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Wake Up To Politics - April 30, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Democrats face tall order in enacting Biden agenda
Wake Up To Politics - April 30, 2021

Good morning! It’s Friday, April 30, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 557 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,285 days away.

Every once in a while, I like to check in with my subscribers and see if you have any feedback for me. I figured this was a perfect time to do that, since we’re now 100 days into a new presidency and a few weeks past the 10th anniversary of Wake Up To Politics. So, I’ve put together a short survey and I’d love if you’d be able to take a few minutes to fill it out.

Any feedback you can share would be so appreciated. You can fill out the survey here. Thanks so much, and congratulations on making it to the end of another week!

Biden outlined a sweeping agenda. Do Democrats have the votes?

As his administration marked its 100th day on Wednesday, President Joe Biden went before Congress and laid out an expansive agenda of what he hopes to accomplish in his next 100 days in office.

Biden’s speech was the “most ideologically ambitious speech of any Democratic president in decades,” Politico founding editor John Harris wrote in his weekly column. But do Democratic lawmakers have the votes to make it happen?

As with the first legislative fight of Biden’s presidency — over the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the American Rescue Plan — Democrats must navigate between their two competing impulses: going big or going bipartisan.

For the American Rescue Plan, Biden held one negotiating session with moderate Republicans before deciding to go big, using the budget reconciliation process to pass the package with only Democratic votes.

Another round of bipartisan talks has sprung up for Biden’s next major priority, an infrastructure package, but almost no one in Washington expects Democrats to accept the slimmed-down proposal Republicans have offered, or anything close to it. Biden is likely to once again “court Republicans, but not yield to them,” Axios reported, invoking what the outlet called “the unspoken Biden formula”: “Talk like a rosy bipartisan; act like a ruthless partisan.”

In an interview with Politico, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) set a deadline for the bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure: if Republicans don’t budge from their $568 billion proposal in the next week, he said it would be “a very powerful signal” for Democrats to use reconciliation once again. “The train is leaving,” Blumenthal added. (Recall that Senate Democrats secured the ability earlier this month to use reconciliation multiple times in one congressional session.)

Biden meets with Senate Republicans during the ill-fated coronavirus relief negotiations in February. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Ushering the president’s $4 trillion spending packages across the finish line will not be an easy feat, even with reconciliation. Democrats remain divided on several fronts: moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) are still trying to work with Republicans on a smaller compromise bill, while progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) or encouraging Biden to go even bigger and significantly expand Medicare as part of his next legislative push.

Meanwhile, some Democrats have expressed concerns about how Biden plans to pay for his proposals, preferring that he utilize deficit spending rather than raising taxes on the wealthy. Because of his party’s slim majorities in Congress, Biden can afford to lose no Democrats in the Senate and just three in the House if he seeks to use reconciliation to approve the packages by majority votes.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has set July 4 as her target date for a vote on the infrastructure package.

And what about the non-spending parts of Biden’s agenda? Reconciliation can only be used for spending bills, leaving a full half of the agenda Biden outlined on Wednesday in jeopardy unless Democrats gut the legislative filibuster or strike a deal with Republicans.

Of the grab-bag of progressive priorities he mentioned, police reform seems to have the most momentum behind a bipartisan deal. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) held their latest meeting on the issue on Thursday, and they left expressing confidence about their chances of crafting a compromise.

Biden said on Wednesday that he wants a bill on his desk by the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, which is May 25.

Does that mean that bipartisanship may make a comeback in Biden’s next 100 days? Maybe. Don’t expect to see Democrats and Republicans come together on the major spending proposals, but on other key issues — from countering China to combating sexual assault in the military — there are some signs of movement.

In fact, the Senate actually passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday, approving a $35 billion measure to upgrade drinking water projects by a 89-2 vote. Whether they can do the same with Biden’s multi- trillion dollar infrastructure proposal is another question altogether.

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The Rundown

Some more headlines to know this morning.


  • “The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday it will begin the process of banning menthol tobacco cigarettes, as well as all flavored cigars — a move heralded as one expected to improve the health of groups most likely to smoke menthol products, including children and Black Americans.” NBC NewsAFGHANISTAN
  • “The US military withdrawal from Afghanistan is now formally underway, according to the White House and several US defense officials. ‘A drawdown is underway,’ White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday.” CNNCORONAVIRUS
  • “New York City, which one year ago was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, will ‘fully reopen’ for business on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday. The announcement marks a stirring rebound for a city that lost more than 10,000 people in just the first month of the pandemic.”
  • “Florida’s legislature on Thursday night became the latest to approve far-reaching legislation imposing new rules on voting and new penalties for those who do not follow them, passing a measure critics said would make it harder for millions of voters to cast ballots in the Sunshine State.” Washington Post


A sentence in Thursday’s newsletter relating to President Biden’s civil rights record included a typo.

The sentence should have read: “Once the Senate’s foremost opponent of court-ordered busing to desegregate schools, who eulogized famed segregationist Strom Thurmond, Biden also demonstrated his evolution on civil rights with an extended paean to the need for equality.”


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)

President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. before traveling to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At 2:30 p.m., Biden — also known as “Amtrak Joe” —  as will deliver remarks at an event in Philadelphia marking Amtrak’s 50th anniversary. Biden will then travel to Wilmington, Delaware, where he will spend the weekend.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio. At 12:20 p.m., she will participate in a roundtable discussion on public transit. Harris will then return to Washington, D.C.
  • First Lady Jill Biden will participate in a tree planting ceremony on the White House grounds at 10:30 a.m. to mark Arbor Day. She will also join the president for his travels to Philadelphia and Wilmington.
  • Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for a series of events promoting the American Jobs Plan. At 10:30 a.m., Emhoff and Buttigieg will convene a listening session with union workers. At 11:35 a.m., they will visit a manufacturing laboratory. At 2:10 p.m., they will deliver remarks at a train station, where they will be joined by Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) and Amtrak President Stephen Gardner.
  • U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. to provide an update on the COVID-19 response. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, and White House COVID-19 Respone Coordinator Jeff Zients will participate.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Philadelphia.

The Senate is not in session.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

The Supreme Court will meet for its weekly conference.

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