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Wake Up To Politics - July 12, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Four challenges facing Biden’s summer
Wake Up To Politics - July 12, 2021

Good morning! It’s Monday, July 12, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 484 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,212 days away.

Thanks for your understanding while Wake Up To Politics took a quick break last week. I hope you all had a good week and are ready to jump back into the latest political news. I know I am.

There will definitely be a lot to cover over the next few weeks — to start off this morning, here’s a preview of what the rest of the summer has to hold:

Four challenges facing Biden this summer

The rest of the summer will be a tough slog for President Joe Biden, who faces a series of uphill battles — many of them outside of his direct control. Here are the main challenges facing Biden in the weeks ahead:

Challenge #1: Infrastructure. The Senate returns to Washington today after a weeklong recess. The House will be back next week, and Democrats in both chambers — as well as the White House — will set off on their all-out sprint to pass not one, but two, sweeping infrastructure packages.

As a reminder, Democrats are working on infrastructure along “two tracks”: one with bipartisan support (the $973 billion proposal put together by senators from both parties) and one to be passed along partisan lines (a package to accomplish Biden’s other “human infrastructure” priorities, which will proceed through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process).

Neither legislative proposal has been finalized; both entail fragile negotiating processes, as Democrats have a lot of constituencies to please and few votes to spare. Nevertheless, lawmakers are hoping to get as far along as possible on both “tracks” before leaving for their August recess; according to Politico, the bipartisan bill could even receive a floor vote next week.

Members of Congress are hoping to preserve their cherished month-long August break, which will mean a jam-packed next few weeks. “Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a letter to his colleagues last week. “Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period.”

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are sparring over the size and scope fo the Democratic reconciliation package. (Ernesto Hernandez Fonte/U.S. Navy)

Challenge #2: Voting rights. As difficult as it will be to get two infrastructure packages through a thinly divided Congress, it is probably Biden’s legislative priority with the greatest chance of passage this summer.

The rest of his agenda is a list of dead ends, and voting rights are at the top of it. Biden met with civil rights leaders last week to discuss his next steps; on Tuesday, he will heed their calls to make more use of his “bully pulpit” and deliver remarks on the issue in Philadelphia.

The chief obstacle standing in the way of progress on voting rights remains the Senate filibuster, which requires most bills to be backed by a 60-vote supermajority.

As their frustration rises, Biden’s allies are exerting more pressure on the president to speak out against the procedural roadblock: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), whose 2020 endorsement of Biden was critical in the Democratic primary, publicly urged Biden to call for filibuster reform this weekend.

Challenge #3: Low vaccination rates. Coronavirus cases are surging in many states, spurred on by the more infectious Delta variant — which now the dominant strain of the virus in the United States — and dwindling vaccination rates.

Biden’s main challenge here is finding a way to persuade residents of “Red America” to take the vaccine. According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the vaccination rate in counties that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 stands at 35% — a widening gap with the rate in Biden counties, which is 46.7%.

It is the states with lower vaccination rates that are experiencing the brunt of new Covid cases, underlining how crucial vaccine uptake is to getting the pandemic under control, which Biden has identified as his administration’s top priority. He unveiled a new push to that end last week, announcing a plan for door-to-door outreach to encourage vaccinations, which was immediately met with conservative backlash.

A woman receives the Covid vaccine in Philadelphia. (Rachel Wisniewski/New York Times)

Challenge #4: Afghanistan. Biden announced last week that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31, just before the September 11 deadline he had previously set.

In fact, Pentagon recently said that the withdrawal is already more than 90% complete. But ending “America’s longest war” will be full of complications: the Taliban has made significant territorial gains in recent weeks, now controlling roughly a third of the 421 districts in Afghanistan.

Biden will have to manage the fallout from the U.S. exit and is likely to face pressure to stray from his course in the coming weeks as the understaffed Afghan air force is left largely unassisted to combat the Taliban’s gains.

The stakes are high: according to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Afghan government could collapse as soon as six months after the U.S. withdrawal is complete.

Policy Roundup: Economics

On Fridays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Davis Giangiulio catches you up on the week’s top economic headlines:

President Joe Biden signed a broad executive order on Friday to limit the power of big businesses. The order aim, in Biden’s words, is “promoting competition to lower prices, to increase wages and to take another critical step toward an economy that works for everybody.”

To do this, the order has 72 provisions, many of which are aimed at Big Tech. Some of those include greater skepticism of mergers by major internet platforms, requesting the Federal Trade Commission to limit surveillance and mass gathering of data on internet users, and urging the Federal Communications Commission to reinstate net neutrality. The order also takes on the pharmaceutical industry, big agriculture, and big banks.

Progressive Democrats have praised the order, with business souring on it. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that the order was built on a “flawed belief” surrounding the economy and that the order “smacks of a ‘government knows best’ approach to managing the economy.”

President Biden signs an executive order aimed at promoting competition and targeting big businesses. (Sarahbeth Maney/New York Times)

Finance leaders of the G20 have agreed to a global minimums tax, in another major step forward toward the levy becoming a reality. It comes after the G7 last month announced they would support the 15 percent minimum tax, to curb multinational companies from moving their profits to lower-tax countries, and after 130 countries earlier this month, representing 90 percent of global GDP, signed onto the tax too.

But disagreements still remain. As part of the deal, the U.S. wants European countries to immediately repeal their digital services taxes which harm American technology companies and has threatened tariffs against European goods if they refuse. But those countries want the taxes to stay in place until the agreement is completely enforced. And low-rate tax havens, like Ireland and Hungary, have yet to sign onto the minimum. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she and others will be working on changing that by their October deadline, but added, “it’s not essential that every country be on board.”

Job openings in May once again rose to another record high, but the pace of the rise is slowing. The figure increased slightly to 9.21 million from 9.19 million in April, and the quits rate fell to 2.5 percent. These numbers are both still extremely high compared to historical figures, and the fact they’re persisting is evidence for some economists that a labor shortage will too. However, for others, the fact that this data is overall flat compared to April, and combined with a June jobs report that was the strongest since last August, it’s a sign that any labor shortage was temporary and that the economy is resuming a more normal recovery.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
Executive Branch
→ President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. and participate in a meeting to discuss his “comprehensive strategy to reduce gun crimes” at 1:15 p.m. The meeting, which comes amid a nationwide surge in violent crime, will be attended by federal officials including Attorney General Merrick Garland and local officials including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is the likely next mayor of New York City.

Adams, a former police captain who was declared the winner of the crowded Democratic mayoral primary last week, has made crime a focal issue of his campaign to lead America’s most populous city.

Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for his intelligence briefing and then travel to Detroit, Michigan. At 2 p.m., she will hold a listening session on voting rights. At 3:25 p.m., she will deliver remarks at a vaccine mobilization event. At 5:25 p.m., she will deliver remarks at a fundraiser for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). She will then return to Washington, D.C.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will deliver remarks at 2 p.m. to release the 2021 Congressional Report Pursuant to the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act.

This will be the third edition of the report, which provides an update on the U.S. government’s efforts to prevent and respond to global atrocities, since the signing of the Elie Wiesel Act in 2019.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:15 p.m.

Eric Adams has made crime a centerpiece issue of his mayoral campaign and will discuss the issue today with President Biden. (Kevin Hagen/AP)

Legislative Branch
The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of Uzra Zeya’s nomination to be Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. The chamber will hold a cloture vote to advance Zeya’s nomination at 5:30 p.m.

Zeya was a 27-year career diplomat until she resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service during the Trump administration and became President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacekeeping.

The House is not in session.

On the committee level:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a closed-door hearing at 6 p.m. on S.J.Res.10, which would repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) against Iraq. Officials from the State and Defense Departments will testify on the AUMFs and the recent U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on “the importance of a diverse federal judiciary,” focusing on the selection and confirmation process. Judges from Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington will testify.

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing at 12 p.m. on the “SNAP benefit cliff,” which is what happens when workers receive higher wages but then lose eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — better known as “food stamps” — and therefore are worse of financially despite the wage increase.

The House Administration Committee will hold a hearing at 1 p.m. on the Elections Clause of the Constitution, which allows state legislatures to set the “times, places, and manner” of congressional elections but empowers Congress to “make or alter such regulations.” Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams (R) will testify at the hearing, along with three law professors, who will discuss Congress’ role in regulating elections and voting rights.
Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is not in session.

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