October 17, 2021

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POLITICO Playbook: ‘Everything is hanging by a thread’ – POLITICO – Politico

11 min read

LIZ AND LESLEY — Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) got the “60 Minutes” treatment Sunday night, and the most surprising moment — the one generating outsize attention on social media — had nothing to do with DONALD TRUMP. Instead it was about her past opposition to same-sex marriage, even though her sister MARY was married to a woman. “I was wrong. I was wrong. I love my sister very much, I love her family very much, and I was wrong. … I believe that my dad was right.” The clip More on the segment below

WHERE’S THE URGENCY? — Congress is three days out from a vote on a key plank of the president’s agenda — a massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure package (BIF) — and President JOE BIDEN and House Democratic leaders haven’t even started the whipping process, we’re told from sources across the Democratic spectrum.

Our colleagues Natasha Korecki and Laura Barrón-López reported Sunday night that the president was making calls and doing Zoom sessions from Camp David over the weekend on BIF and the larger reconciliation package. But the seeming lack of urgency so far — given the sheer scale of the task and mere days to complete it — is alarming some House Democrats going into a critical week, multiple people involved told us Sunday night.

“I don’t understand why the president isn’t whipping his own historic bill,” said one moderate House Democrat.

THE VIEW FROM LEADERSHIP: Speaker NANCY PELOSI has been trying to project an air of confidence. She announced Sunday night that she plans to start the House debate on BIF today, with a vote Thursday.

The hope is that leaders can announce an agreement or “framework” on reconciliation with Sens. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) and JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) by then, freeing progressives to vote for BIF.

The problem: Almost everyone we spoke to Sunday said that timing is unlikely at best. One senior Democratic aide called it flat-out “fiction.” “There [are] literally no negotiations with anyone,” another House moderate said.

Yes, Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and the White House are in regular touch with Manchema trying to make progress on the larger reconciliation package. We also hear there’s an effort underway to get Manchin to walk back his demand for a “pause” on reconciliation. But that’s a far cry from a “framework.”

FRUSTRATION WITH BIDEN: Moderate Democrats expected Biden to start twisting House progressives’ arms during their White House meeting last week. But we’re told by sources in the progressive camp and another senior Democratic aide that the president has neither asked progressives to drop their demand that the reconciliation bill pass in tandem with BIF, nor pressed them to accept a stand-alone vote on BIF this week — at least not yet. This has infuriated moderates.

“The president needs to pick up the phone and call people,” the moderate source close to the talks told us. The person argued that the White House has been in “listening mode” for too long and needs to bang heads to get this vote over the finish line this week.

It’s not just moderates who are dismayed. “There are a lot of mistakes happening here,” the senior Democratic aide said Sunday night, acknowledging the lack of a game plan going into such a critical week. “There is no whip effort on the BIF yet. Everything is hanging by a thread. Biden needs to be more engaged.”

THE PROGRESSIVE VIEW: They firmly believe that Biden and Pelosi agree with them that both bills should move together. “No one has made a case to progressives or lobbied for them to change their position and vote for it before the Build Back Better Act,” one senior House progressive source told us. “And in fact the White House, when we were there on Wednesday, was very much in the same position: There was agreement that we need both bills.”

SO WHAT WILL PELOSI DO if Schumer and the White House don’t get a reconciliation deal hashed out with Manchema by Thursday? Your guess is as good as ours. Some Pelosi watchers are predicting she’ll turn to progressives and say: I tried, it’s not ready, you have to vote for this, and try to whip them in line. Others think she could just put a $3.5 trillion bill on the floor without an agreement with the Senate, though it could fail amid moderate opposition. Or, as some progressives believe this is heading, she could break her promise to moderates to vote on BIF this week while assuring them she’s pushing hard on a reconciliation deal and just needs more time.

Pelosi was equally cryptic on ABC’s “This Week”: “Let me just say we’re going to pass the bill this week,” she said of BIF. But she also had this warning: “I’m never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn’t have the votes.”

Good Monday morning, and thanks for reading Playbook, where we promise to bring you the latest on the crazy next couple of weeks in Congress. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

GERMANY LATEST: MERKEL’S PARTY COME UP SHORT, BUT … — A great lede from POLITICO Europe’s Matthew Karnitschnig: “Looks like Germany won’t be saying Auf Wiedersehen to ANGELA MERKEL for a while yet. The country’s general election on Sunday left the two dominant political camps — the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the conservative alliance of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) — only about 1.7 percentage points apart. That signaled a drawn-out coalition-building process that is likely to leave Merkel in charge, on a caretaker basis, through the fall, if not longer.

“About the only thing one can say for certain now is that post-Merkel, Germany will remain on a solidly pro-EU transatlantic course, with moderate parties continuing to steer Europe’s most populous country.” Read the full story here

BIDEN’S MONDAY: The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m.

HARRIS’ MONDAY: The VP will also host a Congressional Black Caucus 50th anniversary reception at her residence at 3:30 p.m.

National security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN is traveling to Saudi Arabia today to meet with Crown Prince MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, per the AP.

Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 1 p.m.

THE HOUSE will meet at noon and take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill at 2 p.m., with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m. The House Democratic Caucus will meet at 5:30 p.m. for what’s likely to be a tense caucus meeting. Pelosi in her “Dear Colleague” letter specifically asked for the “fullest participation” possible, a jab at moderates who routinely skip these sessions.

THE SENATE will meet at 3 p.m. to take up the motion to proceed to the bill that would avert a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. A cloture vote on the motion to proceed will come at 5:30 p.m.

CONGRESS

PELOSI VS. SCHUMER? — Mods and progressives have been at each other’s throats for a while now on reconciliation. But what caught our eye in a story by NYT’s Jonathan Weisman were a few grafs about sniping between the camps of Pelosi and Schumer: “Senate leaders wish Ms. Pelosi had not let her committee leaders draft pieces of the bill on their own, since the measure being stitched together this weekend is likely to cost well over $3.5 trillion and build expectations that will have to be dashed.

“House Democrats have been kept largely in the dark about the Senate’s plans, since Mr. Schumer is writing his version behind closed doors. But, they complain, he has not pushed his committee chairmen to nail down their positions and line up their votes, so they can begin negotiating with their House counterparts.”

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE SHUTDOWN — You know Washington is chaotic when a potential government shutdown four days away is below-the-fold news. But let’s not lose sight. Senate Republicans tonight are expected to block a short-term spending bill, or CR, because it would also raise the debt ceiling. But while the standoff has caused some political watchers to warn that a shutdown is a real possibility, we’ve been skeptical it will happen for one reason: It would look terrible for Democrats. Republicans have said they will back a funding bill that doesn’t include the debt ceiling. We expect that might be the Dems’ next play.

Speaking of the debt ceiling, our Caitlin Emma has a story up this morning about how Democrats are still saying they have no backup plan to raise the debt ceiling on their own accord. Aides tell her it could take two weeks for the party to take care of the issue via reconciliation, when the nation could face default in as few as three weeks.

DON’T DREAM IT’S OVER — Marianne LeVine, Nicholas Wu and Sarah Ferris take stock of the long list of dashed dreams for progressives this year — “a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants, a $15 minimum wage, new gun control laws, expanding voting, new standards for racial justice in policing and scrapping the legislative filibuster” — and their final ray of hope. “[T]he stakes for the social spending plan couldn’t be higher for the left,” they write.

ALL POLITICS

More from the “60 Minutes” Cheney interview …

— On Trump: “I think that millions of people around the country have been betrayed and misled, and deceived by Donald Trump. He has said that the election was stolen. He continues to say that. He continues to say things that aren’t true, and continues to raise money off of those claims.”

— On House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY: [T]here’s a difference between somebody who voted for Donald Trump and being the Republican leader after an insurrection, and setting all of that aside and going to Mar-a-Lago, and rehabilitating him, bringing him back in. That to me is unforgivable.”

— On her reelection bid, which she called “the most important House race in the country in 2022”: “A vote against me in this race, a vote for whomever Donald Trump has endorsed is a vote for somebody who’s willing to perpetuate the big lie, somebody who’s willing to put allegiance to Trump above allegiance to the Constitution, absolutely.” The full interview

SCOTUS OUTLOOK — There’s a growing perception that Supreme Court “justices are too political, too powerful and serve for too long,” WaPo’s Robert Barnes and Seung Min Kim report. “Even those who value the court see trouble ahead.”

YOUNGKIN’S TAKE — Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate GLENN YOUNGKIN “wouldn’t say whether he would have voted to certify the election on Jan. 6 if he were a member of Congress,” according to Axios’ Sarah Mucha.

INSANE ASYLUM

INSIDE JOB — Mesa County, Colo., Clerk and Recorder TINA PETERS was hit with a lawsuit from the secretary of state’s office, alleging she and her deputy “snuck someone into the county elections offices to copy the hard drives of Dominion Voting Systems machines,” WaPo’s Emma Brown reports. “The events in Mesa County represent an escalation in the attacks on the nation’s voting system, one in which officials who were responsible for election security allegedly took actions that undermined that security in the name of protecting it.

“As baseless claims about election fraud are embraced by broad swaths of the Republican Party, experts fear that people who embrace those claims could be elected or appointed to offices where they oversee voting, potentially posing new security risks.” The full story is worth your time.

MEDIAWATCH

NYT’s Ben Smith’s latest, with a wild opening anecdote: “Goldman Sachs, Ozy Media and a $40 Million Conference Call Gone Wrong”

Ana Navarro and Sunny Hostin were cleared to return to “The View” after false positive Covid tests, per Page Six.

Chuck Schumer got a standing ovation at the Tonys.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Rob Duhart Jr. is joining Walmart Global Tech as deputy CISO leading eCommerce and M&A security. He most recently was global head of federated privacy, safety and security at Google, and is a DOD, FBI and DOE alum.

TRANSITIONS — Will Boyington is now senior manager of public policy comms at Blue Origin. He previously was comms director of the National Space Council, and is a Dan Newhouse and House Oversight alum. … Ann O’Hanlon, who spent five years as chief of staff and campaign manager for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), is the new Washington-based chief of staff at Change Research, a Silicon Valley polling firm. … Jon Summers will be chief comms officer at UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. He currently is president of Summers Strategies and is a Harry Reid alum. …

… Eric Bagwell is joining Intel as IP policy program director. He previously was a senior adviser for Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.). … Doug Lee is now senior director at Mindset. He most recently was VP of U.S. public policy at Credit Suisse, and is a House Appropriations and Mike Quigley alum. … Jake Brennan is now a senior associate at Avalere Health. He previously was a legislative assistant at Mehlman Castagnetti.

ENGAGED — Matt Schuck, comms director for Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) and a Sean Duffy and HUD alum, and Melissa Donaldson, a U.S. Navy veteran and soon-to-be law student, got engaged Saturday afternoon. Schuck sent Donaldson on a scavenger hunt through the city and led her to the Starbucks at L’Enfant Plaza, where they had their first date. Pic Another pic

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Stephanie Talton, deputy assistant commissioner for congressional affairs at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and George Talton, assistant chief with the U.S. Border Patrol, welcomed James Stephen Talton on Thursday. He joins big brother George. Pic Another pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) (37), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) and Ed Case (D-Hawaii) … Josh MandelJuleanna Glover … WaPo’s Tony RommSeema VermaAllie Owen Anne-Marie Slaughter of New America … BGR Public Relations Jeff BirnbaumJeffrey M. Lacker … TSA’s Jenny Burke Carl Woog of WhatsApp … Brian Killheffer (4-0) … Christina DiPasqualeLaVerne Alexander … POLITICO’s Meridith McGraw, Steven Overly, Amanda Pietroski, Nick Tedesco and Molly FruitsWill Bredderman … League of Conservation Voters’ Sara ChieffoMarty FranksPeebles SquireFrancisco UrenaGeoff Burgan … Madison Group’s Marcus Sebastian MasonDan RavivBrendan Dunn of Akin Gump … American Cleaning Institute’s Kristin DiNicolantonioRené Carbone Bardorf … ABC’s Matthew Vann … former Rep. Peter Kostmayer (D-Pa.) … Caitlyn SchneeweissCuneyt DilZach Barnett of Rep. Garret Graves’ (R-La.) office … Sam RaskinTim Traylor Lee WassermanAbby Curran Horrell Alexa (Wertman) Brown Laura Whitefield

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