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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday, the final week of September! 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 this morning: 688,033.
As of this morning, 64.3 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 55.3 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.
COVID-19’s hidden toll: 1 million children who lost parents (The Wall Street Journal).
The Democratic Party is facing perhaps the most important test of President BidenJoe BidenBiden: Democrats' spending plan is 'a bigger darn deal' than Obamacare Biden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Biden: Comment that DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas 'not appropriate' MORE’s presidency this week as lawmakers try to navigate a maze in an attempt to implement the most ambitious portions of his agenda and keep the government’s lights on.
At stake for Biden and congressional Democrats: the fate of their proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package and the future of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
If you were wondering how much pressure Democrats are under this week, look no further than the number of eyebrow-raising comments coming from Democratic circles in recent days. Over the weekend, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters MORE (D-Calif.) told the House Democratic Caucus that “the next few days will be a time of intensity.” On Friday, Biden indicated that he expected an “up and down” couple of days.
Others were more blunt.
“You want me to be honest?” Rep. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Democrats see light at end of tunnel on Biden agenda Powerful Democrats push back on one-year extension of child tax credit MORE (D-Mich.) asked CNN on Sunday. “It’s going to be a week from hell.”
However, what exactly happens this week remains unclear. Pelosi wrote in a note to her colleagues that debate will start today on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, with a vote set to take place on Thursday (The Hill). However, the success of that bill relies entirely on the status of the reconciliation bill; roughly half of the 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus will vote against it without a vote on the reconciliation bill (The Hill).
As Pelosi laid out on Sunday, there’s no vote without the votes.
“I'm never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn't have the votes,” Pelosi told ABC’s “This Week” (The Hill). She added that the reconciliation bill will likely have to be trimmed to some degree in order to win support of crucial moderates, including Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden: Negotiating assault weapons ban more difficult than infrastructure, reconciliation deal Biden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a 'reach' Biden says paid leave proposal reduced from 12 to 4 weeks MORE (W.Va.) (The Hill).
The Sunday shows: All eyes on spending votes.
The Hill: Lawmakers gear up for the pending spending bill and infrastructure votes.
The Washington Post: Democrats outside D.C. worry party will blow its chance of enacting an ambitious agenda — a failure with grave political consequences.
Jonathan Allen: Biden needs a win — or two.
Staring down the crucial stretch, Democrats are pleading for Biden to increase his involvement. Last week, Biden hosted lawmakers from all sides of the party, but Democrats want to see him lean in further, specifically to help bring Manchin on board. The West Virginia centrist’s elusive support is one of the biggest obstacles preventing the bills from becoming laws.
“I think at the end of the day Joe Biden needs to step up and say, ‘this is what we need to do together, everybody needs to pitch in to reach these goals.’ And if he can convince a couple of folks in the Senate, I think it will happen,” Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinManchin: Negotiators to miss Friday target for deal on reconciliation bill Democrats look for plan B on filibuster The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told The Hill’s Jordain Carney.
Of course, Manchin is not the only moderate who needs cajoling among Senate Democrats as questions continue to center around Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaBiden: Negotiating assault weapons ban more difficult than infrastructure, reconciliation deal Biden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a 'reach' Biden says paid leave proposal reduced from 12 to 4 weeks MORE (D-Ariz.) and how to get her to “yes” (The Wall Street Journal). According to The New York Times, Sinema has privately told colleagues that she will not accept any corporate or income tax rate increases as part of the reconciliation bill. If true, that would deal a major blow to the package and how to pay for it.
Nevertheless, Biden is keeping his head up.
“I’m optimistic about this week,” Biden told reporters on Sunday, adding that getting it done is “going to take the better part of the week.”
The Wall Street Journal: Congress heads into a tumultuous week pressured by converging deadlines.
The Associated Press: Biden, Congress face big week for agenda, government funding.
Axios: Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaTwo House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms Two senior House Democrats to retire Democratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse MORE (D-Texas), two of the nine House moderates who demanded Pelosi bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the floor by today, have now publicly promised to support the reconciliation proposal.
The Associated Press: Polls suggest that with each concession, modification and jettisoned provision made in an effort to line up votes in Congress for Democrats’ agenda, the president risks losing support from key parts of his political base.
The Hill: Plastics industry lashes out at “regressive” Democratic tax plan.
Adding to the drama this week, the Senate later today is set to vote on a bill that would fund the government through early December and raise the debt ceiling. That vote will fail, raising questions over what happens next. The expectation is that Democratic leaders will remove the debt ceiling hike from the bill, setting up a vote on a clean stop-gap spending measure to fund the government before a shutdown would take place at midnight on Thursday (Axios).
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Sunday indicated that the company will soon submit its data to obtain authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, setting up the shot to be OK’d by health authorities potentially by Halloween.
“I think we are going to submit this data any day, so it’s a question of days, not weeks, and then it’s up to the (Food and Drug Administration) to be able to review the data and come to their conclusions,” Bourla told ABC’s “This Week.”
Authorization of Pfizer’s jab for children, which is one-third of the amount given to adults, is expected to come within the next six weeks. A review process by the FDA could conclude by the end of October, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Gottlieb sits on Pfizer’s board of directors.
The Hill: Pfizer CEO predicts “normal life” within a year.
Justine Coleman, The Hill: More hospitals are forced to ration care amid the delta surge.
The coming effort to vaccinate many elementary school-aged children will take place amid the national push to administer booster doses to older Americans, as well as those who work in high-risk workplaces, are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions.
However, questions remain about booster doses for younger individuals who are in good health. Health authorities last week notably did not give the green light for additional shots to that crowd.
"People below the age of 50 who are otherwise healthy, I think it's an open question right now,” Gottlieb said of giving booster jabs to largely healthy individuals. “The data isn't strong to support the question either way.”
The Hill: Confusion reigns over vaccine booster rollout.
The Associated Press: U.S. has enough COVID-19 vaccines for boosters, kids’ shots.
The Hill: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyCDC director signs off on boosters of Johnson & Johnson, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters CDC panel backs Moderna, Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine boosters MORE: “We don't necessarily have the answer” for annual boosters. She said the CDC’s decision to open the door to boosters for people at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, including frontline workers (The Hill).
Rolling Stone: The NBA’s anti-vaxxers are trying to push around the league — and it’s working.
The Hill: Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) becomes the latest House breakthrough COVID-19 case.
ADMINISTRATION: The State Department is under pressure to find creative solutions to aid vulnerable Afghans who were left behind during the U.S. airlifts in August now that the U.S. doesn’t have an embassy or any obvious way to help them exit, reports The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch.
While the administration evacuated about 125,000 people from Afghanistan last month, independent analysts estimate that more than 100,000 people considered a priority for evacuation were left behind, including people who assisted the U.S. military as well as those who worked with U.S. nonprofit groups.
“It's very clear how much energy is being put into the needs of those already evacuated from Afghanistan and not enough energy is being put into those who are still in Afghanistan and that is a big concern for those of us still in touch with those left in Afghanistan,” Jennifer Quigley, senior director of government affairs with Human Rights First, told The Hill. “Ten percent of their energy is on the super complex and difficult question of dealing with a lot of people that were left behind.”
The Wall Street Journal: The United States spent $145 billion in Afghanistan to help the country stand up on its own. The U.S. efforts failed to build a sustainable economy there.
The Hill: Progressives are seething over Biden’s migrant policies.
NBC News: Senate Republicans have slowed confirmation for U.S. diplomatic nominees. Democrats have a plan to nudge more into the executive branch.
Middle East: White House national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanSullivan raised normalizing relations with Israel during meeting with Saudi crown prince: report Biden struggles to rein in Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — World leaders call for enhanced cooperation to fight wave of ransomware attacks MORE today travels to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the U.S. tries to press the kingdom to move toward a cease-fire in its yearslong war with Houthi rebels in Yemen (The Associated Press).
Courts: The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports that the president is working with the Senate to get his judicial picks confirmed, but he's sidestepping trying to fill vacancies in GOP states — for now.
Banking: Biden’s decision last week to nominate Saule Omarova, a fierce critic of big banks and cryptocurrencies, to be the powerful regulator at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency cheered Democrats and sparked opposition among Republicans, reports The Hill’s Sylvan Lane.
White House: Joining Vice President Harris’s staff to help improve her choppy communications are Lorraine Voles, who has extensive West Wing, crisis communications and media coaching experience stretching back to the Clinton administration, and Adam Frankel (CNN).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: 2020 election audits are all the rage for Republicans across the country as top state officials cave to pressure from former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE.
Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters GOP senators call on Biden to back down from vaccine mandates DeSantis to call special session of legislature to fight vaccine mandates MORE (R) became the latest audit-minded conservative last week as he looks back at results of the 2020 election in the state’s four largest counties after urging from the former president. Trump’s assertions of mass voter fraud continue 10 months after voters cast presidential ballots, and his claims remain false.
Trump sent an open letter to Abbott on Thursday demanding that he support Texas House Bill 16, which was filed by Texas state Rep. Steve Toth (R), despite results showing the former president won the Lone Star State by 630,000 votes. The legislation would permit county and state leaders to send a request to review the 2020 election results to a county clerk, who would then be tasked with establishing an advisory committee to comb through ballots in county precincts.
“In Gov. Abbott’s eyes, it’s not about Donald Trump or anyone else,” Toth told The Hill. “It’s about Texans believing that their election system is fair and honest.”
As The Hill’s Julia Manchester notes, the Lone Star State’s move comes on the heels of Arizona’s release of a much-anticipated election review, which showed that Trump lost to Biden by an even wider margin last year. No matter, that has not halted similar audit efforts by state legislators in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Trump's Arizona embarrassment sharpens questions for GOP.
Max Greenwood, The Hill: Where election review efforts stand across the U.S.
> Friends in high places: 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.) and her allies are starting to make a concerted effort to boost her reelection bid as she wages the fight of her political life against a Trump-backed challenger.
The Wyoming Republican received a very public boost this week with the news that former President George W. Bush will headline his first fundraiser of the 2022 cycle for her. As The Hill’s Tal Axelrod reports, Cheney backers say they expect more Republicans to get off the bench to help her in a primary against attorney and erstwhile ally Harriet Hageman.
“I'll knock on doors, I'll make calls if I have to, I'll use my social media presence, professionally and personally, and I've continued to do that basically since Liz has been in office,” said state Rep. Landon Brown (R), a Cheney ally.
“I think it's going to be much more than many people anticipate,” he added. “You're gonna see a lot of the people that are out there that do support her and recognize her value … and it's just going to be a matter of who shows up more and who can get more people to the polls.”
Cheney is also making headlines on her own. In an interview with “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Cheney said she was “wrong” in her previous opposition to same-sex marriage, which led to a public spat with her sister, who is gay (The Hill).
The anti-Trump Republican said that many of her GOP colleagues in the House and Senate are privately supporting her high-profile fight against Trump, even though they won’t say so publicly (The Hill).
The Hill: Exerting executive privilege over subpoenaed and requested information as part of the Jan. 6 investigation in Congress poses hurdles for Trump.
The Hill: Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face political risks.
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!
In defense of a do-almost-nothing Congress, by Matthew Yglesias, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3iaWSAb
Trump’s fatal obsession with his base, by James Hohmann, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3zUh1AR
Angela Merkel was underestimated, and it became her superpower, by Serge Schmemann, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3F4zj6f
A MESSAGE FROM ALIBABA
Small companies across the U.S. like Antica Farmacista, Nuria and Radha Beauty are using Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms to sell to China, finding new areas of growth for their businesses and communities.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House convenes at noon.
The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of a motion to proceed to the “Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act.”
The president and vice president receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m.
Harris will host a reception for the Congressional Black Caucus’s 50th anniversary at 3:30 p.m. at the vice president’s residence.
The CDC’s Walensky will speak virtually at 2 p.m. about COVID-19 during The Atlantic Festival. Her remarks will be carried by C-SPAN.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m.
Economic indicator: The Census Bureau at 8:30 a.m. reports on advance durable goods orders in August. Economists are watching the report for signs of weakness in the manufacturing sector (Industry Week).
INVITATION: The Hill’s Virtually Live hosts “Future of Medicare and Oral Health” on WEDNESDAY at 1 p.m. with Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), co-sponsor of the Medicare Dental Act of 2021, and Georgia Rep. Drew FergusonAnderson (Drew) Drew FergusonDemocrats face growing storm over IRS reporting provision Dental coverage for Medicare recipients divides parties The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Progressives ready to tank infrastructure bill MORE, GOP chief deputy whip, plus other experts.
➔ GERMANY: Social Democrat Olaf Scholz took to the stage Monday morning at his Berlin campaign headquarters, saying he saw his party’s significant gains in the German election on Sunday as a mandate from voters to head up the next government along with the two smaller parties that also made gains in Sunday’s vote. The Social Democrats earned 25.7 percent of the vote for victory but will still need at least one other partner to form a government (The New York Times). Both the Greens and the Free Democrats also increased their share of seats in Parliament. German voters spread their support across a wide spectrum of parties, signaling the end of an era. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union, tried to claim it could lead a coalition to form the next government, despite suffering a consequential loss of nearly nine points, to earn only 24.1 percent of the vote (The New York Times). The party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, 67, experienced the weakest outcome in its history. Merkel will conclude 16 years and her fourth term as leader when a new government is officially formed and her successor is sworn in, which could take time (The Associated Press). She has not said what she plans to do after stepping down. “I will take a break and I will think about what really interests me, because in the past 16 years, I haven’t had the time to do that,” she said in July.
➔ DERAILMENT: An Amtrak train derailment in Montana on Saturday that killed at least three people and injured dozens is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board as of Sunday. A passenger train with two locomotives and 10 cars, eight of which derailed at 4 p.m., had been traveling west to Seattle and was near Joplin, Mont., on a BNSF Railway main track (The Hill and The Associated Press).
➔ WIKILEAKS, ASSANGE & CIA PLOTTING: At the highest levels of the Trump administration in 2017, officials discussed a CIA plot to kidnap WikiLeaks founder Julian AssangeJulian Paul AssangeTrump administration mulled kidnapping, assassinating Julian Assange: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats stare down 'hell' week Chelsea Manning tests positive for COVID-19 MORE, who at the time was holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, according to a Yahoo News investigative report published on Sunday, quoting an anonymous counterintelligence official. The discussion at the time included possible assassination, “going so far as to request `sketches’ or `options’” for killing Assange. The reported plans for an all-out war against him were sparked by WikiLeaks’ ongoing publication of CIA hacking tools known collectively as “Vault 7,” which the agency ultimately concluded represented “the largest data loss in CIA history.” Since 2019, Assange has been in a maximum security prison in London.
➔ GOLF: Americans captured the Ryder Cup on Sunday for only the fourth time in the past 13 attempts. Collin Morikawa’s birdie putt on No. 17 of his match got the U.S. team to at least 14.5 points in the biennial men’s golf competition against a team from Europe. With eight matches still to go on Sunday, and the Americans leading in five of them, they had a chance to make this year’s event a rout (The New York Times).
And finally … Help rename a dozen U.S. military installations that by law must jettison identifications with Confederate warriors from long ago. The Pentagon and Congress want the public’s input to come up with new names for some military bases by October 2022. Virginia is home to four of the military locales due for a rebranding: Fort Belvoir, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett.
An eight-member Naming Commission, created as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, is tasked with “the removal or renaming of DoD assets that commemorate the Confederate States of America or those who voluntarily served with the Confederacy” (WTOP).
Replacement names must appropriately “reflect the courage, values, sacrifices and diversity of our military men and women, with consideration given to the local or regional significance of names and their potential to inspire and motivate our service members.”
Brainstorming directions are HERE.