Good morning! It’s Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Election Day 2024 is 1,112 days away. Election Day 2022 is 384 days away.
I’m coning to you this morning with all the latest on the sweeping Democratic spending package. There were a lot of reports yesterday on what Democrats are now planning to keep in and take out of the package — I read them all so you don’t have to. Here’s what we know...
What a “Build Back Better” compromise might look like
After going several weeks without making much progress on drafting a pared-down version of their domestic agenda, Democrats held a flurry of meetings at the White House and Capitol on Tuesday, suddenly infusing their spending talks with a new sense of urgency.
President Joe Biden met separately with groups of moderate and progressive lawmakers. The entire Senate Democratic Caucus met for more than 90 minutes to hash out their differences. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) sat down with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and then with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Democrats emerged from all these meetings more optimistic than ever that they are approaching a compromise on an updated version of Biden’s “Build Back Better” spending plan. According to the Washington Post, NBC News, CNN, Politico, and other news outlets, Biden told lawmakers that he is now eyeing a price tag between $1.75 trillion and $1.9 trillion, a significant reduction from his original $3.5 trillion proposal.
The lower price tag will require some of the package’s key components to be stripped away or limited in scope. Here are the likely contours of the trimmed-down compromise package, according to those reports:
— Education: Biden’s proposal to offer two years of free pre-K to all Americans appears to remain intact, but the promise of two years of tuition-free community college is likely to fall through the cracks. Democrats are reportedly considering including expanded community college scholarships in the bill as a half-measure.
— Child care: Earlier this year, Democrats passed a coronavirus relief package which also included a one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to turn it into monthly payments totaling $3,600 a year for children under 6 years old and $3,000 a year for children from 6 to 17 years old.
Democrats had originally been hoping that the upcoming spending package would make the expanded CTC permanent; instead, it now appears the party will extend the payments for just one or two more years. It also appears that the CTC will be means-tested in some way, as opposed to offered to nearly all Americans, in accordance with Manchin’s wishes.
— Health care: Progressives have been aggressively pushing for the package to include an expansion of Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing for seniors. But that is a costly endeavor that will probably not be possible; instead, Democrats are discussing some sort of “pilot program” to offer some seniors dental coverage under Medicare.
Biden’s original proposal also would have expanded Medicaid in states that have yet to do so and extended the expanded Obamacare subsidies. Those ideas are now expected to be implemented for shorter amounts of time; Biden reportedly suggested a three-year extension of the increased Obamacare subsidies.
— Climate: Democrats are still planning to devote billions of dollars to addressing climate change in the package, but it’s unclear which programs Manchin will allow to stay in the bill. He has reportedly already succeeded in stripping out — or at least significantly limiting — Biden’s centerpiece climate initiative, the Clean Energy Performance Program (CEPP), which would have rewarded utility companies that switch to using renewable energy sources and punished those that don’t.
With the CEPP out of the picture, Democrats then considered levying a tax on carbon dioxide emissions — but Manchin appears to have nixed that too. Biden is still hoping that the package will enable the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030; however, the remaining climate provisions in the bill (clean energy and electric vehicle tax credits, energy efficiency grant programs, etc.) would probably not be enough to meet that goal.
— Paid leave: The U.S. is the only developed country without any national paid family leave. Under the original Democratic proposal, the government would have provided 12 weeks of paid leave for workers. Democrats are now looking at cutting that down to four weeks.
— Elder care: Under Biden’s original plan, the package would have included $400 billion to support home-based care for elderly and disabled Americans. That initiative will remain in the bill, but is now likely to receive something more in the neighborhood of $250 billion.
— Public housing: The package is still expected to include around $200 billion to fund the development of new affordable housing units and retrofitting of existing units.
That may not add up to the full-scale reshaping of the social safety net that Democrats had envisioned, but it would still count as a significant victory for Biden and his party, especially when combined with the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that is expected to pass in tandem.
Democrats are still hoping to pass the infrastructure bill by October 31, with the growing possibility that progressives will relent and allow it to pass as long as moderates agree to a framework of the larger spending package by then (which would likely be something along the lines of what you read above).
Lawmakers who emerged from the Senate Democratic Caucus meeting and the huddles at the White House sounded more optimistic than Democrats have in weeks.
Lawmakers who emerged from the Senate Democratic Caucus meeting and the huddles at the White House sounded more optimistic than Democrats have in weeks.
“There was universal, universal agreement in that room, that we have to come to an agreement, and we got to get it done and want to get it done this week,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters after the caucus meeting, which he described as a “very spirited discussion.”
Progressives appeared mollified as well: “All our priorities are there in some way, shape, or form,” Jayapal said of the likely compromise package after the White House meeting, praising Biden as the party’s “closer” and “mediator-in-chief.”
And Biden’s team, which has been anxiously prodding lawmakers to speed things along, seemed pleased with the progress being made.
“After a day of constructive meetings, the President is more confident this evening about the path forward to delivering for the American people on strong, sustained economic growth that benefits everyone,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Tuesday, adding: “There was broad agreement that there is urgency in moving forward over the next several days and that the window for finalizing a package is closing.”
What else you should know
— The House committee investigating the January 6 riot voted unanimously on Tuesday to refer former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for criminal contempt charges for refusing to comply with a subpoena for the panel. The full House is expected to vote on the contempt citation Thursday; it will ultimately be up to the Justice Department to decide whether to pursue a prosecution.
— Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday. Fortenberry, who has served in Congress since 2005 and is the dean of the Nebraska congressional delegation, stands accused of concealing information and making false statements to authorities concerning an investigation into illegal contributions by a Nigerian-born billionaire to his re-election campaign.
— The White House detailed plans this morning to roll out COVID-19 vaccines for 5 to 11-year-olds once the FDA approves them. The Biden administration has secured enough vaccine doses to inoculate 28 million children in the age group against the virus, and plans to equip pediatric and primary care offices, pharmacies, and other locations to administer the shots.
— U.S. border authorities detained more than 1.7 million migrants along the Mexican border in the fiscal year ending in September, while Border Patrol arrests soared to their highest levels since 1986, according to data obtained by the Washington Post.
Policy Roundup: Global
The week’s top international headlines, compiled by Wake Up To Politics global contributor Miles Hession.
More than 5,000 political prisoners were granted amnesty by the junta in Myanmar following sustained international pressure. The prisoners, which included high-ranking members of deposed Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, were released in conjunction with a local festival in the country. Many had been held since the coup in the country last February, and the move was spurred, in part, by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing being excluded from a summit in the region.
The summit, held by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), withheld the invitation to Hlaing after they determined the junta had made insufficient progress in assuring violence in the country would come to an end. Protestors and resistance leaders in the country heralded this as a small step towards removing the junta from power, and urged international pressure to continue ahead of plans by the government to reopen the country to tourism.
Violence broke out on the streets of Beirut as sectarian militias fought for control of the government while protestors took to the streets. The clashes rocked a country already on the brink after a deadly port explosion led to the previous government resignation and a long period of instability. The Lebanese economy has experienced a severe contraction, the government has cycled through different leadership, and many are without power as others have fled.
The recent protests emerged during a fraught investigation into the port explosion, and were backed by Hezbollah, which has joined other groups in staunch opposition to the current government. The fate of the country remains uncertain as the government and military attempt to re-establish order.
A fatal stabbing of a longtime U.K. lawmaker has been declared a terrorist incident amid a wider food supply crisis in the country. Conservative politician David Amess was killed while meeting with constituents, echoing a similar killing of politician Jo Cox five years ago. This has raised concerns of the security of members of parliament while meeting with their constituents as well as stunned many politicians ahead of a mounting food supply crisis.
As food shortages and rising prices have become more common throughout the country ahead of winter, many Britons are concerned about supply-links. While changes to rules on deliveries have been implemented, concerns persist as worker shortages have lagged the food industry of a post-Brexit Britain.
More global headlines:
- Syria has accused Israel of the assasination of a government official in what some analysts are calling a new phase of Israel’s involvement in the country.
- Russia has suspended its diplomatic mission with NATO in apparent response to expulsion of Russian diplomats by the organization last month.
- The prime minister of Poland has accused the E.U. of blackmail and encroaching on the country’s sovereignty as tensions continue to escalate.
- The government of Ethiopia has admitted to being behind deadly airstrikes in the Tigray region after initially denying responsibility.
- Following a wave of violent crime and deadly prison riots, the government of Ecuador has declared a state of emergency and has blamed drug trafficking.
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:30 a.m. Later, Biden will depart the White House at 3:05 p.m., arriving at 4:15 p.m. in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
At 5:15 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks promoting the bipartisan infrastructure deal and “Build Back Better” spending package at the Electric City Trolley Museum at Scranton. He will then depart Pennsylvania at 7:05 p.m., arriving back at the White House at 8:10 p.m.
Vice President Kamala Harris will host a roundtable with workers at 11:35 a.m. to discuss worker organizing and collective bargaining.
First Lady Jill Biden will deliver remarks at the National Summit on Adult Literacy, hosted by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, at 9:30 a.m. Later in the day, Biden will travel to New York City and visit a local public school at 3:30 p.m.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Scranton.
U.S. public health officials will hold their weekly COVID-19 press briefing at 8:45 a.m.
CONGRESS The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of Catherine Lahmon’s nomination to be Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. At 11 a.m., the chamber will hold a cloture vote to advance Lahmon’s nomination.
At 1:45 p.m., the Senate will hold a confirmation vote on Lahmon. The chamber will then hold a cloture vote to advance S. 2747, the Freedom to Vote Act, a sweeping measure that would require all states to adopt same-day voter registration and 15 days of early voting, while also making Election Day a federal holiday, among other provisions.
The bill is a more limited version of the For the People Act designed to win the support of all 50 Senate Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). However, in order to advance today, the measure would need support from 10 Republicans as well; no GOP senators have signaled plans to vote for the bill.
The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber is scheduled to vote on 10 bills under “suspension of the rules”:
- H.R. 4469, the AI in Counterterrorism Oversight Enhancement Act
- H.R. 1508, the Guidance Clarity Act of 2021
- H.R. 1170, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1 League in Irvine, California, as the “Tuskegee Airman Lieutenant Colonel Robert J. Friend Memorial Post Office Building”
- H.R. 3210, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1905 15th Street in Boulder, Colorado, as the “Officer Eric H. Talley Post Office Building”
- H.R. 767, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 40 Fulton Street in Middletown, New York, as the “Benjamin A. Gilman Post Office Building”
- H.R. 3419, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 66 Meserole Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222, as the “Joseph R. Lentol Post Office”
- H.R. 1444, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 132 North Loudoun Street, Suite 1 in Winchester, Virginia, as the “Patsy Cline Post Office”
- H.R. 3175, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 135 Main Street in Biloxi, Mississippi, as the “Robert S. McKeithen Post Office Building”
- H.R. 2044, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 17 East Main Street in Herington, Kansas, as the “Captain Emil J. Kapaun Post Office Building”
- H.R. 960, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3493 Burnet Avenue in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the “John H. Leahr and Herbert M. Heilbrun Post Office”
CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10 a.m. for three Biden diplomatic picks, including former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose nomination to be Ambassador to Japan has sparked controversy among progressive Democrats due to his response to the 2014 police killing of teenager Laquan McDonald.
Emanuel will be introduced at the hearing by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), who served as envoy to Japan during the Trump administration and is supporting Emanuel for the role.
The Supreme Court has no conferences or oral arguments scheduled.
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