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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday, and autumn is here! 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 as of each morning this week: Monday, 673,765; Tuesday, 676,092; Wednesday, 678,502; Thursday, 681,199.
The White House on Wednesday sought to quell tensions between centrist Democrats and progressives in a series of meetings as the party seeks a path forward to implement 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 multi-trillion-dollar spending plan.
Biden touted “progress” during three “productive and candid” meetings throughout the day, in a statement from the White House Wednesday night (The Hill). Early in the afternoon, he sat down with 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 (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocratic frustration with Sinema rises Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Guns Down America's leader says Biden 'has simply not done enough' on gun control MORE (D-N.Y.). Shortly after, Biden met with a number of centrist members, including Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Sunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters MORE (D-W.Va.), Sen. 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.) and Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerModerates split over climate plans in Democrats' spending package Bleak midterm outlook shadows bitter Democratic battle Democrats downplay deadlines on Biden's broad spending plan MORE (D-N.J.), for more than an hour and a half.
The president also met with progressives, headlined by including Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden must keep progressive promises or risk losing midterms Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds MORE (I-Vt.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenClimate advocates turn sights on Wall Street Democrats scramble to reach deal on taxes Pelosi open to scrapping key components in spending package MORE (D-Ore.) and Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalWhich proposals will survive in the Democrats' spending plan? Proposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Democrats see light at end of tunnel on Biden agenda MORE (D-Wash.) in the evening (The Hill).
The round of discussions came amid a trying week for the party in power. Leaders have looked on in frustration as non-stop friendly fire has raged within both chambers over the status of the $3.5 reconciliation package and the potential vote set for Monday on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Progressives are threatening to sink the latter bill unless the larger bill is voted on, leaving centrists fuming.
“It truly is a shame that they’re using that as a hostage,” Manchin told reporters following the meeting, adding that he believes a reconciliation bill can come together “eventually.” “There's just too much in the reconciliation to do as quickly as you can” (CNN).
The New York Times: Biden huddles with Democrats as divisions threaten his agenda.
The Wall Street Journal: Biden pushes Democrats to find consensus on budget package.
Mike Lillis, Alexander Bolton and Scott Wong, The Hill: Pelosi signals she won't move $3.5 trillion bill without Senate-House deal.
The Hill: Manchin: Biden told moderates to pitch price tag for reconciliation bill.
The meetings come during a crazed time for the party, which is attempting to navigate myriad issues in getting the whole of the agenda implemented. Monday’s potential vote, which Pelosi agreed to in order to bring key centrists on board last month and kick off the reconciliation process, remains up in the air. Jayapal, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told CNN that there is “no reason” to hold the vote. She also dismissed it as an “arbitrary deadline.”
“Progressives will vote for both bills because we proudly support the President’s entire Build Back Better package, but that a majority of our 96-member caucus will only vote for the small infrastructure bill after the Build Back Better Act passes,” Jayapal said in a statement after the meeting with Biden, which also lasted more than an hour and a half. Eleven Senate Democrats echoed that sentiment in a letter to Biden on Wednesday.
And therein lies the rub for progressives. House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDemocrats at odds with Manchin over child tax credit provision The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE (D-Ky.) said on Wednesday that there is “virtually no chance” the reconciliation bill will be finished before the end of the month, with Biden reportedly giving no indication that the Monday vote will be bumped (The Hill). All of this sets up contentious days ahead for the party.
“We still have work to do,” Gottheimer said in a statement. “We’ve got a hectic few days ahead.”
The Hill: Biden confronts sinking poll numbers.
> Where’s the ceiling?: In a sign that Congress just can’t help itself, lawmakers are moving swiftly down a dual track that could lead to a government shutdown and a default on the national debt without any backup plan in the coming weeks.
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, Senate Republicans are expected to block a stop-gap government spending bill next week, with leaders in both parties indicating that they have no plan B and that negotiations between the two sides are nonexistent. At present, the government is set to shut down at midnight on Sept. 30, with a debt default potentially coming in mid-October without action.
The lack of a deal could also have unintended consequences, as it would threaten to derail the fragile recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and plunge the U.S. back into economic hardship, according to The Hill’s Sylvan Lane. If a shutdown and debt default take place, economists fear the U.S. could suffer a devastating setback in its grueling recovery from the pandemic.
“We always do this f---ing dance,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Democratic frustration with Sinema rises Which proposals will survive in the Democrats' spending plan? MORE (D-Mont.). “I don’t know if people are going to put their sane minds on and do what needs to be done, or shut it down. This is just a ridiculous exercise ... I can’t even compare it to anything I do on the farm that’s this stupid” (Politico).
The Washington Post: 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 and two of her predecessors who served Republican presidents, Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinMajor Russian hacking group linked to ransomware attack on Sinclair: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report MORE and Hank Paulson, held private discussions this month with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) about the debt ceiling in an effort to avert U.S. default.
Bloomberg News: Yarmuth: Democrats probably lack time to raise debt ceiling via reconciliation.
Aaron Blake, The Washington Post: Republicans usually lose shutdown fights. So why are they going there again?
> Police reform dead: A bipartisan group of lawmakers spearheading police reform negotiations revealed on Wednesday that talks are officially over amid deep divisions that they weren't able to overcome. Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing MORE (D-N.J.) said that discussions between him, Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter Nikki Haley gets lifetime post on Clemson Board of Trustees First senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid MORE (R-S.C.) and Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDemocratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse First senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List MORE (D-Calif.) (pictured below) ended without a deal to reform police tactics and put new accountability measures in place.
“After months of exhausting every possible pathway to a bipartisan deal, it remains out of reach right now,” Booker said in a statement (The Hill).
The Hill: Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail.
Syracuse.com: Former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), 84, died on Monday. He served in the House for 24 years, retiring at the end of 2006.
A MESSAGE FROM ALIBABA
As the retail industry undergoes seismic shifts, U.S. small businesses use Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms to reach 900 million consumers in China, finding growth for their businesses and communities.
LEADING THE DAY
ADMINISTRATION: It was accion de rapprocher: Biden and 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 of France on Wednesday spoke by phone in an effort to ease strains following a recent U.S. deal with Australia and the United Kingdom to bolster Canberra’s nuclear-powered submarine fleet. France over the last week reacted angrily to being cut out of the trilateral pact as well as losing defense contracts with Australia that would have been worth billions. The French government dramatically withdrew its ambassador from the U.S. before Macron agreed on Wednesday to meet Biden in Europe at the end of October and to return his country’s ambassador to Washington. Biden concurred with Macron in a carefully worded statement that “the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners” (The Associated Press).
The Washington Post: French defense contractor Naval Group plans to bill Australia over a $66 billion submarine contract.
> Immigration: For the administration, U.S. handling of undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers at the southern border with Mexico is a policy challenge that riles Democrats as well as Republicans. Biden allies and supporters this week questioned the recent federal treatment of Haitian migrants who amassed by the thousands in Del Rio, Texas, even as Republicans assailed a border security and management “crisis.” The Hill’s Rebecca Beitch, Morgan Chalfant and Rafael Bernal report on Democrats’ worries and the administration’s policy options.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus met on Wednesday with administration officials to seek the suspension of federal border agents on horseback photographed using aggressive tactics in Del Rio to chase Haitian migrants near the border (The Hill).
Vice President Harris spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasTop officials turn over Twitter accounts to 'share the mic' with Black cybersecurity experts Federal officers detail abuse described by asylum seekers Senate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation MORE on Tuesday to raise “her grave concerns about the mistreatment of Haitian migrants by border patrol agents on horses, and the need of all CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) agents to treat people with dignity, humanely and consistent with our laws and our values,” her spokeswoman said in a statement on Wednesday. Mayorkas promised to update Harris about pending findings of an Office of Professional Responsibility investigation into the federal treatment of the Haitians (Reuters/Yahoo).
The Washington Post: Conservative Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottGOP leaders escalate battle against COVID-19 vaccine mandates Lincoln Project files ethics complaint against Abbott Arizona attorney general asks for restraining order to block federal vaccine mandate MORE, who is seeking reelection, deployed miles of state-owned Department of Public Safety vehicles along the border with Mexico on Tuesday to create what he called a “steel wall” to deter migrants from entering the United States. He told Fox News that the line of vehicles “regained control of the border.”
> Environmental regulations: The Environmental Protection Agency today will announce a final rulemaking to cut the production and consumption of polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 85 percent below baseline levels within the next 15 years, action to combat climate change that the administration asserts is “one of the most impactful … in decades” because the common, harmful gases are far more powerful that carbon dioxide. Hydrofluorocarbons are greenhouse gases that contribute to the warming of the planet and are found in a range of appliances and substances, including refrigerators, air conditioners and foams. The agency’s rule establishes an allowance allocation and trading program to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, and creates a compliance and enforcement system. In addition, the agency aims to review more than a dozen petitions to restrict the use of hydrofluorocarbons in other applications (The Washington Post). … The Biden administration as of Wednesday had reversed 42 environmental actions put in place by the Trump administration, targeted another 73 and has not assessed 122, according to The Washington Post. The process to unwind regulations from an earlier administration is lengthy and could take the Biden administration years. The president’s regulatory goals are guided by what he calls “a whole-of-government approach to put climate change at the center of our domestic, national security and foreign policy.”
CORONAVIRUS: Heeding targeted advice received last week from an advisory panel, the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced emergency use approval of Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses for people 65 and older, younger people with compromised immune systems, and some at-risk front-line workers (The Associated Press and The Hill). Third doses are intended to bolster immune responses against COVID-19 following the initial two doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered to many Americans early this year.
Wednesday’s decision scales back the Biden administration’s preparations aimed at a Sept. 20 launch of third doses to nearly all U.S. adults as a way to battle the highly contagious delta variant.
However, more regulatory hurdles lie ahead before boosters officially begin to be administered. Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened a two-day meeting Wednesday to make their own, more specific recommendations about who should get the extra shots and when. Some experts were so perplexed by the questions surrounding the rationale for boosters that they suggested putting off a decision for a month in order to gather more evidence, the AP reported.
The New York Times: Next up today: A CDC decision on exactly who should get boosters and why.
> Vaccine sharing: Biden on Wednesday pledged to double to more than 1 billion this country’s donations of Pfizer doses for global dissemination by 2022. The president says he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the world’s population within the next year. About 160 million shots supplied by the United States have already been distributed to more than 100 countries, representing more donations than the rest of the world combined (The Associated Press).
> Tests: The administration is under pressure to quickly expand rapid coronavirus testing. At-home tests for COVID-19, which are in hot demand, are scarce in the U.S. and the administration recently purchased $2 billion worth of tests as manufacturers scramble to ramp up operations (The Hill).
The Associated Press: Other U.S. shortages exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19: teachers, staff members such as tutors and aides, and school bus drivers. Without enough teachers, some districts have been forced to return to remote instruction for students.
Around the world, scientists continue to track COVID-19’s variants and announced again at the World Health Organization on Wednesday that the delta strain is by far the most transmissible based on studies, accounting for a majority of new infections confirmed globally. Other mutations identified are less infectious and therefore less worrisome, the organization says (The Washington Post).
A consortium of disease data experts provide advice to the CDC by closely tracking COVID-19 information to project how the pandemic is proceeding. Creators of the “Scenario Modeling Hub” anticipate a steady decline in infections and deaths in the United States by March, with several caveats (NPR). “Any of us who have been following this closely, given what happened with delta, are going to be really cautious about too much optimism," says Justin Lessler at the University of North Carolina, who helps run the hub. "But I do think that the trajectory is towards improvement for most of the country.”
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS & COURTS: McConnell’s battles with the White House these days are not limited to the debt ceiling. He signed on to a letter with three Senate colleagues on Wednesday accusing the administration of undercutting the nation’s COVID-19 response.
McConnell and Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDemocratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races McConnell gets GOP wake-up call Senate approves short-term debt ceiling increase MORE (R-N.C.), 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.) and Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoDemocrats narrow scope of IRS proposal amid GOP attacks Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Yellen confident of minimum global corporate tax passage in Congress MORE (R-Idaho) said in the letter that the administration has exacerbated vaccine hesitancy across the country and lacks a strategy to “end” the COVID-19 pandemic.
The letter posed questions to the White House while hailing the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine development program. Republicans are eager to seize the offensive on COVID-19 among conservative voters as Biden’s job approval numbers continue to dip. McConnell, a polio survivor, has publicly encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and embraces voluntary mask wearing (The Hill).
> Jan. 6 defendants: Federal judges are weighing whether to throw out one of the most serious felony charges facing defendants in the Capitol riot prosecutions — the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding, which carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison. The defendants argue the Electoral College certification of state ballot results on Jan. 6 does not qualify under the law as an "official proceeding." At least three judges in recent weeks have pressed prosecutors on whether the charge is appropriate in the context of the events that day. If courts rule that the felony count cannot be applied to Jan. 6 Electoral College proceedings, it would likely hinder prosecutors' efforts to punish those arrested and adjudicated for alleged crimes including breaching the Capitol (The Hill).
> Secretaries of state and election oversight: A Reuters special report finds that supporters of 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 who falsely assert election fraud in 2020 are using political campaigns to try to effect change from within. Reuters examined all 15 Republican candidates for secretary of state in five battlegrounds. Ten continue to question whether Biden won the 2020 election.
> Abortion: Republican candidates outside Texas find themselves in the position of having to answer for the Lone Star State’s recently enacted near-total abortion ban. Some GOP candidates worry that Democrats will be able to use the Texas measure to rally base voters during contests in which Republican contenders are working to frame the election around issues of crime, the economy, the border and U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan (The Hill).
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!
It’s not really a “$3.5 trillion” bill, by Peter Coy, opinion writer, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3ALlDdq
The U.S. debt limit constrains nothing but honesty, by Ramesh Ponnuru, opinion writer, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3zsD9C0
A MESSAGE FROM ALIBABA
Radha Beauty, a small business from Aurora, Ohio, found a new growth opportunity by using Alibaba’s online platforms to sell to the Chinese market. Now Radha is experiencing record sales.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House convenes at 10 a.m. Pelosi will hold a weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney reveals GOP's Banks claimed he was Jan. 6 panel's ranking member House votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House 'grinches' for Christmas delays MORE (R-Calif.) will take questions from journalists at 11:30 a.m., also in the Capitol. … Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Manchin heatedly dismisses rumors of leaving Democratic Party Bannon eyed as key link between White House, Jan. 6 riot MORE (D-Calif.) will take questions from reporters at 8:15 a.m. at the Christian Science Monitor Breakfast. … Rep. Alex PadillaAlex PadillaSenate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents GOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program MORE (D-Calif.) will be interviewed at 8:30 a.m. by Punchbowl journalists about news of the day and immigration reform (event information is HERE).
The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Florence Pan to be U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia.
The president and the vice president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will receive his weekly economic briefing at noon before having lunch with Harris at 12:30 p.m.
The vice president will meet with Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana, at 11:15 a.m. She will also meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 3:15 p.m. in her ceremonial office.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at noon.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins participates at 1:45 p.m. ET in a discussion about COVID-19 developments at an event hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Webinar information is HERE.
INVITATIONS: The Hill’s Virtually Live TODAY at 1 p.m. hosts a Small Business Summit with policymakers, small-business owners and economic experts as well as lawmakers and officials including Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinIt's time to make access to quality kidney care accessible and equitable for all Charity game lets users bet on elections Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program MORE (D-Md.), chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee; Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.), member of the Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Workforce Development; and the Small Business Administration’s Mark Madrid. Information is HERE.
Washington’s Best Friends Animal Society and Humane Rescue Alliance team up this evening with invited guests to salute “National Dogs in Politics Day,” featuring adoptable puppies during an outdoor event at Bullfeathers on the Hill near the Capitol from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
➔ FEDERAL RESERVE: Chairman Jerome Powell and Fed officials on Wednesday downgraded their outlook, released during the summer, for growth and jobs, anticipating higher unemployment and inflation along with slower U.S. expansion as the year ends. “The progress of the economy continues to depend on the course of the virus, and risks to the economic outlook remain,” Powell told journalists, adding that the COVID-19 surge is causing “significant hardship and loss and slowing the economic recovery” (The Hill). … The central bank’s Federal Open Market Committee indicated the Fed will start pulling back on some of the stimulus the central bank has been providing during the financial crisis (The Associated Press). Powell added that meeting “participants generally viewed that so long as the recovery remains on track, a gradual tapering process that concludes around the middle of next year is likely to be appropriate” (CNBC).
➔ BIOFUEL: The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to reduce how much biofuel is required to be blended into other fuels. The EPA would lessen 2020 and 2021 requirements to 17.1 billion gallons and about 18.6 billion gallons, respectively, below than the 20.1 billion gallons set for 2020 before the pandemic. For 2022, the level would reportedly be at 20.8 billion gallons (Reuters).
➔ BIODIVERSITY: At a United Nations General Assembly sideline event on Wednesday, nine foundations pledged $5 billion to protect and conserve 30 percent of the planet by 2030, marking the largest-ever private funding commitment to biodiversity (The Hill).
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the 30th anniversary of the death of Dr. Seuss, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the famed author of myriad children’s books.
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Under his famous “Dr. Seuss” pseudonym, how many books did Theodor Geisel publish?
Which of the following actors did NOT star in a feature film/movie adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book?
- Jim Carrey
- Steve Carell
- Adam Sandler
- Mike Myers
Dr. Seuss’s first book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” was rejected by how many publishers before being accepted by Vanguard Press?
Which of the following author names did Dr. Seuss not publish books under?
- Rosetta Stone
- Theodor Geisel
- All of the above
--Updated at 10:28 a.m.