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Playbook PM: Crunch time for Biden’s two foreign policy crises


UKRAINE ON THE BRAIN — Congressional supporters of Ukraine think time is running short to pass crucial new military aid — and they’re eyeing the post-Thanksgiving return to Washington as the best, perhaps last, chance to get it done, Jennifer Haberkorn and Jonathan Lemire report.

“I don’t know that Ukraine can survive until February of 2024” without more ammunition, Sen. CHRIS MURPHY (D-Conn.) warns.

The trouble, of course, is that Republican opposition remains significant, especially in the House. And the White House doesn’t have good visibility into Speaker MIKE JOHNSON’s thinking, Jennifer and Jonathan write. To pass a significant supplemental funding package could force Democrats to give ground on some immigration policy changes that Republicans have demanded. But there are some new indications lately that they’re open to the prospect. “I also think we have a failed policy at the southern border,” Sen. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-N.H.) says outright, “and we need to look at ways to fix it.” Bipartisan talks are scheduled to continue over the holiday weekend.

Working slightly in Ukraine backers’ favor: Aid to Ukraine continues to be a divisive topic for Americans, 45% of whom say the U.S. is spending too much on the war, AP’s Seung Min Kim and Linley Sanders report from a new AP-NORC poll. But that’s actually down 7 points from last month, as Republican opposition to assistance drops somewhat. The share of Americans who think the U.S. is spending the right amount has risen from 31% to 38%.

MIDDLE EAST LATEST — President JOE BIDEN’s role in helping secure a temporary pause in the Israel-Hamas war and a partial hostage release may have been a diplomatic accomplishment, but as more political reaction poured in today, it’s clear that American leftists and Jewish leaders will both push him to go further in multiple directions.

Progressive lawmakers are continuing to advocate for an indefinite cease-fire to stop the Israeli airstrikes that have left more than 12,000 Palestinians dead, Joe Gould, Alex Ward and Connor O’Brien report. Though many Democrats hailed the deal — and said it validated Biden’s strategy thus far — others are warning that the bloodshed will simply resume next week unless the U.S. pushes Israel to go further.

Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) doesn’t mention the word “cease-fire” in a big new NYT op-ed today, but he makes clear that he thinks much bigger changes need to happen, quickly, in the region. Sanders calls for “an immediate end to Israel’s indiscriminate bombing,” “a significant, extended humanitarian pause,” “no long-term Israeli re-occupation and blockade of Gaza,” “new Palestinian leadership,” a guaranteed right of return for Palestinians and, finally, “broad peace talks to advance a two-state solution.”

On the flip side, families of American hostages taken by Hamas are celebrating the agreement but also saying the work must continue to free the rest. And Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER’s statement last night emphasized the hostage release, and the need to get more of them liberated, much more than the cessation of bombing in Gaza.

Good Wednesday afternoon. Thanks for reading Playbook PM. We’ll be off the rest of the week for Thanksgiving, but Playbook will still be in your inbox every morning. Drop me a line at [email protected].

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

STUNNER — A thwarted plot to kill a Sikh activist in the U.S. may have involved the Indian government, and the Biden administration warned New Delhi over the matter, FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo scooped. It isn’t clear yet whether the Biden administration’s warning stopped the plans or if the FBI managed to foil it separately. The assassination attempt would have been aimed at GURPATWANT SINGH PANNUN, general counsel for the separatist group Sikhs for Justice. Federal authorities have now indicted at least one person in New York as a result. The news comes in the wake of a Sikh separatist’s murder in Canada this summer, which sparked a diplomatic crisis between the countries as PM JUSTIN TRUDEAU alleged Indian involvement.

“The US justice department is debating whether to unseal the indictment and make the allegations public or wait until Canada finishes its investigation into [HARDEEP SINGH] NIJJAR’s murder,” Sevastopulo reports. “Further complicating the case, one person charged in the indictment is believed to have left the US.”

ALL POLITICS

WHOA — Businessman and political donor LINDEN NELSON offered Michigan Democrat HILL HARPER $20 million last month to drop out of the Senate race and launch a primary campaign against Rep. RASHIDA TLAIB instead, Ursula Perano and Nick Wu report. Harper turned it down.

BATTLE FOR THE SENATE — As Nevada increasingly looks like fertile ground for Republicans, Democratic Sen. JACKY ROSEN may have to separate herself from Biden to win reelection, The Messenger’s Adrian Carrasquillo reports. The percentage of votes in Congress on which she aligns with the president has plummeted by more than 20 points this year. And Rosen has put a significant emphasis on the Israel-Hamas war and on engaging with Latino communities. She’ll surely make abortion a central focus too.

POLITICAL VIOLENCE WATCH — The recent spate of fentanyl-laced letters sent to election officials presages what could be the toughest cycle yet for election workers across the country, who have to contend with ongoing threats and lots of retirements, NYT’s Michael Wines reports. Administrators are worried about vacancies and lower volunteer numbers, while potential attacks remain a frightening wild card.

HOT ON THE LEFT — Banning discrimination based on caste has become a complex wedge issue for Democrats and Indian American communities, culminating in California Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM’s veto of a bill to do so, WaPo’s Kimberly Kindy reports. The cities of Seattle and Fresno, Calif., have done so, and proponents say making caste a protected class helps protect marginalized groups. But opponents argue that bans are duplicative of existing laws or could actually worsen other people’s discrimination against Indian Americans — and they warned Newsom that a ban could threaten Democrats’ political standing with Indian Americans.

JOSH SHAPIRO SPEAKS — The Pennsylvania governor sits for an interview with NBC’s Allan Smith about his first year in office, school vouchers, highway repairs and what Biden needs to do to win his state.

2024 WATCH

ENDORSEMENT ROUNDUP — DONALD TRUMP’s campaign notched three more congressional backers today: Reps. BUDDY CARTER (R-Ga.), ERIN HOUCHIN (R-Ind.) and TRACEY MANN (R-Kan.) are all boarding the Trump train.

PLAYING FOR SECOND — CHRIS CHRISTIE is taking swipes at Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS and NIKKI HALEY as insufficiently critical of Trump, Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser reports from Derry, N.H. Christie’s ramping up the rhetoric as he aims to establish himself as the primary competitor to Trump in the Granite State.

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

VOUCHING FOR IT — Several Republican-led states have recently passed major expansions of school voucher programs to subsidize private-school and other educational alternatives. But these aren’t the vouchers of yesteryear, which mostly aimed to give new options to low-income kids in bad public schools, Andrew Atterbury reports. Thanks to more generous (or outright eliminated) income cutoffs, vouchers are now largely going to wealthier families, new kindergartners or students who were already in private schools. Critics call it a handout to people who don’t need it, but advocates are cheering what one professor calls “the big breakout year” for school choice, incited by pandemic-era conservative unhappiness with education.

THE ABORTION LANDSCAPE — A new Institute of Labor Economics analysis estimates that the post-Dobbs abortion bans led about 32,000 more babies to be born annually than would otherwise have been, NYT’s Margot Sanger-Katz and Claire Cain Miller report. That comes out to roughly one-fifth to one-quarter of the women and girls who would have sought abortions in those states instead having children. Births were an average of 2.3% higher in states that banned abortions relative to those that didn’t. And the births were disproportionately to Black and Hispanic women as well as women in their 20s, who might be least able to find a workaround to get an abortion now.

AILING AMERICA — “Why Long-Term Care Insurance Falls Short for So Many,” by Jordan Rau and JoNel Aleccia for KFF Health News and the NYT: “The private insurance market has proved wildly inadequate in providing financial security for most of the millions of older Americans who might need home health aides, assisted living, or other types of assistance with daily living. For decades, the industry severely underestimated how many policyholders would use their coverage, how long they would live, and how much their care would cost.”

POLICY CORNER

BALANCING ACT — A proposed HHS rule aims to give Head Start teachers a significant pay raise — up to $10,000 over seven years — amid serious staffing issues, AP’s Amanda Seitz reports. The goal is to help achieve parity with other teachers in public schools: The average Head Start educator now makes just $39,000 a year. But the administration needs Congress to appropriate another $1 billion for the program, or else the regulation could force enrollment numbers to drop.

ANNALS OF INFLUENCE — “Washington Quietly Scrapped a Plan to Save Homeowners Thousands of Dollars,” by WSJ’s Andrew Ackerman: “The Biden administration pushed to save homeowners thousands of dollars in closing costs on certain mortgages, part of a broad effort to slash fees and save Americans money. Objections from an obscure industry and from lawmakers helped kill the plan.”

AD ASTRA — NASA decided to scale back its investment in bringing rocks back from Mars to Earth, thanks to burgeoning costs and Congress’ budgetary chaos. But the decision has angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Matt Berg reports. Californians are particularly concerned about job losses in their state.

VALLEY TALK

THE BRAVE NEW WORLD — The OpenAI chaos this week around SAM ALTMAN’s…



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