White House tells Democrats that corporate tax hike unlikely in current bill -source

The White House told Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday that a proposed hike in U.S. corporate taxes is unlikely to make it into their signature social spending bill, according to a congressional source familiar with the discussions. President Joe Biden’s plans to hike the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, a key campaign promise, are likely to be one of the steep concessions he makes to steer his economic revival package https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-democrats-2-trillion-spending-plan-what-is-what-is-cut-2021-10-20 through Congress, the White House disclosed in the private meeting with top Democrats.

“There is an expansive menu of options for how to finance the president’s plan to ensure our economy delivers for hardworking families, and none of them are off the table,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates. Biden, his aides and congressional leadership are racing to close a deal as soon as this week on a set of tax hikes they hope will fund more than $1.75 trillion over a decade in programs ranging from childcare to eldercare, healthcare, affordable housing and climate change mitigation.

They have no margin for error because Democrats hold only narrow majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate. Republicans oppose the legislation. “The president knows that he’s not going to get everything he wants in this package,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One. “Nor will any member of Congress, probably, and that’s what compromise is all about.”

The original price tag for the social spending bill was $3.5 billion. Democrats hope to pass the measure in the Senate through a “reconciliation” process that requires support by only a simple majority rather than the 60 votes needed for most legislation in the evenly split 100-member chamber. Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tiebreaking vote.

Biden, who framed the 2020 election against Republican then-President Donald Trump as one between working-class Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Manhattan’s Park Avenue, pitched the tax hike as an effort to make sure the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. Trump and congressional Republicans cut corporate rates to 21% from 35% in 2017. After taking office in January, Biden paired the tax hike with a mix of programs he has argued will put the United States on a more sustainable economic footing to compete with China, from universal pre-kindergarten to dental benefits for seniors and incentives to encourage a shift to low-carbon energy sources.

‘EVERYBODY OUGHT TO BE PAYING SOMETHING’ Business groups and Republicans have fought the measures, arguing they will hamper the economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I ran for president, I came back to Scranton,” Biden said on Wednesday on his first trip back to his birthplace since Election Day last November. “I resolved to bring Scranton values to bear, making fundamental shifts in how our economy works for working people, build the economy from the ground up … and not from the top down.” Top Democrats may now put on the table alternate financing proposals for the bill that have been discussed for weeks, including imposing new levies on stock buybacks and business partnerships, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Kyrsten Sinema, a key swing-vote Democrat who has expressed the most concern about tax hikes, may be amenable to other measures that only raise rates for highly profitable large corporations paying next to nothing in federal taxes under current rules, according to Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren. “Our problem is partly about too low a rate at the top, and obviously some Democrats disagree,” Warren, a Democrat, said on CNN. “But I think all the Democrats agree, by golly, everybody ought to be paying something.”

The S&P 500 closed 0.4% higher after the news about the White House’s private comments was first reported by the Washington Post. After-hours trading in the U.S. stock index trended 0.3% higher.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Sinema, O’Halleran part of White House talks on Build Back Better plan – Cronkite News – Arizona PBS

Sinema, O’Halleran part of White House talks on Build Back Better plan – Cronkite News – Arizona PBS

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., has been negotiating with the White House and Senate Democratic leadership for two months on the size of the president’s Build Back Better plan, which was originally proposed at $350 billion a year over 10 years. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, joined a group of moderate Democratic senators and House members – what he called “practical lawmakers” – in a trip to the White House to negotiate Tuesday with President Joe Biden on elements of the Build Back Better plan. (File photo by Marisela Ramirez/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Two Arizona lawmakers were among the House and Senate moderates who met with President Joe Biden this week, as negotiations on the administration’s Build Back Better plan heated up.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., talked with Biden Tuesday and Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, was part of handful of lawmakers who were at the White House to discuss the plan with the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin.

The talks come as White House and Senate leaders are pushing to have a framework for agreement among Democrats by the end of this week on the administration’s 10-year, $3.5 trillion proposal. Republican have roundly rejected it, while moderate and progressive Democrats have been sparring over the cost.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said after Tuesday’s meetings with lawmakers that Democrats are in “broad agreement that there is urgency in moving forward over the next several days and that the window for finalizing a package is closing.”

One observer said that Sinema and O’Halleran are capitalizing on the fact that every vote is needed on the hotly debated plan.

“Every member has become really important and I think there’s no question that Sen. Sinema and Tom O’Halleran have become part of the entire Build Back agenda conversation,” said Navin Nayak, president and executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Nayak said Biden is “looking to every member of Congress, including the two Arizona lawmakers you mentioned, to recognize that doing nothing is the worst possible outcome for the American people and for the planet.”

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Sinema has been a key Democratic holdout on the plan for weeks, along with fellow moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., both of whom met with Biden Tuesday. Both Sinema and Manchin have said they are worked about the cost of the plan, while Manchin, a coal state senator, has also raised concerns about clean energy portions of the bill.

Neither Sinema nor O’Halleran responded to requests for comment on the negotiations. But O’Halleran’s office released a statement Tuesday night in which he said he was pleased to be part of a group of “practical lawmakers” pushing for health care, education, climate change and more in the bill, but not at the $3.5 trillion the administration originally proposed.

“Arizonans want their government to do the most good without saddling our kids and grandkids with excessive debt,” O’Halleran’s statement said.

The impasse on the Build Back Better plan has stalled action on a separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that would fund roads, ports, rail and more. The “hard infrastructure” bill is popular among lawmakers but has been held for leverage in in negotiations on the “human infrastructure” of the Build Back Better plan.

O’Halleran was part of a group of eight moderates – three senators and five House members – who met at the White House for a little more than an hour late Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Build Back Better plan. Their meeting followed meeting that Biden, Harris and Yellen held for a little more than two hours with nine House progressives.

Neither side has revealed many details on the negotiations, but House progressives left their meeting Tuesday and said the president is working to bring the two sides together on a package that would cost between $1.9 trillion and $2.2 trillion over 10 years.

The White House insists that the bill would pay for itself through increased taxes on high earners, without adding anything to the long-term deficit or to the tax burden on working and middle-income families.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that he hopes to have an agreement on the framework for the plan by the end of the week.

Related story

“We had a spirited discussion at our lunch,” Schumer said after the Democrats’ weekly policy lunch. “It was passionate, strong, and it was universal, universal agreement in that room that we have to come to an agreement, and we have to get it done.”

Schumer and the White House have said that no side will get everything it wants from the bill, and that holding out could scuttle the chance for a historic expansion of social programs.

“Overall, getting something done of this magnitude for the American people is a huge, huge, accomplishment, and that’s what is going to move us forward and bring us together,” Schumer said Tuesday.

That was echoed by Nayak, who said Biden has “laid out a very ambitious agenda” and is willing “make significant compromises to get something done.”

“He’s aware that opposing something and doing nothing because you didn’t get everything you wanted is a huge risk,” Nayak said Wednesday.

Nayak said he is impressed that no lawmaker has issued an ultimatum, but that the progressive and moderate wings are still negotiating.

“My gut is that you’ll have a lot of people who act like adults recognizing that everyone is going to be disappointed and everyone is going to be pleased, and I think that’s just the reality of getting an agreement of this magnitude,” he said.

O’Halleran said after Tuesday’s meeting that he remains optimistic.

“I know that if we continue to work together, we can get this done for working families,” his statement said.

POLITICO Playbook: Breaking down Biden’s latest Build Back Better plan

POLITICO Playbook: Breaking down Biden’s latest Build Back Better plan

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ROUGH NUMBERS As inflation continues to raise prices of everyday household items, Americans are laying the blame at President JOE BIDEN’s feet. In a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 62% of American voters say the administration’s policies are either somewhat or very responsible for increasing inflation, including 41% of Democrats, 61% of independent voters and 85% of Republicans.

The right track/wrong track question also looked pretty grim for Biden: Just 38% of voters — and seven of 10 Democrats — said the country is heading in the right direction. Toplines Crosstabs

THE READOUT — Biden began pitching lawmakers on an outline for his Build Back Better plan Tuesday night. The proposal, pegged in the range of $1.75 to $1.9 trillion, is far from a done deal: Moderates and progressives will have plenty to say before giving anything their blessing. But Hill Democrats are relieved that Biden is getting his hands dirty after sitting on the sidelines for weeks.

“This was a productive conversation and also one that demonstrates momentum,” said a senior congressional aide briefed on one of several meetings Tuesday between the president and lawmakers. “This is a sign that the White House is actually putting pen to paper.”

Here’s what Biden told lawmakers about the state of play, as well as our own analysis of the latest:

1) MOST SURPRISING: LITTLE LOVE FOR THE CHILD TAX CREDIT — It was one of the crowning achievements of Biden’s first legislative victory in the pandemic relief bill. But Biden told lawmakers they may extend the enhanced CTC for only one year.

Problems afoot: House sources tell us this could be a big problem for Democrats who wanted to make the enhancements permanent, particularly the 100-member New Democrat Coalition. Even front-liners in tough districts wanted to extend this as long as possible.

The thinking: Of all the policy changes in BBB, this is one that some Democrats believe the GOP will actually extend since the party has endorsed versions of the credit before. And therefore, some think it could be a safer bet to fund for only a short time. Democrats are also at odds over how to means-test it.

2) LEAST SURPRISING: FREE COMMUNITY COLLEGE IS OUT — The president said tuition-free community college is unlikely to make the final cut. But sources tell us there was a discussion about doubling Pell Grants and boosting funding for workforce development and apprenticeships.

3) BERNIE’S DENTAL PLAN IS STILL IN PLAY — Sen. BERNIE SANDERS’ (I-Vt.) proposal to expand Medicare to include dental may be scaled back but could still make the cut. Biden pitched progressives on what one of our sources briefed on the meeting called a “pilot program”: a new system in which seniors would receive a dental card to pay for their dental issues. It’s unclear whether this would also cover hearing and vision.

A note of caution: Moderates who met with Biden weren’t convinced this was a done deal given the opposition to it among some influential Dems.

Problems afoot: House Democratic leaders would rather use limited money to shore up the Affordable Care Act indefinitely. Our Congress team hears Biden mentioned only a three-year extension.

The thinking: Establishing Sanders’ preferred dental, vision and hearing plan would take years and be expensive. This flex-account-type setup would allow seniors to benefit right away, we hear, which may alleviate the concern front-liners have about spending money on something that won’t help in their reelection efforts.

4) FAMILY PROGRAMS SCALED BACK — Biden told lawmakers that funding for child care and universal pre-K are still in. Also, Biden signaled that they’re considering cutting a family leave benefit from 12 weeks to four.

Related: Our sources told us the White House is looking at about $150 billion over 10 years for elderly home care, a drop from the initial $400 billion proposed.

5) THE “FUZZIEST” PART: CLIMATE — Biden danced around the climate proposals, not surprising given Sen. JOE MANCHIN’s (D-W.Va.) continued resistance to many of them. The president discussed providing hundreds of billions in tax credits for those who use clean energy. But sources said it was unclear exactly what he meant, and the sense was that the White House is still trying to get its footing on the issue.

WHAT’S NEXT? We mentioned Monday that lawmakers were surprisingly upbeat about getting this done by Halloween. Tuesday’s talks fueled that optimism. But Biden, of course, is also negotiating with Manchin and Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.). We don’t know where they are on this working framework, but could get an idea today.

We also didn’t hear a lot about pay-fors, the trickiest part of the equation here. Still, the fact that moderates and progressives emerged from meetings at the White House striking an optimistic tone shows serious progress.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders say they want to get a framework by the end of the week. As our Heather Caygle and Burgess Everett report today, the congressional leadership strategy of using a self-imposed infrastructure vote deadline (Oct. 31) to try to force a deal on reconciliation is “a rerun of the playbook Democratic leaders used just weeks ago, only to have it blow up in their faces. But Democrats insist it actually might work this time, with political and legislative incentives aligning more neatly than they did in September. [Speaker NANCY] PELOSI and [Senate Majority Leader CHUCK] SCHUMER are telling their members they need to secure an agreement on the social spending bill by the end of this week. The House could even vote by the end of the month.”

Good Wednesday morning, and thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.


— 9:30 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.

— 3:05 p.m.: Biden will depart the White House en route to Avoca, Pa., where he’s scheduled to arrive at 4:15 p.m.

— 5:15 p.m.: Biden will deliver remarks at the Electric City Trolley Museum in Scranton, Pa.

— 7:05 p.m.: The president will depart Pennsylvania to return to the White House, where he’s scheduled to arrive at 8:10 p.m.

VP KAMALA HARRIS’ WEDNESDAY: The VP will lead a workers roundtable at 11:35 a.m. focused on “encouraging worker organizing and collective bargaining,” along with Labor Secretary MARTY WALSH and Office of Personnel Management Director KIRAN AHUJA.

The White House Covid-19 response team and public health officials will brief at 8:45 a.m. Press secretary JEN PSAKI will gaggle on Air Force One on the way to Pennsylvania.

THE SENATE will meet at 10 a.m. to consider CATHERINE LHAMON’s nomination to be assistant Education secretary for civil rights, with a cloture vote at 11 a.m. and a possible confirmation vote at 1:45 p.m. The chamber will then vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to the Freedom to Vote Act. The Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on ambassador nominations, including RAHM EMANUEL for Japan, NICHOLAS BURNS for China and JONATHAN KAPLAN for Singapore.

— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Emanuel’s hearing comes with a ton of controversy and pushback from progressives because of the LAQUAN MCDONALD police killing and cover-up that took place while he was mayor of Chicago. The hearing takes place on the seventh anniversary of McDonald’s death. More than 20 activists and progressives are sending a letter this morning to Foreign Relations Committee members urging them to press Emanuel about the case and calling for Biden to withdraw the nomination.

THE HOUSE will meet at 10 a.m. and will take up several bills at noon. The Rules Committee will meet at 11 a.m. to take up the resolution on finding STEVE BANNON in criminal contempt of Congress.



NO SURPRISE HERE — As the Senate is set to vote on voting rights legislation today, Republicans are set to use the filibuster for the third time this year to block it, NYT’s Carl Hulse reports. The moves have made Democrats start to rethink their stances on filibuster carveouts to pass federal voting rights legislation.

“‘When we are talking about the fundamental operation of democracy, I have to think a Senate rule will have to be modified or give way,’ said Senator ANGUS KING, the Maine independent, saying that he would back changes to the filibuster rule if needed to pass the bill.”

FORTENBERRY INDICTED — “A federal grand jury indictment charged Rep. JEFF FORTENBERRY (R-Neb.) Tuesday with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators looking into illegal contributions to his 2016 campaign,” Omaha World-Herald’s Ryan Hoffman reports. “The indictment alleges that Fortenberry repeatedly lied to and misled authorities during a federal investigation into illegal contributions to Fortenberry’s reelection campaign made by a foreign billionaire, GILBERT CHAGOURY, in early 2016.”


GOING IT ALONE — WaPo’s Dino Grandoni and Tony Romm report that Biden is looking at using executive action to move larger, compromised climate change proposals along, ahead of the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, that begin at the end of this month.

FOR YOUR RADAR — DHS Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday, a department spokesperson confirmed. Mayorkas is fully vaccinated. He was planning to travel to Colombia with Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN, and got tested as part of a pre-travel precaution. The department spokeswoman confirmed he will shift to work remotely, CNN’s Geneva Sands reports.


HAPPENING IN 2021 — “Iowa authorities are investigating multiple threats — including one of lynching — that Iowa Democratic Party Chairman ROSS WILBURN received soon after writing an op-ed critical of [DONALD] TRUMP,WaPo’s Mariana Alfaro reports. “Wilburn, the state party’s first Black chairman, wrote the opinion piece published in the Des Moines Register ahead of Trump’s Oct. 9 rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. … In it, Wilburn accused Iowa Republicans of putting their loyalty to Trump ahead of Iowans’ needs.”

CRITICAL RACE THEORY IN OKLAHOMA — Civil rights groups, including the ACLU, sued the state of Oklahoma on Tuesday over its new law “limiting instruction about race and gender in public schools,” NBC’s Tyler Kingkade and Antonia Hylton report. The suit says that the law, “which took effect in May, violates students’ and teachers’ free speech rights and denies people of color, LGBTQ students and girls the chance to learn their history.” The lawsuit is the first federal one to challenge the implementation of a state law theoretically aimed at limiting critical race theory.


IN CONTEMPT — The House Jan. 6 committee voted unanimously Tuesday to hold former Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for defying the panel’s subpoena, AP’s Mary Clare Jalonick and Farnoush Amiri report.

Read our Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein on why this is no silver bullet, despite panel members’ tough talk. “It’s riddled with legal loopholes and ambiguities that could allow Donald Trump’s allies to bury the Jan. 6 select committee in Byzantine court challenges,” they note.


WILD TRUMP HEADLINES, PART ONE TRILLION — Trump’s Defense secretary MARK ESPER in the spring of 2020 stopped “an idea under discussion at a top military command and at the [department] to send as many as 250,000 troops — more than half the active U.S. Army, and a sixth of all American forces — to the southern border in what would have been the largest use of the military inside the U.S. since the Civil War,” NYT’s David Sanger, Michael Shear and Eric Schmitt scooped.

Officials told the reporters that “Esper also believed that deploying so many troops to the border would undermine American military readiness around the world.”

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER (POTENTIAL) TRUMP SUIT — Trump is looking to countersue SUMMER ZERVOS, a former “Apprentice” contestant, who says he defamed her “by saying she lied in accusing him of unwelcome kissing and groping in 2007,” AP’s Jennifer Peltz reports.

In the request, Trump’s lawyer says the defamation suit is an effort to harass or intimidate his free speech. The move also “comes as Zervos’ nearly five-year-old defamation suit is nearing an important phase. Both he and she are due to undergo questioning under oath by Dec. 23.”

EX-TRUMP PAC OFFICIAL SPEAKS — Former America First Action finance director JOSEPH AHEARN “testified at a criminal campaign finance trial on Tuesday that he thought that hundreds of thousands of dollars donated to Republican political groups in 2018 by LEV PARNAS was legal to accept at the time it came in,” Josh Gerstein reports.


A NEW NAME — The Verge’s Alex Heath reports that “Facebook is planning to change its company name next week to reflect its focus on building the metaverse … The coming name change, which CEO MARK ZUCKERBERG plans to talk about at the company’s annual Connect conference on October 28th, but could unveil sooner, is meant to signal the tech giant’s ambition to be known for more than social media and all the ills that entail.”


Paul Manafort was spotted dining at Cafe Milano.

Rudy Giuliani released a video telling Virginians not to vote for Terry McAuliffe wearing an Abe Lincoln filter

Katie Hill, who resigned from Congress amid scandal, announced she’s pregnant in Vanity Fair, which included a photo shoot near a lake with her partner, Playboy reporter Alex Thomas.

Kanye West donned the most terrifying mask while getting lunch with former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.

CNN anchor John King revealed for the first time that he has multiple sclerosis.

Kyrsten Sinema got the full NYT treatment — well, her wardrobe did.

LISTS FULL OF WOMEN: It wasn’t always so easy to cobble together 100 names for the most powerful women in Washington list, Washingtonian CEO and owner Cathy Merrill lamented. At one time, the Washington glossy listed every female member of the House and Senate just to fill the slots. Now they are often faced with as many as 300 women to choose from, a sign of how far women have come in this town, Merrill said at The Society of the Cincinnati at Larz Anderson House on Tuesday to a crowd of more than 200 women, some honored and some there in support. Among those in attendance: Abby Phillip, Suzanne Clark, Yamiche Alcindor, Holly Harris, Shanti Stanton, Juleanna Glover, Michael Schaffer, Dannia Hakki, Maha Hakki, Tammy Haddad, Heather Podesta, Ricki Niceta, Dave Moss, Carrie Glenn, Syrita Bowen and Alecia and Jill Webb-Edgington.

SPOTTED at a Hudson Institute event honoring Neal and Linden Blue of General Atomics with its annual Herman Kahn Award in San Diego on the deck of the USS Midway: Mike Pompeo, who delivered remarks, Ronne Blue, Elaine Chao, Pete Wilson, Jocko Willink, Chris Cox, Sarah Stern, John Walters, David and Linda Asher, Ken Weinstein, Monu Joseph and Rick Hough.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — David Pepper, the former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, is out with a new book, “Laboratories of Autocracy” ($16.99 on Amazon), this week. It warns that anti-democratic forces taking root in statehouses risk “calcifying [those bodies] into permanent undemocratic structures” — and that the problem extends beyond Trumpism.

STAFFING UP — The White House announced several new nominations, including Steven Cliff as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Donald Blome as ambassador to Pakistan and Peter Beshar as general counsel at the Air Force.

TRANSITIONS — Sara Sendek is now a senior director for FTI Consulting’s crisis and litigation practice. She most recently was a manager for the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder and is a CISA and Bush White House alum. … Kevin Carpenter is joining Strategic Elements as VP of public affairs. He previously was an SVP at Ichor Strategies. …

… John Stineman is launching Kdence, a political consulting firm. He is the chief strategist at Strategic Elements. … Eric Steiner is now VP of government affairs at the American Forest & Paper Association. He previously was senior director of government affairs at Elanco Animal Health. … Sean Simons is now director of comms and campaigns at (RED). He most recently was U.S. press secretary for the ONE Campaign, and is a Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly alum.

ENGAGED — Stephanie Reichin, SVP and chief of staff at SKDK, and Cooper Smith, product design manager at Lyft, got engaged Monday in their Rhode Island summer/Covid escape home. The two met on Hinge in 2019 and started dating last year. Pic

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Clark Jennings, managing director for Asia at Crowell & Moring and an Obama White House alum, and Mary Rutherford Jennings, a WeWork and Hillary 2016 alum, on Tuesday welcomed Elizabeth Spencer Jennings, who came in at 7 lbs, 4 oz. Instapic Another pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: VP Kamala Harris … Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) … Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) … Greg Lowman of Fidelity … John Grandy … WaPo’s Ann Gerhart … Nardelli Group’s Mick Nardelli … AARP’s Khelan Bhatia … Education Department’s Clare McCannAnneke GreenRoddy Flynn of Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon’s (D-Pa.) office … Caroline Modarressy-TehraniEliza RelmanHanna Pritchett of the American Conservation Coalition … Lamia Rezgui Matt Dogali of the American Distilled Spirits Association … Pablo ManriquezHenry Kaufman (94) … POLITICO’s Chris Tassa and Jean ChemnickArthel NevilleKatherine DePalmaChristie BoydenChuck McCutcheonThomas Willard … former Labor Secretary Hilda SolisKay Foley … former DNI John Ratcliffe Steve Moffitt Tom Kahn of American University (66) … NYT’s Matt Apuzzo

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Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.

White House looks to boost federal employee union participation — FCW

White House looks to boost federal employee union participation — FCW


White House looks to boost federal employee union participation

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks to Department of Defense personnel, with President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando) 

Vice President Kamala Harris visits the Pentagon on Feb. 10, 2021 (Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

The White House is taking action to increase federal employee union participation in an effort it says could have ripple effects in other workplaces.

Agencies are being directed to make sure new hires know about their union eligibility and how to contact their union, and existing feds will be reminded of that information more regularly.

“We are proud as the Biden Harris administration in what we believe we will be, which is the most pro-union administration in the history of America,” said Vice President Kamala Harris at an event on Wednesday announcing the changes.

OPM issued guidance to agencies with the new policies, which are meant to encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining in the federal workplace as part of the administration’s overall labor policy.

The administration says these moves will remove barriers unions face in federal workplaces to increase membership.

“OPM is proud to work on behalf of the Biden-Harris administration to help launch this government-wide effort today that will remove barriers and obstacles in federal workplaces, which impede the union’s ability to strengthen union density and inform civil servants about their collective bargaining rights,” said OPM director Kiran Ahuja, who spoke at the event with Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

Currently, about 33% of bargaining unit employees in the federal government – a group 1.2 million strong out of the 2.1 million non-postal employees in the government – are dues-paying members of unions.

The largest federal employees union welcomed the move.

“For too long, there has been a concerted effort by corporations and wealthy individuals to prevent working people from organizing and bargaining collectively… Indeed, in the past decades we saw this fight play out inside our own federal government,” Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement. “We applaud the steps that the Biden administration is taking today to roll back attacks on labor unions, help federal employees understand their union rights and support them in exercising those rights.”

Guidance documents encourage agencies to include bargaining unit status and union affiliation of the bargaining unit in job announcements. They also recommend that agencies give unions themselves the ability to share information with new bargaining unit employees during orientation sessions about their rights to join a union.

Agencies are already required to annually remind feds about their rights to union representation. New OPM guidance to agencies directs agencies to issue periodic notice throughout the year, and include contact information for the union in that messaging.

The new policies are part of a broader report being sent to the White House on how the administration can address barriers to labor organizing. That report will include more recommended executive actions. It’s being produced by the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which was established in April via executive order.

“We believe that a stronger workforce is the work that will happen to create actually high productivity and lower turnover,” Harris said. “We also believe that this is about respecting the dignity of all work and respecting the dignity of workers.”

Harris added: “We’re doing this because we believe and know that workers are entitled to be paid wages commensurate with their value.”

The administration directed OPM to create recommendations for more feds to be paid at least $15 an hour in

executive order
issued days into Biden’s term. The Biden-Harris budget proposal for FY 2022 recommended a 2.7% increase for feds, lower than the 3.2% raise being advocated for by some federal employee groups and congressional Democrats.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

Why Biden’s not doing interviews

Why Biden’s not doing interviews

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Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With Allie Bice.

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President JOE BIDEN is not doing one-on-one interviews.

In the first nine months of his presidency, he has participated in just 10, none since Labor Day.

It is a distinct feature of this White House.

At this point in their presidencies, BARACK OBAMA had participated in 131 interviews and DONALD TRUMP had participated in 57 (16 of which were within the friendly confines of Fox News), according to presidential watcher and former CBS White House reporter MARK KNOLLER.

Biden’s interview tally is also well off his pace as vice president. As of October 2009, Biden had done at least double the number of interviews he’s done as president, and would often do all three network morning shows on the same day.

Biden’s team is quick to note that he often takes questions from reporters after he does events. Allies of the president are even quicker to note that no one outside of the Washington press corps really cares about press access.

But the lack of interviews reflects the bunker mentality this White House has taken with the media — particularly the extensive back-and-forths where reporters can follow-up, push, and prod. Biden has been especially wary of talking to print publications; he has yet to do an interview with reporters from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, or Reuters.

He has done three print interviews as president: a joint one with first lady JILL BIDEN for People Magazine, a conversation with one of his favorite columnists, DAVID BROOKS of the New York Times, and with EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE for his book about the 2020 campaign that was excerpted in The Atlantic on May 25 (the interview was just after the Inauguration).

A White House official told POLITICO that the preference for television was in large part because the medium simply reaches more people. But the official also argued that the D.C. press, print included, is too focused on process, which is not the message Biden wants to get to voters. That, combined with Biden’s well-documented blooper reel, doesn’t give the White House much enthusiasm for extensive sitdowns.

The only downside is the constant scolding from the press, which may actually make the president more popular in the eyes of many voters. But Republicans see the president’s lack of interviews and public events as an opportunity to raise doubts about Biden not being up for the job.

Among the limited press he does, Biden appears to have one preferred format: the televised town hall. Biden is doing his third CNN town hall on Thursday — his second with ANDERSON COOPER — giving CNN the distinction of hosting Biden more than any other network or cable station.

The White House believes this sort of forum allows the president to engage in more substantive discussions, with less potential pitfalls. Still, if it’s reach the White House wants, it’s unclear if a CNN town hall is the way to do it. While the first one in the early weeks of Biden’s presidency scored a large audience, his July town hall underperformed both MSNBC and Fox News’ regular programming, with 1.46 million viewers.

Here’s the full list of Biden’s interviews so far. Notice a pattern we missed? Email us at [email protected].

Feb 3 — People Magazine’s SANDRA SOBIERAJ WESTFALL
Feb 5 — CBS’ NORAH O’DONNELL (Super Bowl Interview)
Feb 26 — UNIVISION’s ILIA CALDERÓN (joint with the First Lady)
May 20 — The New York Times’ DAVID BROOKS
May 25 — The Atlantic’s EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE

Do you work in the Biden administration? Are you in touch with the White House? Are you AMY P. SANDS, deputy director of stenography?

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Courtesy of the White House Historical Association

After the White House was built, which first lady never actually got to live in it?

(Answer at the bottom.)

The Oval

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: A Washington Post column by MAX BOOT with the headline, “It’s not Biden’s fault that covid is still such a big problem. Blame his GOP critics.” Boot writes that there are “legitimate” reasons to criticize Biden, but Covid-19 isn’t one of them.

“It is deeply unfair to blame the president for the recent covid surge (now waning),” Boot writes. “He has done an excellent job of dealing with the pandemic despite incessant criticism and outrageous obstructionism from the right.”

Biden chief of staff RON KLAIN retweeted two of Boot’s tweets, including one in which Boot says Biden’s vaccine mandate was a “bold and gutsy move.”

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: A Wall Street Journal op-ed by CLIFFORD S. ASNESS of AQR Capital Management with the headline, “Biden’s Real Tax Target Isn’t the Superrich.” Asness writes that Biden’s Build Back Better agenda will tax the already highly taxed “working rich.”

“How to settle the long list of tax issues is a subject for fair argument,” Asness writes. “But what’s blatantly not fair is to rally support by ranting about Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and private-equity billionaires while writing a bill that mostly misses them, and mostly clobbers people already paying through the nose.”


BREAKTHROUGH CASE — Homeland Security Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS tested positive for Covid-19 today, according to a department spokesperson. Mayorkas is fully vaccinated. He was slated to travel to Colombia with Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN and got tested as a pre-travel precaution, but is now working from home, CNN’s GENEVA SANDS reports.

Mayorkas attended the 40th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service outside the U.S. Capitol with the president and first lady on Saturday. A White House aide told us “no White House principal” has been in close contact with Mayorkas. They noted the outdoors event was “outside of the 48-hour close contact window.”

VILSACK HITS PICKET LINE: Agriculture Secretary TOM VILSACK will visit United Auto Workers picketers at Deere & Co.’s Des Moines Works on Wednesday, according to the Des Moines Register. The union is on strike for the first time since 1986.

We noted last week that union leaders have praised Biden, but some strike organizers on the ground wished he’d get more involved in the nitty gritty of labor battles. Vilsack will join picketers as a Biden Cabinet secretary, but also as a former Iowa governor who’s familiar with the union.

Agenda Setting

PLAYING THE INSIDE GAME — From phone calls on the White House veranda to one-on-one meetings with lawmakers, Biden is ramping up efforts to convince lawmakers to support the latest social and climate policy proposals. The president’s strategy underscores the administration’s reliance “on an inside game, rather than the bully pulpit, to dislodge recalcitrant holdouts and move their agenda,” CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO and MARIANNE LeVINE report.

Advise and Consent

CRUZ CONTROL — Sen. TED CRUZ (R-Texas) has put a hold on BARBARA LEAF, Biden’s pick to lead the State Department’s Middle East bureau, according to an email obtained by ALEX WARD and ANDREW DESIDERIO, escalating the Texas Republican’s battle with the administration over diplomatic nominations and opening a sensitive, new policy fight.

FRIENDLY FIRE: A fellow Democrat, meanwhile, could sink Biden’s nominee for comptroller of the currency, VICTORIA GUIDA reports. Sen. JON TESTER (D-Mont.), a member of the Banking Committee that will vet the nominee, said he has “concerns” about SAULE OMAROVA, an ominous sign for a candidate who will likely need party-line support in an evenly split Senate. Omarova has received fierce pushback from Republicans for wanting to allow the Federal Reserve to provide bank accounts for Americans, rather than private institutions, a move that she says will “’end banking’ as we know it.”

TWO MORE JUDGES CONFIRMED: The Senate confirmed GUSTAVO GELPÍ as a judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals Monday night, by a vote of 52 to 41. He previously served as the chief judge for the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico. Senators also confirmed CHRISTINE O’HEARN to be a judge on the District Court for New Jersey, 53 to 44, this afternoon.

What We’re Reading

Rachel Levine, openly transgender health official, sworn in as four-star admiral in Public Health Service (Washington Post’s Dan Diamond)

The United States’ global standing rebounds under Biden (MSNBC’s Steve Benen)

White House has weighed tapping National Guard to address mounting supply chain backlog (WaPo’s Jeff Stein)

What We’re Watching

Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN joined MSNBC’s STEPHANIE RUHLE today to discuss the infrastructure bill, inflation, worker shortage and more. Yellen told Ruhle: Climate change is “very high” on her list for the reconciliation bill ahead of her meeting with Biden.

The full interview will air on MSNBC’s “Stephanie Ruhle Reports” tomorrow at 9 a.m. ET.

Where’s Joe

He met with Sens. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) and JOE MANCHIN in the morning to discuss his Build Back Better agenda.

Then he, Vice President KAMALA HARRIS and Treasury Secretary Yellen met in the Oval Office with progressive House Democrats RITCHIE TORRES (N.Y.), KATHERINE CLARK (Mass.), DEBBIE DINGELL (Mich.), PRAMILA JAYAPAL (Wash.), MARK POCAN (Wisc.) and Californians JIMMY GOMEZ, JARED HUFFMAN, RO KHANNA and BARBARA LEE.

Biden, Harris and Yellen also met with a group of bicameral moderate Democrats later in the afternoon, including: Sens. CATHERINE CORTEZ-MASTO (Nevada), JON TESTER (Mon.), and MARK WARNER (Va.) and Reps. AMI BERA (Calif.), SUZAN DELBENE (Wash.), JOSH GOTTHEIMER (N.J.), TOM O’HALLERAN (Ariz.) and MIKE THOMPSON (Calif.).

Where’s Kamala

See above, people!

The Oppo Book

Vice President Harris’s communications director, ASHLEY ETIENNE, earned a reputation for being “tough” over the course of a career working for among others, Rep. AL GREEN, House Speaker NANCY PELOSI and former President BARACK OBAMA. The word “is often the first descriptor colleagues offer up” for her, according to a 2020 Vanity Fair profile.

But Rep. PETER WELCH (D-Vt.) took it a step further, telling the magazine that: “She’s smart, she’s effective, and she’s charming … Whether she’s sticking the knife in or taking it out, it’s always with a nice smile.”

In an email, Etienne told West Wing Playbook that Welch was referring to foes, not friends. “He and I worked incredibly closely when I was [Rep. ELIJAH CUMMINGS’] Comms Director for the Oversight Committee and we went to battle with [Rep. DARRELL] ISSA and the Republicans constantly. We’d regularly beat them with less than a quarter of the staff they had — and I’d go to their comms office and dig the knife in even deeper. It was fun!”

Put the knife down, Ashley. ASHLEY…. PUT THE KNIFE DOWN!

Trivia Answer

ANNA HARRISON, the wife of former President WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, was going to move into the White House in May 1841, but didn’t after he died in April of that year.

AND A CALL OUT — Do you have a harder trivia question about the presidency? Send us your best one and we may use it: [email protected].

We want your trivia, but we also want your feedback. What should we be covering in this newsletter that we’re not? What are we getting wrong? Please let us know.

Edited by Emily Cadei

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