9 min read

Wake Up To Politics - September 13, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: The Senate is back in town
Wake Up To Politics - September 13, 2021

Good morning! It’s Monday, September 13, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 421 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,149 days away.

Welcome back to another week of waking up to politics. I hope you all had restful weekends — including some time of solemn remembrance marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

I know a lot was written on the anniversary by people much more qualified to write about 9/11, but if you’re interested in one other generational perspective, I wanted to quickly flag this guest column I wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I was honored to be asked to reflect on the impact 9/11 has had on my generation, including those of us who were not yet born, and on the seismic events (up through the pandemic) we have lived through since.

Here is the column; I hope you find it meaningful.

A beam of light coming from the Pentagon, one of the 9/11 targets, as seen from the Lincoln Memorial this weekend. (Photo by Gabe Fleisher)

Senate returns to tackle Biden’s lengthy legislative agenda

After leaving for summer recess more than a month ago, the Senate is returning to town today. As you can see below in “Daybook,” the only item on the chamber’s schedule for their first day back is a cloture vote on a sub-Cabinet nominee — but don’t be fooled. The Senate (and House, when they join their colleagues in D.C. next week) have a lot to tackle this fall.

Here’s what to keep your eye on as the Senate convenes again:

1. Manchin vs. Sanders. The leaders of the Senate Democratic progressive and centrist wings gave dueling interviews on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, offering a sense of how difficult it will be for Democrats to pass their sweeping economic agenda any time soon.

  • For the first time in public, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) flatly said on the show that he would not support a $3.5 trillion package — the pricetag being promoted by President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders.
  • “We’ve already put out $5.4 trillion and we’ve tried to help Americans in every way we possibly can and a lot of the help that we’ve put out there is still there and it’s going to run clear until next year, 2022, so what’s the urgency?” Manchin asked, citing the amount of coronavirus relief funds approved by Congress in the past year.
  • In his own interview on the show, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) fired back, saying it is “not acceptable” that Manchin won’t fall in line behind the package. “I believe we’re going to all sit down and work together and come up with a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, which deals with the enormously unmet needs of working families,” he added.
Manchin outlines his views on the reconciliation package on CNN this weekend. (Click photo to watch)

2. The Democratic timeline meets reality. With Democrats unable to agree on a pricetag for the bill — and therefore, what should be in it and what should stay out — it’s also looking less and less like they will able to achieve the ambitious timeline lawmakers had set for approving the package.

  • The first internal deadline facing lawmakers is Wednesday, when congressional committees are supposed to have finished drafting the spending package, according to the budget resolution passed by both chambers. Watch for a lot of scrambling over the next few days to meet that deadline.
  • From there, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has promised moderates that the bipartisan infrastructure bill (which passed the Senate last month) will receive a vote in the House by September 27.
  • But progressives have threatened to oppose the bipartisan package unless the reconciliation bill is done by then, effectively making the 27th the deadline for both. And Manchin said he does not see that happening: “There’s no way we can get this done by the 27th if we do our jobs,” he said on CNN. “It makes no sense at all.”
  • Democrats also have one other key deadline to contend with: October 1, when government funding will expire unless a continuing resolution (CR) is passed. Pelosi has told her members to expect a CR vote next week.
Congressional committees have until Wednesday to assemble the spending package. (Photo by the U.S. Navy)

3. A fight over taxes. Democrats insist that their spending bill — however large it ends up being — will be fully paid for, which means they are currently putting together a suite of tax increases on wealthy Americans. The changes to the tax code have quickly become one of the most controversial parts of the package.

  • The House Ways and Means Committee finalized its tax proposals Sunday night and is slated to vote on them this week. (Senate Democrats will come up with their own proposal.) According to Politico, the House tax plan adds up to the “biggest tax increase in decades.”
  • According to the Washington Post, the House plan calls for an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26.5% — for companies with incomes above $5 million. The tax rate would stay at 21% for businesses that earn between $400,000 and $5 million, while businesses earning less than $400,000 would have their taxes cut to 18%.
  • Other key provisions in the House tax plan, per Bloomberg: An increase in the top capital gains rate from 20% to 25%, a 3% surtax on individuals with adjusted gross incomes higher than $5 million, and a rule change to “treat cryptocurrency the same as other financial instruments.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means panel. (Photo by the House Ways and Means Committee)

Policy Roundup: Economics

On Mondays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Davis Giangiulio rounds up all the economic news you need to know this week:

The economy had 10.9 unfilled job openings at the end of July, a new record high. That’s 749,000 more openings than there were at the end of June, according to a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hires, layoffs, and quits had little changes. That’s concerning because despite the increase in job openings, workers aren’t showing up or employers aren’t bringing them on in greater numbers. While this data is a lagging indicator since it comes out more than a month after the period it is taken for, it is a sign businesses are still struggling to find workers as labor shortage fears continue.

  • With federal expanded unemployment insurance (UI) now expired, the hope is that many workers who stayed home collecting larger than normal UI checks will now go out looking for work once again. However, initial data shows that expectation didn’t play out in states where expanded UI was ended early, and a CNBC Global CFO Council Survey shows that large companies aren’t any more confident in their ability to find workers now than they were before the termination of benefits. For now, it seems like trouble finding workers is here to stay.

Producer prices rose 8.3 percent annually last month, the fifth record rise in a row. The producer price index measures the change “over time in selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services,” according to the BLS. A better sign from the report was that prices only rose 0.7 percent in August alone, compared to one percent the month prior.

  • However, that’s still significantly higher than August 2020, when in the single month producer prices rose only 0.2 percent. Strained supply chains as the economy still slowly gets back to normal are blamed for the high jumps in prices, and the producer price jump likely signals consumer prices are going to keep increasing for a while to come too.
Protestors call for higher wages; the U.S. has hit a record high of job openings as companies struggle to attract workers. (Photo by Joe Piette)

President Biden’s new vaccine mandate policy for many employers is giving businesses concerns about managing their workforce. While many argue more vaccinations will in turn mean a stronger economy, some employers fear they could lose workers due to the mandates. One business owner in USA Today is quoted saying, “I assume I’ll lose 30% of my workforce.”

  • Already struggling to find workers, the business owner also said he won’t be able to afford the testing requirements for unvaccinated workers, and will only be able to hire vaccinated ones, creating a smaller pool to pick from. Businesses “can’t afford to lose anyone right now,” another owner told the New York Times. But some may have to budget that now if their workers refuse to get the shot.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern) Executive Branch
— President Joe Biden will travel to Idaho and California today. At 8:10 a.m., he will depart Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent the weekend; at 1:50 p.m., he will touch down in Boise, Idaho. At 2:15 p.m., Biden will receive a briefing from federal and state fire officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

  • At 3:55 p.m., Biden will depart Boise; at 5:15 p.m., he will arrive in Mather, California. At 5:40 p.m., he will receive a briefing from local, state, and federal emergency response personnel on the recent California wildfires. At 6:25 p.m., Biden will take an aerial tour to survey damage from the Caldor Fire in El Dorado County. At 7:25 p.m., he will deliver remarks from the Sacramento Mather Airport on his administration’s response to the wildfires and how his infrastructure proposals will prepare the nation for future extreme weather events.
  • At 7:55 p.m., Biden will depart Mather; at 9:15 p.m., he will arrive in Long Beach, California. At 10 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks at a campaign rally with Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), who faces a recall election tomorrow.

— First Lady Jill Biden will deliver a pre-recorded message at 10:30 a.m. to the National Health Research Forum hosted by Research!America. At 2:30 p.m., she will deliver remarks live to a virtual event marking the centennial of the American Physical T Association (APTA).

  • Finally, at 6 p.m., she will host a virtual event to honor athletes in the Warrior Games, who are all wounded military personnel. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Prince Harry will also participate in the event. — White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Peirre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Boise.

Legislative Branch

— The Senate will return today after a month of recess. At 3 p.m., the chamber will convene. Following remarks from the party leaders, the Senate will resume consideration of James Kvaal’s nomination to be Under Secretary of Education.

  • At 5:30 p.m., the Senate will hold a cloture vote to advance the nomination. Kvaal is the president of the Institute for College Access and Success; in the Obama administration, he served as Deputy Under Secretary of Education and later helped craft education policy as deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

— The House is on recess until September 20.

— The House Foreign Affairs Committee will question Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a 2 p.m. hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal.

— Five House committees will meet to mark up their portions of the Build Back Better Act, the Democratic spending package.

  • The Agriculture Committee will meet at 8 a.m., the Judiciary Committee will meet at 10 a.m., the Energy and Commerce Committee will meet at 11 a.m., the Financial Services Committee will meet at 12 p.m., and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee will meet at 2 p.m. — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will host a briefing for congressional leaders at 11:15 a.m. in her office on the “Justice for J6” rally being held by Trump supporters outside the Capitol on September 18.
  • U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger will lead the briefing; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have been invited to attend.

— Members of Congress will hold a remembrance ceremony at 2 p.m. on the steps of the Capitol to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Schumer, McConnell, Pelosi, and McCarthy will participate, along with other lawmakers from both parties.

Judicial Branch
— The Supreme Court is on recess until October 4.

Thanks for waking up to politics! If you enjoy reading this newsletter, I’d be so grateful if you’d consider donating to help support me and my work. If you want to show off your support for Wake Up To Politics, you can also buy some merchandise.

Also: don’t forget to tell your friends and family to sign up for the newsletter using your unique referral link. And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at any time.