October 16, 2021

Man Fine

The Fine Art Of Education

POLITICO Playbook PM: Why an infrastructure deal could still come together

BIF ON THE BRINK? — We reported exclusively this morning that a Republican close to the bipartisan infrastructure framework talks warned that the “global offer” Democrats sent to Republicans on Sunday was being met coolly by the GOP.

“Unless Democrats show more flexibility, this deal is unlikely to happen,” the source said.

This morning, a GOP source told our colleagues Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett something similar, calling the offer “discouraging” and adding that “if this is going to be successful, the White House will need to show more flexibility” and “listen to the members of the group.”

Other partisan sniping is leaking out into the public.

— “Blame game beginning,” CNN’s Manu Raju tweeted this morning. “Dem says [Sen. MITT] ROMNEY ‘reneged’ on a deal on water systems and lead pipe contamination. Romney pushes back. Talks more likely to collapse with major sticking points. D leaders will be forced to make decision soon about whether to pull plug.” Manu and his colleague Clare Foran have some more details here

— “This deal only falls apart if Republicans want it to,” a Democratic source close to the talks told us early this afternoon.

Still, we remain bullish that a deal will come together.

— There’s a tendency within the D.C. press corps to see every public disagreement in a long and complicated negotiation as a sign that the talks are on the verge of collapse. (We’ve tried to avoid that in our reporting.)

— It’s only Monday, and most senators haven’t returned to D.C. It’s more likely that what we are seeing is some final posturing before the two sides hammer out a final deal this week.

— We checked in with sources at the White House and among Senate Democrats close to the negotiations and that was their read too, though they did allow that a last-minute collapse can’t be ruled out.

— Asked about infrastructure negotiations this morning, President JOE BIDEN told reporters, “I’m always optimistic.”

SCENE AT THE WHITE HOUSE — Biden and VP KAMALA HARRIS celebrated the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the Rose Garden today as a landmark achievement for the country. They also used the occasion to tout some familiar virtues: bipartisanship (Biden: “This was a Democratic bill signed by a Republican president”), protecting voting rights (Harris: “This is a fight that is a civil rights fight”), equity, better wages and more.

— More than anything, though, it was a reminder of the pandemic’s very long tail. The policy meat of the day was new guidance from across the administration on how sufferers of long Covid could gain help from the government by joining the disabled community. The Hill has more: “Biden admin says ‘long Covid-19’ could qualify as a disability”: “The Administration for Community Living at HHS also released a guide outlining services provided by community-based organizations to help individuals experiencing long-term symptoms …

“Additionally, the Education Department released a resource document including information about the responsibilities of schools and public agencies when it comes to providing services and ‘reasonable modifications’ for children and students for whom long-term Covid-19 symptoms qualify as a disability. Finally, the Labor Department launched a new webpage that includes information and links for workers experiencing long Covid-19.”

Good Monday afternoon.

HAPPENING TODAY — “Biden, Iraqi PM to announce end of U.S. combat mission in Iraq,” AP: “The plan to shift the American military mission, whose stated purpose is to help Iraq defeat the Islamic State group, to a strictly advisory and training role by year’s end — with no U.S. troops in a combat role — will be spelled out in a broader communique to be issued by the two leaders following their White House meeting on Monday afternoon …

“[A] senior administration official said Iraqi security forces are ‘battle tested’ and have proved themselves ‘capable’ of protecting their country. Still, the Biden administration recognizes that IS remains a considerable threat … ‘There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,’ [MUSTAFA] AL-KADHIMI told The Associated Press.”

JAN. 6 COMMITTEE FALLOUT — “Growing group of GOP members wants McCarthy to punish Kinzinger and Cheney for joining January 6 committee,” by CNN’s Ryan Nobles and Melanie Zanona: “Initially, most rank-and-file Republicans were content to let [Rep. LIZ] CHENEY serve without much of a fight, but [Rep. ADAM] KINZINGER’S addition has changed the conversation and has put a new level of pressure on [House Minority Leader KEVIN] MCCARTHY. While the loudest cries have come from members of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, sources say that the sentiment has started to spread beyond the hard-line crew. …

“Some members specifically want McCarthy and [Conference Chair ELISE] STEFANIK to push for a vote of GOP members to strip Cheney and Kinzinger, who both voted to impeach former President DONALD TRUMP earlier this year, from their other committee assignments. … But kicking them off their committees would be easier said than done. … [Speaker NANCY] PELOSI ultimately controls committee membership. She could theoretically just re-appoint them to their current posts.”

The Daily Mail’s @Emilylgoodin: “House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy told me ‘we’ll see’ when asked if Cheney and Kinzinger will be punished for serving on Jan 6 committee. I asked him the last time he talked to either of them: ‘Couldn’t tell you.’ He called them ‘Pelosi Republicans.’”

@nicholaswu12: “CHENEY tells us the comment is ‘pretty childish.’ ‘We’ve got very serious business here. We have important work to do.’”

NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET — “U.S. will not lift travel restrictions, citing delta variant -official,” by Reuters’ David Shepardson: “The decision, which comes after a senior level White House meeting late Friday, means the long-running travel restrictions that have barred much of the world’s population from the United States since 2020 will not be lifted in the short term. …

“The announcement almost certainly dooms any bid by U.S. airlines and the U.S. tourism industry to salvage summer travel by Europeans and others covered by the restrictions. Airlines have heavily lobbied the White House for months to lift the restrictions.”

“Biden officials closely monitor delta variant in U.K. as their anxieties mount over impact to U.S. economy,” by WaPo’s Jeff Stein: “If Britain’s reopening continues without a new wave of hospitalizations and lockdowns, America’s recovery could prove more likely to remain on course, officials believe. But if the U.K. cannot safely reopen its economy because the delta variant spreads too rapidly, the U.S. — which has vaccinated a smaller percentage of its population — may face similar head winds.”

“Doctors, nurses and medical groups call for mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for health workers,” by WaPo’s Dan Diamond: “‘We call for all health care and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against covid-19,’ the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and 55 other groups wrote … The statement — issued by many groups urging a mandate for the first time — represents an increasingly tough stance by the medical and public health establishment amid the sluggish pace of national vaccinations.”

WHAT WILL MAKE THE W.H. BREATHE EASIER — “A Key Gauge of Future Inflation Is Easing,” by WSJ’s Gwynn Guilford: “That signal is so-called inflation expectations: what businesses, consumers, workers and investors expect inflation to be over the next one to 10 years. Because such expectations can be self-fulfilling, economists consider them key to where inflation is going. … After rising sharply from October through May, they have now begun to ease.”

GOOD LUCK WITH CLIMATE COOPERATION! — “Biden’s China Strategy Meets Resistance at the Negotiating Table,” by NYT’s Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers: “On Monday, China seemed to slam the door on the idea that the two countries could collaborate one day and clash the next. Talks with Deputy Secretary of State WENDY R. SHERMAN — the highest-ranking administration official to visit China so far — began with a barrage of public criticism from the Chinese side and ended with little sign that the two combative powers were closer to narrowing their disagreements.”

THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY — “Why Top Democrats Are Listening to Eric Adams Right Now,” by NYT’s Katie Glueck: “[NYC mayoral frontrunner ERIC] ADAMS, for his part, is seizing the mayoral bully pulpit, moving to cement a national reputation as a Democrat who speaks with uncommon authority about both public safety and police reform. … In some ways, it is a difficult playbook to replicate. Mr. Adams, who will be New York’s second Black mayor if he wins in November, as expected, grew up in poverty and says he was beaten by police officers before joining the force himself. …

“But some party officials and lawmakers also say that Mr. Adams offers a template for how to discuss matters of crime and justice, urgent issues for Democratic candidates across the country as the early contours of the 2022 midterm campaigns take shape. … Whether party leaders are ultimately comfortable with Mr. Adams as a national standard-bearer will hinge on how he governs.”

2021 WATCH — “Virginia Campaign Will Test Whether Critical Race Theory Moves Voters,” by WSJ’s Joshua Jamerson and Aaron Zitner in Broadlands, Va.: “Some voters interviewed in Virginia, including suburban white women who were important to Democrats’ improved performance here and in other states that President Biden carried, said they felt national conversations about race and equity were divisive and often cast all white people in a negative light. Others were concerned that their children would come home from school believing that their parents are racist. …

“Other Virginia voters said [GLENN] YOUNGKIN’S focus on excoriating critical race theory is impeding changes that need to be made by schools and businesses to address racial inequality. … GOP strategists acknowledge that it is unclear whether opposition to critical race theory appeals to voters they need to win back.”

WHOOPS — “Republican Rep. Blake Moore violated federal transparency law by failing to properly disclose stock transactions worth up to $1.1 million,” by Insider’s Dave Levinthal and Kimberly Leonard

SCOTUS WATCH — “Can Affirmative Action Survive?” a deep dive by The New Yorker’s Nicholas Lemann: “It’s distinctly possible that the Supreme Court, as early as next year, could signal that it considers efforts aimed explicitly at helping Black people to be unconstitutional. In June, the Court asked the Biden Administration to give its views on the Harvard case. If the Court decides to take it, that would be seen as good news by the plaintiffs and bad news by Harvard, which has won in the lower courts …

“[I]t’s by no means clear that the Supreme Court has shared in the resurgence of passion for racial-justice issues that has swept through many other leading American institutions. This could be one of those Court decisions which set off not just private legal readjustments but public demonstrations, and years of political organizing. … It will be fitting if the Court takes the Harvard case. The long-running battles over affirmative action involve a clash between two opposing principles, both arguably invented at Harvard: meritocracy and diversity.”

SPOTTED in WaPo complaining about D.C. rent: CHASTEN BUTTIGIEG. Ellen McCarthy gives him the Style section treatment: “In Official Washington, Chasten Buttigieg is a stranger in a (very) strange land”: “The secretary’s husband isn’t particularly interested in talking pipelines and packages all night. He wants to dish about the HBO comedy ‘Hacks.’ Alas, he seldom sees an opening. Such is life in Washington for Chasten, who finds himself in the deep end of an education in what it means to be the husband of a powerful political figure in a town of grippers, grinners and wonks. …

“It’s a short stroll from charmed to sticker-shocked, and one of the couple’s favorite Washington pastimes is playing Zillow Price Is Right, where they try to guess the out-of-reach appraisal values of homes they admire and then look up the actual estimate online. The Buttigieges themselves moved into an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment near Eastern Market. ‘We couldn’t afford the one-bedroom-plus-den,’ Chasten says.”

— Plus this anecdote: “[W]hile walking the dogs, his stomach dropped when he caught a glimpse of his reflection at a coffee shop. ‘My hair was sticking straight up on the side,’ he says. ‘I was like, “Oh my God. I’m going to be in Playbook for looking like an idiot.”’ (Chasten has been name-checked several times in Playbook — the Politico newsletter where the city’s political class stares at its own reflection — but never for ‘looking like an idiot.’)”

NEW NOMINATIONS — The White House announced a slate of new picks for U.S. attorneys, including several historic firsts: Erek Barron for the District of Maryland, “Survivor” alum Nicholas Brown for the Western District of Washington, Matthew Graves for the District of Columbia, Clifford Johnson for the Northern District of Indiana, Zachary Myers for the Southern District of Indiana, Rachael Rollins for the District of Massachusetts, Trini Ross for the Western District of New York and Vanessa Waldref for the Eastern District of Washington.

BOOK CLUB — Andrew Yang is releasing a new book, “Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy,” on Oct. 5 from Crown: “The machinery of American democracy is failing, Yang argues, and we need bold new ideas to rewire it for twenty-first-century problems.” $28 pre-order

MEDIA MOVE — Ben Leonard is now a health technology reporter at POLITICO.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Valerie Shen is joining Third Way as VP of its National Security Program. She most recently has been investigative counsel for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Dems, and is a House Oversight, Obama White House and DOJ alum. She replaces Mieke Eoyang, who’s now at DOD.

TRANSITIONS — Kristine Kippins is now deputy legal director for policy at Lambda Legal. She most recently was director of policy for the Constitutional Accountability Center. … Ashley Dawn Moretti is now digital director for Rep. Elise Stefanik’s (R-N.Y.) campaign and an account manager at the Prosper Group. She previously worked for Axiom and Tommy Tuberville’s campaign. …

… Max Luong is now director of executive comms at SKDK. He previously was speechwriter at the DCCC for Chair Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 2020 election cycle. … IBM’s federal global business services team in D.C. is adding several new hires: retired Maj. Gen. Brian Dravis, Troy Edgar, Margie Graves, retired Lt. Gen. John Morgan, Kevin Aylward, Kyle House and David Robbins.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Adam Shifriss, director at the Center for a Responsible Budget and a Baron Hill alum, and Laura Borntraeger, a senior consultant at Evans Incorporated, got married Saturday in Asheville, N.C. The couple originally met at the wedding of Eric Smith and Erica Bordador in 2015. SPOTTED: Kristen Hawn, Alisa La, Ryan Guthrie, Kyle Chapman, Jeremy Wilson-Simmerman, David Bond, Ted Derheimer, Joel Riethmiller and Allison Gittings.

BONUS BIRTHDAY: Assistant Treasury Secretary nominee Jonathan Davidson (5-0)