8 min read

Wake Up To Politics - June 4, 2021

Good morning! It’s Friday, June 4, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 522 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,250 days away.

If historical trends bear out, Republicans are likely to retake control of the House in 2022. That means President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats only have a matter of months to implement their sweeping agenda, from expanding the social safety net to protecting voting rights.

With that timeline in mind, many Democrats have been pushing since Biden took office to eliminate the Senate filibuster, the 60-vote requirement that is bottling up much of their agenda.

But to touch the filibuster, they’ll have to go through Joe Manchin first. The centrist Democratic senator from West Virginia reiterated in a series of interviews on Thursday — for about the millionth time in the Biden era — that he opposes ending the filibuster, instead urging his colleagues to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans.

“We’re going to make the place work,” he told CNN. “I don’t know what else I can tell you. You can’t make it work unless the minority has input.”

Every question in Washington ultimately comes down to Manchin. Most immediately, his desire for bipartisan cooperation is partially driving the contours of the debate over infrastructure.

A growing number of Democratic lawmakers have grown tired of negotiations with Republicans and are calling for an infrastructure package to be passed through reconciliation, the filibuster-proof maneuver Democrats used to pass the recent stimulus bill.

But Manchin says he’s not ready to support an infrastructure bill using reconciliation. “No, I don’t think you should,” he told NBC News on Thursday. “I really don’t... Right now, basically we need to be bipartisan.”

Manchin in the middle. (Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

That’s why Biden made new concessions to Republicans this week. According to the Washington Post, the president told Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) — his chief negotiating partner and, notably, Manchin’s home-state colleague — that is willing to compromise on how to pay for an infrastructure package.

Biden reportedly expressed flexibility on his proposed increase of the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, instead floating a 15% minimum tax on corporations to ensure the largest U.S. companies don’t avoid paying taxes through credits and deductions. The overture quickly evoked opposition from progressives, but it was the kind of “good-faith negotiating” that Manchin has insisted on seeing before he might even consider backing a bill through reconciliation.

Along with infrastructure, Manchin is also the key vote on an issue many Democrats refer to as “existential” for the country. He is the only Democratic senator who hasn’t co-sponsored S.1, the For the People Act, the party’s signature democracy reform package.

Instead, he supports an expansion of the Voting Rights Act, which would limit the ability of GOP-led legislatures to make voting changes, but would not address partisan gerrymandering, campaign finance, or the nationalized election requirements Democrats are pushing for.

In any event, neither voting rights bill has any route to passage with the filibuster intact. And in reality, Manchin is probably not the only Democrat who wants to keep the filibuster around. He’s just the only one who has to say so, since all 50 Democrats (and tie-breaker Vice President Kamala Harris) would need to unite behind filibuster reform for it to move forward.

“A lot of members are happy Joe Manchin is the tip of the spear, getting shot at every day,” a Democratic aide told The Daily Beast. “Seven or eight of them stand behind him.”

The two most powerful Joes in Washington. (Tom Williams/Roll Call)

But as the most visible member of that group, pressure is building on Manchin to waver. Democratic activists are focusing their efforts on Manchin as the infrastructure talks continue and as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer prepares to place S.1 on the floor later this month.

Even Biden seems to be losing his patience, implicitly jabbing Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), another filibuster defender, when speaking about voting rights earlier this week in Tulsa.

“I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’” he said.“Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.”

But Manchin, as ever, remained unmoved. “I know everyone’s in a hurry right now,” the West Virginian said in the CNN interview. “If anyone understands the process, it’s President Joe Biden... We’ve got to bring our country together. We can’t continue to split and go further apart. We just can’t do that, we’ve got to work together.”

The Rundown

More top stories to know.

JOBS REPORT: “U.S. employers added 559,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8%, in a pickup of the labor market’s recovery from the pandemic amid signs that businesses struggled to fill job openings. Last month’s gain represented an improvement from April, when the unemployment rate was 6.1% and the economy added a revised 278,000 jobs, a gain much smaller than economists had forecast.” Wall Street Journal

CORONAVIRUS: “Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have fallen to levels not seen since March 2020, according to an NBC News analysis — and experts say they expect case counts to stay low through the summer... On Wednesday, the seven-day average [of new cases] was 16,860, the lowest since March 29, 2020.” NBC News

  • President Biden outlined his plan to share Covid vaccines with other countries on Thursday, announcing that the U.S. would send almost 19 million doses through the COVAX program — about 6 million doses to Latin America and the Caribbean, about 7 million doses to South and Southeast Asia, and about 5 million doses to Africa — and another 6 million doses directly to top allies including Canada, Mexico, India, and South Korea.

UFO UPDATE: “American intelligence officials have found no evidence that aerial phenomena witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years are alien spacecraft, but they still cannot explain the unusual movements that have mystified scientists and the military, according to senior administration officials briefed on the findings of a highly anticipated government report.” New York Times

Vaccine distribution so far. (Chart by Axios)

🔒 Gabe’s Picks

What I’m reading and watching this morning. This section is available to readers who have donated to WUTP or used their unique link to refer other subscribers.
An interesting profile: “How Cory Booker is wielding newfound Senate power” Politico

  • “Booker said one recent meeting of the ‘rainbow coalition’ tackling [police reform] was held in the Strom Thurmond room — named for the late South Carolina Republican senator who supported segregation, a stark sign of how much the institution has changed.”

A noteworthy trend: “The Conservative Publishing Industry Has a Joe Biden Problem” The Atlantic

  • “In many ways, the dynamic represents a microcosm of the current political moment: Facing a new president whose relative dullness is his superpower, the American right has gone hunting for richer targets to elevate.”

An important read: This piece from the conservative National Review on former President Donald Trump’s belief that the 2020 election could still somehow be overturned and he could be reinstated into office.

  • “The scale of Trump’s delusion is quite startling. This is not merely an eccentric interpretation of the facts or an interesting foible, nor is it an irrelevant example of anguished post-presidency chatter. It is a rejection of reality, a rejection of law, and, ultimately, a rejection of the entire system of American government.”

Quote of the day: “You know, President Trump and I have spoken several times since we left office and I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye on that day.” — Former Vice President Mike Pence in a speech on Thursday, referring to the events of January 6, when he oversaw the certification Biden’s victory as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and threatened to ahng him.

Ask Gabe

Your questions, answered.

Q: It seems that the chambers of Congress don’t like putting bills up for a vote unless they have enough for it to pass, so what happens if the Senate or House reject a bill? Can they still revamp it and try again or is it pretty much over at that point? — Ashley from Bellingham, WA

A: The floor schedules of the House and Senate are pretty tightly controlled by the party leadership, so it is rare for them to put a bill up for a vote unless they’re absolutely sure it it will pass. That’s mostly to ensure that the majority party avoids the embarrassment of losing a vote: even though it’s rare, it is procedurally possible to bring a bill that has failed back for a re-vote.

Both the House and Senate allow members to make a “motion to reconsider” to call for another vote on a bill that has just been passed or rejected — but the motion must be made by a member on the “prevailing side” of the vote. That’s why, on the rare occasions the majority party does lose a vote, you often see a member of leadership switch their vote to side against the bill, which allows them to bring it back up for consideration later.

Such motions usually require a majority vote themselves, so they’re most often used in the Senate after a cloture vote, when at least 51 senators (but not the 60 needed) vote to cut off debate, so the majority can have another chance to end a filibuster. (Sidenote: In both the House and Senate, “motions to reconsider” are also often made after a bill passes, to ensure the passage can’t be reversed. When this happens, a member of the majority party usually makes the motion and then it is tabled by voice vote to ensure a re-vote can’t be held.)

Majority parties don’t lose floor votes very often. A 2017 vote on Obamacare repeal, defeated by John McCain’s historic thumbs-down, is one recent exception. 


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

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are at their vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. At 9 a.m., the president will receive his daily intelligence briefing. At 10:15 a.m., he will deliver remarks on the May jobs report at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. The Bidens will then return to Washington, D.C., departing Delaware at 10:55 a.m. and arriving at the White House at 12:20 p.m.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken will participate in a virtual roundtable with Palestinian-American community leaders at 10:15 a.m., followed by a virtual roundtable with Jewish community leaders at 11:45 a.m.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1 p.m. She will also hold a “social media briefing” at 3:30 p.m., answering questions from various online influencers.

The Senate is not in session.

The House will convene at 9:30 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

  • The House Judiciary Committee will hold a closed-door interview with Don McGahn, who served as White House Counsel during the Trump administration and was a key witness in the Mueller investigation. His testimony today is the result of a years-long legal battle between the executive and legislative branches.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

The Bidens bicycling on Thursday while on vacation in Delaware. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

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