The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Alibaba – To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 688,033; Tuesday, 690,434; Wednesday, 693,055; Thursday, 695,116.
To vote or not to vote? That is the question surrounding Capitol Hill as House Democratic leaders weigh whether to do so on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill despite continued warnings from progressives that it will fail.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Wednesday evening that she still expects to hold a vote on the bipartisan offering today.
“That’s the plan,” she said.
However, all indications point to the contrary, according to The Hill’s Mike Lillis, Cristina Marcos and Scott Wong, with progressives still in a war of words with centrist lawmakers over the cornerstone of President Biden’s agenda: the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.
Pelosi has vowed to hold the vote, having already delayed it once, but could find herself in between two sides of the party in open revolt against each other. If progressives tank tomorrow’s vote or it doesn’t even take place (because the votes aren’t there), centrist members are already promising to do a number on the reconciliation bill.
“Obviously, our group will have a lot of trouble with that,” said centrist Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas). “And it will be catastrophic.”
The Wall Street Journal: Infrastructure bill in peril as Democrats strain to unite party.
The Associated Press: Democrats divided: Progressives, centrists say trust is gone.
Progressives have signaled that they would vote for the bipartisan bill if there was an agreement reached between Biden and centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on the top-line total of the reconciliation bill. However, none of that came to be, with Sinema meeting with officials at the White House for a second consecutive day.
However, it was Manchin who made waves on Wednesday, saying in a lengthy statement that aimed directly at his progressive naysayers that he views trillions in spending to be “fiscal insanity,” adding that he could back a reconciliation bill at some point this year (The Hill).
“What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity,” Manchin said. “I cannot – and will not – support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces” (The Hill).
However, the leading centrist figure laid out precious few new specifics on what he would support. His hesitancy continues to stand between Democrats and a deal, and has left his colleagues on Capitol Hill at a loss.
“Now is time, I would say for both senators, make your mark and close the deal. What is it that you want? What is your final goal?” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told CNN. “It’s time to stop talking around it and speak directly to it.”
Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Manchin, Sinema, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) fight proxy war in the House.
The Associated Press: Biden can’t budge fellow Democrats with big overhaul at stake.
The Washington Post: Democrats promised to slash drug prices. Now internal clashes are standing in the way.
The Hill: The latest whip list on how Democrats and Republicans say they’ll vote on the infrastructure measure.
Shortly after his comments, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, predicted that his remarks would only harden opposition to a vote on the bipartisan proposal.
“His statement has just probably created at least a bunch more votes on the House floor against a bipartisan bill,” Jayapal said (CNN).
Politico: Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) toil to ease cross-Capitol rifts over Biden agenda.
The Hill: Senate parliamentarian rules out Democrats’ immigration Plan B.
The Wall Street Journal: House Republicans confront dilemma on infrastructure vote.
The Hill: Lawmakers eyeing possible short-term extension of transportation programs.
Meanwhile, there is good news emanating out of the halls of the Capitol as lawmakers are likely to pass a stop-gap funding bill that will avert a government shutdown. Schumer on Wednesday night teed up a vote on the short-term spending proposal for later today (The Hill). The House is expected to take action shortly before the midnight deadline. The bill would keep the government’s lights on through Dec. 3 (Politico).
With that set to be resolved, the same cannot be said for the debt ceiling and how lawmakers will reach an accord to raise it in the coming weeks. As The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports, Democrats are not all on the same page, and they want the vote on the nation’s borrowing authority to be bipartisan, with Schumer reiterating once again that raising the debt ceiling will not happen as part of the reconciliation bill.
Delinking a debt ceiling increase from government funding also leaves the majority party with minimal options beyond going it alone if their GOP colleagues hold true and vote “no.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has predicted that lawmakers have until Oct. 18 to raise the debt ceiling or risk a credit default.
The Hill: Pelosi rules out raising the debt limit through reconciliation.
The Hill: Pelosi: “No patience” for Democratic debt ceiling holdouts.
More in Congress: The congressional panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol on Wednesday subpoenaed 11 people tied to the Women for America First rally at which former President Trump spoke on Jan. 6, including a former Trump spokeswoman for his 2016 campaign and a niece of former acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney (The Hill). … Senators will grill Facebook today over the platform’s impact on children. They’ll question the company’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, and next week hear from a Facebook whistleblower (The Hill). … House Republicans eked out a rare 13-12 victory over their Democratic counterparts in the Congressional Baseball Game on Thursday night (The Hill). Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) grabbed the headlines by belting the first out-of-the-park in more than 40 years (C-SPAN’s Howard Mortman provides the footage). As The Washington Post’s Paul Kane notes, the game’s timing could not come at a worse time as lawmakers are on the verge of whiffing on multiple key deadlines, including the debt ceiling. Biden also made an appearance at the game and handed out Dove ice cream bars featuring packaging with the presidential seal (Bloomberg News).
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: There is no consensus among health experts about whether the U.S. is truly turning a corner to move beyond pandemic existence, reports The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel. The delta surge of COVID-19 infections is slowing and some scientists and public health experts predict the U.S. could be on the downslope, even as the number of deaths and hospitalizations remain heartbreaking. There is always a “but,” and the caveats persist that vaccination rates remain low in some states and post-holiday seasonal surges of infections are a potential risk, according to some analysts. As of Wednesday, the seven-day average of U.S. COVID-19 cases dropped by 51,000 in the past 17 days. Progress (The Washington Post).
> Myths and misinformation: To combat medical fictions and conspiracy theories on its platform, YouTube announced on Wednesday it has banned accounts of several prominent anti-vaccine activists, including those of osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In a blog post, YouTube said it would remove videos claiming that vaccines do not reduce rates of transmission or contraction of disease, and content that includes misinformation about the makeup of the vaccines. Claims that approved vaccines cause autism, cancer or infertility, or that the vaccines contain hidden trackers, will also be removed (The New York Times).
Russia on Wednesday threatened to block YouTube after the company removed Russian state-backed broadcaster RT’s German-language channels from its site, arguing the channels peddle pandemic misinformation. The Kremlin said it will employ “retaliatory measures” against YouTube, which it accused of “unprecedented information aggression” (Reuters). … WTOP national security correspondent J.J. Green unpacks how Moscow worked in several instances to disseminate false information about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine using social media influencers and third parties, by dangling payment.
Washingtonian with an interesting photo: The social media team in the Biden White House has “recruited” oddballs (Dude with Sign, aka Seth Phillips) and other influencers to get its own pandemic message out there.
> Pregnant women safe to get vaccinated: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday issued a health advisory to try to increase COVID-19 vaccinations among women who are pregnant, recently pregnant or trying to become pregnant, to prevent serious illness and death. The CDC said its data show the majority of pregnant individuals remain unvaccinated, although more pregnant women are slowly getting coronavirus shots. The health agency said in August that pregnant women should be vaccinated against COVID-19, based on a new analysis that did not find an increased risk for miscarriage (Reuters).
> Pills, jabs, trials: Merck presented a study during a medical conference Wednesday showing that its experimental COVID-19 antiviral pill is active against variants of the virus that trigger illness. The Merck product, known as molnupiravir, is one of several antiviral pills under development to treat and even prevent infection with the coronavirus. Executives from Merck and Pfizer have said they plan to file for U.S. emergency-use authorization soon (Barrons). … AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is 74 percent effective in a large U.S. clinical trial, increasing to 83.5 percent effectiveness in warding off serious disease in people 65 and older, the company reported on Wednesday (Reuters).
> COVID-19 vaccine employee requirements and courts: More than 180 Minnesota health care workers sued their employers this week to try to block compulsory COVID-19 vaccines at hospitals. The Star Tribune reported that on Monday, employees filed a federal lawsuit against an estimated 20 facilities across Minnesota, arguing that vaccine requirements violate individual religious freedom and employment rights. The suit attributes the mandates to policies announced by the federal government (The Washington Post).
> NBA players who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in violation of team requirements and as a result miss games will forfeit compensation (ESPN). For players with multi million-dollar contracts, an anti-vaccine stance could cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars per game. Axios points out that San Francisco and New York — where the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are based — have vaccine mandates in place that require players to be vaccinated before playing in their home arena. Players on those teams who are not vaccinated could miss up to 41 home games next season. Monetary and PR penalties associated with not playing and forfeiting millions of dollars would be significant.
Because of COVID-19, winter Olympics that begin in February in China will be tightly restricted for athletes and spectators. Organizers describe plans for a “closed loop” for the duration of the competition (The New York Times).
ADMINISTRATION: Companies should face tougher penalties for killing migratory birds, according to a new federal rule that officially reverses a less stringent interpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, favored by the Trump administration (The Hill and The Washington Post).
And speaking of birds, the government on Wednesday also announced that the beautiful ivory-billed woodpecker and 22 other species are officially extinct in the United States (The Associated Press). Factors behind the disappearances vary — too much development, water pollution, logging, competition from invasive species, birds killed for feathers and animals captured by private collectors. In each case, humans were the ultimate cause.
In March, CBS “Sunday Morning” broadcast a report filmed in an Arkansas swamp about a feathery ghost story tied to the ivory-billed woodpecker, spotted there many years before. The finality of “extinct” species winds up being “an educated guess,” CBS reported.
> VEEP: Is the public’s estimation of Vice President Harris improving? Some allies think so (The Hill).
> Afghanistan, the sequel: Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday continued to respond to tough Capitol Hill questioning, this time during House testimony about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pentagon officials revealed the Taliban offered the United States a chance to secure the entire city of Kabul while exiting the country; Milley said he knew six years ago that the war in Afghanistan was “stalemated”; and the Pentagon knew within a short period that a U.S. drone strike that killed civilians, including seven children, in Kabul in August did not involve ISIS fighters. The Pentagon, however, did not concede the extent of its grisly mistake for weeks. It was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s second day of lawmaker questioning during which he defended himself, his advice to the president and Biden’s decision to pull all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31 (The Hill).
The Associated Press: The rapid collapse of the Afghan government was rooted in the 2020 U.S. deal with the Taliban crafted by the Trump administration, followed by Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces by a date certain, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, testified on Wednesday.
Niall Stanage, The Memo: Testimony on U.S. Afghanistan withdrawal hurts Biden’s credibility.
> Immigration: The rise of desperate refugees and population migrations tied to natural disasters and environmental pressures require more U.S. planning, according to experts and advocates. Sophisticated preparations for immigration are missing from the Biden administration’s climate change viewfinder (The Hill). … The administration on Wednesday said it would craft a new memo rescinding Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” migrant policy, an effort to respond to a court decision ordering the Biden team to reinstate the Trump program, which sent an estimated 70,000 migrants trying to enter the United States from across the globe to often squalid refugee camps located in Mexican border cities to await U.S. asylum court proceedings (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Corey Lewandowski, the longtime aide and adviser to former President Trump, was booted from the former president’s orbit on Wednesday after a Trump donor said that he made unwanted sexual advances during a dinner in Las Vegas on Sunday.
“Corey Lewandowski will be going on to other endeavors and we very much want to thank him for his service. He will no longer be associated with Trump World,” Taylor Budowich, a Trump spokesperson, told The New York Times. He added that former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi will take over atop Make America Great Again Action, a Trump-aligned super PAC.
Earlier in the day, Thrashelle Odom accused Lewandowski of unwanted advances and touching her inappropriately repeatedly during the dinner, which was part of a charity event.
“He repeatedly touched me inappropriately, said vile and disgusting things to me, stalked me, and made me feel violated and fearful,” Odom said in a statement. “I am coming forward because he needs to be held accountable.”
This is Lewandowski’s second ouster from Trump’s orbit, having been fired as Trump’s campaign manager in June 2016 before being brought back into the fold shortly after as an outsider adviser.
> DNC, part deux?: Milwaukee has made its intentions known: It wants a convention do-over.
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020 Democratic National Convention to be held virtually, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) wrote a letter to Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison to say that the city is prepared to host the 2024 edition of the quadrennial confab.
“Our response is an enthusiastic YES,” Barrett said in his letter. “We navigated that complicated path leading up to the 2020 Democratic National Convention. While interrupted by a pandemic, Milwaukee was ready to put on a great event. And, we are set to do it again.”
According to Wisconsin Public Radio, the 2020 convention was expected to bring 50,000 people to Milwaukee along with a $200 million economic impact on the city (The Hill).
> Abortion politics: Republican candidates across the map are making overt appeals to the party’s anti-abortion voter base ahead of the 2022 midterms by lurching further to the right on the deeply controversial issue than their primary competitors.
As The Hill’s Julia Manchester details, former Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the top gubernatorial candidate, voiced his support for the near-total ban on abortion in Texas as he announced his candidacy. In Ohio, three Republican Senate candidates have very publicly thrown their support behind so-called heartbeat legislation, while New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), a potential Senate candidate, is under fire from Democrats for signing a state budget that included a ban on the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy and mandatory ultrasounds before abortions take place.
Despite facing backlash from Democrats on the issue, conservatives argue that the shift is essential for winning a Republican primary.
The New York Times: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) aims to raise $25 million as likely rivals eye challenges.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Failure isn’t an option, Democrats, by Dana Milbank, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3me5yac
Moment of truth for the moderates, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3zTjWJX
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House convenes at 10 a.m. Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will speak to reporters at 11:30 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act.
The president and Harris receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on filings for jobless claims in the week ending Sept. 25.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: In France, former President Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted on Thursday of illegal campaign financing of his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid. Sarkozy has denied the charges and can appeal. Prosecutors requested a six-month prison term, as well as a six-month suspended sentence and a fine in Euros equal to $4,354 (The Associated Press).
➔ SUPREME COURT: Robes and a hushed courtroom are back: Justices begin their new term on Monday and the lineup of contentious cases is extensive, including fights over abortion and guns. Hundreds of cases have piled up over the summer awaiting the justices’ review, and they are expected to add to the court’s docket in the days ahead. Monday will be the first time in more than a year and a half during the pandemic that the justices will hear arguments in person rather than by telephone (The Associated Press).
➔ GOING REALLY GREEN?: Gourmet greens that garnish high-end restaurant plates may have the potential to improve global nutritional security, according to a new study. Tiny yet mighty “microgreens” can thrive in a number of soil-less production systems in small indoor spaces, with or without artificial light (The Hill). … Rolls-Royce announced on Wednesday that it will produce only electric cars by 2030, adding that its first fully electric-powered car will be on the market in the fourth quarter of 2023 (The Hill). “By , Rolls-Royce will no longer be in the business of producing or selling any internal combustion engine products,” CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos said in a statement. The company’s luxury vehicles are known as petrol guzzlers, averaging about 14 miles per gallon.
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Washington headlines in recent days showcased a lively assortment of political barbs and brickbats, inspiring our hunt for smart trivia guesses about name calling.
Email your responses 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.
Which candidate accused a political opponent during a televised event on Tuesday of being “bought and paid for by Donald Trump”?
- Wyoming’s Liz Cheney
- Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe
- Illinois’s Adam Kinzinger
- Georgia’s Brian Kemp
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told which witness during a Senate hearing on Tuesday that he is “a dangerous man” who should not keep his job?
- Mark Milley
- Anthony Fauci
- Wayne LaPierre
- Jerome Powell
Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham apparently believes revenge is a dish best served cold. In her soon-to-be-published book about her experiences at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., whom does she reportedly knock as “the Slim Reaper”?
- Stephen Miller
- Jared Kushner
- Kayleigh McEnany
- Melania Trump
In the just-released book, “Peril,” by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, which senator is quoted in conversation with a colleague as dismissing Trump as “a fading brand. Retired. OTTB as they say in Kentucky — off-the-track Thoroughbred.”
- Rand Paul
- Lindsey Graham
- Cory Booker
- Mitch McConnell