POLITICO Playbook: Sinema’s vacation plans, Manchin gets booed and megadonor drama


On Thursday night, as President JOE BIDEN boarded Marine One, he made some news.

— First, he reiterated that immigration reform should be included in the reconciliation bill. It’s a position he’s staked out before — Sarah Ferris, Burgess Everett and Laura Barrón-López first reported the White House supported the approach July 15 — but this is the first we’ve heard about it since there was movement on the bipartisan infrastructure framework. (Worth remembering: For this to happen, Dems would need a favorable ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, which hasn’t happened yet.)

— Then, Biden said that Sen. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) — who said Wednesday that she would not support a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill — is “on board for passing [reconciliation] if in fact she sees all the pieces of it. That’s why she allowed the budget to go forward.” Speaking of which …

CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP SINEMA’S SUMMER — Sinema is not letting BIF or the reconciliation bill get in the way of her summer plans.

When CHUCK SCHUMER announced earlier this month that he might keep the Senate in session into August — delaying a previously scheduled recess in order to shepherd the two gigantic bills through the chamber — Sinema told the majority leader that she was not sticking around to vote, multiple Senate sources tell Playbook.

She had prior vacation plans, she said, and wasn’t about to let the infrastructure or reconciliation bills get in the way.

In fairness, Sinema is staying in D.C. this weekend to work instead of attending one previously scheduled event: a wine retreat fundraiser at Sonoma’s ritzy MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa, where summer rates hover around $950 per night. (Wine is kind of Sinema’s thing. Last August, she held a three-week internship at Three Sticks Winery in Sonoma, for which the senator was paid an entry-level salary of $1,117.40.)

She may be in luck, though: Rank-and-file hopes run high on the Hill that if the BIF-related votes pass without a hitch, Schumer could hold a vote-a-rama on the budget Thursday night, allowing senators to leave Washington by Aug. 6 with their summer plans intact. But maybe that’s too rosy (or rosé, if you’ll pardon the pun).

MANCHIN BOOED BY FELLOW DEM SENATORS Even as enough Republicans have signed on to the BIF agreement to ease its path forward, tensions are torquing up among Democrats over the reconciliation bill — or, more precisely, over its proposed $3.5 trillion price tag.

At a caucus luncheon for Senate Dems on Tuesday, Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) was booed for mentioning the deficit while speaking to his colleagues, sources tell Playbook.

One source described the West Virginian as being “jokingly booed” by the other senators, but another source in the room did not see it that way.

Manchin views the growing national debt as a heavy burden that will drag down the economy, threaten national security and impose a heavy burden on future generations — fairly typical budget-hawk beliefs. Does Manchin’s position — and that he was bringing it up at a meeting of his fellow Senate Dems — mean that we’re in store for even more haggling over the price tag of the reconciliation bill? Stay tuned.

Happy Friday, and thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

DELTA DONOR BLUES The surging delta coronavirus variant isn’t just causing the return of masking mandates and the cancellation of return-to-office plans: Fundraising season in the Hamptons might also be derailed.

A slew of big-name Democrats have long-standing plans to visit the seaside resort towns, courting the super-rich and lining their own campaign coffers — including Sens. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-N.Y.), MARK KELLY (D-Ariz.) and RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-Ga.), Reps. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-N.J.) and KATHLEEN RICE (D-N.Y.), New York A.G. TISH JAMES and Democratic gubernatorial candidates TERRY MCAULIFFE (Va.) and WES MOORE (Md.).

Now, thanks to the spread of the delta variant, those plans have been thrown into question as large gatherings and indoor social functions become ill-advised.

“Six weeks ago, there were no events in the Hamptons; now there is one every five days,” said one prominent bundler. “It’ll be interesting to see if they cancel due to the variant.”

Beyond the health risk is the political one: With responses to the new uptick varying so widely by party, you don’t want to be the Democratic candidate seen cavorting with the uber-wealthy while maskless or flouting CDC recommendations. (Though that prospect may not discourage Republican candidates from raking in the cash at their own Hamptons events.)

DESANTIS DONOR DRAMA — Back in May, we wrote about concerns among some Republican insiders that Florida Gov. RON DESANTIS’ political operation isn’t ready for prime time (a.k.a. a presidential campaign) due to a lack of loyalists on staff. Now, we’re hearing from donors who feel like they’re not getting the proper treatment from the governor.

A GOP source told our own Daniel Lippman that last month, about 20 other big-time donors flew to D.C. from California and Florida for a DeSantis fundraiser hosted by former RNC chief and Mississippi Gov. HALEY BARBOUR — only to be stiffed by DeSantis during his Washington fundraising swing June 23.

After waiting about an hour for the governor to show up to the late-afternoon affair, the donors were told DeSantis wouldn’t make it. As a consolation prize, they were offered a later time slot: dinner with the governor at The Oceanaire in Penn Quarter. They again waited for DeSantis, and at 8 p.m. were told the dinner was off.

Among the political chattering class, DeSantis’ dislike of gladhanding has led some to refer to him as a “porcupine.” After a Republican Governors Association panel in Aspen last week, when panelists including Govs. LARRY HOGAN, PETE RICKETTS, DOUG BURGUM and TATE REEVES took to the floor to shake hands with activists and donors, DeSantis made a backdoor exit, according to attendees.

For his part, DeSantis’ office and top allies say he’s too busy running Florida to deal with the politicking.

“Gov. DeSantis had a full plate of meetings at the RGA, a panel and the Governors Only meeting,” said HELEN AGUIRRE FERRE, executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. “No one should be surprised that Gov. DeSantis is pretty busy, Florida is the third largest state in the nation, and he spends most of his time on state business.”

That’s all well and good, but if DeSantis is serious about his presidential ambitions — and we have no reason to believe he isn’t — donors suggest that he’d be well-advised to show a little less porcupine and a bit more golden retriever.

STRANGE BUT TRUE: BERNIE’S PRAGMATIC TURN — Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) is behaving a lot like a pragmatist (just don’t say it to his face). As the Senate Budget chair and a member of Schumer’s leadership team, the 79-year-old progressive is one of the most powerful people in Washington and finally has the opportunity he’s been waiting for his whole career: to pass a reconciliation bill with sweeping social reforms. If successful, the $3.5 trillion bill would be the biggest ever passed by Congress. The trick: Can he get it past the members of his own party? Listen and subscribe to Playbook Deep Dive

BIDEN’S FRIDAY:

— 9:45 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.

— 11:45 a.m.: Biden and VP KAMALA HARRIS will meet with governors to discuss wildfires.

— 4:45 p.m.: Biden will meet with Cuban American leaders at the White House to discuss the recent protests in Cuba.

— 6 p.m.: Biden will leave the White House for Camp David.

Principal deputy press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will brief at 1:30 p.m.

THE HOUSE will meet at 9 a.m. to take up a variety of bills. Speaker NANCY PELOSI will swear in newly elected Rep. JAKE ELLZEY (R-Texas) at 9:10 a.m.

THE SENATE will meet at 10:30 a.m., with a vote on the motion to proceed to the vehicle for BIF at 11:30 a.m. The chamber will also vote on cloture for UR JADDOU’s nomination to be USCIS director, with a potential confirmation vote at 3 p.m.

INFRASTRUCTURE YEAR

BEHIND THE SCENES — “How Biden’s sherpa, Steve Ricchetti, scored the big deal,” by Laura Barrón-López and Chris Cadelago: “On Tuesday, Sen. ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio) spent nine hours holed up in a Capitol hideaway room with White House counselor STEVE RICCHETTI, furiously working through last-minute disagreements. … The arrangement proved fruitful — at least in the eyes of Senate negotiators and the White House. …

“Words used by lawmakers and aides to describe his approach behind closed doors border on flattery. A ‘critical piece of the puzzle’ with ‘enormous credibility,’ were just some of the descriptors. … But what [Sen. JON] TESTER viewed as a virtue — from the beginning, the senator said, Ricchetti wanted to get to ‘yes’ — others viewed as a liability.”

TOP-ED — Portman in the WSJ: “An Infrastructure Bill That Works: This agreement makes necessary investments without destructive tax increases.”

THE TIGER KEEPS ROARING — NBC’s @sahilkapur: “House Transportation Chair @RepPeterDeFazio is not pleased with the Senate infrastructure deal. He calls it ‘an imaginary bill’ that nobody’s seen. He says the water language is all he’s gotten and it’s ‘not good’; from the numbers that are out, transit and rail money is too low.” And much more

WHAT TRUMP IS HATE-READING — “How Biden Got the Infrastructure Deal Trump Couldn’t,” by NYT’s Jim Tankersley

THE WHITE HOUSE

BIDEN’S BIG VACCINE SWING — “Biden rolls out aggressive plan to jump-start vaccination,” by Lauren Gardner: “Federal workers and on-site contractors will have to attest to their vaccination status, the White House said. Those who don’t must wear masks at work regardless of their geographic location and get tested once or twice a week for Covid-19. Employees who don’t disclose being fully vaccinated also will be subject to work travel restrictions and must physically distance from colleagues and visitors …

“Biden also called on state, territorial and local governments to use coronavirus relief funding to offer $100 to anyone who gets a shot. … The President announced that small- and medium-sized businesses will now be reimbursed for offering their employees paid leave to get their family members, including their kids, vaccinated.”

FED WATCH — “Biden Prepares to Make His Mark on the Fed,” by Bloomberg’s Craig Torres and Rich Miller: “JAY POWELL is the front-runner for another term as chairman, but Democrats could push for LAEL BRAINARD and other key appointments.”

POLICY CORNER

VOTING RIGHTS LATEST — “Biden to meet with top Democrats on voting rights as senators ready scaled-back proposal,” by NYT’s Nicholas Fandos and Nick Corasaniti: “Senator AMY KLOBUCHAR, Democrat of Minnesota, confirmed on Thursday that a small group of Democratic senators had been meeting to hash out a revised [voting rights] bill that could be released in the coming days … built around a rough framework provided by Manchin earlier this year. It is expected to mandate that states provide 15 days of early, in-person voting, including at least two Sundays; a national expansion of mail-in voting; an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts; a national voter identification requirement; and campaign finance provisions that would require super PACs to disclose the identities of their big donors.”

PANDEMIC

THE DATA BEHIND THE MASK SHIFT — “‘The war has changed’: Internal CDC document urges new messaging, warns delta infections likely more severe,” by WaPo’s Yasmeen Abutaleb, Carolyn Johnson and Joel Achenbach: “The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal federal health document. … [It’s] a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold. … CDC scientists were so alarmed by the new research that the agency earlier this week significantly changed guidance for vaccinated people even before making new data public.” The document

CONGRESS

MAJORITY LEADER IN THE SPOTLIGHT — “Schumer, a leader more liked than feared, faces test of whether he can deliver the ‘big and bold’ agenda he’s promised,” by WaPo’s Mike DeBonis: “If Schumer can pull it off in the coming weeks, it would rank among the most significant feats of lawmaking in recent American history.”

IT’S OFFICIAL — “Congress passes emergency security funding for Capitol Police, National Guard,” ABC

POLITICS ROUNDUP

2021 WATCH — “RNC builds army of field staffers to flip Virginia governor’s race,” by Alex Isenstadt: “National Republicans are making a big investment in the Virginia governor’s race, an indication that the GOP sees an opportunity in a state that many in the party had written off until recently. The Republican National Committee is dispatching over 100 field staffers to the state, nearly doubling the size of its program in Virginia’s 2017 race for governor, according to a person familiar with the plans. The organization is also opening 13 offices across the state.”

THE NEW GOP — “Trump’s false election fraud claims fuel Michigan GOP meltdown,” by Nolan McCaskill

TRUMP CARDS

MYPILLOW TALK — “MyPillow to Pull Ads From Fox News in Disagreement With Network,” by WSJ’s Alexa Corse and Benjamin Mullin: “MIKE LINDELL said he made the decision after Fox News declined to run a commercial linked to his efforts to promote his claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Security and election officials have said there is no proof of widespread election fraud.

“‘It’s unfortunate Mr. Lindell has chosen to pause his commercial time on FOX News given the level of success he’s experienced in building his brand through advertising on the number one cable news network,’ Fox News said in a statement.”

— ALSO, THIS BIG PROFILE from The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum: “The MyPillow Guy Really Could Destroy Democracy: In the time I spent with Mike Lindell, I came to learn that he is affable, devout, philanthropic—and a clear threat to the nation.”

TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week”: Dan Diamond, Kelly O’Donnell, Ryan Reilly and Rachel Scott.

SUNDAY SO FAR …

  • “Face the Nation”: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) … Scott Gottlieb … Amanda Ripley.

  • “State of the Union”: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

  • “This Week”: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). Panel: Rick Klein, Donna Brazile, Rachael Bade and Reihan Salam.

  • “Full Court Press”: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer … Michael Mann.

  • “Fox News Sunday”: South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Panel: Guy Benson, Mo Elleithee and Jacqueline Alemany. Power Player: Emily Harrington.

  • “The Sunday Show”: Rob Reiner … Carly Fiorina … Cora Masters Barry … Laurie Garrett … Touré.

  • “Inside Politics”: Panel: Jonathan Martin, Laura Barrón-López, Eva McKend, John Bresnahan, Jeanna Smialek and Yasmeen Abutaleb.

IN MEMORIAM — “Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest serving U.S. senator, dies at 87,” by the Detroit Free Press’ Todd Spangler: “Carl Levin, a liberal Democrat who rose from a prominent Detroit family to become Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator and helped set military priorities and investigate corporate behavior for decades before retiring in 2015, died Wednesday. …

“A defender of Senate traditions, even when his own party moved to change them, Levin, who was trained as a lawyer, twice served as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, despite having never served in uniform himself. As such, he helped set U.S. military strength and policy, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, though he voted against authorizing the use of force in the latter. He also investigated questionable Pentagon spending practices and played a key role in overturning the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ rule.” His nephew, Rep. Andy Levin, with a long and lovely Twitter thread remembering him

“Edward T. Pound, tenacious ‘old-school’ investigative reporter, dies at 77,” by WaPo’s Matt Schudel: “Edward T. Pound, a gruff, salty-tongued reporter whose investigations led to the resignations of judges and a Cabinet member and who exposed corruption among politicians and Olympic officials, died July 25 at his home in Rockville, Md. … [He] worked at several news organizations, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and U.S. News & World Report.”

HUNTER BIDEN SAYS ‘F--- EM,’ HE JUST WANTS TO PAINT: Naturally, as a burgeoning artist who is selling art at $500,000 a pop, Hunter Biden was a fixture at the Felix Art Fair in LA, where he caught up with Vanity Fair’s art columnist Nate Freeman and Benjamin Godsill for their podcast, “Nota Bene.” When asked what he has to say about those who have accused him of using his pricey art as a money-laundering scheme, Hunter retorted, “Other than f--- ’em?” He added: “If I were going to hatch a plan, it certainly wouldn’t be to make paintings.” But he does admit he has a built-in publicity machine for his work at Fox News, OANN and Newsmax: “I think I am the most famous artist in the MAGA world,” he quipped.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES — There’s an old adage: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Turns out that isn’t true — or at least that’s what Gary Ginsberg set out to prove in his new bestseller, “First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (And Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents” ($14.99), which he wrote with the help of his own powerful friends, who used their connections to help him get access to key interviews.

And that voluminous friend group came out in force at his book party Wednesday night at the Georgetown home of Tom Nides and Virginia Moseley. Another 11 co-hosts were featured on the invite: Don Baer, Nancy Bard, Daniel Silva and Jamie Gangel, Patrick Steel and Lee Satterfield, Ziad Ojakli and Devon Spurgeon, Patti Solis Doyle, Marcia Hale and Carol Melton. SPOTTED at the celebration: Jim Doyle, Jeff and Mary Zients, Steve Elmendorf, Jennifer Maguire Isham and Chris Isham, Capricia Marshall, Jeff Zeleny, Mandy Grunwald, Andrea Mitchell, Adrienne Arsht, Steve Clemons, Daniel Lippman, Susanna Aaron, Sean O’Shea, Jeremy Bash, Tammy Haddad, David Chalian, Melissa Moss and Jonathan Silver, Rita Braver and Bob Barnett, Wolf Blitzer, Peter Baker, Heather Podesta, Max Neuberger, Charlie Rivkin, Linda Douglas and John Phillips, Ann and Stuart Stock, Megan Beyer, Virginia Boney and Eric Schultz.

SPOTTED: John Boehner, Cory Gardner, Jeff Timmer, Steve Schmidt and Rick Wilson at the JW Marriott in Denver on Thursday night. … Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and his fiancee Ginger Luckey dining in a booth near the bar at Moon Rabbit, being good sports when a server accidentally shattered a glass over their Moscow mules.

MEDIA MOVE — Aaron Kissel is now general manager for the WSJ franchise at Dow Jones. He most recently was chief product officer at POLITICO. Announcement

STAFFING UP — “Biden to nominate a Cuban American Democrat to be the U.S. ambassador to O.A.S.,” by NYT’s Patricia Mazzei: “[It’s] a position that would make him a leading administration voice on Western Hemisphere policy … [Francisco] Mora was a fixture on Mr. Biden’s campaign in Florida last year.”

“Deborah Lipstadt to be named State Dept antisemitism envoy,” by Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch and Marc Rod

— More nominations from the White House: Jonathan Kaplan as ambassador to Singapore (context from Bloomberg), Nicole Angarella as USAID inspector general, John Plumb as assistant secretary of Defense for space policy, Amy Searight as assistant USAID administrator for the bureau for Asia and Alex Wagner as assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs.

TRANSITIONS — Sam Myers Jr. will be a managing director at Rational 360. He most recently was president of BCW’s Direct Impact. … Kyle Victor will return to VMware as senior director and head of U.S. federal government relations. He currently is chief of staff for Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), and is a Biden transition and Tom Carper alum. …

… Cristal Downing has been appointed EVP and chief comms and public affairs officer at Merck. She most recently was VP of comms and public affairs for medical devices at Johnson & Johnson. … Tricia Busch is joining the Alliance of Community Health Plans as comms manager. She previously was an associate at Kivvit. … Ian Conyers is joining the Madison Group as senior director of government relations. He’s a former Michigan state senator and the founder of Ruth Strategies.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Kate Bukowski, chief development officer at the National Governors Association, and Brian Steblay, VP of operations at Winning Connections, welcomed Abigail Lynn on July 23.

— Samantha Kupferman, VP at West End Strategy Team, and Nate Kupferman, attorney in the Office of the Chief Counsel at the IRS, welcomed daughter Valentina on Wednesday. She joins big brother Max. Pic

— Catherine Pickels, comms director at the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, and J. Hunter Pickels, acting chief policy and planning officer at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, welcomed James D. Pickels III this week. He joins big sisters Elizabeth and Katie. Pic Another pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) … Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) … NYT’s Jim Rutenberg … WaPo’s Shane HarrisMichael GlassnerMario Lopez of the Hispanic Leadership Fund … CNN’s Rebecca KutlerMichelle Bernard … POLITICO’s Teresa Wiltz, Alexa Velickovich, Lauraine Genota and Tyler WeyantBrad Jenkins … RNC’s Jonathan OlsenHeidi Crebo-RedikerGlen ChambersSuzanne Nossel of PEN America … Meredith SimpsonMark Beatty of Google … Jonathan Spalter of USTelecom … Maggie CutrellBob Bissen of Cannae Policy Group … Candace Randle PersonAlex Parker of Capitol Counsel (4-0) … Kana Smith … MSNBC’s Isaac-Davy AronsonEmily BarsonDave Kochel … former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Michael Short Anita Hill … former CFTC Chair Tim Massad Tony Maciulis Bill O’Leary of Heidrick & Struggles … Micah Johnson … former Reps. Quico Canseco (R-Texas), Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) and Wendell Bailey (R-Mo.) … Shailen Bhatt of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America

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    POLITICO Playbook: Sinema’s vacation plans, Manchin gets booed and megadonor drama POLITICO Playbook: Sinema’s vacation plans, Manchin gets booed and megadonor drama POLITICO Playbook: Sinema’s vacation plans, Manchin gets booed and megadonor drama POLITICO Playbook: Sinema’s vacation plans, Manchin gets booed and megadonor drama