What to Know in Washington: Biden’s Infrastructure Victory Lap

Democrats will hit the road this week to tout the $550 billion infrastructure package the House cleared for President Joe Biden late on Friday night. Biden and members of his cabinet have events planned, while congressional Democrats head back to their districts with the House and Senate out of session this week. Democrats will be competing with messaging on rising prices for consumer goods, and the delayed vote on the bigger $1.75 trillion tax and spending package lawmakers aim to tackle when they return next week.

Here’s what Bloomberg Government is tracking for Monday.

Biden’s Schedule:

  • Biden returns to the White House from Rehoboth Beach, Del., at 9:40 a.m.
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will participate in the White House briefing at 1 p.m.
  • Biden will welcome the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks to the White House at 2:50 p.m.

Congress Agenda:

  • The House plans a committee work week, with no floor activity scheduled. The Senate is also on hiatus for floor work this week.

Biden Takes Public Works Plan to Voters

President Biden is seeking sell Americans on the merits of the $550 billion in new spending even as they face rising prices for fuel, food and housing. The president plans an infrastructure tour over the next several weeks to promote the legislation, including a visit to the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday. While ports have been the focus of supply-chain logjams, Biden also faces immediate pressure this week to decide how to address a surge in gasoline prices.

Cabinet secretaries will fan out in the media blitz, one White House official said, traveling all over the country — to both red and blue states — and making local and national TV appearances to explain the bill’s benefits. Biden and his administration intend to redouble efforts they’ve undertaken since March to communicate his economic plans and what they’ll mean for the American people, the official said.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg
Biden spoke about infrastructure at the White House on Saturday, following House passage of the plan.

Cognizant of the Obama administration’s failure to fully explain the benefits of its 2009 stimulus package and the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the president and his top aides want to avoid those missteps. They want Americans to understand how the infrastructure package — with money for roads and bridges, ports and airports, drinking water, broadband access and electric charging stations across the country — will improve their lives ahead of the 2022 midterms, which at the moment look likely to cost Democrats control of Congress. Read more from Nancy Cook.

  • The administration will be looking at an updated U.S. energy outlook due this week as it weighs options for lowering oil prices, including tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. Granholm’s comments on CNN yesterday suggest the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s analysis will influence any administration decisions on measures to bring down gasoline prices, which hit the highest level since 2014 last week. Biden said Saturday he’s “not anticipating that OPEC would respond” to a request to help out with prices. “They’re going to pump some more oil,” he told reporters at the White House. “Whether they pump enough oil is a different thing.” Read more from Laura Davison.
  • The Pentagon is among those feeling a supply chain crunch, with plans to place as much as $2 billion in rush orders by early March for customized semiconductors used in weapons like the B-2 bomber before the production line for them is shut down. The Defense Department is confronting its looming supply crunch amid a global shortage of the chips used in consumer items from mobile phones to autonomous vehicles. Read more from Tony Capaccio.
  • Several chipmakers have responded to a U.S. request ahead of today’s deadline for supply chain information to help address the global chip shortage, with some of the world’s top suppliers confirming they won’t provide certain sensitive data. The U.S. Department of Commerce in September asked companies in the semiconductor supply chain to fill out questionnaires seeking information pertaining to the ongoing chip shortage, Debby Wu reports.
  • Amid all the hand-wringing over global supply-chain snarls and how they’re fanning inflation, little attention in the U.S. is being paid to the demand side of the economy. That’s despite mounting evidence that the American consumer’s supercharged spending habits are playing at least as big of a role in stoking higher prices as the bottlenecks of imported goods in West Coast ports. Households have amassed more than $2 trillion in excess savings during the coronavirus crisis. Read more from Cécile Daurat, Augusta Saraiva and Amelia Pollard.

Pelosi’s Prowess Tested Over Biden Agenda

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) struggle to deliver on Biden’s two biggest policy priorities has illustrated the distrust and divisions within her party at a time Democrats desperately want to show they can govern.

Democrats eked out a victory on the public works bill late Friday night after months of wrangling between moderates and progressives. As soon as it was clear the bill would pass, Pelosi was surrounded by applauding members. Shortly after, they advanced on a procedural vote a larger package, totaling more than $1.75 trillion in social and climate spending.

But actual passage of that bill ended up being delayed amid still simmering intra-party differences. Those votes started 15 hours after a turbulent day of arm twisting began, a new normal in a Washington where fractious Democrats control both chambers of Congress by the narrowest of majorities.

Photographer: Craig Hudson/Bloomberg
Pelosi at the Capitol on Friday night along with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), left, and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), center.

The ugly sausage-making was on full display during the daylight hours, with leaders of the party’s largest factions making their case on Twitter and to the media. Passage of the public works measure happened just before midnight, long after most Americans had tuned out.

Pelosi, frequently praised by fellow Democrats as a master legislator, is suddenly feeling the limits of her power as she seeks to assuage progressive and moderate factions that are each convinced they know the key to hanging on to control in Washington. Read more from Billy House.

  • Pelosi in a letter to colleagues last night said the House will act on the reconciliation measure when it returns the week of Nov. 15. Pelosi praised the “diversity” of her caucus, calling it a strength, but said House Democrats must keep their “eyes on the prize.” Read the letter.
  • One House moderate said he’s optimistic that Congress will have the Congressional Budget Office cost analysis of the Build Back Better Act when Congress reconvenes next week. Waiting for the data has stalled the measure in the House as several centrists have said they want assurances the bill is fully offset before voting. “We need that information to move forward to do the responsible thing,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), one of the moderates, Davison reports.
  • But the legislative process that led to passage of the $550 billion infrastructure legislation drew criticism from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who sought to explain why she and five other progressive Democrats cast “no” votes. Ocasio-Cortez said she’s concerned whether moderate Democrats would keep their promise and vote to advance the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act now that the House has sent the infrastructure bill to Biden. Jarrell Dillard has more.

Carbon Tax in Sight for Biden’s Climate Bill: The White House and at least 49 senators support a proposal to impose an almost $20 per-ton fee on carbon as part of Biden’s climate-and-spending legislation, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Saturday. Under the initiative, the cost on carbon dioxide emissions would start at less than $20 per ton and increase over time, with revenue possibly rebated back to some consumers or dedicated to help fossil fuel workers amid the transition to clean energy, Whitehouse said. Whitehouse is still trying to win over Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is a swing vote on the legislation and who has said he would oppose a carbon tax. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

Highway Programs Extension: The infrastructure bill includes a five-year reauthorization of federal highway, transit, and safety programs. The passage of the bipartisan infrastructure legislation came after two short-term highway and transit extensions in the past two months. The five-year bill will create certainty for the 3,700 workers at the Department of Transportation who were furloughed when transportation programs briefly lapsed last month. It will also provide stability to state transportation departments, which have struggled to plan projects under short-term renewals. Read more from Lillianna Byington.

Around the Administration

Biden Taps Bush Official for DHS Intelligence Branch: Biden intends to choose Ken Wainstein, who served in George W. Bush’s administration, to lead a Homeland Security Department office that plays a key role in combating domestic extremism. Wainstein was the Justice Department’s first assistant attorney general for national security and served as a White House aide. He currently is a partner in the white-collar defense and investigations practice at Davis Polk & Wardell. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis is tasked with analyzing security threats and issues alerts to state and local governments. Ellen M. Gilmer has more.

  • A new permanent commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration will need to bring more clarity to the government’s Covid-19 response and restore trust to a federal office that remains without a Senate-confirmed leader nearly a year into the Biden administration, policy analysts and former FDA officials say. Biden has only weeks left to name a replacement for acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock. Celine Castronuovo has more.
  • Biden will get another appointment to New York-based U.S. appeals court after Judge Susan Carney said she will retire from her job at the chief venue for cases involving corporations and Wall Street. In a Thursday letter to Biden, Carney said she intends to take a form of semi-retirement afforded to judges known as senior status upon the appointment of her successor. She was appointed by Barack Obama in 2011. Read more from Madison Alder.

More Headlines:

  • Biden’s requirement for employees at companies with more than 100 workers to get Covid-19 vaccinations or regular testing is on solid legal ground, presidential adviser Cedric Richmond said. A federal appeals court in New Orleans temporarily halted the mandate’s nationwide rollout on Friday and gave the Biden administration until today to respond. Read more from Tony Czuczka.
  • A White House aide who initially tested positive for coronavirus infection after accompanying Biden to international summits in Europe has subsequently tested negative, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, Jennifer Jacobs reports.
  • Biden criticized Nicaragua’s vote yesterday as a “pantomime election that was neither free nor fair” and said the U.S. will use all available diplomatic and economic tools to pressure President Daniel Ortega, Michael McDonald reports.
  • Several countries including Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. are urging Chinese customs officials to pause the rollout of regulations on food imports, arguing the measures risk further disrupting global supply chains. Read more.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

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