“The fact that the president came to the Hill and whipped against his own bill is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.”
That late-night observation was just one of many we heard from frustrated lawmakers and senior aides stunned by what happened in the House on Friday.
— What senior Dems thought was going to happen: President JOE BIDEN was coming to the Hill to support Speaker NANCY PELOSI’s efforts to rally the party behind his historic $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan ahead of a Friday vote.
— What ended up happening instead: Biden told them he wanted to hold off on BIF until there was a reconciliation deal — even if that means delaying the vote for several more days or even weeks.
Biden’s move put Pelosi in a tough spot. She’d promised House moderates a vote on BIF this week, but the president himself blew up that timeframe — essentially forcing Pelosi to choose between breaking her promise and defying her president.
BUT HERE’S WHERE THINGS GET REALLY INTERESTING: Some progressive Democrats suggested to their colleagues that the White House — at its most senior levels — gave them a green light to tank the BIF vote if Pelosi went ahead with it, we’re told from three congressional sources.
This bizarre dynamic is popping up in a few stories this morning:
— WaPo’s Greg Sargent reports that when Sens. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) and JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) walked away from negotiations late Thursday night without a deal on reconciliation, a “White House adviser” called up Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-Wash.) to tell her about the lack of an accord. And “the White House adviser exerted no pressure on Jayapal to get progressives to vote for” the core infrastructure bill that Pelosi had been planning to hold a vote on. (She ended up nixing the roll call because she didn’t have the votes.)
Playbook can report that White House chief of staff RON KLAIN spoke personally with Jayapal, according to multiple sources — though the White House says this conversation happened earlier in the day on Thursday.
Jayapal’s office, originally declining to comment, sent this statement after publish time: “The White House was always firm in its support for both the infrastructure bill and the President’s Build Back Better Act, and we were firm that one could not move without the other. No one from the White House encouraged us to hold firm, and frankly, no one could have changed our minds not to.”
— The N.Y. Times also reports that Klain has emboldened progressive opposition in calls where he “has been blunt about the president’s belief that Democrats need to reach a framework agreement on broader social policy legislation before they can approve the infrastructure measure.”
This line from the NYT is especially interesting and tracks with our own reporting from Hill sources: “One person familiar with Mr. Klain’s calls said they left liberal lawmakers with the impression that the White House was encouraging them to ‘hold firm’ against an infrastructure vote until a deal could be reached,” with Manchinema.
The White House pushed back on suggestions that they muscled support against their own bill. A White House official said Klain told progressives to “hang tight” — not “hold firm” — for more details on logistics.
“The suggestion that Ron Klain or anyone from the White House was arguing against members supporting or voting for the President’s agenda doesn’t even make sense and is categorically false,” press secretary JEN PSAKI said in a statement to Playbook last night. “At every point in the process our focus has been on keeping members and their teams updated on our efforts to unite the caucus on a path forward as we work toward a successful vote on both pieces of legislation.”
So what is actually happening here? Progressives are pushing the idea that their threat to bring down BIF was sanctioned by the White House. The White House was — and still is — happy to use the intraparty tensions caused by the progressive strategy to help extract a deal from Sinema and Manchin, but Biden’s aides are very careful to say they never crossed the line and actively whipped against their own bill, which would have been a serious betrayal of Pelosi.
WHY ALL OF THIS MATTERS: In public, the explanation from Biden and party leaders is that a delayed BIF vote gives them time to strike a deal with moderates. But in private, the divisions within the party are no longer merely ideological or procedural; there is a deeper distrust — even at the most senior levels — that will make striking a deal all the more difficult.
To boil down what is happening into a simple “progressives vs. moderates” dynamic ignores larger escalating tensions — between Democratic leaders on the Hill and in the White House; between the Senate and the House; between rank-and-file Democrats and their president.
Some senior Democrats feel like the White House strategy right now is self-defeating, and that if Biden didn’t want to vote on BIF absent a deal with Manchinema, he should have said so days ago.
“[Democratic leaders are] trying to keep everyone together, but the White House has really, significantly contributed to some of the problems,” one senior House Democrat who backs both bills and isn’t in either the moderate or progressive camp told us.
Further reading: “Progressives rallied behind Biden’s agenda. Now he’s gotta sell them on a compromise.” by Natasha Korecki and Christopher Cadelago … “‘It’s not a success’: Dems head home after infrastructure stalemate,” by Sarah Ferris, Nicholas Wu and Heather Caygle … “Biden urges Democrats to compromise, have patience as he tries to revive economic agenda,” by WaPo’s Tony Romm, Mike DeBonis and Marianna Sotomayor … “Progressives Flex Muscles on Biden Agenda, Adopting New Tactics,” by NYT’s Luke Broadwater and Michael Shear … “What if the Progressive Revolt Isn’t a Revolt at All?” by Mother Jones’ Kara Voght
9 THINGS WE READ THAT STUCK WITH US
— On Friday, the U.S. crossed a new pandemic threshold: 700,000 Covid deaths — the last 100,000 of which happened while vaccines were available to any American over the age of 12, notes the AP.
— The most interesting Twitter thread you’ll read today: NYT polling guru Nate Cohn explains why everybody misread the results of the 2012 election — and how that has distorted politics ever since.
— In an audit of the Arizona “audit,” it was discovered that Cyber Ninjas’ hand count of 2020 ballots was “wildly inaccurate” and does not match public data that was released by the state Senate. “The discrepancies are so large that they cannot just be brushed aside,” one expert told the Arizona Republic. “The reality is they just made up the numbers.”
— House of cards: Embattled digital media company Ozy announced Friday that it’s shutting down after a week of reports raising serious questions of business malpractice at the outlet, writes NYT’s Ben Smith. ICYMI: Smith’s column last Sunday kicked it all off with an amazing lede anecdote.
— California announced plans to require eligible K-12 students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to attend school in-person, pending FDA approval of the vaccine for younger populations, reports the L.A. Times.
— Amid the BIF/BBB wrangling on Friday, Sen. Sinema left Washington to head back to Arizona for a medical appointment and a retreat for high-dollar donors to her campaign, reports the NYT.
— The estate of notorious sex predator JEFFREY EPSTEIN is still worth an estimated $190 million, reports Maggie Severns for POLITICO Magazine. Meanwhile, a separate fund to compensate his victims has left many feeling shortchanged.
— “I want people to understand we have changed. The Senate Judiciary Committee and CHUCK GRASSLEY? I don’t think he’s changed much.” That assessment comes from ANITA HILL, who spoke with POLITICO Magazine’s Katelyn Fossett about the CLARENCE THOMAS hearings and what she wants to see Biden do.
— Is SHERYL SANDBERG’S power shrinking within Facebook? That’s the question posed (and, to some degree, answered) by Stephanie Stamm, John West and Deepa Seetharaman in the latest installment of the WSJ’s ongoing investigation of the social media giant.
BIDEN’S SATURDAY: The president left D.C. for Wilmington, Del., this morning at 9 a.m.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SATURDAY: The vice president will leave California to return to D.C. at 3 p.m. EST.
NOEM RESPONDS — South Dakota Gov. KRISTI NOEM “defended her administration’s handling of her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license,” Friday, after it was reported she held a meeting with her daughter and other officials to discuss the matter in the fall of 2020, AP’s Stephen Groves reports.
DO AS I SAY … Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Daniel Bice reports that Wisconsin Sen. RON JOHNSON, a multimillionaire who recently pushed back on suggestions that wealthy people should pay more in taxes, paid just $2,105 in state income taxes for 2017.
— Supreme Court Justice SONIA SOTOMAYOR “denied a request from a group of New York City teachers to block the city’s vaccine mandate for public school employees,” CNN’s Ariane de Vogue reports. “Sotomayor did not refer the request to the other Supreme Court justices, or comment on her action, likely signaling they agreed with her decision.”
— Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have slowly decreased over the past few weeks, but health officials “are bracing for yet another possible surge as cold weather drives people indoors,” AP’s Amy Forliti And Carla K. Johnson report.
— Sen. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-Alaska) gave an impassioned speech on the floor about coronavirus in her state, saying that “she had planned to return home this weekend but that most of the scheduled events and meetings had to be held virtually because of the virus,” WaPo’s Eugene Scott reports.
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
MAKING AMENDS — Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN is slated to head to France next week, following the drama that resulted in the U.S.’s defense pact with Australia and the U.K. Reuters’ Simon Lewis has more.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
— New York Gov. KATHY HOCHUL promises to “change the culture in Albany.” But the Democrat is hardly the first leader in New York to make such a pledge, notes Anna Gronewold, and it remains an open question whether any one person, even a governor, can invent a new way to grind the sausage in a capital seemingly impervious to change.
— A Koch-backed group is fueling opposition to school mask mandates, WaPo’s Isaac Stanley-Becker reports. A template letter — written with a personal tone from the perspective of a parent — “circulated this week within a conservative network built on the scaffolding of the Koch fortune and the largesse of other GOP megadonors.” The template letter
— NYT’s Maggie Astor deep dives into a bipartisan voting rights bill “that lawmakers might — might! — be able to agree on”: the Native American Voting Rights Act, which would allow tribes to “determine the number and location of voter registration sites, polling places and ballot drop boxes on their reservations,” among other provisions.
ANOTHER LEWANDOWSKI DEVELOPMENT — TRASHELLE ODOM, a GOP donor who came forward earlier this week with allegations of sexual assault against former Trump aide COREY LEWANDOWSKI, “sent a statement to police outlining her allegations,” Alex Isenstadt reports. She told police that Lewandowski’s “statements, coupled with his demeanor and aggressive behaviors,” made her “intimidated and frightened and fearful for my safety and that of my family members.”
— Far-right conspiracy theorist and talk show host ALEX JONES may have to pay “a fortune in damages” after a Texas judge issued a default judgment in two defamation lawsuits filed against Jones by the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, NBC News’ Corky Siemaszko reports. Jones has called the 2012 tragedy a “giant hoax,” and failed to produce any evidence to support that lie.
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 16 funnies
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza
— “The Conservatives Dreading — And Preparing for — Civil War,” by The Atlantic’s Emma Green: “A faction of the right believes America has been riven into two countries. The Claremont Institute is building the intellectual architecture for whatever comes next.”
— “How Miami Seduced Silicon Valley,” by N.Y. Mag’s Benjamin Wallace: “Awash in coders, crypto, and capital, the city is loving — and beginning to shape — its newest industry.”
— “Kidnapping, assassination and a London shoot-out,” by Yahoo’s Zach Dorfman, Sean Naylor and Michael Isikoff: “Inside the CIA’s secret war plans against WikiLeaks.”
— “The great sperm heist: ‘They were playing with people’s lives,’” by The Guardian’s Jenny Kleeman: “Paul was in his 80s when someone called to say she was his daughter, conceived in a fertility clinic with his sperm. The only problem? He’d never donated any.”
— “Why Is Every Young Person in America Watching ‘The Sopranos’?” by Willy Staley for NYT Magazine: “The show’s new audience is also seeing something different in it: a parable about a country in terminal decline.”
— From the archives: “Garden State Warrior: 11 Moments with James Gandolfini,” by GQ’s Chris Heath, June 20, 2013: “This year, Tony Soprano went deeper than we ever thought he would. And yet the actor who plays this man we know so well remains a mystery — at least until now. James Gandolfini settles in for a candid talk about life, death, and a guy called T.”
Kamala Harris sold her D.C. condo for $1.85 million, per WSJ.
José Andrés is launching a new food-focused media company.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Max Miller, the former Trump aide running for Congress in Ohio, is having a fundraiser in Alexandria, Va., on Oct. 13 whose host list is packed with Trump-world luminaries, according to an invite obtained by Daniel Lippman and Michael Kruse. Hosts include Mercedes and Matt Schlapp, Reps. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) and Billy Long (R-Mo.), David Bernhardt, Kellyanne Conway, Ric Grenell, Mark Meadows, Hope Hicks, Dan Scavino, Mick Mulvaney, Kash Patel, Matt Whitaker, Brian Ballard, Dave Bossie, Pam Bondi, Boris Epshteyn, Brad Parscale, Lindsay Reynolds, Tony Sayegh, Arthur Schwartz and Caroline Wren. “Co-chairs” must give or raise $5,800; “co-hosts,” $2,900; “sponsors,” $1000; and regular attendees have to pay $250. The invite
OUT AND ABOUT — Halcyon held its annual Awards Gala across multiple venues on Friday night in support of its social entrepreneurship programming and incubator. The evening was hosted by French Ambassador Philippe Etienne at his residence and Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita at his residence. The event honored Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) with the Policy Visionary Award, among others. SPOTTED: Sachiko Kuno, Kate Goodall, Samantha Abrams, Teresa Carlson, Jodie McLean, Jack Davies and Kay Kendall, Blair Watters, Eric Kessler, Scott Nash, Frank Islam and Marc and Leana Katz.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Rishi Banerjee is now regulatory and industry affairs manager at Amazon. He’s the former senior manager at the Global Food Safety Initiative at the Consumer Goods Forum.
TRANSITIONS — Caty Payette is now press secretary/digital director for Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). She most recently was press secretary/digital director for Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). … Tobin Marcus is taking over U.S. policy and politics research at Evercore ISI. He most recently was SVP at Benenson Strategy Group, and is a Biden alum. … Christina Mary Mason is joining DISH Network as senior manager of government affairs. She previously was VP for government affairs at WISPA – Wireless Internet Services Providers Association. … Elizabeth Rojas Levi is now SVP for comms at the Paley Center for Media. She most recently was head of global comms at Nokia Enterprise.
ENGAGED — Nate Treffeisen, senior manager of comms at 2U Inc. and Quinn Hatoff, senior manager of airport partnerships at Uber, got engaged Sept. 17. The couple met at Left Door on 14th Street in 2017 and began dating shortly after on a winter hiking trip to Shenandoah. Quinn proposed during a vacation in Peru after the two completed a four-day trek through the Andes, and the couple celebrated in a small town surrounded by Inca ruins. Pic … Another pic
WEDDING — Rexanah Wyse and Eric Morrissette, via NYT: “Ms. Wyse, 33, the chief of staff of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and Mr. Morrissette, 34, the director of legislative affairs for the U.S. Department of Commerce, were married Aug. 21 at the Mansion at Strathmore, an events space in Rockville, Md. The marriage was officiated by Representative Emanuel Cleaver II, Democrat from Missouri.”
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Cara Edmundowicz Aftuck, finance director for the Congressional Leadership Fund, and Philip Aftuck, director of investments at the Bernstein Companies, welcomed Margaux Josephine Aftuck on Thursday. She is named after both parents’ living grandmothers. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) … Doug Andres of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office … Barry Bennett … John Donnelly of Ervin Graves Strategy Group … NYT’s Lynsea Garrison … Lauren Belive of Zoom … Nicole Runge D’Ercole of House Majority PAC … Michael Sinacore of Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) office … Michelle Sara King of the International Trade Administration, celebrating with a weekend of golf with friends and watching the Red Sox take on the Nats … Julie Burton of the Women’s Media Center … former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), now of Winning Connections (6-0) … Ryan Stitzlein of NARAL Pro-Choice America … Joe Kalmin of the Livingston Group (3-0) … Charlotte Robertson of Sen. Maggie Hassan’s (D-N.H.) office … Ken Bazinet … Anthony Zona of Rep. Kat Cammack’s (R-Fla.) office … POLITICO’s Shannon Young, Thomas Zhang and Zoë Mitchell … Sejal Hathi … former Comptroller General Dave Walker (7-0) … Ed Cox … NPR’s David Gura
THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):
“Face the Nation”: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) … West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice … Scott Gottlieb.
“The Sunday Show”: Matthew Dowd … Keisha Blain … Eduardo Díaz … Joan Walsh … Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
“Full Court Press”: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) … Mike McGlone.
“This Week”: Panel: Rick Klein, Donna Brazile, Chris Christie and Rachael Bade.
“State of the Union”: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) … Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
“Inside Politics”: Panel: Lisa Lerer, John Bresnahan, Laura Barrón-López and Jeff Zeleny.
“Fox News Sunday”: Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) … Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) … Cedric Richmond. Panel: Steve Hayes, Marie Harf and Jonathan Swan. Power Player: Gen. Kelly McKeague.
“Meet the Press”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Panel: Jeh Johnson, Peggy Noonan, Susan Page and Jake Sherman.
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