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With an assist from Olivia Beavers and Sarah Ferris

Outgoing House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) thinks he can return Congress to “regular order.” (Photo by Chip Somodevilla) | Getty Images


HOYERS WHITE WHALE Steny Hoyer wont be in leadership or the majority, but he is still eyeing an ambitious prize in 2023: making the appropriations process fully functional for the first time since 1997. Thats a tall order.

As Congress tries to drag yet another year-end omnibus spending bill across the finish line, three months into the current fiscal year, the Maryland Democrat is calling for a return to regular order, where both chambers pass twelve separate spending bills on time.

Weve all heard that before.

Food for thought: Rep.-elect Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the youngest new member of the Democratic caucus, was born the year that Congress last passed all 12 spending bills on time. (Your Huddle host was in 1st Grade.)

It’s something of a (leadership) retirement project for Hoyer the 83-year-old Marylander emphasized to reporters at his final pen-and-pad as Majority Leader: I’m not dying. I’m not going away. I’ll still be here, and I still expect, frankly, to hopefully be a relatively influential member of the Congress of the United States.

A triumphant return: I’m going to go back to the Appropriations Committee. I’m going to work with Rosa DeLauro as our leader and try to get us back to that place. I’ve talked to Mr. Schumer about it I’ve talked to Kay Granger about it. Kay Granger agrees with me 100%, he said Wednesday.

Hoyer will return proudly to the spending panel as the top Democrat on the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee in the new year, where he hopes to flex some of his leadership afterglow. He had to boot one of his own members, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), in the process, but Pocan has told Hoyer he was fine with the move.

I still have a conference room, he reminded reporters Wednesday, just in case he needs a venue for more bicameral talks on the white whale of Congress constitutional mandate to fund the government.

He lays the blame squarely on the Senate, even under Democratic control. They didnt pass any appropriations bills in the Senate. None. Zero. Zip, said Hoyer. The Senates 50-50 power sharing agreement hamstrung spending subcommittees and dug them into intractable holes.

Make appropriations great again? Republican leader and speaker hopeful Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had come out swinging Wednesday, saying that the incoming GOP-led House wouldnt touch an omnibus under any circumstances. But his stance softened significantly after meeting with Senate Republicans for lunch, which he exited saying that the House would not take up an omnibus if the Senate doesnt take up spending bills.

Strangely enough, a hard anti-omnibus stance from Republicans could have bolstered Hoyers quest. But with McCarthys caveat for Senate action, the future is more likely to look like the present: continuing resolutions and huge spending bills.

Rooting for Rosa: Hoyer says his ambition to fix the spending process is not a rebuke of House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who claimed major victories, including the revival of earmarks, but has faced a brick wall of Senate inaction during her time with the gavel.

There were rumors swirling in the hours after Hoyer announced his exit from leadership that he could make a bid for the Democrats top spending slot. But with the chance for a historic all-women appropriations quartet in the new year, those were quickly dismissed.

I’m not going to run against Rosa for chair, Hoyer stressed again Wednesday. I didn’t leave the leadership to create consensus in our party to simply go over and run against Ms. DeLauro, who’s doing an excellent job. And I’m going to be supporting her, working with her, and I’m pleased with the job she does for us.

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GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Thursday, Dec. 22, where more than 6 hours between gaveling out and gaveling back in would be preferable.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called the Senate back for an 8 a.m. vote and, hopefully, some dealmaking. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

WHERE SPENDING STANDSIts not looking good. The Senate closed up shop early this morning without a deal to move forward on the $1.7 trillion year-end spending bill.

It is my expectation that we will be able to lock in an agreement on the omnibus tomorrow morning. We are very close, but were not there yet, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the floor at 2 a.m.

The chamber has an 8 a.m. bed-check vote on a nomination, intended to bring lawmakers back to the Capitol to continue negotiations and get movement towards a deal


Border battle: The issue that is taking the heat for holding up Senate action is a proposed amendment from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to extend Trump-era asylum restrictions linked to pandemic response, known as Title 42. (If this sounds familiar it is because the same amendment tanked an effort to pass billions in coronavirus aid earlier this year.)

Democrats offered to give Lee a vote on his amendment at a 60-vote threshold. But senators and aides said they continue to haggle over a push by Lee and other Republicans to lower the threshold to 51 votes. Democrats balked because the Title 42 amendment would get some Democratic votes, but inclusion in the underlying bill would kill its chances in the House where Democratic progressives would object.

That outcome would force Congress to pass another continuing resolution to keep the government funded beyond Dec. 23, which Lee has backed all along.

Republicans maintain that Lee is within bounds to offer the amendment at the 51 vote threshold (with a green light from the parliamentarian) and that it is on Democrats to navigate that with their own membership. One option today is for another border proposal to go head-to-head on the floor with Lee’s, offering border state Democrats an alternative to Lee’s.

If we dont get an omnibus passed by tomorrow, then Senator McConnell has said hes for a [continuing resolution] into next year, so it looks like were on a path to a CR, said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a close McConnell ally.

Contingency plan: Schumer filed cloture on the package just before midnight, which sets a procedural vote for Friday. If no agreement to expedite debate is reached, Senate consideration could last though Tuesday.

RELATED READ:Lawmakers Steer Home More Than $15 Billion in Pet Projects

, from Stephanie Lai at The New York Times

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MOTION DETECTED McCarthy is willing to come down on the threshold for the motion to vacate. That is at least what he told a group of members in a meeting yesterday, Olivia scooped last night


He didnt say how low hed go (limbo!) when it was raised yesterday, which was one of a series of meetings hes held bringing together members to deliberate House and conference rules. But they didnt leave the meeting with an agreed upon threshold, either, three Republicans told Olivia. The meeting included a group of House Freedom Caucus members and non-HFC members from different corners of the conference.

Some members arent willing to go too low on the threshold, but others want it to be as low as possible. So TBD what the outcome will be but as one person in the meeting put it: It seems like they can reach an agreement.

Another topic they broached: Discharge petitions.Thats an intentionally challenging procedural move that allows members to secure floor consideration of a measure without cooperation from the committees of jurisdiction or majority party leadership (including the Rules Committee.) Its a tool any anti-establishment member would like to have in their quiver. In the minority, Republicans have used discharge petitions to attempt to force action on anti-abortion legislation.

Members left the meeting calling it productive. House Judiciarys Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said they are closer, though he declined to give a percentage of much closer they got.

In attendance: HFC members, including caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Reps. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) and Jordan. Non-HFC members included House Rules Committee Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), House Oversight Committee Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), House Budget Committee Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) of Main Street, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) of Problem Solvers and Reps. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) and Blake Moore (R-Utah).

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy concludes his address to Congress. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

A PLEA TO THE DOUBTERS Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed directly to his skeptics in Congress during his speech last night, the subset of Republicans who arent interested in continued funding of the war against Russia.

Your money is not charity, Zelenskyy said. Its an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.

But less than 100 House Republicans were even in the room. And barely a handful of the GOP lawmakers who have called for the end of assistance for Ukraine were in attendance.

Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a Freedom Caucus member, said there is no chance, that hed support further aid to Ukraine. Id be for voting for an inspector general to find out what they did with all the money that we already sent them, he said.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a Freedom Caucus member reacted to the speech: I hope they keep fighting Putin, but theyre playing with House money.

I dont think it changed the hearts and minds of anybody, said Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), the incoming Republican Study Committee chair, moments after the speech.

House Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-Texas) didnt want Zelenskyy to even make the ask: Quite honestly, he shouldn’t be persuading us. I think we should try and figure out and understand how this is in our national interest and if it isn’t our national interest.

House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has not taken a hard line against aid, but is calling for accountability: Obviously, theres concern that the moneys going to the places that its intended. Having any taxpayer dollars that go anywhere, whether its domestically or abroad, deserves scrutiny, Scalise told POLITICO as he left the Capitol on Wednesday.

MORE ON ZELENSKYY: Republicans praise Zelenskyy but balk at future aid

, from Shayna Greene and Sarah Ferris; Zelenskyy delivers impassioned plea to Congress, asking for more

, from Sarah and Matt Berg

VIRGINIANS VOTE State Senator Jennifer McClellan won the Democratic firehouse primary

in Virginias 4th district this week, with 84.81 percent of the vote. McClellan advances to the special election on Feb. 21 in the heavily Democratic district. If she wins and fills the vacancy left by the late Rep. Donald McEachin, she will be the first Black woman from Virginia elected to Congress.

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The House convenes at 9 a.m. for legislative business. The vote schedule is TBD.

The Senate convenes at 8 a.m. (less than six hours after the chamber gaveled out last night) and will immediately take a roll call vote on confirmation of the nomination of Franklin Parker to be an Assistant Secretary of the Navy. More votes are expected.


10:45 a.m. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds her (last!) weekly press conference. (Studio A)

2 p.m. Pelosi holds a bill enrollment ceremony for the National Defense Authorization Act. (H-207)

A NEW POLITICO PODCAST: POLITICO Tech is an authoritative insider briefing on the politics and policy of technology. From crypto and the metaverse to cybersecurity and AI, we explore the who, what and how of policy shaping future industries. Were kicking off with a series exploring darknet marketplaces, the virtual platforms that enable actors from all corners of the online world to traffic illicit goods. As malware and cybercrime attacks become increasingly frequent, regulators and law enforcement agencies work different angles to shut these platforms down, but new, often more unassailable marketplaces pop up. SUBSCRIBE AND START LISTENING TODAY.


TUESDAYS WINNER:Vicki DiLeo correctly answered that then-Sen. Harry Truman urged the establishment of the Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program established by Senate Resolution 71 approved March 1, 1941.

TODAYS QUESTION: In the final months of Speaker John Boehners (R-Ohio) speakership, what foreign leader did he invite to address Congress?

The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected]

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A message from National Retail Federation:

According to NRFs National Retail Security Survey, retailers reported an average 26.5% increase in organized retail crime last year alone. Retailers, consumer advocates and law enforcement organizations agree: Congress should pass the INFORM Consumers Act this year. This bipartisan bill will make it tougher for criminals to sell stolen goods online, while ensuring honest small businesses can use ecommerce to reach customers. Learn more here.