The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – McConnell plays ‘long game’ on government funding, reconciliation
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 613,228; Tuesday, 613,679; Wednesday, 614,295; Thursday, 614,785.
Around the world to date, 4.3 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Eyebrows were raised when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted to open debate on the bipartisan infrastructure framework last week.
However, (as his memoir indicates), McConnell is about the “Long Game,” and that strategy is on full display now as the Kentucky Republican lays out the GOP’s demands to fund the government and goes all-out in an attempt to stop Democratic efforts to implement a potential $3.5 trillion reconciliation package in the coming months.
McConnell on Wednesday warned that Senate Republicans will not allow full-year funding bills to come up for a vote without a larger deal on government spending.
“When it comes to floor consideration, we cannot and will not start planting individual trees before we have bipartisan consensus on the shape of the forest,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. He added that a larger deal would have to include equal levels of growth in domestic and defense spending, all the while keeping poison-pill provisions out of a package.
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney points out, Congress is staring down an end-of-September deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown, likely with a continuing resolution to keep government funding at its current level for the time being.
The Republican leader’s warning came as the Senate Appropriations Committee cleared its first three fiscal 2022 funding bills. All of those must ultimately pass with 60 votes, giving the GOP leverage (The Hill). The comments also landed with a thud among Democrats, with Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) accusing him of “revisionist history.”
Meanwhile, McConnell has also turned his attention to the looming vote on a budget resolution that will open the gates to the reconciliation package, which he labeled a “reckless tax and spending spree.”
“Absolute worst possible thing we could be doing in our country right now,” McConnell told reporters, likening passing the mammoth plan to “playing Russian Roulette” with the economic recovery from COVID-19.
The Hill: White House trying to beat back bipartisan infrastructure amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
The Hill: Senate rejects GOP effort to add Trump border wall to bipartisan infrastructure deal.
The Washington Post: Prospect of massive economic packages unleashes lobbying bonanza in Washington.
> Debt ceiling: Democrats are likely to pass up their best chance to avoid a standoff over the debt limit without GOP votes, a move that will thrust Congress into risky territory this fall as the threat of economic ruin approaches. There will be no language on raising or suspending the debt ceiling in the budget measure Senate Democrats expect to unveil within days to advance a $3.5 trillion spate of liberal spending plans without Republican buy-in, according to a Democratic aide close to budget talks. Instead, the party is looking toward a short-term funding bill designed to avert a government shutdown at the end of September as the next opportunity for debt limit action, one top lawmaker said — an approach that would require Republican support (Politico).
> Evictions: Congress appropriated more than $46 billion in rental assistance to be delivered to struggling tenants and landlords through the states, but only about $3 billion has actually gone out. Even with a temporary ban on evictions in some locations, the crisis for tenants with a record of unpaid rent during the pandemic could recur two months from now. Lawmakers are struggling to figure out how to get billions of dollars in rental assistance to eligible tenants as fast as possible, The Hill’s Marty Johnson reports.
Bloomberg News: States are under pressure to expedite stalled rent relief efforts financed by the federal government. In addition, the administration’s two-month eviction reprieve extension to Oct. 3 runs the risk of pushing a housing crisis into the fall.
The Associated Press explainer: Will the newest eviction moratorium extension under the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keep tenants housed?
The Washington Post and The Associated Press: With eviction-moratorium victory in hand, congressional Democrats see a blueprint and turn their attention to student loans.
> Jan. 6 work: Leaders of the Jan. 6 committee have said they can’t let the August recess halt their work and have said they are preparing to send a flurry of subpoenas in order to start gathering evidence. With questions surrounding the committee’s work, The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch and Scott Wong explore five key ones staring down the panel, headlined by whether it will hit roadblocks in its quest for subpoenaed documents.
Additionally, it remains to be seen whether the select committee will issue subpoenas for testimony from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) (both pictured below), as both have confirmed that they spoke with former President Trump on Jan. 6. However, subpoenaing lawmakers can be a complex issue as it could create a political circus, one expert said.
More in Congress: Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly (D) on Wednesday paid tribute to the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for his first floor speech. Cindy McCain, wife of the longtime senator and President Biden’s nominee to lead the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, attended (The Associated Press). … The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would repeal authorizations passed by Congress in 1991 and 2002 for U.S. military missions in the Middle East, a first-time step in a larger effort in Congress to reclaim lawmakers’ war powers from the executive branch (The Washington Post).
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LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: One glance at news headlines (delta’s spread; imminent U.S. evictions; economic ennui) and Biden’s sagging poll numbers come into sharper focus. Democrats say the president and his party need a legislative win as a political counterweight, which means passage of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill with no Democratic defections, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) faces pressure to send the bipartisan bill to Biden’s desk once it passes the Senate instead of holding it back for months until Democrats can clear a proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill with 51 Senate votes. Republicans believe they have running room to attack Biden over rising inflation and violent crime rates, mask and vaccine mandates and the situation in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
The New York Times: “Biden Democrats” see a reality check for the left.
Politico: Biden’s approval rating slipped 12 points since May tied to his COVID-19 responses, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released on Wednesday. The pending Senate infrastructure bill gets a thumbs-up from 65 percent of respondents, while the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” measure has the support of 62 percent of those surveyed.
Niall Stanage, The Hill: The resurgence of the delta variant of COVID-19 is scrambling the political calculus around the pandemic. Democrats worry about the political impact of new restrictions, while elected Republican leaders are under scrutiny for adopting a permissive approach during the pandemic marked by rising infections in their states.
The Associated Press analysis: The highly transmissible delta variant is upending politicians’ COVID-19 calculus as new infections average more than 70,000 a day, above the peak last summer when no vaccines were available. Elected leaders in both parties have miscalculated along the way.
The Hill: Term-limited Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), whose state has among the nation’s highest COVID-19 infection rates, now says he regrets signing into law a ban on mask mandates. He has asked the Republican-led state legislature to reverse the ban on masks in public schools. “I signed it at the time because our cases were at a very low point. I knew it’d be overridden by the legislature if I didn’t sign it. … I already eliminated our statewide mask mandate,” the governor said Tuesday.
NBC News analysis, Jonathan Allen: GOP mask defiance is all about the 2022 ballot box.
Biden — who has at times struggled to shake off criticism of his administration’s policies on issues near and dear to core Democratic constituencies — continues to reach out privately and publicly to try to keep the party’s base united. For example, he meets today with leaders from the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, a group that helped the president capture the White House in 2020, reports The Hill’s Brett Samuels.
> West Wing fixer: If there’s any doubt that Biden is preparing for a reelection bid, Democratic analysts point to White House senior adviser Steve Ricchetti and his sway at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), on Capitol Hill and with Biden’s legislative strategizing. “He is involved in nearly every decision. He oversees everything,” said one source with knowledge of the internal DNC process. “He’s pivotal politically. Nothing moves without Ricchetti’s signoff.” The source said the powerful aide — who first worked in the West Wing as a top aide to former President Clinton and had a lucrative lobbying career — has extensive ties to Democratic officials and power brokers. He oversees just about everything of political consequence for the president (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS: The administration is on the verge of implementing two notable vaccination mandates in an effort to battle the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19 as it continues to sweep the country. Reuters reports this morning that the United States on Wednesday hit a six-month high of 100,000 confirmed cases of new coronavirus infections — a backsliding trend that worries public health experts.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to seek authorization to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all active-duty U.S. military personnel, a defense official told CNN. The Pentagon and the president previously suggested such a requirement was likely by September, tied to the expectation that the Food and Drug Administration will grant full authorization for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 shot in the coming weeks.
Last week, Biden said he asked the Pentagon to “look into how and when” it will add the jab to the list of military vaccinations that are considered mandatory.
Separately, the Biden administration is developing a plan that would require nearly all foreign visitors to the U.S. to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of eventually lifting travel restrictions that bar much of the world from entering the country. There is no set timeline for such a mandate, according to White House officials (Reuters and The Associated Press).
The Wall Street Journal: COVID-19 vaccine mandates split corporate America.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, interviewed on the podcast “Skimm This,” described the current phase of COVID-19 infections as the “delta wave.” Murthy said the “odds are high” a COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 and younger will be approved in the United States during the upcoming school year. … Across the Atlantic, however, the United Kingdom says in new, somewhat confusing guidance that it will offer coronavirus vaccines to 16- and 17-year-olds but is reluctant to inoculate younger children (The Washington Post).
The Hill: Nineteen House Democrats call on the Capitol physician to mandate coronavirus vaccines.
In Florida, a battle is brewing between public schools and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) over his order that bars the implementation of mask mandates for students. In Leon and Alachua Counties, local officials voted in recent days to require students to wear masks when the school year kicks off this fall. The Alachua County school board’s order is more limited to mask-wearing by students for the first two weeks of school.
Both orders are in direct conflict with DeSantis’s actions. He has rolled back almost all COVID-19-related restrictions even as case totals explode in the state. The governor’s order has also put local leaders in a tough spot, forcing a potential choice between health guidance because most students are not vaccinated, and a possible loss of state funding (Politico).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Biden’s honeymoon is over, and he knows it, by Thomas B. Edsall, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2WX70VB
The delta variant is surging. How should that change how we live? by Leana S. Wen, contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2VAPC8A
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet Friday at noon for a pro forma session. Members are out of town for the August recess.
The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. to resume consideration of a bipartisan infrastructure measure.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the Oval Office at 9:30 a.m. Biden and Vice President Harris will meet at 11:30 a.m. with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander leaders to discuss the economy, immigration, anti-Asian bias and hate crimes, and voting rights. On the South Lawn at 3 p.m., the president will tout the administration’s collaboration with automakers Ford, GM and Stellantis as well as the United Auto Workers for his goal of sales of 40-50 percent of electric vehicles by 2030 (White House fact sheet HERE; Washington Post coverage HERE). In the Rose Garden at 4:30 p.m., Biden will sign into law an act “to award four congressional gold medals to the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.” He and Harris will speak.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report claims for unemployment benefits filed in the week ending July 31.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. The administration’s COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: In an unusual lawsuit filed in U.S. federal court in Boston on Wednesday, the Mexican government sued U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors arguing that commercial practices it claims are negligent and illegal have unleashed bloodshed across the U.S. border. Among those named in the suit: Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc.; Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc.; Beretta U.S.A. Corp.; Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC; and Glock Inc. Another defendant is Interstate Arms, a Boston-area wholesaler that sells guns from all but one of the named manufacturers to dealers around the United States. The Mexican government “brings this action to put an end to the massive damage that the Defendants cause by actively facilitating the unlawful trafficking of their guns to drug cartels and other criminals in Mexico,” the lawsuit said (Reuters). … The Biden administration, assured of stoking China’s ire, has approved the first U.S. arms sale to Taiwan (The Hill).
➔ INSURANCE & DISASTER: Years of destructive U.S. wildfires are leading to rising insurance premiums in California and other states, underscoring fears that climate change and extreme weather and disasters render parts of the country exceedingly expensive to insure (The Hill). … Context: In 2020, Western wildfires cost insurers up to $13 billion (Reuters).
➔ HURRICANES: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that the ongoing hurricane season will move at an above-normal pace for the rest of the year. NOAA scientists on Wednesday said there is a 65 percent chance the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends in November, will move at that pace for the next four months. “After a record-setting start, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season does not show any signs of relenting as it enters the peak months ahead,” Rick Spinrad, NOAA administrator, said in an updated report. Before the year is out, NOAA expects 15 to 21 named storms, seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five hurricanes that are Category 3 or above (The Hill).
And finally … The Morning Report’s Tokyo Summer Olympics coverage today continues with some big headlines, world-class photos and a medal leaderboard.
In men’s basketball, Team USA is heading back to the gold medal game after defeating Australia while most of us were sleeping, 97-78, overcoming a halftime deficit in the process. They will take on the winner of this morning’s France-Slovenia game for the gold (ESPN).
The United States leads in medals with 85, of which 27 are gold. China has captured 73 (33 gold) while Russia, competing as the Russian Olympic Committee in Tokyo, has piled up 55 medals (15 gold). Great Britain has 50 medals (16 gold), and host nation Japan has 43 total so far, of which 21 are gold. Check out medals, competitions and details at NBC Olympics.
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