Good Morning from the Nation’s Capital…

On the heels of Bipartisan Infrastructure, the House passed the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda by a party line vote, 220 to 213, over the unanimous opposition of Republicans. The Build Back Better Act or “Reconciliation Bill” would spend $2.2 trillion over the next decade to battle climate change, expand health care, and bolster the nation’s social safety net. The action was capped by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy winding and weaving his way through the longest House speech in modern times. McCarthy was able to delay the planned Thursday vote into Friday but swayed exactly zero votes.

That said, this may be more the end of the beginning for Build Back Better rather than the beginning of the end. The legislation now goes to the Senate where it will be pulled in separate directions by the Democratic Caucus’ Progressive and Moderates wings (remember: the bill must secure all fifty Democratic votes to pass). Progressive leader and Senate Budget Committee Chair Senator Bernie Sanders said he hopes “to see [the bill] strengthened in a number of ways.”  

In addition to BBB, when lawmakers return from Thanksgiving recess, they are facing a government shutdown and a debt limit crisis. First and foremost, Democrats are trying to lock down their strategy for a looming government funding battle. All signs point toward using another short-term patch, known as a continuing resolution (CR), and punting the issue into early 2022. Deadline on that is December 3.

The debt limit fight will also be joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) who met last Thursday to discuss raising or suspending the debt ceiling by mid-December, the time when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen expects the government to begin defaulting on its debts. After that meeting, McConnell sounded markedly more positive than last time saying, “we had a good discussion about several different issues that are extant here as we move toward the end of the session, and we agreed to keep talking to try to get somewhere.”

 Back in New York…

It was another very bad week for former Governor Andrew Cuomo. The long awaited Assembly Report into nursing home deaths, the ex-Governor’s book deal, and sexual harassment allegations is expected to be released early this week and a number of Assembly Members who have reviewed the report say it would have been grounds for impeachment. Among other things, it concludes the Governor “materially misrepresented” the extent of deaths that occurred in nursing homes during the early part of the pandemic, and corroborates findings of the Attorney General on sexual harassment allegations. “Every time you read about these issues, it’s deeply disturbing,” Assembly Member Phil Steck said. “The report strongly corroborates the findings of the Attorney General and strongly corroborates the conclusions of JCOPE that the Governor acted inappropriately in the preparation of his book.”

JCOPE’s conclusion was clear when they voted 12-1 to rescind approval of Cuomo’s memoir about the COVID-19 pandemic—American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic—which had led to a $5.1 million contract. The vote at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics means Cuomo will have to re-apply to the Commission for approval or potentially pay back the entire $5.1 million contract.  “The former Governor has a choice,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “He can re-apply or give the money back in some form. This is really unchartered territory.” 

The 2022 Gubernatorial race remained in the spotlight. On Monday evening, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams officially declared a run for Governor, joining fellow Democrats Governor Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Tish James. Hochul and James picked up key endorsements throughout the week: Hochul from two State Senators—Senator Tim Kennedy of Buffalo and Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island—as well as six Assembly Members—Meanwhile, James picked up the endorsement of the Collective PAC, a national political action committee that has pushed for increasing Black political engagement and representation in government. 

The race took a seemingly significant turn when Attorney General James issued a statement criticizing the Hochul Administration’s handling of the alarming rise in Covid cases. “State government is failing to act to address the COVID crisis in some of the most vulnerable communities in New York state,” said James. “Anything short of bold is unacceptable.”

 Finally, from the O’Donnell & Associates Team to you: best wishes for a relaxing and restful Thanksgiving and remember Evacuation Day! -Jack O’Donnell

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