7 min read

Circling back on McConnell, McCarthy, and more

Catching up on some key stories I’ve covered in the past few weeks.
Circling back on McConnell, McCarthy, and more
Good morning! It’s Wednesday, October 12, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 27 days away. Election Day 2024 is 755 days away.

Circling back: McConnell, McCarthy, Saudi Arabia, and more

A fellow newsletter writer, Casey Newton, recently wrote that an email newsletter has “an episodic format that makes it more resistant to the more obnoxious forms of punditry.” He explained: “I don’t have to tell you absolutely everything I think about a particular subject, because I’m almost certainly going to talk about it again in the future.”

This morning, I want to lean into that episodic nature a bit and circle back to some topics I’ve covered recently in the newsletter, to check in on where the stories are now and see what else has been reported on them.

Tuesday 10/11: “Some Republicans turn to racist, anti-semitic rhetoric as Election Day nears”

This story ended by noting recent racist comments by Los Angeles City Council president Nury Martinez, a Democratic politician. Martinez had resigned as city council president but was refusing to give up her council seat; on Tuesday, she announced that she would take a “leave of absence” from the city council but still not resign the seat.

Two other councilmen who were present for the conversation where Martinez made the comments are also facing pressure to step down. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that President Biden believes they should resign. She went on to cite the recent racist comments by Republicans noted in Tuesday’s newsletter, saying Democrats hold each other accountable for racism and anti-semitism but Republicans are “embraced by cheering crowds and become celebrated and sought-after endorsements.”

Thursday 10/6:“Why gas prices are likely to go back up soon” (on the decision by OPEC Plus to slash oil production)

➞ Calls have continued from top Democratic lawmakers to reconsider the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, the leading member of OPEC, in light of the decision. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, called on Monday for an “immediate freeze” of the U.S.-Saudi relationship and promised to block new arms sales to the Saudis. (The U.S. government sells more weapons to Saudi Arabia than to any other country.)

➞ A similar tone is now coming from the White House. “I think the president has been very clear that this is a relationship that we need to continue to re-evaluate, that we need to be willing to revisit,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told CNN on Tuesday.

Wednesday 9/28: As goes McConnell... (on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent propensity towards bipartisan deals)

➞ McConnell gave an interesting interview to CNN on Tuesday that shed some light on why the Kentucky Republican, once known for his obstructionist tactics, has shifted his stance somewhat. “I never think it’s to the advantage of the country or my party to be perceived as unwilling to do anything at all,” he explained.

➞ The CNN piece also showed some members of McConnell’s conference criticizing him for his cooperation with the other side. “Can you recall any Democrat [that] has ever voted [for] a Republican proposal?” Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) asked, saying that he had concerns with McConnell’s votes for the bipartisan bills I detailed in that newsletter.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed his recent bipartisan streak in a CNN interview. (Gage Skidmore)

Monday 9/26: “Six ways these midterms are different”

➞ Here’s another aspect that sets this midterm election apart from recent cycles: Republicans have given up on running against Obamacare. NBC News flagged this change in a very interesting piece, noting that this is the first election “in more than a decade that won’t be fought over whether to protect or undo President Barack Obama’s signature achievement.”

➞ And one more, via the New York Times: The House map looks a lot different than in past years. After both parties enacted aggressive gerrymanders, Republicans no longer have much of a structural advantage in the lower chamber. “By some measures,” the Times noted, “this is the fairest House map of the last 40 years.”

Thursday, 9/22: “What a GOP House will look like”

➞ This piece discussed the growing influence of right-wing Republicans over House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), which will only increase if he becomes speaker. The Associated Press offered more details in a piece this week on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), noting that she “is poised to become an influential player shaping the GOP agenda” if Republicans win the majority.

➞ I also noted the reality that additional Ukraine will likely have a tough time being approved in a GOP-led House. Other outlets have reported more on this in the time since, including Politico (“Ukraine aid faces tougher crowd if Republicans take over”) and The Dispatch (“The Coming GOP Civil War Over Ukraine Funding”).

Thursday, 9/15: Rail strike likely averted amid “tentative” deal

➞ At the time, I noted that the deal between railroad companies and their unions, which the White House helped broker, was only “tentative,” since each union’s members would have to approve it in a vote. Well, one of the key unions involved rejected the deal on Monday, reopening negotiations and bringing back the possibility of a rail strike — which would be devastating for the economy.

➞ In a town hall here at Georgetown on Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed confidence that a final deal would be reached. He called the rejection part of “a very natural process of back-and-forth” and projected that just “a little more revision” will be needed before an agreement will be finalized.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at a Tuesday town hall. (Georgetown)

What else I’m reading

CNN: “‘The worst is yet to come’: IMF issues stark recession warning“

NYT: “Dozens of Candidates of Color Give House Republicans a Path to Diversity”

WSJ: “Federal Officials Trade Stock in Companies Their Agencies Oversee”

The Hill: “Hurricane Ian is 15th billion-dollar disaster in U.S. this year”

The Atlantic: “In Kari Lake, Trumpism Has Found Its Leading Lady”

Texas Tribune: “The education and disillusionment of a young Texas reporter in D.C.”

Today at a glance

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch or listen to it.

AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (8:30 am) and then travel to Vail, Colorado. While there, he will deliver remarks at Camp Hale on “protecting and conserving America’s iconic outdoor spaces” (3:30 pm). Biden will then travel to Santa Monica, California, where he will spend the night.

  • 🌲 More details: Biden will announce that he is declaring Camp Hale as a national monument, protecting it from development. The site is a World War II-era training ground; per the Washington Post, it boasts “stunning landscapes” and serves as a habitat for “elk, bears, otters, lynxes and migratory songbirds.” Under the Antiquities Act of 1906, the president can protect any federal land by designating it a national monument; this is Biden’s first time creating a new one since taking office.

First Lady Biden will travel to Nashville, Tennessee to visit a pop-up Covid vaccination clinic (1:15 pm) and deliver remarks at a Democratic National Committee event (2:15 pm). Then, she’ll travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to deliver remarks to the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (6 pm) and visit a local public school (6:30 pm).

Second Gentleman Emhoff will deliver remarks at the State Department’s celebration of Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival (2 pm).

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Vail.

Camp Hale is about to be the nation’s newest national monument. (Brent Flanders)

ON THE HILL: The House and Senate are on recess.

IN THE COURTS: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases:

  • 📸 Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith (10 am) emerges from a set of decades-old images Andy Warhol created of Prince for Vanity Fair, using a photograph of the singer taken by Lynn Goldsmith as a reference. In 1984, when VF first used the Warhol images, they paid both Warhol and Goldsmith; but when the magazine used one again in 2016, they paid only Warhol’s foundation and not Goldsmith. This case, which USA Today says “could change the face of art,” will decide whether copyright law dictates that Goldsmith had to be paid for the second use as well.
  • 💼 Helix Energy Solutions v. Hewitt (11 am) is a case on overtime pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 requires that employers give their employees overtime pay if they work for more than 40 hours per week — with some exceptions, including if they have a salary over $100,000. In this case, a former Texas oil worker made double that amount but says he was not a salaried employee and therefore should still have been paid overtime; the oil company says he was salaried.

ON THE WORLD STAGE: The UN General Assembly will convene for an emergency session to discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine (10 am).


In Tuesday’s newsletter, I was unclear when referring to a tweet posted by @JudiciaryGOP that promoted Kanye West, Elon Musk, and Donald Trump. The tweet was sent by an account controlled by the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, led by ranking member Jim Jordan (R-OH).

My apologies for any confusion and thank you to the readers who flagged my mistake.

Before I go...

Here’s something fun: A new Fat Bear Week winner has been crowned.

Each year, Alaska’s Katmai National Park hosts an online competition pitting the finest of its 2,000+ brown bears against each other, allowing the Internet to crown their favorite.

The competition — which ended yesterday, on “Fat Bear Tuesday” — grew into a viral sensation, attracting hundreds of thousands of votes and even a cheating scandal.

And the winner is... Bear #747, pictured below. Read more, via BBC.

The winner of 2022 “Fat Bear Week.” (Katmai National Park)

That’s all for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe