POLITICO Playbook: Who’s getting face time with the White House


White House chief of staff RON KLAIN has met twice in two weeks with leading House progressives — and the high-level handholding with the far-left wing of the caucus isn’t sitting well with House moderates.

They say the White House seems to be taking them for granted as the administration works overtime to appease the left.

Two weeks ago we broke the news of Klain’s meeting with leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Then Axios reported last week that Biden’s chief huddled with Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.) and other progressives. The sit-downs have prompted griping from more centrist Democrats that they haven’t been offered facetime with Klain, too.

“People were definitely sore that they invited over some of the lefties,” said one moderate Democratic lawmaker. The working assumption of the White House, this person added, is “that we’ll all just line up.”

The tensions among Democrats have intensified in the run-up to President JOE BIDEN’S unveiling of his massive infrastructure (and many other things) bill on Wednesday. Lawmakers are jockeying to have their priorities included.

The squawking has gotten the attention of White House counselor STEVE RICCHETTI. After speaking with Rep. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-N.J.), co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, Ricchetti and White House legislative affairs director LOUISA TERRELL will be meeting with the bipartisan group in the coming days. Gottheimer said he won’t support the infrastructure bill if its changes to the tax code don’t reinstate the state and local tax deduction known as SALT, which former President DONALD TRUMP capped at $10,000.

Moderates also fear that Klain’s tango with House progressives will only embolden the left flank of the caucus. Ways and Means Chair RICHARD NEAL (D-Mass.) and Oversight and Reform Chair CAROLYN MALONEY (D-N.Y.) both staved off primary challenges from the left last year.

Several House committee chairs did meet with Biden at the White House at the start of his term, but they have not had a sitdown with Klain, who is immersed in the details of — and holds significant sway over — the president’s agenda.

“People were shocked that Ron Klain was going to see certain [progressive] members but not members of the committees that they need to get their agenda passed,” another House Democrat told us. Furthermore, this person said, progressives are “challenging all of us” in primaries.

In fairness, Ricchetti has been hearing out moderate Democrats on the economic package, which is expected to be split into two bills — one featuring items favored by those lawmakers like roads and bridges, the other including more progressive priorities like child care and health care programs. But the centrists still want time with the powerful chief of staff.

“Ricchetti and Louisa regularly reach out to me to get feedback,” Gottheimer said. But he added, “Engagement on this package with a broad group of moderates — Democrats and Republicans — will be key.”

PLAYBOOK LIVE: RYAN will interview Klain on Thursday at 9 a.m. Register here

MORE ON THAT SALT DEDUCTION, via CNBC: “Leaders of the finance industry and other businesses in New York are pushing President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who represents the state, to bring back the full state and local tax deduction, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The WSJ scoops another early tax-related push by progressives: “Senate Democrats Push for Capital-Gains Tax at Death With $1 Million Exemption”

And CNN reports that Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG says no gas or mileage tax will be in Biden's infrastructure plan.

Good Tuesday morning. It’s infrastructure eve, and we’re super jazzed about it. Who said the Biden White House wouldn’t be fun? Got a news tip? A document to share? Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

BIDEN’S TUESDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Biden will sign the PPP Extension Act of 2021 into law at 2 p.m. in the Oval Office with Harris and SBA Administrator ISABELLA CASILLAS GUZMAN in attendance.

Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 12:30 p.m.

THE HOUSE and SENATE are not in session.

THE WHITE HOUSE

STOCKING THE COURTS — “Biden to release his first wave of judicial nominees,” by Marianne LeVine, Laura Barrón-López and Josh Gerstein: “The White House is expected to release its first slate of judicial nominees as early as Tuesday, according to three sources familiar with the matter. President Joe Biden plans to tap 11 nominees for the federal bench, including three Black women, sources said. At least two of those women will be named to the appeals courts, according to allies of his administration briefed on the selections.” The White House release

USING HISTORY AS A GUIDE — “Biden’s Lesson From Past Green Stimulus Failures: Go Even Bigger,” NYT: “President Biden is preparing the details of a new, vastly larger, economic stimulus plan that again would use government spending to unite the goals of fighting climate change and restoring the economy. While clean energy spending was just a fraction of the Obama stimulus, Mr. Biden wants to make it the centerpiece of his proposal for trillions of dollars, not billions, on government grants, loans, and tax incentives to spark renewable power, energy efficiency and electric car production.

“But the failures of the Obama stimulus, and Mr. Biden’s role in them — he oversaw recovery-act spending — could haunt the plan as it makes its way through Congress. The risk to taxpayers could be orders of magnitude more this time around, and Republicans for years have proven adept at citing Solyndra to criticize federal intervention in industrial planning.”

A TOUGH GIG — “Biden handed Harris a political grenade. Can she defuse it?” by Eugene Daniels: “The question of what to do about the flow of migrants overwhelming border resources have vexed the past two presidents. And some people close to Harris fear it would now do the same for her and, in turn, complicate her political future.

“For allies, the enormity of the task did not go unnoticed, nor were they pollyannaish about the risks and how it might play out. But immigration advocates and other confidantes in the Harris orbit are hopeful that she could bring a unique perspective and experience to her first major policy role as veep. And combined with historical patterns of migration, they believe that may end up positioning her nicely as the one that effectively dealt with an issue that has been largely intractable.”

UP ON CAPITOL HILL

MITCH REPLACEMENT PLANNING — “Kentucky lawmakers override veto of McConnell-backed Senate vacancy plan,” Louisville Courier-Journal: “The Republican-run Kentucky legislature on Monday easily overrode Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of a notable bill that restricts his ability to fill any vacancies that arise if one of the state's U.S. senators dies or leaves office early. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the commonwealth's powerful senior senator, threw his support behind Senate Bill 228. That sparked speculation that the 79-year-old statesman, who just got reelected last fall, might be eyeing the exits.

“However, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, SB 228's lead sponsor, has said the longtime senator plans to stick around and McConnell himself has never given any public indication he doesn't plan to serve out his new six-year term.”

A GOP HOUSE DIVIDED — “Freedom Caucus frets over how far to push its rebellion,” by Olivia Beavers and Melanie Zanona: “A group of House ultra-conservatives who rose to power by making life hell for GOP leaders is now facing cracks in its once-united front — which some worry could foreshadow an even wider rift if Republicans win back the majority next year.

“A notable split has emerged inside the House Freedom Caucus in recent weeks over its members' use of delaying tactics on the floor to protest Democratic policies. That effort has grabbed attention and ruffled leadership, two hallmarks of the Freedom Caucus, but it's also snarled legislative proceedings enough to breed frustration among some members of the far-right crew.”

MORE ON THAT SCHUMER RECONCILIATION IDEA — “‘A painful, painful process’: Dems’ new budget gambit comes with big risk,” by Caitlin Emma: “Schumer has asked the Senate parliamentarian ... for her OK to essentially recycle the same reconciliation process used to pass Biden’s pandemic aid package earlier this month. But his request, if granted, would further stretch a legislative tool that wasn’t designed to accommodate the sorts of policy goals it has already been used to push past the threat of a filibuster during both Democratic and GOP-controlled Congresses.

“Winning the green light for a second reconciliation run this year could embolden the current Democratic majority, as well as any party that commands every lever of government power, to muscle its priorities past partisan roadblocks by using a process that's supposed to be an exhausting lift for lawmakers. ‘This is not a simple trick,’ said Zach Moller, deputy director of economics at the think tank Third Way. ‘It is a painful, painful process that will take a lot of time.’

“Should the parliamentarian say yes to Schumer, reconciliation could technically get used as often as a Senate majority party wants to, provided that it also holds the House and White House.”

POLITICS CORNER

TRUMP VS. MURKOWSKI — “Trump alums sign up with new Murkowski opponent,” by Alex Isenstadt: “[Kelly] Tshibaka has tapped National Public Affairs, a consulting firm made up of Trump’s top 2020 campaign advisers, to help oversee her effort. Former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, deputy campaign manager Justin Clark and battleground states director Nick Trainer, who relaunched the firm after the presidential election, will serve as Tshibaka’s senior advisers.

“The candidate has also signed on Tim Murtaugh, who was communications director on Trump’s reelection effort, to serve as a senior communications adviser. Mary Ann Pruitt, an Alaska-based political consultant who was a senior figure on Murkowski’s successful 2016 reelection campaign, has abandoned the senator and is working for Tshibaka.”

THE NEW GOP CAUSE — “Why Transgender Girls Are Suddenly the G.O.P.’s Culture-War Focus,” NYT: “South Dakota is just one of a growing number of states where Republicans are diving into a culture war clash that seems to have come out of nowhere. It has been brought about by a coordinated and poll-tested campaign by social conservative organizations like the American Principles Project and Concerned Women for America, which say they are determined to move forward with what may be one of their last footholds in the fight against expanding L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

“Three other states have passed bills this month that resemble South Dakota’s. In Mississippi and Arkansas, they are set to become law this summer. And similar bills have been introduced by Republicans in two dozen other states, including North Carolina, where an unpopular ‘bathroom bill’ enacted in 2016 prompted costly boycotts and led conservatives nationwide to pull back on efforts to restrict rights for transgender people.”

MORE CUOMO DRAMA — “New accounts detail how New York health officials were told to prioritize coronavirus testing of people connected to Andrew Cuomo,” WaPo: “New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s relatives and other well-connected New Yorkers were among those given preferential treatment at state coronavirus testing centers. State troopers were on standby to rush their samples to a lab to be expedited. And those with priority status got results within hours or a day compared to a wait of up to a week that other New Yorkers faced at the time. …

“Two individuals said clothing and footwear designer Kenneth Cole, the governor’s brother-in-law, was among those who benefited from priority testing.

“And a top state physician whose pandemic portfolio involved coordinating testing in nursing homes was dispatched multiple times to the Hamptons home of CNN host Chris Cuomo, the governor’s brother, in testing visits that sometimes stretched hours, according to two people with knowledge of the consultations.”

— N.Y. Post: “New Andrew Cuomo accuser Sherry Vill speaks out alongside Gloria Allred”

PANDEMIC

ANOTHER SURGE — “Internal CDC data shows virus regaining foothold as Biden urges states to pause reopening,” by Sarah Owermohle and Erin Banco: “The number of new cases jumped by 11 percent over the past week to a seven-day average of about 60,000 cases, according to an interagency memo dated March 29 and obtained by POLITICO. Nationally, the number of new Covid-19 hospital admissions and currently hospitalized patients both increased by 4 percent, said the memo, which is based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“By comparison, a memo dated March 11 reported that the country's seven-day average test positivity was at its lowest value since the beginning of the pandemic — 4.2 percent. And the seven-day daily average of confirmed Covid-19 hospital admissions had decreased by 13 percent from the week prior.”

A PSA FROM THE GOP LEADER — “Mitch McConnell: ‘I would encourage all Republican men’ to get vaccinated,” CNN: “‘I can say as a Republican man, as soon as it was my turn, I took the vaccine. I would encourage all Republican men to do that,’ said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, on Monday, when asked what kind of messaging he can push as the GOP leader to help encourage people, specifically Republican men, that the vaccine is safe and they should get it.

“McConnell added that there is ‘no good argument not to get the vaccination. I would encourage all men regardless of party affiliation to get the vaccination,’ at a news conference in Hazard, Kentucky, outside a health care clinic for an event focusing on the state's vaccination efforts.”

MEDIAWATCH

UPON FURTHER REVIEW — “Washington Post reverses prohibition on reporter from writing about sexual assault,” WaPo: “After Felicia Sonmez went public on Twitter over the weekend with her criticism of this policy, The Post’s top editors said she is now free again to write stories about people accused of such misconduct.

“The issue involving Sonmez revolved around potential conflicts of interest, which have been complicated in the era of social media by journalists sometimes offering public comments about the topics they cover. But it was also colored by Sonmez’s tweets detailing her conflicts with and criticism of Post editors, and by the persistent harassment and trolling she received online when she posted about her experience.” Read Rachael’s account in Sunday’s Playbook

A SPECULATION FRENZY AROUND … NEWSLETTERS? — “Substack is raising $65 million amid newsletter boom,” Axios: “Substack is raising $65 million in new venture capital funding that would value the company at around $650 million, Axios has learned. Existing investor Andreessen Horowitz is leading the round.

“Substack, which provides a platform on which writers can publish paid email newsletters and keep most of the revenue, has seen its popularity soar. Many of Substack's best-known writers are professional journalists who sought to become their own bosses, while others are simply seeking an outlet for their expertise.”

TRUMP CARDS

ABOUT THAT DOCUMENTARY — “Trump lashes out at Fauci and Birx after CNN documentary,” by Benjamin Din: “‘Based on their interviews, I felt it was time to speak up about Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, two self-promoters trying to reinvent history to cover for their bad instincts and faulty recommendations, which I fortunately almost always overturned,’ Trump said. ‘They had bad policy decisions that would have left our country open to China and others, closed to reopening our economy, and years away from an approved vaccine — putting millions of lives at risk.’

“Trump’s statement amounted to a point-by-point rebuttal of comments from Fauci and Birx in a CNN documentary that aired Sunday, which featured former Trump health officials, some of whom were critical of the former president.”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Sean Memon is now an SVP for D. E. Shaw’s legal and compliance department, where he will be COS. He previously was COS to the chair of the SEC.

NEW … Amazon's Virginia Boney, Facebook's Catherine Eng, Asia Group's Jennifer Schuch-Page, Hamilton Place Strategies' Patrice Smith, Bloomberg's Alyza Sebenius, Michigan State Rep. Mari Manoogian and House Foreign Affairs Committee's Theresa Lou, among others, have been selected to be part of the class of 2021 for Aspen Strategy Group's Rising Leaders Program. The full list

TRANSITIONS — Marisa Nahem is now press secretary for Nina Turner’s Ohio congressional campaign. She most recently was deputy press secretary for Theresa Greenfield’s Iowa Senate campaign, and is a 2020 Democratic National Convention and Amy for America alum. … Katie Ott will be senior director of government affairs at Breakthrough Energy. She previously was director of federal government affairs at Exelon. … Olivia Elkins is now national security legislative aide for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). She previously was legislative assistant for Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). …

Adrienne Harris is now a senior adviser at the Brunswick Group. She most recently worked at a San Francisco-based insurtech startup, and is an Obama NEC alum. … Asana Creative Strategy is adding Claire Owens as director of content development and Taí Coates-Wedde as director of client management. Owens previously was at the Wounded Warrior Project, and Coates-Wedde previously was at Engage. … Abbie McDonough is now comms director for the office of the D.C. attorney general. She most recently was a VP at Breakwater Strategy and is a Heidi Heitkamp alum.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Elena Schneider, national political reporter at POLITICO, and Eli Stokols, White House reporter for the L.A. Times, welcomed Charles “Charlie” Leon Stokols on Thursday. He came in at 8 lbs, 3.7 oz. and is named for his Opa and great-grandfather. Pic Another pic

— Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas) and Aly Eber, a lawyer, welcomed Cameron Eber Allred on Sunday night. He joins big brother Jordan. Pic

— Tim Del Monico, COS for Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), and Claire Manning, senior director of advocacy and mobilization at The Arc of the United States, welcomed Cameron Joseph Del Monico on Sunday. He came in at 8 lbs and 10 oz.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) (71) … Kevin Dowling of Venn Strategies (34) … Tracey Lintott … WaPo’s John HudsonMark PfeifleJoe Kildea of the Club for Growth … Suzy KhimmPayne GriffinRandee (Ulsh) Gilmore … Morning Consult’s Michael RamletBradleigh Chance … CQ Roll Call’s Sandhya Raman … NYT’s Alex KingsburyScott Rasmussen (65) … Casey Higgins of Akin Gump … Richard Escobedo of “Face the Nation” … Jason Greenblatt (54) … former Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) (59) … former Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) (8-0) … former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) (38) … former Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (69) … Drew Maloney of the American Investment Council … Eric RubinSara FayBob BlancatoAryeh Lightstone … Brunswick Group’s Susan LaganaJeremy Kenney of Campaign Solutions … Jamiyl Peters … US Telecom’s Marc Gonzales … HuffPost’s Jessica SchulbergPeter La Fountain … Visa’s Jeremy SturchioDanielle MaurerMark StrandGabriela SchneiderJames Pollock John Paul Farmer, New York City chief technology officer … Gail Stoltz Zach Silber of Kivvit

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    POLITICO Playbook: Who’s getting face time with the White House POLITICO Playbook: Who’s getting face time with the White House POLITICO Playbook: Who’s getting face time with the White House POLITICO Playbook: Who’s getting face time with the White House