Luckily for you, the Senate infrastructure bill looks like it’s rolling into final passage later this week, so you shouldn’t have to endure any more infrastructure puns from us (no promises though). In this issue, we give our quick take on the state of the deal, the politics surrounding the COVID Delta resurgence, and the potential resurgence of a former Governor turned VP-nominee turned Tina Fey lookalike. We then end by remembering the late, great Democratic Senator Carl Levin from Murphy’s home state of Michigan.
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Let’s begin where we always have so far: infrastructure.
The Infrastructure Traffic Ahead
Well, Robert, as we both guardedly predicted, the Senate bipartisan infrastructure bill looks like it's heading for passage at the end of this week. And I think the bill is now – with Mitch McConnell lining up behind it – likely to score a few more GOP votes than you might have predicted last week. At least Sen. Susan Collins thinks the bill is in good shape for final passage:
Interestingly, GOP support seems intact even though Trump has started howling against the bill and threatening to punish any Republican supporters. Though I’m thinking I might be wrong and you might be right Gibbs re: my prediction that Lindsay Graham would ultimately support the bill. Nobody heels faster to His Master’s Voice than the former Trump critic from South Carolina. Though it might be Graham’s positive COVID test that ends up being the real speed bump for the bill after potentially exposing at least six other Senators aboard Senator Manchin’s bipartisan house boat “Almost Heaven” on Saturday night. In all seriousness, we wish Senator Graham well.
Maybe those Senators will end up using the quarantine to actually read the bill. Our wonkiest readers can happily peruse the entire 2,700 pages HERE.
So now, it’s on to the House, where we've already talked through the various scenarios, including a Senate infrastructure bill on the rocks! Now we’ve got to wait for the voting to actually happen.
Undoubtedly, there will be a slew of amendments that try to push and pull this deal apart, but seems like this whole bipartisan thing may work, on infrastructure at least. The other thing to watch in the Senate in addition to the likely passage of the bipartisan infrastructure deal is Senator Schumer then moving directly to the budget resolution and setting up the Fall for the bigger reconciliation package. Though that also might get delayed by the boat party quarantine crew.
Right, and I thought it was interesting that on a Sunday chat show Deputy President Manchin (and part-time cruise operator) said he wasn't at all sure that $3.5 trillion spend-a-palooza would get enough Democratic votes to pass. (His fellow moderate Dem Senator Sinema has said similar things to the predictable fury of Progressives).
Manchin is one wily pol. He said the infrastructure bill is “paid for” unlike the $3.5 trillion domestic spending measure, starting to build his argument for why he is likely to oppose the huge spending package. (That’s true, but only in a Washington, DC sense which defines “paid for” the way Bernie Madoff defined “safe and secure investment.” The revenue raises in the infrastructure bills are mostly accounting fig leaves.) The bottom line I think the $3.5T size is a goner and the bill is gonna get chopped down to a smaller size.
Here is Manchin laying down the law:
Manchin’s strategy seems to be to fire up the fury of progressives!
The Tragic Politics of the Delta Resurgence: Florida, Florida, Florida
Speaking of Graham’s COVID diagnosis, it sadly might only encourage the misinformation swirling around COVID and the vaccine amid the dramatic uptick in COVID cases caused by the Delta variant. Though to Graham’s credit, he is not using the opportunity to knock the vaccine. The same responsibility can’t be said for GOP governor DeSantis’s mask misinformation in Florida, even as his state reports new cases on a volume unseen in this pandemic. Granted it was a rough messaging week for the Biden Administration and the CDC too in trying to provide guidance without clear communication. As mentioned in past issues, I believe the foundation of Biden's positive approval ratings to this point in his administration are a big result of people rightly believing the COVID public health response and recovery have been handled well. The question over the next several weeks is whether that holds, what degree of the old politics of questioning science and common sense rear their heads all over again and how many hospital beds and ICUs are filled and ventilators are used? Just a few weeks ago, many thought with the introduction of a vaccine, we were out of the woods. But the CDC announced this week the 7-day average of daily COVID cases surpassed the peak of last summer.
Yeah, I agree; I guarantee, the White House political office was thinking they'd be in a far stronger position on COVID by now than they are. The big question is does it get worse, and how much blame will Biden get from causal voters since he’s the guy behind the desk with “the buck stops here” sign on it. I think Biden does have one advantage; there is a strong pro-vaccine majority in the country and its patience with non-vaccine taking knuckleheads is now very short. That's an opportunity for Biden to go tough and pin the political tail for any COVID failures going forward, including any economic slowdown, on other people. One obvious target: Florida Gov Ron DeSantis.
Not only is DeSantis a (very early) semi-frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination (probably much to the great irritant of his frenemy Donald J. Trump), he’s also in the epicenter of the national COVID Delta surge (approximately 1/5 of all new cases are now happening in the Sunshine State). And he’s gone total no mask, no science, no plan on COVID Delta. So Dr. Gibbs, what do you think about DeSantis? Where is the smart move here? Does DeSantis really think being a one-man super spreader in chief will deliver the Republican nomination to him? His state is literally biologically on fire.
Governor DeSantis rode the anti-COVID don't shut my state down train (I'm still trying to fill the non-infrastructure parts with infrastructure metaphors) throughout most of 2020 and the pandemic. And in a party where you still have a rather large percentage who are happy to tell pollsters they have no desire to become vaccinated, it has been a popular play. The challenge going forward will depend somewhat on what the CDC said last week that the nature of this war had changed. And this variant is challenging because of its level of contagiousness and its ability, quite frankly, to seek out the unvaccinated. I have a mug in my cupboard that says, “science doesn't give a fuck what you think.” And never has that been more important than right now. There may be a high upside for a potential player in a party of those that question COVID restrictions, but what's unclear is how science doesn't conform to the whims of politics and the downside for him could be considerable. Decisions, actions and big bets that played well now may look even more foolish a few years from now.
I think he’s cornered himself by fighting the last COVID war. Voters, even GOP primary voters evolve, and mask-bashing is a weaker hand to play now. He’s become the drum major for the denial parade about the COVID Delta variant, and even in the activist wing of the Republican Party, I'm not sure that position will prove smart over time. We know Republican primary voters are older, but I think the experience of the last 18 months will show that they can become wiser too. DeSantis is also becoming a political threat to Donald Trump and we all know how Trump reacts to that… the hatchet starts flying. So, if he's doing the Trump mask-hating COVID denying music, he's like a Beatles cover band that’ll do well until Paul McCartney puts on his guitar and walks into the same lounge and starts playing. I think this is the first really dumb move DeSantis has made even within the politics of the Republican primary. We're see how his strategy holds up as Florida tragically gets worse off.
Sort of like the movies, they're not making new ones, they're just remaking old ones. The New York Post reports Sarah Palin suggested last week that she might jump back into the political fray and run for the US Senate from Alaska. An interesting play.
The article, even in Murdoch's New York Post recalled her infamous Saturday Night Live skit with Tina Fey. Interesting that 13 years later that's still a central part of her biography. What makes this even more interesting is, obviously, Donald Trump is obsessed with Lisa Murkowski and beating her. Despite the fact that Sarah Palin may well have been the earlier version of Donald Trump and Trump has enjoyed support from her. He's already endorsed in that Senate race. So, it could be fascinating to watch whether she decides to run and what Trump does around that? The good news is we'll potentially have somebody in the Senate who can see Russia from her house.
Clearly Governor Palin is looking to reestablish herself as a somebody. I agree she is badly tarnished, and she carries plenty of heavy local Alaska baggage of our own from her days as governor. If she actually runs, it will be good news for Sen Lisa Murkowski’s reelection effort. The best play for her, and Rep. Liz Cheney in Wyoming, is to have multiple Trumpy challengers. That said, Palin has the ability to attract attention and my guess is she senses Murkowski is vulnerable to make running worth a try. God knows the tabloids will love this (who will Todd endorse!?!) and unless there are some new used car lots that need Grand Opening Speakers, what the Hell else does Palin have going on? Not too much, at least according to her Instagram account. Here’s an Update:
My Tidbit for today is a quick note to my fellow campaign junkies about the trio of Trump 2020 campaign books now out. They are all worth reading. The Michael Wolff book is the gossipy, fly on the wall stuff and has a great, madness of King Donald interview from his golf club Elba. Wooster’s Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig’s book is excellent and covers the full waterfront of 2020. But I wanted to put a special lantern on WSJ reporter Michael Bender’s Frankly We Did Win This Election.
It’s mostly written from the campaign staff’s point of view and has all the stuff campaign operatives will want to read about to see just what a train-wreck the Trump campaign really way. A lot staffers talked, and talked a lot, to Bender. It’s great Hack Chow for curious campaign people.
REMEMBERING SENATOR CARL LEVIN
Murphy, you and I worked on opposite sides in 2000 in the Michigan Senate race, which is where I was first introduced to Carl Levin and his team. He was always revered for his intelligence, and I heard a story once that I hope is true because I think it captures Levin’s essence. His staff pitched him on the campaign re-election slogan: “A Senator you can be proud of.” And they talked him through it and his reaction was, no, we can't do that. And they were kind of puzzled and he said, it would be, “A Senator for whom one can be proud.” I thought for somebody who was passionate, intelligent, and really the pure definition of a public servant, that story partly captures the uniqueness of who Carl Levin was. He was a giant from a different era, one where the Senate was a far different place than it is today. For people not familiar with Carl Levin, he's the Senator who looked like Benjamin Franklin, because he had that grayish hair with the sort of half glasses, always perched at the end of his nose, whether he was reading a newspaper, chairing a hearing or walking in the halls of Congress.
I’m from Michigan and I grew up in a Democratic family so Senator Levin had plenty of admirers including my parents, who knew him pretty well. I have to say there's something in the water in the Wolverine state that produces highly principled liberals: the famous Senator Phil Hart. Carl Levin was very much in that tradition. He was widely respected for his intelligence and his tenacity, and he came from an earlier era, where his first thought in the morning was not to decide which make-up kit to bring for the CNN hit today. Instead, he looked like your schlubby uncle, the grumpy, but softhearted CPA with a very sharp mind and a small mustard stain on his tie. John McCain who, like all conservatives disagreed with him on most issues, had tremendous respect for Levin while they both served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Carl Levin was the kind of Senator in temperament and intellect and patriotism that we could use a lot more of today in both parties.
We’ll save this for another issue, but how did Mike Murphy escape the good guidance of his parents and became a Republican?
Those files have been sealed, Gibbs!
In the meantime, coming up Friday, our take on the big special election primaries today in the Ohio-15 (for the Repubs) and Ohio-11 (for the Dems).
See you then!
Murphy and Gibbs