President Biden in a written statement Thursday evening conceded what had become obvious in recent days: BBB isn’t getting a Senate vote before the holidays.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) remains the biggest roadblock to passing the centerpiece of the Biden agenda.
Punchbowl News: “There’s one reality Democrats need to get comfortable with when they turn back to this in January: This is now Joe Manchin’s bill. We knew this all along, but Manchin controls the fate of the BBB. If and when the BBB comes out of the Senate, it seems likely to be watered down to reflect Manchin’s priorities, much to the frustration of the progressive wing of the party. Can the Squad and House Progressives back such a bill? It depends on what they think of the party’s prospects heading into November.”
“A 50/50 Senate is really problematic. I’ve used the word ‘sucks.’ It definitely enables one or two people to hold things up. So, yes, I am frustrated.” — Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), quoted by Politico.
While there is general agreement on the size of the bill — approximately $1.75 trillion — there’s almost no agreement on it’s structure.
In order to fit as many priorities into the bill as possible, the House version set the funding of many of these programs to expire after just a year or two. Manchin sees all of this short-term temporary spending as a budget gimmick meant to hide the bill’s true long-term cost — and he’s not wrong.
Instead, Manchin wants each program in the bill to be funded for a full 10 years. That would mean fewer priorities, but they would be permanent. Said Manchin to CNN: “If you’re gonna do something, let’s do it, let’s commit to it.”
As Jordan Weissmann writes, Biden and Democrats should listen to Manchin: “It’s not just that Manchin seems unlikely to back down from his position; he’s also largely right on the political and policy merits. The current version of Build Back Better is a hodgepodge of temporary spending that could very well disappear in a few years when Republicans inevitably regain power in Washington; prioritizing fewer items but making them permanent is a much more reasonable way to go about reforming the safety net for the long term.”
Reducing the scope of the package will also allow Democrats to better describe it to voters ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Right now, it’s mostly referred to as a “social spending bill” and few voters have any idea what that means. Picking a couple of popular social programs and funding them will make the bill far more powerful as a political tool.
There’s another practical point made by Punchbowl News: “The longer they wait, the harder it will be for Senate Democrats to act on BBB. The history of the Obamacare debate in 2009 and 2010 proves this, and a number of Senate Democrats are veterans of that era. They remember how bad things got in the first quarter of 2010 as the Obamacare debate dragged on and on, and how that helped fuel the huge GOP victories in those midterm elections.”
Democrats are within reach of passing another $1.75 domestic policy bill and that’s on top of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and $1.9 trillion relief package. That would be an enormous accomplishment and might rank Biden as one of the great presidents of the last century.
But Democrats will not do it without Manchin, so its time to give him what he wants. Otherwise, as he made clear this week, they’ll almost certainly get nothing.
“The Trump administration engaged in ‘deliberate efforts’ to undermine the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic for political purposes, a congressional report released Friday concludes,” NBC News reports.
“The report, prepared by the House select subcommittee investigating the nation’s Covid response, says the White House repeatedly overruled public health and testing guidance by the nation’s top infectious disease experts and silenced officials in order to promote then-President Donald Trump’s political agenda.”
Dr. Michael Osterholm told CNN the coronavirus will hit millions of Americans in a “viral blizzard” within a few weeks as infections from the Omicron variant pile on top of Delta.
Said Osterholm: “What you have here right now is a potential perfect storm. I’ve been very concerned about the fact that we could easily see a quarter or a third of our health care workers quickly becoming cases themselves.”
“There is at present ‘no evidence’ that the Omicron coronavirus variant is any less severe than the Delta strain, according to early findings from researchers at Imperial College London, which also highlighted the elevated risk of reinfection posed by Omicron and the need for booster shots to combat it,” the Financial Times reports.
Tomas Pueyo: “There are two types of fatality rates that are relevant: the fatality rates for (1) those vaccinated or with a previous infection and (2) those naive (not immune). My fear is that most people have fallen for Simpson’s Paradox. Simpson’s paradox says that, if you mix two populations, it might look like a pattern is going in one direction across both populations. But if you look at each population separately, the pattern reverts.”
“Put in another way: the effect is one of mix of populations rather than a true trend. For Omicron, we could be mixing the fatality rates of immune and naive populations, and because there’s so many more immune people now, we think Omicron is less lethal, when it fact it’s more.”
“An expert panel to the CDC voted to recommend that Covid vaccines other than Johnson & Johnson’s should be preferred, citing increasing evidence that the company’s shots trigger a rare blood clot disorder now linked to dozens of cases and at least nine deaths in the last year,” the New York Times reports.
Washington Post: “With the omicron variant sending coronavirus cases spiking across the country, the pandemic is once again upending daily life and evoking the early days of the outbreak as scientists race to understand the still-unknown implications of this new type of coronavirus.”
“The worrying signs suddenly seem everywhere: Professional sports leagues are canceling games. Colleges are sending students home from campus. Secretary of State Antony Blinken cut short his trip to Southeast Asia.”
New York Times: “Holiday plans abruptly reversing, restaurants closing, Broadway shows going dark while, blocks away, long lines form outside testing sites — it’s as if it were 2020 all over again.”
“The startling rise in coronavirus infections has whiplashed New York City and the surrounding region.Once more, most everyone seems to know someone who is infected.”
Former President Donald Trump, in a newly aired interview, told an Israeli journalist that “the Jewish people in the United States either don’t like Israel or don’t care about Israel,” CNBC reports.
Said Trump: “There’s people in this country that are Jewish no longer love Israel… I’ll tell you, the evangelical Christians love Israel more than the Jews in this country.”
“The arbiter of Senate rules has rejected Democrats’ third immigration proposal to provide temporary deportation protections and work permits to millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The Biden administration will unveil a new strategy Friday to keep children in the classroom,” NBC News reports.
“The strategy includes a ‘test to stay’ approach: Instead of mandatory quarantines for students identified as close contacts of a Covid-positive peer, those students could remain in school if they test negative for the virus at least twice during the week after an exposure.”
Bloomberg: “Fox News probably had enough information after the 2020 presidential election to know a conspiracy theory claiming Dominion Voting Systems Inc. rigged the contest was false, a judge said in denying the network’s request to dismiss a defamation lawsuit.”
“The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob announced Thursday it had issued a subpoena to retired Army Col. Phil Waldron as it investigates the causes of the insurrection,” the Washington Post reports.
“Waldron worked with Trump’s outside legal team and circulated and briefed members of Congress on a PowerPoint presentation that outlined various proposals to overturn the results of the 2020 election.“
Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told the Daily Beast that his phone records have been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. However, Parscale said he wasn’t involved and had nothing to hide, though he didn’t answer when asked if he would testify.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he looks forward to seeing what the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol finds in its probe, NBC News reports.
Said McConnell: “It was a horrendous event and I think what they are seeking to find out is something the public needs to know.”
McConnell’s interest in the investigation is notable since he had opposed the creation of a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, calling the idea “slanted and unbalanced.”
Politico: “Despite months of attacks, the Trump-led campaign to depose the Senate minority leader has resulted in firm pledges from just two Republican candidates, no senators and has failed to turn up a formidable challenger to run against McConnell.”
“A National Guardsman who was part of the mob that rampaged through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has been sentenced to probation and a fine for his actions, but will avoid jail time,” Military.com reports. “His state says he’s still in the Guard.”
“A Florida man who attacked law enforcement officers on Jan. 6 while wearing a distinctive American flag sweatshirt emblazoned with the name of former President Donald Trump was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison, the longest sentence handed out in connection with the Capitol riot so far,” the HuffPost reports.
“The Biden administration Thursday ended a long-standing restriction on a medication used to terminate early-stage pregnancies,” the Washington Post reports.
“The elimination of the regulation, which had been temporarily suspended, means abortion pills can be prescribed through telehealth consultations and mailed to patients. But in large swaths of the nation, strict state rules will dampen the impact. Several states ban sending the drug by mail and impose other restrictions on use of the pill.”
“The Republican National Committee has agreed to cover up to $1.6 million of Donald Trump’s personal legal bills, in an unusual arrangement under which the party is paying to defend the former president from ongoing investigations that focus on his private business practices,” the New York Times reports.
David Ignatius:: “By Israeli estimates, Iran has enough material for three bombs and is less than a month from completing the enrichment of that fuel, sources tell me. Building a weapon would take another 18 months to two years, the Israelis reckon — but that’s still a very short fuse.”
“Boris Johnson suffered a seismic political upset as his ruling Conservatives lost a key parliamentary election, a result that will heap intense pressure on the U.K. prime minister and may even call his position into question,” Bloomberg reports.
“The Liberal Democrats capitalized on weeks of turmoil and plummeting poll ratings for Johnson and his Conservative party to overturn a huge Tory majority and take the North Shropshire seat in the West Midlands that the ruling party has held for almost two centuries.”
David Leonhardt: “In the U.S., partisanship is the biggest factor determining vaccination rates. If Democratic voters made up their own country, it would be one of the world’s most vaccinated, with more than 91 percent of adults having received at least one shot. Only about 60 percent of Republican adults have done so.”
“This vaccination gap has created a huge gap in death rates, one that has grown sharply during the second half of the year.”
“The vast majority of active-duty troops in the Army and Navy are vaccinated against the coronavirus, and the small number of those still refusing shots will soon be dismissed from the military,” the New York Times reports.
“Army officials said that less than one percent of active-force members have refused the vaccination order without a pending or approved exemption. Thousands of troops requested religious exemptions, but none have been granted.”
Former President Donald Trump has been “particularly upset” and “distraught” by a passage in Mark Meadows’s new book that describes the former president’s hair “was a mess” when he was sick with Covid-19, the Washington Post reports.
Said Trump to an unnamed associate: “This guy is talking about what I look like, in my bedroom.”
Donald Trump again took credit for people using the phrase “Merry Christmas,” and added: “America loves Christmas. Whether you’re Muslim, whether you’re Christian, whether you’re Jewish — everyone loves Christmas.”
“Donald Trump’s pursuit of ‘perfect’ hair may be lifelong, but the former president’s hope of achieving that goal by tinkering with the country’s shower head requirements has come to an end,” the Washington Post reports.
“The Energy Department has reversed a Trump-era rule increasing how much water could be used in a shower by allowing multiple nozzles to carry equal amounts of water at once.”
Washington Post: “Settlement talks that would have awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration have abruptly broken down, lawyers for the families said Thursday.”
“The attorneys had been in talks for months with the Justice Department and had been negotiating the possibility of a settlement of about $450,000 per person — possibly more in some cases — for the mental anguish, suffering and sometimes physical abuse the migrants endured.”
“Talks grew strained after a Wall Street Journal report about the financial payments drew criticism from Republicans and uneasiness from President Biden, who at first called the possibility “garbage” and then backtracked to say he was open to cash settlements.”