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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 as of each morning this week: Monday, 713,350; Tuesday, 714,060; Wednesday, 716,479.
The White House, reacting on Tuesday to actions in Texas and Florida to block vaccine mandates affecting workers in those states, accused Republican Govs. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottVicente Gonzalez to run in different Texas district after Abbott signs new map Abbott signs sports bill targeting transgender students in Texas Abbott signs new Texas congressional maps into law MORE of Texas and Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida school district to relax mask mandate for high school students Miami Herald: DeSantis descending into 'anti-vaxx Crazyville' Trump-endorsed candidate leading GOP field to replace Crist in Florida: poll MORE of Florida of using the coronavirus as campaign fodder by spurning a tool that can save lives (The Hill).
“Gov. Abbott's executive order banning vaccine mandates — and I would also note the announcement by Gov. DeSantis this morning essentially banning the implementation of mandates — fit a familiar pattern that we've seen of putting politics ahead of public health,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Altria — FDA advisers endorse Pfizer vaccine for kids The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - White House to host lawmakers as negotiations over agenda hit critical stage MORE (seen below) told reporters.
Abbott opened a new front in the vaccine mandate wars on Monday night with an executive order banning such requirements by any “entity in Texas,” including private businesses. Abbott said the Biden administration is "bullying" businesses with a pending federal rule to require employers with more than 100 workers to compel employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, with some wiggle room for a testing alternative (The Hill).
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in a statement. Earlier this year, Abbott barred entities receiving government funding from requiring workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus (Austin American-Statesman).
Opposition to employer vaccine mandates was anticipated by the White House. It has been more than a month since President BidenJoe BidenBiden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day Business lobby calls for administration to 'pump the brakes' on vaccine mandate Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Afghanistan reckoning shows no signs of stopping MORE delivered a forceful speech blaming the unvaccinated for needlessly prolonging a U.S. public health crisis. He said the Department of Labor would regulate worker safety with a rule requiring large companies to compel employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The rule has not yet been published, and the administration has nudged states and large companies nationwide to act on their own in the interim. The administration expects a federal mandate covering private sector employees to be challenged in the courts.
In the meantime, public entities, such as state school systems, the U.S. military, public hospitals and police departments, have discovered that deadlines by which employees must fulfill mandated COVID-19 inoculations are a challenge. The Los Angeles school system on Tuesday extended its deadline for employees (Los Angeles Times). U.S. military branches have staggered their deadlines, some into June, and find the strongest resistance to vaccination crops up among reserves and the National Guard, both considered essential to readiness (The Washington Post).
Hospitals and nursing facilities, already coping with worker shortages, worry that nurses and health care aides will strike or quit rather than get vaccinated, even in states such as Oregon and California, where voluntary vaccination rates in the general population are high (Newsweek and Los Angeles Times). The Northern District Court of New York on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction for all health care workers, granting a request to stop the state from enforcing the policy for those who claim a religion-based objection to the state’s vaccine mandate (ABC7NY).
NPR: Judging “sincerely held” religious beliefs as exemptions for vaccine mandates is tricky for employers.
The Hill: More than 100,000 workers threaten strikes as unions flex muscles.
Surveys of workers reveal threats to quit, but research suggests unvaccinated employees often do not follow through, reports NPR. Those officials and corporate leaders who support vaccine mandates have looked at research that indicates the results go the other way: Employees want to keep their jobs and opt to fulfill corporate requirements.
Fierce Healthcare is working to anecdotally tally resignations by employees in health care settings specifically prompted by objections to vaccination requirements rather than a menu of other complaints, such as low wages, workplace stress, too little time off and staff shortages.
KPTV: One Missouri hospital CEO worries that he will lose more staff members because of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. He says staff turnover is already tough and he believes mandates don’t work as intended.
Detroit Free Press: Four hundred workers walked off the job at Henry Ford Health System rather than take a required COVID-19 vaccine, the hospital system said on Tuesday.
Newsweek: More than 100 employees quit their jobs at a major Indiana hospital system, administrators said last week.
The Hill: On the flip side of resistance to vaccines, thousands of Americans outside the country say they are clamoring to get access to approved COVID-19 shots. Americans living and working abroad continue to seek U.S. government and congressional help to obtain vaccine doses authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.
CBS SF: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced the launch of a pilot testing program at the San Francisco International Airport to identify new coronavirus variants coming into or circulating in the country.
For the fully vaccinated, the United States today will announce it is reopening land borders to Mexico and Canada to nonessential, legal travelers beginning next month, ending a 19-month freeze policy adopted during the pandemic (The Associated Press).
Altria’s companies are leading the way in moving adult smokers away from cigarettes – by taking action to transition millions towards potentially less harmful choices. Learn how at Altria.com.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: The House on Tuesday put a temporary end to a possible default on the national debt as it green lighted an increase of the U.S.’s borrowing authority through December.
Lawmakers voted along party lines to raise the debt ceiling, 219-206, by advancing a rule for other bills that also deemed the Senate-amended debt limit bill passed. In total, the legislation raises the ceiling by $480 billion, giving members breathing room at least through Dec. 3 for a longer-term resolution (The Hill).
Biden is expected to sign the bill in the near future. Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenElon Musk rips Democrats' billionaire tax plan Billionaire tax gains momentum The No Surprises Act: a bill long overdue MORE had given lawmakers until Oct. 18 at the latest to raise the debt ceiling.
The House’s vote comes less than a week after senators achieved a breakthrough to increase the national borrowing limit, but it will provide only a brief respite for Congress. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin backs raising debt ceiling with reconciliation if GOP balks Biden needs to be both Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside Billionaire tax gains momentum MORE (R-Ky.) has warned that Republicans won’t support another short-term extension, while Democrats remain adamant they won’t use the reconciliation process as the GOP is demanding (The Hill).
That sets up a battle between an unstoppable force and an immovable object, and only time will tell which side is which. Adding to the trouble, funding for the government is also set to expire in December, setting the stage for two high-stakes jostling matches between the two sides to avoid a shutdown and a default.
The Wall Street Journal: House Approves extension of debt ceiling into December.
Politico: Democratic tension keeps spiking ahead of make-or-break three weeks.
The Hill: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight On The Money — Senate Democrats lay out their tax plans Democrats haggle as deal comes into focus Dem hopes for infrastructure vote hit brick wall MORE (D-Calif.) says a proposal to take the debt ceiling authority away from Congress “has merit.”
Meanwhile, the drama on the Democratic side is not limited to those two looming battles as they continue to weigh how to chop down the planned $3.5 trillion reconciliation proposal. Pelosi on Tuesday lamented that centrist Democrats have forced party leaders to reduce the cost of the social spending package, telling reporters that lawmakers will have to make some tough choices about what to keep and what to nix or slash in the ultimate bill.
“I'm very disappointed that we're not going with the original $3.5 trillion, which was very transformative,” Pelosi said during her weekly press conference, predicting “some difficult decisions because we have fewer resources.” “But whatever we do, we'll make decisions that will continue to be transformative.”
Among the expected issues the bill was set to tackle in some form were an expansion of health care access, child care benefits, free education programs and efforts to tackle climate change (The Hill).
Although polls show that elements of the bill are popular, Democrats are seeing their poll numbers slip. As The Hill’s Jordain Carney points out, a recent CBS News poll showed that only 10 percent of respondents know a lot of specifics of the bill, while nearly 60 percent say they don't know any.
Mike Lillis, The Hill: Pelosi enters pivotal stretch on Biden agenda.
The Hill: House Budget Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDemocrats haggle as deal comes into focus Democrats at odds with Manchin over child tax credit provision The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics MORE (D-Ky.), 73, will retire from Congress.
Pete Williams, NBC News: Trump's use of executive privilege will test congressional power to enforce subpoenas.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Growing pessimism about the U.S. economy is turning into a potential problem for Democrats almost a year out from the 2022 midterm elections as they fear for the future of the Biden agenda in Congress and the aforementioned threats of a shutdown and default.
As The Hill’s Sylvan Lane reports, the strength of the recovery from COVID-19-induced recession is fading at a perilous moment for Biden and the majority party. The emergence of the delta variant, rising inflation, supply chain shortages, and a slower than expected jobs recovery has prompted forecasters to dampen economic growth expectations for next calendar year.
“Overall, risks to economic prospects have increased and policy trade-offs have become more complex,” wrote Gita Gopinath, chief economist for the International Monetary Fund.
All of this could complicate the Democratic effort in 2022, even as the party faces natural headwinds. The majority party usually incurs losses during a president’s first term, with 2010 and 2018 serving as prime examples.
Those problems could also crop up in less than three weeks when voters head to the polls in Virginia to decide between former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and GOP nominee Glenn Youngkin. Facing a close race, McAuliffe announced on Tuesday that he is turning to another heavy hitter to help him win a second term in the Richmond governor’s mansion: former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day RNC targets McAuliffe, Biden campaign event with mobile billboard The real reason Biden is going to the COP26 climate summit MORE.
Obama is set to campaign alongside McAuliffe in Richmond on Oct. 23 (The Hill). The news comes on the heels of news that first lady Jill BidenJill BidenBiden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Budget negotiators: 72 hours and counting Biden to stump for McAuliffe in test of his electoral branding MORE will also stump for McAuliffe in the capital city of the commonwealth on Friday.
The New York Times: National issues dominate ad wars in Virginia governor’s race.
The Hill: McAuliffe says Biden will campaign with him ahead of the Virginia governor's election.
Julia Manchester, The Hill: Schools become a crucial battleground heading into the midterms.
Lisa Lerer, The New York Times: The unlikely issue shaping the Virginia governor’s race: Schools.
ProPublica: In November, Trump won a North Texas county in a landslide. His supporters still hounded veteran Hood County elections administrator Michele Carew until she resigned on Friday. “When I started out, election administrators were appreciated and highly respected,” she said. “Now we are made out to be the bad guys.”
ADMINISTRATION: The Department of Homeland Security says it will cease workplace sting operations as part of an effort to shift enforcement to focus on “unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers,” according to a memo on Tuesday from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasImmigration arrests inside US plummet: report Top officials turn over Twitter accounts to 'share the mic' with Black cybersecurity experts Federal officers detail abuse described by asylum seekers MORE. The administration wants to prioritize wage protection, workplace safety and labor rights, including shielding undocumented workers from deportation while their claims are investigated (The Hill).
> The FDA on Tuesday for the first time authorized e-cigarettes for the U.S. market, specifically approving three vaping products (The New York Times).
> The president today will describe efforts in Washington to help ease private sector supply chain problems. The White House says Walmart, Federal Express, UPS, Target, Samsung and Home Depot will expand operations to seven days a week, around the clock (The Hill). Yellen insists that shortages of consumer goods and higher prices in stores are temporary side effects of the pandemic. “There may be isolated shortages of goods and services in the coming months," Yellen said. "But there is an ample supply of goods. I think there's no reason for consumers to panic about the absence of goods that they're going to want to acquire at Christmas” (CBS News).
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!
How Democrats can save themselves, by Ross Douthat, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3AvF9tP
More women are tuning out politics — a danger sign for Democrats in Virginia and beyond, by Karen Tumulty, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3FJBpbG
Altria’s companies are leading the way in moving adult smokers away from cigarettes – by taking action to transition millions towards potentially less harmful choices. Learn how at Altria.com.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House resumed its recess until next week. It meets next for a pro forma session on Friday at noon.
The Senate meets on Thursday at 5 p.m. for a pro forma session.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. At 11:15 p.m., Biden will sign a bill to designate a September 11th National Memorial Trail Route. Biden at 1:45 p.m. will meet with senior officials and stakeholders to discuss supply chain bottlenecks and deliver remarks in the East Room at 2:20 p.m. (fact sheet HERE).
The vice president will meet in her ceremonial office with Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados at 4:20 p.m.
Second gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations — Global supply chain bottleneck worries for U.S. economy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Biden: We will fix nation's problems The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - New front in mandate wars; debt bill heads to Biden MORE celebrates his 57th birthday.
The Treasury secretary will attend meetings of the Group of Seven and Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors tied to this week’s World Bank and International Monetary Fund events in Washington to discuss global tax policy, pandemic responses, global economic recovery and climate change.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. The administration’s coronavirus response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. reports on U.S. consumer prices in September. Analysts continue to assess inflation, and rising consumer prices remain a problem, including for politicians (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal).
INVITATIONS: The Hill’s Virtually Live TODAY hosts lawmakers and experts at 1 p.m., for “Kidney Disease and the Road to Saving Lives,” with details HERE. On THURSDAY, join the “Diversity and Inclusion Summit,” with registration HERE.
➔ PLANES & SPACE: Pilots blamed Southwest’s fifth consecutive day of widespread flight cancellations on the airline. CBS News reported it was still unclear what is causing the disruptions but that the problems began shortly after the pilot's union tried to block Southwest's new COVID-19 vaccine mandate. … In West Texas at 10 a.m. EDT, actor William Shatner, 90, is scheduled to blast off with other crew members aboard a Blue Origin rocket for an 11-minute ride to the edge of outer space (Yahoo News and The Associated Press).
➔ COURTS: The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge from House Democrats to a Trump border policy that diverted military funding to build a wall (The Hill). … The novel way in which Texas designed its “heartbeat” abortion law was intended to frustrate legal challenges like the one the Justice Department filed last month and continued to press this week. The Biden administration argues that the state law is plainly unconstitutional and that Texas officials should not be absolved of responsibility based on how it was structured (The Hill).
➔ CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS: The cause of cleaning up the cancer-linked chemicals that contaminate American waterways is supported by many small-town mothers, Erin Brockovich, now 61, told The Hill in an interview. “They have a child impacted. They feel dismissed. They feel like they're not listened to and that just revs them up even more, to try to find out `what it is you know that you don't want to tell me,’” she says (The Hill).
And finally … The National Hockey League reached a new frontier on Tuesday night as the Seattle Kraken took the ice and became the league’s 32nd franchise, dropping their opener to the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3.
The Kraken, named for the mythical monster that harbors a resemblance to the giant Pacific octopus (which is found in the Pacific Northwest), became the first professional hockey team to reside in Seattle since the Seattle Totems played in the Western Hockey League in 1975.
The last team in the area to compete for the Stanley Cup was the Seattle Metropolitans, which took home the award in 1917 before folding seven years later.