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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 each morning this week: Monday, 763,092; Tuesday, 764,365; Wednesday, 765,913.
The Democratic agenda is piling up ahead of the Thanksgiving break as lawmakers plan to vote on the Build Back Better package in the coming days and President BidenJoe BidenManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE hits the road to sell his agenda despite potential stumbling blocks.
Democratic leaders said on Tuesday that a House vote on a $1.75 trillion social spending package is likely on Thursday or Friday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted that “most of" the floor debate on the massive bill will occur today.
“And then I expect a vote on the Build Back Better final passage at the earliest Thursday and at hopefully the latest on Friday,” Hoyer told reporters (The Hill).
The latest timing for potential passage comes despite potential pitfalls in the Senate’s quest to pass the bill — namely, Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinManchin to vote to nix Biden's vaccine mandate for larger businesses Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Senate cuts deal to clear government funding bill MORE (D-W.Va.). The West Virginia centrist, aired out more of his concerns on Tuesday, headlined by rising inflation, and signaled that he is not on board with Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerProgressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan Collins says she supports legislation putting Roe v. Wade protections into law Biden should seek some ideological diversity MORE’s (D-N.Y.) plan to pass the bill by Christmas.
“The cost they see every day. And every day they go to fill up is a dollar and a quarter more a gallon,” Manchin said of rising gas prices in his home state. “Three twenty-nine, $3.39. … A gallon of milk is now $4 in many places. It’s taking a toll. And I hear it when I go to the grocery store or if I go to the gas station. They say, ‘Are you as mad as I am?’ and I say, ‘Absolutely’ ” (The Hill).
The Hill: Democrats bullish they'll reach finish line this week.
Politico: Democrats forge ahead on $1.75 trillion bill over inflation fears.
NBC News: Democrats rebrand Build Back Better bill to counter inflation concerns.
Meanwhile, Biden will hit the road for the second consecutive day in support of his agenda, appearing in Detroit to talk up the newly-signed bipartisan infrastructure law and its provisions to spend $7.5 billion on electric vehicle charging stations nationally.
The event follows his Tuesday appearance in New Hampshire, where Biden argued the new law will boost U.S. competitiveness. He touted that it will allow the U.S. to recapture the global competition while providing funding to repair roads, bridges, ports and airports, among other things.
“I truly believe that 50 years from now, when historians write about this moment, I think they’re going to talk about this (as) the beginning of the time where America recaptured the competition of the 21st century. We reasserted ourselves. That’s exactly what we’re going to do, what we can do, what we will do, I promise you.” Biden said at the NH 175 bridge in Woodstock, N.H.
The Wall Street Journal: Biden hits road to promote infrastructure law as Democrats debate spending plans.
Concentration on domestic issues on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue comes before a frantic post-Thanksgiving stretch for lawmakers. On Tuesday, expected tumult was heightened as Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenYellen: Omicron 'could cause significant problems' for global economy Real relief from high gas prices House sets up Senate shutdown showdown MORE told Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a letter that Congress has until Dec. 15 (rather than an earlier prediction of Dec. 3) to raise the nation’s borrowing authority or risk default.
“There are scenarios in which Treasury would be left with insufficient remaining resources to continue to finance the operations of the U.S. government beyond this date,” Yellen wrote. “To ensure the full faith and credit of the United States, it is critical that Congress raise or suspend the debt limit as soon as possible” (The Hill).
Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Democrats think GOP will blink in newest debt brawl.
Also on the to-do list is the need to send Biden a measure to keep the government operating, with lawmakers debating how long to fund it ahead of a Dec. 3 deadline to prevent a shutdown. As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, one option would be to pass a stopgap bill to fund the government through Dec. 17, in an effort to strike a deal on a larger spending agreement. However, GOP appropriators believe there is insufficient time to wrap up agreement on a year-end package, which means a temporary continuing resolution through February or March is more likely.
The Hill: Schumer plans to call a vote on a proposed repeal of 2002’s Iraq War-era Authorization for Use of Military Force. “The time for that is now.”
Los Angeles Times: Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierWar of words escalates in House GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Texas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term MORE (D-Calif.) to retire from Congress.
> Censure: The House will vote later today to censure Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarWar of words escalates in House McCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP Pelosi: Democrats can't allow 'indecent' Boebert comments to stand MORE (R-Ariz.) and strip him of his committee assignments for posting an anime video that depicted him violently attacking the president and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWar of words escalates in House McCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP Noncitizen voting doesn't pass this test MORE (D-N.Y.). According to The Hill’s Cristina Marcos, Gosar would become just the 24th member to be censured by the lower chamber and the first in more than a decade.
Gosar (pictured below) currently serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee alongside Ocasio-Cortez. He is also expected to lose his spot on the House Natural Resources Committee, where he serves as the top Republican on its oversight subcommittee.
The Hill: Jarring GOP divisions come back into spotlight.
The Hill: Trump allies target Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) over his infrastructure vote.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Democrats may rue pursuit of Stephen Bannon.
The Hill: Energy information chief blames market for high fuel prices.
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: A surge of COVID-19 infections has begun to sweep through many states this month as families plan holiday gatherings and government experts prepare this week for booster vaccine doses for adults of all ages, health conditions and occupations.
U.S. coronavirus cases among children are up 22 percent in the past two weeks, a particularly worrisome sign (ABC7NY).
Twenty-one states have seen at least a 10 percent jump in daily cases of coronavirus infections: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin (ABC News).
Hospitalizations are rising after weeks of improved statistics. On Tuesday, there were more than 48,000 patients with COVID-19 currently receiving hospital care, up by about 3,000 patients from a week ago. Twelve states and Washington, D.C., have seen an increase of 10 percent or more in hospital admissions over the past week: Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.
As soon as Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration plans to give its blessing for booster doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for all U.S. adults, a step several states have taken on their own to try to increase immunity as infections rise among communities that remain unvaccinated (The New York Times). Offering second or third doses will increase the number of shots administered to adults by tens of millions at the same time some adults are getting their initial jabs.
The Hill: Two-thirds of Americans in a new poll said their Thanksgiving gatherings will resemble pre-pandemic celebrations this year.
Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci to appear on Fox Business Friday for rare interview on the network Hawaii reports its first omicron case Glenn Greenwald discusses criticism of Fauci overseeing 'medically unjustifiable' experiments on dogs MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, repeated that based on available data, he believes booster doses to routinely extend peak immune responses will likely be needed to shift from pandemic to endemic levels of COVID-19 under currently identified variants (Reuters and The New York Times “The Daily” podcast interview).
The Boston Globe: Will COVID-19 booster doses soon be approved for all U.S. adults? Yes.
> Masks: Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserWhite House scrambles for safety on holiday parties Reviving urban economies by returning to the office: The case of the nation's capital DC homicide level highest since 2003 MORE (D) (seen below), who is running for a third term, surprised many when she announced that the city will lift its indoor mask mandate on Monday (WTOP).
Masks will still be necessary when private businesses require them; on public transit and inside transit stations and ride-share vehicles; inside schools, facilities for children and libraries; indoors at facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living developments, shelters, dorms and student residences, and correctional facilities; and indoors at District government buildings in which employees directly interact with members of the public.
In the D.C. region, masks are still required indoors in Prince George’s County, Md., while many other jurisdictions, including Virginia’s Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, have recommended but not required masks indoors since the state ended its mandate six months ago. Montgomery County, Md., on Tuesday announced it would reinstate on Saturday the indoor mask mandate it lifted in late October (The Washington Post).
> Treating infections: Pfizer on Tuesday requested emergency Food and Drug Administration authorization for the antiviral COVID-19 treatment called Paxlovid, a pill that the company says is highly effective at reducing the risks of hospitalization following confirmed mild to moderate coronavirus infections (The Hill and The Wall Street Journal).
The New York Times: The U.S. plans to purchase enough of the Pfizer treatment pills to provide courses of treatment for 10 million people.
> Vaccine mandates: Twelve states are now suing to block the federal requirement that health care workers be vaccinated, arguing the edict is unconstitutional (The Hill). … Biden faces an uphill climb as a mandate for vaccination covering all employees of large private companies shifted to a Cincinnati-based federal appeals court on Tuesday (The Associated Press).
> Manufacturing vaccines: The administration is preparing to invest billions of dollars to expand U.S. vaccine manufacturing capacity for the future benefit of Americans and poorer nations, with the goal of producing at least one billion doses a year beginning in the second half of 2022, two top Biden advisers said Tuesday. The plan will be announced today (The New York Times).
> Dropping the ball: Times Square will reopen this year for a New Year’s Eve celebration (The Hill). “We want to welcome all those hundreds of thousands of folks, but everyone needs to be vaccinated,” Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Biden's winter COVID-19 strategy Five omicron cases detected in New York Third US omicron case detected in Colorado MORE (D) said on Tuesday.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: A day after concluding a lengthy virtual conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping accompanied later by a carefully worded public statement, Biden sought on Tuesday to clean up earlier remarks about how the two leaders discussed the sensitive issue of Taiwan (The Hill). The U.S. is not endorsing Taiwan’s independence, the president clarified, but was restating what the Taiwan Relations Act requires.
“I said they have to decide on Taiwan, not us. We are not encouraging independence. We’re encouraging them to do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires,” he told reporters, an apparent reference to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which authorizes the continuation of commercial, cultural and other relations between the U.S. and Taiwan. Beijing claims Taiwan and Penghu Islands as part of its territory under its constitution.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates told reporters that Biden told Xi the United States remains committed to the “One China” policy and is opposed to “unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
China’s tensions with Taiwan over independence have sparked global conjecture about whether the United States would protect Taiwan from any possible military hostilities.
“I made it clear all along that we’re going to abide by the rules of the road,” Biden added. “What constitutes international airspace is international airspace, no matter what they say. There’s no air identification zone. Secondly, the law of the seas requires and dictates what constitutes territorial waters. We’re going to stay outside of their territorial waters and we’re not going to be intimidated or change to not go to the South China Sea. And we talked about that and there was no argumentation. It was a matter of fact.”
The White House is expected to announce that neither Biden nor any other U.S. government officials will attend the Beijing Olympic Games, which begin Feb. 4, according to a report by journalist and columnist Josh Rogin. Sources said such a diplomatic boycott would be intended to respond to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses without impacting U.S. athletes. The president was cryptic when asked Tuesday about whether there would be an official U.S. government delegation sent to the Beijing games.
The Olympics did not come up during Monday’s summit between Biden and Xi, according to the White House.
> Justice Department: Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandThe Memo: Trump's justices look set to restrict abortion House progressives urge Garland to intervene in ex-environmental lawyer Steven Donziger's case Garland orders DOJ to prioritize violence on airplanes MORE is under pressure from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick DurbinDick DurbinConservatives target Biden pick for New York district court Democrats, GOP pitch parliamentarian on immigration policies in spending bill Senate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill MORE (D-Ill.) to immediately fire the director of the Bureau of Prisons following an Associated Press investigation that disclosed this week that more than 100 Bureau of Prisons workers have been arrested, convicted or sentenced for crimes since the start of 2019, including an indictment for sexual abuse, a murder charge and theft involving drugs and property. Two-thirds of the criminal cases against Justice Department personnel in recent years have involved federal prison workers, who account for less than one-third of the department’s workforce. To date this year, 28 of 41 arrests of department employees involved Bureau of Prisons employees and contractors.
POLITICS: Former President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE has long been considered the top kingmaker in GOP politics. Don’t tell that to a number of Republican primary candidates in key Senate races who have stayed in their respective contests without a nod to Trump.
As The Hill’s Tal Axelrod and Max Greenwood write, states such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Alabama feature races where Trump-endorsed candidates have not only been unable to clear the field but are likely to face tough battles to win the GOP nod.
In Pennsylvania, Sean Parnell is under fire from all sides over allegations he physically abused his estranged wife. Opponent Jeff Bartos has consistently attacked Parnell for the allegations, with reports that other potential candidates may still jump in the race.
In North Carolina, Rep. Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House Democrats eye big vote on Biden measure GOP primary fights escalate after Trump's endorsements Former GOP Rep. Mark Walker fielding calls about dropping NC Senate bid, running for House MORE (R-N.C.) earned Trump’s backing, but former Gov. Pat McCrory (R) remains a formidable candidate. Finally, Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksJan. 6 organizers used burner phones to communicate with White House: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House Democrats eye big vote on Biden measure Meadows comes under growing Jan. 6 panel spotlight MORE (R-Ala.), who won Trump’s endorsement to replace Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyCongress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight Pelosi hammers 'anti-science, anti-vaccination' Republicans for threatening shutdown The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron MORE (R-Ala.), is deadlocked in recent polls with Katie Britt in Alabama.
“Trump’s endorsement is obviously the biggest get that any Republican candidate can have. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But it isn’t determinative of what’s going to happen. It’s not a ‘Trump endorses, and therefore that’s the nominee,’ ” said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist. “We still run these races for a reason.”
Reid Wilson, The Hill: Proposed California maps put incumbents in jeopardy.
The Hill: Billions at stake in fight over future of California gambling.
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!
I warned the Democrats about inflation, by Steve Rattner, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3FuoSZ3
Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonRules committee mulls contempt vote for Trump DOJ official Mace chief of staff steps down during turbulent week Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE knows exactly what he’s doing, by David Frum, staff writer, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3Cj9VGZ
Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCongress should reject H.R. 1619's dangerous anywhere, any place casino precedent Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks MORE is facing her toughest election yet. Here’s how she might win, by Henry Olsen, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3qIWCxn
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Brian Nelson to be Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes.
The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden at 12:30 p.m. will travel to Detroit to visit a General Motors electric vehicle assembly plant and speak at 4:45 p.m. about how the new infrastructure law provides funds for electric vehicle charging stations nationwide. Biden will return to the White House tonight.
First lady Jill BidenJill BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud Bidens to attend Kennedy Center Honors following Trumps' absence The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump's pre-debate COVID-19 test sparks criticism MORE will speak to the members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes Veteran Employment Advisory Council at 10:45 a.m. She will urge parents and guardians to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11 during a Washington event at 3 p.m. at a pediatric COVID-19 vaccination clinic. She will be joined by Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyHarris announces .5B to fight shortage of doctors in underserved communities The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Arbery case, Biden spending bill each test views of justice The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House Democrats eye big vote on Biden measure MORE, the Washington Mystics’ Alysha Clark and the Washington Wizards’ Thomas Bryant.
The White House COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.
INVITATION: The Hill’s Virtually Live TODAY at 1 p.m. hosts the “Future of Healthcare Summit: Tackling Costs and Pathways to Care,” featuring Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidySunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist Legislators look to expand health care access through telehealth, biosimilars Infrastructure deal is proof that Congress can still do good, bipartisan work MORE (R-La.); Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.); Andy Slavitt, a former senior adviser to the White House's COVID-19 response team; and former American Medical Association President Patrice Harris. Information is HERE.
➔ ECONOMY & FEDERAL RESERVE: Biden on Tuesday told reporters he hopes to make a final decision on nominating a Fed chair candidate “in about four days” (Reuters). ... Retail sales in October ramped up 1.7 percent, thanks to U.S. consumers and their decision to shrug off higher in-store and online prices, according to the Commerce Department. It was the largest seasonally adjusted gain since March and up from 0.8 percent from September (The Associated Press and The Hill). White House national economic adviser Brian DeeseBrian DeeseBiden says 'consumer spending has recovered' to pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Arbery case, Biden spending bill each test views of justice Democrats optimistic as social spending bill heads to Senate MORE embraced the report as progress in recovery following pandemic restrictions and closures: “Sales at restaurants and bars are up more than 29 percent compared to this time last year and more than 9 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels,” he said in a statement. “In addition, retailer stores are benefiting from healthy sales numbers. And this morning, Walmart, the nation’s largest grocery and retail store, reported that it will have enough products to meet consumer demand over the holiday season.”
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Russia on Tuesday denied U.S. accusations that it put astronauts aboard the International Space Station in danger after destroying an aging satellite with a missile in a weapons test that resulted in more than 1,500 pieces of dangerously unmoored pieces of space debris within 40 miles of the space station. Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenOvernight Defense & National Security — Quick vote on defense bill blocked again Kremlin claims Ukraine may try to win back rebel-controlled regions by force Blinken: Iran actions risk collapse of new talks MORE blasted Moscow, saying, “Despite its claims of opposing the weaponization of outer space, (Russia) is willing to ... imperil the exploration and use of outer space by all nations through its reckless and irresponsible behavior” (The Associated Press). … Security forces in Poland turned water cannons against rock-throwing migrants among thousands of people encamped along the border with Belarus, video footage showed on Tuesday. The immigrants are huddled in crude encampments behind razor wire and armed forces in a long-running attempt to gain entry to the European Union (Reuters). … American journalist Danny Fenster arrived in New York City on Tuesday after being freed from military-ruled Myanmar after nearly six months in jail. Former diplomat Bill Richardson helped negotiate the release of the journalist, who was sentenced last week to 11 years of hard labor on charges of spreading false or inflammatory information while working as managing editor of online magazine Frontier Myanmar (The Associated Press).
➔ TOIL FOR MILES: Southwest Airlines is offering employees up to $1,600 in loyalty program points in exchange for work over the holiday season in a bid to ease the labor shortages that have plagued airlines at time in recent months. In return for working 36 to 40 days between Nov. 15 and Jan. 14, company employees can earn between 60,000 and 120,000 Rapid Rewards points, translating to roughly $700 to $1,600 to be put toward future flights (The Hill).
And finally … A young girl who lost a special teddy bear she’d had since being adopted from an Ethiopian orphanage in 2016 thought it was gone forever when she forgot it last year along a trail in Glacier National Park, a 1,583-square-mile wilderness area in Montana's Rocky Mountains. The special toy bear was the first gift Ben and Addie Pascal sent to baby Naomi Pascal before she came to the United States. Her parents and family friends held out hope for months that the stuffed bear might still be found. Thanks to an incredible series of fortuitous events, including a social media plea, the sharp eyes and soft heart of a park ranger, and the closure of a hiking trail because of grizzly bear activity on the same day a family friend visited the park, the adventurous teddy bear is back in the arms of the 6-year-old in Jackson, Wyo. (The Associated Press).