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Wake Up To Politics - August 24, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: House Dems locked in budget standoff
Wake Up To Politics - August 24, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, August 24, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 441 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,169 days away.

House Democrats locked in budget standoff

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) took the rare step of bringing the House back from its August recess this week, in hopes of making progress on President Joe Biden’s sweeping economic agenda and a key piece of voting rights legislation.

But instead she has found herself locked in a standoff with a group of moderate House Democrats who are threatening to hold up Biden’s spending package. Allow me to explain:

There are two pieces of legislation at play here. One is the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that includes new investments in roads, bridges, broadband, and other projects.

The other is a budget resolution that would kickstart the budget reconciliation process, which Democrats are hoping to use for to advance an even larger package — possibly costing as much as $3.5 trillion — that could expand Medicare, add two years of universal schooling, address climate change, and raise taxes on the wealthy, along with a slew of other progressive priorities.

Both measures passed the Senate earlier this month. But in the House, Democrats can’t agree on which order to consider them in. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling for a vote on the budget resolution first, while a group of moderates is demanding that the bipartisan package be voted on first.

Because the Democratic majority in the House is so slim — Pelosi can only afford to lose three of her members in a single vote — every Democrat has leverage.

Nancy Pelosi is facing a revolt from moderate Democrats. (Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters)

That dynamic led to hours of furious negotiations on Monday. The House stayed in session until after midnight as Pelosi and her deputies sought to strike a deal with the group of moderates led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NY).

Pelosi was striving for a vote on a “rule” that would provide for consideration of both the infrastructure package and the budget resolution, as well as a voting rights bill. She offered Gottheimer a proposal that would have effectively coupled passage of the rule with passage of the budget resolution itself while also promising a vote on the bipartisan package by October 1.

This offering would theoretically have made signing off on the budget resolution an easier vote for moderates, because the measure was tied with advancement of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the voting rights bill. (All three bills are slated to be advanced by the same rule.)

But Gottheimer’s group rejected that plan, which still would have approved the budget resolution before the bipartisan bill. In fact, Gottheimer’s faction only grew as the night dragged on: a tenth member, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), joined them in threatening to vote against the budget resolution if the bipartisan package didn’t receive a vote first.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer is the leader of the moderate faction. (Caroline Brehman / CQ Roll Call)

Negotiations will resume today, without any clear path forward. House Democrats are slated to gather for a 9 a.m. caucus meeting, which could lead to an agreement.

That is, as long as it doesn’t end up like the last Democratic caucus meeting, which took place on Monday night. According to Politico, the meeting “ran high with emotions” as a slew of members pushed the moderates to fold.

“You all have to vote for the goddman rule,” House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) reportedly said at one point. At another point, one Democratic member could apparently be heard referring to the moderate members as “f---ing assholes.”

The Rundown

More news you should know.

AFGHANISTAN: “CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul on Monday with the Taliban’s de facto leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in the highest-level face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the militants seized the Afghan capital, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.” Washington Post

  • The meeting between Burns and the Taliban came as the U.S. is facing global pressure to keep troops in Afghanistan past President Biden’s August 31 withdrawal deadline. A top House Democrat who was briefed on the situation said Monday that it was unlikely that all of the Americans and American allies still in the country will be able to be evacuated by the deadline.
  • According to CNN, Biden must decide by today whether to keep troops in Afghanistan to continue the evacuation efforts past August 31, since the military would need time to prepare if they are to completely withdraw in one week’s time.
  • The Taliban has warned the U.S. against keeping troops in Afghanistan past August 31, calling the date a “red line” that would provoke “consequences” if ignored. Meanwhile, evacuations are increasing: 21,600 people were evacuated from Kabul in the past 24 hours, according to the White House.
CIA Director William Burns held talks in Kabul with the Taliban on Monday. (Tom Williams / Reuters)

CORONAVIRUS: “The U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday, potentially boosting public confidence in the shots and instantly opening the way for more universities, companies and local governments to make vaccinations mandatory.” Associated Press

  • More from the AP: “The Pentagon promptly announced it will press ahead with plans to force members of the military to get vaccinated amid the battle against the extra-contagious delta variant. The University of Minnesota likewise said it will require its students get the shot, as did Louisiana’s major public universities, including LSU, though state law there allows broad exemptions.”
  • Now that it is fully approved, the Pfizer shot will be officially known and marketed as Comirnaty (pronounced koe-mir’-na-tee), which is an amalgam of the words “Covid,” “mRNA,” “community,” and “immunity.”

JAN. 6 INVESTIGATION: “The January 6 select committee is seeking electronic communication records from ‘several hundred people,’ including from members of Congress, in connection with their Capitol riot probe.” Business Insider

  • “The U.S. Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6 during the  insurrection was cleared Monday after an internal review concluded the action may have spared the lives of lawmakers and staffers who had barricaded themselves inside the building.” USA Today

Policy Roundup: Education

On Tuesdays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Kirsten Shaw Mettler offers a briefing on the week’s top education news:

Mask debates continue to put pressure on schools. Federal agencies encourage universal masking for K-12 institutions, while some GOP governors ban masking requirements, leaving schools in the crossfire. The governors of Florida, Texas, and Arizona have all banned school mask mandates and have been met with defiance by local school districts.

On Friday, Florida gave schools 48 hours to remove mask mandates or lose their funding. In Texas, the state Supreme Court and the state education agency have both decided to allow schools to require masks, at least for now. Some schools in the state are making masks part of their dress code in order to get around the governor’s ban.

President Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona have both pushed back against the governors. The administration has suggested that if governors withhold funding from districts that require masking, federal funds will be available to schools to make up for those shortfalls. Additionally, Cardona said that his department’s Office of Civil Rights would be launching investigations into states that ban school mask mandates.  

“We are not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” said President Biden on Wednesday.

The Richardson Independent School District is one of many in Texas requiring masks despite the governor’s order. (LM Otero / AP). 

More education policy headlines, via Kirsten:


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
Executive Branch
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 8 a.m. Then, at 8:30 a.m., he will meet with his national security team to receive an update on Afghanistan. At 9:30 a.m., he will meet virtually with G7 leaders to discuss Afghanistan.

Finally, at 12 p.m., he will deliver remarks on the ongoing efforts to evacuate Americans and Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants from Afghanistan.

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Asia as part of her second foreign trip since taking office. Earlier this morning, she participated in a meet and greet at the U.S. embassy in Singapore before departing for Hanoi, Vietnam. Harris touched down at her destination at 7:10am Eastern Time.

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is in Tokyo, Japan, as head of the U.S. delegation to the Paralympic Games. Earlier this morning, he met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and attended the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1 p.m.
U.S. public health officials will hold their weekly COVID-19 press briefing at 2 p.m.
Legislative Branch The Senate will briefly convene at 8:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. The chamber is not scheduled to fully return from recess until September 13.
The House will convene at 12 p.m. The chamber is again scheduled to debate the rule setting up consideration of S.Con.Res. 14, the budget resolution that paves the way for the $3.5 trillion Democratic spending package, H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and H.R. 3684, the bipartisan infrastructure package.

If the rule is approved, the chamber may move ahead with consideration of H.R. 4. In addition, the chamber may also hold “suspension votes” to pass some of the following pieces of legislation:

  1. S. 848, the Consider Teachers Act of 2021
  2. S. 1828, the HAVANA Act of 2021
  3. H.R. 1029, the Free Veterans from Fees Act
  4. H.R. 1154, the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area Act
  5. H.R. 3533, to establish occupational series for Federal positions in software development, software engineering, data science, and data management
  6. H.R. 3599, the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021
  7. H.R. 1204, the District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Salary Home Rule Act
  8. H.R. 978, the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act of 2021
  9. H.R. 2617, the Performance Enhancement Reform Act
  10. S. 2382, to authorize the National Cyber Director to accept details from other elements of the Federal Government on nonreimbursable basisJudicial Branch
    The Supreme Court is on recess until October 4.

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