’TIS THE SEASON — “Spotted at DCA: a Butterball Turkey rolling through the TSA security scanner,” via Meridith McGraw.
— Meanwhile, Sen. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-Iowa) busted out “Beth,” his trusty old vacuum cleaner. Why? “I vacuum bc I don’t want to be peeling potatoes,” he tweeted. (“Doing a chore to avoid doing another, less pleasant chore is extremely relatable,” quipped TNR’s Grace Segers.)
ON THE ROAD WITH MAYOR PETE — Amid the swirling speculation that President JOE BIDEN won’t run again in 2024, Democrats have been atwitter for weeks about whether Biden’s Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG might mount a campaign. The man, after all, has been front and center in selling the Biden agenda across the nation, and — some suspect — is laying the groundwork for another try for the White House.
Just in time, our Alex Thompson hit the road with the former mayor of South Bend, and found “a man who seems to be in a perpetual hurry.” Thompson notes that since 2010, the 39-year-old has “run for Treasurer of Indiana, Mayor of South Bend, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and President of the United States,” and is “one of the most media omnipresent and newly-powerful members of Joe Biden’s cabinet.”
Just as he has in interview after interview, Buttigieg batted down speculation about whether another presidential bid is in his future. “[T]his is the least I have had to think about campaigns and elections in about a decade, and that’s a very good thing,” he told Alex on Friday while they toured a construction zone of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. (Insert eyeroll emoji here.)
Chatter about a possible President Pete comes as Biden’s White House has worked like mad to try to tamp down suggestions that Biden won’t run again. Over the weekend, WaPo had a good piece about Biden advisers’ behind-the-scenes assurances that he’ll seek a second term. And on Monday, White House press secretary JEN PSAKI reiterated Biden’s “intention” to run again.
But here’s the problem: Few, if any, Democrats really believe this. The president is 79 — he’s already the Oval Office’s oldest occupant ever — and more than a few voters have real concerns about whether he has the stamina to pull off another campaign. With Republicans on the march in elections nationwide, there’s palpable worry among Dems about who is going to lead the party into the future.
Typically, in these sorts of situations, the VP is seen as the inheritor of the mantle. But many Democrats are concerned that KAMALA HARRIS doesn’t have what it takes to win the White House. Still, all the talk of a possible President Pete has “frustrated some staffers of color who see it as a disrespectful snub,” Alex notes.
Here’s more color from Alex’s story: “While there is no election directly in sight, his initial on-the-ground efforts to promote the infrastructure deal had some resemblance to Buttigieg’s past campaigns. There were lots of news interviews, meet-and-greets with local electeds, die-hard fans in ‘Pete’ shirts carrying copies of his book, a protestor with a homophobic sign (‘Booty-Gay Go Away’), and people having trouble pronouncing his name (‘Butt-Edge-Edge’ instead of ‘Boot-Edge-Edge,’ as the emcee of one event kept pronouncing it). …
“It was all an unusual scene for the usually mundane life of a Transportation secretary. But Buttigieg is not your typical Transportation secretary. He’s the first openly gay cabinet Secretary to be Senate-confirmed and a new parent to two adopted kids who have become social media sensations, sometimes outpacing the president’s posts in terms of engagement.”
MR. CONGENIALITY — The spotlight on Mayor Pete comes as a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows Buttigieg with the highest name ID (83%) of any member of the Biden administration (aside from Biden and Harris, of course) and a higher net favorability rating (+10) than not only every other Cabinet member, but both Biden (-6) and Harris (-12) as well. The next highest net favorability rating in the cabinet belonged to Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN (+8).
— SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES TOP OF MIND: It may not surprise anyone, but today’s Morning Consult poll shows that a majority of voters (62%) blame Biden for the supply chain problem haunting Americans. But nearly as many blame Congress (61%) — and more actually blame large corporations (63%) and China (64%). But mostly, voters blame supply-chain problems on worker shortages (74%) and the Covid-19 pandemic (79%).
Still, voters say they’re looking for candidates in 2022 who take the issue seriously. Over half of voters (52%) say a candidate’s position on supply chain and delivery issues will be a “major” factor in their vote in the midterm elections for Congress.
— IN RELATED NEWS: ANOTHER BAD HEADLINE FOR BIDEN … “Poll: 77% of Americans now say inflation is personally affecting them — and 57% blame Biden,” Yahoo
Good Wednesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. What is your Grassley chore, a Thanksgiving chore you do to avoid doing another, less pleasant, Thanksgiving chore? We’ll include some of the best answers tomorrow. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
GOTTHEIMER’S VICTORY LAP — When the House passed its version of the Dems’ reconciliation bill Friday, it marked the near-culmination of years of lobbying by Northeastern members to restore the state and local tax deduction (SALT). Nobody has been as vocal on SALT as Rep. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-N.J.). (OK, Rep. TOM SUOZZI is pretty damn close!)
Gottheimer has long been well-known to Washington insiders — he got his start in D.C. politics as a Senate page — but in 2021, he became famous to political junkies everywhere as the face of House moderates. The process wasn’t always pretty, but they got what they wanted: delinking BIF from the reconciliation bill, sending it to Biden for his signature before the reconciliation bill was fully negotiated (with the crucial support of several GOP members in the much-derided Problem Solvers Caucus), and, most of all, including SALT restoration in the reconciliation bill.
We caught up with Gottheimer late last week as he was preparing to vote for a bill he had repeatedly threatened to bring down if it failed to restore SALT for his constituents.
“I’ve been fighting for this since the first month I got into office,” Gottheimer, who was elected in 2016, told Playbook. “Right when [DONALD] TRUMP and the red states — I call them the moocher states — stuck it to us.”
The median SALT deduction for taxpayers in New Jersey’s Bergen County, which is in his district, was $21,000. Trump’s 2017 tax legislation capped the deduction at $10,000, which meant many of Gottheimer’s constituents faced a big tax increase. While a lot of members go to Congress with a hodgepodge of priorities, Gottheimer has had one simple goal for the last five years: restoring the SALT deduction.
He’s run into obstacles at every turn. First it was Trump: They had a dinner and then a meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Nothing seemed to work.
“You’re from New York, how could you do this?” Gottheimer pleaded with Trump during one phone call. But while Trump may have been from a blue state, the Republicans writing the tax bill in Congress were from low-tax red states.
On the day of the vote in 2017, Gottheimer was in the gym with a Republican colleague from Arkansas, who was beaming.
“What are you so happy for? This is a terrible day for us,” Gottheimer said.
“What do you mean? This is the day we finally get to stick it to the Yankees!” he replied.
The Biden White House was not much more accommodating. Biden needed pay-fors for his spending plans, not tax giveaways, and his budget did not include Gottheimer’s priority. Gottheimer, Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Rep. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-N.J.), and others went public with a “No SALT, No Deal” rallying cry. Given the tiny margins in the House, SALT was included in the expansive budget resolution passed by Democrats.
But so were a lot of things. Many of them never made it into the House package. “There were certainly days where I thought, holy cow, I’m gonna have to vote against this bill,” Gottheimer recalled.
As Democrats abandoned tax rate hikes on corporations and wealthy individuals, the SALT restoration stuck out to progressives as an outrageous giveaway. Sen. JON TESTER (D-Mont.) recently said “it gives tax breaks to the wrong people” and he wants it out. Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) said recently he’s working to adjust it in the Senate before the bill goes back for a final House vote.
Gottheimer is confident it will survive intact. He has courted Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.), who “knows how important this is to me,” Gottheimer said.
But Gottheimer also added a note of caution: “I mean, around here, what’s the level of certainty you have about anything?”
BIDEN’S WEDNESDAY — The president is in Nantucket, and has nothing on his public schedule.
HARRIS’ WEDNESDAY — The VP has nothing on her public schedule.
THE HOUSE and THE SENATE are out.
9 MONTHS AFTER WE FIRST EXPECTED IT — The White House will announce SHALANDA YOUNG as its next nominee for OMB director, WaPo’s Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager scooped Tuesday night. Young, the office’s acting director, had long been tipped for the permanent position since NEERA TANDEN withdrew earlier this year and has had bipartisan support. But they report that “some Democratic lawmakers held up her nomination because they wanted the administration to promote more nominees of Asian descent.”
WHAT THEY’RE READING IN THE WHITE HOUSE — Top administration officials have been emailing around an Atlantic piece by MOLLY JONG-FAST arguing that Biden needs an enemy that he can sell to the electorate. “As of now, the White House does not have good story tellers,” JAMES CARVILLE told Jong-Fast. “Good stories need villains,” he said — and the White House still has not defined the forces up against his presidency.
WHAT THEY’RE READING IN BEIJING — Bloomberg’s Nick Wadhams: “The Biden administration included Taiwan among the 110 invitees to its upcoming democracy summit [in December], a move that’s intended to show solidarity with a key regional partner but risks angering China.”
— WaPo’s Olivier Knox: “This is a big deal. Biden has invited Taiwan to his upcoming summit of democracies. That virtual event is supposed to take place Dec 9-10. Watch for a furious reaction from Beijing.”
POWELL’S PROMISE — When Fed Chair JEROME POWELL pledged last year to keep interest rates near zero until the economic recovery was felt by most Americans, progressives widely praised him for the historic shift in Fed policy. Now, as Powell readies for a second term, our Victoria Guida reports that surging inflation will put that promise to the test — and the Fed “might start to pull back its support for the labor market before the economy reaches a point where anyone who wants a job can get one.”
— FED UP: Bloomberg’s Nancy Cook, Jennifer Jacobs, and Steven Dennis have new details on how Biden chose Powell for another term, including the news that LAEL BRAINARD “knocked Biden’s socks off” in a wide-ranging interview this month that went past their scheduled time. That gave Brainard more of a shot at the top job, though ultimately the shaky economy (and a strong interview from Powell himself) led Biden to stick with stability, political safety and an apolitical central bank.
WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE? — The Biden administration is eager to quickly get its nominee for FDA commissioner, ROBERT CALIFF, through the Senate — but they failed to send Congress all the paperwork in time. Huh? Now, “Califf is now unlikely to get a confirmation hearing until mid-December at the earliest, effectively ruling out the possibility of a full Senate floor vote on his appointment before the end of the year,” Adam Cancryn reports.
LADIES OF TEXAS, FROST YOURSELVES! — Actor MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview that a decision about running for the governor of Texas is coming “shortly”: “I’m a storyteller. I’m a CEO. But being CEO of a state? Am I best equipped for the people in the state, and for my family and myself? There’s great sacrifice that comes with a decision. That’s what I’ve been doing, and there’s no tease to it. There’s me doing my diligence, and I will let you know shortly.” The full interview
KINZINGER TOUGH TALK — Rep. ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.) said Tuesday that “he sees himself as ‘the only candidate’ capable of defeating Illinois Gov. J.B. PRITZKER (D) in next year’s election,” The Hill’s Max Greenwood writes. (Tell us how you really feel, congressman!) Kinzinger, perhaps best known to national audiences as a vocal Republican critic of Trump, announced last month that he will not seek reelection to Congress.
THE CANDIDATE PEOPLE DON’T WANT — In case you missed it, this Los Angeles Magazine story about Sen. DIANNE FEINSTEIN and the growing chorus of Californians who want the 88-year-old Democrat to retire, created a bunch of buzz on Twitter on Tuesday. The top question: “Is Dianne Feinstein Going to Die in the U.S. Senate?” Yikes.
STATE OF PLAY — As lawmakers are out of the Capitol this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, here’s the stakes they will return to: “Here’s one place where Republicans could cause real problems for Democrats. After debating the legislation for up to 20 hours, senators can introduce limitless numbers of amendments and force votes with little debate,” AP’s Alan Fram writes. “GOP goals will be twofold. They can force changes weakening the bill by winning over just one Democrat. And they can offer amendments that lose but gain ammunition for next year’s midterm elections by putting Democrats on record against popular-sounding ideas.”
THE NEW WASHINGTON — More than a dozen lawmakers have told CNN’s Lauren Fox that “in recent days that they find themselves in a toxic work environment, wrought with bitter exchanges, threats and fears about what the erosion of decorum in the chamber will mean for a body that has still not recovered 10 months after the Capitol Hill riot … Democrats and Republicans [have said] things are as bad as they can remember, with no sign things will get better soon, and the fears and concerns aren’t just coming from members, but their families as well.”
Jim Jordan revealed he had Covid-19 this summer — and still wouldn’t say whether he’s vaccinated.
Lauren Boebert challenged her colleague Madison Cawthorn to a “sprint” race over who would get first dibs on Kyle Rittenhouse as an intern. (Cawthorn was left partially paralyzed after a car crash, and uses a wheelchair.)
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell previously said he “would file an election-fraud complaint with the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning. But now he claims to have missed that goal because he was silenced by Republican National Committee Chairperson Ronna McDaniel,” The Daily Beast’s Zachary Petrizzo reports. “It was a last-minute pressure campaign orchestrated by the RNC and McDaniel that prevented his case from moving forward and ‘saving the country,’ Lindell now alleges.” Lindell released a copy of his complaint, even though “it had not actually been filed and it listed the plaintiff as ‘[insert your state],’” HuffPost’s Josephine Harvey reports.
The Pentagon announced the creation of the “Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group,” which will be charged with investigating “unidentified aerial phenomena” — or, what the rest of us call UFOs.
MEDIA MOVE — German Lopez will join NYT’s The Morning as a reporter and writer, expanding the newsletter to seven days a week. He currently is a senior correspondent at Vox, writing a newsletter focused on policy and co-hosting “The Weeds” podcast. Announcement
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Stefan Bailey, president and CEO of Prime Policy Group, and Anna Bailey, a licensed professional counselor at Sunstone Counseling, welcomed Graham LaBarbera Bailey on Monday. He joins big brother Edwin and big sister Ella. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas … former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman of the Bipartisan Policy Center … Krystal Ball (4-0) … POLITICO’s Shia Kapos, Kelsey Miller, Darius Tahir, Katie Davis, Sarah Dickson and Shubham Kadam … Tom LoBianco … Rachel Kriegsman … Meaghan Smith of the Biosimilars Forum … Ben Burger … Chris Putala of Putala Strategies … former Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) (7-0) … Frank Ahrens … Nikki Clifton of UPS … Mark Steitz … Brooke Jamison … AHIP’s Gary Beck … MSNBC’s Rachel Witkin … AP’s Nasser Karimi … Jeff Ballabon … Sherry Ettleson … Alpex International’s Lee Godown … Patrick Burchette … Hugh Grindstaff … Maria Ory … Lindsey Schulte … Patrick Reimherr … Jim Landry … Dave Rapallo … Meghan Graf … Jeremy Pevner … Jonathan Black … Sally Susman of Pfizer … Tyler Goodspeed of the Hoover Institution … Jared Cohen (4-0) … Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn … Marlin Fitzwater … Paul Tagliabue
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