Democrats take step toward reviving reconciliation
All eyes will be on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) this month to see whether Senate Democratic leaders are able to resurrect President Biden’s long-stalled climate and social spending package.
Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday took a step toward a potential deal to revive the “Build Back Better” bill, submitting text to the Senate parliamentarian of legislation that would allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare.
The proposal on drug pricing — a stated goal of Manchin’s — would also cap out-of-pocket costs for Medicare users at $2,000 and impose an “inflation” refund policy if companies raise prices above inflation.
The text needs to first be approved by the parliamentarian to ensure it follows the rules of reconciliation, a process that would allow it to pass with 50 votes — and a tie-breaker from Vice President Harris — instead of 60.
What we’re watching: The drug pricing proposal may have Manchin’s support, but Democrats are aiming to pass it as part of a broader measure with climate and tax provisions — and that depends on reaching a broader deal with Manchin.
Why now: Democrats are likely feeling more pressure to reach a deal with Manchin on reducing carbon emissions – one of the significant provisions in the bill that he didn’t agree with previously – following the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency, via our colleague Alex Bolton.
Some Democrats, including Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), previously expressed skepticism that a deal would come to fruition before midterms. It’s unclear whether Democrats are planning to get a full package on the floor before August recess.
But there is one other thing that could put the bill in jeopardy: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) threat last week to kill the Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) if Democrats put forward their reconciliation package.
The White House doesn’t want USICA to die, touting it as a bill that would allow the U.S. to be more competitive against China and ease supplychain issues, via our colleague Morgan Chalfant.
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President Biden, who's faced a steady series of setbacks this year, was met by a rousing, union-friendly crowd in Cleveland on Wednesday, continuing the White House’s efforts to get him in out of Washington and in front of friendly crowds to promote his embattled agenda.
"When unions do well, everybody does well," Biden, harkening back to a familiar refrain from his campaign and drawing cheers.
Our colleague Morgan Chalfant was there and filed this report.
The applause came as Biden has been inundated by a barrage of negative news. There have been stories questioning whether the 79-year-old president will — or should — run for reelection in 2024, as well as historically low favorability polls, a dismal national mood and rising prices.
No formal plans have been announced yet but Biden’s expected to hold additional friendly events in the coming weeks.
ANOTHER SIGN OF BIDEN’S TROUBLES?
One person not in attendance Wednesday: Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat currently in a heated Senate campaign against Republican author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance. Members of Congress typically greet presidents of their own party during visits to their states.
A spokeswoman for Ryan said he had campaign events that had been scheduled before Biden's trip was announced.
But David Mermin, a partner at the Democratic consulting firm Lake Research Partners, told NotedDC that he would not be surprised to see candidates in tight races shy away from Biden's embrace. Recent polls have shown Biden's favorability below 40 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight's popularity tracker.
"I think it's well known that his numbers aren't great in some of those swing states," Mermin said. "I don't think there's anything shocking about it."
The White House doesn't comment on campaign activities because of federal law.
Mermin noted that the president is often blamed for things like inflation and gas prices, which have skyrocketed over the summer.
"I think Ryan knew from the beginning that he wanted to focus on issues that are important for voters there," he said, adding that Ohio is a difficult place for a Democrat to win state-wide. "I think there's a misperception that this is somehow running away from party, when really it's running toward the issues that voters are most concerned about."
Read more about Biden's struggles with Democrats from The Hill's Amie Parnes and Brett Samuels.
Republicans go against Mastriano in Pennsylvania
© Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster
In Pennsylvania, a group of Republicans backed Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s bid for governor.
The endorsement comes against Republican candidate Doug Mastriano, who has focused much of his campaign around allegations of voter fraud in Pennsylvania and dismayed a number of establishment Republicans when he won the nomination.
Plus, a Georgia grand jury just subpoenaed Mastriano’s legal adviser Jenna Ellis for allegedly authoring memos to justify a plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject electors from Georgia and other battleground states in 2020.
Our colleague Julia Manchester writes that the move “resembles past efforts from some Republicans to rally against former President Trump.”
A FiveThirtyEight poll updated Wednesday forecasts Shapiro leading with 51 percent of the vote to Mastriano with 46 percent.
MORE ON THE GEORGIA GRAND JURY
Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) is now facing a subpoena in Georgia for allegedly attempting to influence the 2020 election, despite staying under the radar during the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings.
Graham’s subpoena in Fulton County, Ga., cites his alleged phone calls to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) about reexamining certain absentee ballots to create a more favorable outcome for Trump.
- Will Graham comply? He plans to go to court to challenge the subpoena, according to his attorneys.
- Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the Jan. 6 committee, called it a “very big deal” since the people subpoenaed “conspired with bogus claims of fact.”
Others subpoenaed include key, familiar figures like Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman.
What we’re watching: Don’t expect this to be the last of the subpoenas issued by the grand jury – Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Wednesday on MSNBC there will likely be more.
© Patrick Semansky / Associated Press
In another shakeup at the White House, communications director Kate Bedingfield is leaving in a matter of weeks. She helped steer the Biden presidential campaign, first working under him when he served as vice president.
The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom has a weekly roundup of where people are moving in the lobbying world (and you can send us your professional updates, too!).
Here are some highlights:
- Meaghan Lynch is heading to Airbnb as a public policy manager. Lynch previously served as press secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development
Jennifer Kuskowski joined Siemens Healthineers AG as head of government affairs for the Americas, leaving the role of senior adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Leann Paradise and Haleigh Hildebrand joined the American Hotel and Lodging Association as vice president of political and member engagement and as senior director of government and political affairs.
- Scott Marks will be the assistant vice president of congressional relations at The Independent Community Bankers of America.
A walk across Connecticut
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) will be in tip-top shape to run around the halls in the Capitol after he finishes his sixth annual walk across his entire state.
He’s meeting some critics along the way, tweeting that a man hopped off his lawnmower to tell him that he “didn’t like the gun safety bill” he was instrumental in passing.
Murphy will take his running shoes off when the Senate is back in session next Monday.
Murphy talks about his progress here.
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