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POLITICO Playbook Daily Briefing


POLITICO Playbook's must-listen briefing on what's driving the day in Washington.

POLITICO Playbook's must-listen briefing on what's driving the day in Washington.


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POLITICO Playbook's must-listen briefing on what's driving the day in Washington.




Jan. 27, 2023: Is there an RNC shocker in the making?

Later this morning, RNC members here at a five-star resort on the Pacific Ocean will pile into a private conference room and elect the organization’s next chair after a weekslong, bitter campaign pitting incumbent Ronna McDaniel against top challenger Harmeet Dhillon. While McDaniel remains the favorite, Dhillon’s team has been working overtime since they arrived, and there are unmistakable signs she’s made headway. Just days ago, she had fewer than 30 of the 168 RNC members publicly...


Jan. 26, 2023: Why this debt ceiling showdown is different

With a catastrophic federal default potentially months away, Wall Street and the rest of America is reacting with a big yawn — and, honestly, can you blame them? The high-stakes debt standoffs of Barack Obama's presidency each ended with last-second deals that avoided economic calamity and saved face for all the principals involved. Washington went on to lift the debt limit four more times with minimal drama. So why are so many veterans of the first modern debt ceiling showdown freaking out?...


Jan. 25, 2023: George Santos has $199 problems

On Tuesday, Kevin McCarthy officially booted Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee. In a letter that was short on details about the two California Democrats’ sins, the new House speaker referred to “integrity,” “honesty” and “credibility” as driving his decision. It is no surprise that reporters immediately asked McCarthy how his expulsion of the two Democrats for alleged dishonesty squares with his hands-off approach to another well-known congressman:...


Jan. 24, 2023: Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks

Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued the new GOP roster for the House Rules Committee Monday, and he made good on his pledges to give his conference’s hard right a foothold on the powerful panel, naming Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) to the powerful gatekeeping panel. Norman and Roy were among the cadre initially opposing McCarthy’s speaker bid, and Massie is — how to put it? — a real pain in leadership’s ass. And our colleagues Ally Mutnick and Sarah...


Jan. 23, 2023: McDaniel in the lion’s den

The biggest moment yet in the 2024 election cycle happens later this week in Dana Point, Calif., where RNC members will choose their next leader — and incumbent Chair Ronna McDaniel faces an unexpected fight for a fourth two-year term. McDaniel is still the favorite, but the race has turned contentious: Attorney Harmeet Dhillon, who backed Donald Trump's attempt to throw out the 2020 election results and represented him before the House’s Jan. 6 panel, is challenging McDaniel, blaming her...


Jan. 20, 2023: White House says, celebrate the Biden-versary!

President Joe Biden was sworn in two years ago today. To mark the occasion, White House Comms Director Kate Bedingfield is sending congressional Dems and other allies this “Cheat Sheet” of the president’s accomplishments to tout. It’s worth a read to understand the emerging Biden reelection message — note the heavy emphasis on a manufacturing renaissance — which these talking points contend “is in contrast to MAGA Republicans in Congress who are creating chaos and proposing an extreme and...


Jan. 19, 2023: Meet House Oversight’s new brawlers

Just days after House Democrats announced impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump in 2019, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy faced an unwanted pressure campaign from the president’s closest allies. McCarthy refused — centrists, he believed, would have more credibility when they called foul on the Democrats’ impeachment process. Trump allies, meanwhile, would be dismissed by persuadable voters as knee-jerk partisans playing to an audience of one. That strategy has now flown the coop....


Jan. 18, 2023: What McCarthy gave up, drafting DeSantis and more

NBC’s Scott Wong and Kyle Stewart did the work on putting together a comprehensive list of where all of the antagonizers who slowed McCarthy’s ascension to the speakership ended up after committee assignments were settled Tuesday. A few of the notables: - Reps. Andy Biggs (R- Ariz.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) kept their seats on the Judiciary Committee; - Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who like Biggs and Gaetz voted ‘present’ on the final ballots, won a seat on the...


Jan. 17, 2023: Rep. Jim Banks leans into the culture war with Senate bid

Today, ambitious Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks launches his bid to replace retiring GOP Sen. Mike Braun. (Watch his announcement video here.) The 42-year-old former chair of the Republican Study Committee is widely seen as the favorite in the race, which has already attracted interest from fellow Rep. Victoria Spartz. But he could face a challenging primary if former Hoosier State Gov. Mitch Daniels jumps in. And, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to Speaker Kevin McCarthy...


Jan. 13, 2023: Joe Biden’s gift to Jim Jordan

In a September interview with CBS’ Scott Pelley for “60 Minutes,” President Joe Biden blasted Donald Trump for taking sensitive classified materials with him to Mar-a-Lago. When he learned the news, Biden said he instantly wanted to know “how that could possibly happen.” He worried that the documents contained information “that may compromise sources and methods.” He was flummoxed how “anyone could be that irresponsible.” Now, four months later, those same pointed reactions are aimed at...


Jan. 12, 2023: Is Biden’s best defense a good offense?

January is a time of new beginnings in Washington. A new Congress. A new Republican-led House. A new speaker, Kevin McCarthy. New investigations into Biden by GOP-helmed committees. And now, in light of all of the above, there’s a new effort from the White House to go on offense against Republicans like never before. Like so many Washington trends these days, it started with a tweet. “It’s a giant tax cut for rich tax cheats. Bill #1 from the new House GOP,” Ron Klain, the very online White...


Jan. 11, 2023: Blake Hounshell, 1978-2023

Most listeners to this show or readers of the Playbook newsletter didn’t know Blake Hounshell, but all of you were influenced by him. He nurtured and mentored dozens of young journalists who now populate virtually every significant news organization. He plucked brilliant academics from obscurity and turned them into influential writers. He shaped the world of online political news, newsletters and social media for over a decade at Foreign Policy, POLITICO and The New York Times. He put...


Jan. 10, 2023: Biden gets his own documents headache

For President Joe Biden, it was an inconvenient discovery — and the potential source of considerable future political, if not legal heartburn. The Justice Department is investigating how and why classified documents from Biden’s time as veep made their way from the White House to a think tank, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, where he used to have an office. CBS’ Adriana Diaz, Andres Triay and Arden Farhi scooped the news last night, and White House special counsel...


Jan. 9, 2023: Speaker McCarthy's first governing test

The rules package that will govern how the House operates this session is scheduled for a vote this evening. It’s shaping up as Speaker Kevin McCarthy's first big test in governing what is shaping up to be an ungovernable Republican majority. The package is the closest thing to a contract drawn up between McCarthy and his internal critics. Alongside various side deals dealing with committee assignments, budget policy and other matters, the rules changes define the devolution of power away...


Jan. 6, 2023: Unrest swells among McCarthy’s backers

Around Christmas, Texas Republican Rep. Roger Williams’ wife suffered a medical emergency. This week, as she underwent treatment, her husband was eager to be by her side. Instead, he has been stuck in Washington taking failed vote after failed vote in Kevin McCarthy's quest to become speaker. “This is killing him,” one of Williams’ GOP lawmaker friends told us late Thursday night. “I’ve never seen Roger as down as he was yesterday.” Williams isn’t alone. On Thursday, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.)...


Jan. 5, 2023: Inside McCarthy's brewing speaker deal

After spending the last 48 hours on life support, Kevin McCarthy's bid for the speakership is seeing a potential revival. Following a rollercoaster of a Wednesday during which the California Republican failed three more times to secure the 218 votes for the gavel, McCarthy and some of his critics finally got in a room and had what both sides are describing as productive conversations. This morning, after slamming coffee at midnight and working the phones until the wee hours, we have a...


Jan. 4, 2023: How long can McCarthy hang on?

So how does this end? And how long will it take to end it? Those are the questions towering over the new House Republican majority, which for the first time in 100 years, found itself unable to choose a speaker on the first ballot — or two others afterward. The House is now paralyzed, unable to swear in its members or form committees or adopt rules — let alone pass legislation. And the scary realization for the GOP rank-and-file is that there’s no easy way out of this mess and no sign that...


Jan. 3, 2023: The House GOP’s epic game of chicken

Welcome to the 118th Congress, the new Republican House majority, and one of the most unpredictable and potentially chaotic scenarios we’ve seen on Capitol Hill. The House will gavel in at noon, and following a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and a quorum call, the clerk will immediately start the live roll call to elect the next speaker. GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, however, still hasn’t clinched the votes he needs, and the day could drag late into the night, we’re told, as Republicans...


Dec. 23, 2022: Jan. 6 report drops, a McCarthy foe speaks

The Jan. 6 committee released its final report on Thursday night — an 845-page document drawn from nearly 1,200 witness interviews and reams of hard-won documents that places Donald Trump at the center of the deadly assault. POLITICO's Kyle Cheney and Nicolas Wu write “Trump’s incendiary lies about the 2020 election activated an extraordinary coalition of far-right militants and conspiracy theorists who not only joined the mob but were its vanguard smashing through police lines." Rep. Bob...


Dec. 22, 2022: Inside the scramble to trace SBF's dirty money

Sean McElwee is a well-known progressive activist who started the “Abolish ICE” movement and in 2018 founded Data for Progress, a progressive think tank with an emphasis on influencing public policy through polling. DFP quickly embedded itself into the top layers of the Democratic firmament. More recently, McElwee became a close political ally and adviser to FTX founder SAM BANKMAN-FRIED. McElwee had easy access to the White House and the press. And he made sure they had access to him. He...