🚨:  As the U.S. careens toward a financial crisis threatening to shutter the government in a little over a week, Anthony S. Fauci is sounding the alarms.

“I think it's so obvious to anybody who's looking at the situation,” Fauci told The Early in an interview on Wednesday. “The worst time in the world we want to shut down the government is in the middle of a pandemic where we have 140,000 people a day getting infected and 2,000 people a day dying. That's the time when you want the government working full blast to address this. I think that would have a profound effect on things if the government shutdown. So it should be avoided, if at all possible.” 

Fauci, who told us he's still receiving a steady stream of death threats, would not use the word failure to describe the rate of fully vaccinated Americans at 55 percent, lower than other comparable countries. But he's “disappointed at the fact that we still have 70 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated but not yet gotten vaccinated.” 

  • Hence, Fauci's case for local mandates: “ … you're going to reach a point where you're going to have people who the only way they're going to get vaccinated is if it's going to be inconvenient for them not to be vaccinated, and that's where mandates come in."

Read more tomorrow from our Fauci interview about boosters and political polarization. And don't forget to check out The Post's new personal tech vertical, Help Desk, which will answer your questions about how tech affects your life and offer how-to guides and yep, independent reviews. Geoff Fowler has more.

In the agencies

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has held some of Washington’s top jobs: Federal Reserve chair, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Now she’s been thrust into a new role: the Biden administration’s envoy to warn Congress and the private sector of the potentially calamitous consequences of failing to raise the debt limit.

Yellen has had more than a dozen conversations with Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the subject in recent weeks.

She's also spoken with half a dozen CEOs over the past week “to discuss the disastrous economic consequences of default,” according to a Treasury Department spokesperson.

And as our colleague Jeff Stein reports, she’s talked with previous treasury secretaries, including Hank Paulson and Steven Mnuchin, both of whom served under Republican presidents. Paulson and Mnuchin, in turn, have huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), with Paulson warning the Biden administration that McConnell is serious about forcing Democrats to raise the debt limit without Republican support.

Some Republicans aren't impressed.

"There are not 10 Republican votes to raise the debt limit, and Yellen calling and lecturing senators on fiscal sanity will persuade a grand total of no one," one Senate Republican aide told The Early, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to be candid.

But Yellen isn't whipping votes. An aide to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — exactly the sort of compromise-minded Republican Yellen might be trying to cajole if she was — said Yellen hasn’t met or spoken with Romney, who maintains he won’t vote to raise the debt limit.

Instead, she's playing a role that's become familiar for Democratic treasury secretaries: warning lawmakers defaulting would be a catastrophe. She's also “urged swift action due to the vast uncertainties associated with predicting an X date” — the exact day the federal government will run out of money — “this year,” according to the treasury spokesperson.

A limited role

Convincing lawmakers of the peril of a potential default can be one of the most harrowing parts of a treasury secretary's job.

“Even in my lowest points after [the collapse of Lehman Brothers] and in early 2009, I had never felt this kind of dread,” former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote of the 2011 debt limit standoff in his memoir, “Stress Test.”

But persuading lawmakers to take default seriously might matter less than it did during the Obama era, when treasury secretaries argued to lawmakers that defaulting really would be catastrophic and that ideas such as minting a trillion-dollar coin weren't viable workarounds.

This time around, McConnell and other Republicans agree the debt limit must be raised — they just think Democrats should be the ones to vote for it. Unlike in previous standoffs, Democrats have the votes to do so without Republican support via reconciliation.

“Secretary Yellen is going to be limited in the role that she can play when it’s simply about political responsibility as opposed to the economics of a default,” said one former Obama treasury official who witnessed previous debt limit battles.

Time is money

Yellen has one more move left: She can inform Congress of the exact date the federal government will be unable to pay its bills, as predecessors have done in the weeks beforehand.

Yellen hasn't taken that step yet, and she warned in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Sunday “it is impossible to predict precisely when” the treasury account will run dry, saying only it would be “sometime in October.” And she implored lawmakers not to wait until the last minute.

“Time is money here, potentially billions of dollars,” she wrote.

Biden finalizes first climate rule

Happening today: “The Biden administration will finalize its first new climate rule, slashing the use of greenhouse gases warming the planet at a rate hundreds to thousands of times higher than carbon dioxide,” our colleague Dino Grandoni reports.

  • “The Environmental Protection Agency regulation, which establishes a program to cut the use and production of chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons in the United States by 85 percent over the next 15 years, implements a law passed by Congress last year.”

At the White House

No deal among warring Democrats as Biden hosts them

Biden steps in: President Biden yesterday stepped into the Democratic mess over his economic agenda by hosting a series of meetings with progressive and moderate Democrats at the White House. 

  • No deal: “Democrats said Wednesday’s talks did not result in a formal detente between the clashing factions, which are caught in an ugly tug-of-war between Biden's two main priorities: a $3.5 trillion partisan social spending plan and a separate, narrower infrastructure bill,” Politico's Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle, Marianne LeVine and Laura Barrón-López report.
  • Manchin in the middle (again): “There was at least one hint of movement to advance the broader, slow-moving package. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Biden gave him a specific request — come back to him with a topline price tag the powerful centrist will support.” 'Please, just work on it. Give me a number, and tell me what you can live with and what you can’t,‘ Manchin said, relaying his conversation with Biden,” Politico reports.
  • Really? “Democrats said Biden privately signaled to both the progressive and moderate camps that the overall size of the spending package was up for debate [.]"
  • Adult in the room: “The first step was to convene all of us, and get us to start acting like grown-ups again,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). “The next step is to develop a procedural pathway, and the final step is to negotiate all of the substance.”
Bipartisan lawmakers put the ‘B’ in BBQ. 

Meanwhile, some are trying to lower the temperature on the Hill. Sens. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will co-host “Senator Johnny Isakson’s Bipartisan Barbecue,” a barbecue lunch aimed at restoring cross-aisle relationships. The BBQ is a continuation of former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-Ga.) annual lunch that he hosted until his retirement in 2019. Could the answer to all of Congress’s problems be in a serving of South 40 Smokehouse’s beef brisket? 

On the Hill

Police overhaul legislation collapses

Police overhaul talks crumble: “Bipartisan negotiations on overhauling the nation’s policing practices to stem the killings of Black Americans collapsed Wednesday, a stalemate emblematic of a divided Congress and the gulf between the parties over how to address racism in the country,” our colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis report.

  • “The absence of legislation at the federal level leaves standards for policing to a patchwork of state laws and the Biden administration with fewer tools for overhauling law-enforcement, one of its priorities,” the Wall Street Journal’s Eliza Collins and Sadie Gurman report.
  • Key quote: “Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the lead Republican negotiator, blamed Democrats, claiming that their push to “defund” law enforcement made it impossible to agree on legislation,” report Felicia and Mike.

The Data

The debt ceiling, visualized

The history of the debt ceiling, visualized: In one month, lawmakers will come face-to-face with the prospect of financial catastrophe. Instituted in 1917, the debt ceiling “has become a political tool for lawmakers to extract concessions as they bring the nation up to the brink of default,” our colleague Amber Phillips reports.  

The Media

What we’re reading: 

Viral

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Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.