What to Know in Washington: Biden Preps Liberals for Letdown

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While the White House scrambles for a deal with Congress on its economic agenda, President Joe Biden and top aides have put almost as much time into preparing progressives to get far less than they wanted from his tax-and-spending plan.

The message from the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and top aides to groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and Women’s Caucus and key individual lawmakers such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has been: a lesser bill is better than no bill at all.

While details of the legislation are changing by the hour, many provisions dear to liberals have already been pared back or eliminated, among them a clean electricity plan, free community college and higher tax rates for the wealthy and corporations.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y) outside the U.S. Capitol in March.

The task of White House officials now is to sell fractious Democratic lawmakers and voters on the idea that even a smaller, more modest package of social welfare improvements can still be powerful and in-line with the president’s campaign promises to help seniors, women, minorities and children.

Democratic strategists regard Biden’s two signature economic bills, the Senate-passed $550 billion infrastructure plan and the larger “Build Back Better” climate and social-spending legislation, as key to any success for their party in midterm elections and beyond.

Progressives are not pleased some priorities they share with Biden were tossed out to satisfy moderates.

“We bend over backwards for fracking and the pharmaceutical industry and the fossil fuel industry and billionaires. We bend over backwards for them but poor people, women, people of color, it’s always next year, next year, next year,” Representative Jamaal Bowman (D) of New York said.

“It sucks, and I’m pissed off that one senator, two senators are deciding what happens with the whole country,” he said. Read more from Nancy Cook and Jarrell Dillard.

  • Biden will go to Capitol Hill today, hours before he departs for summits in Europe, to brief House Democrats on his economic agenda as a congressional deal to approve it remains elusive, according to two people familiar with the matter. Biden wanted to have an agreement, or at least a framework of one, on his broad spending plan when he arrived for a gathering of the Group of 20 leaders in Rome, followed by the United Nations climate summit in Scotland. The Capitol visit was not on Biden’s schedule, Justin Sink and Billy House report.
  • U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry said COP26 climate talks have already driven action to slow global warming, the latest intervention by a senior official to play down expectations from the summit that starts on Sunday. “Glasgow has already summoned more climate action than the world has ever seen. And in that regard, Glasgow has already achieved success,” he said in London. Read more from Jessica Shankleman.

Biden’s Tax Plan Gets Shredded Down in Battle to Raise Revenue: Biden’s tax agenda, crafted by experts who worked on the proposals for years and wrote books about their ideas, is getting a wholesale revamp as Democrats battle to find a program their caucus can unite behind.

Amid diplomatic—at least in public—bickering among the chairs of the House and Senate’s top tax-writing committees and other stakeholders, the two main takeaways as of yesterday evening were: the bulk of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts will be left in place, while corporations will face a new minimum levy.

It’s far from clear what measures will make the final cut as lawmakers negotiate over the revenue-raisers to pay for what could be a $2 trillion social-spending bill. Comments from lawmakers indicate that some of Biden’s core proposals— including increasing the corporate income tax rate, the top marginal income tax rate and the capital gains rate—are likely out, while other, more creative ideas—like a minimum tax on the profits on corporate financial statements and a surtax on millionaires—were still in the running. Read more from Laura Davison and Allyson Versprille.

  • Earlier: Democrats Clash on Billionaire Tax as Neal Rejects Plan Wyden Pushes
  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a key swing vote for Democrats, has given the Biden administration a list of specific tax policies she will support in order to raise revenue for the social spending plan Democrats hope to pass this year, people familiar with the matter said. Sinema would support the billionaire tax put forward this week by Wyden, or a House-backed 3% income surcharge for earners above $5 million, the people said. She also will back a 15% corporate minimum tax; changes to the taxation of multinational companies; a tax on stock buybacks; expanding a surtax on high earners’ investment income; and increased IRS enforcement funding and financial-account data collection, according to the people. Read more from Colin Wilhelm.

Paid Family Leave Plan at Risk: Democrats were set to abandon plans to include paid family leave in their plan amid opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), according to two people familiar with the talks. Providing workers with as much as 12 weeks of family leave was a key component of the plan and one that is among the central goals of progressive Democrats. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was working to broker a compromise with Manchin, and said she would continue to fight to include paid leave. Read more from Erik Wasson and Laura Litvan.

Health-Care Consensus Eludes: Democrats remain at odds over three key elements of their health-care agenda: expanding Medicaid, adding new Medicare benefits, and empowering the government to negotiate with drugmakers. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats “are close to agreement on the priorities and the topline of the legislation,” in a letter to colleagues. “Great progress has been made to address the coverage gap in states that have not enacted the Medicaid expansion,” Pelosi wrote. “This expansion of the Affordable Care Act takes us to nearly universal coverage, hopefully with expanded benefits for Medicare.” As negotiations sharpen, Alex Ruoff takes a look at where key health proposals stand.

Plan to Curb Land Conservation Break is Out: A plan to restrict tax-advantaged land deals that the IRS says are often used as tax shelters is no longer being considered for inclusion in the package. House Ways and Means Democrats included curbs on syndicated conservation easement transactions in their plan to raise revenue for the budget reconciliation package. Restricting the tax break was projected to bring in $12.5 billion in revenue over a decade, according to an estimate by the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation. A congressional Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations said the easements proposal is being dropped because of objections by Sinema, Kaustuv Basu reports.

Happening on the Hill

Today’s Agenda:

  • The House plans to vote on a measure to protect older job applicants from discrimination. Paige Smith has more on that bill.
  • Senators plan confirmation votes on five of Biden’s nominees, with procedural votes set for two others.
  • Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings and markups.

White House Urges GOP to Make Spending Offer: Acting Budget Director Shalanda Young urged lawmakers to swiftly broker an agreement on spending levels for federal agencies for the current fiscal year, and avoid another stopgap bill when the current short-term measure runs out in a little over six weeks. The battle over the regular fiscal 2022 agency spending figures, and especially the amount for the Pentagon, is the next big partisan fight in Congress. Young urged Republicans to put forward a counteroffer to the House and Senate draft appropriations bills, which were released to the public this month. Read more from Erik Wasson.

Modernization Panel Has Long To-Do List: A bipartisan panel is hurrying to implement dozens of its recommendations on improving the functioning of Congress before the end of next year. Some two-thirds of the 97 recommendations the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress approved and announced last year still aren’t in effect, according to a report the committee released today. Of those, about half are in the process of being put into effect and half are awaiting some kind of initial action, depending on the item. The panel approved 20 new recommendations in July and expects to approve another batch before the end of the year, said Chairman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), which adds to the list of what’s left to finalize. Read more from Emily Wilkins.

Meatpacking Giants Cite Covid Response, Vaccination: Some of the biggest meatpacking corporations say they shelled out millions to combat the Covid-19 crisis while their workers were on the front lines, pushing back against Democrats and labor advocates who say they’re to blame for worker deaths. At least 59,000 meatpacking plant workers suffered infections during Covid-19 outbreaks at corporate plants — and 269 died between March 2020 and February 2021, a report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis details. Read more from Megan U. Boyanton.

Politics & Influence

Trump Dangles Virginia Visit: Former President Donald Trump teased the possibility that he would campaign for Glenn Youngkin’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign, less than 24 hours after Biden sought to tether the two at a rally for Democrat Terry McAuliffe. “Chanting, ‘We love Trump’ in Arlington, Va. Thank you, Arlington, see you soon!” Trump said in a statement issued yesterday. Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich tweeted that the former president “will be delivering a major victory” for Youngkin and that the former president “looks forward to being back in Virginia! Details will be released when appropriate.” Budowich declined to comment further. Read more from Mark Niquette.

NY AG Letitia James Expected to Announce Governor Run: New York Attorney General Letitia James is expected to imminently announce a run for governor after less than one term as the state’s top law enforcement officer, according to two people familiar with the situation. James, a Democrat whose probe into claims of sexual assault against former Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) helped trigger his resignation in August, could announce her decision as soon as today, said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter. Read more from Josh Eidelson, Erik Larson and Billy House.

NY Ballot Propositions Would Ease Voting Restrictions: New York State voters on Tuesday are being asked whether to make voting easier by allowing same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee ballots. One ballot proposal would amend the state’s constitution by eliminating a 10-day advance voter registration requirement. Another would amend the constitution to allow voting by absentee ballot without a specific reason. Read more from Keshia Clukey.

Around the Administration

Today’s Agenda: Biden will deliver remarks at the White House this morning at 11:30 a.m., then depart for Rome, Italy for the G20 Leaders’ Summit at 12:15 p.m.

White House Says Vaccine Rule Won’t Strain Supply Chains: A requirement for federal workers and contractors to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 — which would affect a number of transportation companies that work with the U.S. government — won’t exacerbate a backlog of shipping and deliveries, according to the Biden administration. “The requirements for federal workers and contractors will not cause disruption,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at a briefing for reporters. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Lillianna Byington.

  • But logistics companies in industries ranging from trucking to warehouses are warning the mandate will cause backlogs. Groups representing them say substantial numbers of their employees are unvaccinated, and may quit or be let go at the height of the holiday season. The supply chain is already suffering as a shortage of workers, backlogged ports, and other challenges slow the movement of goods. Lillianna Byington has more.
  • Separately, Biden will join world leaders this weekend as the globe’s leading economies struggle to agree on how to save a debt-relief program for poor nations hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The Group of 20 this week will likely assess a proposal by the International Monetary Fund to strengthen the so-called Common Framework, a plan to reorganize loans that has been plagued by delays and a lack of interest from debtor countries since its inception in November 2020. Read more from Alonso Soto, William Horobin and Alessandra Migliaccio.

Texas Spars with DOJ on Abortion Law: Advocates for and against Texas’ strict abortion law painted starkly different portraits of the power of federal judges to protect constitutional rights as each side made its case in advance of next week’s U.S. Supreme Court showdown. Texas and its allies yesterday urged the court to reject challenges to the law, which has largely shut down legal abortion in the nation’s second-largest state. The measure authorizes enforcement only by private lawsuits, and state officials said that novel provision means federal judges lack any means of throwing out the law. Read more from Greg Stohr.

Immigration Enforcement Relaxed for Shelters: U.S. immigration officials won’t conduct enforcement actions at emergency relief sites, domestic violence shelters, and other locations under new guidance from the Department of Homeland Security. The policy reflects the Biden administration’s broader efforts to ease civil immigration enforcement and make the system less punitive for people who haven’t committed serious crimes. The approach will likely garner criticism from Republicans who say enforcement is already too lax. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

Error Swearing in NLRB Democrat Draws GOP Heat: Republican members of the House and Senate labor committees criticized federal labor board Chair Lauren McFerran (D) for not promptly disclosing an error related to member David Prouty’s swearing-in this summer, setting up a partisan battle over Prouty’s actions during his first days in office. Prouty, a Democrat, was sworn in as a member of the National Labor Relations Board on the morning of Aug. 28, but it wasn’t until Sept. 22 that Biden signed Prouty’s presidential commission, according to a letter McFerran sent to members of Congress on Oct. 8. Read more from Ian Kullgren.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com; Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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