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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Dems mull nuking filibuster to lift debt cap, but may not have votes

The US Capitol is seen at dusk
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The US Capitol is seen at dusk



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 each morning this week: Monday, 701,170; Tuesday, 703,285; Wednesday, 705,284.

Averting U.S. default this month has become enough of a four-alarm fire that another last-resort procedural option surfaced on Tuesday among Senate Democrats as they resign themselves to the idea that GOP colleagues appear serious when they say they will not vote to approve more Treasury borrowing.


Senate Republicans don’t want a default. But they love the idea of giving their Democratic colleagues serious heartburn.


I think there is this consciousness that we are close to a precipice and things need to change,” one Washington Democrat told NBC News. Republicans today plan to filibuster legislation to lift the debt ceiling.


An option that presents a slippery slope, but could allow Democrats to perform the heavy lifting, would dispense with the 60-vote filibuster in the Senate for the specific purpose of lifting the debt ceiling. It appears unlikely that 50 Democrats, backed by Vice President Harris as a tie breaker, would go for that idea, but an alternative (using a budget reconciliation maneuver) appeared unpredictable and time-consuming, according to President Biden.


Biden on Tuesday night at the White House called the prospect of Democrats turning to a change in filibuster rules to get out of the debt ceiling situation “a real possibility” (CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times). However, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who vote would be necessary, has said he is open to relying on budget reconciliation but not nixing the filibuster to lift the borrowing cap (The Hill). 


After speaking about his agenda in Michigan on Tuesday, the president told reporters Democrats are searching for a solution if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and GOP members balk ahead of an estimated Oct. 18 default deadline and reconciliation is the best problem-solving tool Democrats have.


Biden, an old hand at juggling deal-cutting and crisis deadlines with McConnell, added, They can keep us on the floor for hundreds of amendments. They can just delay this. I don’t think they are going to end up being that irresponsible.”


Global markets and longtime Capitol Hill analysts expect borrowing authority to rise before disaster strikes, because U.S. default has never happened. How the political gamesmanship ends remains a mystery.


The New York Times: What does McConnell want?


The Hill: Senate Democrats float filibuster carveout for debt ceiling.


The Hill: Democrats insist they won’t back down on debt ceiling.


Politico: GOP’s debt limit challenge: “I mean, I’m not going to be a complete asshole about it. But I’m going to make them take some tough votes,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).


The Hill: Democrats look to make debt ceiling a winning issue.


Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, repeated her warning that U.S. default on the nation’s existing obligations would trigger a recession.



Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)



Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers continued to worry about the future of the reconciliation plan on Tuesday as Manchin indicated he is open to a bill in the ballpark of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion, a bit north of the $1.5 trillion he has stuck to for months. 


“I’m not ruling anything out, but the bottom line is I want to make sure that we’re strategic and we do the right job and we don’t basically add more to the concerns we have right now,” Manchin told reporters Tuesday.


As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, the two factions of Democrats are inching closer to a deal on a price tag for the package, but Manchin and centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are still far apart from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others in his sphere. 


Manchin’s remarks also heartened Biden, who has held numerous conversations with the West Virginia centrist in a bid to bring him on board and reach a deal on the bill. 


“Well you heard him on TV today. It sure sounds like he’s moving. I hope that’s the case,” Biden told reporters (CNN).


The Wall Street Journal: Democrats wrangle over how to shrink $3.5 trillion proposal.


The Hill: Biden meets with vulnerable House Democrats with agenda in limbo.


The Washington Post: The expectations game hounds Democrats as they try to deliver their vast agenda.


Abortion is also cropping up in the reconciliation battle as the two sides clash over whether to include the decades-old Hyde amendment that blocks Medicaid from being used to cover abortion costs, a possibility that has drawn the ire of progressives. 


Manchin has said that any package would be “dead on arrival” for him if it excludes the amendment, but others in the party are split over whether to include it in a portion of the spending bill that would create a new federal program to provide health care coverage to low-income individuals in GOP-led states that haven’t adopted Medicaid expansions under the Affordable Care Act, as The Hill’s Aris Folley writes


The Hyde amendment has been included in the annual government funding bills since it was introduced in the 1970s by then-Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). On Tuesday, Biden told reporters after returning from Michigan that he would sign the bill whether the amendment is included or not. 


“I’d sign it either way,” Biden said (The Washington Post). 


Paul Kane, The Washington Post: What Joe Manchin wants, decoded.



President Joe Biden speaks about the bipartisan infrastructure bill and his Build Back Better agenda



More on Capitol Hill: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday during a floor speech said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell “failed” as a leader and should be replaced ahead of the February expiration of his term. The comments prompted the White House to say that Biden continues to have confidence in Powell. Warren has called for a federal investigation of the central bank for possible insider trading (Bloomberg Law). … The Capitol Police removed a man from a suspicious vehicle in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning, saying in a statement that it had “extracted” a man from an SUV parked in front of the building after an hour-long incident. The suspect, identified as Dale Paul Melvin, 55, of Kimball, Mich., was arrested on suspicion of failure to obey and assault on a police officer. Police later in the day said that the suspect previously came to the Capitol complex in August “and made concerning statements” (The Hill).


Facebook’s safety teams protect billions of people every month


We’ve more than quadrupled our safety and security teams to 40,000 in the last 5 years to stop bad actors and remove illicit content. 


It’s working: In just the past few months, we took down 1.7 billion fake accounts & 7.1 million terrorism-related posts.


But our work to reduce harmful and illicit content on our platforms is never done. Learn more about how we’re working to help you connect safely.


CORONAVIRUS: Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday that it has asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve its COVID-19 booster vaccine for emergency use authorization for individuals ages 18 and up. 


In a statement, the pharmaceutical giant said its filing comes after results of a late-stage clinical trial that shows their booster dose, the same as its single-shot vaccine, given 56 days after the first dose provided 94 percent protection against symptomatic COVID-19, and 100 percent protection against severe and critical disease at least 14 days after the second dose.


The news comes amid the U.S.’s effort to dole out booster shots to Americans over the age of 65, who are immunocompromised or who have relevant health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5.7 million people have received a booster dose (The Hill).


However, the news surrounding J&J’s shot is not all positive. A county in Washington state on Tuesday confirmed that a woman died from blood-clotting complications after receiving the company’s vaccine. She is believed to be the fourth person to have died from such a complication (The Hill).


King County said that a female resident in her late 30s had died from the complication, which remains very rare. Overall, nearly 15 million doses of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S.



A vial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine



Elsewhere in the battle against COVID-19, AstraZeneca on Tuesday asked the FDA to issue an emergency use authorization for the company’s antibody treatment, which would be the first of its kind made available. As The Associated Press notes, the treatment would become the first long-acting antibody combination to get a thumbs up from the FDA and would be used on immunocompromised individuals.


“First and foremost we want to protect those vulnerable populations that haven’t been adequately protected by the vaccine,” said Menelas Pangalos, AstraZeneca’s head of research and development. “But ultimately it will be up to health authorities to work out who they choose to immunize.” 


The Wall Street Journal: FDA authorizes another at-home rapid test for COVID-19.


The New York Times: A maker of rapid COVID-19 tests recalls nearly 200,000 kits over concerns of false positives.


POLITICS: Amid Tuesday’s warnings in Washington about the risks of U.S. default were competing political narratives. Democrats favor bigger government to help working people get ahead. Republicans say they won’t help the majority party spend or borrow more than what Uncle Sam brings in.


Each party believes it will profit with voters a year from now, if allowed to stick with selective partisan themes. A new Gallup survey suggests neither party is doing all that well. Both parties are viewed negatively (55 percent unfavorable for Democrats, and 56 percent unfavorable for Republicans).


“Party favorable ratings often provide clues as to how upcoming elections might go and will be an important indicator to watch as the 2022 midterm elections draw near,” Gallup said on Tuesday. “At this point, about a year before those elections, both parties have work to do to improve their images and convince voters to support their candidates for office.”


The political climate, and expectations that Democrats will lose seats in the House and Senate next year, if history is any guide, mean certain races this year become crystal balls.


The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Hanna Trudo describe why November’s gubernatorial contest in Virginia is so important to the White House. If Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeats Republican Glenn Youngkin, Biden will be tempted to view the outcome as part of a national trend. “Virginia is the first high-stakes opportunity to test out the president’s agenda on voters, so the stakes are certainly elevated,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “It goes without saying, the outcome of Virginia is certainly very important to the president.”


In congressional races on Tuesday, Republican Gail Huff Brown, wife of former ambassador and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), announced she is running for a House seat in New Hampshire (The Hill).



Maquettes of donkeys and elephants, symbols of the Democratic and Republican Party


The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 


Countering domestic terrorism will require rethinking U.S. intelligence strategy, by Brian Michael Jenkins, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Are vaccine mandates un-American? Ask the father of our country, by Edward C. Halperin, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House meets at 10 a.m. Friday for a pro forma session. The full House is out until Oct. 19.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Sarah A.L. Merriam to be a U.S. district judge for the District of Connecticut.


The president and Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will have lunch with the vice president. Biden at 1 p.m. will host a meeting with business leaders and CEOs about the debt limit.  


The vice president at 2:30 p.m. will meet with the Council of Presidents of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. 


Second gentleman Doug Emhoff today travels to Detroit to speak tonight at a naturalization ceremony hosted at halftime of the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs NBA game.


The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. The administration’s coronavirus response team will update journalists at 3 p.m.


INVITATION: The Hill’s Virtually Live event TODAY is “Changing the Odds: The Hill’s Cancer Summit” at 1 p.m. (information HERE).


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


Facebook’s industry-leading investments are stopping bad actors


We’ve invested $13 billion in teams and technology over the last 5 years to enhance safety.


It’s working: In just the past few months, we took down 1.7 billion fake accounts to stop bad actors from doing harm.

But there’s more to do. Learn more about how we’re working to help you connect safely.


INTERNATIONAL: Biden said on Tuesday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to abide by the status quo in light of recent military provocations carried out by China against the self-governing island. “I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree we will abide by the Taiwan agreement. That’s where we are and I made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement,” Biden told reporters, referring to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 (The Hill). … White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is scheduled to meet today in Zurich with Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi as the two largest global economies continue to differ on a host of prominent international security and economic issues (The Associated Press). 


➔ FACEBOOK: In Senate testimony on Tuesday, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen said the company puts “profits over people,” hurts children and fuels division (The Hill, The Associated Press and The New York Times). … The Hill recaps the big takeaways from Haugen’s testimony. … Separately, the social media behemoth said the lengthy Facebook outages that occurred on Monday, including Instagram and WhatsApp, were caused by a “faulty configuration change” (Reuters).



Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies



HOME OWNERSHIP: The U.S. housing market is so out of whack that in many of the nation’s largest cities it’s now cheaper to continue renting than it is to buy a starter home. The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports on what the housing trend means for a generation that’s just getting ready to begin building wealth, and a national shortage of affordable housing.


And finally …  Less than six degrees of separation on Tuesday stood between Nobel Prize winners and a sobering new federal report about the extent of damage to corals because of climate change. 


Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi, who won the 2021 Nobel Prize in physics, “demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation,” the Stockholm prize committee announced.


Manabe, who once worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), developed a computer model in 1967 that confirmed the critical connection between carbon dioxide and warming in the atmosphere. His later models, which explored connections between conditions in the ocean and atmosphere, were crucial to recognizing how increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet could affect ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “He has contributed fundamentally to our understanding of human-caused climate change and dynamical mechanisms,” Mann said (The New York Times).


Among evidence that rising ocean temperatures and climate change impact the planet is the visible destruction of coral reefs that support ocean life, fishing and tourism. In the largest analysis of worldwide coral reef health since 2008, NOAA and its partners reported on Tuesday that rising temperatures resulted in 14 percent loss of corals — damage that scientists believe can recover “if immediate steps are taken to curb future ocean warming.”  


More Nobel Prize news this morning: Benjamin List and David MacMillan won the 2021 Nobel Prize in chemistry “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.” 



Fish swimming through the coral on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.


Tags Bernie Sanders Doug Emhoff Elizabeth Warren Jake Sullivan Janet Yellen Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell

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