Wed. Sep 28th, 2022

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

RECONCILIATION LATEST — The overnight vote-a-rama is winding down and a final vote on the Inflation Reduction Act in the Senate will come this afternoon. The House is scheduled to return and take up the bill on Friday. Our sleep-deprived Hill team has all the latest details here

BIDEN ENDS QUARANTINE — The president tested negative on an antigen test for the second day in a row, per a note from his doctor, which means JOE BIDEN is free to leave his 16-day isolation, which happened to coincide with the best stretch of his presidency so far. (This morning, Biden headed to his beach house in Rehoboth, natch.)

MEANWHILE, the president is about to make history.

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act will make Biden one of the most legislatively successful presidents of the modern era. We once noted that the mismatch between the size of Biden’s ambitions and his margins in Congress made it seem like he was trying to pass a Rhinoceros through a garden hose. It ended up being more like a pony, but it’s still pretty impressive.

To wit:

— American Recovery Act: $1.9 trillion

— Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: $550 billion

— Chips and Science Act: $280 billion

— Inflation Reduction Act: ≈$700 billion

That’s a nearly $3.5 trillion agenda. The scope of the issues addressed is notable: the pandemic and its economic fallout, highways, bridges, broadband, rail, manufacturing, science, prescription drug prices, health insurance, climate change, deficit reduction and tax equity.

He also expanded NATO, passed a new gun safety law and passed a bill to address the effects of vets exposed to toxic burn pits. Five out of seven of these laws — all but the two biggies, the ARP and IRA — received significant Republican support.

There’s not much debate anymore over whether Biden has been a consequential president. In the long run, his first two years may be remembered as akin to LBJ when it comes to moving his agenda through Congress.

The current political question is how much it will matter in the short term.

Passing legislation is no guarantee of electoral victory. All modern presidents, with the exception of GEORGE W. BUSH after 9/11, saw midterm losses two years after being elected regardless of how successful they were with Congress. For members facing reelection, voting with the president can just as easily be a political burden as a political boost. One study after the Democrats’ 2010 midterm drubbing suggested that the more a Democratic House member voted with BARACK OBAMA on his top priorities, the more likely they were to lose. Last year, Biden literally mailed checks to every American and he was repaid with lower approval ratings than any of his predecessors at this point.

In the spring, JOHN ANZALONE, Biden’s pollster, told us the political environment for Democrats was the worst he’s seen in 30 years. We talked to him this morning and his assessment has changed dramatically.

“I don’t feel like that today,” he said. “Three months ago, we were on the defensive and now we’re on the offensive.”

First, he argued, was the burst of legislation. “Part of the problem that Democrats had,” he said, “including the president, is this idea that we just couldn’t get anything done. And the fact is we got something done.”

“This president has set up in a very short time period for Democratic frontline candidates something they didn’t have a few months ago,” he said. “They were on the defensive on inflation and a host of other issues. And since then the president has helped with CHIPS and the Inflation Reduction Act and a compelling positive message: lowering drug prices, lowering energy prices, making America more energy independent, bringing the supply chain back from China, deficit reduction and making big companies pay their fair share.”

Then there’s the spate of new issues that weren’t as important earlier this year. “Republicans are out of step on abortion, guns, and Jan. 6,” he said.

“We put our last silver dollar in our slot machine and came up big,” Anzalone said. “And they were sitting there with a stack of chips and are down to just one. The turnaround is unbelievable.”

He cautioned that the change was unlikely to show up in the polls this summer. (Indeed, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll has dismal numbers for Biden, including a 37% job approval.)

“But between now and Election Day there will probably be $6 billion spent on communications,” Azalone said. “Democrats will spend about half of that. That’s a lot of money to explain what we’ve done for the American people.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove takes exception with the more upbeat Anzalonian view of the midterms. “So Democrats are pumping this latest Build Back Better incarnation big time, hoping it’ll be the life raft they need,” he writes. Rove thinks the bill can be easily picked apart and turned into an albatross. “Retiring Illinois Rep. CHERI BUSTOS claims it gives her party ‘the Big MO,’ while Virginia Rep. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER proclaimed it will ‘change people’s lives.’” he writes. “Such hyperbole won’t save Democrats; voters will see that the promises don’t match reality.” But Rove also offers this warning: “The Schumer-Manchin deal won’t save the Democrats. But unhinged GOP candidates might.”

Conservative columnist Henry Olsen agrees with pieces of the Anzo and Rove analyses. Tuesday’s results in Kansas are a blinking red light for Republicans, he writes in the WaPo, and “the national GOP should try to take abortion off the table as quickly as possible.” Like Rove, he fears that poor candidates mean that the “GOP is blowing its chance to make the midterms a referendum on Democrats.”

NYT’s Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman argue that control of the upper chamber rests on “whether Democratic candidates in crucial Senate races can continue to outpace the president’s unpopularity.”

The AP’s Seung Min Kim and Zeke Miller note a central irony in Biden’s string of recent victories: “Over five decades in Washington, Joe Biden knew that the way to influence was to be in the room where it happens. But in the second year of his presidency, some of Biden’s most striking, legacy-defining legislative victories came about by staying out of it.”

Good Sunday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line and tell us what you think the IRA means for the midterms — and for history: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

SUNDAY BEST …

— Sen. BEN CARDIN (D-Md.) on the reconciliation process, on “Fox News Sunday”: “Let me say this: Turning all these bills by reconciliation is not the right way to do it. The Republicans did it in 2017 on the tax bill, we are obligated to use this process because we can’t get Republicans to work with us on fundamental issues, such as energy, climate, and health care costs. But they’d be much better if we could have a process where we work together and had the richness of every member participating in the process, bipartisan process.”

— Rep. NANCY MACE (R-S.C.) on Congress’ role in abortion policy folliowing the overturning of Roe v. Wade, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “You know, ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ is not supposed to be a roadmap, right? This is a place where we can be, we can be in the center, we can protect life, and we can protect where people are on both sides of the aisle.”

On how abortion issues will impact the midterms: “I do think that it will be an issue in November if we’re not moderating ourselves. … We can’t go to the far corners of the right or the far corners of the left.” More from Myah Ward

Taiwanese Ambassador to the U.S. BI-KHIM HSIAO on whether Taiwan shared U.S. concerns about Speaker NANCY PELOSI’s trip, on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “We have been living under the threat from China for decades. And we cannot let their ongoing threats define our desire to make friends internationally. … The risks are not posed by Taiwan, nor are they posed by the United States. The risks are posed by Beijing.”

— NIKKI HALEY on whether she’ll run in 2024 on “Fox News Sunday”: “MARGARET THATCHER said ‘If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’ We should not take our eyes off of 2022. If we don’t win in 2022, there won’t be a 2024. So we need to stay humble, disciplined and win that. And then if there’s a place for me, I’ve never lost a race. I’m not going to start now.” More from David Cohen

TOP-EDS: A roundup of the week’s must-read opinion pieces.

Biden …

Trump

After Roe …

SCOTUS …

Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan …

The Zawahiri strike …

BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president is in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and has nothing on his public schedule.

VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SUNDAY — The VP has nothing on her public schedule.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

1. MAJOR SUNDAY READ: The September cover story of The Atlantic is Caitlin Dickerson’s blockbuster investigation of the creation and implementation of DONALD TRUMP’s family-separation policy. The nearly 30,000-word article, “‘We Need to Take Away Children,’” spans forty-one pages of the magazine and is one of the longest reported pieces The Atlantic has ever published. Dickerson spent 18 months on it, conducted over 150 interviews, and reviewed thousands of pages of government documents. Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeff Goldberg calls it “a heartbreaking and damning story.” (The piece is also published in Spanish here.)

“It is easy to pin culpability for family separations on the anti-immigration officials for which the Trump administration is known,” Dickerson writes. “But these separations were also endorsed and enabled by dozens of members of the government’s middle and upper management: Cabinet secretaries, commissioners, chiefs, and deputies who, for various reasons, didn’t voice concern even when they should have seen catastrophe looming; who trusted ‘the system’ to stop the worst from happening; … who assumed that someone else, in some other department, must be on top of the problem; who were so many layers of abstraction away from the reality of screaming children being pulled out of their parent’s arms that they could hide from the human consequences of what they were doing.”

Former DHS Secretary KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, who for months tried to stop the policy but ultimately became the face of it, tells Dickerson that she regrets signing the order to implement it: “Frankly, I wish I hadn’t.”

2. RECONCILIATION READ: “How the Private-Equity Lobby Won — Again,” by WSJ’s Julie Bykowicz in Washington and Miriam Gottfried in New York: “Private-equity industry lobbyists have worked hard to keep the status quo. They say they know private equity has an image problem. So they have worked to persuade lawmakers to think not of the New York and San Francisco investment managers, but of the local businesses throughout America those managers fund, such as medical practices, small manufacturers and auto-repair businesses. Private-equity advocates say that because fund managers help form the backbone of the economy, they deserve lower tax rates.”

3. THE MAN FOR THE MOMENT? “Biden Is an Uneasy Champion on Abortion. Can He Lead the Fight in Post-Roe America?” by NYT’s Michael Shear: “Inside the West Wing, President Biden has made it clear that he is uncomfortable even using the word abortion, according to current and former advisers. In speeches and public statements, he prefers to use the word sparingly, focusing instead on broader phrases, like ‘reproductive health’ and ‘the right to choose,’ that might resonate more widely with the public. Mr. Biden, a practicing Catholic who has drawn on his faith to shape his political identity, is now being called on to lead a fight he spent decades sidestepping — and many abortion rights advocates worry that he may not be the right messenger for the moment.”

“Post Roe, some in GOP wage uphill battle to offer families more support,” by WaPo’s Jeff Stein and Leigh Ann Caldwell

The post-Kansas mood: “Some South Carolina Republicans pause at abortion ban brink,” by AP’s Jeffrey Collins

4. THE TRUMP EFFECT: “Trump wins CPAC straw poll in Dallas,” by CNN’s Michael Warren: “Among the attendees who voted, 69% said they preferred Trump, with 24% saying they would prefer Florida Republican Gov. RON DESANTIS. When asked about who they would prefer if Trump did not run for president, 65% of respondents said they preferred DeSantis, while 8% said they would support DONALD TRUMP JR.

“Trump is trying to mold the GOP governor field — and found a favorite in Kari Lake,” by Meridith McGraw

5. PRIMARY COLORS: “Liz Cheney Is Ready to Lose. But She’s Not Ready to Quit,” by NYT’s Jonathan Martin in Cheyenne, Wyo.: “Polls show Ms. Cheney losing badly to her rival, Harriet Hageman, Mr. Trump’s vehicle for revenge, and the congresswoman has been all but driven out of her Trump-loving state, in part because of death threats, her office says. Yet for Ms. Cheney, the race stopped being about political survival months ago. Instead, she’s used the Aug. 16 contest as a sort of a high-profile stage for her martyrdom — and a proving ground for her new crusade.” The money line: “In a state where Mr. Trump won 70 percent of the vote two years ago, Ms. Cheney might as well be asking ranchers to go vegan.”

“Inside the race to replace Congress’ first quadriplegic — and its effect on disability rights,” by Katherine Tully-McManus: “Rep. JIM LANGEVIN is retiring after more than two decades as a champion for access and equity. The Republican who’s leading the battle to replace him says his legacy isn’t at risk.”

6. TENSIONS OVER TAIWAN: “White House resists Congress’ bipartisan bid to overhaul U.S.-Taiwan relations,” by Andrew Desiderio: “After warning Pelosi that her travel plans could provoke China — only to see the speaker make the trip anyway and lawmakers in both parties cheer her on — the Biden administration is now trying to make changes to a bipartisan bill that would overhaul longstanding U.S.-Taiwan policy in favor of a more aggressive posture.”

7. WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE IS WATCHING: “Drivers could soon see average gas prices hit $3.99 per gallon,” by CBS’ Allison Elyse Gualtieri

8. GRIPPING READ: “The Excruciating Echo of Grief in Uvalde,” with writing from Rick Rojas and Edgar Sandoval, videos by Emily Rhyne and photographs by Tamir Kalifa and Callaghan O’Hare: “The community buried 21 people after the Robb Elementary School massacre. In the weeks that followed, the aftershocks only compounded the agony.”

9. MEDIAWATCH: “Rachel Maddow Gives Her First Interview As She Steps Back From The Nightly Grind And Revs Up For Her Next Act,” by Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo, with quite the photo of Maddow chopping wood in a forest and an opening scene with the two ice-fishing in Western Massachusetts. On her new megadeal: “It’s potentially higher risk, higher reward, right? I think, writ large, if they ended up with, like, a hit award-winning podcast, and a hit movie, and a docuseries, and a serial TV show, and I’m covering the State of the Union, and some of the time I’m doing The Rachel Maddow Show, that’s probably a better deal for them long-run than me just doing TRMS and killing myself and not being able to do anything and, ultimately, having a shorter career because I’m burning myself out. Like, I’m not becoming a painter.”

Roger Waterstalked politics with CNN’s Michael Smerconish, including why the Pink Floyd co-founder, now 78 years old, tells fans on his current solo tour of the U.S. that if they hate politics they can, “F off to the bar.” (Waters comes to D.C. to play the Capital One Arena on Tuesday, Aug. 16.)

WHAT PLAYBOOKERS ARE READING: A roundup of the most-clicked links from the past week in Playbook.

1.Jon Stewart’sresponse to Tucker Carlson calling him “too short to date.”

2.Trump’smessage for Biden after his rebound Covid case.

3. “Inside the wild Bedminster lobbying spree that led to Trump’s double Missouri endorsement,” by Alex Isenstadt

4. “Matt Gaetz and the R word: Florida’s Democratic primary takes bitter detour,” by Gary Fineout

5. “A Netflix show starring Keri Russell stirs buzz among U.S. diplomats,” by Nahal Toosi

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Chip Roy (R-Texas), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mary Miller (R-Ill.) … Robert Mueller … Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Sara FischerLarry Sabato of the U.Va. Center for Politics (7-0) … Reason’s Nick GillespieRon Christie … CNN’s Matt Dornic and Dan MericaAndrew Gradison … The Atlantic’s Scott Stossel Allyn Brooks-LaSureMatt Mazonkey of Airbus … Alisa WolkingJordan Heiliczer of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association … POLITICO’s Maura Forrest … Agency IQ’s Bennie JohnsonJenn Lore LondonBruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute … Juven Jacob of Rep. Anthony Brown’s (D-Md.) office … Kimberly Ellis of Monument Advocacy … Washington Examiner’s Breanne DeppischAlex Kahan … Commerce’s Caitlin Legacki … Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Ryan CallananTamika (Day) Mason of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) office … Tom McCluskyWesley Derryberry of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati … Andrew DeSouzaKirsten Borman DoughertyMatt LehnerRyan PettitKellie ChongDaryn (Frischknecht) Sirrine … MSNBC’s Hollie Tracz H.W. BrandsAlan KeyesSusan Feeney of GMMB … former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor Martina McLennan of Sen. Jeff Merkley’s (D-Ore.) office … Brenton Temple Daniel Heuer of Voters of Tomorrow

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