What to Know in Washington: Democrats See Path Forward for Plans

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President Joe Biden expressed optimism yesterday he could reach a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin on Democrats’ roughly $2 trillion economic plan. Manchin later joined Senate Democrats to discuss the legislation, which Senate leaders are eyeing for a vote in January despite still lacking support from the West Virginia Democrat.

Here’s what Bloomberg Government is tracking for Wednesday.

Biden’s Schedule:

  • Biden will host a meeting at 10:30 a.m. this morning at the White House with members of his Cabinet and the private sector to discuss global supply chain bottlenecks and the pandemic. Laura Curtis reports on the list of participants.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a briefing at 12:30 p.m. and the White House’s Covid-19 response team will hold a briefing at 3 p.m.

Biden Optimistic as Schumer Sets Vote

President Joe Biden said there’s still a chance he can strike a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to get his Build Back Better economic plan through Congress, despite the key moderate’s rejection of the measure. “I still think there’s a possibility of getting Build Back Better done,” Biden told reporters at the White House yesterday. “Senator Manchin and I are going to get something done,” Biden said.

The president addressed the future of his signature, nearly $2 trillion economic plan for the first time since Manchin surprised the White House on Sunday by announcing he wouldn’t support it. Biden pointed out that Goldman Sachs lowered estimates for the growth of the U.S. economy next year after Manchin’s announcement, and the president again described the legislation as a tool to combat rising inflation.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) convened a virtual meeting of Senate Democrats last night to discuss Build Back Better, voting rights legislation and possible changes to Senate rules to speed the legislative process or weaken the filibuster. Manchin took part in the meeting, according to a person familiar with the matter. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has not signed on to the Biden plan, took part in the call as well, another person said.

Schumer, during the call, said he wants a vote in January on a revised version of the Biden economic plan, the person said. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Nancy Cook.

Photographer: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg
Biden at the White House on Tuesday.

Senate Democrats from Appalachian states are working to extend an excise tax rate backed by Manchin that expires Dec. 31 to help coal miners with black lung disease. The excise tax rate extension, which was slated to accompany Democrats’ social spending plan, likely will have to wait until until Congress returns from the holiday recess in January.

Coal miners and their dependents who receive the disability payments won’t lose the benefit after the rate expires on Dec. 31. But the amount of tax collected from coal companies into the federal fund will decrease by more than half until Congress renews it at its current level, advocates say. The tax is the primary source of funding for the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. Read more from Kellie Lunney.

Biden Team Plans 4 Million Doses of Covid Treatments

The Biden administration expects to take delivery of 4 million courses of Covid-19 treatments by the end of January, according to officials familiar with the matter, sharply ramping up therapies for the disease as the omicron variant spreads.

The treatments include a monoclonal antibody product, pre-exposure preventive drugs for immunocompromised people, and new antiviral pills awaiting Food and Drug Administration authorization, the officials said. That authorization is expected as soon as today.

The treatments will give doctors a larger arsenal to fight severe coronavirus as the U.S. endures another surge in cases driven by omicron. Infections are rising nationally, and Biden warned yesterday that while vaccinated Americans might be infected in “large numbers,” they will likely experience only mild disease while the unvaccinated pay the heaviest price. Yet the president gave little hint of the coming stockpile of therapies, instead pleading with Americans to get vaccinated in order to all but eliminate the risk severe Covid-19 in the first place. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

The pandemic helped push U.S. life expectancy down to 77 years in 2020, a drop of 1.8 years from 2019, with bigger declines for men than women and for Black and Hispanic Americans than their White peers, according to final data newly released by the National Center for Health Statistics. Covid-19, newly added to the list, became the third-biggest cause of death, accounting for more than 10% of the 3.4 million resident deaths registered in the year, the agency said.

There were sharp increases in other causes of death too, reflecting broader strains caused by the pandemic and difficulties accessing medical treatment. From 2019 to 2020, age-adjusted death rates increased 4.1% for heart disease, 16.8% for unintentional injuries, 4.9% for strokes, 8.7% for Alzheimer disease, 14.8% for diabetes, and 5.7% for influenza and pneumonia. Read more from Alex Tanzi.

MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

  • Six months after OSHA issued its initial Covid-19 emergency temporary standard protecting health-care workers from infection, the measure has expired with no word from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on what if anything may replace it. Because the standard was an emergency measure enacted June 21 without the usual public comment and review periods, its duration was limited by law to six months, a deadline that arrived yesterday. Bruce Rolfsen has more.
  • A U.S. Supreme Court justice left in force New Mexico’s requirement that many of its health-care workers be vaccinated against Covid-19, turning away a request by a nurse who said she is opposed to the shot after doing her own research. Justice Neil Gorsuch made no comment yesterday in rejecting the bid by Jennifer Blackford, who contended the mandate violated her right to bodily integrity. Read more from Greg Stohr.
  • One Medical used its access to Covid vaccines during the pandemic to pad profits and increase membership for its concierge medical services, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said. Many struggled to book a vaccine appointment without signing up for the firm’s paid membership service, a memo by panel staff claims, Se Young Lee reports.

Around the Administration

Two Republicans want more details on Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s travel schedule, citing concerns that the secretary is infrequently at the Labor Department’s D.C. headquarters, and that the former Boston mayor has yet to move to the city. Reps. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) and James Comer (Ky.) want a list of all top DOL personnel who are not living in the D.C. region. The department claims Walsh has spent much of his schedule traveling the country to “hear directly” from workers and businesses. Read more from Rebecca Rainey.

The Biden administration repealed a Trump-era measure that sought to block California and other states from imposing their own zero-emissions vehicle mandates and greenhouse gas standards on cars, Jennifer A. Dlouhy reports. In a final rule released yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asserts that the earlier Trump-era regulation was “overly broad,” overstepped the agency’s authority, and failed to account for state interests in regulating tailpipe emissions without analyzing the specifics of those programs.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler has brought on a leading Senate staff member to focus on federal cryptocurrency policy. Corey Frayer, who worked as an aide to Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), has started at the SEC this month, people briefed on the matter said. He’s expected to play a key role as Gensler works to police the burgeoning industry, said the people, who asked not to be named because the hire hasn’t been announced. The appointment is already causing consternation at crypto firms. Robert Schmidt and Ben Bain have more.

What Else We’re Reading

  • Almost a year after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, close allies of former President Donald Trump are stonewalling the congressional panel investigating the insurrection, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Despite compiling evidence and sharing vivid glimpses of how key figures in the Republican political and media worlds responded as the attack unfolded, the House committee has so far been thwarted in its efforts to get firsthand accounts from Trump’s inner circle about what the president knew and did that day. That insider testimony may never arrive. A succession of Trump partisans has been trying to stall the investigation with a legal battle that’s unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Bloomberg’s Joshua Green and Erik Larson take a look at the state of the probe.
  • Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is seriously considering retiring after next year, the New York Times reports. Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican and a potential future successor to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is only 60, but a combination of family concerns and Trump’s enduring grip on the party have prompted the senator to tell associates and reporters in his home state that 2022 could be his last year in Congress. His departure would be a blow to his state and could upend Senate Republicans’ line of succession. Read more from NYT’s Jonathan Martin.
  • Robert Menendez Jr. has won backing from key Democrats in a northern New Jersey congressional district, the New York Times reports. Menendez, the 36 year-old son of New Jersey’s senior U.S. senator, has told political leaders that he will run for Congress to replace Rep. Albio Sires (D), who announced on Monday that he will not seek re-election. Read more from NYT’s Tracey Tully.

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; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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