The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by ExxonMobil — House sprints for Build Back Better, infrastructure votes today

 

Presented by ExxonMobil  

 

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths each morning this week: Monday, 745,836; Tuesday, 747,033; Wednesday, 748,621; Thursday, 750,430; Friday, 751,555.

 

Today, House Democrats believe they are on track after a flurry of meetings and last-minute adjustments to bring President BidenJoe BidenMadame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures US raises concerns about Russian troop movements to Belarus Putin tests a model for invading Ukraine, outwitting Biden's diplomats MOREs Build Back Better agenda to a vote, which would allow them to turn to a bipartisan infrastructure bill before a week-long recess.

Democratic leaders late Thursday prepared for separate floor votes today on both a $1.75 trillion spending bill and a $1 trillion infrastructure package. Text of a modified Democratic spending wish list cleared the House Rules Committee and the House convenes this morning, sprinting toward passage of an agenda that lawmakers have debated for half a year (The Hill). 

The initial plan to pass the mammoth social spending bill on Thursday was thwarted as leaders tried to shore up the bill on multiple fronts. However, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTwo-thirds of Americans support banning lawmakers from trading stocks: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Watch: Lawmakers, activists, family members call for voting rights legislation on MLK day MORE (D-Calif.) worked throughout the day to massage a number of topics in the Democratic-only bill, with breakthroughs taking place throughout the evening to put them in a position to vote on the bill before recess.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a leading centrist, told reporters as of Thursday afternoon there were more than enough members standing in the way. Among the reasons: absence of a budget score from the Congressional Budget Office, immigration issues, changes to the state and local tax (SALT) deduction and a proposed methane fee, about which Cuellar and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) raised concerns.  

“There is certainly a lack of trust among some of the moderates on that,” said Cuellar (pictured below), referring to Pelosi’s twice-made pledge to hold a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure proposal before backing down. “I still want to know: what are the differences? What have the 50 senators agreed to?”

As The Hill’s Mike Lillis and Scott Wong write, Pelosi spent much of the afternoon twisting arms in a race against the clock to pass the bill. The whip effort also involved Biden, who called multiple Democratic holdouts urging them to support the package when it hits the floor (Politico). 

The Washington Post: House Democrats near vote on $1.75 trillion spending plan. 

 

 

 

Adding to the trouble, there was also an eleventh-hour snag on an effort to reduce prescription drug prices. However, negotiators were able to reach an agreement to add an additional year of exclusivity before Medicare will be able to negotiate prices for certain complex drugs known as biologics, moving the total from 12 years to 13 years. 

The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports that the last-minute dispute arose from how the text of the drug pricing agreement was drafted. The agreement announced earlier this week was to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices after a period of exclusivity: nine years for many drugs and 12 years for more complex biologics. 

Additionally, Pelosi struck a deal with Democrats from high-tax states to raise the cap on the SALT deduction. The new version of the provision would raise the cap from $10,000 to $80,000, and have the limit be in place at that level through 2030. The cap would then return to $10,000 for 2031. A previous version of the bill would have set the cap at $72,500 through 2031 (The Hill).

“We’re confident that with this agreement, we can move forward on this crucially important package and we will continue working to ensure that this tax cut gets signed into law to deliver this relief to our constituents as soon as possible,” Reps. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerDemocrats gain edge from New Jersey Redistricting Commission-approved maps Progressives look to regroup after Build Back Better blowup Transformational legislation should be bipartisan again MORE (D-N.J.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) and Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillDemocrats look back on Jan. 6 with emotion Democrats gain edge from New Jersey Redistricting Commission-approved maps Degrees not debt will grow the economy MORE (D-N.J.) said in a joint statement on the SALT deal early this morning. 

As for immigration, Pelosi met with three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus late on Thursday to discuss the current language, which includes providing certain immigrants with work permits and protection from deportation. However, whether that is included in a final package will ultimately be up to the Senate parliamentarian, who determines whether bills comply with the upper chamber’s arcane budget reconciliation rules.

The Associated Press: Biden’s big bill on brink of House votes, but fights remain.

The New York Times: House Democrats hunt for votes to pass Biden’s domestic agenda.

The effort by leaders to pass the bill in expeditious fashion comes despite a long-held plan during months of negotiations: that the House would not pass a multi trillion-dollar bill of this ilk without also reaching an accord with all 50 senators. At present, no deal exists, specifically with Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenate Democrats eye talking filibuster NAACP president presses senators on voting rights: 'You will decide who defines America' Schumer tees up showdown on voting rights, filibuster MORE (D-W.Va.), who has continued to stiff-arm any final deal.

Without a green light from Manchin, passage of the Build Back Better plan by the lower chamber opens the door to the bill getting stuck across the Capitol. That is especially the case if the House sends the bipartisan infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk simultaneously, which Manchin negotiated and has championed, representing a powerplay of sorts.  

“It’s always a concern. I’m of the school that every day we delay over here and have a false start, it just empowers him more. So we need to get this over to them,” House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthOn the Money — Student borrowers stare down rising prices More than 30 million families to lose child tax credit checks starting this weekend On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood MORE (D-Ky.) told the Morning Report, referring to the West Virginia centrist. “Up to a point, that was a sound strategy to think that it would be better to pass something that we knew the Senate was going to pass and not change, but that’s become unrealistic.”

“We’re going to get the bill back, so we might as well let the Senate do what it’s going to do and force them to make some decisions,” Yarmuth continued. “We’re not moving the process along the way it’s going.” 

Hanna Trudo, The Hill: Progressives declare victory in spending bill fight. 

Politico: Manchin will get last word, even as House races to pass megabill. 

The Hill: Manchin says Democrats “can't go too far left.”

The troubles for House Democrats also could run into time constraints if no deal is reached today. If next week’s recess goes off as planned, lawmakers have just 13 days in session left on this year’s calendar. 

Jordain Carney, The Hill: Democrats ramp up filibuster talks after voting rights setback.

 

 

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LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: Biden on Thursday defended the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private-sector employers and their workers at the same time the Occupational Safety and Health Administration unveiled specifics (The Hill and The Associated Press). 

The new regulation published in the Federal Register creates a Jan. 4 deadline, in line with the date set for health care workers and employees of federal contractors, and carries hefty fines for violations. Employees who decline to get vaccinated can opt for weekly COVID-19 testing, but employers can make workers who do not obtain formal exemptions to shoulder testing costs and they can be required to wear masks indoors (Bloomberg Law). 

“As we’ve seen with businesses — large and small — across all sectors of our economy, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to get vaccinated,” the president said. 

“For our country, the choice is simple: Get more people vaccinated, or prolong this pandemic and its impact on our country,” he added. “The virus will not go away by itself, or because we wish it away: we have to act. Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic.”

CNBC: Several big business groups are unhappy with the federal vaccine mandate. Chief among complaints: While COVID-19 infections are falling in the United States, employers are hit with “emergency” requirements during the holiday season.

Bloomberg News: The government’s vaccine mandate is here. Half of affected employers aren’t ready.

The new requirements for private sector workers and federal contractors, initially announced in September, are already arriving in court. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) and nine other state attorneys general filed a lawsuit last week. On Thursday, Schmitt said in a statement that his office today will file a lawsuit to try to halt the mandate on private employers. “The federal government does not have the authority to unilaterally force private employers to mandate their employees get vaccinated or foot the bill for weekly testing,” he said. “We will be on file first thing tomorrow morning to halt this illegal, unconstitutional attempt by the Biden Administration and the federal government to impose their will on thousands of Missouri businesses and millions of Missourians.” 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said her state plans to take legal action against the federal vaccine mandate. Iowa joined 18 other states last week to sue the administration over a requirement that requires vaccines for federal contractors. “I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but I also firmly believe in Iowans’ right to make healthcare decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families, and I remain committed to protecting those freedoms,” Reynolds told the Des Moines Register on Thursday. “President Biden should do the same.

The White House argues that slowing the spread of COVID-19 and muting its risks means getting tens of millions more Americans vaccinated — using either carrots or sticks to keep the population as safe as possible. The administration argues it has the statutory authority in a pandemic to protect workers and workplace safety. Schmitt and other opponents of mandates say the federal requirement imposes an undue economic and administrative burden on affected private businesses.

 

 

On the flip side, a Florida law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems barrel towards voting rights vote with no outcome The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Trump-DeSantis tensions ratchet up MORE prohibits businesses from embracing vaccine requirements, which means companies, cities and schools in the state are risking hefty fines, confusion and public backlash if they defy the governor, plus the opposing pressures within the private sector if they don’t heed Uncle Sam. DeSantis is convening a special legislative session to pass a new law ensuring “medical freedom” (The Washington Post). 

The Hill: DeSantis vows to fight federal vaccine mandate: “Going down.”

Mayor-elect Eric Adams on Thursday said he will “revisit” New York City’s vaccine mandate for municipal workers and coronavirus responses when he takes office (New York Post).

> Ford Motor Co. said that it will require most of its more than 30,000 U.S. salaried workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 (The Washington Post). 

> Thousands of U.S. intelligence officers were unvaccinated against COVID-19 as of late October, despite the government’s mandate for civilian workers to get inoculated by Nov. 22. Republican lawmakers, who have reviewed classified vaccination status reports, say they worry the situation risks loss of intelligence personnel through resignation or dismissal. Director of National Intelligence Avril HainesAvril HainesVirtual realities may solve Fermi's paradox about extraterrestrials Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against former top Saudi intel official Overnight Defense & National Security — Russian military moves cause for concern MORE declined at a hearing last week to disclose what percentage of the workforce had been vaccinated, but said “we are not anticipating that it is going to be an issue for mission.” There are an estimated 100,000 employees in the intelligence community (The Washington Post).

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat Left laughs off floated changes to 2024 ticket The Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness MORE (R-Wyo.) on Thursday said that the House select committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack of the U.S. Capitol has conducted 150 interviews as lawmakers are set to sit down with a key figure for testimony today.

“We’ve had, actually, over 150 interviews with a whole range of people connected to the events, connected to understanding what happens, so that just gives you a sense. It is a range of engagements — some formal interviews, some depositions,” Cheney told Politico. “There really is a huge amount of work underway that is leading to real progress for us.” 

Cheney’s revelation comes as Jeffrey Clark, a former mid-level lawyer at the Department of Justice who is implicated in former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE’s pressure campaign to get the department to forward his claims of election fraud, will testify before the panel later today

Clark was set to appear before the committee last week, but got a brief delay after splitting with his attorney, having been  subpoenaed by the committee last month. The former acting Civil Division assistant attorney general, Clark was introduced to Trump by Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryGOP's McCarthy has little incentive to work with Jan. 6 panel McCarthy says he won't cooperate with 'illegitimate' Jan. 6 probe Jan. 6 panel asks McCarthy to cooperate MORE (R-Pa.), a House Freedom Caucus member who vigorously attempted to swing the results of the election (The Hill).  

The Hill: Judge appears skeptical of Trump's effort to shield Jan. 6 documents.

 

 

> Manhattan project: The Manhattan District Attorney’s office on Thursday convened a second grand jury to look into the financial practices of the Trump Organization, with an eye potentially toward criminal charges. 

The Washington Post reported that the newly-revealed grand jury is expected to probe how the company valued its assets. The grand jury is slated to meet three days per week over six months in Manhattan’s Surrogate’s Court.

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Ohio Republicans swing for fences in redistricting proposals. 

***** 

ADMINISTRATION: Igor Danchenko, a Russian analyst who provided information for a dossier of research used during the government’s investigation of alleged ties between Trump and Russia, was charged Thursday with lying to the FBI when questioned about his work. A grand jury indictment issued in federal court in Virginia charged Danchenko with five counts of false statements. The case was brought as part of special counsel John DurhamJohn Durham​​Close to million spent in Durham investigation in first year Four questions that deserve answers at the Guantanamo oversight hearing Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE’s investigation, begun under former Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWilliam Barr's memoir set for release in early March The enemy within: Now every day is Jan. 6 Dems worry they'll be boxed out without changes to filibuster, voting rules  MORE, into the origins of the FBI’s probe into ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Danchenko functioned as a source for Christopher Steele, a former British spy. The research he compiled was provided to the FBI and used by federal authorities as they applied for and received surveillance warrants (The Associated Press).

> Immigration: Biden last week told reporters, “that’s not going to happen” when he was asked about reports of $450,000 federal payouts to migrant families separated at the U.S. border. On Thursday, a White House spokeswoman said the president is “perfectly comfortable” with such payouts, but not payments of $450,000. Republican lawmakers and candidates recently assailed the reported policy as an example of what they see as the administration’s flawed immigration and border strategy (Politico). 

> Voting rights: The administration on Thursday sued Texas over the state’s new voting rules that outlasted a summer of dramatic protests by Democrats, who face fading hopes of overhauling the nation’s election laws in response to a wave of new restrictions in Republican-led states. The challenge filed in a San Antonio federal court targets provisions surrounding mail-in voting requirements and voter assistance, which the Justice Department argues violate federal civil rights protections (The Associated Press).

> National Space Council: Vice President Harris will visit NASA’s Maryland campus today and announce she will host the administration’s first meeting on Dec. 1 of the council. Harris’s role was announced in May (The Hill).  

> Confirmations: The Senate this week voted to support two nominees to lifetime federal judgeships: Beth Robinson, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, by a vote of 51-45; and Toby Heytens, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, by a vote of 53-43 (Ballotpedia). Tech exec David Cohen was also confirmed this week to be U.S. Ambassador to Canada (Philadelphia Inquirer). … On Wednesday, the Senate voted 52-46 to make Sarala Vidya Nagala the first federal judge of South Asian descent in Connecticut, and 52-46 to elevate Michael Nachmanoff, a magistrate judge and former public defender, to become a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia (Reuters). ... The Senate also confirmed Tom Nides as U.S. Ambassador to Israel by voice vote on Wednesday (Haaretz).

 

OPINION

OSHA’s vaccine mandate overkill, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3q81nAz 

The powerful GOP strategy Democrats must counter if they want to win, by Tory Gavito and Adam Jentleson, opinion contributors, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3ENRQT4

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at 8 a.m.  

The Senate meets at 8:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks at 10:15 a.m. about the government’s October employment report. In the afternoon, the president will depart the White House to spend the weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Del. 

The vice president at 4:05 p.m. will visit NASA Goddard Visitor Center in Greenbelt, Md. She will deliver remarks at 4:45 p.m. 

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. will release an employment report for October. 

A funeral for retired Gen. Colin PowellColin PowellHow American progressives normalize anti-Semitism Juan Williams: The GOP is an anti-America party Defense & National Security — Biden marks Veterans Day MORE, who died Oct. 18 at age 84, takes place at noon by invitation at Washington National Cathedral. Biden and first lady Jill BidenJill BidenHarris invokes MLK in voting rights push, urges Senate to 'do its job' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Djokovic may not compete in French Open over vaccine requirement The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE will attend. 

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

Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday. Reminder: Set your clocks back one hour.

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.

 

ELSEWHERE

HISTORIC U.S. ECONOMIC RECOVERY?: As COVID-19 cases and unemployment claims continue to decline — and as jobs and wages continue to rise — it is clear that America is in the midst of an historic economic recovery, unique across the world,” Biden said in a statement Thursday. Economic analysts will assess the president’s boast this morning with data drawn from the government’s employment report for October (The Associated Press and The Washington Post). Payroll processing company ADP stoked optimism on Wednesday with its report that companies added 571,000 jobs in October, the best month for employment gains since June, led by hiring in the restaurant sector (CNBC). On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that filings for jobless benefits in the week ending Oct. 30 fell to a new pandemic low of 269,000 — good news after many dismal months of layoffs and job losses (CNBC). 

Axios, Hans Nichols: ​​The White House is asking Democratic senators to meet with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell before Thanksgiving — leading some to believe Biden will renominate him this month. Powell’s term ends in February.

 

HEALTH: A long-term study conducted in the United Kingdom found that a vaccine aimed at the human papillomavirus (HPV) dramatically cut cervical cancer in women, preventing development of a disease that kills more than 300,000 women worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization. The U.K.'s HPV vaccine program was launched in 2008 and targets girls between the ages of 11 and 13 because the vaccine is most effective when administered before exposure to HPV (Axios).  

HIGHER EDUCATION: Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) could receive historic federal funding, if Biden’s investment agenda becomes law. The institutions could see $2 billion in federal funding, plus money set aside for research and development grants. In addition, HBCUs have received more than $6 billion in COVID-19 relief funding since March (The Hill).  

U.N. & EQUITY: Israeli cabinet minister for energy Karine Elharrar, who has muscular dystrophy and gets around in a wheelchair, was unable to participate in the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, because accommodations for disability access proved a hurdle. She was able to gain entry on Tuesday. “It’s sad that the United Nations, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021 doesn’t worry about accessibility at its own events,” Elharrar tweeted. British Prime Minister Boris JohnsonBoris JohnsonAide says UK's Johnson knew about lockdown party The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Juan Williams: Biden needs to brag MORE apologized (The Hill). 

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … A big Friday standing ovation for this week’s Morning Report Quiz masters, who knew all about Virginia politics and political figures hailing from the state that is for lovers 

Morning Report is here to raise a glass (or two) to these puzzle winners: Patrick Kavanagh, Peter Scheirman, Pam Manges and Mark Neuman-Scott.

They knew that longtime Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) never launched a bid for the presidency. 

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineWhite House dismisses report of new Build Back Better package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Democrats ponder Plan B strategy to circumvent voting rights filibuster MORE (D-Va.) is not a frequenter of playing the trumpet. As made clear during his 2016 campaign, Kaine is an avid harmonica player.

In Virginia’s history, 10 former governors have also served as U.S. senators from the state.

Finally, James Madison replaced Thomas Jefferson to serve as rector at the University of Virginia at the time of his death in 1826. 

 

 

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