🚨: “Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats posted their worst-ever election results on Sunday, coming in second to their traditional center-left rival for the first time in a decade and a half as parties prepare for what could be weeks of rocky talks to make a government,” our colleagues Loveday Morris, Rick Noack and Florian Neuhof report.

On the Hill

Jayapal claims roughly 60 votes against infrastructure bill

Today’s the day that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed to bring the bipartisan infrastructure package to the floor.

But the speaker announced Sunday night the actual vote would slip until Thursday in a victory for muscle-flexing progressives. In case you were counting all the stress-inducing deadlines in Washington, that's one day before the government will shut down if Congress doesn't pass a separate bill to fund it.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she wasn't bluffing when warning that progressives were willing to tank the infrastructure plan until the House and the Senate also pass a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill that’s still far from finished. And it seems she meant business.

Jayapal told us in a Sunday night interview, before Pelosi's announcement, that the number of Democrats willing to kill the infrastructure bill is growing.

“It’s actually increasing, and it’s increasing from members who aren’t just within the Progressive Caucus,” she said.

The CPC chair estimated last week that more than half of the 95 House Democrats in the caucus were prepared to vote “no.” “I think it’s now probably somewhere around 60,” she said.

“They’re members of the [Congressional] Black Caucus, the [Congressional] Hispanic Caucus, the [Congressional] Asian [Pacific American] Caucus, some of whom are not members of the Progressive Caucus, who feel very strongly that this is really the only shot we have to deliver on the agenda that the president ran on,” she said.

While it’s possible progressives would accept some sort of ironclad commitment from all 50 senators to support a reconciliation bill instead, Jayapal said, “I don’t know what the alternative is to a vote.”

‘I don’t know what the alternative is'

Jayapal's threats may have forced the speaker's hand.

Pelosi sent a letter to her caucus on Sunday night conceding the House would today start debate on the infrastructure bill. But the actual vote, she wrote, won't occur until Thursday — three days later than she promised moderate Democrats led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) last month as a means of placating them.

Pelosi reassured Democrats she was “working together with the Senate and the White House on changes” in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that progressives are demanding be solidified before the infrastructure vote can take place.

President Biden, Cabinet members and White House staffers spoke with lawmakers through the weekend, “and it continues to be clear that there is strong resolve across the caucuses behind passing these bills,” according to a White House official. The lobbying efforts included White House aides Steve Ricchetti, Brian Deese and David Kamin and legislative affairs chief Louisa Terrell, per Politico.

But it’s far from clear they’ll be able to move fast enough to secure progressives’ votes by Thursday.

How to cut the bill down to size?

Clashes over when Democrats will vote on the two pillars of Biden's agenda have masked to some extent the deep disagreements over how to trim the House's $3.5 trillion budget measure down to a size that Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will accept.

Jayapal sees three ways to shrink the bill's price tag if it comes to that: Reduce the number of years the bill pays for some of the programs it creates; reduce the number of people who can take advantage of those programs or reduce the number of programs included in the bill.

“We much prefer the first option,” she said.

But Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), one of the moderate-leaning members who pushed for a vote on the infrastructure bill today, said he had “great concern” about paring back the cost of the bill by tinkering with how many years it covers.

“There's tremendous pressure and tremendous temptation to come up with voodoo budgeting to argue that the cost is less that it actually will be,” he said in an interview Sunday.

Case said he'd prefer to means-test “some of the critical programs that I agree are needed” so that Americans with higher incomes can't take advantage of them. Jayapal has argued fervently against such an approach, citing pandemic rental assistance that didn't reach those who needed it because of a complicated application process.

Asked about the concerns Jayapal raised about the rental assistance, Case said he wasn't troubled.

“Perhaps the people that didn't apply for it didn't need it because they had sufficient income to pay their rent,” he said.

At the White House

Majority of Americans support Biden's Build Back Better agenda

Popularity reminder: As Democratic leaders race to craft the reconciliation bill, the White House is sending a memo to lawmakers today reminding them that Biden’s “Build Back Better agenda is massively popular among all voters.”

The memo cites recent polls from Pew, Fox News, Data for Progress and elsewhere showing that big majorities favor both pieces of legislation that Democrats in Congress are struggling to pass as well as the policies in them.

Pew, for instance, found earlier this month that 51 percent of those polled favor the infrastructure bill (including 74 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Republicans). The reconciliation bill was nearly as popular, with 49 percent in favor (including 75 percent of Democrats but only 17 percent of Republicans.)

While “Republicans and lobbyists for big money interests are fighting tooth and nail to stop” the legislation, “the American people are squarely on our side,” the memo argues. 

The campaign

Out and about: Among those spotted at the National Republican Senatorial Committee's “Fall Policy Summit” this past weekend at Sea Island, Ga., according to an Early tipster: Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska); Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts; David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the former senators from Georgia; Newt Gingrich; Bobby Jindal; Rick Perry; Haley Barbour of BGR Group; Mitch Rose of Comcast; Pat Raffaniello of Capitol Counsel; Hunter Bates of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Rob Collins of the S-3 Group; Jennifer Hatcher of the Food Marketing Institute; Missy Foxman of the Entertainment Software Association and Will Moschella of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

In the agencies

New details describe chaos, split-second decisions during historic Afghanistan evacuation

Inside the Afghanistan airlift: “As Air Force planners in Missouri choreographed the largest evacuation airlift in U.S. military history, surveillance drones loitering over Hamid Karzai International Airport captured the disarray below, scanning for threats among the mass of civilians desperate to flee,” our colleagues Alex Horton and Dan Lamothe write. “It was Aug. 26, just before 6 p.m. in Kabul. A flash of flight followed by a plume of black flooded the video feed.”

  • “Military personnel at the 618th Air Operations Command outside St. Louis quickly concluded there had been a bombing, and that their decisions in the next few minutes would determine the fate of grievously wounded Americans and Afghans thousands of miles away.”
  • “A plane in Qatar stuffed with medical personnel and equipment roared to Kabul about three and a half hours away. Another jet specializing in aeromedical evacuation was dispatched from Germany.”
  • “The bombing, which killed at least 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, and the scramble to respond while continuing the evacuation, spotlighted the split-second decisions and chaos that defined the military’s 17-day race to pull off a daunting mission on a single runway at a crumbling airport under constant threat of attack.”

The Media

What we’re reading:

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Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.