The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Pelosi, Democratic moderates struggle to strike budget deal
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 628,503; Tuesday, 629,411.
The House made a not-so-triumphant return to business Monday night as Democratic leaders and a breakaway group of centrist Democrats were unable to strike a deal to pass key parts of President Biden’s domestic agenda.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent House lawmakers home shortly after midnight after failing to persuade a small but determined band of moderates in her caucus, delaying a key procedural vote on spending initiatives she told them could be “transformative” (The Hill).
Pelosi and her leadership team are trying to find sufficient votes for a rule that would procedurally “deem” the budget resolution as adopted, a step toward what the majority of her caucus hope would be approval of $3.5 trillion in proposed spending that could also clear the Senate later this year.
The process the Speaker envisions would allow the House to debate the mammoth budget resolution, a $1 trillion Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill House Democratic centrists favor and a measure to restore part of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
However, those plans were scuttled as talks between Pelosi, Democratic leaders and the centrist members, led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) (pictured below), extended into the wee hours and stalled. Republicans are expected to oppose the pending legislation in lockstep, which means Pelosi can lose just three Democrats on any given floor vote.
According to Politico, at least five centrist members are objecting to a proposed compromise that would commit the Speaker to bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the floor by Oct. 1. The House centrists, wary of midterm election pressures in their districts, say they want to approve the infrastructure bill and its $550 billion in new spending immediately before turning to the budget favored by progressives in the House and Senate.
“We’ll see tomorrow, won’t we now?” the Speaker told reporters when asked if there will be a new commitment today on the timing of a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The New York Times: Democrats scrounge for votes to pass $3.5 trillion budget plan.
The Associated Press: Moderates bring House to standstill in Biden budget clash.
For weeks, Pelosi has sided with progressives and vowed not to hold a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure proposal without a vote on an eventual gargantuan reconciliation package that most Democrats consider the centerpiece of the Biden agenda.
“We must not squander our Congressional Democratic Majorities and jeopardize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create historic change to meet the needs of working families,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to her Democratic colleagues as they returned for a brief intermission in the lengthy August recess (The Hill).
House Democratic moderates attracted moral support from their like-minded centrists across the Capitol: Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
In a statement, Manchin noted the Senate passed infrastructure spending first before planning in the fall to vote on Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan, which will need all 50 Democrats to clear the Senate.
“The House should put politics aside and do the same. With so much uncertainty in the world today, one thing is certain, we must unite and pass a critical priority of the American people—improving our nation’s infrastructure,” Manchin said in a statement (The Hill).
Sinema reiterated that she does support a bill with a $3.5 trillion price tag (Politico).
House Democratic moderates in Washington Post op-ed: Let’s take the win. Let’s do infrastructure first.
The havoc in the House presents another challenge for Biden, who was exultant just weeks ago when a bipartisan infrastructure deal cleared the Senate. August has been filled with the spread of the delta variant, turmoil in Afghanistan and U.S. economic uncertainties.
> Jan. 6 fallout: U.S. Capitol Police on Monday formally exonerated an officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt. The law enforcement agency said in a statement that the conduct of the officer, who will remain unidentified, was “lawful and within Department policy,” adding that they will not face disciplinary action.
Their actions “potentially saved Members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters who forced their way into the U.S. Capitol and to the House Chamber where Members and staff were steps away,” Capitol Police said in a statement (The Hill).
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as expected, on Monday gave full regulatory approval to Pfizer and BioNTech’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. More than 200 million Pfizer doses have been administered in the United States — and hundreds of millions more worldwide — since emergency use began in December.
“The public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.” (The Hill and The Associated Press).
Speaking from the White House, Biden hailed the move as a “key milestone” in the battle against COVID-19 and used the opportunity to appeal to those who had been awaiting the final sign-off from the FDA to get the jab.
“Let me say this loudly and clearly,” Biden said from the White House. “If you’re one of the millions of Americans who said that they will not get the shot when … until it has full and final approval of the FDA, it is now happened. The moment you’ve been waiting for is here, it’s time for you to go get your vaccination and get it today” (The Washington Post).
Public health experts, government officials and physicians hope the FDA’s seal of pharmaceutical approval will allay some vaccine hesitancy and persuade more Americans to get the shots as soon as possible as the infectious delta variant continues to spread (Vox).
Moderna began its vaccine licensing application with the government in June, and Johnson & Johnson said it will begin the process later this year.
The regular FDA approval, which allows Pfizer to advertise its product and permits off-label use such as booster doses, is likely to ease reluctance among some employers to require that their workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Biden on Monday said 6 million COVID-19 shots were administered in the past seven days, the highest seven-day total in a month and a half, improving vaccination rates in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. “We need to move faster,” the president said while urging Americans to feel confident about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines as the delta variant spreads and the FDA gave full approval to Pfizer shots.
“All around the world people want these vaccines. Here in America they’re free, convenient and waiting. So please go today, for yourself, for your loved ones, for your neighbors, for your country,” Biden repeated.
The Atlantic: The FDA really did have to take this long.
> Vaccine mandates: With the Pfizer full approval complete, the Pentagon is moving to mandate the vaccine for all service members, according to John Kirby, the Defense Department’s spokesman. Kirby added that the Pentagon is preparing “guidance to the force” to make the vaccine mandatory, with a timeline coming soon (The Hill).
In New York City, public school teachers, staff and contractors in the nation’s largest school system are being directed to get vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of classes that begin next month. At least 63 percent of school employees in the city have been vaccinated (The Associated Press).
The Hill: Pfizer’s full approval triggers new vaccine mandates.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Boos for Trump show scale of vaccine challenge.
> World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday called for an international two-month moratorium on booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines to allow nations that are still far behind in initial doses to catch up (The Associated Press). U.S. officials have not been receptive to WHO’s entreaty to pause the administration of boosters (which will officially begin in this country within weeks), arguing that the United States can continue to inoculate its population and also donate COVID-19 vaccine doses for international distribution.
The Associated Press: Big Ten football teams will forfeit games if unable to play because of COVID-19.
Associated Press-NORC poll: School mask, vaccine mandates supported, but views sharply divide along political lines.
New York Post: The Biden-ordered 90-day review of coronavirus origins is due today but may be released next week in a declassified report form, the White House says.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
AFGHANISTAN: Pressured on all fronts to extend the U.S. withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31 to extract more people, Biden and his advisers have refused to discuss the prospects in public. Taliban leaders demanded that U.S. forces, now numbering 5,800, be out by this time next week.
The Washington Post reports that CIA Director William Burns held an undisclosed meeting in Kabul on Monday with the Taliban’s de facto leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in the highest-level face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the militants seized the Afghan capital. The CIA declined to comment but the discussions likely involved the impending Aug. 31 deadline.
The Hill: Biden is under growing pressure to extend his Afghanistan deadline.
Instead of seeking more time, the United States picked up the pace of airlifting thousands of people out of the Kabul airport to eventually make their escape to international and U.S. airports for resettlement. The U.S. used special forces and helicopters to enter the capital city to pick up Americans and Afghans considered at risk if they attempted to make their way to the airport. U.S. officials said a military helicopter picked up 16 American citizens Monday and brought them onto the airfield (The Associated Press and The New York Times).
The U.S. military reported its biggest day of evacuations on Monday, but deadly violence that has blocked many desperate evacuees from entering Kabul’s airport persisted, and the Taliban signaled they might soon seek to shut down the evacuation operations, according to the AP.
The Biden administration worries about violence and is eager to shift the narrative at home and in international capitals from flawed withdrawal planning to images of brisk military evacuations taking place behind a safe zone wrapped in barbed wire and ringed with concrete walls. The Pentagon is releasing evacuation statistics that include tallies of progress in hours, days and weeks, often combining departed Americans and Afghans into one category called “people” or “personnel.”
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday conceded the United States launched the military withdrawal without knowing how many Americans were in Afghanistan, as it’s their right not to register with the U.S. Embassy. He told reporters the administration does not know the exact number of U.S. passport holders eager to leave because it does not know exactly how many are in the country (The Washington Post).
Armed Taliban fighters, now patrolling Kabul’s streets in fortified vehicles and battered Toyota pickup trucks (pictured below), told the United States there will be no extension beyond Aug. 31 (The Associated Press). A firefight outside Kabul’s airport killed an Afghan soldier early Monday. Afghanistan’s disintegrating economy could force the Taliban to negotiate, some analysts suggest. Banks are closed, cash and supplies are dwindling and foreign aid funds have been halted (The Wall Street Journal).
Biden today will meet via video-conference with counterparts from the leading industrialized nations, led by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the rotating head of the Group of Seven (G-7). The G-7 had not reckoned on dealing this summer with a collapsed Afghan government, revived Taliban threats, a refugee crisis and a resurgence of Afghan-based terror threats, and there is friction about the U.S. role in the current crisis (The Associated Press).
Johnson and others, including French President Emmanuel Macron, are pushing Biden to extend his stated Aug. 31 deadline to ensure that all foreign nationals can get out as well as Afghans who worked for or otherwise supported the American-led NATO operation that temporarily defeated the Taliban in 2001, according to the AP and other outlets. Johnson may discuss the prospect of international economic sanctions aimed at the unelected rulers. The downside of such sanctions in Afghanistan is the potential to exacerbate humanitarian and refugee travails.
House Intelligence Committee Democrats on Monday expressed doubts that the United States will be able to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies before next week’s deadline. “I think it’s possible, but I think it’s very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of [Special Immigrant Visa holders], the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders,” Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters (The Hill).
POLITICS: In New York, the administration of Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), the first female governor in Empire State history, began hours ago, bringing to a close the tenure of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the process.
To kick off her administration, Hochel (pictured below) appointed two women to helm her gubernatorial operations — Karen Persichilli Keogh to become secretary to the governor (the highest-ranking state appointed position) and Elizabeth Fine as her counsel — meaning that the three women will run the executive branch following Cuomo’s departure (The New York Times).
The former governor on Monday issued a prerecorded farewell speech, labeling New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) report that details his sexual improprieties as a “political firecracker on an explosive topic” and saying that his resignation was the outcome of a “political and media stampede.”
“There will be another time to talk about the truth and ethics of the recent situation involving me, but let me say now when government politicizes allegations and the headlines condemn without facts, you undermine the justice system, and that doesn’t serve men, and that doesn’t serve men or society,” Cuomo said.
“The attorney general’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic, and it worked. There was a political and media stampede,” he said (The Hill).
As The Hill’s Reid Wilson writes, Cuomo’s swift exit — which also included a parting shot directed at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) — and crumbling of his support coalition in Albany offers an important lesson for any political leader: If they choose to rule by fear, they have to keep everyone afraid.
“You can rule by fear, but the moment the fear is gone, you’re dead,” said one top Democratic strategist who dealt with Cuomo over the years. “The minute you stop being able to leverage the fear, all your enemies will combine.”
> Turning back the clock: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is dusting off parts of his old election playbook ahead of the 2022 midterms, hoping to gin up additional support for Democrats’ economic agenda in Republican-held states.
As The Hill’s Hanna Trudo reports, although progressives believe his upcoming stops in Iowa and Indiana are a net positive, his presence in GOP areas may present an issue for the party that still sustains intense attacks from the right and as the democratic socialist senator’s surrogate strength has proved in recent weeks — as shown in the Democratic primary in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District — to have a limited impact on candidates’ success. However, Nina Turner’s loss earlier this month is not dissuading his team.
“The best way to right this ship is to find ways to serve the longstanding needs of the working class,” a source familiar with Sanders’ thinking told The Hill. “The more people know it the better.”
The Hill: GOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment.
The Hill: Arizona elections officials launch bipartisan assault on GOP audit.
CNN: Arizona’s sham election “audit” report delayed after Cyber Ninjas CEO and others test positive for COVID-19.
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!
Why the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be a turning point, by Leana S. Wen, contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3jinlNv
Afghanistan debacle may have one silver lining, by Jonathan Bernstein, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3sHagQK
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at noon.
The Senate convenes for a pro forma session at 8:30 a.m. Senators are expected back in Washington Sept. 13.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8 a.m. Biden will meet with his national security team to discuss the situation in Afghanistan at 8:30 a.m. The president will meet virtually with fellow Group of Seven leaders at 9:30 a.m. to discuss Afghanistan.
Vice President Harris is in Vietnam to try to strengthen U.S. ties in the Indo-Pacific. She arrived Tuesday evening as the first U.S. vice president to visit Hanoi.
Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff is in Tokyo. At 11 a.m., he meets with members of Team USA at the Paralympic Games. He will meet with some U.S. Embassy staff and their families at 11:45 a.m. local time. Emhoff at 3:15 p.m. will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, followed at 4 p.m. by a meeting with Tamayo Marukawa, minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. In the evening, Emhoff leads the U.S. delegation to attend the Tokyo Paralympics opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. The White House COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 2 p.m.
➔ EVICTIONS: The Biden administration on Monday defended its protections for some tenants who are at economic risk of being evicted during the pandemic while asking the Supreme Court to leave the ban in place while the justices consider a challenge by landlord groups to permit evictions (Reuters and The Hill). The administration’s moratorium policy expires in early October.
➔ FEDERAL RESERVE: The central bank’s chairman, Jerome Powell, is once again in the news as the U.S. inflation debate heats up ahead of the annual (virtual this year) three-day Kansas City Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., which gets underway on Thursday (The Wall Street Journal). Powell’s remarks are scheduled Friday (MarketWatch).
➔ HEALTH & PREGNANCY: Exposure to wildfire smoke during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth, with that risk only getting worse, according to a new study from Stanford University. The study, published in Environmental Research, found that as many as 7,000 additional preterm births (before 37 weeks) in California could be attributed to wildfire smoke exposure from 2007 to 2012 (The Hill).
➔ AND THE HOST IS? (PART DEUX): “Jeopardy!” announced that Mayim Bialik will fill in this week to tape three weeks of shows as the program’s main host after Mike Richards, the show’s executive producer, bowed out from the position after inappropriate comments were unearthed last week. Bialik was announced last week as host of the game show’s primetime specials and spinoff programming. Sony said in a statement that additional guest hosts will helm the show in the coming months (The Associated Press).
And finally … ⚽ What changes in the absence of crowds at so-called “ghost games” — sporting competitions devoid of the customary cheering, jeering spectators? (Yes, here’s yet another line of scientific inquiry that prospered during the pandemic.)
Upshot: Home teams lose their sway when the fans are away, according to a new study published this month and reported in Science News. The research involved European soccer teams that played during the 2019–2020 season in front of vacant stadium seats because of COVID-19 precautions. The conclusion: Referees are biased by the tumult of spectators, but that bias fades when fans are absent while referees work.
Home teams won less (8.3 percent drop), lost more (8.4 percent increase) and tied about the same number of games, compared with the season before the pandemic, researchers reported in Frontiers in Sports and Active Living. Referees handed out more foul calls to home teams than before stadiums were emptied of ticket holders.
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