Senate Dems may actually pull this off
With Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema on board, the upper chamber is a weekend away from passing a set of provisions that just a week ago seemed off the table.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
SINEMA MAKES 50 — Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona on Thursday night announced she would support the Inflation Reduction Act, a climate, health care and tax bill filled, that the White House has characterized as a down payment on several of President Joe Biden’s priorities and would bookend a flurry of recent legislative wins ahead of the summer recess for a party facing historically swift electoral headwinds leading into the November midterms.
Sinema was against closing the carried interest loophole that allows investment managers to treat certain interest payments as capital gains instead of standard income, which they would pay a higher tax rate on.
Democrats will now apply a one-percent excise tax on stock buy-backs to recoup the revenue the closed carried interest loophole would have generated. The new tax is expected to bring in more dollars than the carried interest provision did.
$5 billion in drought funding was added to the bill at Sinema’s request as well.
And with her support, Senate Democrats can now use a wonky budget procedure called reconciliation to bypass Republican opposition.
It’s a major deal for a party branded by the mainstream political press as in disarray due to stalled progress on core agenda items often due to the objections from Sinema and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who negotiated the original version of the IRA with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Read Biden’s statement on the agreement
— A long weekend ahead: The Senate side of the Capitol is usually crickets by now as senators typically start their weekends on Thursday afternoon.
But Schumer announced that the Senate will reconvene Saturday afternoon to pass the motion to proceed, the first of several procedural votes.
Then there will be up to 20 hours of debate followed by a vote-a-rama, during which senators can introduce an unlimited number of relevant amendments to the bill. (Expect Republicans to put forward amendments that force Democrats up for reelection this year in swing states like Georgia, Arizona and Nevada to take risky votes.)
If all goes well, then final passage of the legislation will take place on Monday night.
The House is then expected to return from its recess to pass the bill before it arrives to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
— What’s in the package, again? Leader Schumer said in a statement on Thursday that even with Sinema’s heavy hand, the major components of bill remain in tact. Here’s a summary of the provisions, each of which are broadly popular with voters across the political spectrum:
The IRA extends the enhanced and expanded eligibility for premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for three years, beyond President Biden’s first term in office.
The proposal also enables the federal government to negotiate prices for some high-cost drugs covered under Medicare, a provision that would especially benefit American seniors.
Additionally, recipients of Medicare Part D would see their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs capped at $2,000 per year. And pharmaceutical companies would be required to pay rebates if their drug prices rise faster than inflation.
The IRA also invests in programs to lower energy costs, increase cleaner production and reduce carbon emissions.
It will also reduce the federal deficit by $300 billion and not raise taxes for people making less than $400,000 per year.
The bill will be paid for with a 15 percent corporate minimum tax, revenue collected from stronger enforcement of the tax code by the Internal Revenue Service and the aforementioned stock by-back excise tax. Read why leading economists are all-in with their support of the bill
— Lessons learned on messaging: In a post for paid subscribers, I wrote about how, for the most part, the White House and Senate Democrats have avoided the public infighting that helped doom previous negotiations on what was then known as Build Back Better. With the IRA, lawmakers on the left have instead focused on the Inflation Reduction Act’s popular health care provisions. Read the full post
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden this morning will virtually receive his daily intelligence briefing. Later today, he will sign two bills to hold accountable people who committed fraud under COVID-19 small business relief programs. Administrator of the Small Business Administrator Isabel Guzman will attend the event.
Vice President Kamala Harris this afternoon will meet in her ceremonial office with Latina state legislators — from Kansas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Illinois, New York and Texas — who are on the front lines of the reproductive justice movement in their states.
The Senate and House are out.
MONKEYPOX: THE LATEST PUBLIC EMERGENCY — Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday declared monkeypox a public emergency as cases have spiked by 1,000 in the past week and Americans express confusion and frustration about how the virus is spread, where to get tests, treatment and the vaccine and who is at the highest risk of exposure.
“Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. We are taking our response to the next level by declaring a public health emergency,” Becerra said. “With today’s declaration we can further strengthen and accelerate our response further.”
The administration said that in addition to the PHE declaration, the Food and Drug Administration is exploring new strategies, including using new dose-sparing approach that could increase the number of doses available up to five-fold, to help get vaccines to affected communities across the country.
And both Robert Fenton and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the administration’s new monkeypox response coordinators said the White House will continue to focus on stigma-free messaging to the LGBTQ+ community and public at large, a top concern for activists wary that the US government will repeat some of the same mistakes in tone and rhetoric we‘ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and the AIDS crisis in the ‘80s.
FREE BRITTNEY — American basketball player Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian exile on drug charges stemming from an arrest in February.
I wrote about the status of the efforts to bring her home, which include a prisoner swap that the US government made public last week to put pressure on Russia to consider accepting.
“It’s unacceptable,” President Joe Biden said of the verdict in a statement. “And I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.” Read the full story
JOBS DAY — The July jobs report is scheduled to be released in a couple of hours and the White House says it’s a good thing for the economy if fewer new jobs were created than in previous blockbuster months as long as unemployment remains low as well.
— The WH prebuttal: “We’re in the transition to stable and steady growth. And during that transition, what you'll see instead of record-high-breaking jobs numbers that we've been seeing every month in the realm of 500,000 to 600,000 jobs on average per month, we're expecting to be closer to 150,000 jobs per month,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Thursday. “And so that would actually be a sign of a success of this transition. And this kind of job growth is consistent with the low unemployment numbers that we've been seeing.”
A White House official noted that the economy created an average of 164,000 jobs per month in 2019 — the year before the pandemic began. And in seven months during Donald Trump’s presidency, the economy created fewer than 100,000 jobs per month.
“In fact, exactly three years ago — in July 2019 — the economy created just 78,000 jobs,” the official said.
The official also pointed to four articles from mainstream outlets in recent years when the economy added 150,000 jobs in a month that viewed the numbers in favorable terms in case those same publications try to cast the comparable numbers expected in this morning’s report as proof that we’re in a recession or on our way into one.
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READ ALL ABOUT IT
If elected in November, Kelly would make history on multiple fronts: She would be the first Black woman to represent Tennessee and the first openly gay Black woman to be elected to Congress, ever. (This could be true of three other candidates this year: Aisha Mills and Queen Johnson in New York and Kimberly Walker in Florida, according to the LGBTQ political advocacy group Victory Fund.)
It’s the kind of history Kelly says her hometown of Nashville is ready to make. But to get there, Kelly not only has to defeat a well-established Republican incumbent but also has to win a redrawn district that voting rights advocates have called among the most gerrymandered in the country.
It is a battle emblematic of the South’s political tensions: Liberal urban areas that are quickly growing, diversifying and gaining political influence vs. a powerful conservative infrastructure that has been able to maintain its power, in part, by redrawing electoral maps and increasing voter restrictions.
If Kelly is sweating the odds, she isn’t showing it. Her background has only increased her willingness to fight despite the challenges.
“Running up the hill might be hard,” Kelly said of her chances. “You just prep to run up the hill harder.”
Zack Beauchamp on the ludicrous idea that Trump is losing his grip on the GOP:
The simplest barometer of whether Trump still dominates the party is the 2024 presidential polls. And by that metric, Trump’s grip is pretty hard to question.
Much has also been made of the seeming turn against Trump in the Rupert Murdoch media empire. In recent weeks, the Murdoch-owned New York Post and Wall Street Journal both ran editorials blasting Trump for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot. “It’s been more than 100 days since Donald J. Trump was interviewed on Fox News,” the New York Times reported, pointing out that DeSantis seemed to have taken the marquee guest slot that Trump once occupied.
But we’ve been here before. Remember when Fox famously went to war against Trump during the 2016 primaries, culminating in a fight between Trump and Megyn Kelly? We know how that played out.
Arthur C. Brooks on how to embrace doing nothing:
For the sake of happiness, strivers and hard-driving work machines of any income level need to learn to stop. If you are in this category, nothing should be high on your to-do list.
Part of the reason many people resist leisure, no doubt, is that we have been taught to monetize our time. As Americans have heard throughout our lives, time is money. We may work to have leisure time, but actually spending that earned time feels like forgoing wages. No wonder we’re so tempted to turn back to work: We are simultaneously Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge.
Despite the difficulties, learning to do nothing is good for us. Letting the mind roam free during unstructured and undemanding tasks can make us better at creative problem-solving.
And although no studies specifically show this, I strongly suspect that doing nothing, if we can do it well, makes us happier too.
Joshua David Stein on why it’s time for restaurants to stop asking still or sparkling:
“Still or sparkling” is a clever rhetorical sleight of hand meant to befuddle, goad and mislead the diner into paying for what should naturally be free.
Perhaps even more saliently than the water itself is how this deceptively simple question functions in the meal. It is a wanton reminder of the essential transactional nature of a restaurant. When one is both a tap water acolyte, such as I am, and allergic to being hoodwinked, such as we all are, still or sparkling rankles. It forces one into the role of miser, with an acrid aftertaste of the ill-used and casts a pall of nickle-and-diming over the dining.