POLITICO Playbook: Biden shies from a fight with Big Business

MUST-WATCH INTERVIEW FROM LAST NIGHT — “D.C. officer who suffered heart attack on Jan. 6 calls out Trump for downplaying ‘brutal, savage’ riot,” WaPo: “In an emotional interview on ‘CNN Tonight,’ [MICHAEL] FANONE described in vivid detail the terror he experienced defending the Capitol from a mob intent on stopping certification of the election, and called out elected officials who have tried to obscure that reality — a position that some GOP officials have embraced as they seek to defend [DONALD] TRUMP.

— Rep. @AdamKinzinger (R-Ill.) responds: “Proud of my friend Officer Michael Fanone on @donlemon right now. Speaking truth from a man doing his job, but thrust into history. To every Capitol and @DCPoliceDept officer that day, thank you. … If you think Jan 6th was peaceful, should be swept under the rug, or not a big deal, watch this. … I’m curious if @GOPLeader has an opinion about this interview…”

TODAY’S MAIN EVENT: BIDEN’S SPEECH TO CONGRESS … President JOE BIDEN is backing down from a fight with two of Washington’s most powerful trade groups: the pharmaceutical industry and the health insurance lobby.

The American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion bundle of proposals that Biden will detail before a joint session of Congress tonight, will not include two top Democratic priorities, despite intense lobbying from congressional Democrats in recent days.

There will be no plan to allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices, which is kryptonite to drugmakers. And there will be no reduction in Medicare’s eligibility age or an expansion of Medicare benefits, two changes that would move the country closer to a single-payer system — and the demise of private health insurance.

Instead of including those twin progressive priorities, the White House settled on an extension of expanded Obamacare subsidies included in Biden’s Covid-19 relief bill.

Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.), who seemed to know he had lost the fight with the White House, told reporters Tuesday that the provisions would still be included in the bill, even over Biden’s objections, “if I have anything to say about it.”

What IS in the Biden plan? Here are the highlights:

  • $400 billion to extend the child tax credit (That’s an estimate because a White House fact sheet conspicuously did not provide the cost)
  • $225 billion to subsidize and improve childcare and boost pay for childcare workers
  • $225 billion for a national paid family and medical leave program
  • $200 billion for free universal preschool
  • $200 billion to reduce Obamacare premiums
  • $109 billion for free community college
  • $85 billion to boost Pell Grants
  • $45 billion for childhood and school nutrition programs

The package would be paid for by increasing the top tax rate, hiking the capital gains tax and dramatically stepping up IRS enforcement of tax evasion.

Most of these new spending proposals are popular. Taxing the rich to pay for them is also popular. It’s a formula that has worked well for Biden so far. What isn’t always popular — as BILL CLINTON and BARACK OBAMA learned — is making big changes to health care. Fighting the drug lobby and the insurance industry isn’t easy. Which might explain why Biden nixed the Medicare reforms for now.


THE MODERATES: Centrist Republicans eager to work with the White House on infrastructure are, unsurprisingly, hoping Biden will harken back to his days on the campaign trail and talk about striking deals. They want to hear him stress a desire to work across the aisle — not to mention put aside this notion of “bipartisanship” only being policies that win some GOP voter support.

THE REST OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE GOP CONFERENCES, however, appear to already be skeptical, even if Biden does go there. “Any talk of unity or bipartisanship will fall flat given that he’s governed as a far-left liberal for the first 100 days,” said a Senate GOP aide.

And Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL told reporters Tuesday: “President Biden ran as a moderate, but I’m hard-pressed to think of anything at all that he’s done so far that would indicate some degree of moderation.”

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TIM SCOTT — The South Carolina senator has had it especially tough during the last four years. As the highest-ranking Black Republican, the South Carolina senator was expected to push back on Trump’s xenophobic or racist rhetoric — without relegating himself to never-Trump pariah status within the GOP. By most accounts, he pulled it off very well.

Tonight, Scott faces another big test of his political acumen when he delivers the GOP response to Biden, whom Republicans have struggled to lay a glove on since the president took office. It comes as Scott, who prefers to keep a low profile, is working to strike a bipartisan deal on police reform with Rep. KAREN BASS (D-Calif.) and Sen. CORY BOOKER (D-N.J.).

WHAT WE’RE EXPECTING FROM SCOTT: less partisan red meat, more talk about the American Dream, according to Republicans familiar with his speech. Scott hailed from extremely humble beginnings, and his inspiring self-made-man story has been chronicled by multiple reporters. (Two of the best are Tim Alberta’s POLITICO Magazine profile, “God Made Me Black on Purpose,” and Alexandra Desanctis’ in National Review, “The Republican Party’s Joyful Warrior.”)

HOW HE’S PREPPING: Per a source close to Scott, the senator worked on his speech in Charleston, S.C., over the weekend. He knows it’s a high-profile gig, so he’s been “decompressing” by hanging out with his mom, hitting the treadmill and watching the finale of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+.

Quote of the day: “Yeah, drink water before.” -Sen. MARCO RUBIO (R-Fla.) on his advice to Scott. ICYMI: The 2013 swig seen ’round the world

— WaPo’s Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane: “Tim Scott seeks to balance role as dealmaker on policing and critic of Biden agenda in Wednesday night address”

Related: “Republicans strain to dent Biden without getting personal,” by Melanie Zanona and Burgess Everett

Good Wednesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

RED, FRESH & BLUE — In the third installment in our video series, EUGENE interviewed New York Rep. RITCHIE TORRES, the first openly gay Afro-Latino member of Congress. Sitting in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Torres talked about how growing up across the street from a Trump golf course shaped his view of government, as well as his experience with depression and calls from his Democratic colleagues to drastically reduce police funding.

“Almost none of my constituents want to defund policing by 50%. You would never know that listening to the intelligentsia, but that is absurd,” Torres said.

BIDEN’S WEDNESDAY — The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will address a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. at the Capitol.

THE SENATE will meet at 10 a.m. and vote on a motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of SAMANTHA POWER to be USAID administrator at 12:30 p.m. USTR KATHERINE TAI will testify before an Appropriations subcommittee at 9:30 a.m. The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on KETANJI BROWN JACKSON for the D.C. Circuit and other judicial nominations at 10 a.m. The Commerce Committee will vote on BILL NELSON’S nomination as NASA administrator at 10 a.m.

THE HOUSE will meet at 6 p.m. Labor Secretary MARTY WALSH will testify before an Appropriations subcommittee at 10 a.m. Hawaii Gov. DAVID IGE will testify at a Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on DHS preparedness grant programs at noon.

FOR YOUR RADAR: Speaker NANCY PELOSI will appear on “Andrea Mitchell Reports” at noon.


BIG READ — “Inside Biden’s bubble: How an insular White House has kept drama and leaks at a minimum,” by Natasha Korecki and Daniel Lippman: “One hundred days into the Biden administration, the White House is a tight ship defined by insularity, internal power centers and top down, micro-management, interviews with nearly two dozen people across the administration, including senior White House officials, reveal. The result is a unit that doesn’t leak (at least not that often) and that stays on script (most of the time). But it is also one where there is competition to show proximity to the boss and occasional difficulty in moving agenda items along in a timely manner.

“Still, some aides complain Biden is kept in too much of a bubble, one where few people can get his ear outside of a cadre of loyalists he’s cultivated for decades. Exhaustion is setting in amid a punishing — and relentlessly serious — remote work regimen, with little opportunity for the levity breaks of past White Houses. Others concede that the heavy-handedness is mucking up the works.”

THE REPORT CARD FROM VOTERS — The latest POLITICO/Morning Consult survey found that Biden gets high marks from Democrats and independents, while support (unsurprisingly) lags among Republicans.

Per our poll story: “Eighty-five percent of Democrats polled gave Biden an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade for his first 100 days in office, while 44 percent of independents surveyed gave Biden the same marks. That’s more independent and intraparty support for Biden than former President Donald Trump got in his first 100 days, when just 32 percent of independents surveyed and 72 percent of Republicans polled gave Trump either an ‘A’ or a ‘B.’”

Biden’s overall favorability was 58%, which is higher than the RealClearPolitics average for him. Poll toplines Crosstabs

BUILDING BACK TOGETHER — “Biden-aligned nonprofit launches voting rights initiative,” by Zach Montellaro: “Building Back Together said its voting rights program would be led by BOB BAUER, who advised Biden’s presidential campaign and was White House counsel during the Obama administration. Bauer will be joined by RUBÉN LEBRÓN, who will be the program’s voting rights director. The group promised to promote federal legislation, ‘support pro-voter advocacy groups in analyzing and developing strategic responses to state election laws and practices,’ and coordinate with voting rights groups on data sharing and messaging.”

AUSTIN TICE LATEST — A bipartisan group of congressional members sent a letter to Biden this week urging him to prioritize the safe release of AUSTIN TICE from Syria, where the journalist and former Marine was abducted in 2012. The letter was sent by Sen. JOHN CORNYN’S (R-Texas) office and signed by 80 members — 44 from the Senate and 36 from the House. Tice’s release was an oft-stated focus of Trump.

“We are calling on you at the outset of your Administration to use your full capabilities to secure Austin’s long overdue release,” the letter states. “We trust that will include appropriately following up on efforts by previous Administrations, as well as talks initiated by the Syrians.” The letter is part of a joint effort by the National Press Club Journalism Institute, Georgetown University and McClatchy to raise awareness of Tice’s situation. The letter NYT: “Biden Administration Hopes to Learn Fate of U.S. Hostage in Syria”

ON THE WORLD STAGE — “Biden donors, friends and former aides expected on first slate of high-profile ambassadors,” WaPo: “The list of potential diplomats includes … former Chicago mayor RAHM EMANUEL for ambassador to Japan … DAVID COHEN, a Comcast executive who hosted Biden’s first official 2020 presidential fundraising event, probably will be nominated as U.S. ambassador to Canada … DENISE BAUER, who led a women’s support network for Biden, is expected to be nominated for the plum posting in France …

“Additional boldface nominations are expected over the next month or more, potentially including former Democratic senator CHRISTOPHER DODD of Connecticut … There is no clear front-runner for ambassador to the United Kingdom … Former State Department official THOMAS R. NIDES has emerged as the likely candidate for ambassador to Israel.”


WEST VIRGINIA’S ‘KISS MY BUTT’ VACCINATION PLAN — The Biden administration is having a hell of a time trying to get a big chunk of the U.S. population to drop their resistance to getting vaccinated. But rather than earnest PSA ads and appeals to Trump for help, how about offering the holdouts cold cash? That’s what Republican West Virginia Gov. JIM JUSTICE came up with as a solution — and maybe he’s onto something. At a recent meeting, WaPo reports, Justice “started furiously jotting down numbers, doing back-of-the-envelope arithmetic on what it would cost to pay $100 to every person between the ages of 16 to 35 — one of the demographics most resistant to vaccination — who gets the shot. The total bill: Roughly $27.5 million.

“Justice said he knows there will be some who criticize his plan. ‘But if I’m able to pull this off and we are able to shut this down for the small price of $27.5 million … I would tell those critics to kiss my butt.’ The $100 proposition announced this week by West Virginia — which is available retroactively to young people who already got the shot — is just one of many incentives now being proposed by states, hospitals, schools and private employers to persuade unvaccinated Americans to get inoculated.”

LATINOS SHAFTED IN CENSUS? — After the latest Census count, Texas, Florida and Arizona are set to pick up just three House seats — a figure that was half the number expected and shocked members of both parties. The news has some advocates suspicious that the government undercounted Latinos. POLITICO redistricting experts Zach Montellaro and Ally Mutnick took a first swing at the story, which has major implications for control of the House and much more.

“The results of the apportionment will last for 10 years, not only in representation in the House but in hundreds of millions of dollars that the federal government will allocate by population over the next decade,” the pair writes. “It will also change the course of redistricting in those states, where Latino groups who fear their communities got missed in the counting are trying to make sure they are represented in the mapmaking process. Newly drawn seats can provide openings for rising politicians. Arizona Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA, for one, broke into Congress via a brand-new House district in Tempe a decade ago.”

BUCKLE UP — @JeremyBWhite: “A porn star (again). A guy who wants to incarcerate California inmates in Central America. Randy Quaid? A low bar to run+social media=a recall circus. Buckle up! ‘California braces for another ‘clown car’ of recall candidates’

ANOTHER POLICE SHOOTING OF A BLACK MAN — “FBI Opens Probe Into Shooting Death of Andrew Brown in North Carolina,” WSJ: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday it has opened a civil-rights investigation into the fatal shooting of ANDREW BROWN, a Black man, by sheriff’s deputies serving drug-related search and arrest warrants in North Carolina last week. …

“The announcement of a federal probe came hours after Mr. Brown’s family members said that a private autopsy showed Mr. Brown died of a gunshot wound to the head. Mr. Brown, 42 years old, was shot a total of five times in an April 21 encounter with Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office deputies, said lawyer WAYNE KENDALL in a press conference summarizing the autopsy findings.”

AND THIS — “California Man Dies After Officers Pin Him to Ground for 5 Minutes,” NYT: “Body camera footage was released on Tuesday of a 26-year-old man who died in police custody after officers in Alameda County, Calif., pinned him facedown on the ground for five minutes.

“The footage from the Alameda Police Department shows the man, MARIO ARENALES GONZALEZ, becoming unresponsive while in handcuffs and police officers quickly beginning chest compressions. … An initial police report from Alameda, south of Oakland, said that ‘a physical altercation ensued’ when officers tried to detain Mr. Gonzalez and that ‘at that time, the man had a medical emergency.’ The report said Mr. Gonzalez had died in a hospital later that day.”


NUTSO — “A New York Post story about Kamala Harris triggered conservative outrage. Almost all of it was wrong. Now the reporter has resigned.” WaPo: “A longtime New York Post reporter said she has resigned after being ‘ordered’ to write a false story that claimed undocumented minors were being welcomed to the United States with copies of a children’s book written by Vice President Harris.

“Since the Post published the story on its front page Saturday, the conservative mediascape has been in an uproar over the supposed distribution of Harris’s 2019 book, ‘Superheroes Are Everywhere,’ at migrant shelters. A slew of prominent Republicans expressed outrage over the possibility that taxpayers were funding the program. Even the White House press secretary was grilled about it.

“And then on Tuesday, in a one-sentence note at the bottom of the original online article, the Post acknowledged that almost none of it was true.”


NOT JUST SIMON & SCHUSTER — “‘There Is a Tension There’: Publishers Draw Fire for Signing Trump Officials,” NYT: “Many publishers and editors have said privately that they would be reluctant to acquire a book by Mr. Trump because of the outcry that would ensue and the potential legal exposure they would face if Mr. Trump used a memoir to promote the false view that he won the 2020 election.

“But the reticence extends beyond Mr. Trump himself, and several publishers acknowledge that there are certain ideological lines that they won’t cross. Some said they wouldn’t acquire books by politicians or pundits who questioned the results of the presidential election. Another bright line is working with people who promoted the false narratives or conspiracy theories that Mr. Trump espoused. Certain literary agents representing Trump officials have adjusted their sales tactics. A few are avoiding large auctions in hopes of staving off a backlash until after a contract is signed, according to some publishing executives.”

SPOTTED: Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and former DNC Chair Tom Perez having drinks at Café Filí on Tuesday. Pic Another pic

D.C. IS HEALING: Cafe Milano will be open for lunch starting today. Don’t forget to send us spotteds!

SPOTTED on Tuesday night at a Zoom party for Karen Tumulty’s new book, “The Triumph of Nancy Reagan” ($32.50), hosted by Linda Douglass and John Phillips: Andrea Mitchell, Stephen Engelberg, E.J. Dionne, Michael Beschloss, Ed O’Keefe, Robin Sproul, Todd Purdum and Dee Dee Myers, Henry Waxman, Pat and Bob Schieffer, Melissa Moss, Fred Hiatt, Sally Quinn, Rita Braver, Margaret Carlson, Mark and Anne Shields, Susan Page, Eden Rafshoon, Betsy Fischer Martin, Bill Plante, Daniel Lippman, Mickey Kantor, Ian Cameron and Melody Barnes.

LOVE FREEZING AID TO UKRAINE? Here’s a hot job for you: Deputy associate director, international affairs division at OMB ($132,552 to $199,300).

MEDIAWATCH — Van Scott is now VP of U.S. corporate comms at Vice. He previously was comms director at ABC News. More from The Hollywood ReporterUrsula Perano is joining POLITICO as a legislative reporter and co-author of Pro’s Day Ahead newsletter. She currently is a reporter at Axios.

STAFFING UP — The White House announced Biden is tapping Celeste Drake to be the first Made in America director at OMB. She most recently was executive in charge of government affairs at the Directors Guild of America. … Lee Satterfield has been nominated to lead the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She currently is president and COO at the Meridian International Center. More national security nominations Other new administration nominations

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — TRUMP ALUMNI: Teresa Davis is now head of comms at Wentworth Management Services, a financial services firm based in Frisco, Texas. She most recently was senior comms adviser in the Trump White House, and is a DOD, Commerce and State alum.

— John Fitzpatrick is now chief security officer at Ball Aerospace. He most recently was VP at Orbis Operations, and is a Trump and Obama NSC alum.

TRANSITIONS — Aaron Bill is now legislative director for Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.). He previously was a legislative assistant for Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). … Bruce Johnson is now director of federal affairs and assistant general counsel for policy at Brex. He previously was deputy chief oversight counsel for the House Financial Services Committee. … Sacha Haworth is now a partner at Siegel Strategies. She previously was political director and director of external affairs at American Bridge 21st Century, and is a DCCC and House Majority PAC alum. …

… James Kelly is now chief of staff for Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). He previously was district director in Moran’s Kansas office. Previous chief of staff Brennen Britton is taking a position with Passion City Church D.C. … Jeff Le is now VP for public policy and external affairs at Rhino, a fintech startup. He previously was U.S. state and local public policy lead at VMware.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Justice Elena Kagan … Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) … former Secretary of State James Baker III (91) … Zoe GarmendiaJosh Schwerin of Saratoga Strategies … Maurice DanielEd Pagano of Akin Gump … Kristine Kippins … POLITICO’s Ben Weyl, Eric Geller, Erin Peck and Chris Denecke … Time’s Chris WilsonAlejandra OwensCarrie Hessler-Radelet of Project Concern International … Daniel Keylin of Sen. Thom Tillis’ (R-N.C.) office … WaPo’s Karoun DemirjianAnastasia Khoo of Conservation International … Ben Garmisa … NBC’s Deepa ShivaramSusan Katz KeatingJan LarimerCharlie Dankert Morton Kondracke Izzy Verdery (21)

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