NotedDC — McCarthy plays up focus on Biden DHS chief

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who hopes to secure a majority vote in January to be the chamber’s next Speaker, is ratcheting up his focus on Alejandro Mayorkas, President Biden’s Homeland Security secretary.

McCarthy visited El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday to tour the border where he called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief to resign or face impeachment proceeding once Republicans take over early next year.

“If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate every order, every action and every failure” and “determine whether we can begin impeachment inquiry,” McCarthy said.

Fox News’ Bill Melugin reported that McCarthy was visiting the border area “specifically in response to DHS Secretary Mayorkas’s testimony again last week that the border is secure.”

McCarthy, who is hoping to shore up support among Republicans to claim the Speaker’s gavel, has long forecast the move, saying back in April that Mayorkas may be subject to impeachment if the GOP took the House in the midterms.

In October, Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) sent a letter to Mayorkas saying they had “grounds for impeachment” if the secretary didn’t correct what they called a “gross dereliction of duty.”

In August 2021, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) introduced a resolution to impeach Mayorkas “for high crimes and misdemeanors related to his actions regarding border security and immigration,” with 32 Republicans signing on.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 2.8 million total enforcement actions at the border in fiscal year 2022 (which ended Sept. 30). That was more than twice as many as in 2019, four times as many as in 2020 and a 41 percent increase over 2021’s figure (around 2 million).

In his testimony on “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland” before the House Homeland Security Committee last week, Mayorkas said, “Migration is a hemispheric challenge, one not limited to the United States.”

“The demographics of the population have also changed, with more than triple the number of Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans than last year, as people flee repressive governments and lack of economic opportunity … We assess that global food and water shortages, poor economic conditions, and other socio-political factors will continue to drive an increase in cross-border migration,” he said.

GovTrack noted that if Biggs’s push succeeded “Mayorkas would be only the second impeached Cabinet official in U.S. history.” (The first, Secretary of War William W. Belknap, was impeached in 1876 and then acquitted by the Senate.) 

Some Republicans have urged caution in pursuing politically charged investigations, at least early in the GOP’s new tenure as majority.

Rep.-elect George Santos (R-N.Y.) said last week the new GOP-led House should focus on policy for the first six months and investigations “shouldn’t hold priority over the issues at hand, which are affecting every American’s day-to-day life.”

This is NotedDC, looking at the politics, policy and people behind the stories in Washington. We’re The Hill’s Liz Crisp and Amée LaTour.

📨 Have a tip or something you want to share? Email us at [email protected] and [email protected].

🩺 More states eye Medicaid expansion

South Dakota just became the latest state to expand Medicaid to cover lower-income people. Expect more states to follow, or at least seriously consider it. 

There are fewer than a dozen states that haven’t expanded Medicaid more than a decade after the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, provided a financial incentive to do so, aiming to boost health care access for the uninsured. 

South Dakota, where more than 61 percent of voters backed former President Trump in the 2020 election, became the 39th state to approve expansion after 56 percent of voters backed the measure in the midterm cycle this month.

The American Rescue Act, a nearly $2 trillion stimulus package that Biden signed into law last year, provides two years of financial incentives for states that come into late adoption of expansion. They can get a bonus discount on their existing match for people on Medicaid outside of the new expansion. 

“I think that incentive did reignite some of the debate,” Robin Rudowitz, a Medicaid expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation, told NotedDC. 

The 2010 Affordable Care Act initially required states to expand their Medicaid programs to get insurance to more low-income people, with the federal government picking up most of the tab. The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the ACA and left Medicaid as an option for states that many GOP-led states eschewed.

States to watch: Rudowitz said there has been “a lot of activity” in North Carolina that could signal the state is leaning toward passage. Wisconsin also has seen movement on the issue.

In Florida, voters are trying to get an expansion on the ballot, after resistance from conservative lawmakers. 

“Even though the traditional legislative process has not been successful in passing in some states, it’s popular among voters,” Rudowitz said. 

Meanwhile, states like Mississippi have moved to make it harder for citizens to push expansion on their own, despite health disparities. 

“There’s a whole range of studies that have shown positive effects for people who currently don’t have access to affordable coverage,” she said. “Overwhelmingly there have been positive results.”

An example of how adoption has gone: Louisiana, a state that resisted expansion for years under Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, ultimately approved expansion in 2016 after Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards took office.

More than 750,000 people have enrolled in health care coverage under the expansion, with 1,841 cases of breast cancer and 1,169 cases of colon cancer diagnosed. More than 40,000 people have been diagnosed with diabetes and are now getting treatment through the program, while more than 181,000 have accessed mental health services, according to data from Louisiana’s health department.

“Expanding Medicaid was my first official act as governor, and it remains the easiest big decision I have made,” Edwards told NotedDC. “The success of Medicaid expansion in Louisiana is undeniable.” 

Edwards said it was particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit hard in the state.  

“Rural hospitals that were on the verge of closing before expansion have been able to stay open and continue serving their communities,” he said. “Those hospitals and the preventative care that expansion provides were critical to saving lives during the height of the COVID pandemic.”

ACCESS DENIED APPROVED

The Supreme Court has rejected Donald Trump’s plea to stop the Treasury Department from giving the House Ways and Means Committee his tax returns. The court issued the order after Trump appealed a lower court’s decision in the long-running case.

But as The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch points out, “While the order from the Supreme Court is a win for House Democrats, it’s unclear how useful it will be for them. It’s not clear how quickly the IRS would turn over the records, and House Republicans are expected to withdraw the request when they take over in January.”

🍄 Lawmakers launch ‘Psychedelics Caucus’

A new bipartisan group of lawmakers plans to examine mental health treatment through psychedelics, including mushrooms (psilocybin) and MDMA (a Schedule 1 substance). 

The so-called “Psychedelics caucus” (formally called the Congressional Psychedelics Advancing Clinical Treatments, or “PACT,” Caucus) is being led by Reps. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Jack Bergman (R-Mich.).

“Psychedelic-assisted therapies have shown incredible lasting potential to treat depression, substance use disorder and PTSD,” Correa said in a statement, adding that “further clinical research is necessary.”

“If these treatments can save the lives of my constituents and fellow Americans, and are safe to receive in clinical settings, why would we not want to research them?” 

On the Senate side, another bipartisan effort is brewing between Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). 

The PACT Caucus’ goals are to increase awareness among members of Congress and others about psychedelic science and research based on FDA-approved clinical trials for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and hold regular briefings to keep the issue on the radar. They’ll also work on other efforts to raise awareness, according to a news release on its launch. 

“Having served our nation as a member of the United States military and in Congress, I’ve seen the destruction post-traumatic stress disorder can cause on my fellow veterans and their families,” Bergman said. “Our job is to find solutions to these problems, and if psychedelic-assisted therapy can help treat or even fully cure someone of their PTSD, we need to take a closer look at these potential life-saving therapies.” 

It’s not clear how many members are signing on to join the psychedelics caucus yet. A source familiar with the organization efforts told NotedDC: “They have received a good amount of interest but they are only just now beginning the formal process of adding members to the caucus.” 

Lawmakers advocating changes to federal drug laws haven’t exactly had the most robust backing in recent years — President Biden has been reluctant to embrace marijuana reforms, though he pardoned thousands with prior federal simple weed convictions.

The House Cannabis Caucus, five years after its formation, still only boasts a handful of members (two Republicans and two Democrats formally on its roster).

“We know there is more to do to bring an end to the federal government’s prohibition of cannabis and remedy the disastrous impacts of the failed war on drugs,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said in a statement on their efforts earlier this year. “The American people have called for change, and we will continue to be a leading force for that change here in Washington to ensure it becomes reality.”

BRIEFLY

📱 Former President Trump is back on Twitter — sort of. Trump’s account has been reinstated, allowing people to see his old tweets and share them. But Trump, who grew his political and presidential profile through the social media site, hasn’t formally made the jump to posting new content yet. He’s also contractually obligated to wait six hours before sharing posts from his TruthSocial site anywhere else.

💸 A year-end spending package becomes the new battleground for Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) one week after McConnell’s reelection as minority leader.

🚫 Speaker-designate Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he’d expel three House Democrats from their committees. The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch and Mike Lillis report on reactions from Democrats.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Giselle Fetterman, the wife of Sen.-elect John Fetterman (D-Pa.), shared her spouse orientation day with The New Republic. She said she has no plans to run for office, despite speculation, and spit some fiery hot takes including: “The right-wing hates women.”
  • Vogue has all the details on the wedding of the weekend: First granddaughter Naomi Biden’s White House wedding that was closed to general press. 
  • Some states are opening college savings accounts for every newborn: via Pew’s Stateline.  
  • Freedom Caucus members want to decentralize power in the House. But what does that really mean? via Roll Call.  
  • “I’ve said all along, actually for a while now, that I think we need a change in leadership in the Senate,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) to Missourinet.

NUMBER TO KNOW

42

Days until the new Congressional term starts with power split between Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate and White House.

🍂 Things to do in DC this holiday weekend

No fowl play: The turkeys have been pardoned and the White House Christmas tree is in place. The holiday season is in full swing in the District.

The Kansas City Ballet’s The Nutcracker will be at the Kennedy Center this week, with shows running Wednesday through Sunday (and you might spot one of your NotedDC correspondents at the Saturday matinee). You can catch a preview here.

Other things happening on this holiday weekend:

  • The National Symphony Orchestra will be performing hits from Disney’s Frozen Friday and Saturday also at the Kennedy Center.
  • D.C.’s Downtown Holiday Market, located just outside the National Portrait Gallery, will be open Thanksgiving weekend for outdoor shopping, eating and entertainment.
  • Our friends at the Washingtonian have a full round-up of bars that will be open late the night before Thanksgiving. 

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This post was originally published on The Hill

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