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POLITICO Playbook: T-minus 24 hours: The view from the W.H.


Tuesday was the day it became clear either:

A) President JOE BIDEN’s legislative agenda is about to implode

or

B) Biden made serious progress toward a deal to salvage his agenda.

The public evidence points to option A. By the end of the day, there was no indication Democrats were near a deal that would allow BIF to pass the House on Thursday. But the real action was shrouded in secrecy: the talks between Biden and the two senators who control the fate of his presidency, JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.). So you can’t rule out option B.

First, the case for A:

“There was no commitments made at all,” Manchin said after returning from the White House, sounding like he was barely negotiating. And the word from Sinema-world was that she continued to be elusive. Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett report:

“During a private meeting with the president, Sinema made clear she’s still not on board with the party’s $3.5 trillion social spending plan and is hesitant to engage on some specifics until the bipartisan infrastructure package passes the House, according to a person who spoke with her.

“‘This is the third time she said she has told the president, “I’m not there,”’ the person said, quoting Sinema as telling the president: ‘I’ve been very clear with you from the start.’”

So BIF and reconciliation are sputtering toward a crash, according to the conventional wisdom everywhere in Washington this morning. Everywhere, that is, except the White House.

That’s where we get to answer B:

A senior White House official insists that the CW is wrong, that Tuesday’s negotiations were actually a breakthrough, and that the end is near. After weeks of little clarity, the White House and Manchema are discussing which programs in the Build Back Better package the senators support.

It’s often the case that major legislative deals look like they’re on the verge of total collapse before they come together.

Perhaps take it with a big grain of salt, but the White House insisted that while Tuesday looked like a giant setback, a deal is within reach.

“Getting there,” said the senior White House official Tuesday night, who added that the day saw “lots of progress.” The person added: “Not done yet. May not get done. But much closer to done than we were this AM.”

Democrats close to the White House tell us that Biden has been bullish on landing Manchin but has found Sinema more frustrating and difficult to nail down on precisely what it would take to win her support.

The situation has Democrats across the ideological spectrum on edge — or worse. The lack of any visible progress enraged House progressives, who started the day by reaffirming that they would vote down the infrastructure bill Thursday without an ironclad agreement on the bigger reconciliation bill, insisting on keeping the bills linked despite Speaker NANCY PELOSI’s attempt on Monday night to set BIF free.

In an act of solidarity with his liberal House colleagues — and act of rebellion against the speaker — Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) tweeted his support for scuttling BIF, which he voted for, if there’s no deal.

And we were struck by the tone of Rep. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-Wash.), the leader of House progressives, because rather than threatening Manchin and Sinema she was all but begging them to engage.

“If they don’t tell us what they want to do, which was the president’s message, and if they don’t actually negotiate on the entire bill,” she said, “then we’re not going to get too close.”

Today will be critical. “We’ll know in 24 hours,” said the senior White House official.

Related reading:

“Biden bets it all on unlocking the Manchinema puzzle,” by Laura Barrón-López and Natasha Korecki: “‘It’s really hard for the White House to issue anything when you have members of the caucus who won’t say what it wants,’ one of the people familiar with the White House thinking said. ‘You can’t start coming up with a bill when you don’t know what the number is.’”

“Republicans at Odds Over Infrastructure Bill as Vote Approaches,” by NYT’s Jonathan Weisman: “Business groups and some Senate Republicans — working at cross-purposes with Republican leaders in the House — have mounted an all-out drive to secure G.O.P. votes for a bipartisan infrastructure bill ahead of a final vote on Thursday. … ‘It’s a good bill; it’s right there for the country, so I’m encouraging Republicans to support it,’ said Senator ROB PORTMAN, Republican of Ohio and one of the bill’s negotiators, who said he was working the phones hard.” Also mounting a pro-BIF lobbying effort: Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Sen. MITT ROMNEY.

Good Wednesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

JOIN US — Biden’s domestic agenda is on the line this week, with a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill slated for a House vote Thursday. But moderate and progressive Democrats are still at odds over a larger, multitrillion-dollar spending package — with the left even threatening to tank Thursday’s vote if the latter isn’t finalized by then. Join Rachael today at 11:45 a.m. for a pop-up virtual event featuring Rep. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-N.J.), the leader of the centrists urging his colleagues to take the win on BIF on Thursday, and continue working on the second package in the coming days. Sign up here

BIDEN’S WEDNESDAY: The president canceled his planned trip to Chicago today.

— 9:30 a.m.: Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief.

— Noon: Biden will attend former Indiana first lady SUSAN BAYH’s funeral at the National Cathedral.

VP KAMALA HARRIS’ WEDNESDAY: The VP will meet with Latina small business leaders at 2 p.m. in her ceremonial office to tout the importance of both big bills moving through Congress. Rep. NANETTE BARRAGÁN (D-Calif.) will join.

Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 2 p.m.

THE HOUSE will meet at 10 a.m. and at noon will take up a batch of homeland security-related bills. Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. MARK MILLEY and Gen. KENNETH MCKENZIE JR., commander of the U.S. Central Command, will testify before the Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. The Judiciary Committee will mark up several bills, including one to end the federal ban on marijuana, at 10 a.m.

THE SENATE is in.

CONGRESS

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Third Way is sending letters today to 25 Republican members of the Problem Solvers Caucus who haven’t committed to voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, telling them to put up or shut up. “[N]aked partisanship – choosing gridlock over progress for purely tactical reasons – is exactly what you pledged to fight in becoming a ‘Problem Solver,’” it says. “Your time to take up that fight has arrived.” The full letter

COUNTDOWN TO SHUTDOWN — Amid staunch GOP resistance to raising the debt ceiling, Dems have put a pause on the issue to attend to an even more immediate concern: preventing a government shutdown this week.

Here’s where things stand:

— Government funding lapses at the end of the day on Thursday, setting up the possibility of a Friday shutdown.

— The Senate is expected to vote as soon as today on a “revamped spending bill” that would forestall a shutdown and fund the government through Dec. 3, report Caitlin Emma and Marianne LeVine.

— The House could also take up the stopgap spending bill Wednesday, once it clears the Senate.

COUNTDOWN TO DEFAULT — Democrats have vanishingly few legislative avenues available to them to raise the debt ceiling without any Republican support in the Senate. But, as Burgess Everett and Heather Caygle report, that hasn’t stopped Democratic leaders from “ruling out what may be the only way to avoid a debt default” — namely, reconciliation — “leaving lawmakers and financial markets uncertain of how a dramatic clash with Republicans over raising the debt ceiling will play out.”

— Following a conversation on Monday night between Biden, Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and Pelosi, it appeared that the use of reconciliation was the agreed-upon course of action.

— That changed Tuesday afternoon, when Schumer concluded that “going through reconciliation is risky to the country and is a non-starter.” (Pelosi, for her part, said Schumer’s viewpoint is “shared by many members,” but was noncommittal about whether or not she agreed with him: “We’ll see what our options are,” she said.)

— Another possibility eyed by Dems on the Hill: changing Senate rules to allow bills that raise or suspend the debt ceiling avoid the filibuster. On Tuesday, Biden announced his opposition to such a move, Christopher Cadelago reports.

— The government is set to default by Oct. 18 unless the debt ceiling is raised, Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN told Congress on Tuesday.

An interesting stepback: NYT’s Clay Risen tracks the debt ceiling’s evolution into a partisan cudgel — which took a sharp turn this year, as there has been “no attempt [by Republicans] to win concessions from the Democrats. They simply refuse to engage with the issue.”

THE WHITE HOUSE

— In his first public comments since his nomination to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives collapsed, DAVID CHIPMAN described a virtually non-existent White House strategy to get him confirmed by the Senate. Speaking with NYT’s Glenn Thrush, Chipman “said he found it ‘unusual’ that he spoke to no one at the White House from the moment he was nominated,” and lamented the lack of a “Plan B” by the administration when his nomination faltered.

ALL POLITICS

ABOUT LAST NIGHT — In the final debate in the Virginia gubernatorial race, TERRY MCAULIFFE and GLENN YOUNGKIN took each other on across a variety of issues, but it was “generally less combative” than their previous debate, the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Mel Leonor recaps.

JUST SAY NOEM — South Dakota A.G. JASON RAVNSBORG announced Tuesday that he will review a recent meeting Gov. KRISTI NOEM and her daughter (an aspiring real estate agent) held with the state employee in charge of her daughter’s certified real estate appraiser application, that person’s direct supervisor and the state labor secretary. More from AP’s Stephen Groves

POLICY CORNER

THE EVICTION CRISIS THAT WASN’T — A month after the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s eviction moratorium, the expectations of disaster … haven’t come to pass. Eviction filings are flat or down in major metro areas, WaPo’s Rachel Siegel and Jonathan O’Connell report. There’s no consensus among experts on why this has happened, and a wave could still arrive, but it’s a head-scratcher thus far.

THE PANDEMIC

— Although Pfizer provided data to the FDA about the effectiveness of its Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11, the agency’s lengthy approval process could mean shots won’t be available for that age group until close to Thanksgiving, AP’s Jonathan Lemire reports.

— A CDC study published Tuesday found that the side effects from booster doses could be similar to those from the second shot of the vaccine — with commonly reported symptoms including arm pain, fatigue and headaches, writes NBC’s Erika Edwards.

— Los Angeles is considering a “sweeping law requiring adult customers to show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination to enter a wide array of public places, including indoor restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, shopping centers, museums, movie theaters and hair and nail salons,” report the L.A. Times’ Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II.

JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH

NOTHING TO SEE HERE — More than 30 minutes after protesters first stormed the Capitol barricades on Jan. 6, DHS sent an update to Pentagon officials misinforming them that “there are no major incidents of illegal activity at this time,” Betsy Woodruff Swan and Lara Seligman report. “The glaring omission, detailed in an email obtained through a public records request, provides new information about inaccurate communications the Defense Department received as the day’s horrors unfolded.”

AP’s Alanna Durkin Richer and Lindsay Whitehurst write that moving Jan. 6 cases to trial “swiftly” is going to be a challenge because of the “mountain of evidence” to sift through and courts clogged with cases stemming from the attack.

TRUMP CARDS

— DONALD TRUMP endorsed KARI LAKE, a former local news reporter, to succeed term-limited Arizona Gov. DOUG DUCEY, Arizona Republic’s Stacey Barchenger reports. Lake is running against a handful of other Republicans, but she’s the only candidate so far to have said (wrongly) she believes Trump won Arizona in the 2020 election.

Danny Davis said he thinks R. Kelly will get a second chance after he serves his time.

Kamala Harris’ office is not pleased with “The View” after last week’s Covid fiasco, feeling the show’s staff “has not been forthcoming with the vice president’s office” about what happened, per CNN.

Jonathan Swan won an Emmy.

REAL ESTATE SECTION — The late former VP Walter Mondale’s downtown Minneapolis condo found a buyer after two days on the market, per Realtor.com’s Claudine Zap. It went on the market for $1.75 million.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Karen Olick is rejoining SKDK next month. She most recently was chief of staff at DHS, from which she resigned two weeks ago.

— Andrew Zucker is now comms adviser at GMMB. He most recently was director of federal and political comms at Everytown for Gun Safety.

OUT AND ABOUT — Procter & Gamble held an event Tuesday night at Bullfeathers packing relief kits for victims of natural disasters in Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and elsewhere. SPOTTED: Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Jerry Carl (R-Ala.), Ron Estes (R-Kan.), John Curtis (R-Utah), Carol Miller (R-W.Va.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.).

The Beer Institute held a reception for its Beer Champion Awards at Art and Soul on Tuesday night, with more than 100 congressional staffers and brewers from across the country. SPOTTED: Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas), Richie Neal (D-Mass.), Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.), Brendan Whitworth, Jim McGreevy, Jim Ryan, Will Kinzel, David Morgenstern, Dan Keniry, Cesar Vargas and racing Presidents Teddy and George from the Nats.

MEDIA MOVE — Steve Chaggaris has started as Washington bureau chief for Sinclair Broadcast Group. He previously worked for Al Jazeera and CBS News.

TRANSITIONS — Brooke Lillard is starting as deputy comms director for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. She previously was comms director for the House Blue Dog Coalition. … Jill Barclay is joining Targeted Victory as a managing director. She most recently was at Red Curve Solutions and is an RNC alum. …

… Irica Solomon is now VP and head of government affairs and advocacy at MissionSquare Retirement. She previously was VP of federal government relations at MetLife. … Douglas “Duffy” MacKay is joining the Consumer Healthcare Products Association as SVP for dietary supplements. He most recently was SVP for scientific and regulatory affairs at CV Sciences.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: NASA Administrator Bill NelsonRobbie KaplanLarry Burton of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s (R-Alaska) office … David NatherAnton VuljajLiz Sidoti of Abernathy MacGregor … CBS’ Tory CoughlanStephen Parker … POLITICO’s Ryan Hutchins and Marissa Martinez … Business Insider’s Oma SeddiqRiley Swinehart … Finn Partners’ Scott Widmeyer and Jessica Ross … Slate’s Will Saletan … NBC’s Emma BarnettRyann DuRant of Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) office … Edelman’s Lisa Osborne RossShawn Pasternak of S-3 Group … Brian Shankman Matthew CorneliusSalena Zito of the Washington Examiner and N.Y. Post … Kevin Pérez-Allen of BerlinRosen (39) … State Department’s Elvir Klempic … Sony’s Cameron NormandPaul Bock … NDRC’s Kelly Ward BurtonDave HamrickAviva Rosenthal of the Smithsonian Institution … Sandra Sobieraj Westfall … Precision Strategies’ Laura GaffeyAshley Bryant … former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) … Mike McGuire … former Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Texas) … Cassie MorenoCarlos Watson of Ozy … Melissa DeRosa … OECD’s Doug Frantz Douglas Baker

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