June 20, 2021

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POLITICO Playbook: Progressives grow angsty over Biden – POLITICO – Politico

18 min read

There are four must-reads this Sunday morning, and they’re all on the same theme, one that always frustrates the Biden White House: progressive angst over the direction of policy.

  1. CNN’s Maeve Reston notes that the “gulf between progressive ambition and the legislative reality means there is all-but-certain friction ahead between [President JOE] BIDEN and the restive liberal wing of his party,” and that “hopes of achieving real reforms on thorny issues like gun control, voting rights, police reform — and now even infrastructure — have proved elusive.”
  2. POLITICO’s Laura Barrón-López details how Biden will miss his self-imposed May 25 deadline for passing a police reform bill, and what it means for the future of that legislation. On Tuesday, May 25 — the one-year anniversary of GEORGE FLOYD’s murder — Biden will meet with Floyd’s family at the White House.
  3. The Washington Post’s Dan Balz explains how “[a]t home and abroad, President Biden is confronting what it means to lead a changing Democratic Party,” and says Biden soon “will have to make some difficult choices about the unfinished parts of his economic and domestic agenda” as he faces “pressure from the left on voting rights, immigration, racial injustice, guns and the filibuster.”
  4. The WSJ has a pair of good pieces on the same general subject. One previews the coming Biden budget, which will disappoint liberals by not including progressive health care priorities. The other explores pressure from the left on Israel and policing reform, which is causing some indigestion for House Speaker NANCY PELOSI and Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER. (Though it didn’t get much attention, members of The Squad almost scuttled a Capitol security bill on Thursday.)

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

SUNDAY BEST …

— CEDRIC RICHMOND, senior adviser to the president, on whether Biden is willing to narrow the infrastructure package on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “The president coming down $550 billion off of his initiative proposal, I think, shows the willingness to negotiate in good faith and in a serious manner. And the real question is whether the Republicans will meet the effort that the president is showing.”

Sen. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine) on the prospects of a bipartisan infrastructure package on ABC’s “This Week”: “I was glad that the president put a counteroffer on the table, but if you look closely at it, what he’s proposing to do is move a lot of the spending to a bill that’s already on the Senate floor … I think we’re still pretty far apart, but this is the test. This will determine whether or not we can work together in a bipartisan way on an important issue.”

Collins on the Jan. 6 commission: “The two issues that I think are resolvable, one has to do with staffing, and I think that both sides should either jointly appoint the staff or there should be equal numbers of staff appointed by the chairman and the vice chairman. The second issue is, I see no reason why the report cannot be completed by the end of this year. … I’m optimistic that we can get past these issues, based on recent conversations I’ve had with the speaker of the House and the House majority leader.”

— Rep. ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.) on the politics of the Jan. 6 commission on “Fox News Sunday”: “Here’s a revelation: This is going into the 2022 midterms anyway, particularly if us as Republicans don’t take ownership for what happened. … We’ll look like we’re just sitting here denying reality and facts.”

Kinzinger on House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY: “Kevin has failed to tell the truth to the Republicans and to the American people. And it pains me to say — and it’s not like I enjoy standing up and saying this — but … the 74 million voters who have voted for Donald Trump [who] believe, a number of [whom] believe the election was stolen, believe it because their leaders have not told them otherwise.”

— Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN on Israeli-Palestinian relations on ABC’s “This Week”: “President Biden has been very clear that he remains committed to a two-state solution. Look, ultimately, it is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state and, of course, the only way to give the Palestinians the state to which they’re entitled. That’s where we have to go. But that, I don’t think, is … necessarily for today. We have to start putting in place the conditions that would allow both sides to engage in a meaningful and positive way toward two states.” More from Jesse Naranjo

Blinken on North Korea’s nuclear program: “I don’t think there’s going to be a grand bargain where this gets resolved in one fell swoop. It’s got to be clearly calibrated diplomacy, clear steps from the North Koreans, and it moves forward in that way. Now, we’ve put that forward. We’re waiting to see if Pyongyang actually wants to engage. The ball’s in their court.” More from David Cohen

— Sen. CORY BOOKER (D-N.J.) on the need for police reform on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “I wouldn’t have a negotiating partner in TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.) if MITCH MCCONNELL (R-Ky.) didn’t believe that this is something that we should be at the table trying to work through. … I know there’s going to be a lot of folks who have a lot to say about this before we have finished our work. And, God willing, we will land this.”

BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president and first lady JILL BIDEN will return to the White House at 7:30 p.m. VP KAMALA HARRIS has nothing on her public schedule.

THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CLASH

HOW WE GOT HERE — “‘From Ferguson to Palestine’: How Black Lives Matter changed the U.S. debate on the Mideast,” WaPo: “Black Lives Matter, which has grown into a potent political force amid a national reckoning on race, has responded forcefully to the violence in the Mideast to extend its reach into foreign policy, pressing the Democratic Party to adopt a dramatically different approach to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Whatever the aftermath of the violence in the region, it has starkly changed the Israeli-Palestinian debate in the United States, shifting it for many liberals from a tangled dispute over ancient, often-confusing claims to the far more familiar turf of police brutality and racial conflict.”

ON THE GROUND — “Gaza struggles with twin health crises of war injuries and feared coronavirus surge,” WaPo: “Gazans and international aid agencies raced to head off overlapping medical crises Saturday as hospitals already overrun with injuries from the 11-day bombardment by Israel struggled to treat a surge in coronavirus cases from packed shelters.

“Tens of thousands of people crowded into underground chambers, community centers and other places across Gaza seeking to avoid the Israeli airstrikes, creating opportunities for the virus to spread. At the same time, the attacks left more than 1,900 people injured across Gaza before a cease-fire took effect Friday, according to health officials here. At least 248 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel were killed in the waves of Israeli strikes and the rocket attacks from Gaza.”

“Life Under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict,” NYT: “An eviction in East Jerusalem lies at the center of a conflict that led to war between Israel and Hamas. But for millions of Palestinians, the routine indignities of occupation are part of daily life.”

THE WHITE HOUSE

IMMIGRATION FILES — “Biden protects thousands of Haitians from deportation with new TPS measure,” Miami Herald: “The Biden administration is granting a new 18-month designation of Temporary Protected Status to Haiti, a significant move that alleviates the threat of deportation for thousands of Haitians and recognizes that conditions are so dire in their turmoil plagued homeland, they cannot safely return.

“Department of Homeland Security Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS announced the decision Saturday … The temporary humanitarian protections, he said, will be extended to eligible Haitians living in the United States as of Friday. This includes upwards of 60,000 Haitians who were already benefiting from the protected status, but had been living under fear of deportation amid an attempt by the Trump administration to terminate the program … The Biden administration’s decision could benefit more than 100,000 Haitians, immigration activists say.”

VP TO MAKE FIRST FOREIGN TRIP — “Harris, White House betting on Guatemala to help stem migrant influx,” by Sabrina Rodríguez: “Harris will take her first international trip in office in early June to meet with the presidents of Guatemala and Mexico to discuss issues that past administrations — Democrat and Republican — have tried and failed to address for decades.

“For now, the administration is most optimistic about Guatemala as the place to make headway, not because it’s absent of corruption, but simply because it’s willing to talk about the tough issues. And it’s not Honduras or El Salvador. But former officials and experts warn: If Harris focuses solely on cutting migration, efforts to improve conditions in Guatemala and the rest of the region will fail.”

STATUS REPORT — “The ‘gaffe machine’ gets a tuneup: Joe Biden stays surprisingly on message as president,” USA Today: “As president, not only is Biden careful in what he says and how he says it, ‘he does exceptionally well in terms of getting out his message,’ said Stephen Frantzich, a retired political science professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and author of a book about political candidates’ verbal stumbles. …

“Biden still speaks at times in the same tortured syntax that causes confused listeners to shake their heads and ask, ‘Huh?’ He still loses his train of thought mid-sentence or sometimes starts off on one topic and ends up on another. But the phonetic flubs that in the past have sent headline writers and his communications team into a frenzy, albeit for different reasons, have been mostly missing during his nascent presidency.”

INFRASTRUCTURE YEAR

COMING DOWN THE PIKE — “Bipartisan Senate surface-transportation draft proposes $304B for highways,” by Tanya Snyder: “A Senate committee released a bipartisan draft Saturday of a $303.5 billion highway, road and bridge bill — the type of traditional transportation package that Congress is likely to pass in some form in the coming year, despite Republicans’ rejection of President Joe Biden’s latest big infrastructure proposal.

“The bill that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unveiled would replace an existing surface transportation law that is due to expire in September, making it as close to must-pass as legislation ever gets on Capitol Hill. It is, by necessity, far more limited in scope than Biden’s plan, which would total nearly $2 trillion and include spending on needs such as waterways, aviation, broadband, clean water, the power grid, health care and the environment.”

POLICY CORNER

CLIMATE FILES — “Biden’s beefy climate problem: How to slash emissions from cows, manure,” by Ryan McCrimmon: “President Joe Biden is not going to ban red meat. In fact, his administration isn’t doing much to confront the flow of harmful greenhouse gases from the very big business of animal agriculture.

“The Agriculture Department’s newly published ‘climate-smart agriculture and forestry’ outline says almost nothing about how Biden aims to curb methane emissions from livestock operations. But environmentalists argue that any effort to shrink the farm industry’s climate footprint is half-baked if it relies on voluntary efforts and doesn’t address America’s system of meat production.”

RACIAL STRIFE IN RURAL AMERICA — “‘You Can Feel the Tension’: A Windfall for Minority Farmers Divides Rural America,” NYT: “A $4 billion federal fund meant to confront how racial injustice has shaped American farming has angered white farmers who say they are being unfairly excluded.”

CONGRESS

THE FFS CAUCUS — “Marjorie Taylor Greene compares House mask mandates to the Holocaust,” CNN: “Republican Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, during an interview on a conservative podcast this week, compared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to continue to require members of the House to wear masks on the chamber floor to steps the Nazis took to control the Jewish population during the Holocaust.”

— What Greene said: “We can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” Greene said. “And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.” Video of Greene’s remarks

PANDEMIC

A GOOD MILESTONE — “New Covid-19 cases plummet to lowest levels since last June,” AP: “As the seven-day average for new cases dropped below 30,000 per day this week, ROCHELLE WALENSKY, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out cases have not been this low since June 18, 2020. The average number of deaths over the last seven days also dropped to 552 — a rate not seen since July last year. It’s a dramatic drop since the pandemic hit a devastating crescendo in January.”

FOR YOUR RADAR — “C.D.C. Is Investigating a Heart Problem in a Few Young Vaccine Recipients,” NYT: “The [C.D.C.] is looking into reports that a very small number of teenagers and young adults vaccinated against the coronavirus may have experienced heart problems, according to the agency’s vaccine safety group.

“The group’s statement was sparse in details, saying only that there were ‘relatively few’ cases and that they may be entirely unrelated to vaccination. The condition, called myocarditis, is an inflammation of the heart muscle, and can occur following certain infections. The C.D.C.’s review of the reports is in the early stages, and the agency has yet to determine whether there is any evidence that the vaccines caused the heart condition.”

FAILING THE TEST — “Vaccines’ success could undercut Biden’s multibillion-dollar school testing plans,” by David Lim: “The Biden administration has struggled to launch a $650 million program it announced in February to set up regional Covid-19 testing hubs for schools and facilities like homeless shelters. Federal officials had hoped to have the first hub open and coordinating 150,000 tests per week by late April, but have not yet awarded any contracts.

“And while the White House announced in March that it would spend $10 billion in stimulus money to support testing programs in schools across the country, planning has been left largely to states, cities and local school districts. … Now, with vaccination slowing the virus’s spread, some schools are reopening without the kind of widespread Covid-19 screening that Biden once envisioned as crucial.

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

IRAN SO FAR AWAY — “Iran says inspectors may no longer get nuclear sites images,” AP: “Iran’s parliament speaker said Sunday that international inspectors may no longer access surveillance images of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites, escalating tensions amid diplomatic efforts in Vienna to save Tehran’s atomic accord with world powers. …

“‘Regarding this, and based on the expiration of the three-month deadline, definitely the International Atomic Energy Agency will not have the right to access images from May 22,’ [parliament speaker MOHAMMAD BAGHER] QALIBAF said. … Hours later, however, a website called Nournews that’s believed to be close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council quoted an anonymous official suggesting Tehran’s deal with the IAEA could be extended ‘another month.’”

PANIC ON DOWNING STREET — “British PM’s former top adviser says early COVID-19 plan was a ‘disaster,’” Reuters: “Britain’s early plan to combat COVID-19 was a ‘disaster’ and ‘awful decisions’ led to the government imposing lockdowns that could have been avoided, Prime Minister BORIS JOHNSON’S former top adviser said.

“DOMINIC CUMMINGS, who left Johnson’s staff late last year, made his comments in a series of tweets just days before he is due to give evidence to members of parliament about the government’s handling of the pandemic. Before his sudden departure, Cummings had been Johnson’s most influential adviser on Brexit and played an important role in his successful 2019 election campaign.” Cummings’ epic (and ongoing) Twitter thread

A U.S.-CHINA COLD WAR IN AFRICA — “U.S.-China Tech Fight Opens New Front in Ethiopia,” WSJ: “A U.S.-backed consortium beat out one financed by China in a closely watched telecommunications auction in Ethiopia — handing Washington a victory in its push to challenge Beijing’s economic influence around the world. The East African country said Saturday it tapped a group of telecommunications companies led by the U.K.’s Vodafone Group PLC to build a nationwide, 5G-capable wireless network. The group had won financial backing for the multibillion-dollar project from a newly created U.S. foreign-aid agency.”

MEGATREND — “Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications,” NYT: “A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the U.S., which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

“The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. It may also require a reconceptualization of family and nation. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 or older. Imagine governments laying out huge bonuses for immigrants and mothers with lots of children. Imagine a gig economy filled with grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation.”

EYES ON THE SKIES — “U.S. to Downgrade Mexico’s Air-Safety Rating,” WSJ: “U.S. officials are planning to downgrade Mexico’s aviation-safety rating in coming days, people familiar with the matter said, complicating a rebound in what has become the world’s largest air-travel market between two nations.

“The Federal Aviation Administration has determined that Mexico’s oversight of aviation safety falls short of the top tier of international standards, the people said. Mexico currently has a Category 1 air-safety rating and would be dropped to Category 2, some of the people added. The downgrade would restrict Mexican carriers from increasing service between U.S. cities and limit marketing agreements with U.S. airlines.”

DOWN UNDER — “U.S. Activists Try to Halt an Australian Way of Life: Killing Kangaroos,” NYT: “[T]he campaign is being revived through a collaboration between international activist groups, a California member of the U.S. House of Representatives and an Australian politician who is the lone elected representative of the Animal Justice Party.

“Their goal is to persuade companies, consumers and lawmakers to boycott or ban anything that comes from what is often described as the largest commercial animal kill in the world. They argue that especially after the fires that tore through Australia last year, possibly killing several million kangaroos, the commercial industry must be shut down.”

A DEVELOPING CRISIS IN SAMOA — “A Late-Night Proclamation Blocks a Woman From Leading Samoa,” NYT: “The Pacific island nation of Samoa hurtled toward a constitutional crisis on Saturday, when the country’s head of state announced that he was suspending Parliament just two days before it was scheduled to swear in the country’s first new prime minister in more than two decades.”

BEYOND THE BELTWAY

A GLIMPSE AT THE 2022 GOP PLAYBOOK — “Pa. Republicans are taking aim at Tom Wolf, not Biden, as they look to win the 2022 governor’s race,” Philly Inquirer: “When Pennsylvania Republicans celebrated the passage of two ballot questions this week reining in the emergency powers held by the governor’s office, they saw more than just a rebuke to Democratic Gov. TOM WOLF. They saw a path to winning the office themselves next year. … Republicans hoping to replace Wolf are making the lame-duck governor and his handling of the coronavirus a central issue in the very early days of the 2022 contest. …

“With President Joe Biden enjoying strong public approval ratings early in his tenure and Wolf’s slipping as his eight years in office near a close, Republicans are making the governor an even more prominent target — and largely ignoring Democrats’ big-spending ambitions in Washington.”

VOTING RIGHTS LATEST IN TEXAS — “Polling places for urban voters of color would be cut under Texas Senate’s version of voting bill,” Texas Tribune: “The number of Election Day polling places in largely Democratic parts of major Texas counties would fall dramatically under a Republican proposal to change how Texas polling sites are distributed, a Texas Tribune analysis shows. Voting options would be curtailed most in areas with higher shares of voters of color.

“Relocating polling sites is part of the GOP’s priority voting bill — Senate Bill 7 — as it was passed in the Texas Senate. It would create a new formula for setting polling places in the handful of mostly Democratic counties with a population of 1 million or more. … Under that provision, counties would be required to distribute polling places based on the share of registered voters in each state House district within the county. The formula would apply only to the state’s five largest counties — Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis — and possibly Collin County once new census figures are released later this year.”

HOW ARPA COULD CHANGE TRIBAL LIFE — “‘Marshall Plan for Indian Country’: Wave of federal money flows to reservations,” Billings Gazette: “This summer, Indian Country will receive the largest infusion of federal money in the history of the United States.”

DEEP DIVE — “Andrew Brown Jr. Shooting: Videos Cast Doubt on Police Use of Force,” NYT: “A New York Times review of bodycam footage showing the fatal police shooting of ANDREW BROWN JR. in April raises questions about whether officers were in imminent danger when they used lethal force as he drove away to avoid arrest. The officers have not been charged in the shooting.

“R. ANDREW WOMBLE, the district attorney for North Carolina’s First Judicial District, determined that they were justified in their actions because Mr. Brown was using his car as a ‘deadly weapon.’ … A review of slowed-down bodycam footage by The Times shows that 13 of the 14 gunshots — including the fatal one — were fired as Mr. Brown was driving away from officers, not at them.”

A FENTANYL CRISIS IN CALIFORNIA — “San Francisco on course for record-breaking number of drug overdoses in 2021,” SF Chronicle: “San Francisco suffered an epidemic in 2020 that was more deadly than COVID-19. Drug overdoses resulted in more than 700 deaths last year, while the communicable disease declared a global pandemic killed fewer than 300 — and 2021 looks to be even worse.

“This year’s preliminary tally of 252 accidental overdose deaths from January to April … suggests San Francisco is on track to surpass 2020 in overdose deaths, which was a record-breaking year itself — 181 people fatally overdosed over the same time period in 2021. … The chief medical examiner’s data shows that overdose fatalities in San Francisco began to skyrocket in 2019, when fentanyl entered the city’s drug supply.”

MEDIAWATCH

SANTORUM OUT AT CNN — “CNN Drops Rick Santorum After Racist Comments About Native Americans,” HuffPost: “[RICK] SANTORUM, a former Republican senator and two-time failed GOP presidential candidate, sparked outrage last month after claiming there was ‘nothing’ in America before white colonizers arrived and that Native people haven’t contributed much to American culture, anyway. …

“On Saturday, a CNN senior executive told HuffPost that the network quietly ended its contract with Santorum this week. This executive, who requested anonymity to speak openly, said the decision to cut ties with Santorum came after he went on one of the network’s shows, ‘Cuomo Prime Time,’ to explain himself shortly after he made his racist comments. He blew it, said this executive, and after that, nobody at the network wanted to keep him around.”

TRUMP CARDS

PENCE RESETTLING IN INDIANA — “Mike and Karen Pence move back to Indiana,” USA Today: “The Pences, who had been renting a house in suburban Virginia after leaving office in January, purchased a home north of Indianapolis, a spokeswoman told USA TODAY. They are moving in this weekend, providing the native Hoosier a chance to launch a potential bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination from his home state.”

WEEKEND WEDDING — Jessica Skaggs, deputy comms director for the House Ways and Means Committee and a Ted Cruz alum, and Will Henrichs, vendor relationship manager at Stand Together and a Roy Blunt alum, got married on Saturday in Edgerton, Kan. The two met at Liberty University. SPOTTED: Tanner Wilson, Bryan Bashur, Christian McMullen, Maria Jeffrey Reynolds, Ryan Reynolds, Lauren Aronson and Phil Bianchi, Hannah Schwartz and Molly Jenkins. Pic Another pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) … William Minor of DLA Piper … Tom Heinemann … WaPo’s Dana PriestShekar Narasimhan … ABC’s Mary BruceNate McDermott … NBC’s Danielle DellortoMegan McKinley … CNN’s Adam LevyMelanie Fonder Kaye … PhRMA’s Sarah SuttonReuel Marc Gerecht … Washington Examiner’s Anna GiaritelliRachel MacKnight … DSCC’s Helen Smith … former A.G. Bill Barr Georgiana BloomMel Lukens Jorge Martinez of York Exponential (49)

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