September 18, 2021

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POLITICO Playbook: Pelosi underestimates her moderates – POLITICO – Politico

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‘FUCKING ASSHOLES’ — DEMS IN DISARRAY, PART XLVII. “How dare you?!” … “I’m pissed off!” … “Jesus, you fucking assholes!” … “Please, everybody vote for the damn thing.”

Those were just some of the choice phrases being thrown around in the House Dems’ caucus meeting Monday night as tensions over the budget standoff between Speaker NANCY PELOSI and moderate Democrats reached a boiling point. (For more of that, if you don’t already follow our two House Dem whisperers on Twitter, you should: Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris.)

The chamber broke shortly after midnight without any deal in place to advance the fiscal blueprint vital to passing President JOE BIDEN’s legislative agenda.

WHAT HAPPENED:

— For several days, members of the “Mod Squad” group of nine centrists led by Rep. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-N.J.) have come under intense criticism from their fellow Democrats over their demands for an infrastructure bill vote before they approve the budget. But they’ve held together and even expanded their ranks: On Monday, Rep. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-Fla.) publicly became their 10th member.

— At a caucus meeting Monday evening, Pelosi and House Majority Leader STENY HOYER made an impassioned plea that the party shouldn’t “squander” its majority with intraparty bickering. But no members of the Mod Squad bothered to actually attend that meeting to hear it.

— Pelosi and Gottheimer spent hours trying to hammer out a deal that would essentially fold the budget vote into the roll call vote on the rule — basically, it would deem the budget as passed without having to hold a separate vote. In return for their support, moderates were offered the guarantee of a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill by a deadline of Oct. 1.

Yes, that would fall short of the BIF vote the Mod Squad demanded to have upfront before supporting the budget. BUT it would be a concession from Democratic leaders, who have sought to tie the BIF to the party’s larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. (Indeed, Pelosi has said over and over again that BIF will not pass before the reconciliation bill.)

— Talks broke down as negotiations stretched late into Monday night and members grew tired and grumpy.

— Right now, there is no deal. And while it appears that some moderates are open to this possible accord, others want to hold the line for better terms. Heather and Sarah report that as many as five moderates are still opposed to the tentative detente — and Pelosi can lose only three.

One thing is for sure: House Democratic leaders grossly underestimated their centrists. As Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson tweeted Monday night, “these talks could’ve happened earlier, but leadership clearly thought they’d get moderates to fold to their pressure campaign. But the moderates held firm and have a lot of leverage now.”

That’s the opposite of the conventional wisdom of House politics. In the Senate, moderate Dems routinely run the table. But in the House, they’re usually scoffed at as political weaklings who habitually fold to party elders. That’s why so many members of their own caucus — and even longtime Hill reporters — rolled their eyes when Gottheimer initially made his threat to tank the budget without a BIF vote. Pelosi also dismissed him, calling him an “amateur” (although not by name) and not bothering to talk with him or most of the Mod Squad in the days before the House returned from recess.

Who’s laughing now? Gottheimer went from “amateur hour” to man of the hour. He was at the center of attention trying to strike a deal all night. And he planted a flag in the ground for the fights to come as Democrats haggle over the details of the reconciliation package.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The House will return for a 9 a.m. Democratic caucus meeting that is likely to be just as colorful as Monday night’s, brimming with f-bombs and other curse words hurled at the Mod Squad. Most House Democrats are pissed — and that’s putting it nicely. Gottheimer and his crew are about to become enemy No. 1 among their own colleagues.

At noon, leaders are expected to put the rule to a vote on the floor, hoping to have a deal by then. If not, there’s talk about playing a little hardball, putting the rule up for a vote and daring these moderates to kill off Democrats’ best-laid legislative plans.

Asked about possible concessions to moderates on her way out of the Capitol on Monday night, Pelosi remained elusive — and spicy: “We’ll see tomorrow, won’t we now?”

Good Tuesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

NO MO’ CUOMO — At midnight, ANDREW CUOMO’s resignation as governor of New York took effect. A few minutes later, KATHY HOCHUL was sworn in as his successor — making her the first woman in New York history to hold the post. It also makes New York the largest state in American history to be helmed by a female executive. Coverage from the APNYTCuomo’s official resignation letter Cuomo’s last tweet as governor was about his dog

— At 12:01 a.m., one minute after Cuomo left office, New York City Mayor BILL DE BLASIO — a longtime Cuomo enemy — tweeted a photo of the NYC skyline accompanied by five simple words: “Greatest city in the world.” The Hochul Era has begun.

SCHIFF POURS COLD WATER ON BIDEN’S 8/31 PULLOUT DEADLINE — As House lawmakers waited for movement on the budget Monday night, House Intelligence Chair ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) emerged from his panel’s first classified in-person briefing on Afghanistan and made news by questioning the plausibility of Biden’s plan to withdraw U.S. forces by Aug. 31.

“I think it’s possible, but I think it’s very unlikely,” Schiff said. “Given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders — it’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month.”

— That assessment was shared by Rep. JASON CROW (D-Colo.), who told our Andrew Desiderio that Biden should keep troops in Afghanistan past the deadline.

— Schiff also expressed concerns about the security situation at Kabul’s airport, which he said “would make a very attractive target for ISIS.”

The comments come ahead of a briefing for House lawmakers today at 10:30 a.m. Members are scheduled to hear from Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN, Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN, Chair of the Joint Chiefs Gen. MARK MILLEY and DNI AVRIL HAINES. Expect fireworks.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Heritage Action is launching an $860,000 digital ad campaign opposing Democrats’ proposed inclusion of language from H.R. 3 in the reconciliation package as a pay-for. The ads will target seven senators: Arizona’s MARK KELLY and KYRSTEN SINEMA, West Virginia’s JOE MANCHIN, Georgia’s JON OSSOFF and RAPHAEL WARNOCK, Montana’s JON TESTER and Pennsylvania’s BOB CASEY. It will also target 23 House members. Ad 1 Ad 2 Ad 3

JOIN US — As the Biden administration continues to grapple with the bungled pullout from Afghanistan, Rachael and Eugene will dissect the latest with Rep. DAN CRENSHAW (R-Texas). Crenshaw — a former Navy SEAL who deployed five times overseas, including in Afghanistan — will discuss the precarious situation, his own experience and what he thinks should happen in the coming days, weeks and months. Join us today at 10 a.m.

NEW: POLITICO is launching Congress Minutes, a real-time, mobile-first platform to give readers “quick updates and intel on what’s going on during the course of their day.” The platform will be led by Anthony Adragna and Nancy Vu and debut Sept. 20. More details from Matt Kaminski

BIDEN’S TUESDAY:

— 8 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.

— 8:30 a.m.: Biden will meet with his national security team on Afghanistan.

— 9:30 a.m.: Biden will virtually meet with G-7 leaders on Afghanistan.

— Noon: The president will deliver remarks on Afghanistan in the Roosevelt Room.

VP KAMALA HARRIS’ TUESDAY: The VP will arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam, at 7:10 a.m. EDT and remain there overnight.

Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 1 p.m. The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 2 p.m.

THE HOUSE will meet at 9 a.m. to consider the reconciliation bill and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

THE SENATE is out.

TALIBAN TAKEOVER

THE LATEST HEADLINES …

— The pace of evacuations has sped up considerably. “The U.S. military reported its biggest day of evacuation flights out of Afghanistan by far on Monday,” per the AP. “The chief Pentagon spokesman, JOHN KIRBY, said the faster pace of evacuation was due in part to coordination with Taliban commanders on getting evacuees into the airport.” Since Aug. 14, U.S. forces have facilitated the evacuation of more than 37,000 people, according to national security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN.

— But chaos persists at Kabul’s airport. The WSJ reports that a gun battle erupted there Monday that involved U.S., German and Afghan troops, and left one Afghan soldier dead.

— The U.S. is turning away “some Afghan military interpreters and other close U.S. allies” to instead prioritize the evacuation of U.S. citizens and green card holders, the NYT reports. In The Atlantic, George Packer writes about the ordeal of one Afghan interpreter who braved the violence at the airport with his pregnant wife and young son — and explained it to Packer this way: “We were in such a situation that being killed is better than living here in Afghanistan.”

— Meanwhile, the Taliban is mounting a major offensive to crush a resistance movement in the Panjshir Valley. The anti-Taliban forces there “are ready to fight back, if anything happens,” an aide to resistance leaders told WaPo.

— Biden is being urged to extend the evacuation mission past its Aug. 31 deadline. The Taliban has threatened repercussions if the U.S. stays beyond that date, but key U.S. allies, including the U.K. and France, insist that more time is needed. Per WaPo, U.S. officials say that any extension “would probably have a narrow focus on evacuating remaining Americans, not the much larger group of Afghans who want to escape.”

Biden is expected to decide within the next 24 hours whether to extend the deadline, Reuters reports.

— Whatever he decides, the U.S. now finds itself in “damage control mode,” writes Ryan Heath: “Biden enters Tuesday’s virtual summit with G-7 and EU leaders facing a wave of frustration from his closest allies and no easy solutions. Leaders in Berlin, Paris, London and Brussels — initially dissatisfied by Washington’s lack of consultation over Washington’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan — are now appalled by missteps in the operation, which they believe has undercut the credibility of Western alliances.

“But thanks to chronic underinvestments in defense and diplomacy, the European G-7 members have little sway to set a different course. And because of deep divisions over migration policy in Europe, the summit is unlikely to agree on an umbrella policy that would offer protection to the majority of Afghans now at risk of Taliban reprisal.”

— DYSTOPIA NOW: “The data left behind: How the Taliban could mine Afghan data to target U.S. allies,” by Sam Sabin and Heidi Vogt: “American forces and diplomats rushed to destroy their own records on Afghan citizens as they departed, but the rapid takeover of Kabul left large stores of data open for exploitation inside Afghan businesses and government offices. That gives today’s technologically adept Taliban tools to target Afghans who worked with the U.S. or the deposed Afghan government with unprecedented precision, increasing the danger for those who don’t get out on evacuation flights.

“Much of the attention has been on the race to scrub data off the internet … But those efforts don’t touch the huge collections of data sitting in Kabul. Take call logs. Telecommunications companies keep a record of nearly every phone call placed and to whom.”

THE WHITE HOUSE

INFLATION WATCH — “Biden and the Fed Wanted a Hot Economy. There’s Risk of Getting Burned,” by NYT’s Neil Irwin: “The good news is that job openings are abundant, wages for people at the lower end of the pay scale are rising quickly, and it appears that the post-pandemic recovery won’t be like the long slog that followed the three previous recessions.

“But consumer prices have been rising faster than average wages — meaning that, on average, workers are seeing the purchasing power of their paycheck fall. People looking to buy a car or build a house or obtain a wide variety of other products are finding it hard to do so. And while much of that reflects temporary supply disruptions that should abate in coming months, other forces could keep prices rising. These include soaring rents and the delayed effects of higher prices from companies having to pay higher wages.”

POLICY CORNER

MAJOR INVESTIGATION — “Sadness and death: Inside the VA’s state nursing-home disaster,” by Joanne Kenen, Allan James Vestal and Darius Tahir: “For years, the Veterans Affairs has spent upwards of $1 billion a year funding state-run nursing homes for veterans, while requiring only a single annual safety inspection, performed by an outside contractor. … More than 1,400 people — at least 1,394 residents and 40 staff — died of coronavirus in 110 state veterans homes, according to a POLITICO analysis. The death toll is almost certainly even higher …

“[T]he death rate in state-run facilities was more than twice that of homes run directly by the VA itself. … It was tragic. But not inevitable. … Even though the VA moved in February to tighten up the annual inspections amid increasing scrutiny of Covid-19 deaths, the system remains dangerously decentralized … The shared oversight between the states, federal government and contractors allows serious problems to fester.”

JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH

THE INSURRECTION CONNECTION — “Jan. 6 investigation will seek phone records related to attack, including lawmakers,” by Nicholas Wu: “The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection will seek electronic communications records related to the attack, including from members of Congress, the panel’s chair said Monday. … The phone records could shed light on a series of phone calls between Republican members of Congress and former President DONALD TRUMP on Jan. 6. Both Rep. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY spoke to Trump that day.”

OFFICER CLEARED — “U.S. Capitol Police says shooting of January 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt was ‘lawful,’” CNN: “‘USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility determined the officer’s conduct was lawful and within Department policy, which says an officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury,’ the department said in a statement. The officer will not be named, the department said, out of consideration for the officer’s safety.”

PANDEMIC

VACCINATION NATION — “Biden urges employers to require Covid vaccination,” by Sarah Owermohle

“Educators Will Be First N.Y.C. Workers to Face Full Vaccine Mandate,” by NYT’s Eliza Shapiro: “New York City will require all Department of Education employees to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. … The city’s vaccine requirement, which applies to roughly 148,000 education workers, is also almost certain to be a harbinger of future mandates around the country.” Related reading: HuffPost’s Lydia O’Connor with a roundup of other major institutions announcing mandates

POLITICS ROUNDUP

‘AUDIT’ LATEST — “Report on Arizona ballot review is delayed after Cyber Ninjas chief and colleagues test positive for coronavirus,” WaPo: “The report detailing the conclusions of a GOP-backed review of ballots cast last year in Arizona has been delayed after the chief executive of the private company conducting the widely pilloried audit and two other members of his team tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Arizona Senate President KAREN FANN (R) announced the delay Monday, saying that DOUG LOGAN, chief executive of the Florida firm Cyber Ninjas, and two other members of the audit team had been infected and were ‘quite sick.’ She did not indicate whether Logan and the others had been vaccinated.”

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

VIOLENCE ERUPTS AT PORTLAND PROTEST — “Shots fired near downtown protest, dueling demonstrators clash violently in NE Portland,” by Oregonian’s Noelle Crombie, Jack Forrest, Jaimie Ding and Nicole Hayden

LATEST DESANTIS DRAMA — “DeSantis fires back at Associated Press CEO after criticism of press secretary,” by The Hill’s Dominick Mastrangelo

MEDIAWATCH

MURDOCH’S MASK MANDATE — “Anti-mask New York Post requires all of its employees to wear masks in latest sign of Murdoch media hypocrisy,” by CNN’s Oliver Darcy: “The New York Post, the RUPERT MURDOCH-owned tabloid that has peddled a high volume of anti-mask rhetoric during the pandemic, informed employees this month that they are required to wear a mask while at the office, according to a memo obtained by CNN Business. …

“Murdoch’s media organizations … have disparaged public health officials and the guidance they issue about vaccines and masks. But these media organizations have quietly required their employees to follow the very same health protocols that they’ve lampooned in print and on air.”

MORE THAN A GAME — “Sexual harassment, serial killers & cheaters: The dark side of game shows,” by the N.Y. Post’s Michael Starr: “[B]ehind that small-screen facade of cheery, perfectly coiffed, telegenic hosts lurks a sinister cauldron of sex, greed, cheating and inappropriate behavior that occasionally rears its head, exposing its ugly underbelly to America.”

TRUMP CARDS

DAILY RUDY — “Rudy Giuliani associate Igor Fruman likely to plead guilty Wednesday,” by NBC’s Tom Winter

“GOP Pays Rudy Giuliani Associates Wrapped Up in Ukraine Probe,” by The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger: “The Republican National Committee paid $20,000 last month to DiGenova & Toensing LLP, a law firm helmed by two longtime GOP insiders who are married to each other: JOE DIGENOVA and VICTORIA TOENSING. … The RNC’s one $20,000 check actually outweighs the shop’s entire combined total in political payments since 2006 …

“It is, of course, perfectly legal for the RNC to pay this law firm. But it comes at a time when the GOP and former President Donald Trump seem to have almost abandoned Giuliani—as well as anyone else who’s wrapped up in the former New York City mayor’s alleged foreign influence scheme. That scheme is now reportedly at the center of an ongoing investigation into Giuliani, and the probe has reportedly swept up Toensing and DiGenova.”

MEDIA MOVE — Zeynep Tufekci is now a columnist for NYT Opinion. She is a visiting professor at the new Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security at Columbia Journalism School and an associate professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Information and Library Science. The announcement

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Zara Ahmed has been named the CDC’s lead for government affairs and deputy for overall policy for the agency’s Covid-19 response. She most recently was head of federal policy at the Guttmacher Institute.

TRANSITIONS — Annaliese Davis is now director of public affairs for SKDK. She previously was senior comms adviser for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. … Gregory Michaelidis is now a senior adviser at Cambridge Global Advisors. He most recently was team manager of strategic comms for the public sector at MITRE, and is a DHS alum.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Laura Strange, SVP of comms and external affairs at the National Grocers Association, and Luke Strange, director of government relations at AEI, welcomed Charlotte Murray Strange on Sunday. She joins big brothers Luke and James. Pic

— Josh Randle, CEO of Randle Strategies and a senior adviser at Haddad Media, and Alexandra Peters, an event producer for J Street Group, welcomed Ann Louise Randle on Sunday. She came in at 8 lbs and 20.5 inches. Pic Another pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) … Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) (6-0) … Mike Huckabee … CNN’s David Gregory … CBS’ Major Garrett Nick DentonGalia Slayen James Gordon MeekTodd Harris of Something Else Strategies … David Molina … New Mexico GOP Chair and former Rep. Steve Pearce … DOJ’s Ricki SeidmanSahar Robertson of MoveOn … Betsy Wright HawkingsSeyward Darby of The Atavist Magazine … Matt McDonald of Spectator USA (3-0) … Adam GopnikNatalie Strom of Edelman … Justin Roth of Sen. Martha McSally’s (R-Ariz.) office … Geo Saba of Rep. Ro Khanna’s (D-Calif.) office … Brooke Barker of the House Homeland Security Committee … Erik Brydges … New Hampshire congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt … WaPo’s Jacob Bogage Emily Cherniack of New Politics … Michael Moynihan … CNA’s Elizabeth CutlerPam CoulterBrad BainumAbbie McDonoughMorgan BuckleyMeagan ShepherdDabney HeggMerrit Gillard … former Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Max Cleland (D-Ga.) … former Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) … James Manasco … Finnish President Sauli Niinistö Aaron HoustonBlakely WallErrol Louis

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.

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