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Wake Up To Politics - October 22, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: What we learned at Biden’s town hall
Wake Up To Politics - October 22, 2021

Good morning! It’s Friday, October 22, 2021. Election Day 2024 is 1,110 days away. Election Day 2022 is 382 days away.

Democrats arrive at another self-imposed deadline

In the past few weeks, congressional Democrats have repeatedly set deadlines for themselves to make progress on their legislative agenda — only to see those targets slip away while negotiations drag on.

Lawmakers arrive at yet another of those self-imposed deadlines today: Democratic leaders had hoped they could cobble together a framework for their massive spending package by the end of this week, in order to ensure progressives would allow a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package next week.  

Despite a burst of optimism earlier in the week, meeting that deadline doesn’t seem particularly likely anymore. “This is not going to happen anytime soon,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has been pivotal to the spending talks, told reporters on Thursdays.

Here are the latest updates in the Democratic spending negotiations:

President Biden was unusually open about the state of the negotiations in a CNN town hall in Baltimore on Thursday night. Throughout the event, Biden confirmed a number of details on how his “Build Back Better” package is changing in response to demands from Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

For example, Biden revealed that the package will now include four weeks of federal paid family leave (instead of 12), while tuition-free community college will likely be stripped out entirely. He also confirmed that Sinema “will not raise a single penny in taxes on the corporate side and/or on wealthy people, period.”

In addition, Biden ruled out including a work requirement for the enhanced Child Tax Credit (CTC), a Manchin proposal, and referred to expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing, a proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), “a reach.” (He did mention the possibility that the bill could include $800 Medicare vouchers for senior dental care as a compromise measure.)

Biden detailed the Democratic spending negotiations in a CNN town hall on Thursday night. Screengrab

Biden expressed confidence that Democrats could come to an agreement on the package by November 1, when he is slated to leave for a major climate summit in Glasgow. “I do think I’ll get a deal,” the president said.

According to Punchbowl News, the White House is pressing for votes on both the spending package and the bipartisan bill next week. That would be an incredibly heavy left — but, if they pull it off, it would give Biden two big legislative wins before he leaves for Europe.

“The prestige of the United States is on the line,” Biden reportedly told lawmakers this week, referring to the importance of arriving in Glasgow with some evidence to show the world that the U.S. is planning to act on climate change.

Sinema has “agreed to enough alternative revenue provisions with the White House to cover the full cost of the spending” without raising taxes on corporations, individuals, or capital gains, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It is not yet clear what those agreed-upon sources of revenue are, although one that Biden mentioned in the CNN town hall was a 15% corporate minimum tax, which would set a floor for how much all corporations must pay in taxes — targeting companies that pay barely any taxes at all due to legal use of tax breaks.

Reports that Sinema had struck a deal with the White House on how to finance the package come as she faces growing pressure to fall in line: five veterans resigned from one of her advisory councils on Thursday in protest of her stance on Biden’s agenda, while Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) left the door open to challenging her in a Senate primary in 2024.

Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin pose for a photo together after a contentious meeting. Frank Thorp / Twitter

Manchin and Sanders reportedly had a heated squabble behind closed doors this week. According to a new report from Axios, Manchin held up his thumb and index finger to form a “zero” at one point and told Sanders: “I’m comfortable with nothing,” meaning it would be fine with him if no spending package passed at all.

“This will contribute to inflation,” Manchin added, according to one senator in the room. “We've already passed the American Rescue Plan. We should just pass the infrastructure bill and, you know, pause for six months.”

The comments from Manchin underline the fundamental mis-match in the spending talks: While Biden and Sanders are desperate to pass something to ensure at least some of their legislative priorities make it into law, Manchin has little problem walking away from the table entirely and letting no package pass, giving him the ultimate leverage in the negotiations.

What else you should know

Pfizer released data this morning showing its COVID-19 vaccine is 90.7% effective in preventing symptomatic coronavirus cases in 5- to 11-year-olds. An FDA advisory committee is scheduled to meet next week to discuss authorizing the vaccine for children in the age group.

President Biden made his most expansive comments yet on the Senate filibuster during the CNN town hall, expressing openness to Democrats modifying or even ending the procedure. “We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster,” he said. Later, when he was asked if he was open to ending the filibuster for voting rights, Biden responded: “And maybe more.”

The CDC formally signed off on Thursday on Americans at risk of severe disease receiving vaccine booster shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, while also allowing Americans to receive a booster shot from a different vaccine maker than their original vaccine regimen.

The House voted Thursday to hold former Trump strategist Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. It is now up to the Justice Department to decide whether or not to bring criminal charges against Bannon for flouting a subpoena from a congressional panel investigating the January 6 attack. The House vote was 229-202, with nine Republicans joining every Democrat in voting to hold Bannon in contempt.

The Federal Reserve announced new rules in response to a stock-trading controversy that has led to the resignation of two reserve bank presidents. Under the new restrictions, senior Fed officials will not be allowed to hold individual stocks or other securities; they will only be able to purchase diversified investment vehicles, such as mutual funds.

A Venn diagram showing the House Republicans who voted for the impeachment of former President Donald Trump, the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6, and the Bannon contempt citation. Wake Up To Politics graphic


All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 9:30 a.m. He has no other items on his public schedule until 8 p.m., when he will depart the White House for Wilmington, Delaware. Biden is scheduled to arrive in Wilmington at 8:55 p.m. and stay there for the weekend.

Vice President Kamala Harris will depart Washington, D.C., for New York City at 10:05 a.m. Upon her arrival, at 12:20 p.m., she will deliver remarks at the Northeast Bronx YMCA on “how the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the Build Back Better agenda will benefit working families.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra will also speak.

At 3:25 p.m., Harris will depart New York and return to Washington, D.C.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 1:30 p.m.

CONGRESS The Senate will not meet today.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. The chamber is scheduled to vote on H.R. 3110, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act, which would expand access to breastfeeding accommodations in the workplace.


The Supreme Court will not meet today.