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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Alex Padilla is coming in hot

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds. President Biden heads to his first U.N. General Assembly; the Jan 6. select committee is planning on issuing subpoenas in the next week; and shocking new details about the death of Barry the beloved Central Park owl. Thanks for waking up with us.

🚨: Jesse Benton, “a political strategist who was pardoned by the former president after being convicted in a 2012 campaign finance scheme, is facing new charges related to an alleged 2016 plot to illegally funnel donations made by a Russian national to support then-candidate Donald Trump’s White House bid,” our colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker report

🍁: Justin Trudeau will remain prime minister of Canada, leading a minority government again, our colleague Amanda Coletta reports.

On the Hill

Padilla rising

The junior senator from California is coming in 🔥.  

Sen. Alex Padilla was selected just nine months ago to serve out the final two years of Vice President, née Sen. Kamala D. Harris's term. But he's fast become a leading voice on some of the biggest issues vexing Democrats, from voting rights to appealing the Senate parliamentarian's decision against including immigration measures in the $3.5 trillion budget proposal. 

Padilla is one of four former secretaries of state currently serving — and he's wielded that expertise to push forward voting rights legislation.

Lawmakers could vote as early as this week on the newly introduced the Freedom to Vote Act — the pared down voting rights and campaign finance and ethics bill co-sponsored by Padilla and seven Democrats, including centrist Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). 

The bill, which eliminated key language in the For the People Act, is unlikely to garner the 10 Republican votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

Padilla has tried to win over some of his GOP colleagues, but isn't hopeful. 

  • “I'm pretty frustrated,” Padilla told The Early in an interview on Friday. “It offends me when I hear that they want to make it easy to vote but hard to cheat because I know the data — voter fraud is exceedingly rare in America.”
  • “So we got the hard-to-cheat part down. But here we have a proposal that will make it easier for eligible people to vote … And there's no willingness on Republicans to come along. I'm still waiting to hear ‘yesses’ on even this focused and tailored measure.”
All roads lead to the filibuster

Unlike Manchin, Padilla has taken a far more urgent approach and believes Democrats should eliminate the filibuster if — and when — the vote fails.

He stressed the vote should be the “final straw” for his colleagues “reluctant to abolish or even reform the filibuster to allow voter protection measures.” 

Bringing the reinforcements. Padilla and his colleagues say they have a short window to persuade their colleagues to change or repeal the filibuster if voting rights legislation goes down, given redistricting setting the lines for the 2022 midterms. Even so, that's still a long shot.

Padilla said President Biden's involvement and influence over centrist Democrats who are not willing to scrap the filibuster could be “helpful.” He added that Harris has been actively reaching out to former colleagues on the Hill on the issue.

“Very few people are as good at relationships as President Biden.” 

Democrats bet big on one package

A risky bet: Democrats are daring Republicans to allow the government to shut down as well as default on its debts by combining the two things in one big legislative package.

It's a big gamble, given that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is sticking firmly to his position that Republicans won't help Democrats lift the debt ceiling no matter how it's packaged.

Searching for 10 Republicans: “This is about finding other GOP votes,” one senior Democratic Senate aide told Jackie. 

There's a slight problem. Yes, there are Republican senators who don't like flirting with the possibility of a disastrous default if the debt limit isn't lifted in the coming weeks, a Republican Senate aide added. “But not 10 who are there to vote with the [Democrats] on this." 

Case in point:

  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — the sort of compromise-minded Republican whose vote Democrats would need to overcome a filibuster — reiterated on Monday that he's “absolutely no” on raising the debt limit. 
  • One exception: Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), whose state was hammered weeks ago by Hurricane Ida. “I'm probably going to vote for it, because my state needs the help,” he told reporters. 

The whole situation infuriates Democrats. “The entire GOP justification for why they won’t support is based on a lie — and they are getting away with it,” said the Democratic aide.

At the White House

Biden cuts new video on budget bill

The White House, meanwhile, still has its eyes on the prize: Steering the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that includes much of Biden's agenda through Congress. It's pushing out a new two-and-a-half-minute video today on social media of Biden making the case for his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and bolster the social safety net.

“To me, this is the same thing as a giant middle-class tax cut," the president says.

Shrunk: Still, much of Biden's agenda is running into trouble on the Hill, our colleagues Mike DeBonis, Sean Sullivan and Maria Sacchetti report

  • “This is why we drew a very big circle at the outset, knowing that we might have our sails trimmed,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told The Post. “This is all frustrating, because it’s clear that some really important things are going to be a lot harder.”
Burns and Emanuel pull down top dollar from their consulting gigs

Who Burns worked for: Many of Biden's top foreign policy and national security aides have come from a handful of Washington consulting firms and Nicholas Burns, Biden's nominee for U.S. ambassador to China, is no exception. Burns's newly public financial disclosure report reveals the clients he advised as a senior counselor at The Cohen Group.

  • They include Apple, the law firm DLA Piper, Amway (the multilevel marketing company that's the source of the DeVos family fortune), Google, the defense contractors Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, the Indian conglomerate Tata, Honeywell, Ecolab, the nonprofit Underwriters Laboratories and, of course, Zoom.
  • The Cohen Group has paid Burns $415,000 since Jan. 1, 2020. He also earned about $425,000 in the same period as a Harvard professor, about $141,000 as executive director of the Aspen Strategy Group and hundreds of thousands of dollars more serving the board of the manufacturer Entegris and giving speeches.

But Burns's earnings pale in comparison to those of Rahm Emanuel, Biden's nominee for ambassador to Japan.

  • Emanuel has pulled in nearly $12.1 million over the same period as a senior adviser at the investment bank Centerview Partners, according to his newly public financial disclosure. The bank will also pay him a “minimum annual retainer” worth between $1 million and $5 million once he leaves, according to the filing.
  • What did Emanuel do to earn that kind of cash? The bank would only tell us that “he provided independent advice and counsel based on his distinguished career in the public and private sectors.”
  • Emanuel also brought in more than $310,000 as an ABC News contributor, $700,000 as a consultant to the venture capital firm Wicklow Capital, about $150,000 for serving on the board of the health care company GoHealth, a $77,500 advance for his book “The Nation City: Why Mayors Are Now Running the World” and hundreds of thousands of dollars giving speeches to the likes of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. (He donated the speech fees to charity.)

The Data

Virginia governor's race tightens

Virginia’s neck-and-neck gubernatorial race, visualized: “Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin are locked in a tight race for Virginia governor, with McAuliffe standing at 50 percent to 47 percent for Youngkin among likely voters in a Washington Post-Schar School poll,” our colleagues Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin report

  • “Among registered voters, McAuliffe has a 49 percent to 43 percent edge over Youngkin — but neither lead is statistically significant. The smaller margin among people likely to vote, combined with a low percentage of voters who say they plan to vote early, suggests that Democrats could face an enthusiasm gap and a challenge boosting turnout to the high levels of the past four years.”
  • “The poll’s findings hint broadly that Virginia might be settling back into more traditional voting patterns, with Youngkin doing well in exurban parts of Northern Virginia that had shifted toward Democrats during the Trump administration. Democrats in power — such as Biden — do not seem to be helping McAuliffe, and independents and White voters are breaking toward the Republican candidate.”

The Media

What we’re reading: 


K-pop’s BTS takes on the United Nations General Assembly: 

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