POLITICO Playbook: Biden catches his white whale
ENGAGED! — EUGENE DANIELS, a POLITICO White House reporter and co-author of Playbook from South Carolina, and NATE STEPHENS, a social change facilitator from South Dakota. Pic … Another pic … One more pic … OK, a final pic
PRESIDENT AHAB: Well, we’ll be damned. JOE BIDEN appears to have all but secured that elusive bipartisan infrastructure deal that both parties have been prattling on about for years. The core group of 10 Senate centrists working on the proposal emerged from a meeting with White House officials Wednesday night and declared that they had a working framework.
TODAY members of that group have been invited to the White House to meet with the president.
Republican Sens. ROB PORTMAN (Ohio) and SUSAN COLLINS (Maine) cautioned that there are still a few details to iron out. But a well-positioned administration source tells us this thing is basically cooked. All that’s left are the handshakes.
SO NOW WHAT? While lawmakers draft up the text, expect the White House to start leaning on Democrats to get in line. We know that so far at least 11 Senate Republicans have agreed to back this plan, but just as many Democrats have expressed reservations, creating tricky math for leadership.
Sen. CHRIS MURPHY (D-Conn.) alluded to this predicament on CNN on Wednesday night. “That deal has 20 votes — not 60 votes,” he said, noting that the group of 21 that wrote the plan will now need to sell this to their colleagues.
The whipping campaign will heat up at a time when party tensions are on the rise. Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) — who, at least in the immediate term, looks like the loser in this deal — fumed Wednesday on national television that he’s sick of talking about Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.). (We hear you, senator!) Our colleagues Laura Barrón-López and Nicholas Wu have a story up today about how Biden’s honeymoon with the left is over, as progressives are now calling him out by name.
The winners, aside from Biden? Manchin and Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) top the list. The Democratic duo comes out of this with not only their bipartisan deal, but also effective veto power over the massive reconciliation bill that Sanders et al. are drafting. Neither moderate senator has offered an assurance they’ll back it, despite demands from liberals.
Indeed, the big remaining question about the almost-done deal — which we’re told includes $559 billion in new spending — is whether progressives will go along. It’s one thing to issue threats via the media, another to reject a personal plea from your president. But progressives will also be taking a risk if they do abide. The list of priorities they’d like to pack into the reconciliation bill runs off the page: paid family leave, child care subsidies, climate investments, free community college, an expansion of Medicare, corporate tax hikes. And who knows what Manchin and Sinema will insist on axing after the thing they wanted most — infrastructure — will already be signed into law.
The optimistic view of the situation, from the White House perspective, goes something like this: Manchin and Sinema will be under enormous pressure to support a reconciliation bill after Biden bucked his left flank to make a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. They also point out that by first moving $1 trillion of infrastructure spending through a bipartisan bill, it reduces the price tag of the reconciliation bill by that same amount, making it easier for moderates to support it. There’s also an argument that with $1 trillion of infrastructure removed from the bigger bill, progressives have some more room now for their other priorities.
Seems a bit rosy, but then again, we would not have predicted the bipartisan talks would go this far.
Finally, the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi plan is to move these two bills simultaneously, with each bill needing the other to pass. “We can’t get the bipartisan bill done unless we’re sure we’re getting the budget reconciliation bill done,” Schumer said Wednesday night. “We can’t get the budget reconciliation bill done unless we’re sure of the bipartisan [bill].” Democratic leaders are trying to lash Manchin and the moderates to Bernie and the progressives. The message seems to be: If one side’s bill goes down, so does the other’s.
More headlines: “Bipartisan group of senators to brief Biden on infrastructure ‘framework’ after potential breakthrough in talks,” WaPo … “Senators say a deal with the White House is in hand on infrastructure,” by Sam Mintz … “Infrastructure Negotiators Agree to Framework for Package,” WSJ
Good Thursday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Building collapses on Collins Avenue near Miami Beach; hundreds of rescuers on scene,” Miami Herald: “A 12-story oceanfront condo tower partially collapsed early Thursday morning on Collins Avenue in the town of Surfside, spurring a massive search-and-rescue effort.”
THAT TIME FAUCI THOUGHT HE MIGHT BE A DEAD MAN — ANTHONY FAUCI was opening his mail at his desk Aug. 27 when white powder literally blew up in his face. According to a new book out Tuesday, previewed by Playbook, Fauci had three thoughts: It was a prank to scare him, anthrax that would make him seriously ill but which he could probably survive, or ricin — in which case he was a “dead duck.” Over the next few hours, his team hosed him down to his skivvies in a chemical lab, making him stand naked in what looked like a kiddy pool as they awaited the results of tests on the substance. He called his wife to warn her before breathing a sigh of relief a few hours later when the findings came back negative for both deadly substances.
The story leads “Nightmare Scenario” ($24), a book by WaPo’s YASMEEN ABUTALEB and DAMIAN PALETTA that depicts the Trump administration’s hellish response to the pandemic. The duo asks how Fauci, the top doctor steering the nation through the deadliest pandemic in modern history, became a target for death threats and pranks like this. We’ll give you one guess — and yes, he’s the former president of the United States.
Other nuggets from the book: DONALD TRUMP saying he hoped Covid-19 would kill JOHN BOLTON, who had just published his tell-all about working in the administration, and floating the idea of detaining infected Americans from abroad at Guantánamo.
— 10:15 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— 2 p.m.: Biden will depart the White House en route to Raleigh, N.C., where he is scheduled to arrive at 3:30 p.m.
— 4:50 p.m.: The president will visit a mobile vaccination unit and meet workers.
— 5:15 p.m.: Biden will deliver remarks on vaccinations at the Green Road Community Center in Raleigh.
— 6:35 p.m.: Biden will depart Raleigh to return to the White House, where he is scheduled to arrive at 7:55 p.m.
Principal deputy press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will gaggle on Air Force One on the way to Raleigh.
First lady JILL BIDEN will travel to Kissimmee and Tampa, Fla., to visit vaccine sites today.
KAMALA HARRIS’ THURSDAY: The VP will meet virtually at 4:15 p.m. with organizations that are helping people get vaccinated.
THE SENATE is in. Energy Secretary JENNIFER GRANHOLM will testify before the Armed Services Committee at 9 a.m.
THE HOUSE will meet at 10 a.m, with first and last votes expected between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. An Administration subcommittee will hold a hearing on voting in America at 10 a.m., with former A.G. ERIC HOLDER among those testifying. Education Secretary MIGUEL CARDONA will testify before the Education and Labor Committee at 10:15 a.m. Speaker NANCY PELOSI will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.
COMING SOON: BIDEN AGENDA TO CRASH INTO THE DEBT CEILING — This isn’t being talked about nearly enough, and we’re glad our colleague on the budget beat, Caitlin Emma, has a primer on this today. In a matter of a few weeks, Congress is going to have to raise the $28 trillion debt ceiling — yes, $28 trillion and counting — around the same time that Democrats will be trying to pass Biden’s $6 trillion infrastructure-climate-family plan(s). This could prove a major headache for members like Manchin who are going to see this price tag — combined with the ever-ballooning federal debt — and flip out.
Emma lays out the two options being considered by Democratic leaders: “They could use the filibuster protections of the budget process to raise the debt ceiling … without GOP support, or they could find 10 Senate Republican votes to suspend the debt limit by reaching a bipartisan deal.”
“Neither option is especially easy or palatable. The former path requires support from moderate Democrats, who aren’t sold on circumventing the normal legislative path and might face political blowback for voting to hike a national borrowing limit … The latter path relies on help from Republicans who are demanding fiscal reform in exchange for their votes, with the stability of the American economy on the line.”
Time is short. Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN on Wednesday “urged Congress to raise or suspend the debt ceiling within the next month, floating the possibility of a crisis-level situation as early as August — when lawmakers are scheduled to be out of town.”
— Plus, a good column from WaPo’s Greg Sargent: “Adam Schiff wants to ‘Trump-proof’ the White House. Will Biden agree?”
ANTITRUST THE PROCESS — “Google, Facebook Pressure Falls Short as Antitrust Measures Advance in House Committee,” WSJ: “A House committee approved far-reaching legislation to curb the market dominance of tech giants, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc. … In a package of six bills, the most significant measure to pass by late Wednesday requires that the largest internet platforms make it easier for users to transport their data to other platforms and even communicate with users on other platforms. …
“The bills must still pass the full House, where the timetable for bringing them to the floor for final votes remains unclear. … The centerpiece of the package, a measure to bar big tech companies from favoring their own products in a range of circumstances on their platforms, had yet to be considered as of late Wednesday night. … But the White House suggested further work might be needed on some of the legislation, reflecting potential problems ahead.”
HOLE, MEET SHOVEL — “U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse releases statement regarding membership to Bailey’s Beach club,” Newport Daily News: “U.S. Sen. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE released a statement late Wednesday afternoon regarding the controversy he is a member of an elite private beach club that has been questioned about the lack of diversity in its membership. …
“‘There have been calls for me to resign from the club, which I understand. However, I have no membership to resign, nor will I ask my wife or any other family members to do so,’ Whitehouse said in the statement. ‘First, they are on the right side of pushing for improvements. Second, and more importantly, my relationship with my family is not one in which I tell them what to do.’
“After noting that the club in question has ‘diversity in the membership and there are non-white club members,’ the senator went on to disclose that he belongs to a separate sailing club that’s apparently all-white. ‘Failing to address the sailing club’s lack of diversity is squarely on me, and something for which I am sorry.’”
THE WHITE HOUSE
FUND THE POLICE — “Staving Off G.O.P. Attacks, Democrats Show New Urgency on Crime,” by NYT’s Alex Burns: “Facing a surge in shootings and homicides and persistent Republican attacks on liberal criminal-justice policies, Democrats from the White House to Brooklyn Borough Hall are rallying with sudden confidence around a politically potent cause: funding the police. …
“Senior Democrats said they expected party leaders to lean hard into that issue in the coming months, trumpeting federal funding for police departments in the American Rescue Plan and attacking Republicans for having voted against it. … At the highest levels of the president’s party, there is a developing consensus that Democrats need to treat crime as an urgent political issue, and that they cannot allow voters to see the 2022 election as a choice between a liberal party that supports police reform and a conservative party that supports the police in the name of a broader law-and-order message.”
DEPRESSING AND UNSURPRISING — “Afghan Government Could Collapse Six Months After U.S. Withdrawal, New Intelligence Assessment Says,” by WSJ’s Gordon Lubold and Yaroslav Trofimov
SAD DEM SUMMER — “‘A lot of people are jaded’: Dems despair amid D.C. gridlock,” by David Siders: “Five months into the post-Trump era, the promise of Democrat-occupied Washington is crashing into reality. Donald Trump may be gone, but the sense of hope that permeated the Democratic Party’s rank-and-file after his defeat — and the accompanying capture of Congress — is being replaced by a haze of disillusionment that threatens the party’s prospects of generating enthusiasm in the run-up to a critical midterm election. …
“Democratic organizers and activist groups spent months registering and turning out young people and people of color who powered Democrats to victories in key swing states on the promise not just of outlasting Trump and surviving the pandemic, but of emerging better for it. Today, reality has set in. … Even moderate Democrats are growing worried about stasis in Washington.”
THE GOP <3 CRT — “Trumpworld: Critical race theory backlash is our springboard back to power,” by Maggie Severns, Theodoric Meyer and Meridith McGraw: “These officials, including Trump’s former campaign chief and two former budget advisers, have poured money and organizational muscle into the fight. They’ve aided activists who are pushing back against the concept that racism has been systemic to American society and institutions after centuries of slavery and Jim Crow. And some of them have begun working with members of Congress to bar the military from holding diversity trainings and to withhold federal funds from schools and colleges that promote anything that can be packaged as critical race theory.
“The immediate goal, two Trump alumni said, is to get legislative language included in a must-pass bill. The larger one is to harness a national movement that could unseat Democrats.”
IF YOU THOUGHT THE CLAIMS ABOUT HIS PILLOWS WERE B.S. … “Michigan Republicans Debunk Voter Fraud Claims in Unsparing Report,” by NYT’s Reid Epstein: “The 55-page report, produced by a Michigan State Senate committee of three Republicans and one Democrat, is a systematic rebuttal to an array of false claims about the election from supporters of Trump. The authors focus overwhelmingly on Michigan, but they also expose lies perpetuated about the vote-counting process in Georgia.
“The report is unsparing in its criticism of those who have promoted false theories about the election. It debunks claims from Trump allies including MIKE LINDELL, the chief executive of MyPillow; RUDY GIULIANI, the former president’s lawyer; and Mr. Trump himself.”
GOOD NEWS FOR REPUBLICANS IN COLORADO — “Dems pan proposed Colorado redistricting map,” by Ally Mutnick: “Colorado is rapidly turning blue, but Republicans might be on track to hold half the state’s House seats by 2022. The first official proposal released in the year-long process of redrawing the country’s congressional maps brought good news for the GOP. The preliminary plan from Colorado’s new independent redistricting commission keeps all three incumbent Republican members in red territory and creates a strong pickup opportunity in the Denver suburbs that bolster the GOP’s chances to recapture the House majority.”
NYC MAYOR’S RACE
THE ADAMS FAMILY … “How Adams Built a Diverse Coalition That Put Him Ahead in the Mayor’s Race,” by NYT’s Emma Fitzsimmons: “ERIC ADAMS’ strong showing in New York City’s Democratic primary for mayor reflected his ability to build an old-school political coalition that united Black and Latino voters with unions. He was able to persuade working-class people, largely outside Manhattan, that he was the best candidate to make the city safe from crime and return it to economic health. But even as he held a 75,000-vote lead on Wednesday night over his closest rival, MAYA WILEY, his victory was not assured.”
— The Times also has a breakdown of how Wiley or KATHRYN GARCIA could still win. (Spoiler alert: it’s highly unlikely.)
— “How Andrew Yang went from rock star to also-ran,” by Sally Goldenberg and Tina Nguyen: “It was a disappointing finish for someone who spent much of the race in a comfortable lead. When he launched his campaign in January, Yang was the most famous candidate by far. He topped his competitors in name recognition and quickly amassed a campaign warchest that allowed him to spend more than $8 million on the race. And his early support could be measured in individual donors — 21,138, compared to 9,390 for Adams, according to the city Campaign Finance Board’s latest disclosure.
“It was never enough. Damaging Yang’s chances were both circumstances outside of his control and his own failure to overcome his deficit of knowledge about municipal government.”
ANOTHER THING TRUMP BROKE — “Harvard won’t host joint campaign managers event with Trump aides,” by Daniel Lippman: “For almost half a century, the institute, a branch of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, has hosted its campaign managers conference in the weeks following each presidential election.
“That won’t be happening this year. On Saturday, there will be a ‘look back’ discussion, but only featuring one half of the 2020 campaign: the Democrats. But a parallel effort to invite former aides to Trump for a separate event is foundering over scheduling problems, amid internal worries of a backlash over hosting allies of the former president.”
NO WORD ON WHETHER THEY WERE TREATED WITH DISINFECTANT OR SUNLIGHT — “Nearly 900 Secret Service members were infected with the coronavirus. A watchdog blames Trump,” by WaPo’s Timothy Bella
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
A SIGN OF WHAT’S TO COME? — “The First Capitol Rioter Was Sentenced And Won’t Get Any Jail Time,” by BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman: “ANNA MORGAN-LLOYD, a 49-year-old Indiana woman charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection who described it as the ‘best day ever’ on Facebook, was sentenced on Wednesday to probation and no jail time after pleading guilty to a single misdemeanor.
“In announcing the sentence, US District Judge ROYCE LAMBERTH said Morgan-Lloyd had made it an ‘easy case’ by cutting a deal early with prosecutors and accepting responsibility but acknowledged that some members of the public upset by the events of Jan. 6 might not agree with him ‘giving you the break that I’m going to give you.’ He warned that other defendants charged with participating in the insurrection should not take away ‘that probation is the automatic outcome here.’”
PRETTY SOON WE’RE ALL GOING TO HAVE TO LEARN WHAT A SPAC IS — “BuzzFeed Nears Deal to Go Public Via SPAC, Eyeing Digital-Media Rollup,” by WSJ’s Benjamin Mullin: “BuzzFeed founder and Chief Executive Officer JONAH PERETTI could announce a deal with 890 5th Avenue Partners Inc. — a blank-check company named after the headquarters of Marvel’s Avengers superheroes and founded by investor ADAM ROTHSTEIN — as early as this week, the people said.
“The merger deal would generate capital to pursue additional acquisitions, including Complex Networks, a digital publisher that specializes in streetwear, music and pop culture. BuzzFeed is vying for greater scale to better compete for online ad dollars with tech giants such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon. com Inc. and Facebook Inc.”
ODDS AND ENDS
A TASTE OF A POISON PARADISE — “Britney Spears rips ‘abusive’ conservatorship at stunning court hearing, says she wants to marry and have another baby: ‘I’m so angry it’s insane,’” N.Y. Daily News
BOOK CLUB — The duo behind Room Rater, aka @ratemyskyperoom, is writing a book. Claude Taylor and Jessie Bahrey will release “The Official Room Rater Handbook: How To Create Your Best Room To Zoom In The Post Pandemic Era.”
SPOTTED: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), deputy national security adviser Jonathan Finer and U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking dining together at Cafe Milano on Tuesday night. … Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell having dinner at Le Diplomate on Wednesday evening.
SPOTTED at a reception at the Capitol Hill Club to celebrate the launch of the Conservative Climate Caucus, hosted by CRES and ClearPath: Reps. John Curtis (R-Utah), Garret Graves (R-La.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), Blake Moore (R-Utah), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.), Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.), Pat Fallon (R-Texas), Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).
STAFFING UP — The White House announced several new nominations, including Michael Carpenter as U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Claire Cronin as U.S. ambassador to Ireland, Jack Markell as U.S. representative to the OECD, Cindy McCain as U.S. representative to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture and Homer Wilkes as undersecretary of Agriculture for natural resources and the environment.
TRANSITIONS — Mary Cronin is now VP of government affairs at 6K. She most recently has been founder and CEO of Strategy Hub LLC. … Salena Jegede is now chief advancement officer at the Sierra Club. She most recently was managing director at Fair Fight Action. … Allegra Harpootlian will be a comms strategist at ACLU. She currently is a comms manager at ReThink Media.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Matt Mowers, who runs a consulting firm advising nonprofits, startups and companies and is a Trump administration alum, and Cassie Spodak, a senior producer at CNN, welcomed Jackson Samuel Mowers on Father’s Day. He came in at 8 lbs, 9 oz and 20 3/4 inches. He’s named after his great-grandfathers Jack and Sam. Pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) … U.S. Chamber’s Suzanne Clark … MSNBC’s Omnika Thompson … Ralph Reed, who will always look 30 to us, turns 6-0 … Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Jeff Prescott … Matt Continetti of AEI and The Washington Free Beacon (4-0) … Robert Reich … Ben Tomchik … Quartz’s Zach Seward … Anna Massoglia … POLITICO’s Adrienne Hurst and Nirmal Mulaikal … Jonathan Yuan of Rational 360 … Roger Fisk of New Day Strategy … Heather Hurlburt of the New America Foundation … Alejandra Soto … Ed Traz … Jennifer Millerwise Dyck … Stephanie Craig … Amelia Makin … Gretchen Reiter … Job Serebrov … Mike Fullerton … Jesse Stinebring … Madison Fox Porter … former New York Gov. George Pataki … Edelman’s Kevin Goldman … Morgan Smith
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