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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit

Sen. Mitch McConnell
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Sen. Mitch McConnell

 

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths each morning this week: Monday, 701,170; Tuesday, 703,285; Wednesday, 705,284; Thursday, 707,788; Friday, 710,178.

The Senate on Thursday approved a short-term debt ceiling increase, setting the stage for the House to do so next week and allow the U.S. not to default on its bills for the first time in history.  

Eleven Senate Republicans joined all Senate Democrats to break a filibuster and extend the debt limit through Dec. 3, bringing a temporary end to weeks of contentious moments. The final vote on the debt ceiling extension passed, 50-48. 

The deal, offered on Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (seen above), increases the debt limit by $480 billion. It came after months of warnings by the GOP leader that Republicans would not vote for an extension and for Democrats to pass it on their own via reconciliation.  

“This is a temporary, but necessary and important fix. I appreciate at the end of the day that we were able to raise the debt limit without a convoluted and unnecessary reconciliation process that, until today, the Republican leader claimed was the only way to address the debt limit,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) (pictured below) said on the Senate floor following the cloture vote.  

“Today’s vote is proof positive that the debt limit can be addressed without going through the reconciliation process just as Democrats have been saying for months,” Schumer added. 

The Democratic leader’s floor remarks rankled multiple senators, including John Thune (R-S.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who was visibly dismayed midway through the speech. The West Virginia Democrat told reporters afterwards that he didn’t think Schumer’s comments were “appropriate at this time.” 

“I’m sure Chuck’s frustration was up, but that was not a way of taking it out,” Manchin said (The Hill). 

The New York Times: Senate approves bill to raise debt ceiling and avert default, for now. 

The Washington Post: Why the Senate blinked and moved back from the brink of a federal default crisis. 

Axios: No one likes the debt deal. 

The group of 11 Senate Republicans was largely cobbled together by members of GOP leadership, allies of leadership, retiring members and moderates.  

The list of “aye” votes: Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Thune and McConnell (The Hill). 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that Thursday’s passage represented “welcome steps,” adding that President Biden plans to sign it. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced late Thursday that the lower chamber will return from its two-week recess to vote on the debt ceiling increase on Tuesday night (The Hill).  

However, the vote did not come without consternation on the GOP side. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, the procedural vote sparked a major fight in the Senate GOP conference late Thursday afternoon that left Senate Republican leaders uncertain that they would have the needed 10 votes to clear the requisite 60 vote threshold on the Senate floor.  

McConnell and Thune acknowledged to GOP colleagues during a 90-minute closed-door meeting hours before the cloture vote that they did not yet have the 10 “yes” votes needed and asked colleagues for help. One Republican called the meeting “very contentious” and described “widespread frustration” in the room. 

Thursday’s vote puts the debt ceiling issue on the back burner for now, but that fight will come right back around the corner in either December or January, and will likely be separate from the one to extend government funding before Christmas. 

Politico: Senate advances short-term debt limit hike after GOP scramble. 

The Associated Press: Default crisis dodged — for now.  

The Wall Street Journal: Stocks rise after debt-limit extension deal. 

Part of McConnell’s calculus in offering the two-month debt limit extension was to give some relief to Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have been under heavy pressure in recent days to support a carve-out in the filibuster to extend the debt ceiling. The move had been gaining momentum within the Senate Democratic ranks as they struggled to come up with a way to raise the nation’s borrowing limit without GOP support. 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, McConnell, according to other GOP senators, noted that the off ramp he was offering could be beneficial to the pair of centrist Democrats.  

“He said, ‘I think I’ve come up with a solution that could work and that I think Joe and Kyrsten will allow,’” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). 

The Associated Press: Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), interviewed on Thursday, says she pushed Biden to keep a spending bill closer to $3 trillion than $2 trillion as her party discusses downsizing the size and scope of the measure. In a similar interview with CBS News, she said progressives do not have a “red line” in mind for a bill. 

 

Sen. Chuck Schumer

 

 

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LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: A new Senate interim report on Thursday asserts through witnesses and documents that former President Trump made an all-out effort to undo November’s presidential election results with help from senior Justice Department officials. The account from Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats is another in a series of evidentiary findings about the lengths to which the former president and his allies were willing to go to try to overturn a democratically held election in which no evidence of fraud has been uncovered in multiple states, despite GOP searches. The pressure campaign by Trump, which continued into January, included a draft brief the White House wanted the Justice Department to file with the Supreme Court to overturn the election results. The department refused to file the document, which the Senate report describes as raising a “litany of false and debunked claims” (The Associated Press).  

Trump reportedly gathered DOJ leaders in the Oval Office on Jan. 3 to discuss his plan to fire acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and install a loyalist, Jeffrey Clark, to help him contest the election. Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others threatened to quit if Trump went through with his plan (The New York Times).

The report is another in a series of articles, books and official probes of Trump’s behavior, threats and complaints, abetted by supporters inside the government as well as outside, described as steeped in falsehoods and edging toward a coup. On Thursday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who serves as Judiciary Committee chairman, called the findings “alarming.” He asked the Washington, D.C., Bar association to consider punishing Clark, former assistant attorney general, because of findings that he tried to use the department to subvert the 2020 election. 

The Hill: Five takeaways from the Senate Judiciary report outlining Trump’s efforts to overturn election results.  

Trump will invoke executive privilege in the congressional investigation of Jan. 6 events in Washington, according to his lawyers, a move that could delay or prevent the testimony of former aides subpoenaed to furnish documents and testimony (The Associated Press). Executive privilege is intended to protect presidential communications and deliberations, but the shield historically has covered former executive branch officials who held their positions when the communications occurred.  

The Jan. 6 select committee last month issued subpoenas to Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff; Dan Scavino, the former deputy chief of staff for communications; Kashyap Patel, a former Defense Department official; and Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser.

The committee on Thursday issued additional subpoenas with a focus on those who helped organize pro-Trump rallies on the day the Capitol was attacked (The Hill). Lawmakers want to question Ali Alexander (who said he got help to plan a Stop the Steal rally from three members of Congress); organizer Nathan Martin; and the group Stop the Steal LLC. “The Select Committee needs to understand all the details about the events that came before the attack, including who was involved in planning and funding them. We expect these witnesses to cooperate fully with our probe,” the select committee said.

CBS News: Committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) maintains that executive privilege protects the communications and deliberations of presidents, not former presidents. She says that House investigators examining the events tied to Jan. 6 are “going to use all the tools available to the U.S. Congress, up to and including a referral for criminal prosecution.”

 

Former President Trump

 

The Hill: Democratic political strategists and analysts say Trump’s appeal to a base of GOP voters remains potent, should he run again in three years, as many expect he will, regardless of continued lawsuits, federal and state investigations and controversies surrounding his decisions while in the Trump Organization and in government.  

Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo that Senate Judiciary Committee details leave little reasonable doubt that Trump tried to subvert the democratic election process in a way that could have plunged the United States into a constitutional crisis. His fan base shrugs

More in politics: School mandates and parents’ rights are now a focus of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin’s campaign ahead of the November election (The Hill). Virginia candidate Winsome Sears, nominee for lieutenant governor, declined to say if she is vaccinated against COVID-19, arguing she protects individual “choice” while not commenting. “I want to hold certain things close,” she told CNN (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS: Biden on Thursday issued an aggressive defense of his calls for vaccination requirements, arguing that they are an effective tool to end the pandemic and have become a necessity.

There is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of the American people vaccinated,” Biden said in suburban Chicago on Thursday at an event to promote the federal, state and private-sector mandates. “While I didn’t race to do it right away, that’s why I’ve had to move toward requirements.”

“These requirements work. And as the Business Roundtable and others told me when I announced the first requirement, that encouraged businesses to feel they could come in and demand the same thing of their employees,” Biden continued. “More people are getting vaccinated. More lives are being saved.” 

Within weeks, more than 100 million Americans will be subject to vaccine requirements ordered by the president. And his administration is encouraging employers to take additional steps voluntarily that would make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory or subject workers to weekly testing requirements (The Associated Press).

Chicago was picked as the location for the president’s speech in part because it is the home of United Airlines, one of the first major carriers to require shots for its 67,000 U.S. employees. Other airlines have followed with similar requirements, including American Airlines, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines, with some instituting their own mandates. Others have done so due to a vaccine mandate for federal contractors (The New York Times).

> As expected, Pfizer BioNTech on Thursday asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow the company to administer its coronavirus vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, a major step that would give the vast majority of school-aged children the opportunity to be protected against the virus. An independent panel is set to debate the evidence on Oct. 26. Children in this age group would get a third of the dose currently given to people 12 and older. The rollout could begin before Thanksgiving, a White House official said (The New York Times). 

Experts agree that vaccinating children as soon as possible is key to moving past the pandemic, and while a green light is anticipated, regulators are likely to closely examine the potential for serious side effects such as myocarditis, and whether a single dose may be more appropriate than two (The Hill). 

A recent poll found that more parents are willing to get their children vaccinated, considered an essential trust threshold (The New York Times).

 

Kids in a classroom

 

The effort to vaccinate children comes amid a downturn in cases across the U.S. According to the latest seven-day average, the U.S. is averaging less than 100,000 cases per day and 75,000 individuals hospitalized for the first time in two months, with deaths dropping to roughly 1,800 per day (The New York Times). 

No matter, health experts remain worried that another surge could be in the offing as roughly 68 million Americans have not yet gotten vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 76.2 percent of those ages 12 and up have received at least one dose and 65.8 percent in that age group are fully vaccinated. 

The New York Times: With masks on or off, schools try to find the new normal.

> Moderna says it will build a vaccine factory in Africa. The news got a mixed reception; it does not answer calls from African leaders and activists to waive patent laws that would give more drugmakers access to details on how coronavirus vaccines are produced. It also does not address the continent’s immediate COVID-19 vaccine shortages (The New York Times).

OPINION

Progressives hold the capital captive, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3uTwVKT

Who will take Merck’s new COVID-19 pills? by Sam Fazeli and Max Nison, opinion contributors, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3083KZ6

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session.

The Senate convenes at 11:30 a.m. for a pro forma session.  

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden at 10 a.m. in the Oval Office will sign into law the HAVANA Act of 2021 the K-12 Cybersecurity Act of 2021. The president at 11:30 a.m. will deliver remarks about U.S. employment in September and the health of the economy. Biden at 1:45 p.m. will speak about his decision to preserve and expand federal monuments land in Utah and the administration’s related environmental policies. He will receive his weekly economic briefing in the Oval Office at 2:30 p.m. He departs the White House at 6:15 p.m. to spend the weekend in Wilmington, Del. 

The vice president travels to Montclair and Newark, N.J., to promote COVID-19 vaccines and proposed benefits for children included in the pending Biden-Harris social policy bill (NJ.com). 

Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. releases the September employment report. 

The White House press briefing is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. 

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

 

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ELSEWHERE

INTERNATIONAL: Dissident journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize today “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression” in the Philippines and Russia (NBC News). … A U.S. special operations unit and Marines have been deployed in Taiwan for secret training assignments for more than a year as U.S. concerns about rising aggression from China continue to mount (The Wall Street Journal). … CIA Director William Burns said on Thursday he formed a China-focused unit inside the agency to recruit spies and gain intelligence aimed at Beijing. The name: China Mission Center (The Wall Street Journal). 

UTAH MONUMENTS: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante federal monuments in Utah are back to an expanse approved initially by Democratic presidents, after being downsized by Trump and now restored (actually, Bear Ears is to be slightly enlarged) by Biden’s Interior Department. Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) each expressed disapproval on Thursday (The Associated Press). 

ALLEGED FRAUD: Eighteen former NBA players were charged in a $4 million scheme spanning 2017 to 2020 to defraud the league’s health, dental and wellness insurance plan using false claims and false invoices. By Thursday morning, 16 defendants were in custody in a case filed in Manhattan federal court. Prosecutors allege the scheme was initiated by Terrence Williams, who began his career as a first-round NBA draft pick in 2009. Williams through his lawyer declined comment (The Associated Press). 

➔ COLD CASE SOLVED?: The FBI said on Thursday that the case of the Zodiac Killer shootings and stabbings of the late 1960s in California remains open despite claims from a group of specialists who believe they have identified the killer. “The Zodiac Killer case remains open. We have no new information to share,” the FBI’s San Francisco office told The Hill in a statement. Dubbed the Case Breakers, the group of specialists said a day earlier that they believe the identity of the Zodiac Killer is Gary Poste, a man who died three years ago (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

And finally … A lengthy standing ovation for this week’s Morning Report Quiz masters, who knew all about the latest Bay Area and Silicon Valley happenings that seemed to dominate U.S. headlines this week. 

Toasting these quiz champs: Pam Manges, Amanda Fisher, Mary Anne McEnery, Lou Tisler, Patrick Kavanagh, Ki Harvey, Terry Pflaumer, Jack Barshay, Phil Grimes, Luther Berg, Sandy Walters, John Donato and Lesa Davis. 

They knew that the hours-long blackout of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp earlier this week was caused by configuration changes on routers (allegedly).

This week, the Elizabeth Holmes trial featured high-stakes testimony by Theranos’s former lab director, which made waves. 

Having won 107 games this season (the most in Major League Baseball), the San Francisco Giants took home the National League West Division title for the first time since 2012. 

Finally, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg saw his net worth drop by roughly $7 billion following the company’s platform outages and damaging revelations to Congress and the news media by a whistleblower. 

 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Tags Biden agenda Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer COVID-19 debt ceiling Debt limit Dick Durbin Donald Trump Facebook Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Barrasso John Cornyn John Thune Kevin Cramer Kyrsten Sinema Lisa Murkowski Mark Meadows Mark Zuckerberg Mike Rounds Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Morning Report Pramila Jayapal Reconciliation Richard Shelby Rob Portman Roy Blunt Senate Shelley Moore Capito Steny Hoyer Steve Bannon Susan Collins Vaccine William Burns Zoe Lofgren

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