Wake Up To Politics - November 5, 2021
Good morning! It’s Friday, November 5, 2021. Election Day 2024 is 1,096 days away. Election Day 2022 is 368 days away.
Happy Friday. Don’t forget to “fall back” this weekend. Lest you think there isn’t a political angle to Daylight Saving Time, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced legislation that would make DST permanent across the country and end the need for Americans to change their clocks two times a year.
“To put it simply, Americans want more sunshine and less depression,” Sen. Patt Murray (D-WA) said on the Senate floor Thursday. So there’s a bright thought to start your day.
House to vote on infrastructure, social spending packages
After months of arduous negotiations, House Democrats are planning to hold two major votes today on President Joe Biden’s sweeping economic agenda.
House leaders are hoping the chamber will approve both of the pieces of legislation that make up the bulk of Biden’s plans, greenlighting more than $2 trillion in new government spending in a single day:
1) The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This $1 trillion bipartisan package would reauthorize existing infrastructure programs and invest $550 billion in new projects to improve America’s roads, bridges, airports, public transit, pipes, and railroads.
It is the largest infusion of government spending in infrastructure in years, and would be paid for through repurposed Covid relief funds, increased regulation of cryptocurrency, and other methods. The package, drafted by a bipartisan group of senators, passed the Senate in a 69-30 vote in August. If the House approves it today, the bill will head to Biden’s desk for his signature.
2) The Build Back Better Act. This $1.75 trillion package touches nearly every other Democratic priority. Reduced from its original $3.5 trillion size, the legislation would still offer universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year olds, make the largest investments towards combatting climate change in U.S. history, offer four weeks of paid family and medical leave, extend the enhanced Child Tax Credit by one year, expand Medicare to cover hearing, and increase funding for Pell grants, home care services for seniors and the disabled, Obamacare tax credits, and a slew of other programs.
Democrats insist that the package will be fully paid-for, mostly through a variety of tax changes that include a 15 percent corporate minimum tax, a tax targeting corporate stock buybacks, a new surtax on millionaires, and increased IRS enforcement of the tax code. If it passes the House today, the mega-bill will go to the Senate, where it is expected to face further changes at the behest of centrist Democrats. The package is being passed through the reconciliation process, which means it cannot be filibustered and will require only Democratic votes in the House and Senate.
Of course, this is not the first time Democrats have said to expect votes on the two pieces of legislation. But lawmakers insist they’re serious this time, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signaling that she finally has the votes to pass both bills.
Top Democrats spent Thursday making sure of that, with Pelosi buttonholing members on the floor and Biden making phone calls to holdouts. The party’s leaders believe they have solved a number of issues that have been holding up the “Build Back Better” package:
- Paid leave. Four weeks of paid family and medical leave have been placed back in the package, after being briefly stripped out due to centrist objections in the Senate.
- Immigration. There is no pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the bill, but the package would create a program to allow about 7 million immigrants apply for five-year work and travel permit.
- Prescription drugs. The package has been amended to give the government the power to negotiate some drug prices for the first time, although the new authority will be limited to a limited class of the 10 most expensive drugs.
- State and local tax deduction. Known as the SALT deduction, may Democrats have been pushing for the spending package to restore this tax break for wealthy Americans that was capped in the 2017 GOP tax bill. Democrats have reached an agreement to suspend the $10,000 cap on the deduction for five years.
- CBO score. A group of House moderates had insisted that the Congressional Budget Office “score” the package before they vote on it, to confirm leadership’s claim that it is fully paid for. Pelosi is rushing forward with a vote without that score, but she circulated a separate estimate Thursday that suggested the bill would raise enough revenue to offset the new spending.
These last-minute changes to the bill may be enough to ensure its passage in the House, but the Senate is a different story. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the chamber’s leading centrist, is opposed to the paid leave provision and has criticized the package for involving several budgetary “gimmicks” that he says masks its true cost.
That means that changes to the package will have to be negotiated before it passes in the Senate, which will require it to be sent back to the House to approve the amended version. Pelosi had previously promised her members that they wouldn’t have to vote on anything that wouldn’t be able to pass the Senate, but she appears poised to violate that pledge today.
The rush to push the bills through the House represents a new urgency felt by Democrats after their election blows on Tuesday. While Manchin has said that the party’s major losses in Virginia and across the map might suggest a need to slow down, Biden and Pelosi have taken the opposite message, saying that the election results reflect the need for Democrats in Washington to show they can deliver on their campaign promises.
The duo of Washington veterans will do that today: if they are successful, both Biden and Pelosi will notch legacy-making achievements, among the largest in their decades of legislating. That remains a big “if” however: remember, Pelosi only has a three-vote margin in the House, meaning she will be sweating these two roll calls right up until she hears the requisite 218 “yeas” go through.
What else you should know
— Vaccine mandate: “The Biden administration on Thursday set Jan. 4 as the deadline for large companies to mandate coronavirus vaccinations or start weekly testing of their workers, the government’s biggest effort yet to enlist private businesses in combating the virus.” New York Times
— New Covid pill: “Pfizer said Friday that its easy-to-administer Covid-19 pill, used in combination with a widely used HIV drug, cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in high-risk adults who’ve been exposed to the virus.” CNBC
— Voting rights: “The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Texas on Thursday over a state law that places strict curbs on voting by mail, in the latest effort by the Biden administration to combat new voting restrictions being enacted in Republican-controlled states across the nation.” Reuters
— Trump investigations: “The Manhattan district attorney has convened a second long-term grand jury to hear evidence about the Trump Organization’s financial practices and potentially to vote on criminal charges, according to people with knowledge of the matter.” Washington Post
— Covid at the White House: “A White House aide who accompanied Joe Biden to international summits in Europe last week tested positive for coronavirus infection before the president returned to the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter.” Bloomberg
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:30 a.m. and deliver remarks at 10:15 a.m. on the October jobs report. At 12 p.m., the president and first lady will attend Colin Powell’s funeral at the Washington National Cathedral. Powell — whose storied career included service as the first African-American national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and secretary of state — died last month at age 84.
In the evening, Biden will travel from the White House to his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where he will spend the weekend.
Vice President Kamala Harris will tour the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, at 4:05 p.m. and deliver remarks at the NASA laboratory at 4:50 p.m. As in previous administrations, Harris’ vice presidential responsibilities include serving as chair of the National Space Council.
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press briefing at 2:30 p.m. Jean-Pierre is standing in for her boss, White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who is quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
The Senate will briefly convene at 8:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. The chamber is not scheduled to hold any votes until November 15.
The House will convene at 8 a.m. Votes are expected on both H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package), and H.R. 5376, the Build Back Better Act (the $1.75 trillion Democratic spending package).
COURTS The Supreme Court justices will meet today for their weekly conference.