Katie Britt recovering at home after ‘sudden onset of numbness’ in face, condition not life-threatening

Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) announced Monday night that she is receiving outpatient care after experiencing a "sudden onset of numbness" in her face and is expected to need "several weeks" of recovery. 

Doctors believe that the numbness was likely the result of swelling of a facial nerve that was caused by a post-viral infection, Britt said in a statement. She was admitted to Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery, Ala., and was released, saying that her condition is not considered life-threatening. 

“A specialist from [the University of Alabama at Birmingham] has subsequently evaluated me on an outpatient basis and concurred with the prognosis and course of treatment," Britt said in the statement. "My condition is not life-threatening, and recovery could take several weeks. 

"I am grateful for the medical professionals providing excellent care, and my family and I are deeply grateful for your prayers," she added. 

The news came only days after the Senate broke for its monthlong August recess, with lawmakers not slated to return to Washington until after Labor Day. 

Britt, 41, won her first term in office last year and has largely kept a low profile during her first seven months in the upper chamber. However, she was recently added to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) leadership team.

The junior Alabama senator also sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is set for a busy September as it looks to help avoid a government shutdown and fund the government for fiscal 2024. 

GOP leaders strike out on getting Tuberville to bend

Senate GOP leaders didn't want it to get to this point.

They tried and tried to get Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) to lift the holds he's placed on hundreds of military promotions — which have opened Republicans up to attacks from the Biden administration. 

But their efforts have failed, and they are now in a situation where the earliest a resolution might be found is September — when lawmakers will also be busy trying to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month. 

“It’s hung around for a while. I support his goals,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. “The challenge obviously is the mechanism he used to get to the result has created some challenges. We want to figure out a way to resolve it and address that.” 

“There are conversations now going on, which is good — between him and the military and others. We’ll have some time in August to work on a path forward, and hopefully we’ll find it,” he said. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been among those trying to find a resolution, Thune said. Tuberville said he and McConnell discussed the holds Wednesday, hours after the GOP leader froze and felt lightheaded in front of reporters. 

“At this point, everybody’s engaged trying to figure out how to solve this,” Thune added.

Tuberville began his holds in early March to protest a new Defense Department policy to reimburse service members who must travel to seek an abortion for those travel expenses.

Six months later, the list of holds has grown to 300. Senate Republicans were hoping to find a solution before leaving Washington for five weeks — five additional weeks during which those military officers will remain in limbo, fueling Democratic attacks and frustrating the Pentagon.

One Senate Republican said finding an offramp agreeable to both Tuberville and those opposed to the holds has become a “recurring discussion” in the Senate GOP conference, and that McConnell has been personally involved in that quest.

“There’s not a lunch that goes by that we don’t talk about it,” the senator said, but added there’s “no chance of a resolution” any time soon. 

Aside from the potential political and national security implications of the holds, McConnell is worried about the institutional implications. 

The longtime GOP leader recently told reporters at a press conference that he is concerned this could lead to a renewed Democratic effort to change the chamber’s rules. 

Despite disagreeing with Tuberville’s tactic, however, he says he recognizes it is the prerogative of any single senator to place a hold on a nominee. 

Senators on both sides of the aisle for months have been musing publicly and privately about what it would take to get the Alabama Republican to set his hold aside, but have come up empty at every turn. 

Initially, there had been hope that a vote on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would reverse the abortion travel policy could do the trick, and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) led the effort.

But more recently, Tuberville has maintained that not only does any vote have to be standalone, but that the Pentagon would have to reverse its policy before any vote could be taken. 

Trying to bridge that gap for lawmakers has become a herculean challenge no one has been able to complete.

Tuberville didn’t comment on efforts by Senate GOP leaders to seek a remedy, but he criticized the Biden administration and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for their lack of outreach in trying to strike a deal. He also hasn’t had any further conversations with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin since their July 17 call and said that the initial series of calls didn’t yield anything productive.

“There’s no conversation from the other side. It’s ‘our way or the highway.’ … How does that help?” Tuberville said. “They’re not worried about it, I guess. … I hate it, for the promotions and all that.” 

He added that he has yet to talk to Schumer, who has refused to use up floor time moving the nominees through regular order because he believes it is the Senate GOP’s job to figure a way out of the maze of military holds. 

“This is the responsibility of the Republican Senate caucus. … It’s up to them. I think in August, pressure will mount on Tuberville, and I think the Republicans are feeling that heat,” Schumer said late Thursday. “He’s boxing himself into a corner.”

But Democrats are trying to increase that pressure, with President Biden on Thursday night laying into the Alabama Republican and arguing his holds are harming military readiness and creating instability within the ranks of the armed forces. 

“This partisan freeze is already harming military readiness, security and leadership, and troop morale,” Biden said in remarks at the Truman Civil Rights Symposium in Washington. “Freezing pay, freezing people in place. Military families who have already sacrificed so much, unsure of where and when they change stations, unable to get housing or start their kids in the new school.”

Senate Democrats also took to the floor before and after the NDAA vote Thursday to criticize their GOP colleague. Since the hold was put into place, Democratic senators have made 12 attempts to move the military promotions in bloc via unanimous request. 

Perhaps adding to the difficulty, Tuberville has received a boost in support from voters at home and from conservative corners of the Senate GOP conference who believe he is making the right call, albeit a difficult one. 

They also argue that if Senate Democrats truly want to move on some of the nominations, they can start to do so via regular order — a move Democrats have avoided in order to not set precedent. 

“Democrats think they have a winning political thing on this. I don’t think they do, and I think Sen. Tuberville morally is in the right position with regard to the issue of abortion,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said. “The [Defense] Department has just as much of a responsibility to find a path forward as any single member does, and I’m not seeing the Department try to work in any fashion other than to simply put pressure on Sen. Tuberville.” 

“They’re not trying to find a path forward. They think this is one of those items where if they keep putting pressure on him, he’ll cave, and I don’t think he will,” Rounds continued. “On the issue, he’s correct.”

Senate passes annual defense bill, teeing up showdown with House

The Senate on Thursday night passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), teeing up a looming effort to find a deal on a compromise bill that satisfies the Democratic Senate and Republican House.

Senators voted 86-11 on the bill, which authorizes a topline figure of $886 billion for fiscal 2024, the total that was included in the debt ceiling deal struck between the Biden administration and House Republicans. 

The package passed with little drama after the Senate kicked off consideration of the bill and amendments early last week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has repeatedly called on the chamber to move the process along in a bipartisan fashion. 

Six Democrats — Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Peter Welch (Vt.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) — voted against the bill, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Four Republicans also opposed the package: Sens. Mike Braun (Ind.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and JD Vance (Ohio).

Schumer was trying to avoid anything resembling what took place in the House, when Republicans passed a version of the bill that included a number of GOP-led provisions, turning the normally bipartisan annual affair into a near-party-line vote.

Among them are items that would block the Pentagon's new policy that covers travel costs for military members who seek abortions, take aim at military diversity programs and bar funding for surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender troops.

“We’ve had an open and constructive amendment process for the NDAA, with both sides … working together in good faith. This is exactly how the process for the NDAA should look: bipartisan [and] cooperative,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. 

“What’s happening in the Senate is a stark contrast to the partisan race to the bottom we saw in the House,” Schumer said, noting that many of the items they included have little chance of being included in a final version later this year. “House Republicans should look to the Senate to see how things get done. … They are throwing on the floor partisan legislation that has no chance of passing. The contrast is glaring.” 

Included in the bill is a 5.2 percent pay increase for military personnel, $9.1 billion for various measures aimed at competitiveness with China and $300 million for Ukraine. 

Schumer on Thursday evening locked in a time agreement in order to finish work as lawmakers were champing at the bit to start the August recess, which will begin Friday and last through Labor Day weekend. 

Senators wrapped up work Thursday and voted on a series of amendments, having OK’d 25 amendments overall for the NDAA. Lawmakers also greenlighted a second manager’s package that includes 49 more amendments. 

While the process went smoothly this time around, the real show will be in the coming months, as both chambers attempt to reconcile the two proposals and pass an overall NDAA package that can emerge through the Senate with the requisite 60 votes. 

Already, things are tilting in the Senate’s direction, as provisions related to abortion and the culture wars are expected to be watered down. A final bill will need to be nailed down by the time members leave for Christmas. 

However, the process did not go off without any hitches. An effort led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to attach an item to give permanent residency to roughly 80,000 Afghans who’ve come to the U.S. following the country’s fall two years ago failed over opposition from top Republicans. 

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) maintained a hold on Klobuchar’s bill, with Senate Republicans arguing that while they support the idea generally, the Minnesota Democrat’s proposal was too broad. Cotton has a bill of his own he is pushing that would create a pathway to residency for Afghan evacuees, but it would hamper the ability of the president to grant humanitarian parole. 

“This is our moment,” Klobuchar said on the Senate floor Wednesday night. “We have had two years to show the world whether or not we’re going to stand with those that stood with us. … The decision we make right now of whether we live up to the covenant we made to our Afghan allies is going to reverberate militarily and diplomatically for longer than any of us will serve in this body,”

One Senate Republican told The Hill that while Klobuchar’s Afghan Adjustment bill was unsuccessful this go-around, a limited version will likely make its way into the final NDAA product later this year. 

‘Shocked’ Schumer issues defense of Senate pages who were cursed at by GOP lawmaker 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the floor Thursday to issue a defense of the Senate pages after a House Republican cursed at a number of them late Wednesday night.

Schumer said prior to passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that he was “shocked” by the actions of Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.). The lawmaker yelled multiple obscenities at pages, who are 16- and 17-year olds who assist Senate operations. 

When the Senate works late — as it did Wednesday night on NDAA amendments — pages generally rest nearby in the rotunda. 

“I understand that late last night, a member of the House majority thought it appropriate to curse at some of these young people — these teenagers — in the rotunda. I was shocked when I heard about it, and I am further shocked at his refusal to apologize to these young people,” Schumer said.

“I can’t speak for the House of Representatives, but I do not think that one member’s disrespect is shared by this body, by [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] and myself.”

Schumer went on to thank the pages for their assistance, and senators proceeded to give them a standing ovation.

McConnell agreed with Schumer’s defense of the pages, saying afterward on the floor that he would like to “associate myself with the remarks of the majority leader.”

“Everybody on this side of the aisle feels exactly the same way,” McConnell said.

According to a transcript written by a page minutes after the incident and obtained by The Hill, Van Orden called the pages “jackasses” and “pieces of s‑‑‑,” and told them he didn’t “give a f‑‑‑ who you are.”

“Wake the f‑‑‑ up you little s‑‑‑‑. … What the f‑‑‑ are you all doing? Get the f‑‑‑ out of here. You are defiling the space you [pieces of s‑‑‑],” Van Orden said, according to the account provided by the page.

“Who the f‑‑‑ are you?” Van Orden asked, to which one person said they were Senate pages. “I don’t give a f‑‑‑ who you are, get out.”

“You jackasses, get out,” he added.

Van Orden has defended his actions.

“The history of the United States Capitol Rotunda, that during the Civil War it was used as a field hospital and countless Union soldiers died on that floor, and they died because they were fighting the Civil War to end slavery. And I think that place should be treated with a tremendous amount of respect for the dead,” he said.

“If anyone had been laying a series of graves in Arlington National Cemetery, what do you think people would say?”

‘Jackasses,’ ‘little s‑‑‑‑’: GOP congressman curses out teenage Senate pages

Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) is in hot water after he cursed out a group of teenage Senate pages in the Capitol rotunda early Thursday morning. 

According to a transcript written by a page minutes after the incident and obtained by The Hill, Van Orden called the pages “jackasses” and “pieces of s‑‑‑,” and told them he didn’t “give a f‑‑‑ who you are.”

The pages are a group of 16- and 17-year-olds who assist Senate operations, and when the Senate works late — as it did Wednesday night on National Defense Authorization Act amendments — pages generally rest nearby in the rotunda. 

“Wake the f‑‑‑ up you little s‑‑‑‑. … What the f‑‑‑ are you all doing? Get the f‑‑‑ out of here. You are defiling the space you [pieces of s‑‑‑],” Van Orden said, according to the account provided by the page.

“Who the f‑‑‑ are you?” Van Orden asked, to which one person said they were Senate pages. “I don’t give a f‑‑‑ who you are, get out.”

“You jackasses, get out,” he added.

The incident, which occurred just after midnight, outraged members of the upper chamber, with one calling the string of remarks “horrible.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) later on Thursday took to the Senate floor to defend the pages.

“I understand that late last night, a member of the House majority thought it appropriate to curse at some of these young people — these teenagers — in the rotunda. I was shocked when I heard about it, and I am further shocked at his refusal to apologize to these young people,” he said.

“I can’t speak for the House of Representatives, but I do not think that one member’s disrespect is shared by this body, by [Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] and myself.”

Van Orden did not dispute the exchange and defended his actions when asked by The Hill. 

“The history of the United States Capitol Rotunda, that during the Civil War it was used as a field hospital and countless Union soldiers died on that floor, and they died because they were fighting the Civil War to end slavery. And I think that place should be treated with a tremendous amount of respect for the dead,” he said.

“If anyone had been laying a series of graves in Arlington National Cemetery, what do you think people would say?”

Punchbowl News was the first outlet to report the incident.

This is not the first time Van Orden has flashed his temper. Van Orden reportedly threatened a 17-year-old library page in his home state over a gay pride display and demanded to know who set it up. The page in question had set the display up, and she told her parents she did not feel safe to return to the library for work. 

Mychael Schnell contributed. Updated at 8:20 p.m.

Feinstein told ‘just say aye’ at vote

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had what appeared to be a moment of confusion Thursday as she began delivering a speech instead of voting during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. 

During a roll call vote on the defense appropriations bill Thursday morning, Feinstein started to give a speech in support of the measure. Shortly after, a staffer and committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) cut her off, asking her to simply “say aye.”

"I would like to support a yes vote on this, it provides $823 billion. That’s an increase of $26 billion for the Department of Defense and it funds priorities submitted…” Feinstein said as a staffer cut her off and told her, “Just vote ‘Aye.’”

“Just say ‘Aye,’” Murray added.

"Aye," Feinstein said eventually.

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A Feinstein spokesperson attributed the moment to a markup that was "a little chaotic."

"Trying to complete all of the appropriations bills before recess, the committee markup this morning was a little chaotic, constantly switching back and forth between statements, votes, and debate and the order of bills. The senator was preoccupied, didn’t realize debate had just ended and a vote was called. She started to give a statement, was informed it was a vote and then cast her vote," the spokesperson said.

Feinstein, 90, announced earlier this year that she will not run for another term in office and subsequently missed more than two months of work as she recovered from a serious case of shingles.

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She has been back at work consistently in recent months and has been using a wheelchair to get around the Capitol complex.

However, Feinstein has had multiple visible instances of confusion. Earlier this year, she told reporters only moments after announcing her 2024 plans that she had not decided or made public whether to seek another term. And shortly after returning to the Capitol, she told reporters, "I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”

Updated at 2:49 p.m.

Senate moves closer to finishing Defense Authorization bill 

The Senate on Wednesday inched closer to wrapping up work on its version of the annual defense policy package as lawmakers push to complete their work by Thursday night and leave for their month-long recess.

Senators voted on three amendments on Wednesday evening to close in on finishing work on the National Defense Authorization Act. They are also expecting a late night on Thursday, with eight additional amendment votes slated as they rush towards the recess finish line. 

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told The Hill that lawmakers “could be” needed to stick around until Friday to officially finish up, pointing to a number of “odds and ends.” Those include a second manager’s package of amendments that members are trying to put to bed and a “handful of outstanding requests we have from members.” 

“It’s just a lot of moving parts,” Thune said, adding that the intelligence authorization package is also an item senators have to pass. He added to reporters later on that the process is “trending well.”

The Senate opened consideration of the NDAA last week and has tried to keep the package on the bipartisan rails that did not exist in the House. House Republicans passed an NDAA bill on their own that included a number of provisions related to the “culture war.”

“I’ve said repeatedly that the NDAA is an opportunity for the Senate to show we can work on the biggest issues facing our country through bipartisanship, cooperation, honest debate,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor. “That’s what we have seen play out so far here on the floor: bipartisanship.”

“The NDAA process in this chamber is a welcome departure from the contentious, chaotic, and partisan race-to-the-bottom we saw in the House,” he added.

The end-of-the-week process is not expected to be completely smooth sailing though. One stumbling block could come in the form of a push by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) for an amendment vote on a measure to give permanent residency to roughly 80,000 Afghans who’ve come to the U.S. following the country’s fall two years ago.

According to three Senate Republicans, the bill could potentially create issues completing the NDAA process as Klobuchar demands a vote. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) a supporter of her bill, told The Hill that he has heard Klobuchar is prepared to hold up the NDAA in the absence of a vote. However, it is considered an uphill climb for her to get a vote.

“It looks difficult to me,” Moran said. “It could be [a stumbling block.]” 

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a Senate Armed Services Committee member, added that colleagues are attempting to find a resolution later on and are committed to working with her to tailor the legislation as detractors believe its current language is too broad. 

“Sen. Klobuchar has worked hard at it, but so far the language she has presented is challenging for a number of reasons,” Rounds said. “We just don’t think the legislation as it’s currently written is going to get the job done.” 

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has held up her bill as he has competing legislation that is more limited in scope. 

Overall, senators have passed 16 amendments to the NDAA. 

Lawmakers earlier in the week overwhelmingly passed a couple of bipartisan amendments aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness with China. Two votes held on Tuesday won 91 votes each: one to boost transparency of investments by American entities in sensitive technologies in adversarial nations, and another blacklisting China from purchasing U.S. farmland

Those overwhelming votes earned praise from Schumer, who hailed the ability for members to “unite” to take on the Chinese. 

“It’s not often that 91 Senators can unite on a single measure, let alone two measures,” Schumer added.

Another amendment voted on early on Wednesday pushed by Sens. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) aimed at halting the harassment of our military members by debt collectors passed 95 to 4.

None of the three amendments considered on Wednesday night won the needed 60 votes to get attached to the bill. Headlining that group was one by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that would have greenlit $10 million for an office to provide full-time Ukraine oversight. It failed 50 to 49. 

A side-by-side amendment pushed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that was related to the Ukraine bill failed by a wide margin. In addition, Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) amendment that would have reinstated service members who were booted from the military because they did not get the COVID-19 vaccine also was not adopted.

Once the Senate passes its NDAA version, the upper and lower chambers will have to meet to come up with a compromise bill. That legislation is highly likely not to include any of the partisan provisions or will include watered down versions of them in order to win support of at least 60 senators. 

Grassley faces criticism over release of FBI document

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is in the political spotlight as Democrats and critics attack him for releasing a lightly-redacted document detailing unfounded allegations of Biden family corruption and bribery and conservatives praise his move in the name of transparency. 

The eight-term senator has had a storied career, particularly on investigative matters, where he has long been considered a champion of whistleblower protections.  

But critics say his decision late last week to release the tip to the FBI, memorialized in an FD-1023 form, put a chink in that armor. The FBI admonished Grassley and other senators for releasing the form, saying it “risks the safety” of the confidential source, who claims the Bidens “pushed” a Ukrainian oligarch to pay them $10 million.  

“I would never have advised him to do that,” said Kris Kolesnik, who spent 19 years as Grassley's senior counselor and director of investigations but has come out as a critic against his work in recent years.    

“This is like a new guy,” Kolesnik continued, noting that Grassley, 89, spearheaded the oversight efforts against the Reagan administration. “We left him quite an oversight legacy, and he's put all that in jeopardy. Between back then and now, it's like night and day.”  

According to the form released by Grassley and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.), the FBI’s informant — known as a CHS, or confidential human source — met in 2016 with Mykola Zlochevsky, the CEO of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, who claimed that he made a pair of $5 million payments to the Bidens. He did not specify who was on the receiving end of those alleged bribes.  

The form relays information on the conversation to an FBI agent but does not assess the veracity of the tip.   

The informant also claimed that Zlochevsky has 17 audiotapes, including two with then-Vice President Biden and the remaining 15 with Hunter Biden, though a number of Republicans have questioned whether they even exist.   

There has not been any evidence linking President Biden to the payments or Hunter Biden’s foreign work, and the White House has strongly denied any improper action.  

Grassley said on Thursday that the move was made for the sake of transparency and that Americans “can now read this document for themselves, without the filter of politicians or bureaucrats.” His office added that it was obtained via legal avenues and downplayed claims by the FBI that the safety of the CHS could be at risk.   

But that has in no way calmed the waters as Democrats increase their attacks over what they view as unsubstantiated claims that were already dismissed in full by the Trump administration.

Democratic staff on the House Oversight Committee wrote in a memo to House Democrats on Monday that Grassley and Comer’s actions were “in brazen disregard” of the safety of FBI sources and “the integrity of its investigations.”   

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“Contrary to Republican messaging, the form provides no new or additional support for their corruption allegations against the President or Hunter Biden,” the memo says. “Instead, its release merely seeks to breathe new life into years-old conspiracy theories, initially peddled by Rudy Giuliani, that have been thoroughly debunked.”  

Grassley’s work pertaining to whistleblower protections has long legs that extend well into that universe today. Empower Oversight, an organization of lawyers that includes a number of former Grassley investigatory staffers, has become a key group on this front as it helps whistleblowers navigate the treacherous waters to legally report information to Congress lawfully.   

However, his recent work has come under the microscope as it has become increasingly politicized.  

“He is transgressing all of the oversight principles we learned back in the day, the No. 1 principle of which is ‘Stay the hell away from politics,’” Kolesnik said. “And he’s broken that repeatedly.”   

In a statement, a spokesperson for the senator took issue with Kolesnik’s claims and said that Grassley “calls the shots on his investigation” and that “anyone who’s ever worked for” him would know this.  

“He maintains an impeccable reputation for shining a light on facts that the bureaucracy would prefer to keep hidden,” said Taylor Foy, a Grassley spokesman. “Grassley’s Biden investigation stems from government employees who are concerned that politics has infected the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies. Ignoring these claims would be a failure of Sen. Grassley’s constitutional oversight responsibility.”   

“Shying away from legitimate oversight because of fear of the political implications, as Mr. Kolesnik suggests, is exactly the type of cowardice that results in a runaway, unaccountable bureaucracy,” Foy continued. “That’s no legacy anyone who values oversight should pursue, and Mr. Kolesnik should know better.”  

Supporters of the longtime Iowa senator also maintain that he did nothing nefarious by releasing the document. They say that his track record should speak for itself and that if he is harping on a subject, there’s a good reason.   

“People willing to analyze his oversight history know that when he says something, you should pay attention because he's not one to shoot from the hip,” said Michael Zona, a former Grassley staffer and a GOP strategist, adding that the senator “usually knows a lot more than what he says.”  

“Pay attention to what he's saying or doing because he's probably ahead of the curve,” Zona added.   

Politically, Grassley is under little pressure to deviate from his current investigatory course. He won his eighth term last fall by a 12-point margin over Democrat Mike Franken.  

Republicans in his home state believe that his legacy is secure no matter what comes of the current push into the finances and actions of the Biden family. They also say that news of the document did not make much of a dent with Iowans in recent days as their focus is on the ongoing special legislative session on abortion in Des Moines and the parade of 2024 Republican presidential candidates to all corners of the state.   

"To me, I read this and I'm like, ‘This is classic Chuck Grassley,’” said Craig Robinson, a longtime Iowa-based GOP political strategist. “This is what he does. I don't view any of this as him being hyper partisan in any way. This is on message for who he's been as a United States senator for decades.”  

Military holds enter fifth month as Republicans struggle to appease Tuberville

The chance that Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) will lift his hold on military promotions over the Pentagon's abortion policy anytime soon has dimmed drastically as Senate Republicans struggle to make a deal with him to end the months-long saga. 

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week failed to advance a bill that would have overturned the Pentagon's policy that covers some expenses for service members who must travel for an abortion. That, coupled with a bitter back-and-forth between Tuberville and the Biden administration and lack of progress in talks with Republicans, means the holds are set to enter their fifth month with no end in sight. 

"Either side could make a move and right now neither side seems to think that these nominations are important enough to override the position that they find themselves in," Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Hill. "So we're at a stalemate."

As of this week, Tuberville is holding up 250 promotions for general and flag officers that are normally approved on the Senate floor via unanimous consent, and the anger among Democrats has not dissipated. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) on Tuesday made the 10th attempt by Senate Democrats to advance the military promotions, only to be blocked by the Alabama Republican. 

President Biden and the Pentagon also heaped more pressure on Tuberville this week. The president referred to the “former football coach from Alabama” during a fundraiser in Los Gatos, Calif., earlier this week, calling his hold “bizarre.” 

“I don’t remember it happening before,” Biden said. “I know I don’t look like I’ve been around, but I’ve been around a long time.”

The Pentagon also slammed at Tuberville earlier this week; Sabrina Singh, the Department of Defense’s deputy press secretary, criticized him for setting a “dangerous precedent” with his actions. 

Tuberville remains unmoved. 

He told The Hill earlier this week that there has not been internal pressure from Republicans to release his holds and that he has not heard directly from anyone in the administration or the Democratic side in recent weeks, outside of public missives. 

“We’ve probably gone backwards on that. Everyone’s gotten a closed mouth on this whole deal,” Tuberville told The Hill. 

But what it would take to move him off of his hold remains unclear to many. 

Tuberville told reporters that three things could get him to lift the hold on military promotions: A reversal of Pentagon policy, a successful vote to codify the policy or a failed vote to do so, with the latter two options coming both via a bill proposed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Tuberville’s staff clarified his comments, saying that a failed vote would not do the trick unless the Department of Defense dropped the policy ahead of a hypothetical vote on the Shaheen bill. 

None of the three options are likely, and no one has been willing to budge, meaning stalemate will likely go on for the foreseeable future. 

“It seems like everyone’s confused,” one Senate GOP aide said of the Tuberville situation. “I don’t know how we get to a solution here. I’m not sure there’s anyone on this planet that can talk him off of this. Plenty have tried.” 

Multiple Senate Republicans in recent weeks have talked to Tuberville about just that, but all have been stymied. Sen Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) brought up an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would rescind the Pentagon’s abortion policy that was put into place late last year, but it was blocked during the markup on the bill this week. 

On top of that, Tuberville had indicated already that a committee level vote on the item would not move him off of his hold, even though he voted for it.

“I’m not going for a committee vote,” Tuberville said.

Even those supportive of his push have tried to find a resolution. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Hill that he has talked with the Alabama Republican about the situation and was hopeful something could be done to rectify things via the annual defense authorization bill. 

“I don’t disagree with Sen. Tuberville’s point. But … there needs to be a means to accomplish that,” Cornyn said. “I believe in counting the votes, as opposed to depending on my optimism, and I’m not sure they’re there yet. I’m not sure they’re not there, but I think that’s the way to go.” 

Others, however, indicated they are tired of discussing the prolonged back-and-forth.

“I’ve answered a lot of questions about [this],” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), an Armed Services Committee member, said when asked if she’s sensed any movement on the holds. Fischer initially said that she was not supportive of Tuberville’s tactics before telling reporters that she supports his efforts.  

Lawmakers are starting to ask whether they could move certain nominees one by one, burning floor time. The situation will be especially acute next month as five members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Chairman Mark Milley, will start to be replaced. 

Senate Democrats indicated this week that they are not prepared to do that and are leaning on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has said he does not back Tuberville’s hold, and other Senate GOP members to pressure their colleague from Alabama. 

“I don’t know what we’ll do if we have to explore other options,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “Right now, the most feasible and readily available and timely way to solve it is for him to back down and for his colleagues to persuade him that’s the wise course.” 

Senate GOP questions Boebert push for Biden impeachment

Senate Republicans are questioning the push by House conservatives to impeach President Biden and other administration officials, arguing the moves are a waste of time and futile efforts that likely lack an impeachable offense. 

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) surprised even her own GOP colleagues Tuesday when she filed a privileged motion that would force a vote on a resolution to impeach Biden.

Conservatives have also been pushing to impeach figures, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said she is converting the articles of impeachment she has filed against top officials into privileged resolutions to use “when I feel it’s necessary.” 

The moves, however, are making many Senate Republicans uneasy.

“I know people are angry. I’m angry at the Biden administration for their policies at the border and a whole host of other things, but I think we also need to look at what’s achievable,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “And with a Democratic majority in the Senate, I don’t think that’s achievable.”

The move by the Colorado Republican came out of left field to many, though Boebert told reporters she informed House GOP leadership she would be making the privileged motion. 

The decision to move ahead also caught senators off guard, even those more conservative than others. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) exclaimed, “Really?” when asked about movement on Boebert’s articles of impeachment. 

The resolution includes two articles related to Biden’s handling of matters along the U.S.-Mexico border — one for dereliction of duty and one for abuse of power. Some Senate GOP members argued Boebert’s latest maneuver is frivolous.

“I’ve got a pretty high bar for impeachment,” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) said, noting that he said as much in his pair of votes against convicting former President Trump. “I fear that snap impeachments will become the norm, and they mustn’t.” 

Some even laughed at the idea of impeaching Biden.

Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the lone Senate Republican who voted to convict former President Trump in both of his trials, told The Hill that conservatives are spinning their wheels.

“Yeah,” Romney said when asked if he considers this a waste of time. “If someone commits a high crime or misdemeanor, of course. If they don’t, it’s a waste of time.” 

The impeachment chatter is the latest maneuver by House conservatives that has alarmed their colleagues across the Capitol. A revolt by hard-line conservatives that ground House floor business to a halt earlier this month left Senate Republicans worried about what would happen when must-pass bills arrive. And House Republicans wrote their spending bills at levels below those agreed to in last month’s debt ceiling deal — setting up a fight with the Senate, which is following the agreed-upon caps.

But Boebert’s latest move also angered her House colleagues. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) went so far as to urge his House GOP conference to rally against Boebert’s resolution before it hits the floor later this week. 

House Republicans want to keep attention focused on the Hunter Biden plea deal announced this week. And while some members may be in favor of impeaching some top officials — including Biden — they say Boebert’s is premature and could undermine existing congressional investigations and future impeachment efforts.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” McCarthy later told reporters. 

“This is one of the most serious things you can do as a member of Congress. I think you’ve got to go through the process. You’ve got to have the investigation,” McCarthy continued. “And throwing something on the floor actually harms the investigation that we’re doing right now.”

House Democrats are expected to make a motion to table the resolution, putting up a blockade against the vote entirely. The motion to table resolution is expected to succeed. 

Despite the wide opposition to Boebert’s effort, there has been some appetite for Biden’s removal among some Senate conservatives. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) called on the president to resign and ran ads on it earlier this year, though not because of his border policies. 

However, Senate Republicans are warning their colleagues across the Capitol complex that if they do plow forward with any sort of impeachment against Biden or others, they better be ready to back it up and show there’s an impeachable offense involved. 

“The Democrats played politics with impeachment. Republicans shouldn’t do that,” said Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), a friend and ally of McCarthy stemming from his time in the House. “If it’s something that’s impeachable, that’s fine. But there needs to be a process to it.” 

While early impeachment pushes are likely to fail, some efforts by conservative members have garnered widespread support among Republicans. House Republicans on Wednesday passed a censure resolution against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) that was brought up by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla) over his handling of investigations into Trump.

And Senate Republicans on Wednesday reiterated their confidence in McCarthy despite the ongoing back-and-forth with conservatives. 

“I think he’s got a handful of people who’re going to do what they’re going to do. I don’t know that he’s got a lot of control over any of that,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters.

“The House is the House. They’ve got their own way of doing things. I guess they’ll deal with them one way or another,” Thune said. “The best way to change the direction of the country is to win elections, and to win elections, you have to put forward a vision for the future of this country and talk in a positive way about the things that you want to do and draw contrasts with the administration.”

Alexander Bolton contributed.