For years Speaker NANCY PELOSI has bemoaned MITCH MCCONNELL’S “legislative graveyard” — the place where bills she shepherded through the Democratic House would “go to die.”
Now, CHUCK SCHUMER is about to become the cemetery caretaker.
Democrats are looking at a serious hangover once they celebrate getting Covid relief signed into law — courtesy of the Senate filibuster.
During a private meeting with her leadership team Monday night, Pelosi laid out plans to turn her chamber the next two weeks into a factory for Democratic priorities. They’ll move everything from election reform to a policing overhaul to gun control, plus women’s and union rights and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. (h/t Heather Caygle)
They’re all things President JOE BIDEN campaigned for, and they’re all DOA in the Senate. Some may not garner even a single Republican vote, let alone the 10 needed to break a filibuster.
Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, appeared to hint at that reality last week when a reporter asked him when his chamber would clear the Equality Act, another top priority the House passed last week. “At the exact right time,” was his cheeky response. Translation: at half-past-never, probably, because of Senate rules.
Pressure on Democrats from progressives to kill the filibuster is sure to mount as the party’s unfulfilled promises pile up. But lest we need a reminder, Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.), when asked Monday whether he’d ever change his mind on changing the supermajority rule, barked “NEVER!” in response. “JESUS CHRIST! What don’t you understand about NEVER?!”
Against that backdrop, here’s Playbook’s handicapping of a few Democratic proposals coming down the pike.
1) H.R. 1, the For the People Act — Last Congress, not a single Republican voted for the election reform measure that would expand voting rights, limit dark money in politics and curb gerrymandering. And that was before everyone at CPAC unloaded on it. Even DONALD TRUMP mentioned H.R. 1 in his speech Sunday night. And Fox News is reporting on GOP outside groups attacking vulnerable Democrats for backing parts of the bill.
Schumer has promised to put the Senate companion bill on the floor. But with Republicans around the nation looking to curb access to voting, don’t hold your breath.
House passage: Coming this week, after a last-minute compromise with moderates first reported by our Congress team.
Senate prospects: Don’t bet on it.
2) Police reform — Senior Democrats hope Rep. KAREN BASS (D-Calif.) and Sen. TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.) can strike a deal at some point to overhaul how police treat unarmed Black men in their custody. But the two parties remain at loggerheads over qualified immunity, or legal protections for cops, which Scott called a “red line.” Also problematic for passage: There’s no deadline, and without a deadline, let’s face it, Congress is just about useless.
House passage: Expect this week.
Senate prospects: Not imminent, but a future deal is conceivable.
3) $15 minimum wage — This one is interesting. Yes, it’s about to get axed from the Covid bill. And no, it’s not going to pass if Schumer puts in on the floor for a stand-alone vote. But on Monday night, there were a bunch of GOP senators, including Maine’s SUSAN COLLINS and Iowa’s JONI ERNST, expressing support for some minimum wage increase, though lower than $15.
Our colleagues Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine report today that Sen. CHRIS COONS (D-Del.) is starting bipartisan talks to see if there is a compromise.
House passage: Happened last week.
Senate prospects: Bleak at the moment but could reemerge.
4) Also coming down the pipeline — Next week, the House will pass a pair of gun control measures, including expanded background checks and closing the so-called Charleston loophole, as well as a pro-labor bill protecting the right of unions to organize. The following week, they’ll move the long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment, the Violence Against Women Act and a series of immigration bills that will likely include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and help for ag workers. (h/t Heather x2)
House passage: When, not if.
Senate prospects: Range from unlikely to not happening.
BUT, BUT, BUT … For all this pessimism, the prospects for a big infrastructure package remain good. The reason? It can pass with 51 votes via reconciliation.
IS TANDEN STILL ALIVE? — Sen. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-Alaska) may be the last best hope for NEERA TANDEN’S sputtering nomination to head the OMB. The two met Monday, and when reporters caught up with Murkowski afterward, she sounded open-minded. “I’ve got some more follow-up questions, but we had a good conversation,” she said. “I’m still doing my assessment.”
When told of the comment, one source close to the White House exclaimed, “That’s a positive development!”
Based on a range of conversations Monday night, we would raise the odds of Murkowski supporting Tanden. We wouldn’t bet our nest egg on it, but don’t be shocked if it happens. A few reasons why:
— Murkowski has long made it clear that she believes presidents should have wide latitude to select their own people, especially when it comes to presidential personnel. (OMB is part of the Executive Office of the President.)
— Murkowski has told others she was genuinely open-minded about Tanden going into their meeting. Democrats consider Murkowski one of the more straightforward Republican senators and not inclined to playing games about her positions.
— Saving the White House from an embarrassing defeat would provide Murkowski with a pretty big chit going forward when centrists like her will continue to be the key players in the Senate.
— The fact that Murkowski met with her at all is good news for Tanden. The source close to the White House recounted a story that explained why that gave him hope. In 1980, then-Sen. JOHN CULVER (D-Iowa) faced a tough reelection and decided to oppose one of JIMMY CARTER’S Federal Reserve nominees as a political stunt. He was asked if he would still meet with the nominee and he refused. “If I meet with him I might like him,” the senator said, “and the only way I can oppose him is if I have no idea what he’s like.”
A big caveat … There are still two Democrats who have remained mum on how they will vote: KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) and BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.).
BIDEN’S TUESDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. At 1:10 p.m., Biden will participate in a meeting with Senate Democrats by phone. He’ll deliver remarks on the pandemic at 4:15 p.m. in the State Dining Room, with Harris attending. Harris will swear in MIGUEL CARDONA as Education secretary at 6 p.m. and take part virtually in the House Democratic Issues Conference at 8:15 p.m.
— Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 12:30 p.m.
THE SENATE meets at 10:30 a.m. to resume consideration of GINA RAIMONDO’S nomination as Commerce secretary. At 2:15 p.m., the Senate will vote on confirmation of the Raimondo nomination and on a motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of CECILIA ROUSE to be CEA chair. FBI Director CHRISTOPHER WRAY will testify before the Judiciary Committee at a 10 a.m. hearing on the bureau’s response to various threats after the Jan. 6 insurrection. The Budget Committee will hold a hearing at 11 a.m. on SHALANDA YOUNG’S nomination to be deputy OMB director. (She’s one of the top contenders to replace Tanden for OMB director if that nomination flames out.)
ANOTHER CPAC TAKEAWAY — “Trumpism Grips a Post-Policy G.O.P. as Traditional Conservatism Fades,” by NYT’s Jonathan Martin: “Just as striking was what wasn’t said at the event. There was vanishingly little discussion of why Republicans lost the presidency, the House and the Senate over the last four years, nor much debate about what agenda they should pursue to rebuild the party.
“The absence of soul-searching owes in part to the Republicans’ surprise gains in the House and the denialism of many activists that they lost the White House at all, a false claim perpetuated with trollish gusto by former President Donald J. Trump himself on Sunday, to the delight of the crowd.”
2022 WATCH — “House Freedom Caucus chair weighs Arizona Senate bid,” The HIll: “Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — one of former President Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress and chairman of the House Freedom Caucus — is weighing a run for Senate in Arizona in 2022. …
“His decision to explore a bid for the upper chamber comes as Trump and his allies have vowed to help boost candidates who have staunchly supported the former president and target GOP lawmakers who have rebuked him following the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.”
A 3RD ALLEGATION — “Cuomo Accused of Unwanted Advance at a Wedding: ‘Can I Kiss You?’” NYT: “The governor was working the room after toasting the newlyweds, and when he came upon Ms. Ruch, now 33, she thanked him for his kind words about her friends. But what happened next instantly unsettled her: Mr. Cuomo put his hand on Ms. Ruch’s bare lower back, she said in an interview on Monday.
“When she removed his hand with her own, Ms. Ruch recalled, the governor remarked that she seemed ‘aggressive’ and placed his hands on her cheeks. He asked if he could kiss her, loudly enough for a friend standing nearby to hear. Ms. Ruch was bewildered by the entreaty, she said, and pulled away as the governor drew closer.”
WHEN ‘DEMOCRAT’ IS AN INSULT — “What’s in an adjective? ‘Democrat Party’ label on the rise,” AP: “Amid bipartisan calls to dial back extreme partisanship following the insurrection, the intentional misuse of ‘Democrat’ as an adjective remains in nearly universal use among Republicans. Propelled by conservative media, it also has caught on with far-right elements that were energized by the Trump presidency.
“Academics and partisans disagree on the significance of the word play. Is it a harmless political tactic intended to annoy Republicans’ opponents, or a maliciously subtle vilification of one of America’s two major political parties that further divides the nation?”
BLACK EYE — Sen. MITT ROMNEY (R-Utah) told reporters he got a black eye and stitches after “taking a fall” playing with his grandkids over the weekend in Boston. He joked that he sustained the injuries at CPAC. (Romney didn’t attend the conference.)
PLEA FOR AID — A group of 10 senators, led by RON WYDEN (D-Ore.), Sanders and SHERROD BROWN (D-Ohio), is sending a letter to Biden this morning urging him to include “recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions” as part of his upcoming infrastructure and economic relief package, aka Build Back Better.
In other words, a Democratic aide told us, if there’s a prolonged downturn people wouldn’t have to wait for Congress to get its act together again before government aid kicks in. The assistance would phase out as the unemployment rate declines.
The letter is being circulated to Democratic senators and aides are expecting more to sign on. Read it here
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
BEHIND THE SCENES — “Inside the Biden team’s deliberations over punishing the Saudi crown prince,” WaPo: “For senior Biden administration officials, criticism over the administration’s actions was perhaps inevitable but hasn’t always taken into account how rapidly the U.S. posture with the monarchy has changed since Biden’s inauguration, said several U.S. officials …
“Most shocking to the monarchy, it was made clear that Biden would take his time accepting a congratulatory call from King Salman and would not speak with Mohammed. … The Saudis, long unable to find a way out of the unwinnable war in Yemen, agreed to try harder … and to lift blockades that were preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching starving Yemenis. … Administration officials were pleased, for the most part, with the Saudi response to private communications conveying its early decisions.”
TRACKER: The U.S. reported 1,241 Covid-19 deaths and 48,000 new coronavirus cases Monday.
THE PANDEMIC’S FINANCIAL IMPACT — “Virus Did Not Bring Financial Rout That Many States Feared,” NYT: “As it turns out, new data shows that a year after the pandemic wrought economic devastation around the country, forcing states to revise their revenue forecasts and prepare for the worst, for many the worst didn’t come. One big reason: $600-a-week federal supplements that allowed people to keep spending — and states to keep collecting sales tax revenue — even when they were jobless, along with the usual state unemployment benefits.
“By some measures, the states ended up collecting nearly as much revenue in 2020 as they did in 2019. A J.P. Morgan survey called 2020 ‘virtually flat’ with 2019, based on the 47 states that report their tax revenues every month, or all except Alaska, Oregon and Wyoming.”
OBLITERATING THE LINES — “Fox News once banned its hosts from speaking at partisan events. Then it went all in on CPAC,” WaPo: “Only a few months ago, Fox cracked down on appearances by its hosts and journalists at partisan events, deeming them a breach of the line distinguishing a news organization from a political-advocacy outfit.
“But Fox not only permitted Bongino and Hegseth to address CPAC this week — the network was directly involved in financing the conference. The network spent $250,000 through its Fox Nation streaming service to become a leading CPAC sponsor, according to the Daily Beast. (Fox contributed to CPAC’s organizer last year as well, but at a much lower rate: $28,000 in sponsorship fees.)”
BLAME GAME — “Navarro penned 15-page memo falsely accusing Coates of being ‘Anonymous,’” by Daniel Lippman: “Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro penned a 15-page dossier falsely accusing his colleague Victoria Coates of being ‘Anonymous,’ according to a copy of the document that was obtained by POLITICO and captures the backbiting that was rife in the Trump White House.
“The December 2019 memo goes into great detail to make the case that Coates — who was then a deputy national security adviser — was the author of both the New York Times op-ed and a tell-all book that described a resistance force within the administration aiming to undermine President Donald Trump. Coates, who is not named in the memo but is clearly identified through specific information, was transferred out of the White House to the Department of Energy in February, just weeks after Navarro wrote and circulated the document.”
ABOUT THE CFO — “Prosecutors Investigating Trump Focus on His Finance Chief,” NYT: “State prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating former President Donald J. Trump and his family business are sharpening their focus on the company’s long-serving chief financial officer, asking witnesses questions about his dealings at the company, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
“The increased focus on the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, could step up pressure on him to cooperate with the investigation if the prosecutors unearth evidence of wrongdoing on his part. He has served as the Trump Organization’s financial gatekeeper for more than two decades and could be a vital source of information for the government about the inner workings of the company.”
MELANIA’S MARK — “Melania Trump is out of the White House, but she left her mark on its public spaces,” WaPo: “Every departing first family who has lived in the 132-room mansion leaves something of themselves behind. And while Melania Trump did not make refurbishing a major focus, there were some significant additions and improvements during her tenure. They included a bronze statue by Isamu Noguchi, a restoration of the East Room and new fabrics to replace sun-damaged upholstery and walls in the Red Room. There were also practical projects, such as the modernization of the subbasement curatorial storage room and restoration of historical wooden doors that had been dinged by presidential dogs over the decades.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — WaPo’s Dana Milbank has signed a deal with Doubleday to write a book detailing “the quarter-century crackup of the GOP, from the Contract With America to the attack on the Capitol. An eyewitness account of how the party of Lincoln and of Reagan lost touch with the truth, decency and democracy itself.” Kris Puopolo will serve as editor, and Milbank was repped by Rafe Sagalyn. The yet-to-be-titled book is aiming for a fall 2022 release.
SPOTTED: Mike Pompeo at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach on Monday, with a security detail. … Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on a jog Saturday (the day the Nebraska GOP rebuked him) with a shirt that reads “Nebraska, quite a judicial thinking place.” Pic
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION — “Trump Family Mansion Next to Mar-a-Lago on Sale for $49 Million,” Bloomberg: “The eight-bedroom ‘Beachouse’ is ‘a well known and very important oceanfront estate,’ broker Lawrence Moens said in a full-page ad in Sunday’s Palm Beach Daily News. The ‘exclusive’ listing doesn’t mention Trump, but says the house comes with a Mar-A-Lago club membership.”
FOLLOWING THE FIRST LADY — “Where Jill Biden drops by for a cup of coffee can make quite a statement,” WaPo: “Unscheduled stops like the one in Richmond are selected a couple of hours or maybe a day before she goes there, said a person familiar with the first lady’s routine who was not authorized to speak publicly about it. And they happen because she has expressed wanting to buy a certain thing on her way to get somewhere else, like Camp David or back to her plane.
“Unlike announced visits that more sharply delineate a first lady’s agenda — supporting education, cancer research and military families — no press pool is present for the semi-stealth visits. The only photos usually come from shocked customers, owners and employees (who immediately make up for the lack of press by posting them on social media), or from the first lady’s photographer, who is almost always with her.”
CROSSWISE WITH CROSSFIT — “CrossFit Is Finally Fed Up With Marjorie Taylor Greene,” BuzzFeed: “With every pull-up, power snatch, and hotel-room burpee, Marjorie Taylor Greene used CrossFit to build her brand, from gym owner to the House of Representatives’ most visible far-right conspiracy theorist. Before and during her political rise, CrossFit’s headquarters ignored Greene’s existence and her praise of the company’s workout programs — until now. CrossFit for the first time disavowed Greene.”
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom Is Predicted for April 2-5,” Washingtonian
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — TRUMP ALUMNI: Brad Smith has launched Russell Street Ventures, a Nashville-based health care firm focused on launching and scaling companies that serve vulnerable patient populations. He most recently was director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation and deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Announcement
MEDIAWATCH — Democratic pollster Zac McCrary is launching “The Pro Politics Podcast,” interviewing people from both sides of the aisle who have been successful in politics. The first episode of the weekly podcast is live with Paul Begala. Future guests include Charlie Cook, Glen Bolger, David Dixon, Saul Shorr and Ali Lapp.
— Nancy San Martín and Bijal Trivedi are joining National Geographic. San Martín will be deputy managing editor of history and culture and previously was a managing editor at El Nuevo Herald. Trivedi will be senior science editor and previously was a science and technology editor at The Conversation.
TRANSITIONS — Taylor Weeks Armentrout is now senior manager of government affairs for Virgin Galactic. She most recently was a senior adviser at NASA, and is a John Cornyn alum. … Tola Thompson is joining Ballard Partners’ Washington office. He most recently was chief of staff for Rep. Al Lawson (D-Fla.), and is a Carrie Meek alum. … Conn Carroll is now comms director for Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). He previously was comms director for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). …
… Tucker Middleton is now an executive producer and principal at McKenna Media. She previously was a producer at Putnam Partners. … CR Wooters is now director of federal affairs for Uber. He previously was co-founder of FIO360. … Marcie Smith will be an associate director for the Bipartisan Policy Center Action. She most recently was a professional staff member for the House Climate Crisis Select Committee GOP, and is a John Kennedy alum.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Chuck Nadd, a major in the U.S. Army and a student at Harvard Business School, and Shannon Nadd recently welcomed John Henry Scott Nadd, who joins Mary Margaret (4) and Peter (3). Pic … Another pic
BIRTHDAYS: Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Ami Bera (D-Calif.) … Joe Brettell … former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) … Ken Salazar … Kevin Madden … Liz Oberg … Jason Boxt … Brookings’ Robin Lewis … Laurie van Hall, co-founder of Bee Compliance … Emily Miller (5-0) … Rachel Geffner … Ashley Chang … Joe Scannell … Sally Rosen … Javelin’s Dylan Colligan … Mikhail Gorbachev (9-0) … Levi Russell … Yuri Beckelman … Ven Neralla … Syd Terry … Michael Hutton … Caitlin McFall … NYT’s Dave Itzkoff and Katherine Rosman … Joe Garofoli … James Purnell … Sam Lane
Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.