August 1, 2021

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POLITICO Playbook PM: McConnell plays skunk at the infrastructure party – Politico

9 min read

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Ryan will interview ANITA DUNN, a senior adviser to President JOE BIDEN, at 10 a.m. on Friday for our latest Playbook Live event. Anita is one of the most influential people in Washington, so you won’t want to miss this conversation. Register here to watch live

MCCONNELL’S NEXT MOVE: We’ve been waiting for Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL to play his next card on the infrastructure deal. He has encouraged the talks but hasn’t backed the agreement reached between the bipartisan group of 10 senators and the White House. Over the weekend, he helped initiate the GOP revolt against Biden’s now-abandoned veto threat.

Having seen the White House retreat from that position, McConnell went a step further this morning and asked Democratic leaders to abandon their legislative strategy:

“The President has appropriately delinked a potential bipartisan infrastructure bill from the massive, unrelated tax-and-spend plans that Democrats want to pursue on a partisan basis. Now I am calling on President Biden to engage Leader [CHUCK] SCHUMER and Speaker [NANCY] PELOSI and make sure they follow his lead.

“Unless Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi walk-back their threats that they will refuse to send the president a bipartisan infrastructure bill unless they also separately pass trillions of dollars for unrelated tax hikes, wasteful spending, and Green New Deal socialism, then President Biden’s walk-back of his veto threat would be a hollow gesture.

“Republicans have been negotiating in bipartisan good faith to meet the real infrastructure needs of our nation. The President cannot let congressional Democrats hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process.”

It’s early, and senators are scattered around the country, but our initial reporting suggests that so far McConnell’s statement is not having the same effect as last week’s complaint. Democrats aren’t going to allow McConnell to dictate the scheduling of their bills.

However, that’s not to say that all five GOP negotiators — ROB PORTMAN, MITT ROMNEY, BILL CASSIDY, SUSAN COLLINS and LISA MURKOWSKI — disagree with McConnell. If the bipartisan deal clears the Senate, and Pelosi insists on holding it while she tries to pass the reconciliation bill, expect GOP backers of the deal to loudly echo what McConnell said today. In that scenario, Republicans will certainly be calling on her to get the infrastructure bill to Biden’s desk.

So not a lot has changed.

White House press secretary JEN PSAKI was asked about the McConnell statement at the top of her briefing today. She followed the new White House plan of staying out of the weeds of parliamentary procedure, but did note that Biden has “long supported the two-track approach” and it’s “up to [Schumer and Pelosi] to determine the sequencing of the legislation.” More from Burgess Everett

Good Monday afternoon.

SCOTUS WATCH — “Justices object as Supreme Court turns back police abuse case,” by Josh Gerstein: “Three justices dissented sharply Monday as the Supreme Court sent back to an appeals court a suit over the death of a man in St. Louis in 2015 after police allegedly pressed him to the floor, face-down for 15 minutes in a holding cell. The high court issued an unsigned, per curiam opinion sending the suit brought on behalf of the parents of NICHOLAS GILBERT back to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals for clarification of its ruling last year in favor of the police officers. …

“The high court seemed to admonish the appeals court judges by saying the case was being returned to them ‘to give the court an opportunity to employ an inquiry that clearly attends to the facts and circumstances in answering those questions in the first instance.’ However, the harsher criticism Monday came from Justice SAMUEL ALITO in a dissenting opinion that argued most of his colleagues had chickened out by failing to grant full review in the case and have it argued before the justices.” The opinion

“Supreme Court declines to take up Covid-related tax dispute over telework,” by Bernie Becker

“Supreme Court won’t revive school’s transgender bathroom ban,” AP: “The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a Virginia school board’s appeal to reinstate its transgender bathroom ban. Over two dissenting votes, the justices left in place lower court rulings that found the policy unconstitutional.

“The case involved former high school student GAVIN GRIMM, who filed a federal lawsuit after he was told he could not use the boys’ bathroom at his public high school. The Gloucester County, Virginia, school board’s policy required Grimm to use restrooms that corresponded with his biological sex — female — or private bathrooms. Justices Samuel Alito and CLARENCE THOMAS voted to hear the board’s appeal.”

THE NEW GOP — “Meet the ‘NRA for Families’ Making the War on Trans Kids a Core GOP Issue,” by Ben Jacobs for Vice: “The [American Principles Project] has emerged as the lead organization trying to rally suburban voters around the hot-button issues now animating the Republican Party, like how allowing the participation of trans girls in women’s sports and the teaching of concepts like critical race theory threatens their own children. And they’re doing it using former President Donald Trump’s playbook: Rather than rely on corporate donors, who tend to shy away from these issues, they’re soliciting the $25 small donor.

“The vision, [APP President TERRY SCHILLING] says, is to turn his organization into an ‘NRA for families,’ spending eight figures in the midterms to back politicians who campaign on these issues and, more importantly, take down those politicians who don’t. The goal is to be not just a political action committee but a full-fledged membership organization that would invoke the same fear in politicians that the gun lobby has for a generation.”

THE VACCINATION EFFORT — “U.S. ships first Pfizer vaccine doses abroad, donating 2 million to Peru,” by CNN’s Jeremy Diamond: “The doses are expected to arrive in Peru this week and are being shared directly from the US on a bilateral basis. The US on Monday will also ship 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Pakistan through COVAX, the World Health Organization-run global vaccination program, [a White House] official said.”

POLL OF THE DAY — “U.S. Conservatives Are Uniquely Inclined Toward Right-Wing Authoritarianism Compared to Western Peers,” by Morning Consult’s Cameron Easley: “26% of the U.S. population qualified as highly right-wing authoritarian, Morning Consult research found, twice the share of the No. 2 countries, Canada and Australia.”

IMMIGRATION FILES — “New border fight pits Texas against Biden over care for 4,500 migrant kids,” by Adam Cancryn: “[Texas GOP Gov. GREG] ABBOTT, who has positioned himself as a chief Biden antagonist on immigration ahead of a potential 2024 presidential bid, plans to revoke the licenses of any shelter that continues to serve migrant kids beginning Aug. 31 — a move that threatens to upend the refugee resettlement effort and has left federal health officials threatening to sue.

“Yet a series of tense letters between the Department of Health and Human Services and the state this month obtained by POLITICO show Abbott striking a defiant tone amid the GOP’s broader campaign to hammer President Joe Biden over immigration and border security. The showdown is likely to intensify in the coming days, when Abbott is due to accompany former President Donald Trump on a trip to the border.”

“Uprooted again: Venezuela migrants cross U.S. border in droves,” by AP’s Joshua Goodman in Del Rio, Texas: “Last month, 7,484 Venezuelans were encountered by Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border — more than all 14 years for which records exist.

“The surprise increase has drawn comparisons to the midcentury influx of Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro’s communist rule. It’s also a harbinger of a new type of migration that has caught the Biden administration off guard: pandemic refugees. … While some are government opponents fearing harassment and jailing, the vast majority are escaping long-running economic devastation marked by blackouts and shortages of food and medicine.”

2022 WATCH — “Clark County sheriff launches GOP run for Nevada governor,” by Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser and Andrew Murray: “The sheriff of Nevada’s most populous and best-known county on Monday formally launched a Republican campaign for governor in the hopes of challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. STEVE SISOLAK in next year’s election. ‘The Nevada quality of life people have sought for decades is in jeopardy,’ Sheriff JOE LOMBARDO said in a statement shared first nationally with Fox News.”

DEEP DIVE — “Black Workers Stopped Making Progress on Pay. Is It Racism?” by NYT’s Eduardo Porter: “In 2020, the typical full-time Black worker earned about 20 percent less than a typical full-time white worker. And Black men and women are far less likely than whites to have a job. So the median earnings for Black men in 2019 amounted to only 56 cents for every dollar earned by white men. The gap was wider than it was in 1970. …

“But for all the evidence of racial disparities, many economists say employers’ racial biases cannot fully explain what’s going on in the workplace. The idea that discrimination alone has determined Black workers’ lot at work — their employment and their wages — does not mesh with how American society changed over the past half-century.”

HMM — “Documents Show Ivanka Trump Didn’t Testify Accurately in Inauguration Scandal Case,” by Mother Jones’ David Corn: “During a December 1 deposition — in which she swore to tell the truth — IVANKA TRUMP, the eldest daughter of Donald Trump who was an executive at the Trump Organization before becoming a White House adviser to her father, was asked if she had any ‘involvement in the process of planning the inauguration.’ She replied, ‘I really didn’t have an involvement.’

“Ivanka testified that if her ‘opinion was solicited’ regarding an inauguration event, she ‘would give feedback to my father or to anyone who asked my perspective or opinion.’ And that was as far as her participation went. But this wasn’t accurate, according to the documents, which indicate she was part of the decision-making for various aspects of the inauguration, including even the menus for events. One email chain shows that Ivanka Trump was directly involved in the planning of at least one proposed event for the inauguration.”

BLINKEN ABROAD — “U.S. warns that Islamic State extremists still a world threat,” AP/Rome: “As the U.S. works on its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, members of the global coalition fighting the Islamic State group met Monday to chart future steps against the extremist group. U.S. Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN and Italian Foreign Minister LUIGI DI MAIO co-chaired the gathering of senior officials from the seven-year-old, 83-member bloc.

“Participants were taking stock of current efforts to ensure the complete defeat of IS, whose remnants still pose a threat in Iraq and Syria and have shown signs of surging in parts of Africa. … Blinken announced a new U.S. contribution of $436 million to assist displaced people in Syria and surrounding countries and called for a new effort to repatriate — and rehabilitate or prosecute — some 10,000 IS fighters who remain imprisoned by the Syrian Defense Forces.”

“Pope voices ‘affection’ for Americans as he meets Blinken,” AP/Vatican City: “POPE FRANCIS on Monday voiced affection for the American people as he met at length with the U.S. secretary of state, the Vatican said, without indicating whether the two discussed the sharp divide among U.S. bishops over giving Holy Communion to politicians supporting abortion rights like President Joe Biden. The pontiff accorded U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken a substantial chunk of time, especially in view of a government official who isn’t a national leader.”

MEDIAWATCH — “Eric Bolling Joins Newsmax to Host a New Show,” Mediaite

SPOTTED: Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) in the middle seat on a Southwest flight from Nashville to DCA that departed late and arrived at 1:15 a.m. today.

SPOTTED at a launch event for Jean Becker’s new book, “The Man I Knew: The Amazing Story of George H.W. Bush’s Post-Presidency” ($30), at the Decatur House on Thursday, hosted by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and the White House Historical Association: moderator Andrea Mitchell, British Robinson, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Thomas Daffron, Anita and Tim McBride, Michael Beschloss, Jamie Gangel and Daniel Silva, Susan Page, Peter Maer, Max Angerholzer, Mary Pat Decker, Alan and Debbie Dunn, Andrew Lundquist, Rear Adm. Brian Luther, Catherine Meloy, Robert Mosbacher Jr., Bunny Murdock, Janet Pitt, Harry Rhoads, Mike and Kristi Rogers, and Susan Porter Rose.

WEDDING — Jeffrey Cimmino, assistant director at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and Anne Houtz, administrative assistant at Authentically You Photography, got married June 19 before friends and family at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. The couple met in May 2020 and now live in Northern Virginia. Pic Another pic

BONUS BIRTHDAY: Kate Mills of Monument Advocacy

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