Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Uber – Senate gets busy, except for Build Back Better

                                    Presented by Uber

The Ohio Clock outside the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday! 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, 788,364; Tuesday, 789,745; Wednesday, 791,514; Thursday, 793,228.

Senate Democrats are in the midst of a waiting game as they push to pass President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda by the end of the year but could be forced to wait until 2022 as they blame Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) intransigence.

 

Democratic senators point to the West Virginia centrist for stalled momentum on Biden’s agenda heading toward Christmas. It’s just one of several loose deadlines for floor action floated by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

 

The ever-changing timeline could hinge on a pair of forthcoming reports. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is set to reveal inflation data for November. For months, Manchin has been one of the few Senate Democrats to raise concerns about rising inflation. He focused on the subject again on Tuesday

 

The Congressional Budget Office also is expected to unveil a 10-year dissection of the proposed social spending package. It will likely show that the nearly $2 trillion measure would cost more than $4 trillion over 10 years if all provisions are extended over a decade.

 

Los Angeles Times: Democrats weigh overturning the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling on immigration. 

 

The Washington Post: Democrats lobby Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — politely — as they try to save their priorities for the domestic policy package.

 

The Hill: Big Pharma lobbyists want to influence the Senate parliamentarian as decisions are made about what can stay and what gets struck in the Build Back Better measure under Senate reconciliation budget process rules. Pharmaceutical companies are battling proposed tougher regulation of prescription drug prices that would benefit consumers. 

 

In the meantime, the Senate later today is expected to clear a procedural hurdle that by the end of the week would allow the government to increase borrowing to meet past obligations. Schumer on Wednesday expressed optimism that the upper chamber will hold a vote to invoke cloture on a bill to raise the nation’s borrowing authority, setting up a final vote for Friday. 

 

However, what still remains to be seen is how many Senate Republicans jump on board behind Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Multiple allies and leadership members, including Sens. John Thune (S.D.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Roy Blunt (Mo.) have indicated they will follow suit. Democrats say they’re confident that McConnell will line up the necessary 10 members. 

 

“If Mitch and Cornyn and Blunt are on board, they’ll get seven more,” predicted Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, who has known McConnell for decades. 

 

Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warns GOP about former President Trump’s wrath on debt vote.

 

Politico: How Schumer and McConnell got the debt deal done.

 

The gridlock has also forced Manchin’s hand. According to an exclusive story by The Hill’s Jordain Carney, the West Virginia centrist is discussing with Republicans potential small changes to Senate rules as some Democrats are asking Manchin to help them change the 60-vote legislative filibuster. 

 

Members of GOP leadership told The Hill that Manchin had reached out to them to float potential ideas with an eye toward making it easier to get votes and bills to the floor. 

 

“Most of us would argue that the only thing that it takes to get the Senate working better is behavioral change. … But he is trying to come up with some fairly, I would say, creative ideas about the rules,” Thune said.

 

Separately, Senate Republicans on Wednesday rebuked the Biden administration’s pandemic authority with what was primarily a show vote. Senators approved 52-48 a resolution to block the president’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers, with help from Democrats Manchin and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). The resolution is unlikely to be taken up by the House (The Hill).

 

The New York Times: Senate votes to scrap Biden vaccine mandate as GOP eyes 2022.

 

The Hill: Democratic worries grow over politics of SALT cap.

 

The Hill: The House passed a bipartisan bill on Wednesday aimed at strengthening overseas supply chains. 

 

The Hill: The House on Wednesday approved measures to pressure China amid the U.S diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics next year. … The U.K. and Canada say they will join the diplomatic boycott in February (Reuters).

 

 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill

 

 

Across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are the targets of a new lawsuit from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows as he faces a likely contempt referral for refusing to cooperate with the panel. 

 

In a civil complaint filed Wednesday, Meadows’s lawyers said the committee does not have the authority to issue the subpoenas directed at him or obtain his phone records from a third party and that Biden’s refusal to assert executive privilege opens constitutional questions that should be decided through legal action. 

 

“As a result, Mr. Meadows, a witness, has been put in the untenable position of choosing between conflicting privilege claims that are of constitutional origin and dimension and having to either risk enforcement of the subpoena issued to him, not merely by the House of Representatives, but through actions by the Executive and Judicial Branches,  or, alternatively, unilaterally abandoning the former president’s claims of privileges and immunities,” the complaint reads. “Thus, Mr. Meadows turns to the courts to say what the law is” (The Hill).

 

The New York Times: Some Jan. 6 rioters may use police brutality as a defense.

 

The Hill: Liberals ramp up pressure on Pelosi to discipline Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).

A MESSAGE FROM UBER

Flexibility works

Whether it’s because of the freedom to pick their hours, pick their rides, or
simply pick their kids up on time, 86% of drivers say they need flexibility.*

*From a Benenson Strategy Group survey.

See how flexibility works for over 3.3 million drivers.

LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that preliminary lab studies indicate two shots of the companies’ COVID-19 vaccine plus a booster appear to provide strong protection against the omicron variant (Bloomberg News). The companies believe they will have more definitive data before the end of the year (Bloomberg News).

 

“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in statements and interviews. 

 

“Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19,”  Bourla added.

 

The companies added that a “vast majority” of vaccine-induced T-cells that put up a fight against infection are not compromised by the more than 30 different mutations in omicron, indicating a level of protection against omicron exists after two doses of Pfizer vaccine (The Hill).

 

Bourla told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday that his company could develop an omicron-specific vaccine by March (CNBC).

 

Omicron appears to produce mostly a mild infection in preliminary studies, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky (The Associated Press). 

 

The Washington Post: Here’s why scientists thus far believe booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines work to rev up immune systems against omicron’s adaptive capabilities.

 

 

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks during a ceremony in Thessaloniki, Greece

 

 

In the United States, a country of nearly 334 million people, more than 200 million have been “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 (The New York Times). The daily rate of vaccinations in this country has soared since Thanksgiving, when the omicron variant was identified in South Africa.

 

The idea of humans being “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 is evolving, shifting away from two vaccine doses to a series of doses to get ahead of global strains of the original coronavirus that linger in populations and keep adapting without being stamped out. The emerging concept of repeated vaccine doses every six months to a year to tame the threat from COVID-19 presents all sorts of new global challenges.

 

“It’s going to be a matter of when, not if” the definition of “fully vaccinated” changes from the current understanding of two vaccine doses, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN, emphasizing he was expressing a forecast, not citing data (The Hill).

 

Laboratory blood samples are helping scientists test COVID-19 vaccines against omicron (The Wall Street Journal). 

 

> Schools: After brief months of relative calm, some public schools in various states are going remote — or canceling classes entirely — for a day a week, or even for a couple of weeks, because of teacher burnout and staff shortages that make classroom instruction tough to deliver. Parents are furious (The New York Times).

 

> International: In the United Kingdom, where the vaccination rate against COVID-19 is high, Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people on Wednesday to work from home as a method to curb the spread of the omicron variant, and he mandated the use of so-called vaccine passports in large venues (Bloomberg News). … Austria will end its COVID-19 lockdown on Sunday for the vaccinated and keep it in place for the unvaccinated. The country’s rate of vaccination, currently 67.7 percent of the population, is considered low for Western Europe (The Associated Press).  … Research conducted in Israel before omicron emerged globally supports the medical community’s enthusiasm for booster shots. Data gathered from 840,000 people who received an extra dose of Pfizer vaccine found that those 50 or older had a 90 percent lower death rate (The Times of Israel).

 

> Insurance: The largest rise in life insurance payouts in a century has followed the surge in U.S. deaths from COVID-19 (The Wall Street Journal). Death-benefit payments rose 15.4 percent in 2020 to $90.43 billion, mostly due to the pandemic, according to the American Council of Life Insurers. It’s the sharpest rise since 1918.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION: The United States is prepared to use economic sanctions to respond to any aggression against Ukraine but is not contemplating putting U.S. combat troops on the ground there, Biden told reporters on Wednesday, a day after speaking at length with Russian President Vladimir Putin (The Washington Post). “That is not on the table,” Biden said firmly when asked if he was considering, as some lawmakers have suggested, stationing U.S. troops in or around Ukraine. “I made very clear, if, in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences, economic consequences like ones he’s never seen,” Biden said. “His immediate response was he understood that.”

 

> Carbon neutral federal government: Biden, like some of his predecessors in the Oval Office, is keen to use the federal government to lead by example in meeting ambitious environmental goals. He says his aim is to drastically reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He wants the federal government to be carbon neutral by then, and on Wednesday he described a plan he thinks can hit that target, if his successors in the White House follow through (The Hill).

 

He ordered federal agencies to buy electric vehicles, to power facilities with wind, solar and nuclear energy, and to use sustainable building materials. In a series of executive orders, Biden directed the government to transform its 300,000 buildings and 600,000 cars and trucks and use its annual purchases of $650 billion in goods and services to help achieve the climate change battle plan he envisions (The Washington Post, The New York Times).

 

The vulnerability of executive orders, however, is that they can be undone, reducing sweeping, decades-long goals into episodic stutter-steps. Recall that in 1999, former President Clinton signed an executive order directing all federal departments and agencies to improve the energy efficiency of government buildings. In 2009, former President Obama issued an executive order to reduce petroleum use in federal vehicles and ordered that all new light-duty vehicles leased or purchased by federal agencies be alternative fuel vehicles, such as hybrid or electric, compressed natural gas or biofuel. In 2011, Obama used a presidential memorandum to say federal fleets should upgrade performance and efficiency.

 

Biden’s timetable says that by 2030, the federal government must purchase electricity produced only from sources that do not emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And by 2032, federal managers are instructed to cut in half the greenhouse emissions produced by federal buildings.

 

Obama was all-in by 2010 to promote energy efficiency in the federal government and touted the installation of solar panels on the roof of the White House in 2014 (video), a lengthy demonstration project that was spearheaded under former President George W. Bush. Former President Carter in 1979 had a solar-heated hot water system installed at the White House, only to see former President Reagan remove his innovation seven years later.

 

 

President Joe Biden arrives to speak about infrastructure projects during an event at the Kansas City Area Transit Authority

 

 

> Iran nuclear talks: The administration is sending a delegation to Vienna to join international denuclearization negotiations with Tehran over the weekend (The Hill).

 

> Biden nominated Meg Whitman, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Company and the 2010 Republican nominee for governor in California, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Kenya. Whitman endorsed Biden in the 2020 election (The Hill).

 

The Hill: Five things to watch during the Biden-hosted, two-day virtual Summit for Democracy, which gets underway today.

 

The Hill’s Niall Stanage explores the nation’s fitful mood and its impact on voter assessments of Biden’s presidency to date. 

 

*****

 

POLITICS: Can Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) overcome continued opposition from Trump? Early signs indicate that it will be a troubled road for him after Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) announced a primary bid against the incumbent governor with the former president’s endorsement. 

 

According to a new survey released on Wednesday, Trump’s support for Perdue already has had a big impact on the nascent race. The new poll, unveiled by Fox 5 Atlanta and Insider Advantage, shows that Kemp (pictured below) led Perdue, who lost reelection to the Senate in January, with 41 percent support to only 22 percent for the former senator. However, when respondents were told Trump supports Perdue, the two candidates were tied at 34 percent (Fox 5 Atlanta). 

 

The war of words between the two former allies continued on Wednesday as Perdue took part in a number of interviews, including one with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution where he said that he would have called for a special session to investigate alleged voter fraud after the November election if he had been the state’s chief executive. 

 

“I told him we needed a special session to look at it to make sure it was fixed before January. The Legislature could have made sure that signatures were verified. The governor was not interested. He didn’t call a special session. And the secretary of state didn’t help,” Perdue said.

 

However, Kemp’s team fired back, saying that Perdue never asked for a special session at the time and labeled the ex-senator “a desperate, failed former politician who will do anything to soothe his own bruised ego.”

 

“David Perdue lies as easily as he breathes. Perdue never asked the Governor to call a special session. Period. In fact, his campaign — and Perdue himself — asked for there not to be a special session called,” Cody Hall, a Kemp spokesman, said in a statement

 

Politico: Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) is stranded as her state nears a new congressional map.

 

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Flush with cash, states planning big cuts to taxes.

 

 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a news conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta

 

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! 

OPINION

No, really, the debt ceiling is stupid and must die, by Mark Gongloff, editor, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3rSH4Yy

 

Stressed? Worn down? It’s time to be your own life coach, by Elizabeth Bernstein, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3DDg5CH 

A MESSAGE FROM UBER

Flexibility works

Whether it’s because of the freedom to pick their hours, pick their rides, or
simply pick their kids up on time, 86% of drivers say they need flexibility.*

*From a Benenson Strategy Group survey.

See how flexibility works for over 3.3 million drivers.

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at noon.

 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to consider a House-passed bill to set up a process for a vote to increase the nation’s debt limit with a simple Senate majority. 

 

The president makes opening remarks at the Summit for Democracies at 8 a.m. and opens the virtual plenary session at 8:15 a.m. The president at 10 a.m. will pay his respects to the late former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda beginning at 9:45 a.m. ahead of a private Friday funeral at Washington National Cathedral. The Associated Press has details describing public events to honor Dole in Washington and Kansas. Biden will speak by phone at 12:30 p.m. with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The president at 1:45 p.m. will speak with leaders of the Bucharest Nine group of eastern flank NATO countries to brief them about his conversation this week with Putin regarding Ukraine and the massing of Russian troops at the border. Biden and Vice President Harris will be briefed by advisers at 3:30 p.m. in the State Dining Room about omicron and other pandemic issues.

 

First lady Jill Biden will accompany the president to Capitol Hill for the congressional tribute to Dole. She will travel to Groton, Conn., and join Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro at 5:15 p.m. at a holiday event with Navy families tied to the USS Delaware, the submarine for which the first lady serves as the sponsor. 

 

The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 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.

ELSEWHERE

CHINA: Two major Chinese property firms, Evergrande and Kaisa, have defaulted on $1.6 billion worth of bonds to overseas creditors, Fitch Ratings agency said Thursday, as contagion spreads within the country’s debt-ridden real estate sector (AFP News Agency). … The market can weather the Evergrande crisis, predicted China’s top central banker (The Wall Street Journal).

 

SPACE: Blue Origin, citing high winds, delayed until Saturday a planned 10-minute commercial space flight that was expected to blast off today from West Texas with four paying customers and a pair of celebrities. “Good Morning America” co-host Michael Strahan will join Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, aboard the New Shepard, a spacecraft named after her father and the first American in space (ABC News and The Associated Press).

 

SPORTS: Tiger Woods is returning to the golf course. The 15-time major champion announced he will make his first tournament appearance at the PNC Championship alongside his son, Charlie, after rehabilitation from a February car crash that injured his legs and feet. The event is for major champions and a family member (ESPN). 

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the 122nd football meeting between the U.S. Military Academy and the Naval Academy (aka Army-Navy), we’re eager for some smart guesses about the history of the battle for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

 

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

 

 

Roughly two-thirds of the Army-Navy games have been held in Philadelphia. Which Philadelphia stadium has hosted the most?

  1. Franklin Field
  2. JFK Stadium
  3. Veterans Stadium
  4. Lincoln Financial Field 

Dating back to 1901, 10 presidents have attended the Army-Navy game. Which of the following did not?

  1. Ronald Reagan
  2. John F. Kennedy
  3. Bill Clinton
  4. Harry Truman 

The two academies have produced how many Heisman Trophy winners?

  1. Three
  2. Five 
  3. Seven 
  4. Zero 

How many times has the Army-Navy game been held in a non-East Coast city? 

  1. Once
  2. Twice
  3. Five 
  4. Zero

 

Navy midshipmen march before an NCAA college football game against Army

 

Tags Abigail Spanberger Anthony Fauci Barack Obama Bill Clinton Boris Johnson Brian Kemp Charles Schumer David Perdue Donald Trump Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin John Cornyn John Thune John Yarmuth Jon Tester Kyrsten Sinema Lauren Boebert Lindsey Graham Mark Meadows Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Rochelle Walensky Roy Blunt Vladimir Putin

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