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The big idea

In echo of Biden’s work as VP, Harris faces restive progressive donors

Vice President Harris traveled to France Monday night for a series of fence-mending meetings and high-profile, symbolic events. But she’s also quietly undertaking sensitive diplomacy of a different sort today with a talk to Democracy Alliance’s major progressive donors.

Puck News’s Theodore Schleifer first reported Harris would address the group’s “Saving Our Democracy Donor Summit.” A person familiar with her plans confirmed that the vice president would deliver pre-recorded remarks to the donors, but declined to offer further details.

In its public statements, Democracy Alliance has denounced an “unprecedented right-wing assault on democracy” and described the current political climate as “an all-hands on deck moment” to protect the republic. It has described the national GOP drive to curtail electoral practices Republicans blame for former president Donald Trump’s defeat as a campaign to “preserve minority rule no matter what.”

That’s the kind of language often associated with progressives who accuse President Biden of falling short when it comes to defending the right to vote. That wing of the party has been getting only more anxious and unhappy with the White House, which needs progressive donors on board to stave off a potential Democratic drubbing in the 2022 midterm elections — if history is any guide.

It’s not the first time Biden has handed Harris a sensitive portfolio he had as VP. Under Barack Obama, Biden led diplomatic efforts to Latin American countries in an effort to curb the “root causes” of immigration to the United States. Now he has given his vice president that (thankless) job.

Past is prologue

But how’s this for a flashback, courtesy of Politico’s Kenneth Vogel (who is now at the New York Times), from November 2011: “Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a secretive conference attended by about 150 rich liberals deciding how to divvy up their cash in the run-up to the 2012 election. A variety of liberal groups pitched the donors throughout the three-day conference, including a network of Democratic outside groups hoping to raise upwards of $120 million to fund a sort-of shadow party effort supporting the reelection campaign of Biden and … Obama.”

“The setting was the annual winter meeting of the Democracy Alliance, a network of donors who are required to contribute a minimum of $100,000 to recommended liberal groups.”

Ken went on to quote a source at the conference regarding Biden’s message.

“‘He addressed what he perceived to be some of the progressive grievances towards the administration, but campaign spending did not come up,’ said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conferences are by-invitation only and are closed to the press. ‘Biden talked about the administration’s policies — why they did what they did,’ the source said.”

Donor frustration

Progressive grievances, you say? Donor grievances, you say? Neither is a new phenomenon, but the Times’s Shane Goldmacher chronicled the latest flare up just last week.

“Now, nearly 10 months into his presidency, some of Mr. Biden’s most loyal contributors and top fund-raisers are feeling neglected if not outright cast aside, according to more than 30 interviews with Democratic donors, fund-raisers and the operatives who work with them. With the loss of the Virginia governorship this week making plain the darkening political climate for Democrats, the White House has accumulated precious little good will among some of the party’s most important financiers.

“Their frustrations also include impatience with the pace of substantive policy changes: One of the party’s top donors is now signaling he is planning to withhold funds entirely over the languishing of voting-rights legislation.”

So: Voting rights again. Here’s more Shane on that issue:

“[A] number of major Democratic donors, in particular in Silicon Valley, have been pressing Mr. Biden to move more forcefully on passing voting-rights legislation, seeing state-level Republican restrictions on voting as an existential crisis for democracy. And they have grown increasingly frustrated as the issue has stalled behind the social spending package still being negotiated on Capitol Hill.”

“[N]one have gone as far as the hedge fund executive S. Donald Sussman, who has communicated that he is pausing his political giving until such a package advances, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Sussman is one of the financial pillars of the Democratic ecosystem, investing roughly $50 million during the four years that Donald J. Trump was in the White House in federal campaigns, candidates and super PACs.”

Biden and Harris spokespeople declined to comment for the record on the administration’s relationship with donors, or the current context for the vice president’s remarks.

One closed-door speech from Harris is unlikely to turn things around. But if Biden doesn’t run in 2024 and she does, she’ll need donors like those in Democracy Alliance to be successful.

What's happening now

Gov. Sununu won't run for the Senate

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to seek a fourth term, not run for Senate

“New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on Tuesday announced that he would seek reelection to a fourth term, rebuffing overtures from GOP leaders in Washington who have urged him to seek a U.S. Senate seat and help the party retake control of the chamber,” John Wagner reports.

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), among others, had sought to convince Sununu to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) in a state that represents one of the Republican Party’s best chances for a pickup next year.”

Max Cleland, Vietnam War veteran who led VA and served in Senate, dies at 79

“Mr. Cleland, a moderate Democrat from Georgia, was elected to the Senate in 1996 after heading the VA under President Jimmy Carter and serving as Georgia’s secretary of state. He was known primarily as an impassioned advocate for veterans and their families, launching counseling programs and championing services for post-traumatic stress disorder, which the VA began to recognize as a legitimate condition during his tenure,” Harrison Smith reports.

Judge denies Trump emergency motion to shield records sought by Jan. 6 committee

“The National Archives is expected to send documents to the committee investigating Jan. 6 on Friday despite Trump's attempt to assert executive privilege,” NBC’s Rebecca Shabad reports.

General Electric will split into three public companies

“General Electric, one of the most storied brands in corporate America, will split into three stand-alone companies focused on health care, energy and aviation," Taylor Telford reports.

"GE Healthcare is slated to be spun off in early 2023, the company announced Tuesday, while the renewables and power units will be formed into new energy business in early 2024.” 

McConnell calls infrastructure bill a ‘godsend’ for Kentucky

“Given Kentucky’s recent infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, McConnell said he is proud of that infrastructure bill,” WKYT's Jeremy Tombs reports.

“I’m surprised we even got a C. We have a lot of infrastructure needs, both in rural areas and with big bridges. It’s a godsend for Kentucky,” McConnell said.

EU accuses Belarus of ‘gangster’ antics as migrants shiver at Polish border

“Hundreds of migrants shivered in freezing temperatures and huddled round campfires on the Belarusian border with Poland on Tuesday in front of razor wire fences and lines of Polish border guards blocking their entry into the European Union,” Reuters's Kacper Pempel and Joanna Plucinska report.

The EU promised more sanctions on Belarus and accused President Alexander Lukashenko's government of using the migrants as political pawns and putting lives at risk, in what it branded ‘gangster-style’ behaviour.”

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Desperate, angry, destructive: How Americans morphed into a mob

“Several dozen of those charged with storming the U.S. Capitol explicitly prepared for violence in the effort to thwart Congress’s confirmation of Joe Biden’s election that day, according to court records,” Rachel Weiner, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman and Sahana Jayaraman report.

“But court records show that the vast majority of the roughly 650 people federally charged in the riot were not part of far-right groups or premeditated conspiracies to attack the Capitol. Rather, many were an array of everyday Americans … About 573 have no known affiliation with an extremist group, according to a Post analysis of court filings and public records as of Nov 3. Federal prosecutors have not identified serious criminal records in the cases of most suspects, although at least a dozen defendants have been accused or convicted of domestic violence.”

Where electric cars could help save coal

“Disdain for electric cars runs deep in this state. In the Bakken oil fields, which have brought enormous riches to North Dakota, workers fume at them on Facebook discussion groups, calling them ‘worthless’ or worse. The small number of drivers who do use electric vehicles — North Dakota has the fewest of any state — get ‘coal-rolled’ out on the road, as pickup trucks pump out black exhaust in bouts of automotive spite,” Will Englund reports.

“Yet even in North Dakota, these zero-emission cars have an unexpected champion: the coal industry, which is seeking to shed its image as a climate change villain.”

… and beyond

Sean Maloney explains how Democrats can get back on track. Hint: It starts with Biden

“One of the least envied jobs in politics at the moment belongs to Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee must steer his caucus through the extremely choppy midterm waters,” the  Times's Trip Gabriel reports.

“Mr. Maloney acknowledged the party’s challenges, but he rejected the idea that any major stocktaking was needed in terms of the Democratic agenda or the party’s focus on running against former President Donald J. Trump even without him on the ballot in 2022.”

The Senate’s year-end to-do list is ‘going to be a train wreck’

“While Democrats still sound bullish on closing out their social safety net and climate measure by Thanksgiving, 2022 may be the real hard deadline. That’s when Democrats’ expanded child tax credit expires anyway — and when lawmakers will really, truly be desperate to get home after months of protracted negotiations,” Politico's Burgess Everett and Marianna Levine report.

The Biden agenda

Brainard vs. Powell for Fed chair?

Brainard Interviewed by Biden for Fed Chair

“Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard was interviewed for the top job at the U.S. central bank when she visited the White House last week, according to people familiar with the discussions, signaling that Chair Jerome Powell has a serious rival as President Joe Biden considers who will lead the Fed for the next four years,” Bloomberg News’s Craig Torres, Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin report.

Biden made huge promises to HBCUs, but his execution is falling short

“Funding for the nation’s more than 100 HBCUs is one of many things in the president’s Build Back Better agenda. And from the point of its introduction in the spring, HBCU advocates and students had held out hope that President Joe Biden and Harris would deliver the $45 billion proposed for minority-serving institutions, including HBCUs like Howard,” Politico’s Eugene Daniels reports.

“Now it appears that the number will fall far short of the original proposal. As the Build Back Better framework was negotiated among Democrats, they steeply scaled down its scope in order to satisfy centrist members.”

The president seeks infrastructure bounce. Can a nuts-and-bolts pitch overcome cultural divides?

“The White House and congressional Democrats are preparing an aggressive sales campaign to promote the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package soon to become law, an effort they hope will begin to counter the serious political problems exposed by last week’s elections,” Seung Min Kim, Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager report.

“But some Democrats worry that voters — including those who broke from the party in Virginia and New Jersey — are often mobilized by divisive cultural issues concerning race and identity. That makes the upcoming stretch a critical test of whether President Biden’s core political strategy of delivering tangible benefits still resonates in a powerfully polarized environment.”

Delegations with the most fossil fuel representatives at COP26, visualized

The list of participants at the climate change conference includes 503 representatives for fossil fuel interests. More than 100 came with the delegation from the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), which promotes markets for trading carbon credits.

Hot on the left

Axios rolled out a tool this morning that allows viewers to find out what their congressional districts are Googling. Last week, maybe unsurprisingly, critical race theory was a top search.

Glenn Youngkin’s victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial race drove a wave of Google searches throughout the state for topics related to critical race theory — including in the district of one of the most vulnerable House Democrats,” Stef W. Kight and Jacque Schrag report.

  • “Today’s first look indicates that the issues conservatives want to push to the forefront, including Youngkin’s focus on race and education, are resonating in vulnerable Democrats’ backyards.”

Hot on the right

Meet the man who helped make Jan. 6 possible

For the Atlantic, Jonathan D. Karl tells the story of Johnny McEntee — “the ‘deputy president’ who made the disastrous last days of the Trump administration possible.”

McEntee ran the Presidential Personnel Office, which some Trump aides privately compared “to the East German Stasi or even the Gestapo—always on the lookout for traitors within.”

“McEntee and his enforcers … backed the president’s manic drive to overturn the election, and helped set the stage for the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Thanks to them, in the end, the elusive ‘adults in the room’—those who might have been willing to confront the president or try to control his most destructive tendencies—were silenced or gone. But McEntee was there—bossing around Cabinet secretaries, decapitating the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, and forcing officials high and low to state their allegiance to Trump.”

Today in Washington

At 4:40 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks at a virtual grass roots event for the Democratic National Committee.

He will then give remarks at a virtual fundraising reception for the DNC at 5:45 p.m.

In closing

Over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) claimed Big Bird was spreading government propaganda for your 5-year-old. The Late Night shows had some thoughts.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.