SPECIAL BIDEN ADDRESS SPOTTEDS: JOE MANCHIN taking notes in the gallery (speech transcripts are available, senator). … CHUCK SCHUMER slumping in his chair with his notably poor posture. … MITCH MCCONNELL striking his typical statuesque pose. … TED CRUZ, clapping when Biden talked about progress in vaccinating Americans (before nodding off). …
Freedom Caucus founder JIM JORDAN applauding at President JOE BIDEN’S recognition of JILL BIDEN’S work as a teacher and his statement that cops “serve their communities honorably.” … LAUREN BOEBERT wrapped in what looked like an emergency foil blanket and shaking her head at mentions of the Affordable Care Act and gun control. She also appeared to be live-tweeting the speech from the House floor. … PATRICK LEAHY snapping pictures … with an actual camera.
BIDEN’S REVOLUTION IS TELEVISED — Biden’s first 100 days have been defined by a blitz of government expansion — some $6 trillion worth of actual and proposed spending.
It’s come in dribs and drabs: $1.9 trillion for Covid-19 relief first unveiled in January. Another $2 trillion-plus for infrastructure and climate in March. Nearly $2 trillion more proposed this week for education, child care and paid leave.
Wednesday night was the first time he detailed it all together in one place and before the largest potential audience that a president gets: an address to Congress.
Here’s why that could be a bad thing for him …
If you’ve been reading us closely, we’ve been tracking three notable political developments this year:
1) Biden has been proposing tax and spending policies on a scale that his recent Democratic predecessors never dreamed of.
2) Unlike 1993 and 2009, the GOP has so far been ineffective as an opposition party in the face of this spending onslaught.
3) Unlike his two recent predecessors who saturated the media in their first year in office, Biden tends to lay low and keep things as boring as possible.
There are a lot of theories about all of this: The pandemic and DONALD TRUMP’S own big spending have made it safe for big government; the GOP is divided and in turmoil since the events of Jan. 6 and obsessed with culture wars rather than government spending; an old white guy like Biden is a tough target for the right, anyway, and staying off the tube has made him even more difficult to demonize.
But on Wednesday night he was center stage — and so was the size and cost of his proposals. It was the kind of high-profile appearance and exposure that the White House has been trying to avoid as Biden attempts to stay under the radar and not call undue attention to the massive changes he’s trying to make.
What was notable was how much the GOP response snapped back to its more traditional small-government roots:
TIM SCOTT: “Tonight we also heard about a so-called ‘Family Plan.’ Even more taxing, even more spending, to put Washington even more in the middle of your life — from the cradle to college.”
MITT ROMNEY: “Six trillion and counting. I’m sure Bernie was happy.”
LISA MURKOWSKI: “Expansive spending on top of spending.”
JOHN THUNE: “A speech that’s got massive expansive new government programs, growth of government and lots of new taxes.”
Biden simultaneously has the tightest congressional margins and one of the most ambitious agendas. He’s trying to push a rhinoceros through a garden hose. If doing that requires political stealth, then Wednesday night’s speech may backfire.
HEADLINES FROM THE SPEECH — POLITICO: “Biden embraces his inner Robin Hood” … WaPo: “At 100 days, Biden seeks to leverage narrow majorities to reverse the Reagan era” … NYT: “Biden Seeks Shift in How the Nation Serves Its People” … WSJ: “Biden Pushes Broad Economic Agenda in Speech to Congress” … AP: “Biden’s declaration: America’s democracy ‘is rising anew’” … Vox: “5 winners and 3 losers from President Biden’s first congressional address” … The 19th: “For the first time, two women are standing behind the president at an address to Congress”
THE GOP RESPONSE — AP: “GOP’s Sen. Scott suggests Dems use race as political weapon” … National Review: “Tim Scott Accuses Biden of Abandoning Bipartisan Promise: ‘This Is Not Common Ground’”
COMING TO A PRIMARY ATTACK AD NEAR YOU: House GOP Conference Chair LIZ CHENEY fist-bumping Biden when he walked in the chamber. Cheney also engaged in a lengthy handshake with McConnell, who also accused Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 riot.
— Sarah Ferris and Burgess Everett with more color: “‘It was weird’: Scenes from Biden’s speech”
BY THE NUMBERS, per AP’s @ZekeJMiller:
6,045: Words in Biden’s prepared text
1,000: Words longer than Trump’s first address to a joint session
150: Words longer than Obama’s
1,700: Words longer than Bush’s
1,000: Words shorter than Clinton’s
RED, FRESH & BLUE — In the fourth installment of our video series, EUGENE sat down with Sen. CYNTHIA LUMMIS (R-Wyo.), the first woman to represent the state in the upper chamber. Lummis served in the House until 2015, retiring after her husband died. She said she decided to mount a comeback because both political parties, in her view, were ignoring the debt. In front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, Lummis talked about her vote against the Electoral College certification and her obsession with Bitcoin.
“Don’t save money in dollars, save money in Bitcoin, spend money in dollars. That’s one of the reasons I’m a big advocate for Bitcoin, I think that it is the closest asset to gold in terms of its characteristics right now,” Lummis said.
MARJORIE TAYLOR’S MAKING GREEN — Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.) has made a name for herself — and recently, more than $3.2 million in mostly individual donations in three months — by oiling gears in the “outrage machine,” promoting extremist beliefs and false conspiracy theories, and bypassing both establishment media and establishment Washington. On Friday’s episode of the “Playbook Deep Dive” podcast, listen to Rep. ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.) and reporters MELANIE ZANONA, MICHAEL KRUSE, CHARLIE MAHTESIAN and RYAN on what Greene’s rise reveals about the erosion of traditional gatekeepers and the increasing nationalization of local races.
BIDEN’S THURSDAY — The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. the Bidens will depart the White House at 10:10 a.m. for Joint Base Andrews, where they’ll leave for Plains, Ga., at 10:30 a.m. They’ll arrive at Jimmy Carter Regional Airport at 12:55 p.m. The Bidens will meet with former President JIMMY CARTER and former first lady ROSALYNN CARTER at 1:25 p.m. They’ll depart at 2:55 p.m. for Gwinnett County Airport, where they’ll arrive at 3:55 p.m. At 6 p.m., they’ll participate in a drive-in car rally at Infinite Energy Center in Duluth, Ga. The president and first lady will depart at 6:40 p.m., arriving back at the White House at 9:20 p.m.
— VP KAMALA HARRIS will travel to Baltimore at 1:15 p.m. She’ll tour a Covid-19 vaccination site at M&T Bank Stadium at 2:20 p.m. At 2:55 p.m., Harris will deliver remarks on her first 100 days in office. Harris will leave to return to D.C. at 4:10 p.m.
— Principal deputy press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will gaggle on Air Force One on the way to Georgia.
THE SENATE is in session. DNI AVRIL HAINES will testify before the Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. The Commerce Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on ERIC LANDER’S nomination as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Judiciary Committee will vote at 10 a.m. on the nominations of KRISTEN CLARKE and TODD SUNHWAE KIM as assistant attorneys general.
THE HOUSE is out. Speaker NANCY PELOSI will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. EPA Administrator MICHAEL REGAN will testify before an Energy & Commerce subcommittee at 11 a.m.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — After Biden on Wednesday night called on Congress to pass police reform legislation by the anniversary of GEORGE FLOYD’S murder, May 25, a bipartisan group of senators and House members are meeting for the first time today to hold talks, according to a Democratic Senate aide. Key attendees: Sens. CORY BOOKER (D-N.J.), TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.), DICK DURBIN (D-Ill.) and LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.), and Rep. KAREN BASS (D-Calif.), who has been deputized by Pelosi to handle negotiations on behalf of House Democrats.
THE WHITE HOUSE
GOING DEEP ON KAMALA — “The misunderstood first 100 days of Kamala Harris,” by Eugene and Christopher Cadelago: “Rather than the cautious and overly ambitious pol she’s portrayed to be, interviews with more than a dozen current and former aides and others in Harris’ orbit paint a picture of a veep who remains intensely focused on earning the trust of Joe Biden, so much so that outside allies believe she’s partially motivated by a fear of losing it. Some worry she may be hurting her future political prospects in pursuit of it.”
“‘What I know is in Kamala’s mindset, it’s not just cozying up to Biden for her own personal gain, but because she wants to be actively engaged in government and that’s determined by how much authority Biden gives her,’ one Harris confidante said. ‘And how much authority he gives her is based on how much he trusts her.’”
POWER PLAY — “Samantha Power confirmed to lead US Agency for International Development,” CNN: “SAMANTHA POWER on Wednesday was confirmed by the Senate as the new head of the US Agency for International Development in a 68-26 vote. Power is scheduled to be ceremonially sworn-in to the role of administrator on Monday.”
PENCE SPEAKS — Former VP MIKE PENCE will give his first speech this evening since leaving the White House, a move aimed at laying the groundwork for a possible run for president in 2024. It’s no coincidence he’s giving the address in the early primary state of South Carolina — to an organization, the Palmetto Family Council, that champions “biblical values” in government and is a longtime ally.
The speech comes after Trump lashed out at Pence in January for refusing to overturn the election results — which Republicans almost universally agree he didn’t have the power to do and are privately grateful he didn’t try.
What he’ll say: Per a source familiar with his remarks, Pence will compare the accomplishments of the Trump-Pence administration with the first 100 days of Biden’s White House. He’ll blast Biden for moving to the left under pressure from progressives. And Pence will talk about how a return to a “positive” policy agenda rooted in conservative ideological principles can help the party flip the House and Senate.
He’ll also talk about his faith and the causes that he’s backed his entire career, such as opposing abortion and advocating for religious liberty. This would be Pence’s most promising lane in a potentially crowded Republican primary if Trump doesn’t run.
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
E-RING READING — “Biden Nominee for Pentagon Weapons Buyer Under Investigation,” Defense One: “The Department of Defense Inspector General is looking into allegations that a Biden nominee tapped to be the Pentagon’s chief acquisitions officer circumvented federal hiring regulations during his tenure at a DOD technology incubator.
“MICHAEL BROWN was nominated April 2 by the White House to be the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. Since 2018, Brown has led the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit … A defense official familiar with the matter said Wednesday the IG is investigating the complaint but had not yet decided to launch a formal investigation.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
RECALL REALITY CHECK — “Newsom gets strong ratings on schools, economy despite recall attacks,” by Jeremy B. White and Mackenzie Mays: “Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM just got the most concrete evidence to date showing why he’s positioned to survive a recall vote. … [A] new statewide poll suggests those two pillars of anti-Newsom sentiment aren’t as sturdy as his foes think. The Public Policy Institute of California found 59 percent of likely voters approve of how Newsom has managed school reopening — and 59 percent approve how he has handled jobs and the economy. That figure is a few points higher than the share of likely voters who told PPIC in March they would vote to keep Newsom in office. …
“By comparison, in a June 2003 PPIC poll, only 21 percent of likely voters approved of then-Gov. GRAY DAVIS’ job performance.”
THE CUOMO SCANDALS — “Cuomo Aides Spent Months Hiding Nursing Home Death Toll,” NYT: “Cuomo’s most senior aides engaged in a sustained effort to prevent the state’s own health officials, including the commissioner, HOWARD ZUCKER, from releasing the true death toll to the public or sharing it with state lawmakers, these interviews and documents showed. A scientific paper, which incorporated the data, was never published. An audit of the numbers by a top Cuomo aide was finished months before it became publicly known. Two letters, drafted by the Health Department and meant for state legislators, were never sent.
“The actions coincided with the period in which Mr. Cuomo was pitching and then writing a book on the pandemic, with the assistance of his top aide, MELISSA DEROSA, and others.”
— AND THE NEW YORK PRESS CORPS IS GETTING FED UP: “Reporters Float Cuomo Boycott in Response to His Anti-Media ‘Mind Games,’” The Daily Beast
WHAT SAND HILL ROAD IS READING — “This Barack Obama adviser is quietly investing $250 million in startup founders of color,” Vox: “A new venture capital firm called Pendulum Holdings has in recent months been approaching and funding companies led by founders of color, according to people familiar with the matter. The firm is led by ROBBIE ROBINSON, who helped set up the financial affairs of the Obama family after they left the White House. He remains an adviser to the family.
“The fund, whose efforts haven’t previously been reported, is the latest attempt to better support Black founders, who receive only about 1 percent of venture capital funding, according to estimates. Corporate America has vowed to do better in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, and one way to do that is to launch firms with an explicit focus on backing these entrepreneurs. Racial diversity in the world of startups matters because these companies create businesses, products, and wealth that can either perpetuate or help close inequality in the first place.”
THE VIEW FROM MAR-A-LAGO — “Trump’s Battle to Win the First 100 Days,” by POLITICO Magazine’s Michael Kruse: “Trump has hosted at his private club some of the most powerful Republicans plus a spate of aspiring elected officials vying for his approval. He’s deployed his emailed blasts to zero in on targets for vengeance while offering up to loyalists across the country his imprimatur. He’s welcomed well-heeled would-be donors.
“And it’s not just what he’s doing—it’s what he’s not. He’s not working on a memoir, and he’s not putting into motion a presidential library, after-the-Oval activities that are nothing if not conventional but also acknowledgements of a change in status—to more was than is. Trump, on the other hand, isn’t acting like a has-been—he’s acting like a still-here. Indeed, ramping up of late the volume and frenzy of his declarations, he is trying not only to not fade like any other former leader of the free world but to stoke his considerable remaining political sway—his first 100 days out of office a brazen continuation of his lack of a concession in the wake of his defeat.”
KNOWING THE INSURRECTIONISTS — “They Went to D.C. on Jan. 6. Now They’re Running for Office” The Daily Beast
IN MEMORIAM — “Michael Collins, ‘Third Man’ of the Moon Landing, Dies at 90,” NYT: “It was an epic moment of exploration, an instant when the fantasy of science fiction writers became a reality. And when it transpired, Lt. Col. Michael Collins of the Air Force was the loneliest man in history. …
“Colonel Collins left NASA a year after the Apollo 11 mission, when he was named assistant secretary of state for public affairs. He became director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in 1971 … He was appointed under secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1978 and was named vice president of the LTV Aerospace and Defense Company in 1980. He later formed a Washington-based consulting firm.”
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Former Pro-Trump Artist Wants the National Portrait Gallery to Drape Trump Portrait in Black Cloth,” Washingtonian: “New York-based artist JULIAN RAVEN became something of a right-wing celeb for his sprawling painting of Donald Trump—complete with American flag-piercing bald eagle and border wall map—and his subsequent legal battle with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to get it displayed.
“After the January 6 storming of the Capitol Building, however, the two-time Trump voter spoke out against his former hero, calling on him to resign. Now, the painter says the museum should not display a photo portrait of Trump destined for its presidential gallery when it reopens in the coming months.”
PROGRAMMING NOTE, per @brianstelter: “TUCKER CARLSON just said RUDY GIULIANI will join him live tomorrow night…” — that’s tonight!
SPOTTED: Cindy McCain eating lunch at Cafe Milano … George Will dining alone at Martin’s Tavern.
SPOTTED at Milos at Hudson Yards for a going-away party for Jake Siewert, who is departing Goldman Sachs: Josh King, David Leavy, Liz Bowyer, Joel Johnson, Gary Ginsberg, Brian Steel, Russell and Alex Horowitz, Christine Anderson, George Walker, Michael Feldman, Brian Steel, John Rogers, Dina Powell, Patrick Steel, Joe Lockhart, Jonathan Prince, Andrew Williams and Tom Nides.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Lissandra Villa is returning to BuzzFeed as a national political reporter. She currently is a staff reporter at Time.
— Ebony Bowden is now director at Risa Heller Communications. She most recently was Washington correspondent for the New York Post.
STAFFING UP — The Biden administration announced 16 forthcoming nominations across several departments and boards, including Geraldine Richmond, Andrew Light and Sam Walsh at DOE, Jane Nishida and Jeffrey Prieto at EPA, and Roberto Rodriguez at the Education Department. The full list
TRANSITIONS — Shanna Fricklas is joining the Niskanen Center as a government affairs and legal fellow. She previously was executive director of the Problem Solvers Caucus. … Ian Miller will be chief science and innovation officer at the National Geographic Society. He most recently was director of earth and space sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Travis Cushman, senior counsel for public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation, and Brittani Cushman, general counsel at Turning Point Brands, welcomed Emelia Jane Cushman on Tuesday. She came in at 3 lbs, 7 oz. Pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) … Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Steven Horsford and Joe Morelle … NBC’s Hallie Jackson … former Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) … Lynne Weil of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology … Peter Kiley of C-SPAN … Anne Brachman … Eric Pierce of Lockheed Martin … Allison Zelman … Emily Saleme of Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) office … Dawn Kopecki … Gentry Collins … Nadeam Elshami of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck … UVa’s Melody Barnes … Gaby Baca … NYT’s Ari Isaacman Bevacqua … Jane Lee … Richard Goodstein … David Gaidamak … Alex Wright … Josh Sharp, co-founder of Advoc8 … Jennifer Nycz-Conner … Holly Morris … WaPo’s Melina Mara … Geng Ngarmboonanant … AIPAC’s Rob Bassin … Cara Morris Stern … Meghan Pennington of Hamilton Place Strategies … Karen Dynan … Matt Frendewey … former Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.) … Jeff Poor … Geoff Earle of the Daily Mail
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