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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday! 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; Thursday, 666,618.
What do Joe Manchin 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 want? That’s a question 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 tried to drill down on Wednesday as he sat down with the pair of centrist Democratic senators who hold the keys to advancing the cornerstone spending plan of his presidency.
Biden on Wednesday met separately with the two senators, sitting down with Sinema in the morning before convening with Manchin in the evening as the pair imperil the chances of passing the party’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package (The Hill).
The discussions signaled direct presidential involvement after weeks of focus on Afghanistan and natural disasters. Biden’s decision to step in pleased Democrats, some of whom looked for the president to weigh in ahead of key September deadlines.
“The ones who are negotiating publicly, I think it is fair to say, they’re the toughest votes to get,” Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineObama gives fiery speech for McAuliffe: 'Don't sit this one out' Biden injects new momentum into filibuster fight Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE (D-Va.) said of Manchin and Sinema. “This is really important for the Biden administration and so it’s all on deck.”
“Both Joe and Kyrsten really want [Biden] to be a successful president. A) It’s good for the country. B) It’s good for their states. C) It’s good for their own politics,” Kaine told The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.
While Biden makes his play, Democrats are asking what Manchin wants as he balks at the price tag on the pending reconciliation measure, writes The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes.
But the West Virginia centrist’s public posturing is rankling progressives, who complain that the entire debate doesn't revolve around their moderate counterpart, and sparking hope among Republicans that he could help water down the Democratic blueprint. Of course, any reconciliation bill cannot survive without unanimity within the Senate Democratic ranks.
The Washington Post: Manchin gets all the attention. But Sinema could be an even bigger obstacle for Democrats’ spending plans.
Politico: “Now is the time”: Biden's influence faces Capitol crucible.
Reuters: House Democrats advance tax-hike plan as rifts open over Biden spending bill.
The Associated Press: Biden $3.5 trillion plan tests voter appeal of expansive government role.
Elsewhere in the reconciliation fight, the Democratic plan to lower drug prices was defeated in a House committee on Wednesday, with three moderate Democrats — Reps. Scott PetersScott H. PetersWho is afraid of the EU's carbon border adjustment plan? Overnight Health Care — Presented by The National Council on Mental Wellbeing — Merck asks FDA to authorize five-day COVID-19 treatment Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates MORE (Calif.), Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderHouse passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Internal battles heat up over Biden agenda MORE (Ore.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceDemocrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Internal battles heat up over Biden agenda Moderate Democrat says he can't back House spending plan 'in its current form' MORE (N.Y.) — voting against their party. The committee vote is a striking setback for the reconciliation effort, as drug pricing is intended to be a key way to pay for the package.
Leadership can still add a version of the provision later in the process, but the move shows the depth of some moderate concerns (The Hill).
Adding to the troubles, Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyDemocratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Climate divides conservative Democrats in reconciliation push MORE (Fla.), a centrist member, was the only House Democrat to vote against advancing the reconciliation package out of the House Ways and Means Committee, saying in a statement that some of the spending and tax provisions in the legislation “give me pause.” She added that she could not “vote for the bill at this early stage” as a result (The Hill).
Politico: Centrist Democrats scramble House drug pricing effort.
Axios: The debt ceiling stare down.
> More in Congress: Simone Biles and other stars of the USA Gymnastics program offered explosive testimony about how the FBI mishandled its investigation of sexual assault and harassment in the program.
“We have been failed, and we deserve answers,” Biles said during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As The Hill’s Jordan Williams notes, the day was a difficult one for the FBI, which fired one agent involved with the probe a week before the hearing. FBI Director Christopher Wray said during testimony of his own that he is “deeply and profoundly sorry” to all of the gymnasts. The hearing took place several months after the Department of Justice’s inspector general released a report detailing the failures of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office while responding to allegations against disgraced gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to prison in 2018.
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LEADING THE DAY
ADMINISTRATION: Biden on Wednesday announced a new security partnership among the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom that seeks to strengthen security in the Indo-Pacific region as China expands its military might and influence (CNBC).
In remarks at the White House with Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, who appeared virtually, the president described an alliance that includes conventionally armed submarines to safeguard a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region. The partnership will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines, which will allow Australia’s navy to help counter Chinese nuclear-powered vessels in the region.
An administration official told reporters the new defense pact was not aimed exclusively at China. Nevertheless, Biden has described China’s ambitions, including in the South China Sea, as a potential threat requiring pushback from nations working with combined assets. Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.
The president — who thanked Morrison, calling him “pal,” and offered gratitude to “Boris” — said he has tasked Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden remarks on Taiwan leave administration scrambling Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan GOP lawmakers worry vaccine mandate will impact defense supply chain MORE with leading an 18-month consultation process that involves the departments of State and Energy and U.S. counterparts from Australia and Great Britain.
The Washington Post: The U.S. and U.K. will share nuclear submarine technology with Australia as part of a new alliance that poses a direct challenge to China.
In significant defense news, Biden through a spokesman said he has “complete confidence” in Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyPoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Republicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' We've left Afghanistan — but its consequences are just starting to arrive MORE, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is described in a soon-to-be-released book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa as reaching out by phone to his Chinese counterpart days before last year’s presidential election and days after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol to allay Beijing’s concerns about a potential U.S. attack aimed at China, and to profess stability during 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’s transition out of office (The New York Times).
Former President Trump and some GOP senators have called for Milley to be fired or to resign. The Pentagon on Wednesday issued a carefully worded statement that confirmed elements included in the book but described Milley’s call in January to Beijing as routine. “All calls from the Chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency,” Milley’s spokesman said (The Hill).
Senate vs. nominees: Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenSunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters US deficit hits .8 trillion, second largest in history Financial oversight panel unveils climate risk plan MORE is trying to make do during a shortage of Senate-confirmed senior lieutenants at her department. Only three officials including Yellen have been confirmed by the Senate. Of the 17 key remaining jobs that require confirmation, 10 have nominees stuck in the Democratic-controlled Senate, while the rest have not been named (Bloomberg News).
Meanwhile, Yellen has a heavy legislative portfolio while Biden’s spending and tax agenda swings in limbo on Capitol Hill. She is pressing House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealPelosi: Democrats within striking distance of deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE (D-Mass.) to include in the $3.5 trillion spending package the administration’s full proposal for bolstering the Internal Revenue Service, arguing that more resources and greater powers to catch tax evaders raise revenues and are crucial for reducing the “tax gap” (The New York Times).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CORONAVIRUS: Biden met with business executives from some of the country’s top companies on Wednesday to enlist their help in requiring workers nationwide to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The meeting (seen below), which included CEOs from Walt Disney, Microsoft and Walgreens, came less than a week after the president unveiled new policies targeting the unvaccinated, including requiring most federal employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and private companies that employ more than 100 people to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly. Under the pending rule, private companies will also be required to provide paid time off for employees to get the shot. Biden said it would take time to implement his controversial mandate (Fox Business).
The Hill: Presidential patience may have worn thin when it comes to the unvaccinated, but public health experts and psychologists suggest the government’s tough talk about requiring vaccinations is unlikely to melt the resistance of hard-line activists as well as people who are hesitating because of fear, lack of information or other considerations.
Aboard the papal plane, Pope FrancisPope FrancisRetired pope says he hopes to soon join friends in 'the afterlife' Religion and the G-20: With faith, we can move mountains The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE, 84, on Wednesday had a few words for people who are skeptical about COVID-19 shots, including at the Vatican, offering reassurance while speaking to reporters (The Associated Press).
“It’s kind of weird because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines,” he said. “When we were children, we had the measles and other vaccines, polio and nobody protested, then came all this,” he added, referring to the protests against the vaccine.
“Maybe it happened because of the uncertainty due to the pandemic, but also due to the diversity of the various vaccines and the reputation of some vaccines that are not suitable. …This has scared people,” he continued.
“Even in the College of Cardinals there are some deniers and one of these people, poor guy, is hospitalized with the virus … irony of life,” the pope said. “There is a need for clarity and talk calmly with these people. In the Vatican we are all vaccinated, except for a small group, and we are studying how to help them.”
> Boosters: The Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday that vaccines cleared in the United States currently provide sufficient protection against severe disease and death from COVID-19 without additional doses, potentially complicating the Biden administration’s deliberations over the need for booster shots. The FDA released the findings in a report analyzing data submitted by Pfizer and BioNTech as part of their request for authorization for their vaccine to be given as a booster shot in people 16 years and older (The Wall Street Journal). The president has vowed to follow scientific advice, even as the administration prepared a booster rollout set to begin after Sept. 20.
> The future: Continuing a debate about so-called herd immunity in the United States, Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner and physician who is a member of Pfizer’s board, told CNBC in an interview that likely more than 80 percent of adults have “some form of immunity either from prior infection or from vaccination" against the coronavirus. He predicts COVID-19 will eventually become an endemic virus in the United States and other Western nations, meaning persistently present but at a lesser level of emergency.
POLITICS: In the immediate aftermath of the California recall election, Republicans are anxious about whether Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud will hurt the party in the upcoming 2021 and 2022 elections.
As The Hill’s Julia Manchester reports, their concerns come after Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Ivory poaching changes evolution of elephants California regulator proposes ban on oil drilling near schools, hospitals, homes Biden says he would tap National Guard to help with supply chain issues MORE (D) handily beat back a GOP effort to boot him from office in California, where registered Democrats made up a disproportionately high number of mail-in votes. The GOP hand-wringing also follows a disappointing showing in Georgia’s Senate runoffs earlier this year, with many Republicans pointing to Trump for depressing turnout and costing the party control of the upper chamber.
In a sign of attack lines to come from the GOP, Trump and longtime conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder, the leading Republican candidate in the recall effort, were already fanning the flames of election fraud before the recall race took place. As The Hill’s Reid Wilson writes in his post-mortem of the contest, the charges of a rigged election don’t go over fantastically when nearly 2 in 3 voters vote in one direction.
“Has Trump killed mail ballots to the detriment of the party?” asked Rob Stutzman, a longtime Republican strategist who worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger during the 2003 recall. “If the votes don’t come in, Republicans are really going to have to struggle with how to turn that around.”
> Capitol security: Lawmakers and their aides have been given a simple directive to avoid the Capitol on Saturday if at all possible ahead of the pro-Trump protest.
"Unless required to be onsite, Members and staff are strongly encouraged to avoid the U.S. Capitol Complex on September 18th," House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker wrote in a memo sent chamber wide on Tuesday evening.
If they must travel to the Capitol, House members and staffers have been asked to park in underground garages and move between buildings by way of underground tunnels, rather than walking outside (The Hill).
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Rally in support of Jan. 6 rioters is new headache for GOP.
The Associated Press: Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers vote for a subpoena seeking voter information.
Casper Star Tribune: Wyoming state Rep. Chuck Gray (R) suspended his campaign to unseat Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney'You're a joke': Greene clashes with Cheney, Raskin on House floor The 9 Republicans who voted to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress Cheney reveals GOP's Banks claimed he was Jan. 6 panel's ranking member MORE (R-Wyo.) as GOP candidates coalesce behind the Trump-endorsed contender.
> Virginia: Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin square off at 7 p.m. in their first gubernatorial general election debate, preceded by plenty of social media sparring between the two candidates about COVID-19 vaccines and mandates. Susan Page of USA Today will moderate the debate, and political analyst Robert Holsworth and Richmond CBS6 news anchor Candace Burns will add to the questioning (The Washington Post). C-SPAN is covering the debate live.
The Associated Press: Pope: No place for politics in Biden Communion flap.
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The future of the Taliban, a Q&A with contributor Anand Gopal, with The New Yorker’s David Remnick. https://bit.ly/2Xssj1T
Why does the world need so many cars, anyway? by Anjani Trivedi, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3zeIdtu
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet on Friday at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. The full House will not convene until Monday.
The Senate convenes at 10:15 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators will vote on Monday on the nomination of Veronica Rossman to be a U.S. circuit judge with the 10th Circuit.
The president and Vice President Harris receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden delivers remarks at 1:45 p.m. in the East Room about his domestic agenda and his view of economic equity.
The White House press briefing will take place at 2:30 p.m.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on claims for unemployment benefits filed in the week ending Sept. 11. … The U.S. Census Bureau will report at 8:30 a.m. on retail sales in August.
➔ STATE WATCH: State and local governments have shed hundreds of thousands of jobs since the beginning of the pandemic in a troubling sign for long-term economic recovery. But at the depths of the recession a decade ago, it was worse, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson. … More than half of U.S. states (26) are taking away the authorities that state and local officials use to protect the public against infectious diseases. A Kaiser Health News review of hundreds of pieces of legislation found that in all 50 states, legislators have proposed and enacted bills to curb such public health powers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. More bills are pending (The Associated Press).
➔ INTERNATIONAL: When a power cable caught fire in France on Wednesday, customers in the United Kingdom caught some higher bills (The New York Times). … According to French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBiden speaks with Macron, Harris to meet with French president in Paris French ambassador to Australia blasts sub deal with US: 'Way you treat your allies does resonate' America's subplot and Europe caught in the undertow MORE on Thursday, France recently killed the head of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, after the group attacked French aid workers, African civilians and U.S. troops. According to Macron’s office, al-Sahrawi personally ordered the killing of six French aid workers and their Nigerien colleagues last year, and his group was behind a 2017 attack that killed U.S. and Niger military personnel (The Associated Press).
➔ TECH: DoorDash sued New York City on Wednesday over a new law that compels third-party delivery companies to share customer data with restaurants. The rule requires delivery companies to comply with requests for monthly information, including names, phone numbers and email addresses. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the new law undermines privacy because no limits are placed on what restaurants can do with data provided to them (The Hill).
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Determined to look upward in news headlines, here’s our puzzle about things in the sky.
Email your best guesses and Googling to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
On Wednesday night, the Dragon capsule of a SpaceX rocket took what on a three-day journey?
- Astronauts to the International Space Station
- Four tourists into space
- Robotic rover to the moon
- Plant genome experiments to zero gravity
North Korea this week said it propelled what into the atmosphere?
- Poisonous balloons
- Spy satellite
- Aerial banner of Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnNorth Korean showcases shirtless soldiers lying on broken glass, smashing bricks on head North Korea's Kim rips US, promises 'invincible' military North Korea's Kim notes 'grim' economy while marking anniversary of ruling party MORE
- Nuclear cruise missile
Which went airborne in Texas during this week’s Hurricane Nicholas, according to news accounts and The Weather Channel video?
- “Bruce,” a 15-foot fiberglass shark
- “Big Tex,” an iconic, 52-foot cowboy
- “Moo-la,” a roadside cow statue
- “Stubb,” a sculpture of a well-known barbecue restaurateur
What is contributing to vivid sunrises and sunsets mentioned in reports this week from Texas to New England?
- Meteor showers
- Smoke from Western wildfires
- Harvest moon