What to Know in Washington: Democrats See Path for Biden Agenda

President Joe Biden’s economic agenda appears on track for passage by Congress even as Democrats are still skirmishing over lingering differences on a $1.75 trillion social-spending plan.

House Democratic leaders are pushing hard to get that package finalized, with votes on both that bill and a smaller infrastructure plan this week—the latest in a string of self-imposed deadlines. The Senate, which already approved the public-works bill, is likely to vote on the larger package later in the month.

To meet that tight timeline, Democrats worked over the weekend to reach an agreement on whether to add drug price cuts, a change to federal deductions for state and local taxes, paid family leave and immigration language, among other items.

A House Democratic leadership aide said yesterday that progress had been made on several of the outstanding issues, including drug pricing, but that a Rules Committee meeting set for today that would have prepared the measure for a floor vote tomorrow was postponed.

Biden, at a news conference closing out the Group of 20 summit yesterday in Rome, expressed confidence that both the social-spending package—which will be financed with tax hikes—and the infrastructure legislation were well on the way to passage. “I believe we’ll see, by the end of next week at home, that is passed,” he said. Read more from Erik Wasson, Laura Litvan and Laura Davison.

Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg
Biden in Rome yesterday for the Group of 20 summit, where he expressed confidence that his agenda will pass both chambers of Congress.

White House Lists State-by-State Aid in Bid to Pass Biden Plan: The White House will seek to win support for Biden’s economic agenda by listing the benefits that would flow to each state under the Democrats’ spending framework, including free preschool and subsidized child care. The plan would allow West Virginia to expand access for preschool to 27,753 three- and four-year-olds, along with 139,000 in Arizona, the White House said. An estimated 457,864 children in Arizona would become eligible for subsidized child care, along with an estimated 94,170 youngsters in West Virginia, according to the estimate. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

U.S. Misses Billions in Gains as Free Community College Gets Ax: Free community college was among the first big proposals cut as Democrats battled to get Biden’s agenda down to size—yet an analysis says dropping the $109 billion initiative carries a lasting economic cost. Read more from Jarrell Dillard.

Today’s Agenda:

  • The House is scheduled to vote on eight bills under expedited floor procedure.
  • Senators will vote on two of Biden’s judicial nominees to fill vacancies on two federal appeals courts.
  • Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings and markups.

Biden at COP26

Biden Brings ‘Trust Us’ Pitch to Glasgow: Biden joins other world leaders in Scotland today for a United Nations summit on climate change without the signed-and-sealed budget agreement he was counting on from Congress to quiet skeptics of U.S. commitment. That leaves him facing the tall task of parlaying a handshake commitment from American lawmakers to spend $555 billion fighting global warming into tangible action by fellow heads of state in Glasgow.

To be sure, the framework agreement Biden hammered out with congressional Democrats would be historic in its cost and sweep. It would, among other things, expand incentives for the use of solar power and electric vehicles while putting hundreds of thousands of Americans to work in a Civilian Climate Corps to cap abandoned oil wells and make homes more energy efficient. Biden boasted Thursday that if enacted, the plan—which would be the largest investment to combat the climate crisis in U.S. history—would reduce U.S. emissions well over a gigaton by 2030. Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Justin Sink have more.

Biden Wants Billions for Climate Finance: Biden wants $3 billion a year of U.S. climate finance to go toward helping vulnerable nations adapt to rising seas, droughts and other consequences of global warming. Biden’s pledge is meant to be another demonstration of renewed U.S. commitment to countering climate change. It is one of several actions Biden is touting as he aims to restore U.S. credibility on climate, which was damaged by former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Dlouhy has more.

Biden Chides Russia, China on Climate: Biden said he is disappointed that Russia and China declined to make stronger commitments to combat climate change or to send their leaders to key global meetings to address the crisis. Biden, asked about the failure of the G-20 nations to issue a stronger commitment on global warming, expressed regret at what the two nations have pledged. “The disappointment relates to the fact that Russia, not only Russia but China, basically didn’t show up in terms of any commitments to deal with climate change,” Biden told reporters at the conclusion of the G-20 meeting in Rome. Read more from Justin Sink and Jennifer Epstein.

  • Biden said he was reluctant to describe what he planned to do if oil-producing nations don’t boost output amid a global energy crunch as he criticized Russia and Saudi Arabia for an inadequate response. Read more from Jennifer Epstein and Justin Sink.

G-20 Heads Endorse Global Tax Accord, Capping Years of Talks: Leaders of the world’s biggest economies formally backed an ambitious plan to overhaul the way countries tax multinational companies in a bid to stem competition for the lowest rates. All of the leaders at a Group of 20 summit in Rome endorsed the new rules on Saturday, “including a global minimum tax that will end the damaging race to the bottom on corporate taxation,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. Read more from Christopher Condon.

Biden Announces New Steps on Supply-Chain Disruptions: Biden took several steps to address supply-chain problems as he met leaders from major global economies, including the European Union, to address recent disruptions. He issued an executive order during the Group of 20 summit yesterday aimed at speeding up the response to shortfalls of supplies, equipment and raw materials housed in the U.S.’s National Defense Stockpile. Read more from Tony Capaccio and Justin Sink.

U.S., EU Aim to Fix Steel, Aluminum Markets: The U.S. and the European Union clinched a tariff-busting trade accord over the weekend that they’ll try to leverage into a broader global arrangement that would penalize countries that don’t meet low-carbon targets for steel and aluminum exports. Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the agreement yesterday. “The United States and the European Union have reached a major breakthrough,” Biden said, adding that they’re “ushering in a new era of transatlantic cooperation.” Read more from Alberto Nardelli and Eric Martin.

Biden Admits Handling of Sub Deal Was ‘Clumsy’: Biden said that his administration had been “clumsy” in handling a new defense pact with Australia while meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron last Friday, as the U.S. continues to work to repair a key alliance. Vice President Kamala Harris plans to travel to Paris in November for a pair of conferences and to meet with Macron. Read more from Jennifer Epstein and Justin Sink.

Biden, Erdogan Discuss How to Move Past Fighter Jet Tensions: Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to defuse tensions over Turkey’s failed bid to buy fighter jets from the U.S. at a meeting on Sunday in Rome, focusing instead on their broader defense interests as NATO allies. The two spoke for almost an hour on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit. Erdogan’s office said in a statement afterward that they agreed on a joint mechanism to deepen ties, though there were no details. Read more from Justin Sink and Selcan Hacaoglu.

Also Around the Administration

Psaki Diagnosed With Covid-19: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, sidelining Biden’s top spokesperson. Psaki, who has been vaccinated, revealed her diagnosis while Biden was in Europe to attend a Group of 20 talks and a climate summit — a trip she skipped after citing a family emergency last week. Psaki, 42, said she last saw the president on Tuesday, sitting outside more than six feet apart and wearing masks. Biden tested negative for Covid most recently on Saturday, a White House official said. Read more from Justin Sink and Jennifer Epstein.

Covid-19 Origins Unclear Without China’s Help: Covid-19 was probably not a biological weapon and most U.S. analysts believe it wasn’t genetically engineered at all, but a final conclusion on the virus’s origins is impossible without cooperation from China, Josh Wingrove reports. “Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information, and blame other countries, including the United States,” says a declassified U.S. report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Iran-Europe Talks to Resume in Late November, Blinken Says: Iran has signaled it will restart nuclear negotiations with Europe “toward the end of November,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. “We’ll see if they actually do,” Blinken said in an interview with CBS News. “That’s going to be important.” Read more from Justin Sink.

  • Biden and the leaders of Germany, France, and the U.K. said they still see a chance to revive a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, but that Tehran must change course before any relief on sanctions. Read more from Justin Sink and Ania Nussbaum.

States Sue to Halt Biden’s Vaccine Requirement: More than a dozen states sued Biden over his vaccine mandate for federal contractors, arguing the initiative forces Americans to choose between their jobs and their constitutional rights. The U.S. constitution doesn’t give the federal government the right to dictate “any and every facet of its citizens’ lives,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in one of the complaints, filed Friday night in federal court in Galveston, Texas. More than a dozen other Republican-led states joined in two other lawsuits filed in federal courts on Friday in Missouri and Georgia. Read more from Erik Larson.

Texas Abortion Law Focus of Supreme Court Today: The Texas abortion clash goes before the U.S. Supreme Court today, with providers and the Biden administration trying to cut through a procedural haze to block a law that has largely shut down the practice in the country’s second-largest state. The fast-tracked showdown promises to combine dizzying complexities with straightforward ends. Greg Stohr has more.

  • Also from the high court, a divided bench refused to order Maine to allow religious exemptions to its new requirement that health-care workers be inoculated against Covid-19. Over dissents by three conservative justices, the high court rejected a group of workers and one employer who said their religious views put them at risk of losing their jobs and health-care practice. Read more from Greg Stohr.

Politics & Influence

Harris Does Another Star Turn in Tossup Virginia Governor’s Race: Vice President Kamala Harris returned to Virginia on Friday night to campaign alongside Terry McAuliffe as Democrats dispatch the party’s biggest names to help in the deadlocked gubernatorial race. “You all know that every four years when this election happens for governor of Virginia, it’s a tight election, it’s a close election and it is a bellwether for what happens in the rest of the country,” Harris said at a waterfront venue rally in Norfolk. That appearance, with Election Day on Tuesday, marked the second time the vice president has brought her star power to the campaign trail for McAuliffe in as many weeks. Read more from Emma Kinery.

  • The race for Virginia governor also offers a test of whether paid leave policy resonates as a state-level campaign issue in the coronavirus era, with McAuliffe embracing the idea at the same time his party in Congress failed to enact a nationwide policy. McAuliffe has made paid leave a frequent talking point and prominent part of his economic plan alongside a $15 minimum wage proposal, in contrast with Republican Glenn Youngkin, who opposes government mandates on employers. Chris Marr has more.

Trump Making ‘Last Ditch’ Effort to Skip Deposition, Zervos Says: Former President Donald Trump is making a “last ditch” effort to avoid being deposed in a defamation lawsuit filed by a former “Apprentice” contestant who claims he sexually assaulted her, a judge was told. Trump, facing a Dec. 23 deadline to sit for a deposition in the suit by Summer Zervos, is seeking court permission to amend his response to the 2017 complaint and add counterclaims. The request is Trump’s latest delay tactic, Zervos said in a filing Friday in New York state court in Manhattan. Read more from Erik Larson.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com