/POLITICO Playbook: ‘You admit you don’t know what you’re talking about’

POLITICO Playbook: ‘You admit you don’t know what you’re talking about’


TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN — who initially predicted a Covid deal would pass two weeks ago — told reporters Tuesday evening that if there were a deal to be had on Covid relief, it would have to be reached by Friday.

WE ARE NOT GOING TO TRY TO PASS JUDGMENT whether that’s possible, but we’re going to lay out here where the two sides have made concessions, what’s left to be figured out in the next 72 hours and what both sides said in a closed-door meeting in Speaker NANCY PELOSI’S office Tuesday. Along with JOHN BRESNAHAN, we worked sources Tuesday night to figure out exactly went on in that room with MNUCHIN, PELOSI, Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and White House COS MARK MEADOWS as they try to cobble together a $1 trillion-plus Covid relief package.

THE REPUBLICAN CONCESSIONS, made by the GOP negotiating team, MNUCHIN and MEADOWS: Enhanced unemployment insurance: An additional $400 per week until Dec. 15 (their initial offer was an extra $600 per week for a week) … Eviction moratorium: extended through Dec. 15 … State and local: $200 billion (up from “flexibility.” Dems say the GOP only offered $150 billion).

THE DEM CONCESSIONS: Their USPS ask went from $25 billion to $10 billion — subject to a meeting today with the postmaster general that MNUCHIN, MEADOWS, PELOSI and SCHUMER will have. REPUBLICANS are not happy with the concessions Dems made, saying their gives were far more generous.

BUT THERE ARE A TON OF OUTSTANDING ISSUES where the two parties are pretty far apart. Here’s what the two sides discussed, with details from PELOSI’S suite:

— ENHANCED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: The Republicans hold that this offer — $400 per week until Dec. 15 — is a big move on their behalf. Democrats are holding at $600 per week — and are trying to capitalize on Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL suggesting that Republicans might agree to a $600-per-week UI plan. Republicans also want to include the return-to-work credit. They tabled this conversation, noting they were too far apart.

PELOSI said in the meeting: “I’m not going to tell single moms: ‘Good news! The pandemic continues and we cut your benefit.’”

— ELECTIONS: There is significant disagreement here. Republicans believe that Democrats are trying to fund a massive mail-in ballot program, but, as SCHUMER reminded the room, it is up to each state to decide how the money is spent.

ONE FUNNY MOMENT: MNUCHIN noted that he wasn’t an electoral ballot expert, and PELOSI said: “Well, it’s good you admit you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

— PENSIONS: There’s a big pension issue that needs to be solved, and both sides agree it could happen in Phase Four. MNUCHIN and MEADOWS told PELOSI and SCHUMER they would speak to the president about this issue, and get back to them about how it may be resolved.

PELOSI called pensions “a different breed of cat,” and suggested that the difference couldn’t be split between the two parties.

— EDUCATION: There is still a ways to go on this topic. They have disagreement on the top line, and how it’s allocated. Semantics, but important: Republicans say that education should be counted as a state and local funding issue, and Democrats say this is nonsense. This was the cause of a disagreement between PELOSI and MEADOWS in the meeting.

— CHILDCARE: Dems are at $50 billion and Republicans are at $15 billion, so the two sides have a ways to go. The negotiators decided to move on from discussing this.

— POSTAL: They mostly tabled this pending their conversation with the postmaster general today. SCHUMER passed MNUCHIN printed copies of 10 articles from around the country showing postal delays in order to press his case — including a Philadelphia Inquirer story that showed how people have gone three weeks without deliveries, leaving them without medicine and other essential goods, and a WaPo story about how Michiganders hadn’t received their absentee or mail ballot before the Tuesday primary.

DEMOCRATS DID GO DOWN TO $10 BILLION from $25 billion here, and MNUCHIN and MEADOWS said they’d look at their proposal.

— BROADBAND: Democrats are analyzing a proposal that Republicans brought. It seems as if there will be an agreement here.

— FOOD ASSISTANCE/SNAP: There is a BIG gap to make up here, and the two sides fought bitterly.

— RENTER/HOMEOWNER ASSISTANCE: Republicans proposed their eviction moratorium, and Democrats didn’t like it — and fought over it. They think there’s more to do here.

— TESTING: Still a ways to go here, but they seem to want to come to a conclusion. Democrats are selling their plan as being “conservative” — decentralizing power to the states to test. Democrats suggested the GOP was too bureaucratic. PELOSI said the administration had failed in testing, and the Democrats’ plan should be put in place. “We have a huge testing problem — we’ve failed,” she said.

AT THE END, MEADOWS said, “We are making little progress. There is still the $3.4 trillion donkey or elephant in the room. There will be no number anywhere close.” PELOSI said: “It’s a beautiful swan.”

NYT ED BOARD: “No Relief Bill, No Vacation”

FRONTS: NYT, with an ERIN SCHAFF portrait of KAREN BASS in the lower right hand corner WSJ N.Y. POST, with this headline: “HIDIN’ BIDEN”

Good Wednesday morning.

DRIVING TODAY: THE NEGOTIATORS are meeting with the postmaster general at 3:30 p.m., and when he leaves, they’ll continue to negotiate. … Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO will speak to the press at 10 a.m.

NEW: MUCH OF THE PRESSURE TO STRIKE a Covid relief deal is coming from the vulnerable GOP rank and file. GOP Sens. MITT ROMNEY (Utah), SUSAN COLLINS (Maine) and MARTHA MCSALLY (Ariz.) have a new enhanced unemployment proposal they plan to drop today that would keep the benefits flowing until the end of the year.

— IN AUGUST states could choose $500 per week, or $400 per week if the states don’t want to change the amount in September. In September: $400 per week. October through December: 80% of wages, or a waiver for $300 per week if the state is unable to pay 80% of prior earnings.

— MARIANNE LEVINE, ANDREW DESIDERIO and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Endangered Republicans to McConnell: Don’t leave town”

— AP’S ANDY TAYLOR: “Endangered GOP senators are driving force for virus deal”

LAUNCHING TODAY: THE FIFTY is a new series from POLITICO that examines the roles mayors and governors are playing amid the pandemic, the economic crisis and a national reckoning on race. The Fifty collects our best reporting on the governors and mayors shaping policy and driving politics, and looks at the people and power players outside of Washington. UP NOW: “The best job in America — or a living nightmare?” by Anna Gronewold and Shia Kapos … Q&A with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

THE LATEST IN BEIRUT … AP/BEIRUT: “Lebanese confront devastation after massive Beirut explosion,” by Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam: “Residents of Beirut awoke to a scene of utter devastation on Wednesday, a day after a massive explosion at the port sent shock waves across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 100 people and wounding thousands.

“Smoke was still rising from the port, where huge mounds of grain gushed from hollowed-out silos. Major downtown streets were littered with debris and damaged vehicles, and building facades were blown out.

“An official with the Lebanese Red Cross said at least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 were wounded. The official, George Kettaneh, said the toll could rise further.” AP

NYT/TAIPEI, by Amy Qin: “U.S. Health Secretary to Visit Taiwan, in a Move Likely to Anger Beijing”: “The trip by Mr. Azar, the secretary of health and human services, will be the first by a U.S. health secretary and the first in six years by a U.S. cabinet member, the department said in a statement on Tuesday.

“No date was given for the visit to Taiwan, a self-ruled territory that is claimed by Beijing, but the health department billed it as an opportunity to strengthen economic and public health cooperation between the United States and Taiwan and to highlight Taiwan’s success in battling the coronavirus pandemic.”

CONVENTION WATCH … WAPO’S MICHAEL SCHERER and JOSH DAWSEY: “Republicans consider South Lawn of the White House for Donald Trump’s convention speech”: “Republican National Convention planners are considering the White House South Lawn as the site of President Trump’s nationally televised nomination acceptance speech later this month, according to a Republican familiar with the discussions.

“The decision to stage the most high-profile political event of Trump’s reelection campaign at the national seat of presidential power would be just the latest break by Trump in presidential norms, which have historically drawn clear lines between official business of the president and campaign events.

ON THE TRAIL … ALEX THOMPSON: “Trump’s campaign knocks on a million doors a week. Biden’s knocks on 0”: “Donald Trump’s campaign says it knocked on over 1 million doors in the past week alone. Joe Biden’s campaign says it knocked on zero.

“The Republican and Democratic parties — from the presidential candidates on down — are taking polar opposite approaches to door-to-door canvassing this fall. The competing bets on the value of face-to-face campaigning during a pandemic has no modern precedent, making it a potential wild card in November, especially in close races.

“Biden and the Democratic National Committee aren’t sending volunteers or staffers to talk with voters at home, and don’t anticipate doing anything more than dropping off literature unless the crisis abates. The campaign and the Democratic National Committee think they can compensate for the lack of in-person canvassing with phone calls, texts, new forms of digital organizing, and virtual meet-ups with voters.

“‘At first I was nervous, but our response rates on phone calls and texts are much higher and people are not necessarily wanting someone to go up to their door right now,’ said Jenn Ridder, Biden’s national states director. ‘You get to throw a lot of the rule book out the window and try out new things.’”

VEEPSTAKES … NO SURPRISE HERE: “‘She is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick’: GOP pines for Rice as Biden VP,” by Anita Kumar: “Joe Biden still may be undecided about who to pick for a running mate, but Donald Trump’s team knows exactly who they want: Susan Rice.

“Trump’s aides and allies accuse Rice — without delving too deeply into the evidence — of helping cover up crimes for two of the president’s favorite foils, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, making her just the kind of deep-state villain who could fire up his MAGA base.

“‘She is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick,’ a Trump campaign official said. Rice, the former ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser for Obama, is accused of revealing the identities of top Trump associates in 2016 after they were picked up as part of U.S. surveillance of foreign officials. Four years earlier, she faced allegations that she misled Americans when she announced on national TV that the fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya, occurred after spontaneous protests in response to an anti-Muslim video. That was determined to be inaccurate.”

BIG SWING … KNOWING KAREN BASS … NYT, A1 … ADAM NAGOURNEY and JENNY MEDINA in Los Angeles: “From Outsider to Insider: Karen Bass’s Unexpected Journey to Power”

NYT’S DANNY HAKIM and MAGGIE HABERMAN: “Republicans Aid Kanye West’s Bid to Get on the 2020 Ballot” VICE’S CAMERON JOSEPH: “A Well-Connected GOP Strategist Is Helping Kanye West Get on the Ballot in Wisconsin”

LAST NIGHT’S PRIMARY — “Republicans dodge Kansas nightmare as Marshall defeats Kobach,” by James Arkin and Ally Mutnick: “Rep. Roger Marshall won the GOP primary for an open Senate seat in Kansas on Tuesday, turning aside the controversial Kris Kobach — to the relief of Republicans concerned that Kobach could put not just the state but the party’s Senate majority at risk this fall.

“With nearly all the votes tallied, Marshall had 40 percent of the vote, to only 26 percent for Kobach. The result was a more decisive victory for Marshall than expected by many Republicans, who had predicted with deep concern that the race was a tossup going into Tuesday.

“GOP leaders had been outspoken in their opposition to Kobach since he entered the race last summer, but failed in their efforts to steer the race away from him, leaving it up in the air on primary night. Party officials couldn’t convince Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run, and some eventually consolidated behind Rep. Roger Marshall in the closing weeks of the race.

“But President Donald Trump did not endorse or oppose anyone, frustrating some Republicans who thought he could have ended the concern by weighing in.” POLITICO5 takeaways via Steve Shepard

“Progressive challenger Cori Bush beats Rep. Lacy Clay in primary,” by Ally Mutnick: “Liberal challenger Cori Bush defeated Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) in a primary for his St. Louis-based House seat on Tuesday — a huge win for the left and a seismic loss for the Congressional Black Caucus, which has tried to snuff out challenges from younger candidates.

“Bush’s victory came two years after her first challenge to Clay, which the incumbent won by 20 percentage points. But this cycle, Bush’s campaign was better funded and had more outside help from a wide array of surrogates including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Justice Democrats, the group that helped elect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).”

NYT’S ELAINA PLOTT: “Tennessee Republicans, Once Moderate and Genteel, Turn Toxic in the Trump Era”: “[Bill Hagerty] also began distancing himself from old friends. The day after Mr. Hagerty announced his candidacy in September, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Romney’s Believe in America PAC contributed the maximum allowed amount to Mr. Hagerty’s campaign — $5,600. Bank records indicate that Mr. Hagerty’s campaign deposited the check. But in October, Mr. Hagerty surprised Mr. Romney by quietly returning the donation in full.

“(Neither the PAC’s contribution nor Mr. Hagerty’s disbursement of the refund appears in the Hagerty campaign’s filings, a potential violation of campaign finance law. A spokesman for the Hagerty campaign said, ‘Once we realized it was deposited, we alerted the bank and we reversed the transaction, because we do not share Senator Romney’s liberal, anti-Trump political positions.’)”

SIGN OF THE TIMES — CLAUDIA TENNEY, who is seeking her old seat in Congress in upstate New York, is running an ad with the NRCC with this tagline: “You can’t spell Brindisi without B.S.” The 30-second spot

TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — The president will meet with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey at 3 p.m. in the Oval Office.

CORONAVIRUS RAGING … More than 4.7 MILLION PEOPLE have been infected by the coronavirus in the United States. 156,830 AMERICANS have died.

— WAPO: “There’s no national testing strategy for coronavirus. These states banded together to make one.” by Erin Cox: “The governors, three Republicans and four Democrats, say that other states and cities may join them and that talks have already begun with one of the two companies approved by the Food and Drug Administration to sell point-of-care antigen tests that can detect the virus in less than 30 minutes.

“Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) negotiated the deal during the final days of his tenure as chair of the National Governors Association. His office said the Rockefeller Foundation is willing to act as the financing entity if needed. Each state — Virginia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio, in addition to Maryland — would request 500,000 rapid tests, for a total of 3.5 million that could be deployed to address outbreaks.”

— LAT: “California’s coronavirus test result data may be flawed, top health official says,” by Colleen Shalby: “A steep decline in California’s coronavirus infection rate announced this week by Gov. Gavin Newson may not be accurate, according to the state’s top public health official who said Tuesday that the state’s data system used to process COVID-19 test results is marred with technical issues.

“The problems have caused delays in analyzing test results and cast doubt on Newsom’s announcement Monday of a 21.2% decline in the seven-day average rate for positive infections compared with the average from the week before.

“California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said that ‘the seven-day positivity rate is absolutely affected’ by the issue. It’s unclear to what extent and for how long cases have been undercounted, and how this situation differs from the more routine delays when test reporting lags over weekends.”

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Saudi Arabia, With China’s Help, Expands Its Nuclear Program,” by WSJ’s Warren Strobel, Michael Gordon and Felicia Schwartz: “Saudi Arabia has constructed with Chinese help a facility for extracting uranium yellowcake from uranium ore, an advance in the oil-rich kingdom’s drive to master nuclear technology, according to Western officials with knowledge of the site.

“The facility, which hasn’t been publicly disclosed, is in a sparsely populated area in Saudi Arabia’s northwest and has raised concern among U.S. and allied officials that the kingdom’s nascent nuclear program is moving ahead and that Riyadh is keeping open the option of developing nuclear weapons.” WSJ

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

THE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy is announcing its fall 2020 fellows class: Errin Haines, founding member and editor at large at The 19th; Mary Katharine Ham, author and CNN commentator; Kevin Hassett, former senior adviser to Trump and chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; former Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah); Faiz Shakir, former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’ campaign; and Lis Smith, former senior adviser for comms for Pete Buttigieg’s campaign. Meet the fellows

TRANSITIONS — Manuel Bonder is now comms adviser at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign. He previously worked on campaigns for Carolyn Long and Pete Buttigieg. … Casey Elliott is now director of comms and media affairs at Prism Group. She previously led comms at the Addiction Policy Forum.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Julia Godshaw, a senior analyst with WWC Global Consulting for the Department of the Navy, and Kevin Wiatrak, a lawyer and senior analyst for IST Research for the State Department, got married in a socially distant ceremony in Denver this weekend. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. What she’s reading: “I mostly read nonfiction, but am falling in love with fiction all over again during this lockdown. Recently, I’ve been revisiting the great Octavia Butler (fitting for this dystopian moment!), who’s helped me think about connecting my double consciousness in ways I hadn’t thought about.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: A.G. Sulzberger is 4-0 … Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) is 67 … Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico) is 44 … Rufus Gifford is 46 … Ryan Wrasse, comms director for Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) … Jim Puzzanghera, Boston Globe D.C. bureau chief … Jeremy Flantzer … Heidi Nel, principal and head of Impact Entertainment at the Raben Group … Matt Mandel … Bloomberg’s Jim Rowley … Kristofer Eisenla … former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is 57 … Pete Snyder is 48 … Cary Gibson, VP at Farragut Square Group … Cicely Simpson … Molly Donlin of Deep Root Analytics … Jeff Kupfer … Laura Chace, COO of ITS America (h/t Cathy St. Denis) … Howard Leib is 62 … Rock Ventures’ Aaron Walker … Kassandra Meholick … Lisa Geller is 27 … Taylor Griffin … Caroline Ehlich …

… Sharon Weber, deputy national finance director for Joe Biden’s campaign … Alicia Amling, COS for Temerity Capital Partners … Katie Thomson … Matt Anderson of Blackstone … ABC’s Luis Martinez … Lila Cohn … Melissa Canu … Ashley Pitts … Mary Beth Bakke … Kathy Rust … Michael Chandler, managing editor at MemoryWell … Cambodian PM Hun Sen is 68 … Katie Vlietstra Wonnenberg, principal at Public Private Strategies … Colleen Fisher Simons … Donte Donald … James Franklin Blue III … Christine Forester … Facebook’s Monique Dorsainvil … Monica Thompson … Dana Ferreira … Nicholas Rodman … Scott Vance … Kristy Huxhold … Marla Ratner … Corey Johnson … Abby Milberg … Julie Hughes … Jason Pollock … Ron Bouchard … Topf Wells (h/t Teresa Vilmain) … Dennis Lonergan … Barbara Dixon

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