The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: House delays key vote on budget amid stalemate between Pelosi and centrist Democrats


with Tobi Raji

Good Tuesday morning. Tokyo's Paralympic Games commence today, New York has its first female governor, and this is the Power Up newsletter. Thanks for waking up with us. 

🚨: “CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul on Monday with the Taliban’s de facto leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in the highest-level face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the militants seized the Afghan capital, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy,” our John Hudson scoops this morning. 

  • “President Biden’s decision to dispatch his top spy, a veteran of the foreign service and the most decorated diplomat in his Cabinet, comes amid a frantic effort to evacuate people from Kabul international airport in what the president has called 'one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.'"
  • “The CIA declined to comment on the Taliban meeting but the discussions likely involved the impending Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. military to conclude its airlift of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.” 

On the Hill

ARE THEY THERE YET?: House members went home late last night after a band of centrists resisted a deal with Democratic leadership that would ensure House passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill by Oct. 1. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) negotiated with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) to break the stalemate over the $3.5 trillion budget framework that some centrist House Democrats have threatened to vote against unless the House first votes on the bipartisan infrastructure deal. 

But at least five centrists in Gottheimer's group still resisted the plan by early Tuesday morning, leaving Pelosi to gauge her team's appetite for a potential floor fight on President Joe Biden's domestic agenda,” Politico's Heather Caygle, Sarah Ferris and Nicholas Wu report. 

  • “We will come back tomorrow and take up the rule at 12 o’clock,” Pelosi told reporters as she left the Capitol without a vote on the budget resolution after midnight. Asked whether she'll have a date certain to vote on the infrastructure measure, Pelosi added: “We’ll see tomorrow, won’t we now?”

Next steps: Democratic leaders had initially planned to hold separate votes on the procedural measure, known as a rule, which would advance both the infrastructure bill and the budget framework, as well as a separate bill giving the federal government stronger oversight of states’ voting practices, before voting Tuesday on passage of the budget framework itself,” the Wall Street Journal's Kristina Peterson and Andrew Duehren report. “Rolling all of that into one step could make it harder for some centrists to vote against the rule, since that would also amount to a vote against advancing the infrastructure and voting bills, lawmakers said." 

  • “Pelosi and fellow leaders are expected to resume negotiations Tuesday morning, with the Democratic caucus set to meet privately at 9 a.m. The House Rules Committee, which tees up the budget vote, is likely to meet shortly after,” per Caygle, Ferris, and Wu.

Democrats across the board fumed at their colleagues' tactics: 

  • “I don’t understand why we would have members of our caucus just try to derail the president’s agenda,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-N.Y.) told reporters.
  • “Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), a frontliner who is supportive of leadership’s plan, spoke up in the meeting to urge more Democrats in tough districts to also get on board. Wild said without the social spending plan, the number one issue to her district — lowering prescription drug prices — is “dead in the water,'” Politico's Caygle, Ferris, and Wu reported of a closed door caucus meeting.
  • “I am not running for Congress to just take safe votes,” Wild said, according to Democrats in the room.

But throughout the day, some in the group of moderates doubled down on their position and called on their centrist Senate counterparts to back their play. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) issued an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel expressing her intent to withhold her vote on the budget resolution unless “given an opportunity to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill." 

  • “But I’m bewildered by my party’s misguided strategy to make passage of the popular, already-written, bipartisan infrastructure bill contingent upon passage of the contentious, yet-to-be-written, partisan reconciliation bill. It’s bad policy and, yes, bad politics,” Murphy added.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) issued a statement backing the efforts of Gottheimer & co.:

Global power

HAPPENING TODAY: “Leaders from the top foreign allies of the United States are planning to press President Biden to extend the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan during a Tuesday morning meeting,” officials familiar with the matter told CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Barbara Starr.

  • “The virtual gathering of the Group of 7 will be the first international forum for Biden to speak collectively with top European allies about the crisis in Afghanistan, which has caused anger and anxiety in foreign capitals over its chaotic execution.”
  • “Tuesday’s effort to press Biden into extending the timeline is expected to be led by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is the current G-7 president under its rotating leadership. There is an expectation as well that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also apply pressure.”
  • The leaders are also “expected to pledge unity on whether to officially recognize or sanction the Taliban,” per Reuters’ Andrea Shalal.

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Seven days left. “American officials are increasingly worried that even with the vast number of Afghans, Americans and people of other nationalities evacuated in recent days … many still remain to be rescued,” per the New York Times’ Mark Landler and Megan K. Stack.

  • “There are still thousands of Americans, and a far larger number of Afghans who supported the two-decade war effort, believed to be stuck in a capital where signs of the Taliban tightening its grip were everywhere on Monday. Many people were hiding at home, terrified of encountering Taliban checkpoints on their way to the airport. Many more Afghan allies are still stranded in outlying cities and towns.”
  • “One Afghan man who said he had the proper travel documents and had been summoned to the airport to board an evacuation flight, said he gave up because he had four children under the age of 6, and could not risk them getting lost or trampled in the heaving crowd outside the gates. He returned home in despair.”
  • “There is no way for families with kids,” the man, who spoke on condition that he not be named, told Landler and Stack. “I couldn’t bring them with me because of the crush. We tried for almost a week but couldn’t reach the gate.”

‘Consequences’: “Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen cautioned that foreign forces would be subject to ‘consequences’ should they remain in Kabul into September,” our Post colleagues Missy Ryan, Anne Gearan, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe report.

  • And “several of Biden’s advisers have counseled against an extension, citing the security situation on the ground,” Liptak and Starr write. “Officials have spent recent days monitoring potential terrorist threats, aware that the chaotic situation outside the airfield has created a target for ISIS-K and other organizations.”

AFGHANISTAN FALLOUT OVERSHADOWS HARRIS’ FIRST TRIP TO ASIA: “Successive U.S. administrations have pledged to pivot away from unending military entanglements and focus American foreign policy on the Indo-Pacific, where a string of nations are anxious about China’s growing military clout and hungry for U.S. engagement,” our colleague Shibani Mahtani writes.

  • “A question facing the Biden administration is how far it will be able to do that — and maintain credibility among American allies alarmed by the collapse of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan and fresh memories of chaotic diplomacy under [former] president Donald Trump.”
  • (Trying to) Pivot to Asia: Harris sought to fortify the image of the United States as a credible ally by offering a sharp rebuke of China during an address on Tuesday in Southeast Asia. Her effort comes as the White House faces growing questions about its reliability as an international partner amid ongoing violence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan," the New York Times's Zolan Kanno-Youngs reports.
  • "The White House is aiming to refocus U.S. foreign policy strategy on competing with China’s rising economic influence rather than on continuing to fight ‘forever wars,’ such as the two-decade long conflict in Afghanistan. The chaotic effort to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul has overshadowed the vice president’s trip, which began on Sunday in Singapore and will take her to Vietnam."

The investigations

HOUSE COMMITTEE WILL SEEK PHONE RECORDS RELATED TO JAN. 6 ATTACK: “The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot is poised to send notices to various telecommunications companies requesting that they preserve the phone records of several people, including members of Congress,” CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer and Whitney Wild first scooped.

  • “Preserving communications records is the first step in an investigatory process that could eventually lead to witness testimony. The notices are set to go out as soon as this week and provide the first window into the kinds of information the committee plans to pursue.”
  • “While it remains unclear which members’ records the committee is interested in, several Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, have acknowledged speaking to Trump by phone on January 6.”
  • “We have quite an exhaustive list of people. I won’t tell you who they are. But it’s several hundred people that make up the list of individuals we plan to contact,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Select Committee, told CNN on Monday.

In the agencies

CORONAVIRUS VACCINE RECEIVES FDA APPROVAL: “Federal regulators on Monday granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine,” our colleagues Ben Guarino, Laurie McGinley and Tyler Pager report. “The vaccine is approved for two doses, three weeks apart, in people 16 and older. It remains available under emergency use authorization for adolescents ages 12 to 15.” 

Here are key takeaways from the approval: 

Vaccine mandates are in. “Full federal approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is opening the way for institutions like the military, corporate employers, hospitals and school districts to announce vaccine mandates for their employees,” the New York Times’ Daniel E. Slotnik and Helene Cooper report.

  • “Within hours of the announcement, the Pentagon, CVS, the State University of New York system and the New York City school system, among others, announced that they would enforce mandates they had prepared to carry out but had made contingent on the FDA’s action.”

Vaccine bans are out. Federal approval “appeared to clear the way for local officials and private businesses to impose vaccine requirements in some states that have banned them by law or executive order,” per the New York Times’ Daniel E. Slotnik, Dan Levin and Isabella Grullón Paz.

  • “That seemed possible in at least three states — Montana, Texas and Utah — where the bans specifically object to the fact that the three vaccines in use in the United States were being administered under emergency use authorizations rather than full approval.”

What we’re watching: “U.S. officials hope that full federal approval will quiet some of the vaccine misinformation online and induce more hesitant people to get vaccinated,” Slotnik and Cooper write. 

  • “A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that three out of every 10 unvaccinated people said that they would be more likely to get a shot once it was fully approved.”
  • “But whether the announcement will help convince the roughly 85 million unvaccinated Americans to get inoculated without the added pressure of new requirements remains to be seen.”
  • FYI: Seventy-three percent of adults have received their first vaccine dose, according to Post data.