Cup of Joe – 8/11/21

The Senate passed a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, a significant win for President Biden and the first step on his top legislative priority.

Washington Post: “The 69-30 vote follows weeks of turbulent private talks and fierce public debates that sometimes teetered on collapse, as the White House labored alongside Democrats and Republicans to achieve the sort of deal that had eluded them for years.”

New York Times: “The measure now faces a potentially rocky and time-consuming path in the House, where the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the nearly 100-member Progressive Caucus, have said they will not vote on it unless and until the Senate passes a separate, even more ambitious $3.5 trillion social policy bill this fall.”

Axios: “But the large margin of votes for the bill — 19 Senate Republicans voted in favor, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — could make it harder for House progressives to dismiss outright.”

Jonathan Chait: “It’s not unusual for progressive Democrats to threaten to withhold their votes in an effort to win concessions. They make these threats all the time, and almost always have to go along in the end with whatever deal the moderates have signed onto. But this time, progressives have real leverage.”

“The progressive goal shouldn’t be to sink the infrastructure bill or even to alter it, but to pressure moderate Democrats to support the reconciliation bill. The House progressives have been demanding a vote on the reconciliation bill before passing the infrastructure bill, but the sequence itself is probably not the important thing. What matters is getting private assurances on the contours of a deal from the moderates before the left supplies the votes to pass the infrastructure bill.”

Jonathan Bernstein: “Of course, given the tiny margins Democrats hold in both chambers, it wouldn’t take a large faction to derail things. One stubborn senator, or fewer than half a dozen representatives, will do.”

“Still, there are no obvious dealbreaker provisions so far, it seems like Democrats in both chambers want to make this work and the two-bill plan provides incentives for everyone to stay on board. And while the size of the bill may make some moderate liberals nervous, it also means that there are a lot of Democrats with something they really want in one bill or the other.”

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) — two members of the group that negotiated the bipartisan infrastructure framework — will vote against it, Politico reports.  Both men are up for re-election in 2022.  Both senators fear clearly fear Republican primary voters will penalize them for working with Democrats.

“Well, he didn’t give one reason why it’s a bad deal, other than it’s Joe Biden’s.”— Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), in an interview on Fox News, dismissing Donald Trump’s criticism of the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Former President Trump slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as “overrated” due to his support of the bipartisan infrastructure package, The Hill reports. Said Trump: “Nobody will ever understand why Mitch McConnell allowed this non-infrastructure bill to be passed. He has given up all of his leverage for the big whopper of a bill that will follow.”

He added: “I have quietly said for years that Mitch McConnell is the most overrated man in politics—now I don’t have to be quiet anymore.”

Meanwhile, the Democrats in the Senate started the Reconciliation Process for the second bill.

Wall Street Journal: “The Democrat-only vote, 50 to 49, came just before 4 a.m., a day after the Senate passed a roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. It is an initial victory for President Biden and congressional Democrats who are seeking to pass as much of their legislative agenda as possible this year, before next year’s midterm elections overtake Capitol Hill.”

New York Times: “The blueprint, which could set in motion the largest expansion of the federal safety net in nearly six decades, faces a difficult road ahead as Democrats seek to flesh it out and turn it into law, one that will require their progressive and moderate wings to hold together with virtually no votes to spare.”

Axios: “But this is just the beginning. Now that the budget resolution has passed the Senate, it will take months for Democrats in both chambers to negotiate and draft the final product.”

“Final passage of the $3.5 trillion spending bill, which will require all 50 Democratic senators to sign on, will likely not come until the fall.”

Playbook: “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as expected, voted yes, but most of his leadership team — Sens. John Thune (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Cornyn (R-TX), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Rick Scott (R-FL) — all voted no.”

“Thune was supportive of the bipartisan process — at one point he said he hoped that it might help torpedo the partisan reconciliation bill — and while he never voted to advance the infrastructure bill, he had repeatedly told reporters that he was open to voting yes on final passage. One other member of Senate GOP leadership who joined McConnell in supporting the bill: Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is retiring.”

Paul Kane noted the “no” votes from Barrasso, Cornyn and Thune are likely about all three “playing a long game to try to succeed McConnell.”

The U.S. Senate voted 50 to 49 to discharge the voting rights bill from the Rules Committee, Roll Call reports.

The vote allows the bill to come to the Senate floor after being held back by procedural votes.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said a revised version based on negotiations will be offered as an amendment.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) resigned after the state attorney general said he violated sexual harassment laws, the New York Times reports.

Cuomo called for a “seamless” transition as Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) takes over the top job.

It’s a remarkable turn of events for a governor who was hailed a national leader just a year ago during the coronavirus pandemic.By resigning before his term ends, Andrew Cuomo will not match the three full terms that his father, Mario Cuomo, served.

Punchbowl News: “The White House’s theory is this: this debt was racked up under former President Donald Trump, and Democrats are not going to let Republicans just hang it around their necks. Some in the White House seem to think 10 Senate Republicans will budge and vote for the debt limit if it’s twinned with a government funding bill next month.”

“Democrats are playing the same hand they did in 2011 — saying the debt limit is a joint responsibility that both parties own equally. But the politics are different this time. Republicans are in the minority in the House and Senate, and the Republican Party is a much different party than it was a decade ago. The Tea Party looks tame compared to what happened under Trump. Plus, after the aforementioned bipartisan victories (see above), McConnell’s GOP allies seem to think he has incentive to hold his party against the debt limit and let the Democrats figure it out on their own.”

“To the White House and some Democrats, slapping it onto reconciliation was a political loser. The administration feared that adding the debt limit in reconciliation would’ve spooked House Democratic moderates and given them a reason to vote against the upcoming budget resolution.”

“I am predicting, with absolute certainty, it will resolve itself uneventfully. Because it always does.” — Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), quoted by Politico, on the debt ceiling standoff.

Vice News: “Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter account has been suspended for a week for posting COVID-19 misinformation, and the Georgia congresswoman is just one more violation away from a permanent ban.”

Dallas Independent School District will require students and teachers to wear masks at its campuses, defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that bars districts from issuing mask mandates, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced there were “only eight ICU beds available in the state,” which has seen COVID-19 drive a record spike in hospitalizations.

“As Rudy Giuliani’s legal bills have piled up in recent months—and as federal investigators intensify their probe into Donald Trump’s longtime associate—the former president appears willing to provide just as much help as he usually does when his friends are in need: next to nothing,” the Daily Beast reports.

“For months now, Trump has consistently ignored or rejected Giuliani’s pleas for assistance. And it’s not just that Trump and other prominent Republicans have been unwilling to open up their wallets or war chests to help offset Giuliani’s mounting legal costs; in many cases, Giuliani’s former Trumpworld comrades have declined to even acknowledge the existence of his legal defense fund, which has struggled to raise much of anything from the public.”

The Atlantic says that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to retire in the “not-so-distant future” and many are looking to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) as the next speaker of the House.

“The Biden administration faces the sobering reality that returning to the Iran nuclear deal may no longer be feasible, as the Islamic Republic finds ways to cope with U.S. sanctions and races toward the capacity to build a bomb,” Bloomberg reports.

The Bush administration hid the truth about an attack targeting Vice President Dick Cheney, amid fears it was losing the war, the Washington Post reports.

The Pentagon will require members of the military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo on Monday.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has announced his entire campaign team will be required to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Washington Post: “Wages have been rising rapidly as the economy reopens and businesses struggle to hire enough workers. Some of the biggest gains have gone to workers in some of the lowest-paying industries. Overall, nearly 80 percent of U.S. workers now earn at least $15 an hour, up from 60 percent in 2014.”

“This higher pay is likely to be permanent as wages rarely fall once they move up. Economists caution that a higher average wage is not the same as a $15 minimum wage… Nonetheless, rising pay is still a game-changer for millions of workers.”

CNBC: “The number of job openings in the U.S. economy jumped to more than 10 million in June, the highest on record.”

Washington Post: “The coronavirus pandemic in America has become a delta pandemic. By the end of July, it accounted for 93.4 percent of new infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The speed with which it dominated the pandemic has left scientists nervous about what the virus will do next. The variant battles of 2021 are part of a longer war, one that is far from over.”

“Epidemiologists had hoped getting 70 or 80 percent of the population vaccinated, in combination with immunity from natural infections, would bring the virus under control. But a more contagious virus means the vaccination target has to be much higher, perhaps in the range of 90 percent. Globally, that could take years.”

New York Times: “President Biden’s top aides were told on Friday that experts studying the mysterious illnesses affecting scores of diplomats, spies and their family members were still struggling to find evidence to back up the leading theory, that microwave attacks are being launched by Russian agents.”

“The report came in an unusual, classified meeting called by the director of national intelligence.”

Associated Press: “Canada on Monday is lifting its prohibition on Americans crossing the border to shop, vacation or visit, but the United States is keeping similar restrictions in place for Canadians, part of a bumpy return to normalcy from COVID-19 travel bans.”

“An unusual surge of short-term lending by cash-rich companies is raising concerns on Wall Street that a period of unrest may lie ahead,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “Investors such as money-market funds and banks are parking over $1 trillion in spare cash overnight at the Federal Reserve. That is the most on record since the Fed opened its facility for these reverse repurchase agreements in 2013.”

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