Dems know the Jan. 6 hearings won’t help in November. They’re leaning in anyway.

House Democrats know that even the most damning findings from their probe into the Capitol attack may not save their majority in November. They’re still pleading with voters to pay attention.

Ahead of their prime-time hearing into the deadly Jan. 6 riot this week, Democrats have the steep challenge of convincing a disillusioned American electorate to tune into their hourslong presentation about something that happened more than 500 days ago. Most voters saw the violent siege by Donald Trump supporters play out far away from their homes, and the threat it presented to democracy seems abstract — particularly since it ultimately failed to keep Joe Biden from the White House.

All of which lends an air of fatalism to Democrats' approach to the hearings. They readily acknowledge the election less six months away will be determined far more by voters' economic worries than last year’s riot. Even so, the party is using the likely diminishing days of its majority for what members call a history-book moment, aiming to reshape public perception of the GOP faction that enabled Trump's effort to subvert the democratic process as the former president appears on the verge of another run.

Members across the caucus, including dozens who were trapped in the chamber during last January’s attack, insist that the fate of democracy is at stake. Even Democrats’ most vulnerable members say the party has no choice but to make their case to the public.

But first they have to break through with voters, many of whom have been largely tuning out the sprawling investigation into the day that a mob overran the Capitol.

“These hearings are a big deal. I think the American people, if they tune in, will understand that,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who was just feet away from rioters as they nearly broke into the House floor on Jan. 6, 2021. “I think this is about saving our democracy, quite frankly.”

Democrats will attempt to pierce many voters’ malaise on the subject with a carefully choreographed narrative: never-before-seen video footage, text messages, testimony from Trump’s inner circle. Many of them see it as compelling enough to sow doubt in the future of the GOP, from Trump on down to the elected Republicans who have stood by him. House GOP leaders have decried the inquiry as a politicized sham, while some of their own members still refuse to say Biden fairly won the election.

But the effects of the Democrats’ narrative might not show right away, and they know it; many privately say they don’t see the hearings dramatically reversing the headwinds against them in November.

Showing voters how much of the Jan. 6 violence was the fault of Trump and his GOP backers, however, gives Democrats an opening to talk about the risks of reelevating the former president as he mulls a 2024 campaign.

“I think that that’s a longer road,” said Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), when asked about how the select panel's findings could impact a future Trump’s run for the White House.

There's still immense value, she added, in bringing about “more honest conversations ... about what happened that day, what the record was, what the record was of the commander in chief, and why his government was under attack — and he did nothing.”

Polling shows that public belief that Trump had a clear role in the attack has been fading since January 2021, except among the Democrats’ most ardent supporters. One-third of Americans now believe Trump bears no responsibility for the attack, according to a Pew Research poll in January, up from one-quarter of people surveyed a year earlier.

With their new evidence, Democrats hope they can convince people otherwise.

“It could be a good, jarring moment for the nation,” said Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.), as he crossed his fingers. “My hope is that the hearings will reveal, in a succinct way, the danger that the country faced, and continues to face should that type of speech and action continue as we approach the next presidential election.”

Privately, many Democrats believe their presentation will be the most potent if they can prove that the threat remains ongoing — such as the groups of Republicans still actively planning to contest future elections.

The bulk of the hearings will be, of course, about the day itself.

The nine-member select panel will distill its year-long investigation — including hundreds of hours of video, testimony from dozens of witnesses, and tens of thousands of pages of documents — into made-for-TV moments.

They believe they have created a clear, compelling narrative that shows the lessons learned from both Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia election interference probe and Trump's Ukraine-focused impeachment trial: In both previous instances, many Democrats felt their party fell flat as they sought to make a public case against the president.

This time, though, there will be fewer lawyers with complex timelines and a thicket of classified documents. Plus, the committee itself will have no partisan sniping. One of the Republicans on the panel, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), is a dedicated Trump critic and a major asset to Democrats.

“They don’t have a prosecutorial function,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), summing up the panel's role. “I don’t think their objective is to persuade anybody. We’ve gotten to the point where we think we can argue facts. This is about revealing and sharing with the American people what they have collected.”

One select committee aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans, said that Thursday's first hearing would focus on “connecting the dots.”

“A lot of this has been reported and bits and pieces have been shared, but our aim is to sort of tie all that together in a comprehensive narrative, and to show how it’s a pattern that started before the election and went all the way through Jan. 6,” the aide added.

That could help Democrats reinforce contrasts as they brace for a potential walloping this November, reminding voters what’s at stake if they lose control of Congress, let alone the White House in two years.

While the insurrection may not be at the top of voters’ minds now or even this November, Democrats say reminding people about it — and presenting the full story for the first time — will stoke anger that could leave a lasting impression.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he sees the hearings as both an exercise in persuasion as well as a reminder of why the threat isn’t over: “It’s a warning ... I think the American public is going to see, there was in fact a conspiracy.”

That is, of course, if they decide to watch.

Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), whose district backed Trump in both 2016 and 2020, said the interest in his own district is mixed.

“People who read POLITICO in my district will be watching. Most people, though, are just concerned on keeping shelter over their heads and doing the best for their families,” Cartwright said.

“I’m all in favor of knowledge, learning and awareness,” he added. “I don't think I’ll be spending much of my time persuading people to watch these hearings. Either they will or they won’t.”

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National Guard to depart Capitol nearly 5 months after Jan. 6 riot

National Guard troops are slated to decamp from Capitol Hill this week, nearly five months after thousands were deployed to safeguard Congress amid fears of further unrest after the violent Jan. 6 insurrection.

The military presence has been a regular fixture for lawmakers and staff since mid-January, with troops scattered throughout the Capitol for high-profile events such as the impeachment of former President Donald Trump and the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Their exit comes as Capitol Police and other Hill security officials have raced to address shortcomings exposed by the riot — including through the installation of new leadership.

The departure of roughly 2,000 troops will return control of the complex back to the Capitol Police, which is now seeking a major expansion of its own capacity after its top brass faced criticism during the riot.

“These airmen and soldiers protected not only the grounds, but the lawmakers working on those grounds, ensuring the people’s business could continue unabated,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Monday.

For many lawmakers and aides, the Guard’s goodbye will be the latest sign of the Hill’s return to routine after months of stringent security measures, including a massive fence that still surrounds the Capitol grounds.

The Guard had been gradually drawing down its forces for months: In January, about 26,000 troops had converged on the Capitol as officials identified further threats of violence following the riot. By March that figure had dropped to roughly 5,000 troops.

A spokesperson for the National Guard did not return a request for comment about specific departure details. The Associated Press first reported that the Guard troops had formalized their departures, starting on Monday.

Some top lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, say the drawdown is long overdue, warning that the troops’ extended presence would have high costs, both financially and in terms of national readiness. Still, the Guard personnel will leave Washington, D.C., amid a political dispute over the future of Capitol defenses, with big questions about how to better protect the complex — including equipping its police force — left unresolved.

House Democrats last week passed a roughly $1.9 billion emergency funding bill intended to bolster Capitol security, including tens of millions of dollars to help Capitol Police boost hiring, training and other support services. The National Guard would also receive a half-billion dollars for “unanticipated pay” and operations costs for their deployment from Jan. 6-May 23.

But no House Republicans supported the bill, with some arguing that it contains extraneous provisions. Senate GOP leaders have not indicated that they will back it either.

"The Senate must act," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday, calling for the GOP to back the security funding bill and a separate commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6. "There is no time to waste or room for partisanship in keeping our Capitol and country safe.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who was tasked with a security review of the Capitol earlier this year, also urged Republicans to back the funding bill.

Honoré cautioned senators that "the longer they think, the less secure the Capitol will be" and noted that lawmakers needed to pay both the National Guard and Capitol Police officers after months of extra work.

"That's just logistics," Honoré told CBS’s “Face The Nation on Sunday. “That has to be paid.”

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Dems ready to leap on Biden’s $1.9T Covid aid plan as final vote nears

Democrats are readying a final vote on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package Wednesday, executing on the measure in less than eight weeks — and making a political bet on mammoth federal spending to boost the economy.

The House will vote Wednesday morning on the bill, which Budget Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) described as "one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in modern history."

"It’s nothing short of a miracle that we have gotten to this point," Yarmuth said, standing alongside a half-dozen other top Democrats who were ebullient as the House inched toward final passage. Several compared the Covid aid package's size and scope to that of the Affordable Care Act.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team, who spent the weekend working the phones with their members, are confident they will have the votes for one of Congress’s largest-ever economic relief bills. They're set to once again contend with unified GOP opposition that will brand Biden's rescue package as a Democratic offering ahead of next year's midterms, when Republicans could recapture the majority by flipping just a handful of seats.

In the House, which will send the bill to Biden's desk, the Rules Committee met Tuesday afternoon to tee up the bill for a floor vote Wednesday after Senate officials took longer than expected to send over the necessary paperwork. But Democrats vowed a one-day delay would not have an impact on boosted jobless benefits set to expire this weekend.

“We’ll pass it, it’ll get signed into law by the 14th and we’ll get people relief,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), a member of Democratic leadership, said when asked if Congress might miss its March 14 deadline to extend the extra federal jobless aid.

Major provisions of the legislation do command significant public support, and a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found 44% of Republicans approving of Biden's handling of the coronavirus. His plan includes a massive expansion of the social safety net intended to buoy the nation’s lowest-paid and most vulnerable people, who have faced the brunt of the pandemic. It also includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans — the direct result of Democrats’ pair of shocking wins in the Georgia Senate runoffs earlier this year.

Already, Democrats are predicting that some of their programs could become permanent. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) told reporters Tuesday that he believed Congress would keep the massive expansion of the child tax credit.

"Getting something out of the [tax] code is often harder than getting something into the code," Neal said. "What we did is unlikely to go away."

The bill is, in a sense, a gamble on the party's future. Democrats are on track to approve nearly $2 trillion without a single Republican vote, giving their opponents a fat target for criticism ahead of an election when historical headwinds will be working against them. Congress passed four major coronavirus relief packages before Biden took office, including one just weeks after the November election, but the GOP has rejected this one as too much money at a time when the U.S. might soon be able to move past the pandemic.

No House Republicans voted for the Democrats’ package when it first came to the House late last month. After a fierce whipping operation by GOP leaders, none are expected to back it this time, either.

Democrats have shrugged off the GOP's lack of support for the Covid aid plan, and Pelosi predicted Tuesday that Republicans would "take some credit for it in their districts."

The bill requires a final vote in the House after a marathon weekend session in the Senate, where Democrats agreed to a handful of changes in order to win over centrists.

House Democrats are expected to narrowly approve the Senate’s version of the bill, which stripped out a hike in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour — a long-time priority for progressives — after it ran afoul of the chamber’s budget rules.

Liberal Democrats fumed at that and other trims the Senate made, including the decision to shrink the bill's weekly boosted unemployment benefits to meet a demand by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). The bill now provides $300 a week in extra benefits through Sept. 6, down from $400 a week in the House plan. The Senate bill also allows for $10,200 in tax relief for unemployed workers.

Frustrations aside, no liberal Democrats have so far said they would vote against Biden’s first legislative priority.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she fielded calls from concerned members over the weekend but has made clear to her caucus that the bill remains “a big progressive win.”

Jayapal said she personally called Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday morning when it looked like Democrats might relent to a GOP proposal on unemployment aid and told him: “We cannot weaken this thing any more, or I don’t know what’s going to happen in the House.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal speaks during House impeachment inquiry hearing.

Jayapal said the Senate changes proved “relatively minor in the grand scheme of things,” with the exception of the minimum wage hike — a loss the left had already been bracing for. To get the wage raised, she said, "this makes it clear that we’ll have to reform the filibuster.”

House passage, whether Tuesday or Wednesday, would deliver on Biden’s top policy ambition from the 2020 campaign: a rapid investment in vaccines, school reopenings and other public health measures intended to revive an ailing economy.

Two moderate House Democrats voted against Biden’s package in February: Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.

Schrader announced Monday that he plans to support it after the Senate’s changes, noting that he still has concerns about "the size and scope" of the bill but says "the Senate changes provide meaningful relief for Oregonians in need."

Still, whether or not the party is fully united on the final vote, most Democrats argue that they're making an informed leap toward spending that's designed to combat virus-era job losses on par with the depths of last decade's Great Recession.

“When people get the money, they’re not going to admire it in their bank vault. They’re going to spend it,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) said. “That’s going to multiply the economic impact, and it’s going to be hugely beneficial.”

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Biden, Harris to headline House Dem retreat next week

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will keynote the House Democrats’ first-ever virtual retreat next week as the party looks to chart an aggressive policy agenda beyond its signature coronavirus aid package.

House Democrats will gather remotely Tuesday and Wednesday for a series of internal discussions on the party’s biggest priorities for the 117th Congress — from health care to immigration reform — as they hold control of the White House, House and Senate for the first time in a decade.

House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries announced the lineup to members Thursday, according to a letter shared first with POLITICO. Biden will speak to Democrats on Wednesday; Harris, as well as Secretary of State Tony Blinken, will address the caucus Tuesday.

In an interview, Jeffries said the retreat would be focused on the “multitude of crises” facing the American people, including the pandemic, the economic collapse, systemic racism, a broken immigration system and climate change.

U.S. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) listens during a news conference.

“It is my expectation there will be robust intellectual discussions about the best ways to move forward in tackling all of these issues,” Jeffries said.

The retreat will take place as congressional Democrats enter the final stretch of their $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, which is expected to clear the House at the end of this week and move to the Senate the following week.

Over two days of intense discussions, House Democrats — led by Jeffries and Vice Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) — will privately debate a slew of highly charged issues that are expected to receive votes in the coming months. That includes immigration, which remains one of the most divisive issues for Democrats, particularly given their razor-thin margins in both chambers.

Unlike past years’ retreats, the Democratic Caucus will be looking to achieve more than a show of cohesion. This year, Democrats will be hashing out legislation that actually stands a chance of passage — something that lawmakers say brings more weight to the policy discussions — while navigating their most narrow majority in decades.

Democrats will hold five issue-specific panels featuring leaders from groups such as the AFL-CIO, Third Way, and the National Wildlife Federation. White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy will speak, as well as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Teresa Romero of the United Farm Workers.

With Biden’s first pandemic aid package nearly complete, Democrats are eager to turn to their longer-term agenda, eyeing plans for a massive infrastructure or jobs package up next. Many in the House are already jostling behind the scenes over which of their many long-stalled priorities should come next.

House Democrats plan to spend the next three weeks teeing up a slew of bills that passed last Congress, delivering a shot of energy to the party’s base while signaling the issues it will seek to compromise with the Senate GOP on. But there will be fierce debates within the caucus over exactly which bills deserve floor time afterward.

The retreat, which is typically a high-energy bonding exercise held out of state, also offers a rare chance for the full caucus to come together after a chaotic first two months, where lawmakers survived a domestic terrorist attack at the Capitol on Jan. 6, followed soon after by a historic second impeachment of former President Donald Trump.

“Although the crises we face are historic, we are up to the task,” Jeffries wrote in a note to members, acknowledging the difficulties so far this year. “Despite the enormity of these challenges, House Democrats have risen to meet the moment.”

During the event, Jeffries will be broadcasting live from a studio — complete with two stages — that’s been built in the caucus’s office space. This year’s event may be without the star power of some previous years, such as the 2019 conversation with singer John Legend and best-selling author Chrissy Teigen, but members can still pick up prepared meals throughout the event, as well as a modest swag bag from the caucus staff. Members who are voting remotely will receive theirs by mail.

While Democrats will be holding their programming through a secure, virtual conference feed, House Republicans are planning an in-person retreat in the spring.

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Pelosi has ‘no plans right now’ to seek John Bolton subpoena

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday signaled Democrats have no immediate plans to summon former national security adviser John Bolton for testimony — but she made clear the House would not abandon its investigations into President Donald Trump despite him being acquitted in his impeachment trial.

Pelosi pointed to a slew of ongoing legal battles against Trump — including to obtain his tax returns and a long-ignored subpoena related to Robert Mueller’s probe — that are still moving through the courts.

But she said there are “no plans right now” to begin a fight over Bolton.

“We will continue to do our oversight to protect and defend the Constitution,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference.

“We have some cases in court now,” Pelosi said. “If there are others we see as an opportunity, we’ll make a judgment at that time, but we have no plans right now.”

Bolton’s fate has been one of the biggest lingering questions for Democrats after the Senate concluded its three-week impeachment trial this week.

New revelations from Bolton’s upcoming book tying Trump closer to the Ukraine scandal threatened to upend the trial, but Senate Republicans defeated a Democratic push for witnesses and the GOP stood firmly behind Trump.

Most Democrats say they want to hear what Bolton has to say. But some are also wary of launching a new chapter of investigations just as they’ve closed one and believe they must tread carefully as the November election approaches.

Even if Democrats do nothing, Bolton’s book is set to be released on March 17 unless the White House blocks it — potentially dragging the caucus back to the subject after the Senate trial.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler told reporters on Wednesday that Democrats “will likely” subpoena Bolton. But other top Democrats have been more cautious in their answers.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said this week that the House’s investigative panels will evaluate whether “there is still relevant information that needs to be uncovered.”

“The committees may well want to hear from him,” Hoyer said, when asked about a potential Bolton subpoena. “But they’re going to make that decision. We’re going to have discussions about it.”

Bolton reportedly wrote in his book that Trump told him that he withheld military aid to Ukraine because he wanted an investigation into rivals like former Vice President Joe Biden.

Still, most Democrats now expect their biggest fights against Trump will move to the courts.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule next month in a case involving Trump’s refusal to turn over his tax returns to congressional investigators.

And a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is expected to rule any day now in a case involving the House Judiciary Committee’s monthslong fight to subpoena testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn, a star witness in the Mueller probe.

Both pending cases could open a spigot of new information in Democrats’ bid to expose wrongdoing by the president.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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