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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 each morning this week: Monday, 659,975; Tuesday, 662,131; Wednesday, 663,936.
The Senate broke for the rest of the week on Tuesday as Democrats maintain an internal tug of war over the future of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package as congressional leaders also face a looming deadline to avert U.S. default.
Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats' do-or-die moment Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Progressives push for fossil subsidy repeal in spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.) (pictured above) returned to Washington with a “soft” deadline this week for congressional committees to complete draft provisions of a mammoth reconciliation plan, the shape of which is under vigorous debate.
“We're moving forward. There are going to be a lot of intense discussions and negotiations over the next few weeks,” Schumer told reporters on Tuesday. “There are members of our caucus who want it higher than [$3.5 trillion]. There are members of our caucus who want it lower than [$3.5 trillion]. We will have to come together.”
After days of chatter, Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Panic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Enhanced infrastructure plan is the best way to go MORE (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Manchin fires warning shot on plan to expand Medicare Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor MORE (I-Vt.) are standing firm in their respective corners: a significant $2 trillion difference of opinion exists between the two when it comes to the most ambitious portion of President BidenJoe BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE’s agenda. At one point on Tuesday, Sanders told reporters that he was “absolutely confident” that the package would be passed at the $3.5 trillion level. Needless to say, Manchin disagreed.
“God bless him,” the West Virginia centrist responded. “I’ve been very clear. ... I didn’t want anybody to say it was a surprise. So everybody knows pretty much where I am, so we’ll just continue to work through it.”
As NBC News points out, part of the reason there’s been no movement by Democratic leaders to hammer out a new price tag is Manchin has not specifically spelled out his demands, nor has Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaPanic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda Enhanced infrastructure plan is the best way to go Democrats surprised, caught off guard by 'framework' deal MORE (D-Ariz.).
The Senate wrapped up its two-day work week on Tuesday evening to allow lawmakers to fly home early for Yom Kippur. But that doesn’t mean the work will stop, with panels still working through the fine print of the wide-ranging package, including whether a repeal of the state and local tax deduction limits should be part of the House Ways and Means Committee’s draft (Axios).
The New York Times: Democratic divisions flare over tax increases and drug pricing.
The Associated Press: Democrats try delicate tax maneuvers for $3.5 trillion bill.
Reuters: Democrats' tax plan would cut bills for most Americans, according to a congressional estimate.
Bloomberg News: Top Democrat says Biden inheritance-tax plan short of votes.
With the intra party divides, Democrats are waiting on the White House to put some more oomph into massaging those disputes to hammer this package home.
“We are going to need the White House to be all in,” Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor Fifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks MORE (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Hill’s Hanna Trudo in an interview. “They have been transitioning to being that and have been extremely involved in the last couple of weeks. … There are plenty of Joe Manchins in the House that we have to deal with.”
Amie Parnes and Morgan Chalfant, The Hill: Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight.
The Hill: Business groups sense momentum in scaling back Democratic priorities.
Meanwhile, the reconciliation squabbling is by no means the only drama playing out on Capitol Hill as leaders ponder raising the nation’s borrowing limit.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome Pelosi vows to avert government shutdown McConnell calls Trump a 'fading brand' in Woodward-Costa book MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday that his members are “unified in opposition” to raising the debt ceiling, explaining that it isn’t “because it doesn’t need to be done” but because doing so would pave the way for Democrats to pass a $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill that would undo much of the GOP’s 2017 tax cut law.
“The last time the debt ceiling was raised it was done on a bipartisan basis in conjunction with an overall [spending] caps agreement,” he added. “This year is unique. ... I’ve never seen such an effort to expand the reach of the federal government like we’ve been confronted with this year” (The Hill).
One GOP senator added to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton that McConnell told members at their weekly conference lunch that he wants Democrats to “own” the debt issue between now and the midterm elections.
Democrats have refused to include a debt ceiling increase in the reconciliation bill and are likely to attach it to a continuing resolution to fund the government by the end of the month. Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Schumer announces Senate-House deal on tax 'framework' for .5T package MORE said last week that the Treasury Department will exhaust use of “extraordinary measures” to keep paying the U.S.’s debt obligations sometime in October.
CNBC: Democrats leave debt ceiling increase out of budget plan, setting Congress up for fall showdown.
Politico: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMatthew McConaughey on potential political run: 'I'm measuring it' Professor tells Cruz that Texas's voter ID law is racist Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks MORE (R-Texas) set to filibuster any Democratic attempt to raise debt limit.
The Hill: White House says law enforcement in “heightened state of alert” ahead of J6 rally.
Jordain Carney, The Hill: The Senate filibuster fight is back.
Axios: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell gaining Senate moderates' support.
More in Congress: Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Low-lying countries plead for action to avoid climate change 'death sentence' French diplomat says 'time and actions' needed to restore ties with US MORE for the second day in the hot seat with Congress defended the administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again on Tuesday, “Even the most pessimistic assessments did not predict that government forces in Kabul would collapse while U.S. forces remained” (The Hill). But Chairman Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezBiden, don't punish India Democrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) assailed the U.S. exit as a debacle and argued there must be “accountability” for chaos that left Americans and Afghan allies behind in a country once again ruled by the Taliban. Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinTop State Dept. official overseeing 'Havana syndrome' response leaving post Pentagon 'aware' of reports Wisconsin military base's struggle to feed, heat Afghan refugees Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks MORE declined to testify on Tuesday (The Washington Post).
A must read in The Hill this morning: Rebecca Beitsch and Laura Kelly interviewed more than 15 lawmakers and staff members about their efforts during the weeks when Afghanistan was collapsing and thousands of people were desperate to flee from Kabul between Aug. 15 until the final U.S. military flight out before midnight on Aug. 30. Senate and House lawmakers were overwhelmed with desperate pleas from Afghan Americans, military veterans of the war in Afghanistan, nongovernmental organization workers and others scrambling for contacts. There were successes, but they were dwarfed by the thousands of Afghan allies left behind. “It was tough, honestly. I was in communication with probably five to 10 people on the ground in Kabul and that was just emotionally frustrating and demoralizing,” said Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation MORE (D-Calif.), whose district includes one of the largest Afghan American communities in the country.
> Look at me: In the digital age, celebrity politicians on both sides of the aisle hire consultants to help them stand out on social media platforms. Thirty-one-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezEnhanced infrastructure plan is the best way to go WHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill Feehery: The confidence game MORE (D-N.Y.) displayed the blood-red words “Tax the Rich” across her backside while wearing a floor-length white designer dress at a costume Met Gala in New York City on Monday. People noticed, including The Hill’s Niall Stanage ... in his latest Memo.
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LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia governor signs legislation targeting Amazon warehouse speed quotas Newsom signs privacy laws for abortion providers and patients Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — Senate Finance chair backs budget action on fossil fuel subsidies MORE (D) on Tuesday handily survived a long, expensive recall election, according to The Associated Press. With an estimated two-thirds of ballots counted, “no” on the question of whether to recall Newsom was ahead by a 30-point margin.
The governor, basking in the turnout in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, claimed victory on election night, saying, “I want to focus on what we said ‘yes’ to as a state: We said yes to science, we said yes to vaccines, we said yes to ending this pandemic.”
More than 8.5 million Californians cast ballots before Tuesday, about the same as the number of early ballots cast in Texas ahead of the general election in 2020 — in other words, an engaged electorate. In the Golden State’s second recall election since 2003, voters focused on disenchantment with COVID-19, frustrations with Newsom’s policies, and in the end, Democrats’ campaign warnings that installing an inexperienced Trump acolyte as an alternative would wind up harming the state.
Democrats, who had enlisted campaign help from the president and Vice President Harris along with former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy MORE, cheered the California outcome as evidence voters approve of their approach.
The Hill: Newsom easily beats back recall effort in California.
Republican talk radio host and gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder almost certainly would have replaced Newsom had the recall succeeded, an outcome that would have dramatically altered the political direction in Sacramento. Elder, a Trump supporter, preceded his apparent loss on Tuesday with dire predictions of a rigged election, as did Trump in the closing days. Elder did not mention fraud as he addressed his supporters after the results were in.
“Let’s be gracious in defeat. We may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war,” he said, later adding that the recall had forced Democrats to focus on issues such as homelessness and California’s high cost of living.
Jonathan Martin, The New York Times analysis: Newsom’s anti-Trump recall strategy offers Republicans a warning for 2022.
The Associated Press: Five takeaways after Newsom survives California recall attempt.
The Hill: Across the country, 36 gubernatorial contests are on ballots in 2022, with 29 incumbents seeking reelection, many embarked on rollicking campaigns in which their pandemic policies are front and center.
The Washington Post: In the upcoming book “Peril” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Defense bill takes center stage If DOD wants small business contracts, it has to cut the red tape Top US general: Meeting with Russian counterpart 'productive' MORE is described as sufficiently concerned about former President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE’s mental state and potential actions both before the November election and after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that Milley kept in touch with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng to reassure Beijing that the United States would not spark a war with China. Milley’s call four days before the U.S. election was prompted by intelligence that suggested China believed the U.S. under Trump was preparing to attack. In a second call on Jan. 8, two days after five people died during the Capitol insurrection and following Trump’s Jan. 6 speech falsely asserting election fraud, Milley told Li, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” The book, in stores next week, is based on interviews with more than 200 people. Trump and Biden declined to be interviewed, according to the authors.
In a statement on Tuesday, Trump said, “I never even thought of attacking China — and China knows that” while assailing Milley as well as the book’s authors.
Reacting to published accounts before Trump’s response, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field MORE (R-Fla.), the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence who is seeking reelection next year, urged Biden to fire Milley. In a Tuesday letter to the president, Rubio accused the general of trying to undermine Trump, then the commander in chief, and of contemplating “a treasonous leak of classified information to the Chinese Communist Party in advance of a potential armed conflict with the People’s Republic of China.” Trump selected Milley in 2018 to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the general has transitioned under Biden (The Hill).
Axios: Mark Milley's crisis.
> Mayoral race: In Boston this morning, Michelle Wu, an Asian American progressive who focused on climate change and housing policy, on Tuesday earned one of two spots in the city’s preliminary mayoral election (see updated tally HERE), setting the stage for change in Boston, which for nearly 200 years has elected only white men. AP did not immediately announce who captured the second spot as returns were being counted. The results could mean that two mayoral candidates of color have a chance to head into the general election in November for the first time in the city’s history (The New York Times).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must craft Biden’s recently announced emergency rule that will require COVID-19 vaccines or, at a minimum, weekly testing among private sector workers employed by companies with 100 or more employees. Mandating vaccinations as a threshold for workplace safety and health poses the biggest regulatory, legal and political challenge in decades for a Labor Department agency created in 1971 (The Hill). … The agency is primed for lawsuits in an area that could break new ground, but OSHA has lost five out of the six times such temporary rules landed in court (Bloomberg Law).
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are climbing, wiping out months of progress since last winter (The Associated Press).
Hospital and other treatment costs for unvaccinated people in the United States who contracted COVID-19 rose to $3.7 billion in August, considered a “preventable” price tag because of the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines that generally keep patients out of hospitals, according to a new analysis released on Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation (The Hill). The findings are important because of preventable deaths, avoidable infections, heavy costs shouldered by hospitals and clinicians, and the continued economic burden in a country where 80 million adults are unvaccinated.
Hospitals in Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Florida and other Southern states are at crisis levels in terms of scarcity of available ICU beds because of the rise in seriously ill COVID-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated. “Our biggest concerns are our low vaccination rates,” DScott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer, told The New York Times. “That’s the reason we’re in the situation that we’re in. Virtually all of our deaths are people who are unvaccinated.”
> Lagging, not leading: Despite every scientific and economic advantage imaginable, the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rate now trails behind those of other nations in the developed world. With 53.9 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the United States has fallen behind France (72 percent), Canada (68.7 percent), Italy (66.3 percent), the United Kingdom (65.9 percent) and Germany (62.2 percent). Japan, which in July struggled to get at least half its population vaccinated, has picked up the pace to 51.7 percent and is expected to surpass the United States soon (The New York Times and the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker).
> International headlines: Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNavalny knocks Apple, Google for removing voting app Federal agencies warn companies to be on guard against prolific ransomware strain Top US general: Meeting with Russian counterpart 'productive' MORE is in voluntary quarantine as a precaution after being exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19 among unidentified close associates, according to the Kremlin. He has tested negative for the coronavirus and was vaccinated in March (The Associated Press). … The United Kingdom will begin to offer booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Brits age 50 and older (The Hill). … Greece is rolling out new restrictions applied to the unvaccinated during the pandemic (The Hill).
> Global goals: Biden plans to call on global leaders on Sept. 22 while in New York for the annual U.N. General Assembly to make new commitments to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including fully vaccinating 70 percent of the world’s population by next September, according to a list of targets obtained by The Washington Post. Goals were shared with global health leaders ahead of a virtual summit titled “Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better,” which the White House is scheduled to convene a week from today, positioning the event as an opportunity to set worldwide objectives to end the pandemic. The targets, which draw on similar goals laid out by the World Health Organization and other global health experts, include providing billions of dollars in tests, oxygen and other supplies to developing countries and setting up a financing system to pay for the global health response by next year.
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!
The explanation for seemingly irrational COVID-19 behavior, by Tyler Cowen, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3nsWX5U
The pursuit of happiness is happiness, by George F. Will, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2XgTyw3
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session. The full House will not convene until Monday.
The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Margaret Strickland to be U.S. district judge for the District of New Mexico. Senators will vote on Monday on the nomination of Veronica Rossman to be U.S. circuit judge for the 10th Circuit.
The president receives the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. Biden will confer at 1:30 p.m. with business leaders over COVID-19 mandates. At 5 p.m. in the East Room, the president will speak to the nation about a national security initiative.
The vice president and Yellen will deliver remarks in support of proposed investments for childcare at 3:50 p.m.
First lady Jill BidenJill BidenFirst Lady visits schools to discuss COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden travels west as Washington troubles mount MORE will travel today to Milwaukee to visit Marvin E. Pratt Elementary School with a focus on in-person learning as the pandemic continues, and Des Moines, Iowa, to visit Des Moines Area Community College to talk about the administration’s domestic legislative priorities, including affordable access to post-secondary education.
The White House press briefing will take place at 12:45 p.m.
➔ ECONOMY: The U.S. Consumer Price Index came in lower than expected on Tuesday, triggering sighs of relief about August’s inflation picture and initially lifting financial markets (CNBC). … Amazon will raise its hourly average starting pay to $18 and announced plans to hire 125,000 new workers across the U.S. The roles are in fulfillment and transportation, and hiring is already underway, with the tech giant adding that sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000 in “select locations” are available (The Hill). … Millions of Social Security recipients in January may begin receiving the largest cost-of-living increase they’ve seen in years, thanks to inflation. The actual hike will not be announced until October, but some analysts predict close to 6 percent, which for many seniors on fixed incomes in real money. The increase in 2021 was 1.2 percent (Detroit Free Press).
➔ TECH: Apple on Tuesday unveiled its latest round of new products, headlined by the iPhone 13, a new Apple Watch and new updates to the iPad. The new iPhone series includes three types: the base iPhone 13, the iPhone 13 mini and the larger iPhone 13 Pro, all of which will feature updated cameras and increased storage space. The Apple Watch Series 7 features a larger face head, while the new iPads have more powerful processors and faster chips (Axios). … A new poll of battleground voters by Ipsos and the American Edge Project finds that 65 percent of voters favor regulating U.S. technology companies, but only 14 percent in an August survey said they favor breaking up big tech firms, an option promoted by some lawmakers in pending legislation.
➔ RIP: Norm Macdonald, the longtime comedian known for his performances on “Saturday Night Live,” died at age 61 on Tuesday after a nine-year battle with cancer. Macdonald served as a cast member on the show for five years, including three years helming the “Weekend Update” desk, and was one of the most beloved comics of his generation. The death came as a shock to many, as Macdonald kept his lengthy cancer battle private (Deadline).
And finally … If all goes as planned later today, four adventurous tourists (none a professional astronaut) will blast into space in a capsule aboard a fully automated SpaceX rocket for the first orbital mission of its kind in the history of spaceflight.
Launch is anticipated between 8:02 p.m. and 1:02 a.m. ET from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, although forecasters are alert to storms that could impact the mission.
NASA has no connection to the three-day itinerary, which involves two men and two women who want to soar 100 miles higher than the International Space Station, aiming for an altitude of 357 miles, or just above the current position of the Hubble Space Telescope (CNN, The New York Times and The Associated Press).