FAREWELL, 117th CONGRESS — It’s been a wild one.
But the final to-do list item is to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. The House is still waiting to receive the finalized bill from the Senate, where it passed yesterday but is undergoing final checks and amendment inclusion by the clerk.
When it reaches the House, which is expected before noon today, it still has to go through the House Rules Committee.
McCarthy magic?…. For all the talk of Senate magic, some folks forget the House can have its own. There are rumors flying that House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) could use his privilege of a “magic minute,” in which leaders can speak for as long as they like but it gets counted as just one minute of official debate time.
McCarthy is of course under massive pressure from his conference ahead of the Jan. 3 speakership vote and some floor time dedicated to lambasting the spending bill and going to bat for his conference wouldn’t hurt.
Other delays could include motions to adjourn, which would trigger additional roll call votes.
GOODBYE BY PROXY— A whopping 166 members of the House voted by proxy on Thursday, roughly 39 percent of the chamber, Anthony noted last night. It’s probably a solid bet that the number increases today as lawmakers make the choice to head home for the holidays instead of sticking around for votes. What a swan song for proxy voting, which Republicans have pledged to eliminate in the new Congress.
GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Friday, Dec. 23. Thanks for reading Huddle this year!
PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’ll be off next week but back in your inbox in time for the first day of the 118th Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 3.
HUDDLE’S WEEKLY MOST CLICKED: No surprise here: Who Is Rep.-Elect George Santos? His Résumé May Be Largely Fiction. By Grace Ashford and Michael Gold at The New York Times (more on this below.)
JAN. 6 REPORT RELEASED — The report recommended that Congress consider whether to bar former President Donald Trump and his allies from ever holding office in the future under the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists.
Kyle and Nicholas have a key takeaway: “Among the central findings of the select panel’s report: Trump’s incendiary lies about the 2020 election activated an extraordinary coalition of far-right militants and conspiracy theorists who not only joined the mob but were its vanguard smashing through police lines. Those extremists chose Jan. 6, the report outlines, in large part because Trump told them to in a now-infamous tweet: ‘Be there. Will be wild.’” Extremists at the vanguard of a siege: The Jan. 6 panel’s last word, from Kyle and Nick
A quick win for the select committee is that one recommendation from the report could be enacted today. The panel called for reforms to the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to clarify that the vice president holds only a ceremonial role and does not have the authority to unilaterally reject electoral votes during the Congressional certification of an election. That package of reforms is included in the omnibus spending package.
RELATED: OPINION: Adam Schiff: Don’t Forget That Many Republicans in Congress Enabled Trump’s Big Lie, in the New York Times
SPEEDING THROUGH THE SENATE— Lawmakers zoomed through the spending bill vote series as they were lured by the smell of jet fumes (or in this case, sleigh fumes). With a winter storm approaching before the holidays, the possibility of spending the winter break in D.C. lit a fire under the feet of the senators — with the quickest roll-call vote lasting only eight minutes (!). The average voting time for the roll-call votes was nearly 14 mins — quite a stat, considering how a normal vote series can sometimes drag on for hours for a single vote, depending on the attendance of lawmakers. Nancy has more for Congress Minutes.
SNEAKY STOPGAP — Blink and you might have missed it. The year-end spending bill is so huge that the Senate passed a stopgap spending bill through Dec. 30 by unanimous consent to allow for the big bill to be processed. Even if the House passes the omnibus on time it will take too long to enroll the bill and get it to President Joe Biden’s desk that there’s a backup plan.
Speaking of the Senate… During the final vote of the 117th Congress, your Huddle host spotted some things. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who are not known to be best buds, were together for much of the vote chatting with their heads close together. Was Blunt passing the senior “Show-Me State” senator torch?
“Go home! Go ride your plow!” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was overheard urging his Senate colleagues as he called for the final roll call vote of the year.
BYE BYE BURR-dy — No word from Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). He gave his farewell speech back on Dec. 14, voted once on the 15th and then missed the Senate’s final 28 roll call votes of the 117th Congress, Jamie Dupree noted yesterday.
POWER IN A UNION — Staffers to Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) have ratified the first ever collective bargaining agreement for congressional staff. The Congressional Workers Union touted salary increases, comp time, telework benefits and more. While Levin is only in office a few more days, the CWU hopes this agreement sets a bar for other offices that are organizing or heading to the bargaining table. “When we fight, we win and we can’t wait to keep winning in the 118th Congress and beyond,” the CWU told Huddle Thursday night.
GEORGE SANTOS SPEAKS (LATER) — Rep.-elect George Santos (R-N.Y.), whose biography is under scrutiny following a bombshell New York Times report, says he’ll explain. But not until next week. “I have my story to tell and it will be told next week,” Santos said on Twitter.
Until then, there’s a growing reading list on Santos’ inconsistencies:
THE TEA ON CANNON’S COFFEE CART — Billed as a hot local upstart, the Rāko Coffee Cart in Cannon brought specialty espresso to caffeine-dependent Capitol Hill. But 14 months after its launch in the Cannon basement, the business imploded when investors based in Dubai who had propped up the Arlington-based coffee roaster pulled the plug, leaving chaos and unpaid business partners in their wake.
Some of the friendly faces pulling espresso at the rebranded Cannon Coffee Cart are former Rāko employees who Sodexo kept on to keep serving coffee. But others quit back in October when they worked for four weeks without pay. (Sodexo made them whole when the large House food services contractor took full control of the cart.)
The company was supposed to be expanding, with rumors of the acquisition of a local doughnut brand and a confirmed contract with Amazon’s HQ2 in Crystal City. Outside investors provided startup capital for Rāko’s roastery and brick and mortar cafe in Arlington and they had committed to providing costs for additional locations around the D.C. area.
Coffee graveyard… But Rāko’s cafe in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood shuttered last month and within days, green seizure tags were on equipment and furniture, suggesting there were unpaid debts to the county.
On Monday the Arlington County Treasurer’s Office announced a public online auction for equipment and supplies left at the now-shuttered 2016 Wilson Blvd, Arlington cafe. “By order of Arlington County Treasurer all equipment, furniture, and fixtures will be liquidated from this location,” reads the auction page. The sale will go towards paying the business’s tax bill to the county.
You’ve missed your chance to bid on a commercial refrigerator, patio tables, an espresso machine and five-pound bags of coffee. The auction closed Tuesday with all items sold.
Investors evaporate… Former Rāko Coffee partners and even the co-founders are owed significant sums of money by the investors, who are based in Dubai.
“I personally am owed money, and I’ve heard from former employees and vendors that I’m not alone,” Melissa Gerban, one of the original co-founders of the brand, told Huddle.
Another former employee who spent three years working with the company told Huddle he estimates he is owed tens of thousands of dollars by investors who now will not take his calls.
The investors, Sekhar Mutha, who was one of the owners of Rāko, and Sid Jain, who consulted for the company, did not respond to repeated requests for comment from POLITICO.
Murtha and Jain had a national vision for Rāko and wanted to aggressively expand the business, according to former leaders of the company who spoke with Huddle. They ousted Gerban, who co-founded the brand with her sister, from leadership and cut her out of discussions of the business expansion.
“The Capitol cart was sustainable on its own,” Gerban said. “However the others had not yet recouped the initial investment or recovered from the impact that Covid had.”
Rāko did not seek out the perch in the Cannon basement. The House’s food service contractor Sodexo approached Rāko, a women-founded local small business, to see if it would be interested in partnering to serve the House.
Huddle readers raised concerns back in Oct. that the option to tip was removed as the coffee cart moved to the Sodexo’s payment system. But workers in recent weeks have said they like the more reliable standard wage given the variability of tips (which took serious dips during recess weeks, for example.)
The rebranded Cannon Coffee Cart now uses beans roasted in Arkansas, not Arlington. It has the seal of approval from our own Arkansan, Jordain, who drinks more coffee than anyone should.
The Chief Administrative Office downplayed the transition from Rāko to the Cannon Coffee Cart, promising that “Sodexo will continue to provide high-quality service, coffee, espresso drinks, and snacks for the House Community and guests to enjoy.” They touted the local Hyattsville business Clement’s Pastries that provides the baked goods to the cart and has been operating in the region since 1928.
The CAO did not address questions about Rāko’s contract or what was known about the foreign investment when it partnered with the House, which appears to have been almost wholly dependent on the investments from Dubai. Sodexo declined to comment on the record by Friday morning.
(MORE) HUDDLE HOTDISH
Testing, testing… Not all the rumors are true, actually. Chatter around the Hill that Covid testing sites are shutting down, fueled by messaging on the test results site, is not true. Curative, the company who has run the Capitol’s testing centers, will no longer run the sites in the new year. But another company will be taking over and continuing Covid testing on Capitol Hill, according to the Office of the Attending Physician.
Open door policy… The Senate Sergeant at Arms made official on Thursday what Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) mentioned earlier this week: Senate office buildings will reopen to the public on Jan. 3, 2023.
TODAY IN CONGRESS
The House convenes at 9 a.m. with votes possible soon after, but last votes are elusive.
The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session.
AROUND THE HILL
THURSDAY’S WINNER:Joe Lowry correctly answered that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) brought Pope Francis to address a joint meeting of Congress in Sept. 2015 just one day before Boehner announced that he would retire from the House.
TODAY’S QUESTION from Joe: What year was the first omnibus appropriation bill passed?
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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