanding as they push to reopen the deal they struck in January.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, asked at a press conference if he has heard frustrations from other parts of his conference about this dynamic, said: “Very much so.”

  • “I’m fearful that people in the Republican Party are going to be frustrated” with the Freedom Caucus, he said. “I don’t want that to happen.”

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3. Scoop: Menendez stopping Biden border policy

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is stopping new efforts from the Biden administration to ramp up deportations of migrants from Venezuela back to their home country before they reach the U.S., Axios' Stef Kight has learned.

Why it matters: Frosty diplomatic relations with Venezuela have made it nearly impossible for the U.S. to deport Venezuelan migrants on its own.

  • For months, top Biden immigration officials have been trying to find a way to pay Guatemala to deport more Venezuelans before they migrate into Mexico or the U.S., according to three sources familiar with the discussions.
  • As with most changes to how federal dollars are spent, the plan relies on congressional approval.
  • But Menendez, who chairs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, refuses to green light the idea.

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4. First look: "Shovel-ready" shortage

Sen. J.D. Vance attends a banking committee hearing last month. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are introducing legislation to address the shortage of "shovel-ready" manufacturing sites, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.

Why it matters: Over the past year, the U.S. has passed a series of bills —including the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes subsidies for renewable energy, and the Chips Act promoting semiconductor production — aimed at boosting domestic industry.

  • But "for a lot of small towns and tribal communities, the biggest barrier to attracting investment is the cost of getting sites ready for development. We're working to fix that," Kelly said in a statement.

The bill would establish a $500 million grant program over five years for towns to equip potential manufacturing sites with road access, water infrastructure, broadband, power utility hookups and workforce training.

  • The legislation would prioritize rural and tribal communities as well as poor regions with high unemployment and out-migration, according to a copy of the bill reviewed by Axios.
  • The program would be administered by the economic development administration under the Commerce Department.

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🌽 5. 1 Cornhusker thing: Willa Cather honored

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and legendary Nebraskan Willa Cather was honored today with a statue in the Capitol's Statuary Hall, Axios' Justin Green reports.

  • Cather grew up in Red Cloud, Nebraska, just north of the Kansas border.
  • Much of her work — including books such as "O Pioneers!" and "My Antonia" — focused on the hardships and joys experienced by the pioneers who turned the Great Plains' ocean of grass into seas of corn and wheat.
  • The statue's sculptor, Littleton Alston of Omaha, is the first Black artist to have work featured in Statuary Hall.

📸 Speaker McCarthy and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries were spotted enjoying a few moments of levity during the ceremony.

  • Also spotted: Justin's parents, Ronnie and Jane, with his mom pictured in the background wearing a red blazer.
Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

📬 Thanks for reading on this Wednesday. This newsletter was copy edited by Kathie Bozanich.