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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 616,829; Tuesday, 617,321; Wednesday, 618,137.
It was a busy day along the Acela corridor on Tuesday as the Senate passed the bipartisan infrastructure package after months of negotiations and New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Hochul gets early boost as NY gubernatorial race takes shape EMILY's List announces early endorsement of Hochul MORE (D) announced his resignation following a string of sexual harassment allegations.
The Senate passed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Tuesday morning, 69-30, sending over to the House a priority of President BidenJoe BidenGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE’s agenda. The long-awaited vote took place after months of bipartisan negotiations, headlined by talks led by a group of 10 senators spearheaded by Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Top GOP senators want joint review of Afghan visa process Timken rolls out six-figure ad campaign, hits Fauci MORE (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Biden injects new momentum into filibuster fight MORE (D-Ariz.) that resulted in a breakthrough in recent weeks (The Hill).
“Congress has talked about truly modernizing our nation’s infrastructure for as long as we can remember. The United States Senate delivered so that we can finally give the American people the safe, reliable, and modern infrastructure they deserve,” Portman, Sinema and the eight other senators said in a joint statement after the vote.
Nineteen Senate Republicans voted with all 50 senators in the Democratic caucus to pass the bill, with GOP leadership dividing on the final vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntIt's time to make access to quality kidney care accessible and equitable for all Hartzler pulls in 6,000 for Missouri Senate bid with .65M on hand McConnell gets GOP wake-up call MORE (R-Mo.) voted in favor of the package. Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocratic frustration with Sinema rises Senate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation Democrats narrow scope of IRS proposal amid GOP attacks MORE (R-S.D.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate appears poised to advance first Native American to lead National Park Service Sunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Wyo.) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrat Mike Franken launches challenge to Grassley in Iowa Trump heads to Iowa as 2024 chatter grows Photos of the Week: Manchin, California oil spill and a podium dog MORE (R-Iowa) voted against it.
The Hill: The 19 Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill.
The Washington Post: How McConnell and Senate Republicans learned to stop worrying about a Biden victory and love the infrastructure bill.
The Wall Street Journal: McConnell credits Biden for infrastructure breakthrough, dismisses Trump criticism.
The bipartisan measure includes roughly $550 billion in new funding, with the remainder coming largely from reallocated monies from previous COVID-19 relief packages already passed by Congress. If passed by the House, the blueprint would include dollars for new investments for infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, broadband, water and mass transit.
While it is a major step for Biden’s agenda, it also was a significant victory for Senate bipartisanship, seen as scarce in recent months. However, as The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the victory is likely to be short-lived, as a battle over the reconciliation bill and the debt ceiling looms, with most Democrats still laser-focused on nixing the legislative filibuster.
The Hill: 46 GOP senators warn they will not raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
Action on the bipartisan product will now move over to the House, which is not expected to consider the $1.2 trillion legislation until the Senate also passes a reconciliation bill in the neighborhood of $3.5 trillion despite clamoring from some moderate House Democrats. The latter package is expected to include provisions to increase taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations, expand Medicare, fund universal pre-K and free tuition for community college students, and create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, among other items.
Shortly after the bipartisan vote, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) moved on to open consideration of the budget resolution, with Senate Democrats approving it early this morning, 50-49, allowing them to pass the $3.5 trillion spending plan without GOP support later this year. The vote capped off an hours-long chaotic debate on the floor where senators voted on dozens of largely non-binding amendments, offering a sneak peak of the fight to come on the gargantuan proposal.
Senate Democrats are expected to vote on the package as soon as late September (The Hill).
Text of the $3.5 trillion budget resolution is HERE.
The New York Times: Biden finds a bipartisan victory, but Democratic unity may prove more elusive.
Across the Capitol, House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi: Democrats within striking distance of deal Powerful Democrats push back on one-year extension of child tax credit The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings MORE (D-Md.) announced the House will take a brief interruption from its seven-week recess to open consideration of the budget resolution on Aug. 23. The Maryland Democrat did not specify how long the House would be in session, simply saying that lawmakers “will remain in session until our business for the week is concluded.” The House is also expected to consider a voting rights bill named after the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisBiden injects new momentum into filibuster fight Patience with Biden wearing thin among Black leaders Biden, Harris mark 10th anniversary of MLK memorial MORE (D-Ga.) during that time (The Hill).
The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis: It's now Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Buttigieg aims to use Tucker Carlson flap to spotlight paternity leave Judge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November MORE's (D-Calif.) move on bipartisan roads bill.
The Hill: White House gears up for next fight after infrastructure win.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Biden beats former President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE again — this time in the Senate.
The Hill: Schumer sets September voting rights fight after GOP blocks quick debate.
On a day when elected leaders in Washington exulted in a legislative accomplishment they hope will improve the lives of constituents, Cuomo ended his three terms in office with a sudden and at times emotional resignation that he said will ultimately serve the people of his state (The New York Times and The Hill).
In less than two weeks, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will be sworn in as the first female governor of New York. Cuomo, who faced potential impeachment proceedings, announced his decision to step down just eight days after the state’s Democratic attorney general released an investigative report that concluded the governor sexually harassed at least 11 women in and out of government and participated in attempts to punish his accusers.
It was a head-spinning ending for one of the nation’s best-known leaders who a year ago was celebrated for his decision making as COVID-19 swept through New York. His image as a pandemic hero was later tarnished by revelations that thousands of New York nursing home deaths from COVID-19 were undercounted as the state refused for months to divulge the real numbers.
Cuomo, his voice wavering on Tuesday, repeated his defense that he may have “deeply offended” 11 women, but he did not sexually harass women. He said he made “mistakes” and failed to recognize the “extent to which the line has been redrawn.” His critics have pointed out that his signature is on New York law redrawing some of those lines.
Biden, who had previously called on Cuomo to resign, separated the governor’s personal behavior from his 10 years as a policy leader, commending Cuomo for “a hell of a job.”
NBC News: Hochul, 62, is not a newcomer in politics. New York Democrats Schumer and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWhich proposals will survive in the Democrats' spending plan? Proposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Under pressure, Democrats cut back spending MORE both praised the lieutenant governor.
The Associated Press: What’s next in New York following Cuomo’s resignation.
The New York Times: Railing at enemies and pleading for time: Inside Cuomo’s final days.
The Washington Post: How Cuomo’s flexing of political power became his undoing.
A MESSAGE FROM AT&T
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: Pressure is ramping up on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give a full authorization to COVID-19 vaccines, a move that would serve as a key marker in the vaccination efforts, as it would likely lead to more mandates and help individuals overcome hesitancy.
As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan writes, a full authorization could open the floodgates to mandates from governmental sectors and the private sector, leading experts to wonder why the FDA hasn’t moved more quickly given the strong track record of the vaccines and the importance of full approval as the delta variant surges.
Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that a full approval could be an “opportunity for a restart on vaccine messaging” if Biden, health officials and governors take advantage, adding that it would give “new cover” for businesses to feel comfortable about mandates for their employees, and requiring proof of vaccination for customers.
As of the end of June, polling showed that 31 percent of unvaccinated individuals said full approval would make them more likely to get the shots, higher than the percentage who said the same for a chance to win a million dollars or a mobile clinic coming to their neighborhood.
While the vaccine issue is at the forefront, battles are also continuing to rage across the country over masks, especially in states with GOP governors.
In Florida, the Broward County School Board voted 8-1 in favor of keeping its mask requirement for students and staff members at the start of the upcoming 2021-22 school year, defying Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Judge sides with Tennessee families in mask mandate fight GOP leaders escalate battle against COVID-19 vaccine mandates MORE’ (R) order. In a special meeting held Tuesday, all nine board members lashed out at DeSantis for what they called government overreach and abuse of power following his executive order that forces school districts in Florida to make the wearing of masks optional (Local 10 Miami).
In Texas, Austin’s school system followed the lead of Dallas schools and announced that it will require masks to be worn in schools, defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) executive order that bars the implementation of mask mandates.
“I am responsible for the safety, the health and the welfare of each and every one of our students and our staff,” said Stephanie Elizalde, the superintendent of Austin schools. “If I err, I must err on the side of ensuring that we have been overly cautious, not that we have fallen short” (Austin NPR).
The Hill: Poll: Majority of parents say they’re against school vaccine mandates, but support mask requirements for unvaccinated students and staff at schools.
Local 10 Miami: Florida requests 300 ventilators from the federal government as COVID-19 cases keep rising.
Tennessean: Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival will require vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests before next month's festival in Manchester, Tenn.
KARK 4 News: Biden calls Arkansas Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Build Back Better items on chopping block Sunday shows - Buttigieg warns supply chain issues could stretch to next year MORE (R), commits further federal support as COVID-19 cases rise in state.
> District watch: Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserBowser declares October 2021 'LGBTQ History Month' in DC DC Council member plans to challenge Bowser for mayor Lobbying world MORE (D) on Tuesday announced that District employees across agencies that report to her will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 19.
Government workers who do not get vaccinated will be subject to required testing. The requirement will be applied to roughly 35,000 workers (DCist).
Additionally, District of Columbia officials on Tuesday indicated that the indoor mask mandate that went into effect more than a week ago may remain in place until Thanksgiving, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant (NBC Washington).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: For Democrats in Wisconsin, the news was a blow on Tuesday that Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindTwo House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms Two senior House Democrats to retire Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse MORE (D-Wis.) plans to retire from a district that Trump carried twice. Democrats believe holding the House in 2022 looks ever more challenging; Republicans need to flip only five seats to win the House majority, making every retirement by an incumbent Democrat in a competitive district consequential (The Hill).
> Wisconsin Gov. Tony EversTony EversTrump pushing ex-Rep. Duffy to run for Wisconsin governor Nonprofit founder launches bid to replace Rep. Kind in Wisconsin Wisconsin governor apologizes for indigenous boarding schools MORE (D) on Tuesday vetoed a series of Republican-backed bills that would place new restrictions on absentee ballots in the Badger State (The Associated Press).
And speaking of the former president, Trump faces significant legal hurdles to keep his tax returns away from Congress, reports The Hill’s Harper Neidig. Trump’s lawyers are trying to block the Biden administration from handing over tax documents to the House Ways and Means Committee. A federal judge this week set a November date to hear arguments on both sides. Congress is conducting congressional investigations into Trump’s finances when he was a New York businessman.
> Voting machines and courts: The Dominion Voting Systems company is suing right-wing media outlets Newsmax and One America News and the former chief executive of Overstock.com for defamation based on statements made about the 2020 election. Dominion, which is seeking millions of dollars in damages, alleges it was the victim of a series of false claims alleging the company's machines were manipulated to swing votes in Biden's favor and against Trump (The Wall Street Journal and The Hill).
> In Arizona’s Maricopa County, Republican Tanya Wheeless, an ex-deputy chief of staff for former Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyKelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema Texas not hiring private contractor for election audit MORE (R-Ariz.), announced on Tuesday that she is running for the House seat in the central Phoenix area held by Democratic Rep. Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonSinema trails potential primary challengers in progressive poll Roof collapse, explosion leaves four injured in Arizona Arizona governor withholding grants to schools with mask mandates MORE. All nine of the state's House districts will be redrawn by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, with Stanton's district among those that could be the most impacted by the coming changes (Arizona Central).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
We studied one million students. This is what we learned about masking, by physicians and pediatric specialists Kanecia Zimmerman and Danny Benjamin Jr., contributing essayists, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3CEgUvK
Cuomo’s downfall sends the country a needed message, by Ruth Marcus, deputy editorial page editor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2VLScs7
A MESSAGE FROM AT&T
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet on Friday at noon for a pro forma session. Members are out of town for the August recess.
The Senate was in session overnight and into the wee hours of this morning. It will meet in a pro forma session at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. Following a summer recess, senators are expected back in Washington Sept. 13.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will meet at 11:15 a.m. with business leaders to discuss COVID-19 vaccination goals. He will meet virtually with governors, mayors, and other state and local elected officials at 3 p.m., to tout the provisions of a bipartisan infrastructure bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. consumer prices in July. Inflation fears may be easing.
The White House press briefing will take place at 12:15 p.m.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Taliban insurgents completed a northeast blitz through Afghanistan to capture a major army base in Kunduz province today, overrunning Afghan fighters. The Taliban now controls an estimated two-thirds of the country as the United States and NATO finalize troop withdrawals after the decades-long war in Afghanistan (The Associated Press). It was the Taliban’s seizure of an eighth provincial capital in just six days (Reuters). … Russian authorities launched a new campaign against allies of opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Tuesday, opening a criminal case against two of his key allies. The two allies could face upward of eight years in prison (The Associated Press).
➔ TECH: The National Security Agency (NSA) awarded a cloud computing contract worth up to $10 billion to Amazon, Nextgov reported on Tuesday. The contract, named “WildandStormy,” appears to be part of the NSA’s attempts to modernize its repository for classified data, apparently with plans to store its secrets in the cloud. The contract is already being challenged. Tech giant Microsoft filed a bid protest last month with the Government Accountability Office.
➔ ELECTRIC VEHICLES: The country’s biggest fleet of low-speed, autonomous electric shuttles hit the road on Tuesday in a major step for the electric vehicle sector. The unveiling in Colorado adds momentum to an industry that is poised to get a major boost from the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress (The Hill).
➔ CRYPTOCURRENCY: A PR gimmick or a sign of things to come? AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the country, will let customers pay for tickets and popcorn with bitcoin by the end of the year. The company said it also will begin taking Apple Pay and Google Pay by the end of 2021. A single bitcoin on Tuesday morning theoretically could buy 3,311 movie tickets for adults at AMC locations (The Washington Post).
And finally … There is always a catch, right? Technology and electronics have spawned a problem for businesses and consumers, leading to a new consumer advocacy drive for “right to repair” that the Federal Trade Commission supports with a new policy statement, The Associated Press reports.
Makers of products ranging from smartphones to farm equipment can withhold repair tools and create software-based locks that prevent even simple updates, unless consumers head to a repair shop authorized by the company. Farmers can lose thousands of dollars waiting for authorized dealers to fix malfunctioning equipment. And consumers end up paying more for repairs — or in frustration replace gadgets, appliances and machinery altogether that could be fixed.
One example among many: New York iPad Rehab business owner Jessa Jones recalled a potential customer who drove 90 minutes to her repair shop because his iPhone 7 home button stopped working. She said she had the part on hand and the know-how to perform the work, but her business is not an authorized Apple repair shop, so she couldn’t access the software or official part and repair the smartphone. The customer left with his defective phone, and Jones missed out on what she said would have been an “easy fix.”