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Wake Up To Politics - August 11, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Cuomo steps aside, Democratic spending plans advance
Wake Up To Politics - August 11, 2021

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, August 11, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 454 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,182 days away.

There are two big political stories today: the resignation of Andrew Cuomo and the Senate passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package and the Democratic budget resolution. Let’s jump in...

Cuomo resigns amid sexual harassment scandal

Bowing to a week of pressure from top Democrats in New York and around the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) announced he would resign on Tuesday after facing nearly a dozen allegations of sexual harassment.

Cuomo’s resignation, which will take effect on August 24, came after state Attorney General Letitia James (D-NY) last week released a bombshell report, which detailed claims by 11 women that the governor had inappropriately hugged, kissed, or groped them or made comments about their appearances and romantic lives.

“In my mind, I have never crossed the line with anyone,” Cuomo said in a winding, 21-minute speech on Tuesday. “But I didn’t realize the extent to which the line has been redrawn.”

While bashing the investigations into him as “politically motivated,” the governor added: “Wasting energy on distractions is the last thing that state government should be doing... Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is to step aside and let government back to governing.”

He spoke using the same backdrop from his daily coronavirus briefings, which had remade him into a national leader in the early days of the pandemic.

In another twist of symbolism, Cuomo will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY), who will become the first female governor in New York’s 233-year history. Hochul will serve out the remainder of Cuomo’s term, which expires after the November 2022 elections.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday after more than a decade in power. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Despite dominating New York’s political scene as governor for 11 years — and serving stints before that as the state’s attorney general and as top confidante for his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo — the Democrat found himself quickly isolated in Albany after the release of James’ report.

Every member of the state’s congressional delegation had called for his resignation, along with other onetime allies, such as President Joe Biden and the chair of the state Democratic Party. The state legislature was quickly moving forward with an impeachment probe that threatened to make him the first New York governor ejected from office in more than 100 years.

Although the threat of impeachment has likely passed, Cuomo still faces possible legal exposure: Brittany Commisso, his former executive assistant, filed a criminal complaint against the governor, which the Albany sheriff said could lead to a misdemeanor charge. At least four district attorneys across the state are also reviewing the claims against him.  

Cuomo long ruled with an iron first in Albany, a brash governing style that grated on many even in his own party. After he resisted calls to resign for months, many New York Democrats could hardly believe his time in power was coming to an end. “The king is dead,” state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D-NY) said in an interview with Politico. Then, with a nod to Hochul’s ascension, he added: “Long live the queen.”

Biden’s spending plans take key steps forward — with a long way still to go

The Senate passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package on Tuesday, sealing a key victory for President Joe Biden and moderate senators from both parties who came together to draft the measure.

The largest federal investment in infrastructure in U.S. history, the package devotes $550 billion in new spending towards updating the nation’s roads and bridges ($110 billion), electric grid ($73 billion), passenger and freight rail ($66 billion), broadband access ($65 billion), water infrastructure ($55 billion), and public transit ($39 billion), am0ng other projects.

It passed in a 69-30 vote, with 19 Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — joining all 50 Democrats in favor.

Immediately after greenlighting the bipartisan bill, the Senate moved into a marathon 14-hour vote-a-rama” to begin consideration of a budget resolution — the first step in the budget reconciliation process, which Democrats are using to unilaterally muscle through the other half of Biden’s sweeping economic agenda.

After voting on dozen of non-binding amendments to the measure, the budget resolution was passed just before 4 a.m. in a 50-49 vote, along party lines. (The budget reconciliation process is filibuster-proof, so only a majority vote is required. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota did not vote.)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer shepherded through two key measures in the Democratic spending plans. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

The passage of the budget resolution paves the way for Democrats to advance their $3.5 trillion spending plan.

Drafted by Senate Budget Committee chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the tentative Democratic spending plan contains a sweeping economic vision, with plans to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing; provide universal pre-K and two years of free community college; extend the Child Tax Credit and Obamacare subsidies enacted earlier this year; address climate change; and raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

However, both the bipartisan plan and the reconciliation bill face long roads ahead in Congress. The two measures have been inextricably linked by lawmakers, with progressives threatening to block the former without the latter and moderates refusing to support the latter without the former.

The budget resolution does not bind Democrats to the $3.5 trillion plan — another package finalizing those details must be passed later, the resolution just begins the drafting process — and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is already expressing concerns about a package of that size.

Without Manchin’s vote, the spending plan won’t be able to pass the 50-50 Senate, but if the package shrinks too small, Democratic leaders risk losing progressive support in the House, where the party can only afford to lose four votes.

The process of passing the budget resolution in the House, then drafting and passing a reconciliation bill that can pass both chambers, as well as passing the bipartisan bill in the House, is expected to take months.

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What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern) Executive Branch
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. At 11:15 a.m., he will meet virtually with business, university, and health care leaders to discuss strategies to get more Americans vaccinated. At 1:15 p.m., he will deliver remarks on his “Build Back Better” economic agenda. At 3 p.m., he will meet virtually with governors, mayors, and other state, local, and tribal officials to discuss the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:15 p.m.
Legislative Branch
The Senate is on recess until September 13. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. on the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package and the Democratic budget resolution.

The House is on recess until August 23.
Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is on recess until October 4.

In the States
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) will address New Yorkers and hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Hochul is set to become the state’s first female governor after the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) takes effect on August 24.

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