The Daily 202 sketched out what to expect in Monday’s column: A Biden-led blitz featuring several Cabinet secretaries, each zeroing in on a salient feature of the White House delightedly describes as the largest investment of its kind in a generation.
There will also be third-party validators — think labor unions, for example — that vocally supported the proposal as it wound its way through Congress and now plan to help the administration with its combination victory-lap-educational tour-political-campaign.
In recent days, much of the coverage of the administration’s approach has centered on big questions about the plan’s conception, execution and effectiveness. The Daily 202 is joining that chorus with five questions about Biden’s infrastructure push.
First, how involved personally will Biden and Vice President Harris be?
Earlier this week, the White House said the president would take the lead, holding “events around the country.” On Wednesday, Biden gave what could be a preview, delivering a speech at the port of Baltimore in which he talked about the infrastructure package. At future stops, his press team could make him available to local or regional news outets.
The most valuable commodity in a president’s life is time, though, and you manage the sudden crisis you have, not the sudden crisis you wish you had. What happens if Russia invades Ukraine again?
Over at the New York Times, Glenn Thrush and Zolan Kanno-Youngs put it this way:
“On Tuesday, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who heads the campaign committee for House Democrats, warned the White House not to squander the moment, telling [t]he New York Times that Mr. Biden ‘needs to get himself out there all around the country’ before “the next crisis takes over the news cycle.”
And, they noted, “Biden does not have the luxury of focusing exclusively on selling the bill. His appearance on Wednesday at the port of Baltimore, for example, was not strictly an infrastructure event: It was intended to address growing concerns about the supply chain bottlenecks, in addition to publicizing the $17 billion allocated in the bill for improvement at ports.”
As for Harris, it seems unthinkable for her to be on the sidelines — even with objectively terrible job approval ratings. But she does not appear in the outline of the strategy shared by a White House official on Sunday.
Second, what exactly will be the role of third-party validators?
The White House official we spoke to on Sunday said the campaign would enlist “everyone from labor, to the business community, and state and local leaders from both parties.
“They’re trusted voices in the communities and sectors they represent, and they’ll play a crucial role in underscoring how significant this legislation is for creating jobs, spurring growth, and making America more competitive.”
It makes sense to get organizations with large memberships or constituencies to join the administration’s efforts. A long time ago, a communications aide to Barack Obama described groups like that to me as “third-party validators” — not exactly outside politics, but outside the administration, and frequently looked to as more trusted arbiters.
Third, will it reach voters fueled by culture-war messages?
I’m leasing this one from my colleagues Seung Min Kim, Sean Sullivan, and Tyler Pager, who reported on Monday: “[S]ome 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.”
In a not-too-distant past, congressional earmarks — specific projects members funded in their districts — made it possible for a lawmaker to vote for something their base might view as ideologically suspect, then justify it by pointing to a new bridge or refurbished airport.
Fourth, will GOP governors go along with spending?
Republican governors rejected Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, and battled coronavirus mitigation measures over the past 18 months. Will they sign off on federally funded projects from a president many of them deride as “socialist”? (My wager is yes, and what’s more they’ll turn up at the ribbon-cuttings and try to erase the federal government’s role.)
Fifth, what will be the impact on the larger Build Back Better package?
The infrastructure package passed after Democratic House progressives relented and agreed to a vote that wasn’t twinned with a vote on Biden’s more expansive legislation to patch up or expand social spending and battle climate change. Without the leverage of being able to block the infrastructure package, will they be able to cajole their more conservative colleagues into supporting Build Back Better?
What's happening now
The Great Resignation continues
A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September
“A record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September, as job openings remained near record levels according to federal data, a sign of how imbalances in the labor market continue to complicate the economic recovery 20 months into the pandemic,” Eli Rosenberg reports.
“Those numbers are up from August, when 4.3 million people who quit their jobs in August — about 2.9 percent of the workforce.”
Trump says it was ‘common sense’ for Jan. 6 rioters to chant ‘Hang Mike Pence!’
“Former president Donald Trump said he considered it ‘common sense’ for his supporters to chant ‘Hang Mike Pence!’ during the Jan. 6 insurrection but that he never feared for his vice president’s safety,” John Wagner reports.
Sen. Murkowski announces reelection bid in a race featuring a Trump-backed GOP challenger
“In an announcement video, Murkowski made no mention of Trump nor Kelly Tshibaka, the Trump-backed candidate, but offered a pointed message to those trying to deny her reelection to an office she has held since 2002,” John Wagner reports.
“In this election, Lower 48 outsiders are going to try to grab Alaska’s Senate seat for their partisan agendas,” Murkowski said in a video focused on her deep ties to the state. “They don’t understand our state, and frankly they couldn’t care less about your future.”
Gov. Murphy’s Republican foe, Jack Ciattarelli, expected to concede
“Jack Ciattarelli, a Republican vying to unseat Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, will concede defeat on Friday, acknowledging that there is no chance he can overcome the 74,000-vote gap now separating the candidates, according to two people close to his campaign,” the New York Times’s Tracey Tully reports.
Qatar to act as U.S. diplomatic representative in Afghanistan, official says
“The United States and Qatar have agreed that Qatar will represent the diplomatic interests of the United States in Afghanistan, a senior U.S. official told Reuters, an important signal of potential direct engagement between Washington and Kabul in the future after two decades of war,” Humeyra Pamuk reports.
Biden chooses Robert Califf, former Obama FDA chief, as agency commissioner
“Many FDA experts see Califf as a safe choice — an experienced hand who is unlikely to make abrupt changes as the agency navigates a tumultuous period marked by high-pressure reviews of coronavirus vaccines and therapies and hot-button issues involving Alzheimer’s treatments, opioids and tobacco products.,” Laurie McGinley reports.
American journalist Danny Fenster sentenced to 11 years in Myanmar prison
“Fenster is still facing two more serious charges, that of terrorism and sedition, which were just added and have not yet been heard. They carry sentences of up to life in prison,” Shibani Mahtani reports.
Lunchtime reads from The Post
It’s been a tense year of infighting for Democrats. And this might be as good as it gets.
“Eight Democrats have chosen not to run for reelection in 2022, with more probably on the way. Announcements tend to pick up ‘usually after Thanksgiving and Christmas,’ says Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who made her own retirement announcement in April,” Ben Terris reports.
“Members of Congress — especially speakers, or in [Rep. John] Yarmuth’s case, chairmen of powerful committees — don't usually leave their jobs unless they are pushed out by voters, or feel like they are about to be relegated to permanent minority status. Like a Waffle House closing ahead of a hurricane, the Retiree Index can be a sign for Congress watchers — along with ominous polling and a surprise loss in what was supposed to be a safe election (in this case, Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s defeat in the Virginia governor's race) — that the majority is about to get walloped. Some members may be getting out before their work situations go from intense to intolerable.”
… and beyond
St. Jude hoards billions while many of its families drain their savings
“While families may not receive a bill from St. Jude, the hospital doesn’t cover what’s usually the biggest source of financial stress associated with childhood cancer: the loss of income as parents quit or take leave from jobs to be with their child during treatment,” ProPublica's David Armstrong and Ryan Gabrielson report.
- “Only about half of the $7.3 billion St. Jude has received in contributions in the past five fiscal years went to the hospital’s research and caring for patients, according to its financial filings with the Internal Revenue Service. About 30% covered the cost of its fundraising operations, and the remaining 20%, or $1 of every $5 donated, increased its reserve fund.”
- “Further, ProPublica found, a substantial portion of the cost for treatment is paid not by St. Jude but by families’ private insurance or by Medicaid, the government insurance program for low-income families.”
The Biden agenda
Democrats continue to brawl over taxing the rich (and who is rich)
Most millionaires could get tax cut under House Dems’ tax plan
“Most millionaires would get a tax cut under House Democrats’ reconciliation plan, according to a new analysis that’s sure to get lawmakers’ attention. About two-thirds of people making more than $1 million would see a tax cut next year averaging $16,800, the Tax Policy Center said Thursday,” Politico’s Brian Faler reports.
“That’s primarily because Democrats are proposing to lift to $80,000, from $10,000, an annual cap on state and local tax deductions.”
How Biden’s plan would expand Pre-K to millions of children
“House Democrats are pushing to pass the roughly $2 trillion education, healthcare and climate package that is the centerpiece of President Biden’s economic agenda. The legislation is currently stalled and would likely undergo changes if it made it to the Senate. But the prekindergarten proposal has faced relatively little pushback compared with other provisions of the spending bill,” the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Chapman and Lee Hawkins report.
“If passed, Mr. Biden’s bill would give more than six million children the opportunity to attend school, more than doubling the number of seats in U.S. prekindergarten programs, said Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.”
Biden vowed to close federal private prisons, but prison companies are finding loopholes to keep them open
“One key loophole [private prison companies have] found: holding detained immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Biden signed an executive order his first week in office that banned new private prison contracts, but it didn't apply to immigrant detention centers,” CNN’s Casey Tolan reports.
“A Pennsylvania federal prison owned by the corporate giant GEO Group has reopened as an immigrant detention center, and local officials around the country told CNN prison companies are exploring the same playbook for at least a half-dozen other private facilities with expiring contracts, including possibly at [the Leavenworth Detention Center.]”
Biden will visit New Hampshire Tuesday to tout infrastructure package
“This will be Biden’s first trip to New Hampshire, a pivotal swing state, since becoming president,” CBS Boston reports.
The restoration of Jefferson Memorial, visualized
As of last month, the Jefferson Memorial's marble surfaces are now laser-cleaned and power-washed restoring the building to almost-new condition. The restoration project used high-tech lasers to vaporize the thickening biofilm that started to grown on the iconic white dome in 2015. See how the iconic building was restored.
Hot on the left
AOC isn’t wavering. Are New Yorkers on her side?
“Even in her New York City district — perceived as one of the most liberal in the nation — there are sharp disagreements unfolding over how far left the party should go and how change is best achieved, according to interviews with more than three dozen constituents, elected officials and party leaders,” the New York Times's Katie Glueck and Nicholas Fandos report.
“At no time has that been clearer than over the last week, as New Yorkers debated her approach to the bipartisan infrastructure measure that will fund much-needed improvements to subways, roads, bridges and sewers, despite falling short of initial Democratic hopes.”
Hot on the right
Kevin McCarthy’s made the right GOP moves. He still has to fight for the gavel.
“The toughest trial Kevin McCarthy faces on his way to becoming House speaker isn’t reclaiming the majority. It’s what comes afterward,” Politico's Olivia Beavers reports.
“McCarthy and his allies are elated by the strong GOP showing in this month’s elections, ambitiously projecting a midterm gain next year to rival the 63-seat wave that swamped House Democrats in 2010. But if Democrats can tamp down the number of Republican victories next fall, then some of McCarthy’s own members say the Californian could hit potholes on his road to the gavel.”
Today in Washington
Biden will hold a cabinet meeting at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.
At 5:40 p.m., he will depart the White House for Camp David.
In closing (Taylor's Version)
Thursday night, Taylor Swift's “Red (Taylor's Version)” broke the Swiftie part of the Internet. The most-anticipated song, a 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” did not disappoint.
Emily Yahr explains the moment and why Jake Gyllenhaal is probably having a rough day:
“To understand why the 10-minute version has become such a frenzied topic in Taylor Swift lore, you must understand the nature of the Taylor Swift fan.”
Thanks for reading. See you Monday.