The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Charter Communications – Meadows held in contempt; Biden hasn’t moved Manchin
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The House on Tuesday voted to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt, headlining a busy day on Capitol Hill that included action to raise the debt ceiling and questions about whether Democrats are making any progress to win Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) vote for the Build Back Better agenda.
Lawmakers voted to hold Meadows, a former conservative member from North Carolina, in criminal contempt for noncompliance with a subpoena and failure to provide some information to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Members voted largely along party lines, 222-208, with Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who are members of the panel, breaking party ranks (The Hill).
The vote took place after the committee released a second batch of text messages from allies begging Meadows on Jan. 6 to try to persuade former President Trump to quell the rioters.
“The President needs to stop this asap,” one unidentified GOP lawmaker wrote to Meadows.
On Tuesday, Cheney read aloud a number of explosive text messages Meadows received amid the Capitol attack from Donald Trump Jr. and a number of Fox News hosts making similar pleas of Trump via Meadows. The former chief of staff asserted this week that messages he had turned over to the panel were “selectively leaked” to the public.
“We’ve tried very hard, in [a] very transparent and accommodating way, to share non-privileged information,” Meadows told Newsmax’s “Rob Schmitt Tonight.” “And what we found out tonight is that not only did that just get disregarded, but then they tried to weaponize text messages, selectively leaked them, to put out a narrative, quite frankly, that the president didn’t act. … And I can tell you this: The president did act” (Daily Beast).
As The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo, the disclosed messages help make the case for defenders of the committee who believe the more information that comes to light about the worst attack on the Capitol in more than two centuries, the better.
The Hill: Meadows falsely claims that Trump “acted quickly” to stop the Jan. 6 riot.
The New York Times: Cheney embraces role in Jan. 6 inquiry, holding up an unsparing mirror to the GOP.
The Hill: Congress passes bill allowing for easier National Guard defense of Capitol after Jan. 6.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has laid the blame for the Capitol attack squarely at the feet of Trump, told reporters that he is keeping an eye on the committee’s work and is intrigued with what it will unearth.
”It will be interesting to reveal all the participants who were involved,” McConnell said in the Capitol (Politico).
HuffPost: A QAnon believer who threatened to shoot Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was sentenced to 28 months in prison.
The Washington Post: The D.C. attorney general sues the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers over the Jan. 6 attack.
The Wall Street Journal: Trump loses bid to shield tax returns from Congress.
Meanwhile, Congress moved early today to raise the debt limit by a deadline described by the Treasury Department and provided lawmakers a breather in the debt battle until after next year’s midterm elections. Senate Democrats, acting without GOP support, voted 50-49 to increase the limit by $2.5 trillion to a cap of $31.4 trillion (The Hill and Reuters). The House followed early today by a vote of 221-209 (The Hill). President Biden will sign the measure.
“As I have said repeatedly, this is about paying debt accumulated by both parties, so I’m pleased we came together to facilitate a process that has made addressing the debt ceiling possible,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said before the upper chamber voted.
The Associated Press: Senate votes to raise debt limit by $2.5 trillion, avoiding U.S. default.
However, Senate Democrats are staring down trouble on the legislative front because White House and Democratic leaders can’t nail down Manchin’s support for the party’s nearly $2 trillion social spending and climate package.
Manchin on Tuesday indicated that talks on Monday and Tuesday with Biden have not allayed his reservations, putting into further peril Schumer’s goal of passing the Build Back Better Act by Christmas.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Manchin told CNN when asked if Biden is moving him closer to voting for the bill. The West Virginia centrist has differences with the administration over the child tax credit, the scope and projected 10-year costs of the legislation.
According to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, the situation has created a divide among Democrats over how hard to push Manchin. Progressives, including Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), both members of leadership, favor an aggressive approach. However, moderate members counsel patience and maintain that a vote before Christmas is unnecessary and that time is needed to get the bill done.
“I don’t know that that’s absolutely essential,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), adding that it’s “fine” if the bill is postponed until 2022. “I think what’s more important is what’s in it rather than the time frame.”
However, unless the measure is signed into law before the new year, the government’s monthly child tax credit payments, supported by most Democratic lawmakers, will expire (CNBC).
Schumer on Tuesday did not promise a vote on the mammoth blueprint next week.
Jordain Carney, The Hill: Democrats push Manchin on the “nuclear option” for voting rights.
A MESSAGE FROM CHARTER
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: Federal officials believe a significant wave of omicron infections looms because so many people in the United States are unvaccinated against COVID-19, or are vaccinated but have yet to obtain booster doses. “Everything points to a large wave. A large wave is coming,” a senior administration official told Axios. “It will be fast. It won’t be as severe, but regrettably, there will be plenty of hospitalizations,” the official added.
> Deliberate speed: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the omicron variant needed just weeks to become 3 percent of all confirmed U.S. COVID-19 cases (The Hill). … In the United Kingdom, omicron is spreading so fast it has the potential to overwhelm Britain’s hospitals (The Associated Press). … As COVID-19 cases surge, Apple announced it is requiring customers and staff to wear masks at all Apple stores (The Hill). … Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., moved on Tuesday to shut down its campus amid a “rapid spread” of COVID-19 cases among students. Classes moved online and in-person events and athletics are canceled (The Hill). … JP Morgan Chase & Co. told unvaccinated workers to stay home: “It seems unfair to require our vaccinated employees to wear masks all day at their desks” (The Wall Street Journal).
> Pfizer wants emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its coronavirus antiviral treatment pill Paxlovid, which the company said on Tuesday has been shown in a clinical trial to protect against severe illness, and is likely to work to mitigate the severity of infection with the omicron variant (The New York Times). The pills are taken with an older antiviral, ritonavir, every 12 hours for five days beginning shortly after onset of symptoms. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday that Paxlovid is not a substitute for COVID-19 vaccines, and he encouraged people to get jabbed.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: Biden today will survey parts of Kentucky that will take years to recover and rebuild after being flattened by weekend tornadoes that killed at least 88 people in five states, while many more remain missing. He will repeat his pledges that all available help will be provided by the federal government to Kentucky and other states that declared disaster emergencies because of the powerful December storms.
“Tens of thousands are still dealing with water, gas or power outages. Families are in shock and grief over the loss of loved ones,” McConnell said on Tuesday. “Rebuilding the areas of Kentucky leveled by this storm will take months, if not years, to complete” (Lexington Herald-Leader).
The Associated Press: On a single Kentucky street in a Bowling Green subdivision, a tornado killed seven children. Fourteen people died within a few blocks.
The entire Kentucky congressional delegation was invited to fly on Air Force One with Biden today to meet with first responders, victims’ families and to view the extent of the destruction, according to the White House.
On Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said he expected the price tag of a full recovery to be “in the hundreds of millions of dollars at least.” But the exact amount won’t be known for a while, as government officials and emergency workers continue to focus on searches for the missing and navigating needed shelter, food and medical attention for thousands of people who have been displaced in Kentucky and other affected states. The death toll in Kentucky remained at 74 late on Tuesday.
> On Tuesday, Biden hosted 10 current and incoming mayors at the White House for meetings, greetings and outreach from Cabinet departments and Vice President Harris. Attendees included Mayor Jim Ross of Arlington, Texas; Mayor-elect Andre Dickens of Atlanta; Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston; Mayor Tim Kelly of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Mayor-elect Justin Bibb of Cleveland, Ohio; Mayor-elect Aftab Pureval of Cincinnati, Ohio; Mayor-elect Daniel Rickenmann of Columbia, S.C.; Mayor-elect Eric Adams of New York City; Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell of Seattle; and Mayor-elect Ken Welch of St. Petersburg, Fla.
> The State Department would get a new office and envoy position to combat Islamophobia globally, if the House gets its way. Up in arms about anti-Muslim rhetoric and behavior by a small number of GOP colleagues, lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill to expand the executive branch focus on mistreatment of Muslims worldwide (The Hill).
POLITICS: Democrats are fretting that the continued spread of COVID-19 could do harm to Biden’s political standing and that of the party ahead of the midterm elections and as the U.S. passes the two-year mark since the virus entered the public sphere.
As The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports, Democrats have a new term to describe both their political fears and Biden’s falling approval ratings: COVID-19 incumbency disadvantage. In addition, their angst goes beyond the midterms to prospects for the Democratic Party to hold the White House in 2024.
According to recent polls, Americans are still confused about the messaging on vaccinations, their overall efficacy and when life will return to normal.
“It could continue. That’s the fear,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne. “For any politician in office, there’s going to be a COVID incumbency disadvantage. COVID belongs to all of those people. COVID is going to be the thing that’s always poisoning the well.”
Payne added that there’s likely going to be a “real come to Jesus moment” for Democrats about vaccine politics. A recent ABC News/Ipsos survey showed that while 53 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 response, 45 percent disapprove, the biggest drop for Biden since a March survey when 72 percent of Americans said they were pleased with Biden’s pandemic response.
Democrats at the state level are also confronting whether to institute vaccine mandates. Although the Biden administration continues to beat the drum that is its directive for federal workers and large employers, there are indications of hesitancy by some Democratic governors to follow suit.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) reportedly told business leaders in Montcalm County that she understood concerns about the mandates, adding that if a federal vaccine requirement were to take effect, “we’re going to lose state employees.”
Politico: “They’re sick of masks”: Democratic governors fight COVID-19 fatigue.
Reid Wilson, The Hill: States plan challenges to federal vaccine mandates.
The Associated Press: New York ethics board tells former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to return money from his $5.1 million book deal.
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After Ron Johnson’s Listerine push, no product is certain it won’t be billed as COVID-19 treatment, by Alexandra Petri, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3GKff9e
Postcards from a world on fire: The planet is failing, as seen and described in a global pictorial project in The New York Times opinion section. https://nyti.ms/3GIW53w
A MESSAGE FROM CHARTER
We believe internet access for all means opportunity for everyone. That’s why we’re investing billions to extend our network to reach those who need it most.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 11 a.m. Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2022.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8 a.m. Biden will fly to Fort Campbell, Ky., to survey tornado damage. He will then travel to Mayfield, Ky., to get a disaster briefing from local leaders at 11:25 a.m., then tour a neighborhood. The president will travel to Princeton, Ky., to tour a neighborhood in hard-hit Dawson Springs, Ky., at 2:30 p.m., followed by remarks at 3 p.m. before returning tonight to the White House.
First lady Jill Biden will travel to New York City for a Forbes 50 over 50 and “Know Your Value” event at 1 p.m. This afternoon, Dr. Biden, second gentleman Doug Emhoff and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will arrive in Wisconsin, where they will visit the children’s hospital in Milwaukee at 4 p.m. local time to meet workers who cared for COVID-19 patients as well as the victims of the November Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy. They will also meet children who will have just received COVID-19 shots. At 6 p.m. CT, the trio will meet first responders and families who lost loved ones when a fleeing driver barreled through the Waukesha parade route, killing six and injuring at least 18 children. The first lady, Emhoff and Murthy will return to Washington tonight.
The Federal Reserve will release a statement at 2 p.m., and Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. following the central bank’s final meeting of 2021. Bloomberg News noted what to expect.
The White House COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.
➜ INTERNATIONAL: What could possibly be next for disaster-ravaged Haiti? On Tuesday, at least 75 people died and dozens were injured in Cap-Haïtien when a gasoline tanker truck exploded in a fireball and overturned on a street (The Associated Press).
➜ OUTER SPACE & DEEP OCEAN: NASA revealed on Tuesday that in April, its Parker Solar Probe (rendition below) “touched” the sun, plunging through the unexplored atmosphere known as the corona about 8 million miles from the sun’s center. The data gathered through several passes by the probe took months to make its way back to Earth. Because the sun lacks a solid surface, exploring the magnetically intense corona region can help scientists better understand solar activity that can interfere with the watery blue marble that circles it every year (The Associated Press). … And speaking of Earth, scientists are increasingly worried that the Southern Ocean is ominously signaling that global warming is affecting the Antarctic current in complex ways, and shifts could complicate the ability to fight climate change in the future. The circular flow of water around Antarctica is, in effect, a climate engine spinning on a continental scale (The New York Times).
➜ STATE WATCH: In California, a state-sponsored market in wood products made from small trees could help store carbon, fund forest treatments and create material for affordable housing, according to a study from the University of California at Berkeley. The study aims to bridge a gap in California’s forest policy (The Hill).
➜ COURTS: O.J. Simpson is a free man -– officially. The former football legend’s parole in Nevada ended effective on Dec. 1, making him fully free following his 2008 conviction for armed robbery in Las Vegas. Simpson was granted parole in July 2017 as part of the minimum sentencing, and was subsequently released from prison three months later (ESPN). … Arizona officials on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to permit its law criminalizing abortions based on genetic conditions to take effect, the latest high-profile case to put the issue of reproductive rights before the nation’s highest court. A federal district judge temporarily blocked enforcement of Arizona’s law in September and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld that decision last month (USA Today).
And finally … After four months on the run in Maryland suburbs, two zebras, the known survivors from an original trio that escaped in August from an exotic animal farm in the state, have been caught and were later seen outdoors at an Upper Marlboro, Md., farm (The Washington Post). The Department of Agriculture and Prince George’s County Animal Services said they learned on Monday that the much-publicized zebras had been recovered without official federal or county assistance and had been returned to their herd last week.
The pair were part of a trio that escaped from a large farm where at least 30 zebras live, authorities said. One of the escaped zebras was found dead in September in an illegal snare trap on a neighboring property.
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