Wake Up To Politics - October 18, 2021
Good morning! It’s Monday, October 18, 2021. Election Day 2024 is 1,114 days away. Election Day 2022 is 386 days away.
Breaking news: Colin Powell, a trailblazing diplomat and four-star general, died this morning at age 84. Throughout his decades-long career, Powell served as Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and National Security Advisor. Powell was the first African-American to hold each of those three key roles.
According to his family, Powell died of complications from Covid-19. He was fully vaccinated.
Manchin, Sanders spar over size and scope of Democratic agenda
Lawmakers will return to Washington from recess this week staring down a familiarly long to-do list, as Democratic leaders hope that the months-long sprint to pass the key planks of their domestic agenda is finally nearing the finish line.
There are now less than two weeks until the party’s informal October 31 deadline, the expiration date for a short-term bill that extended surface transportation funding. Democrats are aiming for the House to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package by then, as the Senate-passed measure would extend the expiring highway funds for an additional five years.
But, as have been the case for weeks now, the bipartisan infrastructure bill is all but doomed in the House until the sweeping Democratic-only spending package advances as well, with progressive Democrats bottling up the former until they see progress on the latter.
So far, though, progress has been hard to come by: the the party’s main factions have been locked in the same standoff over spending for weeks, a dynamic that is worrying some Democrats anxious to usher through parts of their agenda before the Virginia gubernatorial elections next month and midterm elections next year.
The White House is attempting to move the intraparty negotiations along, but a few key lawmakers expressing little of the same urgency.
“The White House wants to make clear that soon it will be time for negotiations to conclude so we can move forward with both plans,” a source close to Biden’s team said in a statement to Punchbowl News. “The president is ready to get this done — as is the country.”
But both top moderates and progressives in Biden’s party don’t seem to be in any rush to advance his agenda: Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) has suggested that surface transportation funding could be extended repeatedly for short stints until a spending package is drafted, while centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have refused to be pressured by “artificial deadlines.”
A growing dispute between Manchin and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has broken fully into public view. Earlier this month, Sanders unloaded on Manchin in a Capitol Hill press conference, going through the Democratic spending proposal point by point and calling out Manchin for his opposition. “Does Senator Manchin not believe what the scientists are telling us, that we face an existential threat regarding climate change?” Sanders asked, making the case for the climate provisions embedded in the spending plan.
Then, on Friday, Sanders published an op-ed calling for the spending plan — in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin’s home-state newspaper.
The targeted move did not go ever well with Sanders’ centrist colleague. “This isn’t the first time an out-of-stater has tried to tell West Virginians what is best for them despite having no relationship to our state,” Manchin said in a statement, adding that “no op-ed from a self-declared Independent socialist” will change his opposition to “a reckless expansion of government programs.”
The feud has real-life policy consequences. For one thing, Manchin appears to have succeeded in stripping a program central to Biden’s climate ambitions from the spending package. The Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), a $150 billion push to reward utility companies that switch from burning fossil fuels to using renewable energy sources and punish those that don’t.
According to Politico, White House aides are now hurriedly re-writing the spending plan to soften the CEPP because of Manchin’s opposition. In its original iteration, the program was slated to be “the strongest climate change policy ever enacted by the United States,” in the words of the New York Times.
And that’s not the only change Manchin is seeking to make, much to Sanders’ annoyance. According to Axios, the West Virginian is also pushing for the expanded Child Tax Credit to include a “firm a work requirement and family income cap in the $60,000 range”; one of the initiative’s main selling points had originally been its near-universal nature.
Meanwhile, Sinema — Manchin’s partner in centrism — reportedly told lawmakers last week that she would not vote for the Democratic spending plan until the bipartisan infrastructure package passes the House, the opposite stance espoused by House progressives.
Start the clock: T-13 days for Democrats to settle all of those disputes (and more) before their self-imposed end-of-month deadline.
Policy Roundup: Economics
The week’s top economic headlines, by Wake Up To Politics economics contributor Davis Giangiulio.
A key inflation metric rose more than expected in September, a sign that inflation isn’t slowing down as quickly as first thought. The Consumer Price Index rose by 5.4 percent compared to last year, the highest annual change since 2008. The monthly comparison showed that prices in September alone rose 0.4 percent, a smaller gain from the early spring and summer months but stronger than August’s 0.3 percent rise.
Among the price increases was gasoline: a weak supply of gas is leading to the cost at the pump to go up. Gas prices rose 1.2 percent last month, an increase of more than 42 percent over the last year.
Consistent rises in prices have some questioning if inflation truly is transitory, as officials had previously insisted. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told ABC News that “we are seeing higher prices” as a result of a temporary economic transition, but Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic said the surge “will not be brief.” Bostic’s comments were a break from the Fed leadership’s position, which has been to downplay concerns about persistent inflation.
4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, the most in a single month since December 2000. That’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which revealed the figure on Tuesday. Hires also declined in the same month, and job openings went down by 659,000, the most notable decrease of the year as the figure had been surging amid labor shortage concerns.
The rise in quits is a sign that workers have quite a large amount of power in the labor market at the moment. Workers feel confident about their chances of finding a job amid the large number of job openings, so they’re taking their time to find a job they fit best with or using their employment status as leverage to get a better deal. Businesses are hiking wages as a reaction, only fueling workers’ power. And this is all happening at a time when labor strikes are sweeping the country.
President Biden is beginning to take measures to tackle supply chain problems that have bogged down the country’s economic recovery. The biggest of these is his announcement that the Port of Los Angeles will operate 24/7. He also announced that major companies, like Walmart, will extend their hours for workers to get goods out faster. As the holiday season approaches, experts say that Americans should expect delays in receiving goods and shortages in others and that measures like this had to be taken earlier to avoid a greater impact.
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m.
Vice President Kamala Harris will start her day in California, where she spent the weekend. At 1 p.m., she will travel to Las Vegas. At 3:05 p.m., she will visit Lake Mead in Nevada and participate in a tour, receive a briefing, and deliver remarks making the case for the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the Democratic spending package. At 5:55 p.m., Harris will depart Nevada and fly back to Washington, D.C.
First Lady Jill Biden will host a ceremony honoring the 2020 and 2021 State and National Teachers of the Year at 2:30 p.m.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1 p.m.
The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Christine O’Hearn to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey. At 5:30 p.m., the chamber will vote on confirmation of Gustavo Gelpi to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the First Circuit.
The House is on recess.
The Supreme Court will release orders at 9:30 a.m.
Former President Donald Trump will sit for a videotaped deposition today to give testimony in a lawsuit brought by a group of protesters who claim to have been assaulted by Trump’s security guards during a 2015 demonstration at Trump Tower.
It will be Trump’s first deposition since his election as president; although the former president’s lawyers sought to preclude him from testifying, New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Gonzalez ordered that the deposition take place today at Trump Tower.
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