What to Know in Washington: Economic Plan at Risk of Delays

President Joe Biden’s economic agenda risks getting delayed by weeks or months in Congress with tax, health care and other issues still unresolved and continued squabbling between the Democratic Party’s progressive and moderate wings.

House committees yesterday wrapped up work on significant portions of the package, including $2.1 trillion in tax increases to help pay for the biggest expansion of social welfare programs in decades. That technically meets the Democrats’ self-imposed deadline, but the action belies the obstacles still ahead that threaten to diminish Biden’s ambitious proposals and put off votes on them in the House and Senate.

“Some folks have issues on climate change, some people have issues on tax and some people have issues on health care,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), adding that he thinks Democrats ultimately will agree on a package.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said that the Senate would likely take whatever passes the House, change it and send it back to the House. He said he doesn’t see that happening this month. “It’s going to take some time,” Cardin said, adding that “as you put out one area, another one crops up.”

The biggest issue remains the size of the $3.5 trillion package that entails much of Biden’s first-year agenda. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), whose votes are pivotal to passage, are balking at the cost. Manchin also has called for a “strategic pause” in action amid soaring debt and rising inflation. But progressive Democrats in the House, whose votes also are necessary for passage, view the $3.5 trillion as the minimum necessary for their priorities.

Biden waded in yesterday, meeting separately with Sinema and Manchin at the White House. Neither the senators nor the White House provided much detail about the talks. Sinema’s office released a statement calling the discussion “productive.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there would be “ongoing discussions.” Read more from Laura Litvan, Erik Wasson and Billy House.

Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Happening on the Hill

Capitol Police Ask for Guard Help Over Saturday Rally: The U.S. Capitol Police say they have asked the Defense Department for the ability to receive support from the National Guard should they need it this weekend. A demonstration this Saturday in support of pro-Trump demonstrators arrested in the Jan. 6 insurrection has prompted security officials to warn members of Congress and their staffs to stay away from the U.S. Capitol on that day, Megan Howard reports.

Warren Calls on Fed Banks to Bar Leaders From Stock Trading: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is asking regional Federal Reserve Banks to put in place rules that would prevent their leaders from trading individual stocks, Dow Jones says, citing letters addressed by Warren to the leaders of the 12 regional Fed banks, Deana Kjuka reports. Warren asked for a response by Oct. 15 on how the banks would apply the requested changes.

Politics & Influence

‘User Friendly’ Census Data to Be Released: The U.S. Census Bureau is releasing detailed population data from its 2020 national headcount in user-friendly formats including on its data.census.gov website. The bureau previously released the data Aug. 12 in an older “legacy” format. State legislatures and redistricting commissions will use the block-level population numbers to redraw lines around congressional districts before the 2022 election. Districts in a state must be about equal in population, Greg Giroux reports.

Public Funding Gains Steam to Counter Big Donors’ Sway: Public financing of elections has been around for decades in the U.S. Today there are at least 27 programs in states, cities, and counties (most but not all of them Democratic), with models ranging from direct candidate grants to small-dollar matching. Advocates say public financing can stem corruption, empower a public that too often feels marginalized by special interests, and diversify public bodies from school boards to Congress.

The idea has been gaining traction: New York City and San Francisco both moved to bolster their existing programs, and new programs in Baltimore and Portland, Ore., as well as the one in Washington, have gotten off the ground. But there are still questions about how much public financing can mobilize new donors at the local level. And it faces a test in Congress this fall as part of a voting rights package. Read more from Rachel Cohen.

What Else to Know

Today’s Agenda: Biden will speak from the White House at 1:45 p.m. about the economy.

White House to Convene Companies on Chips: The Biden administration plans to convene another meeting with companies in the semiconductor supply chain next week as the worldwide spread of the Covid-19 delta variant increasingly causes disruptions and production delays. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who has been Biden’s point person on the effort, and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese will be leading the Sept. 23 discussion at the White House, according to a senior administration official. The attendee list hasn’t been finalized but companies invited will include chipmakers as well as companies that use them to manufacture products including autos, consumer electronics and medical devices. Read more from Jenny Leonard.

CDC Advisers to Meet Next Week on Booster Shots: Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will hold a two-day meeting next week to discuss booster shots for Covid-19 vaccines. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices posted notice of the meeting, which will be held Sept. 22-23, on its website yesterday. The panel of outside experts advises the CDC on how best to administer new vaccines. The administration had first planned to begin distributing boosters on Sept. 20. Fiona Rutherford has more.

U.S. Fight Over Abortion Ban Set for Oct. 1 Hearing: A federal judge in Texas set an Oct. 1 hearing on the Biden administration’s request to temporarily block a restrictive anti-abortion law in Texas while the U.S. sues to invalidate the legislation. The U.S. Justice Department on Sept. 14 filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction against the new statute, saying the ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy was already putting women at risk. Read more from Erik Larson.

FTC Warns Health App Makers on HIPAA Compliance: The Federal Trade Commission issued a policy statement clarifying mobile health app makers’ obligations to notify consumers if their data is exposed or shared without their permission. FTC chair Lina Khan said the health privacy policy issued yesterday is meant to fill a “gap” in regulations for health apps, which generally aren’t covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which addresses safeguards of health data. Andrea Vittorio has more.

  • The Federal Trade Commission also plans to investigate abuses of intellectual property rights that have caused anti-competitive conditions in areas such as pharmaceuticals, technology, and gasoline refining. FTC members approved in a 3-2 vote eight new resolutions, including one targeting intellectual property. The resolution allows FTC regulators to “efficiently and expeditiously” investigate potentially abusive conduct in intellectual property over the next decade. Samantha Handler has more.

Tesla Probe Spotlights Vacancy at U.S. Watchdog: The federal regulator charged with keeping U.S. highways safe is now in its fourth year without a full-time chief, and Biden hasn’t nominated anyone for Senate confirmation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been led by Steven Cliff, a former deputy executive officer at the California Air Resources Board, since Biden took office in January.

This at a time when the NHTSA is facing a surge in highway deaths and is under pressure to create regulations to govern the influx of driver-assistance technologies and other automotive features, some of which have been linked to deadly accidents. The agency last month announced it was undertaking a formal investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system after almost a dozen collisions at crash scenes involving first-responder vehicles, stepping up scrutiny of a system safety groups had been complaining about for years. Read more from Keith Laing and Lillianna Byington.

Australia Strikes Surprise U.S.-U.K. Nuclear Sub Deal: Australia is joining a new Indo-Pacific security partnership with the U.S. and U.K. that will allow it to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, sparking a rift with France at a time when the Biden administration is pushing allies to counter Chinese assertiveness. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the trilateral security partnership in a virtual meeting yesterday. Read more from Jenny Leonard and Jason Scott.

  • France’s top diplomat unleashed a stream of invective against Biden after the U.S. and the U.K. announced a new security alliance for the Pacific region which will cost the French defense industry some 56 billion euros. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info today that he felt “stabbed in the back” over the “unacceptable” deal that will hurt French business and shuts the French military out of a key initiative in Western efforts to build a bulwark against China. Read more from Ania Nussbaum.
  • China slammed the move by the U.S. and U.K. to help Australia build nuclear submarines, saying the new partnership will stoke an “arms race” as tensions heat up in Asia-Pacific waters. Read more from Bloomberg News.

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