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Happy Tuesday morning.
As the Senate comes in today, the schedule for this week – and potentially next week too – is still up in the air. “Fluid” is a good description. The Democrats’ $740 billion reconciliation package, the PACT Act and NATO expansion are all in play. Let’s talk about the latter two first, then we’ll do a deeper dive into reconciliation.
NATO: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is pushing for the Senate to take up the resolution approving Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO before the chamber begins debate on the Democrats’ reconciliation package.
Despite overwhelming support for the two nations joining NATO, this won’t be possible unless Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can get consent from all 100 senators, of course. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is strongly supportive of quick action, as is Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. Risch said so again on Monday night.
But there are some opponents of Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who may want amendment votes. With as many as 95 senators in favor of NATO expansion, any amendment would be easily voted down, which means a time agreement is possible.
Will the vote happen this week? Unclear. But it’s in play right now.
PACT Act: The veterans’ health bill has become a major political flashpoint after Senate Republicans blocked cloture on the legislation last week. This caused an uproar from veterans’ groups, who are demanding that Congress approve the $280 billion package immediately. Schumer has said he’s going to force another cloture vote this week.
Concerned about how the legislation is structured – and what it may mean for the price tag of other, non-veteran programs down the road – Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is pushing for an amendment to shift a portion of the bill from mandatory to discretionary spending. The Pennsylvania Republican wants this amendment taken up at a 50-vote threshold, while Schumer is saying it has to be 60 votes, like the overall bill. We expect this to get worked out, possibly as early as today. Republicans are playing a bad hand here, and we don’t expect they’ll want to keep playing it. In other words, even if they don’t get what they want on the Toomey amendment, we think this will get worked out.
Reconciliation: This is the big one. Senate Democrats are scrambling to pass the long-awaited legislation as quickly as possible, giving themselves and President Joe Biden a big win in the process. There’s hope that the Senate could begin a vote-a-rama later in the week, possibly this weekend, but the situation is confusing.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wouldn’t divulge much about Democrats’ progress with the Senate parliamentarian, other than to say he’d barely left his desk since Thursday.
Yet it seems that the Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough hasn’t even issued full guidance for the Medicare prescription drug pricing section of the package yet, and that review has been going on for more than a week. So it’s unclear how long the rest of the “Byrd bath” for this package will take. The Byrd Rule controls reconciliation in the Senate.
“We’ve made a lot of headway. We put an enormous amount of time into the health care provisions, I think we’re in the homestretch on that.”
“We’re still working through all of the timing issues. I mean, all of the lobbyists everywhere – and all they’re just saying Western civilization is going to end, for example, if you hold down prescription drug costs for people who are getting mugged at the pharmacy.”
When asked whether the vote-a-rama will happen this week, Wyden responded, “We’re committed to doing it. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, confirmed much of this. Crapo said Monday night that he and his staff still have no idea on the timeline for vetting the tax and climate portions of the bill with the parliamentarian. All Byrd reviews are done on a bipartisan basis.
“We haven’t even done our Byrd bath. And I don’t know when that will happen. So as far as I know, I don’t know the timeline…
“I asked my staff today when the timing is and we don’t have it.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who serves in leadership, said Schumer may call up the reconciliation package and begin debate on the measure while the Byrd bath is still ongoing. There are 20 hours of debate equally divided between the two sides once the motion to proceed is adopted, meaning Democrats have a little bit of leeway before a vote-a-rama starts.
Schumer is pressing very hard to get this all done by the end of the week. After waiting 18 months to get here, with potential victory so close, and senators anxious to get back home to campaign before the midterm election, the New York Democrat is putting enormous pressure on his colleagues and staffers to wrap it up as soon as possible.
We’re also starting to get an idea about what kind of amendments Republicans are going to offer during the vote-a-rama (it’s never “vote-arama,” as others may spell it, by the way). Crapo said he’s focusing on the JCT analysis that estimates the bill includes $16.7 billion worth of tax increases on Americans making $200,000 or less.
It’s worth remembering that vote-a-ramas can last several days and include dozens of amendment votes. Also, the budget resolution used for this reconciliation package is extremely broad, covering a huge array of government programs, meaning the potential for GOP amendments in this case could be equally extensive.
→ And here’s an exclusive look at a letter from 286 immigration, civil rights, business and labor groups warning against potential “poison pill” immigration-related amendments that could sink the bill. This is a big issue. Our friend Greg Sargent at the Washington Post has written on this issue.
“We urge you to vote in ways that protect immigrants and VOTE NO against any anti-immigrant amendments presented for this bill. Adopting anti-immigrant amendments to the Inflation Reduction Act will likely bring forth challenges to the passage of this important legislation,” the organizations wrote.
The groups that signed onto the letter include the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Families USA, Children’s Defense Fund, National Immigration Law Center, and SEIU, among dozens of others.
– John Bresnahan, Jake Sherman, Heather Caygle and Christian Hall
Punchbowl News is growing! Punchbowl News is hiring an editorial web producer. Interested? Think you’re a good fit? Know someone who is a good fit? Apply! Questions? Email Jake or Heather at firstname [at] punchbowl [dot] news.
PRESENTED BY HEALTHCARE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
Seniors are speaking out! A large majority of seniors on Medicare are not supportive of changing the law so that the government can interfere in the successful Part D program.
Yet, Congress is considering policies that will insert the government into this already successful program. Lawmakers must abandon price setting policies and protect the access seniors depend on under Part D.
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PRIMARY DAY IN AMERICA
What to watch in today’s primaries
After a long break, there’s another huge slate of primaries today across the country. Here’s what we’re tracking:
Arizona Senate Republican primary: Blake Masters, a combative Peter Thiel ally who received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, appears to have pulled ahead as the race’s frontrunner in recent weeks. Masters has come under fire for past writings which questioned the United States’ involvement in foreign wars and approvingly quoted Nazis.
Masters’ top opponents are Attorney General Mark Brnovich and entrepreneur Jim Lamon. A Masters win would be another sign of a Trump-endorsed Senate candidate triumphing in a GOP primary — just like in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia. Yet several of those Trump candidates are proving to be less than ideal for general election campaigns.
Kansas ballot question: Voters in Kansas are deciding whether to end the state’s constitutional right to an abortion. A win for the “Yes” side would allow state legislators to pass strict laws curtailing abortion rights in the state. This is the first major electoral test for abortion rights since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June.
Michigan’s 11th District Democratic primary: The member-on-member primary between Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens has been one of the cycle’s nastiest affairs. Levin has embraced his progressive bona fides, highlighting support from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Meanwhile, AIPAC’s super PAC has spent millions of dollars on positive ads boosting Stevens. This effort has infuriated Levin’s allies. J Street Action Fund ran an ad blasting Stevens for accepting donations from AIPAC — and even tried to tie Stevens to the Jan. 6 insurrection as a result.
Polling has shown Stevens with a lead, and the more moderate Democrat has said the attack ads suggest she’s running ahead of Levin.
Michigan’s 3rd District Republican primary: The DCCC elevated this primary to the national stage last week when it ran an ad burnishing hardline conservative John Gibbs’ right-wing credentials. Gibbs, a former HUD official endorsed by Trump, is primarying Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) on the GOP side. Meijer was one of just 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Meijer is one of the most moderate House Republicans and enjoys strong relationships with several Democratic colleagues across the aisle. The incumbent has slammed the DCCC for elevating his opponent. The DCCC strategy is intended to help Gibbs advance to the general election in a seat that Democrats see as easier to flip against an extreme candidate.
Missouri Senate Republican primary: Trump weighed in Monday and said he was with Eric. The only issue? There are two Erics in the race. The GOP establishment is hoping former Gov. Eric Greitens doesn’t win. Greitens resigned in 2018 after being accused of trying to blackmail a woman with whom he had an affair. Greitens also is accused of physically abusing both his children and ex-wife, and he’s mired in a child custody case. Plus, a Greitens ad that promised “RINO hunting permits” was slammed for dangerous political rhetoric.
The other Eric is the state’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, who has notably led the push to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The third main candidate is Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who has received the endorsement of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) is also mounting a long-shot bid. Recent polls have shown Schmitt in the lead.
Missouri Senate Democratic primary: Lucas Kunce, a Marine veteran with an unabashedly populist message, has captivated the attention of national Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed Kunce Monday. Kunce is facing off against Trudy Busch Valentine in the Democratic primary — an opponent Kunce has tried to portray as elitist.
Washington’s 3rd Congressional District primary: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), one of the House Republicans who supported impeachment in 2021, is facing a right-wing primary challenge from Trump-endorsed Joe Kent. Remember: Washington has an open primary system where the top two candidates, regardless of party, advance to the general.
Washington’s 4th Congressional District primary: Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) is another impeachment supporter who is facing a Trump-backed opponent — former gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp.
— Max Cohen
WASHINGTON AND THE WORLD
The world braces for possible Pelosi trip to Taiwan
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has traveled abroad quite frequently this year. She’s been to Europe several times – Italy, England, and Ukraine – plus Israel too.
But nothing has been as closely watched as this trip, which is taking Pelosi and a small congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific. Pelosi announced several stops on her journey, including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.
The world is bracing, though, for Pelosi to bring the delegation to Taiwan. A visit of this nature would irk the Chinese, who see a trip there by the third-highest ranking U.S. official as a thumb in the eye.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) traveled to Taiwan in 1997. Pelosi, though, is a very outspoken critic of the Chinese government, and this trip has taken on much bigger significance because of that.
Pelosi hasn’t confirmed that she will go to Taiwan, but most major news outlets have published stories indicating that the trip is a certainty. Pelosi landed in Malaysia today.
Speakers of the House have a long history of conducting their own foreign policy parallel to the White House. Pelosi views congressional power expansively and sees the Congress as an equal to the executive branch, which, in this context, is important. Should she land in Taiwan as expected, Pelosi will be bucking the somewhat public pleas of the Biden administration, which also sees the trip as a risk.
→ Tom Friedman: “Why Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Is Utterly Reckless”
→ “Taiwan braces for Chinese show of force, with Pelosi set to visit,” by Lily Kuo in Taipei
→ “Global Markets Fall Ahead of Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit,” by Rebecca Feng
→ “Pelosi Taiwan trip overrides Chinese military threats,” by Phelim Kine
– Jake Sherman
PRESENTED BY HEALTHCARE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
Two-in-three seniors with Medicare prefer drug plans negotiate with the biopharmaceutical manufacturers INSTEAD of government price setting.
→ Alex Lasry, a Democrat who recently dropped out of the race for Wisconsin Senate, is still running negative ads about Sen. Ron Johnson. Check out this one, which is airing in Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison.
→ Karoline Leavitt, who has the endorsement of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), is running an ad reminding New Hampshire voters that her GOP primary rival, Matt Mowers, served as Deborah Birx’s chief of staff. Birx served as former President Donald Trump’s Covid response director. She ordered “unconstitutional lockdowns” in response to the pandemic, the ad states.
– Jake Sherman
→ Roku, the television streaming hardware company, has registered an in-house lobbyist for the first time. Gail Slater is registered to lobby for Roku. The company said they will engage on “[i]ssues related to privacy legislation; Issues related to antitrust legislation; Issues related to potential updates to copyright legislation.”
PRESENTED BY HEALTHCARE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
View senior satisfaction survey here.
10:15 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
2:45 p.m.: Biden will virtually join an event in Michigan about the CHIPS Plus bill.
3:30 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
→ “Top Democrats, Alleging Cover-Up, Seek Testimony on Secret Service Texts,” by Luke Broadwater
→ “Analysis Deems Biden’s Climate and Tax Bill Fiscally Responsible,” by Jim Tankersley
→ “Gentle Into That Good Night? Not Boris Johnson,” by Stephen Castle
→ “U.S. kills al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in drone strike in Kabul,” by Shane Harris, Dan Lamothe, Karen DeYoung, Souad Mekhennet and Pamela Constable in Kabul
→ “White House to name FEMA’s Fenton as monkeypox coordinator,” by Dan Diamond
→ “Stephen King set to testify for govt in books merger trial,” by Hillel Italie
→ “Report: Elon Musk may be building a private airport east of Austin,” by Eric Killelea
PRESENTED BY HEALTHCARE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
As lawmakers continue to debate prescription drug reforms that could disrupt the Medicare program, Seniors Speak Out went directly to the source to find out exactly how seniors feel about this vital program.
When asked about recent policies being considered in congress, 66% of seniors indicated we should let Part D plans negotiate directly with the biopharmaceutical industry INSTEAD of letting the government set prices.
Despite these findings, lawmakers continue to move forward with bad policy while failing to consider this important input of the beneficiaries who would be directly affected.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
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