May 19, 2021

Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome back to Sneak. A Jan. 6 commission became the latest congressional flashpoint.

Situational awareness: Numerous Republican House members were seen not wearing masks in the chamber tonight, and some got fined, Forbes’ Andrew Solender and Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman tweeted.

Today's newsletter — edited by Glen Johnson — is 1,110 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Sources — McConnell opposed to current Jan. 6 commission

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell heads to a Senate Republican Policy luncheon Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told his fellow Republicans during a closed-door caucus lunch today he can't support a Jan. 6 commission in its current form, two sources familiar with his remarks tell Axios' Alayna Treene.

Why it matters: Senate Republicans are bracing for a House vote tomorrow. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposes the commission but several Republicans are expected to buck leadership — making it more difficult for Senate Republicans to dismiss it.

What we're hearing: McConnell made comments to his colleagues along the lines of, "There’s 41 of us who could change this, and I think we should,” according to one of the sources. A second source confirmed the nature of the comments.

  • When McConnell finished, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) — who's retiring in 2023 — also stood up and questioned aspects of the deal.
  • The senators did not indicate the deal is DOA in the Senate, the sources said, but made clear they would want to see substantive changes.
  • Such changes being discussed more broadly among some Republicans include ensuring the panel is truly bipartisan.
  • Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), who struck the deal with Democrats in the House, voted to impeach Trump — raising concerns among his fellow Republicans.

McConnell spoke publicly following the lunch and said he is "pushing the pause button" on the legislation, adding the GOP conference is “undecided."

  • He also noted the Justice Department and other congressional oversight committees are investigating the insurrection.
  • McConnell questioned whether a new commission would interfere with that work.

Between the lines: Most Republican members are wary of the commission and want to reframe the narrative away from the insurrection.

  • A prominent concern is that it could be weaponized to subpoena members.
  • There's also concerns it might alienate members of the GOP base, as well as former President Trump — who was impeached by the House for inciting the riot.
  • Alternatively, they recognize that if an investigation is going to take place, it's better to have a hand in investigating it than to allow Democrats to be fully in control.
2. States reconsidering governors' waning COVID-19 powers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Governors are seeing their pandemic-related broad reach and executive powers wane as the public health emergency subsides and the necessity for restrictions and emergency action ends, Axios' Sarah Mucha reports.

Why it matters: Governors took on outsize roles from Maine to California as much of the burden fell to the states. In some, their powers are about to revert to the norm. In others, their expanded reach is triggering a re-examination of whether they should have such authority in the future.

  • In Texas, led by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, the state House and Senate have been deliberating laws that would move the needle away from the executive branch and toward the legislature in a future pandemic.
  • In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont’s expanded pandemic powers will be extended until mid-July.

In Pennsylvania, voters will decide today whether the governor should continue to have the same powers that have been executed this past year.

  • The vote effectively was a referendum on Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's pandemic response — but at the same time, it will shape the extent of the governors’ power for the future, a Pennsylvania paper notes.

Of note: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, entered the pandemic with polls consistently showing him as the most popular governor in the country.

  • His reputation took hits as the state experienced troubles with its unemployment assistance computers and vaccine registration program.
  • He rebounded as the state went on to be one of the nation's leaders in vaccination delivery.
  • Baker announced this week he will end the pandemic state of emergency on June 15 — dissolving his sweeping emergency powers, Massachusetts Playbook author Lisa Kashinsky noted.

Keep reading.

3. By the numbers: Freshmen who buck their party
Expand chart
Data: Quorum via Congress.gov; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) votes against her party most often, at a rate of 16.3%, compared to all other freshman members in the House and Senate, data collected by Quorum and reviewed by Alayna reveals.

Driving the news: The top five freshman members who voted against their party the most are all Republicans — and four of the five are House Republicans.

By the numbers: Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) leads the Senate freshmen, bucking his party 15.8% of the time.

  • Among Democrats, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) leads in the House at 3.55% (she's No. 38 among all freshmen in Congress), and Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) leads Senate Democrats at 1.57%.

The other side: Alternatively, the following freshman members are in a four-way voting tie for voting with their party 100% of the time.

  • Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.)
  • Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.), who was sworn in only earlier this month
  • Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tex.)

Keep reading.

4. Conservative group targets Biden IRS plan

Courtesy: Coalition to Protect American Workers

A conservative anti-tax group views President Biden’s proposal to increase funding for the Internal Revenue Service as a means to sink his tax-and-spend infrastructure package, Axios' Hans Nichols reports.

Why it matters: By launching a six-figure cable and local TV buy for an ad against first-year Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), the group is testing a broader potential line of attack against the $2.3 trillion package.

  • “If Joe Biden gets his way, they are coming: IRS agents,” warns the ad’s narrator. “Biden’s massive tax increase plan includes a staggering $80 billion to help recruit an army of IRS agents.”
  • The ad is being run by the Coalition to Protect American Workers, a group with ambitions of raising up to $25 million to prevent the plan from passing Congress.
  • “We plan to make sure that voters hold accountable any member who votes for these massive tax increases,” said Marc Short, who founded the group and formerly served as Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff.

Go deeper: Biden plans to raise $700 billion by investing another $80 billion into tax enforcement at the IRS, to focus on Americans making more than $400,000.

  • The ad conflates Biden’s stated positions — such as increasing funding for the IRS — with accusations “congressional Democrats want to defund the police."
  • That leaves the false impression Democrats want to take money away from police departments so they can shift it to IRS enforcement.

What they're saying: “A massive, bipartisan majority of the American people support making the richest Americans and biggest corporations pay the taxes they owe — without increasing the rate of audits on any people or small-business owners earning less than $400,000 a year — so can we use that money to invest in the middle class," said Michael Gwin, director of White House Rapid Response.

  • "A few special interest-funded ads won’t change that fact or a single mind.”

Keep reading.

5. Pic du jour

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden got to do something most presidents don't — drive himself.

  • The subject of famed Corvette and Trans Am memes took the wheel of an electric F-150 pickup while visiting a Ford factory in Michigan.
  • "This sucker's quick," Biden told the traveling pool, saying it had a 0-60mph time of 4.4 seconds.
  • A Ford representative riding shotgun laughed; the news was supposed to be secret until tomorrow, when the new truck is formally unveiled.

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