The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by ExxonMobil – Arbery case, Biden spending bill each test views of justice
Presented by ExxonMobil
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths this morning: 771,118.
As of this morning, 69.2 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 59.1 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.
From a pending Georgia jury verdict about race and a jogger’s death to a nearly $2 trillion Democratic spending bill now headed to the Senate, Washington’s political conversation this week tilts toward questions about justice.
The Wisconsin case of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, found criminally not guilty on Friday of murdering two men and shooting a third because the jury agreed his actions were self-defense, and a pending jury verdict in last year’s shooting death of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, 25, forced elected officials over the weekend to eye the future of gun rights, self-defense laws and racial justice in America (The Hill). Closing arguments in the Arbery case begin today.
The Associated Press: Guns in plain view are more common on U.S. streets.
CNN: For Black residents of Arbery’s hometown, trust in the justice system is on trial alongside his accused killers.
The Hill: Rittenhouse: “I’m not a racist person. I support the BLM movement.”
The Rittenhouse verdict put President Biden in a difficult political spot (The Associated Press). “The jury system works,” the president said in reaction on Friday, while Vice President Harris said she was disappointed in the verdict, adding that America needs to “ensure that the criminal justice system is more fair and just, and we still have a lot of work to do” (USA Today).
Meanwhile, Biden, Harris and Democratic leaders in Congress desperately want the public to focus this week on their definitions of progress when it comes to greater justice for working-class families — legislation that would tax the wealthiest; make education, health care, prescription drugs and child care more affordable; support paid leave; expand Medicare benefits; and promote burden-sharing to heal the planet.
The House passed a $1.85 trillion version of the much-negotiated Build Back Better Act on Friday, and all eyes are on Senate Democrats following the Thanksgiving break.
The Hill, Sunday shows: The spotlight shifts to the Senate for the Biden spending plan.
The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports that Senate Democrats are upbeat about getting a version of the sweeping spending measure to Biden by the end of the year, even as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) keep some colleagues guessing about timing, red lines and their ultimate willingness to support a bill following House passage.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The New York Times’s Carl Hulse in an interview that while she expects Senate Democrats to make changes to the House measure, “90-some percent of that bill is what it is. … They may want to hone or sharpen this or that, and that’s a negotiation.”
In recent months, it was not well understood how much Pelosi worked with the Senate to accommodate the druthers of both Manchin and Sinema as the House lurched ahead to iron out battles between progressives and moderates, the Times reported.
The Associated Press: As Biden’s big bill advances, so does Pelosi’s big legacy.
More in Congress: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a strategy in mind to help raise the nation’s debt ceiling along with Democrats, but his GOP colleagues say they’re in the dark. Part of the plan: dial down the drama (The Hill). … Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), 85, will not seek reelection at the end of 15 terms in Congress. She is the 16th House Democrat to announce she will not run in 2022 (The Washington Post). … Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is being wooed by New York City Mayor-elect and Democrat Eric Adams to vacate his seat representing Long Island to become deputy mayor after Jan. 1. Suozzi said he will consider the job offer over the Thanksgiving break (New York Post). … The announced retirements next year of Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman and vice chairman, respectively, on the Senate Appropriations Committee, set Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) on paths to power on the panel (The Hill).
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LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS: There is Democratic Party enthusiasm this week about enacting a popular infrastructure bill and pushing a sprawling spending bill through the House to the Senate, but there’s also hand-wringing that midterm contests may be going, going, gone toward GOP majorities in 2023.
The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that Biden’s plummeting job approval numbers, voter worries about inflation and partisan bickering about vaccine mandates and how to end the pandemic leave Democrats facing serious political headwinds.
Senate Democrats met with pollsters on Wednesday to dissect recent election losses in Virginia and New Jersey and to hash out ideas to improve messaging about the party’s achievements in Washington. Senate passage of the pending Build Back Better Act social spending and climate bill, or a version that could be enacted this year, is high on the list.
The Associated Press: Biden’s political standing fuels Democratic worries about 2024.
The Washington Post: Biden and aides tell allies he is running in 2024 amid growing Democratic fears.
The New York Times: Outspoken New York liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 32, in an interview, questioned whether her party’s elected leaders understand the demands of their political base. “This is where I have sounded the alarm, because what really dampens turnout is when Democrats make promises that they don’t keep,” she said.
The Hill: Democrats face voter resistance as they map out their midterm strategy.
“The results in Virginia and elsewhere ought to be a wake-up call that we’re not getting the job done on messaging,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The New York Times early this month.
“The No. 1 thing is to grow the economy and end the pandemic,” he added. “But close behind that is telling people what you’ve done. I think it’s a fair criticism to say we haven’t done enough of that, and I think the White House needs to do more.”
The Washington Post: Former President Trump’s influence among loyalists has grown amid Republican demands for political purity. An emboldened handful of far-right and mostly newly elected House members are gaining influence over the Republican Party in Congress, positioning themselves to further purify the House GOP conference as a branch of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. Accompanied by ample media coverage, they assert their views as polls suggest Republicans are on track to win control of the House next year, giving the MAGA loyalists a potentially decisive say in whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) becomes Speaker.
The New York Times: The GOP is energized, but Trump’s “cancel culture” poses political risks for the party’s future. The former president, tightening his influence as a haphazard kingmaker in his party, threatens Republican incumbents and endorses questionable candidates.
> 2024: Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is widely seen as preparing a presidential run, will deliver a speech about the abortion battle, currently before the Supreme Court in Texas and Mississippi cases (The Hill). Justices will hear oral argument on Dec. 1 in a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. … Fox News reported that Pence will travel to Manchester, N.H., Dec. 8, appearing at two events in the state, which traditionally holds the first presidential primary. … Pence (seen below in 2016) recently told a group of GOP governors up for reelection next year that he will back incumbents over challengers endorsed or inspired by Trump, according to The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. In contests among half of the GOP governors seeking reelection next year, Trump has endorsed primary challengers over the Republican incumbents.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who is promoting a new book and helping to raise money for GOP gubernatorial candidates, told “Fox News Sunday” he is considering a run for president and will make a decision after the 2022 midterms. Christie said no Republican should be swayed by Trump’s interest in running again if he or she believes they can best lead the country.
The Hill: Republicans insist New Hampshire is a prime pickup opportunity for a Senate seat in 2022. What the party is searching for is a candidate.
In Virginia, Republicans in the 7th Congressional District are gunning for the opportunity to take on one of the most vulnerable House Democrats, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, after deciding the race could be a prime pickup opportunity even if redistricting alters the boundaries. Conservative Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase (R), who has described herself as “Trump in heels,” threw her hat into the ring, lined up against fellow state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R) and Taylor Keeney, once a staffer to former Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell. GOP candidate Tina Ramirez is also running in the primary after losing last year to Del. Nick Freitas (R) (The Hill).
> Redistricting: Latino activists are making their voices heard during congressional redistricting after a decade in which they accounted for the bulk of population growth nationwide. They’re fighting against both Republican and Democratic efforts to marginalize their growing political power, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson.
> Name recognition: What’s trending among those frequently viewed on large and small screens (including on newscasts)? Answer: decisions to seek political office (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: Biden will carve his turkey and slice his pies with his family on Nantucket in Massachusetts beginning on Tuesday, likely remaining there for the Thanksgiving break through Sunday (Cape Cod Times).
The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant reports on key executive branch positions still vacant or held by acting officeholders. Republicans in the Senate may have erected hurdles to confirmation, but the president has also been slow to send the Senate nominees for important positions. The result is that the administration has a slower confirmation rate at this point when compared with former Presidents Trump, Obama and George W. Bush.
And speaking of taking time to decide on personnel picks, the administration said Friday that Biden will not renominate two Postal Service board of governors members, and will instead nominate former General Services Administration Administrator Daniel Tangherlini and e-commerce executive Derek Kan to the independent board. If confirmed, Biden’s picks are widely seen as the lead-up strategy to replace Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, whose Postal Service management billed as effective at lowering costs and raising efficiency has attracted ferocious public and congressional criticism (pictured below) (The Hill).
CORONAVIRUS: This year, Thanksgiving is seen as the best of times and the worst of times with COVID-19 lurking. On the one hand, vaccinated Americans are encouraged by public health experts to enjoy largely worry-free family gatherings among other vaccinated people. On the other hand, tens of millions of Americans remain unvaccinated and U.S. COVID-19 infections rose 20 percent during the past two weeks.
The United States is still slow-walking toward a vaccination goal for the adult population that Biden had hoped to hit last summer, and many Americans (including in California, below) say they are fed up with requirements and shifting guidance about vaccines, boosters and mask wearing.
The Hill’s Justine Coleman reports that this country is in better shape than this point last year when more than 160,000 COVID-19 infections were recorded every day — a count that for the most part only got worse through the new year. This year, there are effective vaccines for adults and children, booster doses, antiviral treatments, and much more scientific data. The almost 200 million Americans who are fully vaccinated can “feel good about enjoying a typical” holiday season, says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But with millions still unvaccinated and cases rising, experts still urge Americans to exercise caution during Thanksgiving travel and indoor gatherings as well as during the holiday festivities yet to come.
The Associated Press: GOP embraces natural immunity as a substitute for vaccines. However, antibody protection wanes after contracting and surviving COVID-19.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Kyle Rittenhouse’s not guilty verdict is a symptom of a bigger sickness, by Zeeshan Aleem, MSNBC opinion columnist. https://on.msnbc.com/3HTgep1
It’s beginning to look a lot like normal, by Lara Williams, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3FAH5UO
Biden’s Fed pick could prove his commitment to bipartisanship, by Sarah Binder and Mark Spindel, opinion contributors, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3CGBJW5
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets Tuesday at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session. Following recess for the Thanksgiving holiday, lawmakers are scheduled to resume work in Washington on Nov. 30.
The Senate convenes on Tuesday at 8:15 a.m. for a pro forma session. Following the chamber’s Thanksgiving recess, senators will return to the nation’s capital on Nov. 29.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. He and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Fort Bragg, N.C., to celebrate Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. with service members and military families as part of the Joining Forces initiative. The Bidens will return to the White House at 9 p.m.
The first lady also will receive the official 2021 White House Christmas tree at 3 p.m. accompanied by a D.C. Army National Guard family.
The vice president will receive the President’s Daily Brief with Biden at 10 a.m. She will speak at 3:30 p.m. in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium about equity and the U.S. health care workforce. Joining Harris will be Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and National Health Service Corps Director Luis Padilla.
Economic indicator: The National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. will report on existing home sales in October.
The White House coronavirus response team will brief journalists this morning.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: U.S. intelligence indicates Russia has plans for a potential Ukraine invasion and has shared such information with European allies (Bloomberg News and Military Times). … President Xi Jinping of China on Monday in a speech said his country does not seek dominance over Southeast Asia and smaller neighbors. Xi’s remarks came days after Chinese coast guard ships blocked and sprayed a powerful stream of water at two Philippine boats carrying supplies to troops at a disputed South China Sea shoal and forced them to turn back (The Associated Press). … Israel’s new government says it feels confident about where it stands with the Biden administration and official Washington as 2021 comes to a close, reports The Hill’s Laura Kelly. Benjamin Netanyahu’s successor, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, has called for a new spirit of cooperation with Democrats and has sought to soften disagreements on thorny issues such as the Iran nuclear deal and advancing solutions to conflict with the Palestinians. Biden has largely sought consensus with Israel, shifting his administration’s language on Iran, firmly supporting Israel during its war with Hamas in May, and backing off demands or criticisms related to the Palestinians — and despite vocal opposition among progressives in his party. … Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a close ally of Bennett’s, tells The Hill in an interview that “there is no real solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We should manage the conflict, not solve it.” Shaked is seen as an ambitious right-wing politician who some believe will be Israel’s second female premier, following Golda Meir’s precedent-setting leadership in the 1970s.
➔ FEDERAL RESERVE: Biden is close to naming a nominee to lead the nation’s central bank and will speak about the economy on Tuesday (The Hill). Many expect the president to end the guessing game this week, before he leaves the capital for Thanksgiving and ahead of the Senate’s return to work next week. White House economic adviser Brian Deese on Sunday declined to discuss whether Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, recently praised by Manchin after a private meeting, or progressives’ favorite option, Lael Brainard, a member of the Fed board, will get the top nod for a term that starts in February. Deese emphasized on “Fox News Sunday” that Biden has four potential openings to fill at the Fed, which could be a hint that the president wants to construct a package of nominations that could signal continuity to the financial markets while addressing some of progressives’ emphasis on regulatory policy and the Fed’s approach to inflation and climate change (The Wall Street Journal).
➔ HOLIDAY SHOPPING: Black Friday kicks off a crucial stretch for a U.S. economy still struggling to shake off pandemic angst and supply disruptions. After COVID-19 stifled the economic boost of the holiday season in 2020, retailers and manufacturers are eager to see a surge of holiday spending. Republicans, on the other hand, accuse Biden and Democrats of stoking inflation and contributing to bare store shelves. Many disgruntled consumers who in the last year curbed their spending on travel, vacations, summer camps and expensive restaurant gatherings show every indication of opening their wallets as 2021 comes to a close (The Hill).
And finally … If there’s time before or after your turkey and pies this week, consider visiting a museum, where communing with art, history, crafts and interactive exhibits in any town or city can be inspirational for all ages during a holiday break.
Some ideas among many great destinations:
Washington, D.C.: Five fascinating Smithsonian exhibits to go see on Thanksgiving Day (Washingtonian).
Philadelphia: Museum of the American Revolution has a new exhibit and ornament-making activities on Thanksgiving (Philly Voice).
Boston: At Plimoth Patuxet Museums, a new look at the first Thanksgiving (Boston Globe).
Seattle: For Thanksgiving, check out new Native art by Indigenous artists across western Washington (Crosscut).