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Wake Up To Politics - September 21, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Biden’s agenda in jeopardy
Wake Up To Politics - September 21, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, September 21, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 413 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,141 days away.

Biden’s agenda in jeopardy

For the first time, Democrats are confronting the possibility that their sweeping $3.5 trillion spending package could either be dramatically pared down or not pass at all.

“Basically, everything’s sort of dependent on what happens in the next 48 hours,” House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) told CNN on Monday, referencing the intense negotiations taking place between Democrats in the House, Senate, and White House.

“This is the key week,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) agreed.

The most immediate question facing Democrats is what will happen on September 27, the date by which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has promised to hold a vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure deal.

According to Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), more than half of her liberal bloc is willing to vote against the bipartisan bill next Monday if it isn’t accompanied by the party-line Democratic spending package — which will almost certainly not be done by then.

Democratic leaders in happier times, after the successful passage of their last party-line spending package. (Photo by the Senate Democratic Caucus)

If Jayapal and her members follow through on that threat, Pelosi will need to either convince House moderates to accept a postponed vote on the bipartisan bill — or find enough Republican votes for the measure to offset progressive defections. Either option would be a tall order.

As for the crafting of the spending package, moderate and progressive Democrats remain divided over the timing and size of the legislation, as well as over key provisions on prescription drug pricing, health care, and other elements.

Democrats experienced another setback on Sunday when Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that they could not include an immigration reform push in the reconciliation bill; the party claims to have a Plan B on immigration to present to MacDonough, although they also need her blessing on several other parts of the package.

Between all of those intertwined dynamics, there is a growing sense on Capitol Hill that the “two-track” legislative process, which ties together the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the Democratic spending package and encompasses nearly Biden’s entire domestic agenda, has reached a make-or-break moment. And that it very well could just break apart.

In the words of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO): “If any member of Congress is not concerned that this could fall apart, they need treatment.”

What else you should know this morning

1. Democrats unveiled their plan on Monday to avert a pair of economic catastrophes. The measure, aimed at avoiding a government shutdown on October 1 and a debt default later that month, would need backing from 10 Senate Republicans to advance — but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stood firm in insisting that the GOP won’t assist in raising the debt ceiling.

2. President Biden will make his United Nations debut today. Biden’s speech before the UN General Assembly comes at a critical time for America’s relationships with key allies, in the midst of the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal and a diplomatic blow-up with France. With his address, the president will aim to restore trust in the U.S. and call for collective action on COVID-19 and climate change.

3. The Biden administration is raising the U.S. refugee admissions cap. Amid pressure from progressives, Biden has shifted his stance on refugees several times since taking office: he originally planned to keep the Trump-era cap of 15,000, before announcing in May that the U.S. would take 62,500 refugees this fiscal year. The State Department said Monday that the refugee admissions cap would raise to 125,000 for the next fiscal year, matching the level Biden promised in the 2020 campaign.

President Biden is set to speak before the UN General Assembly today. (Photo by Basil D. Soufi)

And a few more headlines to top it off:

  • “Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers” Axios
  • “Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee personally vetted Trump’s fraud claims, new book says. They were unpersuaded.” Washington Post
  • “Longtime GOP operatives charged with funneling Russian national’s money to Trump, RNC” Politico

Policy Roundup: Education

By Wake Up To Politics education contributor Kirsten Shaw Mettler.

Pfizer says that their Covid-19 vaccine is safe for children ages 5 to 11. The data still needs to be reviewed by the FDA, but if approved, vaccines could roll out for the age group as early as late October. This sounds promising, especially as children hospitalizations stay high due to the Delta variant. Some parents have gone so far as to try and pressure pediatricians into vaccinating their children early. However, it is still unclear how many parents will actually opt in when the vaccine is officially rolled out.

Schools are relaxing quarantine procedures. Previously, when students tested positive for COVID-19, most schools required all unvaccinated close contact classmates to quarantine. Now some institutions are instead using test to stay” programs, which employ frequent testing in lieu of fully quarantining all contacts. Students who continue to test negative, despite their exposure, can stay in the classroom. The CDC says it does not have currently enough evidence to support this approach.

Students are destroying school bathrooms due to a new TikTok trend. Known as the deviouslicks challenge, the trend is leading students to vandalize and steal school property and then post about it on social media. TikTok is reportedly trying to stop the trend by invoking its Community Guidelines but has had little success so far.

A new TikTok trend is inciting vandalism at schools. (File photo)

More education policy headlines, curated by Kirsten:

  • Students are now back to school across the country; read about what reopenings looked like throughout the U.S.
  • Worker shortages continue to impact school reopenings.
  • Former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst pleaded guilty this week for his involvement in the college admissions scandal.


All times Eastern, unless otherwise noted.
President Joe Biden is in New York City for the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. At 10 a.m., he will deliver remarks before the General Assembly. At 12 p.m., he will meet with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia on the sidelines of the UNGA meeting. At 2:15 p.m., Biden will depart New York for Washington, D.C., arriving at 3:55 p.m. at the White House. At 4:45 p.m., he will will meet with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the Oval Office.

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Melinda Gates at 9:30 a.m. to discuss global COVID-19 response. At 11:10 a.m., Harris will hold an event to promote the Build Back Better plan and its impact for parents and working families. At 3 p.m., Harris will meet with Prime Minister Johnson.  

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force on the flight from New York to Washington.


The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of Margaret Strickland’s nomination to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Mexico. At around 11:30 a.m., the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the Strickland nomination. The chamber will then recess until 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings. At 2:30 p.m., the Senate will vote on Strickland’s confirmation.

  • The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing at 9:30 a.m. on the homeland security threat landscape 20 years after 9/11. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and FBI Director Christopher Wray will testify.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on privacy and competition policies for Big Tech companies. The vice presidents of Facebook and Google will testify.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. Following one-minute speeches, the chamber will debate the as-yet-released continuing resolution (CR) extending government funding through September 30, 2022. The House may later vote on 10 pieces of legislation under suspension of the rules:

  1. S. 848, the Consider Teachers Act of 2021
  2. S. 1828, the HAVANA Act of 2021
  3. H.R. 1029, the Free Veterans from Fees Act
  4. H.R. 1154, the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area Act
  5. H.R. 3533, to establish occupational series for Federal positions in software development, software engineering, data science, and data management, and for other purposes
  6. H.R. 3599, the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021
  7. H.R. 1204, the District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Salary Home Rule Act
  8. H.R. 978, the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act of 2021
  9. H.R. 2617, the Performance Enhancement Reform Act
  10. S. 2382, to authorize the National Cyber Director to accept details from other elements of the Federal Government on nonreimbursable basis

The chamber is also scheduled to begin debate today on H.R. 4350, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.


The Supreme Court is not in session.

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