The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by National Industries for the Blind – Manchin says no; White House fires back
Presented by National Industries for the Blind
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths this morning: 806,438.
As of this morning, 72.8 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 61.4 percent is “fully vaccinated,” according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker. Booster or third doses have been administered to 18.1 percent of the population.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) imperiled the Build Back Better Act on Sunday, putting President Biden’s top domestic priority on its deathbed while leaving fellow Democrats to question if there can be a separate path forward for any of the legislation’s provisions.
Manchin delivered a stinging rebuke of the Biden administration after months of work on the nearly $2 trillion package, which he has criticized and questioned repeatedly as inflation has surged and as his party has seemingly looked past him in negotiations.
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation, I just can’t. I tried everything humanly possible, I can’t get there,” Manchin told “Fox News Sunday” guest host Bret Baier. “This is a no on this legislation. … I have tried everything I know to do.”
“When you have these things coming at you the way they are right now — I’ve always said … if I can’t go home to the people of West Virginia, I can’t vote for it,” Manchin added (The Hill).
Heads up? The news dropped like a bomb at the White House, which reportedly received word of Manchin’s stance shortly before his Sunday show appearance, with one of his staffers informing a Biden aide.
It also led to one of the most biting statements the Biden White House has released since the president took office, a 700-word screed essentially accusing the West Virginia centrist of lying to Biden this week before an about-face. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Manchin delivered an outline for the package to the White House last week and “promised to continue conversations in the days ahead” (The Hill).
“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” Psaki said. “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”
Despite the fire-and-brimstone statement, Manchin’s warnings to Biden and party leaders had been clear to them since at least the summer. Month after month, the Senate Democrat described his reservations about rising inflation and federal debt as concerns. At one point, Senate Democrats mocked him for mentioning the latter issue during a conference luncheon in late July.
Less than two months ago, Manchin told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that he was “comfortable” passing nothing when the price point of the bill was hovering in the range of $2 trillion to $3.5 trillion, going so far as to make a zero with his thumb and index finger to illustrate his point (Axios).
Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Manchin undercuts Biden, leaving his agenda in limbo.
Politico: White House lights up Manchin after he crushes Biden’s megabill.
The Washington Post: From charm offensive to scorched earth: How Biden’s fragile alliance with Manchin unraveled.
Bloomberg News: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. lowered its forecast for U.S. economic growth after Manchin said Sunday he won’t support the $2 trillion tax-and-spending plan.
Perhaps the only people more upset by Manchin’s opposition were House progressives. Some said they felt betrayed by the centrist Democrat and were left seething. They were also ready and waiting to deliver a message of their own to party leaders: We told you so.
The group, which included Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), notably voted against the bipartisan infrastructure package last month, arguing it was a mistake to do so without passing the massive social spending and climate bill in tandem.
“Let’s be clear: Manchin’s excuse is bullshit. The people of West Virginia would directly benefit from childcare, pre-Medicare expansion, and long term care, just like Minnesotans,” Omar said. “This is exactly what we warned would happen if we separated Build Back Better from infrastructure.”
The Hill: Sanders: Let Manchin vote no on Build Back Better “in front of the whole world.”
Jim Tankersley, The New York Times: Biden agenda sinks under its own ambitions.
With Manchin’s opposition clear, the question on the minds of Democrats everywhere is, what now?
Outwardly, the White House indicated support for an approach laid out by the New Democrat Coalition calling for a bill with fewer provisions funded for longer periods of budgetary commitment.
“We believe that adopting such an approach could open a potential path forward for this legislation,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the coalition, said in a statement, which was quickly shared on social media by White House chief of staff Ron Klain.
In a letter to Senate Democrats early this morning, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) maintained that the party will not give up in the new year and will still attempt to pass something. What that looks like, however, remains up in the air.
“We were elected to address these many needs and we will not stop fighting until we do. Therefore, Senators should be aware that the Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television,” Schumer wrote. “We are going to vote on a revised version of the House-passed Build Back Better Act -– and we will keep voting on it until we get something done.”
Democrats, including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, say it would be beneficial to salvage some key pieces of the bill, including universal pre-kindergarten and the child tax credit — a key sticking point for Manchin — budgeted over 10 years.
“We will be able to pass components of it, it may need to take a different format, but it’s not dead,” Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.) said on Sunday. “This version of it is stalled out. … This package was the best format to getting it done in 2021 and indeed we got it passed in the House of Representatives. We may need to take a different tact in 2022.”
Jordain Carney, The Hill: Biden’s unending dilemma: dealing with Joe Manchin.
The Wall Street Journal: Biden’s climate plans thrown into doubt by Manchin’s rejection of “Build Back Better” bill.
NBC News: Democrats plot next steps after Manchin knifes Biden’s Build Back Better Act.
> Jan. 6: The House’s attempt to hold former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in contempt has created a dilemma for the Department of Justice as it weighs whether to break from long-standing executive branch policy.
As The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch and Harper Neidig point out, the department’s stance for decades has been to support testimonial immunity for top presidential advisers when faced with congressional subpoenas -– the very policy Meadows’s attorneys are relying on. Charging Meadows with contempt for subpoena defiance of the House select committee’s investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol would represent a departure from that trend and create questions for the department looking ahead.
The Hill: What we’ve learned from the Meadows documents.
> RIP: Former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) died Sunday at age 76, having retired from the upper chamber in late 2019 due to declining health and his battle with Parkinson’s disease. Isakson was known across the Capitol complex during his two-decade tenure in office for his kindness, decency and ability to work across the aisle. (The Hill and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
“If all Republicans were like Johnny,” former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes (D) once said, “I would be a Republican.”
Isakson’s motto said it all: “There are two types of people in this world: friends and future friends.”
Jim Galloway, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Johnny Isakson’s political career was once dead and finished. And then it wasn’t.
A MESSAGE FROM NIB
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: Confirmed cases of the omicron variant are rising so rapidly that Biden plans to warn the unvaccinated on Tuesday about their continued risks of serious illness, and to announce new steps the government is taking “to help communities in need of assistance,” according to the White House. He will reinforce the administration’s embrace of booster vaccines and testing, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday (NBC News).
Biden and his team have all but ruled out new lockdowns.
Asked what new information or responses the president will convey, Fauci suggested Biden’s speech will describe preparations for a winter surge and a U.S. commitment behind global vaccines. Three doses of effective vaccines may be needed to fortify immunity against the omicron variant.
“He came out with his winter plan, which is really a good plan — getting people boosted who are vaccinating, getting children vaccinating, making testing more available, having surge teams out because we know we’re going to need them because there will be an increased demand on hospitalization, strengthening the safety of travel and providing vaccines for the rest of the world so that we can look at this as a global problem, not only a problem here in the United States,” Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, speaking as he concluded his dozen years as director, said the United States could experience 1 million cases per day of COVID-19 in a short period, perhaps by next month (NPR).
The Washington Post: Less than a third of people in the United States who are fully vaccinated have gotten booster doses, although everyone is eligible for free and accessible jabs. Omicron could speed things up.
The Hill: Just 55 percent of nursing home residents have received booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine. It’s a problem.
Omicron’s mutations are responsible for the fact that many people who have multiple doses of effective vaccines are testing positive for COVID-19. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), 72, is one. She tweeted on Sunday that she is fully vaccinated and received a booster and still developed minor symptoms of infection before testing positive. Hours later, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he also tested positive after experiencing mild symptoms. He is fully vaccinated and boosted, he said (Reuters). Later on Sunday, Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) announced he is yet another example of a breakthrough infection. His infection was confirmed as he returned from an official congressional delegation visit to Ukraine. “I’m thankful to be fully vaccinated and boosted and experiencing only mild symptoms (the vaccine is safe and effective),” he tweeted (9News).
The New York Times: COVID-19 infections are roiling sports as leagues push ahead with schedules.
The Washington Post: Accompanying COVID-19’s surge is renewed attention to the expiring economic support policies put in place at the outset of the pandemic.
The New York Times: Traveling for the holidays? Many are rethinking such plans, while others say they’ll proceed with caution. More than 109 million Americans are expected to travel between Thursday and Jan. 2, a 34 percent increase from last year, according to AAA. The number of airline passengers alone is projected to rise 184 percent from last year.
In the United States, rising COVID-19 cases are exhausting hospital staff members and dashing public expectations that “fully vaccinated” means that people can sidestep illness because they were jabbed. Infectious disease experts believe the variant is so infectious that it will soon be blamed for most new cases of disease even as delta continues to prey on the unvaccinated.
Moderna said today that a booster shot of its currently authorized vaccine significantly raises the level of antibodies that can thwart omicron. A full dose of 100 micrograms improved antibody levels about 83-fold compared with pre-boost levels, the company said. Half a dose, or 50 micrograms, increased the level of antibodies by roughly 37-fold (The New York Times).
Regeneron’s and Eli Lilly’s antibody drugs have been the go-to treatments for early cases of COVID-19 thanks to their effectiveness at heading off severe disease and keeping patients out of hospitals. The two drug makers have warned that laboratory testing suggests their therapies will be much less potent against omicron (The Associated Press).
The Hill’s Justine Coleman reports that U.S. scientists are studying infection data abroad and clinical and laboratory experiments to try to diagram omicron’s capabilities, which are still not well understood.
In the United Kingdom, omicron is rampaging, especially in London: 85 people with confirmed omicron cases have been hospitalized in England, and seven have died, according to data released on Saturday by Britain’s Health Security Agency. A total of 90,418 new coronavirus cases were reported across Britain on Saturday after days of record highs, followed by 82,886 new cases on Sunday (The New York Times). New lockdowns and restrictions are possible, and the situation threatens the political running room of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party.
The Associated Press: Restaurants, hotels and pubs report cancellations at the busiest and most lucrative time of year.
In South Africa, where omicron was first identified, researchers are puzzling over the disconnect between infections and ICU admissions and deaths, unsure if omicron is less potent there or if South Africans have antibody advantages because of exposure to a wide array of pathogens.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said during a prime-time address on Sunday that parents must get their children vaccinated. “A fifth wave has begun,” he said (The Associated Press).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: Biden’s executive order that says the federal government must reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 faces enormous challenges. The order represents one of the most important efforts yet to reduce carbon emissions amid growing fears the world is running out of time to prevent devastating changes from global warming (The Hill).
> White House: The president has joked that he doesn’t pay attention to his job approval poll numbers “anymore,” acknowledging that the public is in a sour mood about his governance, Congress, the pandemic, inflation, the economy and the general direction of the country. Nearing the end of a rollercoaster first year, Biden appears to be sticking with his top White House advisers, defends his vice president and renominated the man his predecessor put in charge of monetary policy. “Voters have had enough and the Biden team keeps doubling down,” said one Democratic strategist, pointing to the president’s low approval ratings. “Begs the question ‘When does Biden stop listening to a team that has tanked his presidency in less than 12 months?’” (The Hill).
POLITICS: House Democrats were dealt another blow on the 2022 front on Sunday night as Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.) is expected to announce his retirement, making him the 21st member of the House Democratic Caucus to head for the exits ahead of what is shaping up to be a rough cycle for the party.
The New Jersey Globe reported late Sunday that Sires, who’s been in office since 2006, is expected to announce his retirement before the end of the year. Robert Menendez, the son of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is expected to run to replace Sires, who ironically replaced the sitting senator in the House when he ran for the upper chamber 15 years ago.
> Arizona was at the forefront of Democratic victories in 2020, but Democrats are growing increasingly concerned that they will not be able to replicate those results in 2022, with issues at the top of the ticket potentially creating a trickle-down effect for the party.
As The Hill’s Tal Axelrod reports, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic Party’s leading gubernatorial candidate, was hit with trouble last month when a jury found for the second time that Talonya Adams, a Black woman, was discriminated against when she worked for state Senate Democrats and ultimately fired in retaliation when she raised concerns over pay disparity.
Hobbs was the party’s minority leader in the chamber and participated in her firing, which she has since apologized for.
The problems come as she leads in primary polling after her profile skyrocketed over the past year due to her opposition to the GOP-led election “audit” in the Grand Canyon State. But Democratic worries remain that the issue risks alienating key parts of the Democratic base and hindering her electability in a general election should she emerge as the nominee in one of the nation’s most important gubernatorial races.
“It’s definitely a punch to the gut that she received, and it’ll certainly have an impact,” said state Sen. Martin Quezada (D), a candidate for state treasurer. “I’m confident she still will win the primary. But how much of an impact this will be in the general, it’s hard to tell at this point.”
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!
Manchin’s position on Build Back Better reflects the reality of West Virginia politics, by Karen Tumulty, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/32hDaxR
Don’t panic about omicron. But don’t be indifferent, either, by Ashish K. Jha, opinion contributor, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3qtesmD
Most COVID-19 infections may soon be breakthroughs. Here’s what that means, by Eleanor Cummins, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/33N3Vel
A MESSAGE FROM NIB
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10:30 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The Senate convenes at 5 p.m. for a pro forma session and will return to session on Jan. 3.
The president will return to the White House from Delaware this morning. He will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:10 a.m. Biden will have lunch with Vice President Harris at 12:45 p.m. in the private dining room. He will be briefed at 1:30 p.m. by the White House coronavirus response team in the Oval Office.
The White House press briefing is scheduled for 1 p.m.
➜ INTERNATIONAL: Millions of people face possible starvation in Afghanistan, a country on the verge of economic and medical system collapse because of the sanctions-constrained Taliban rule. Members of Congress and humanitarian organizations want the United States to move quickly to help the Afghan people, reports The Hill’s Laura Kelly.
➜ CITY WATCH: New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams (D) recently made headlines by declaring his support for a city cryptocurrency, emulating the MiamiCoin that Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) has been promoting since August. These endorsements are a new development in the evolution of cryptocurrencies and an apparent milestone in government acceptance of them. The idea that a mayor who governs a major crypto business hub and “gets it” should back a city cryptocurrency is having a moment (Bloomberg Law).
➜ CENTRAL BANK: The Federal Reserve is pivoting hard from the patient approach to pulling back support for the U.S. economy. Fed officials last week charted a much faster return from unprecedented stimulus as inflation rises. Chairman Jerome Powell said that while the peak for the labor market may still be ahead of this country, acting too late risks derailing progress made so far, reports The Hill’s Sylvan Lane.
➜ SPORTS: Tiger Woods, joined by his son, Charlie Woods, 12, finished second at the PNC Championship to mark his return to the golf course 10 months after being severely injured in a car crash, including major injuries to his legs. The Woods duo shot 25 under par, finishing two shots behind John Daly and his son, John Daly II, in the family affair. Woods maintained that he is far from returning to PGA Tour competition. Throughout the weekend, Woods used a golf cart to make his way around the course, which is not allowed on the tour.
And finally … A portrait of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who served more than two decades in the House before his death in 2019 and was the first African American elected official to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol, will be on display at the Baltimore Museum from Wednesday through Jan. 9 before permanent installation in the Capitol (The Baltimore Sun).
Gaining attention for his work is artist Jerrell Gibbs, 33, who began painting six years ago and was commissioned to create the Cummings portrait. “It gave me courage that people want to support what I bring to the table and believe that I have value,” he told The New York Times.