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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 reported each morning this week: Monday, 688,033; Tuesday, 690,434; Wednesday, 693,055.
The political future of the Democratic Party could turn on what liberals and centrists decide next in a battle over President BidenJoe BidenPfizer CEO says vaccine data for those under 5 could be available by end of year Omicron coronavirus variant found in at least 10 states Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles MORE’s spending and infrastructure agenda. Right now, they are pummeling each other.
The infighting continued on Tuesday as progressive members issued another threat in the direction of Democratic leaders to sink a planned Thursday vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill without assurances from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Green groups spend big to promote climate policy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown MORE (D-Ariz.) that they will vote for a wide-ranging reconciliation package.
The Hill: Senate Democrats weigh a government funding bill through Dec. 3 delinked from a hike in the debt ceiling.
“If she were to call the bill, it will fail,” Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyModerate Democrats press for score before vote on Biden package Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE (D-Ill.), an ally of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level MORE (D-Calif.), told The Hill on Tuesday. “Not because the [Congressional] Progressive Caucus, people like me, aren't willing to vote for it. But ... we had an agreement that we were going to get these two pieces [together]” (The Hill).
However, there were signs of life for the majority party and its agenda. Biden held separate meetings with Manchin and Sinema at the White House on Tuesday, with the Arizona Democrat taking part in multiple other meetings with White House officials. Additionally, Biden nixed a planned trip to Chicago today to promote vaccinations and mandates in favor of staying in Washington to take part in negotiations (The Hill).
“In meetings and calls over the weekend and through today, President Biden has been engaging with members of Congress on the path forward for the Build Back Better Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal,” a White House official told The Hill. “He will now remain at the White House tomorrow to continue working on advancing these two pieces of legislation to create jobs, grow the economy, and make investments in families, rather than failed giveaways to the rich and big corporations.”
Despite the liberal uproar, leading Democrats held firm that the vote on the bipartisan proposal will take place on Thursday. Pelosi told reporters that leaders are “making good progress” to break the impasse.
“Everybody has to do what they have to do, and I respect that,” Pelosi said. “We’re doing our work.”
The bottom line: If progressives hold true, there will be no passage of anything this week. The reconciliation bill isn’t ready, and without that, the vote on Thursday will fail. And as Pelosi noted on Sunday, without the votes, there will be no vote.
NBC News: “Mutually assured destruction”: House liberals dig in on halting infrastructure bill.
The Washington Post: Negotiations between Biden, Democrats intensify as $4 trillion agenda hits stalemate.
Adding to the issues standing between Democrats and enacting their agenda, the competing factions have yet to figure out a top-line price tag for the reconciliation bill, which has long been set at $3.5 trillion. As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, reality is starting to set in among progressives that the current price point will have to fall.
However, the main question remains: What will Manchin and Sinema accept? For weeks, negotiators have tried and failed to answer that question (Politico).
The Hill: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE (I-Vt.) urges House Democrats to vote against an infrastructure bill before reconciliation.
The Wall Street Journal: Industry lobbyists take aim at Democrats’ $3.5 trillion bill.
Hanna Trudo, The Hill: Progressive Democrats seek to purge the term “moderate.”
> Debt debacle: Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenTreasury refrains from naming any currency manipulators US could default within weeks absent action on debt limit: analysis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown MORE told lawmakers on Tuesday that they have roughly three weeks to reach a deal to raise or suspend the debt limit before the U.S. is expected to default on the national debt.
“At that point, we expect the Treasury would be left with very limited resources that would be depleted quickly. It is uncertain whether we could continue to meet all the nation's commitments after that date,” Yellen wrote to congressional leaders, adding the prediction represents the Treasury’s “best estimate” (The Hill).
Fresh off the warning, Senate Democrats are now scrambling to find a strategy to avoid a default, which could send stock markets into a tailspin. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, Democratic senators are discussing a number of options. However, Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level Progressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) maintained on Tuesday that one avenue they will not pursue is via reconciliation in the face of GOP intransigence, labeling it a “non-starter” (The Hill).
Those remarks came as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellUS could default within weeks absent action on debt limit: analysis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal MORE (R-Ky.) blocked Schumer’s request for unanimous consent on Tuesday afternoon to suspend the debt limit until December 2022 (The Hill). For weeks, McConnell has warned Schumer that Democrats should raise the debt ceiling through reconciliation as the GOP is in lockstep and will not vote to increase the debt ceiling.
The New York Times: How the debt ceiling came to be a political cudgel.
The Hill: CEO Jamie Dimon says JPMorgan Chase is preparing for a “potentially catastrophic” U.S. credit default.
CNBC and The Hill: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE (D-Mass.) on Tuesday called Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell “a dangerous man” during a Senate hearing, warning she would vote against his confirmation if Biden renominates the chairman.
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: Faced with deadlines in some states to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — or risk leaving or losing employment — a vocal minority of workers in health care, senior care and law enforcement insist they will quit rather than get the shots, further exacerbating shortages at hospitals, nursing homes, and some state and local departments that protect public safety.
Nonetheless, states say vaccine requirements have nudged an estimated tens of thousands of workers to get inoculated over a short period, viewed as a necessary if stressful victory, especially in medical settings where patient care and safeguarding all employees during the pandemic can create tensions among vaccinated and unvaccinated colleagues.
The onset of mandates in some states where vaccination rates already are high underscores the criticism anticipated when Biden’s federal emergency order takes effect within weeks to require that an estimated 80 million private-sector workers must be vaccinated. That rule has yet to be published by the Labor Department.
New York state’s vaccine requirements, perhaps the strictest in the nation, went into effect on Monday. Thomas Quatroche, president of the Erie County Medical Center Corp., with multiple facilities in Buffalo, said the center put 152 workers — about 5 percent of its staff — on unpaid leave Monday because they were not vaccinated by the state’s deadline. The company hopes unpaid leave rather than immediate dismissals will persuade employees to fulfill the requirement, The Washington Post reported.
ABC7 NY: Facing suspension or termination, New York health care workers get a COVID-19 vaccine.
CNN: Suspensions for hundreds of vaccine holdouts in New York.
The Associated Press: Hospital employees that treat COVID-19 patients have reported being attacked, spat on and targeted by people wielding weapons, such as knives, in high-stress situations. Hospitals are using security cameras, body cameras worn by security guards, guard dogs and panic buttons worn on health care workers’ badges.
The New York Times: New York Gov. Kathy HochulKathy HochulOmicron coronavirus variant found in at least 10 states Five omicron cases detected in New York Minnesota confirms US's second omicron case MORE (D) issued an executive order and declared a state of emergency on Monday to deal with potential critical staffing shortages in hospitals and nursing homes. She indicated she is firmly behind the vaccine mandates, ordered by her predecessor, former Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoThe Memo: Elites' misdeeds fuel public distrust DOJ investigating sexual harassment allegations against Andrew Cuomo Briahna Joy Gray says Chris Cuomo will return to CNN following scandal MORE (D).
WTOP: Employer vaccine mandates convert some workers but not all.
CBS News: One Massachusetts state trooper resigned rather than get vaccinated by the deadline set by the governor. Other troopers filed paperwork threatening to quit, according to a police union.
The Hill: United Airlines, based in Chicago, announced on Tuesday it will lay off 600 employees who decline to comply with company policy to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Hill: Some Americans who believe getting vaccinated is too risky are willing to ingest ivermectin, a medication used on livestock, under the mistaken and dangerous belief it can prevent COVID-19 infection. Where do individuals latch on to pandemic myths? On Facebook, some conservative media outlets and from crackpot websites.
The NBA has become a cauldron of conflict over the issue of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, highlighting deep divisions within the league over how to keep athletes on the court and also safe from the delta variant. Although a vast majority of players are fully vaccinated, some of the league’s big stars refuse to get inoculated and have not been shy about airing their fears and worries in public (The Hill). On the flip side, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said on Tuesday he is fully vaccinated after doing more research. He avoided questions in May about his COVID-19 vaccine status (Yahoo Sports).
Meanwhile, there is more evidence drawn from clinical trials that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine works safely and effectively in children ages 5 to 11, the company told the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday (The Washington Post and The Hill). A federal decision is pending and such shots could be available for youngsters in November (The Associated Press).
The Hill: In South Carolina, a statewide ban on requirements for mask-wearing was temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Tuesday. “No one can reasonably argue that it is an undue burden to wear a mask to accommodate a child with disabilities,” the judge wrote, siding with plaintiffs.
ADMINISTRATION: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine National Guard Bureau chief tests positive for COVID-19 Ukraine says Russia has amassed more than 94,000 troops along border MORE on Tuesday defended contacts he initiated with his Chinese counterpart in the final weeks of Trump’s presidency as well as his decision to call a meeting of senior military officials to review the procedures for launching nuclear weapons (The Hill and The Associated Press).
During Senate testimony and extensive questioning, Milley called the 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan a “strategic failure” (The Associated Press). The chairman of the Joint Chiefs and his colleague Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, said they advised maintaining a small, residual U.S. force in Afghanistan to prevent the Afghan army from collapsing into the Taliban’s hands. The White House said on Tuesday that it was Biden’s call to withdraw all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan by Aug. 31.
> Immigration: The administration on Tuesday moved to make protections from deportation for migrants brought to this country as undocumented children more permanent, despite Congress’s years of resistance to proposed legislative fixes. A rule from the Department of Homeland Security could solidify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that was suspended during Trump’s term and enjoined by a Texas court in July, leaving an estimated million people in immigration limbo (The Hill).
> Federal lands: The Interior Department on Tuesday withdrew a Trump-era rule that was expected to make it cheaper for industry to drill on federally owned lands and in public waters. The announcement of the withdrawal comes after the Biden administration had previously delayed the rule from taking effect, with the department arguing that the decision means fossil fuel companies will pay their fair share to drill on public lands, estimating that it will prevent $64 million in lost payments each year (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) requested documents from both the state Senate and Maricopa County officials mere days after an audit completed by the legislative chamber didn’t show evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
As The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports, in letters to the state Senate and Maricopa County, where Republican officials have pushed back against the Senate GOP’s inquiry, the state attorney general requested copies of reports and evidence.
“The Arizona Senate’s report that was released on Friday raises some serious questions regarding the 2020 election,” Brnovich said, declining to detail any of those questions. “Arizonans can be assured our office will conduct a thorough review of the information we receive.”
The latest machination tracks with the national effort among Republicans to probe last year’s election, even though the Arizona audit found no wrongdoing or fraud and actually showed that Biden won by a larger margin of victory. However, as The Hill’s Tal Axelrod and Max Greenwood write, advocates of Trump’s false claims about a rigged election have ignored those findings, with Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin moving ahead with probes of their own.
Politico: “Mad dash”: Trump’s demand for a Texas ‘audit’ caught Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottHillicon Valley —TSA to strengthen rail sector cybersecurity When politics trump workers' health, we know who gets burned Judge blocks Texas social media censorship law MORE (R) off guard.
The Washington Post: Glenn Youngkin, Terry McAuliffe clash in final debate of Virginia governor’s race.
The Hill: Vaccines, abortion, Trump dominate final Virginia governor's debate.
The Hill: Third-party candidate interrupts Virginia gubernatorial debate.
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!
Debt limit follies morph into festival of bad behavior, by Jonathan Bernstein, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3id5Ehm
Democrats’ failure to raise the debt ceiling is yet another self-inflicted crisis, by Marc A. Thiessen, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3ifwCVv
Joe Biden knows we can’t back down from vaccine mandates. Spurious requests for religious exemptions should be denied, by the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board. https://bit.ly/39IoA2O
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House convenes at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Jessica Lewis to be an assistant secretary of State.
The president receives the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden at noon will attend the memorial of Susan Bayh, 61, the late wife of former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), at the Washington National Cathedral.
Vice President Harris will meet with small business leaders to discuss the Biden agenda and the bipartisan infrastructure bill at 2 p.m.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 2 p.m.
INVITATION TODAY: The Hill’s Virtually Live hosts “Future of Medicare and Oral Health” 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 FergusonGOP beginning to jockey for post-election leadership slots Democrats face growing storm over IRS reporting provision Dental coverage for Medicare recipients divides parties MORE, GOP chief deputy whip, plus other experts. Information is HERE.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Japanese former foreign minister Fumio Kishida, 64, is set to become the country's new prime minister after winning the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership vote on Wednesday. Kishida will become prime minister on Monday following a special parliamentary session, replacing Yoshihide Suga, who decided to step down after a year in power (The Washington Post). … Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said Tuesday in an interview that he plans to hold a referendum to modify the country’s constitution by February, and he hopes to organize presidential and legislative elections early next year (The Associated Press). … The U.S. has reached out to China about cutting back on Beijing’s oil imports from Iran, officials in the United States and Europe said on Tuesday (Reuters).
➔ COURTS: Judge Michael Wachs on Tuesday sentenced Jarrod Ramos, 41, to spend the rest of his life in prison for the 2018 mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper that killed five journalists in Annapolis, Md. The judge sentenced Ramos to five consecutive life sentences plus another for the attempted murder of a shooting survivor and added hundreds more years in prison on other gun and assault charges. Ramos was unsuccessful at trial in claiming an insanity defense (The Washington Post).
And finally … Two items of interest this morning. The first is out of a rational world, and the second is worthy of a Wednesday morning.
The real estate market has been so hot in some parts of the United States that a severely fire-damaged wreck of a house in a Boston suburb recently had an asking price of $399,000. The charred three-bedroom’s advertisement: “House is in need of a complete renovation or potential tear down and rebuild. Buyer to do due diligence. House being sold as is” (The Associated Press).
The Morning Report antidote: a memorable image of a sunset seen from space. We all need this with our coffee.