Good Morning from the Nation’s Capital…

Last week came and went without a House vote on either the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (the “BIF”) or the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act—and it could be more than a month before both bills are passed. On Saturday, the Senate approved a temporary extension to fund the Federal Surface Transportation Program throughout October 31st.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the White House will continue to negotiate, trying desperately to bridge the divides within the Democratic Party. 
 

That deep division—between Progressives and Moderates— was on full display last week. For some moderate members, like Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)—whose district had been Republican until 2018—passing the infrastructure bill as soon as possible could be the difference between being elected in 2022 or losing. “That is singularly one of the most transformative things that we can do to our country,” Spanberger said, urging a vote on the infrastructure plan. “We are unified on this.”  Moderates urged a vote all last week promising a deal on the Build Back Better Act would come later. For Progressives, the promise of a deal is not nearly enough. Brooklyn Progressive Rep. Nydia Velazquez said, “We have a chance for a once-in-a-generation investment in working families and in the future of our planet.  That’s why I will not vote for an infrastructure bill without passage of the Build Back Better Plan.”  

Amidst the bitter feud, President Biden spent Friday afternoon at the Capitol. In his first meeting with the full Democratic Caucus since becoming President, Biden lobbied lawmakers on these two transformative bills, the key to his agenda. After promising (again and again) a vote on Infrastructure, Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that she would not force a vote on the infrastructure bill until a broader agreement could be reached on Reconciliation. “But we cannot and I will not ask you to vote for [the infrastructure bill] until we have the best possible offering that we can stick withAnd it’s not just me — this is about the president of the United States,” said Speaker Pelosi at the closed door meeting. During that meeting, Biden also threw out a much smaller number for the reconciliation bill, discussing a range from $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion with members of the House Democratic Caucus, something that Progressives (beginning with Senator Bernie Sanders) have aggressively pushed back on.

Complicating matters further, a strange “promise document” signed weeks earlier by Senator Joe Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was released Thursday. In the document, Manchin made clear his intention to limit a reconciliation to $1.5 trillion (as well as other preconditions for his support). The timing of his announcement—and his dismissal of the Social Security and Medicare provisions as “insanity” while doing so—further enraged Progressives. In the future, the agreement may also come back to haunt Schumer in his relationships with Progressives and desire to avoid a primary in 2022. “I assume he’s saying the president is insane because this is the president’s agenda. Look, this is why we’re not voting for the bipartisan [infrastructure] bill until we get agreement on the reconciliation bill, and we’ve got a ways to go. After that statement, we probably have even more people willing to vote no on the bipartisan bill,” said Chair of the House Progressive Caucus Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

On a significant positive note: Congress did avert a government shutdown. The Senate and House approved a measure to fund the government into early December. President Biden signed the bill hours later. The stopgap funding sustains federal agencies’ existing spending until December 3, at which point Congress must adopt another continuing resolution, or pass the dozen appropriations bills that fund federal agencies through the 2022 fiscal year. Notably, the measure also includes billions of dollars to assist in responding to two recent, deadly hurricanes that battered the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard, as well as other money to aid in resettling refugees arriving from Afghanistan. 

However, that agreement did not include raising the debt ceiling—which must be done by around October 18th or the United States will begin to risk defaults and potentially catastrophic downgrades on the nation’s debt from ratings agencies for the first time since 2011. Republicans blocked attempt to include this in the CR funding measure. “Bipartisanship isn’t a light switch that Democrats can switch on when they need to borrow money and flip off when they want to spend money,” said Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the chamber floor Tuesday. 

 

Back in New York…

The recently appointed Cannabis Control Board will hold its highly anticipated first meeting tomorrow at 1:30 PM, where they are likely to make key appointments to the Office of Cannabis Management, as well as begin the discussion on licensing and other key regulatory procedures. Governor Kathy Hochul continues to stay strong on her first-in-the-nation vaccine mandates for healthcare workers in hospitals and will expand the measure to mental health facilities and prisons, and is working with the Office of Mental Health to expand the mandate, that went into effect last Monday at midnight, for Department of Health regulated facilities.
 

Hochul also made headlines saying she wants to “examine” the $2.1 billion AirTrain for LaGuardia Airport, calling into question the future of the pet project of her predecessor. “My personal views on the AirTrain is that this is something that can be examined in terms of our priorities right now,” Hochul said. 

This week also served as an unofficial beginning to the 2022 political season.  The Bronx County Democrats held their annual dinnerBrooklyn Democrats held an eventAl Sharpton held a birthday fete, and State Democratic Party Chair Jay Jacobs is teasing a major announcementPublic Advocate Jumaane Williams, who lost narrowly to Hochul in the 2018 Lieutenant Governor race, formed an exploratory committee to consider a run for governor while Attorney General Tish James, the biggest potential factor next year, continued to sound like a candidate. At an Association for a Better New York power breakfast, James also delivered a forceful defense of her office’s sexual harassment investigation of former Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Assembly Judiciary Report on Cuomo is expected this week (or next) to further support the report from James.

And finally, Yankee fans rejoice. Thanks to Aaron Judge’s walk-off single, the team pulled out a nail-biting victory against Tampa Bay and clinched a wild card berth. They will take on longtime rivals, the Boston Red Sox in game one Tuesday.

-Jack O’Donnell
                                     

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