DRIVING THE DAY
@WhiteHouse on Sunday: “The cost of the Build Back Better Agenda is $0. The President’s plan won’t add to our national deficit and no one making under $400,000 per year will see their taxes go up a single penny. It’s fully paid for by ensuring big corporations and the very wealthy pay their fair share.”
@jbarro (Insider’s Josh Barro) a few hours later: “If it doesn’t cost anything, why would it need to be paid for? This is such a bizarre talking point.”
LET’S DO THIS … AGAIN — Congress returns from recess today with 13 days until Speaker NANCY PELOSI’s new Halloween deadline to pass the party’s package of infrastructure and social services legislation. One problem: The latter has yet to be written — or really even outlined. …
And yet: A series of calls Sunday with sources we trust to give us an honest read on the state of play turned up some genuine optimism they can get it done. At least perhaps an outline of an agreement.
DRIVING THE SENSE OF URGENCY: The end of October is both the official deadline to renew transportation funding and the effective deadline to provide a boost to Democrat TERRY MCAULIFFE in his surprisingly close campaign for Virginia governor. As Heather Caygle and Burgess Everett wrote over the weekend, there’s a recognition among top Democrats that they’ve got to get this done to help save the state — and that a loss could be seen as an indictment of the party’s legislative agenda.
CAN THEY MAKE THE DEADLINE? Despite the mudslinging between Sens. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) right now, significant concessions are being made behind the scenes as we speak.
Last week, the White House began scrambling to rewrite a core Build Back Better climate provision after coming to terms with what Manchin has said for weeks: that he opposes a massive federal program to punish utilities that burn fossil fuels, and reward those that transition to clean energy. Relatedly, our Zack Colman reported last week that the White House is considering an alternative that could appeal to Manchin: making “it easier for coal and natural gas power plants to receive billions of dollars in financial incentives for clean energy.”
To meet the Oct. 31 deadline, Democrats would need to make significant progress toward a deal this week. And if the party really wants a deal in time to help McAuliffe, they’ll need to make their reveal several days before the Nov. 2 election so they can sell it to the public on TV. In that sense, this week will be critical.
BUT, BUT, BUT: Is Halloween the drop-dead deadline? Not exactly.
The last time one party controlled all of Washington, in 2017, Republicans didn’t pass their first major legislative achievement — tax cuts — until three days before Christmas. (Though they went on to lose the House the following year.)
In that sense, the true deadline is the end of the year. Once the election year arrives, the thinking is that dealmaking, even among Democrats, will be nearly impossible.
The one catch is the year-end cliffs Democrats have created for themselves, as our Burgess Everett and Sarah Ferris report. The party will once again be staring down a government shutdown and a possible debt ceiling default. Good luck dealing with those things plus a pair of trillion-dollar-plus bills — in the span of a few weeks.
THREE COMPLICATIONS TO WATCH FOR, as if there weren’t enough already for Democrats:
1) HOW WILL PROGRESSIVES HANDLE THE NEXT TWO WEEKS? — Manchin as well as Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) have already shrunk the overall price tag of the bill. Twice. How would Sanders take it if Democrats decide they can’t include his Medicare dental and vision plan? Ditto with Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.) and the climate provisions being watered down?
2) POTUS ABROAD — President JOE BIDEN is heading to Europe at the end of the month for the U.N.’s climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, just when leaders may need him to land this deal. Press secretary JEN PSAKI suggested in September that they’d like the reconciliation package finished before the trip. But last week she dodged a question about landing a deal before he left, while seeming to downplay the Oct. 31 deadline: “I’m not going to set new timelines here. … Obviously, we want to move this forward as quickly as possible.”
3) PROBLEMATIC PUBLIC SENTIMENT? — Congress’ return comes after a recent Gallup poll signaled bad news for the Build Back Better agenda: More than half of all Americans think the federal government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses, vs. 43% who want it to do more to solve the country’s problems. The numbers are a reversal from a year ago when Gallup asked the same question. At the same time, the individual planks of BBB have consistently polled well.
Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
BIDEN’S MONDAY: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ MONDAY:
— 1 p.m. EDT: The VP will depart California en route to Las Vegas.
— 3:05 p.m.: Harris will visit Lake Mead and participate in a tour, receive a briefing and deliver remarks on the Biden administration’s agenda.
— 5:55 p.m.: Harris will depart Nevada to return to D.C.
Psaki will brief at 1 p.m.
THE SENATE will meet at 3 p.m. to take up CHRISTINE O’HEARN’s judicial nomination and will vote on GUSTAVO GELPI’s judicial nomination at 5:30 p.m.
THE HOUSE is out.
MANCHIN IN THE MIDDLE — The West Virginia Democrat, already the skunk at the garden party, is about to make himself even more unpopular with Dems. Axios’ Hans Nichols’ report that Manchin wants to cap the child tax credit for families making under $60,000, and add work requirements, is going to infuriate not only the left but many moderate, front-line House Democrats who actually support this policy and want to run on it next fall. His demands “also would reduce the package’s overall costs. That would make it easier for the pivotal senator to support a final package, potentially higher than Manchin’s previous $1.5 trillion top line.”
— NYT’s Christopher Flavelle travels to the senator’s hometown for a major look at how West Virginia is more susceptible to flood damage than anywhere else in the lower 48. “The new data shows that Mr. Manchin’s constituents stand to suffer disproportionately as climate change intensifies. Unlike those in other flood-exposed states, most residents in mountainous West Virginia have little room to relocate from the waterways that increasingly threaten their safety.”
FIGHTING FOR INCLUSION — Some Democrats are worried that priorities for people of color will end up getting the ax in negotiations over the reconciliation bill, report Laura Barrón-López and Alice Miranda Ollstein. Expanding Medicaid, expanding Medicare, funding affordable housing, boosting pay for home care workers, adding funding for historically Black colleges and universities: All have advocates framing the priorities in terms of racial equity, and pushing to keep them from getting cut. Other Dems argue that the final product is bound to be a major boost for racial justice no matter what.
NARRATIVE STEP BACK — NYT’s Jim Tankersley has a smart piece about how both progressives and centrists are marshaling the language of affordability in the reconciliation fight — one group saying we can’t afford to spend too much, the other saying we can’t afford not to. The ideological and economic context is that fear of budget deficits has receded in some (though not all) corners of the political landscape, while progressives push analyses that document the long-term costs of inaction.
THE WHITE HOUSE
VP ON THE ROAD — In her visit to Lake Mead today, Harris plans to focus on drought and climate change as part of the case for passing the administration’s agenda in Congress, per AP’s Suman Naishadham. “Harris will be briefed by Bureau of Reclamation officials about elevation levels at the manmade reservoir … After a tour, the vice president will make remarks and meet with officials from the Interior Department and other federal and state agencies.”
FIRST LADY FILES — First lady JILL BIDEN offered a personal reflection about her faith journey after BEAU’s death in a surprise appearance at a South Carolina church Sunday, per AP’s Darlene Superville. “I felt betrayed, broken,” she said Sunday. “I just couldn’t go. I couldn’t even pray. I wondered if I would ever feel joy again.”
HEADING FOR THE HILL(S) — Black congressional staffers are sounding the alarm on their workplace experiences, warning that top staffers are leaving amid perennial issues with pay, culture and insufficient representation, reports NYT’s Aishvarya Kavi. “In a letter published on Friday, two congressional staff associations called for better pay and ‘a stronger college-to-Congress pipeline’ to recruit Black graduates. They also urged voters to push lawmakers to diversify their staff.” The letter
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM — We’ve been sounding this note for a while: The Republican Party apparatus is increasingly worried that DONALD TRUMP’s lies about the 2020 election could cost them in 2022 and 2024, distracting from the rest of the party’s agenda. NYT’s Jeremy Peters reports that a survey of GOP voters in Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE’s (R-Ga.) district found that 5% to 9% would not vote in 2022 unless the state conducts an “audit” of the 2020 election — alarming for the GOP in a state with narrow margins.
2022 WATCH — Is MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY for real? The L.A. Times’ Molly Hennessey-Fiske reports from Houston that the actor could have a big advantage in the Democratic primary if he tosses his cowboy hat into the Texas gubernatorial ring, but the anticipation and uncertainty is making some Dems anxious. He and BETO O’ROURKE are still undecided (or aren’t saying).
SCOTUS WATCH — CNN’s Joan Biskupic has a behind-the-scenes look at the Supreme Court we don’t see, increasingly the subject of political consternation and possible reform. Building on an interview last week with Justice STEPHEN BREYER, she details the processes for death penalty cases, an unwritten six-vote requirement for summary reversals and more.
VA. GOV RACE HEATS UP
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL — STACEY ABRAMS stumped for McAuliffe on Sunday, rallying with the Virginia gubernatorial candidate and stopping by Black churches to try to bolster turnout among a key demographic, reports AP’s Will Weissert.
2022 WATCH — NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald writes that GLENN YOUNGKIN’s overarching focus on schools could be a blueprint for Republicans around the nation next year. But “McAuliffe’s campaign says it’s not seeing much movement among swing voters over such issues in its internal data.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
FROM 30,000 FEET — Did the U.S. make a strategic error in the post-9/11 era? Experts now say that the country’s focus on fighting terrorism allowed China to mushroom into a major geopolitical adversary in the background, writes NBC’s Dan De Luce. Now, the ways in which the U.S. reshaped its military look ill-suited to take on the new task of great power competition.
— NYT’s David Sanger offers an analysis of whether we’re headed for a new cold war. The White House, he notes, is at pains to reject this framing, despite several incidents and revelations in the past few weeks that suggest it. “Instead, they argue that it should be possible for the two superpowers to compartmentalize, cooperating on the climate and containing North Korea’s arsenal, even while competing on technology and trade, or jousting for advantage in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.”
AGAINST THE GRAIN — WaPo’s Karen DeYoung has a nuanced corrective to the narrative that foreign allies have deemed Biden just a continuation of the Trump era. In capitals abroad, many leaders are finding the Biden administration to be a welcome return to stability in some respects — while acknowledging that some sore spots remain.
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
A PARABLE OF OUR POLITICS — POLITICO Magazine’s Ruby Cramer has a feature about an effort by staffers at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee to identify Republican state lawmakers who were involved with the insurrection or preceding rally (21 in total) or who advocated the overturning of democracy in the 2020 election (15% nationwide). The idea, in the early days after Jan. 6, was to name and shame and get them removed from office. Instead, “Democrats found that many of the names on the list avoided pushback from party leaders in their state, grew their political platform and online following, and in at least three cases are now running for statewide office.”
Bill Clinton went home from a California hospital Sunday after a six-day stay, his vitals having normalized. More from the L.A. Times
Christopher Steele opened up in a new ABC documentary. “I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had, and the professionalism which we applied to it,” he said, continuing to defend even the Michael Cohen-Prague claim.
Michael Cohen responded: “I eagerly await his (Steele’s) next secret dossier which proves the existence of Bigfoot, the Lochness Monster and that Elvis is still alive.”
Jon Stewart weighed in optimistically on the state of U.S. democracy.
Playbook Metro section: Metro is reducing its service today as it investigates a defect after a Blue Line derailment, with trains running only once every half hour on all lines. More from NBC Washington
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — “Mayor Pete,” the forthcoming documentary about Transportation Secretary Pete and Chasten Buttigieg, is releasing on Amazon Prime Video on Nov. 12. An exclusive new trailer offers a glimpse at some of the behind-the-scenes footage captured on the campaign trail and snippets from featured interviews. Watch the 2:30 trailer here
OUT AND ABOUT — A gathering was held for The Fallen Journalists Memorial at the home of Washingtonian CEO Catherine Merrill, and co-hosted by Don Graham and Amanda Bennett, Robert and Elena Allbritton and former Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.). SPOTTED: Wolf Blitzer, Bob Woodward, Sally Buzbee, Bill Kristol, Susan Goldberg, Jan Neuharth, Tom Rosenstiel, and Rita Braver and Bob Barnett.
TRANSITIONS — Cally Perkins is now national press secretary for the Congressional Leadership Fund and American Action Network. She most recently was a press and digital assistant for the Republican State Leadership Committee. … Jean “Osei” Mevs is now VP of government relations at Acadia Healthcare. He most recently was a regional executive at the American Hospital Association.
WEDDINGS — Sarah Soulier, an account supervisor at the Monument Group, and Alex Aragon, an aide to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and a Marco Rubio alum, got married Friday at St. Andrew United Methodist Church, followed by a reception at the Windsor at Hebron Park in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The two met through mutual friends at a State of the Union watch party in D.C. in 2016. Pic … Another pic … SPOTTED: Allie Raffa, Jennifer and Hayden Haynes, Christina Salazar, Megan McKinley, Ninio Fetalvo, Anthony Cruz, Weston Loyd, Bridget Spurlock, Max Becker and Alyssa Anderson, Ted Sacasa, Katie Thompson, Paul Hartman, Tyler and Melanie Brown, and Eleni Valanos.
— Natalie Raps, a senior product manager for Amazon’s Echo Frames and an SKDK and Mark Warner alum, and Doug Farren, regulatory affairs manager for commercial space launch startup SpinLaunch, got married Oct. 9 at Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards in Charlottesville. The couple met after being introduced by mutual friends after a Nats game was hailed out in April 2016. Instapics
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Young Kim (R-Calif.) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) … SEC Chair Gary Gensler … NYT’s Annie Karni … Julia Ioffe … Brunswick Group’s Michael Krempasky … Dan Pabon … NAM Manufacturing Institute’s Babs Chase … Colleen Sullivan … Valeria Boucas … Fox News’ Jon Decker … Makese Motley … Targeted Victory’s Jake Loft … Rachael Parry … Marc Ginsberg … Jonathan Tasini … Heritage Action’s Janae Stracke … Sahil Jain of the State Department … Edelman’s Trisch Smith … Marion Smith of Common Sense Society … former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) … former Reps. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) and Chris Shays (R-Conn.) … Chris Saxman … Joshua Sinai … Erik Abaté … Kiki Reginato … Flavia Colgan … Martha Burk … Richard Lobo … Mason Wiggins … James Bush … Memmi Rasmussen … Caitlin Conant
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