This week: The Briefing Vol. IX, Issue 37
- Domestic agenda won’t save Biden from Afghanistan
- Biden’s ghoulish cutback on COVID treatments
- Beto looks set to run again
Reconciliation: President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation ambitions have just been cut back in a couple of significant ways. This is the latest blow to the Biden agenda.
First of all, his attempt to cram an immigration amnesty into the bill has just been scratched by the Senate parliamentarian. It cannot be included as a taxing and spending measure because it is (big surprise) actually a policy measure.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., has come out against the White House’s prescription drug plan. This is good, because it is a very bad idea. But merits aside, it represents yet another area where the White House finds itself failing.
Sen. Joe Manchin has gone further, calling for the reconciliation bill to be put off until 2022. That is equivalent to killing the bill — once the infrastructure bill passes this year, there will be no pressure on moderate Democrats in the House or Senate to cooperate on the massive reconciliation bill.
With the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden has been forced to pivot to domestic issues. This is why his pending failure on those issues will be such a critical obstacle for his presidency.
Biden’s net approval rating is now negative, and his disapproval rating is right at 50%. This is a large part of the reason his reconciliation package is not growing like a snowball rolling downhill, the way most spending bills do, but rather shrinking like an ice cube being towed through water.
COVID retaliation: As an act of apparent political revenge, the Biden administration has decided to short Florida’s supply of a key COVID treatment that reduces the risk of hospitalization in COVID cases by 70% — known as monoclonal antibodies.
This sounds crazy, but it’s happening.
The monoclonal antibody treatment is an increasingly important part of hard-hit states’ anti-COVID strategy. Why not just focus on vaccination? That’s an easy one. Vaccines, as effective as they have shown to be, cannot cure COVID in people who have already contracted it. In addition, the most common vaccines take weeks to administer (Pfizer, for example, includes two shots, taken three weeks apart) and then may not be fully effective for a couple of weeks after the second shot.
Yes, vaccination is the best thing you can do in theory. But if you get sick, you need treatment. There are a lot of cases in some states, and the hospitals are filling up with them. Treatments that can reduce the hospitalization rate are at a premium in such places right now.
The worst part of this is that the Biden White House is now talking about “equity” as the justification for sharply cutting the availability of these life-saving treatments to Florida especially but other southern states as well. This is a bizarre justification — one would expect states with more cases and deaths to get priority, not for distribution to be based on “equity.”
The Biden administration, in its apparent zeal to antagonize Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has actually cut Florida’s share of treatments to half of demand after promising to increase shipments by 50%. Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services made this announcement Sept. 13 without any prior warning. Ot has apparently done so despite there being no shortage of treatments in other states, and despite Biden’s explicit promise that monoclonal antibody shipments would be increased, not decreased.
This appears to be retaliation for certain Republican governors’ failures to adopt mask mandates. Masks have been proven limited in their utility where applied to the general population, and they are basically pointless for children. But even so, to punish citizens of those states by depriving them of treatment is an incredible act.
This is an ugly, cruel, and ham-fisted act by Biden that will literally kill people in the coming weeks unless he reverses course. It will also backfire politically. In fact, a cynic might conclude from this that he has already written off Florida for the 2024 election, or that he has chosen not to run.
Virginia: The race for Virginia governor between former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D, and Glenn Youngkin, R, appears to be tied, or at least close enough (with McAuliffe ahead by a few points) that it’s a real contest. McAuliffe seems to have taken a hit from Biden’s Afghanistan debacle, but that doesn’t mean he cannot recover. Biden’s approval rating in Virginia is underwater at 51% to 46%, according to a poll released on Friday.
Nevada: Former Sen. Dean Heller is running for governor. Combined with Republican former Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s run for Senate, this inverts the 2018 GOP statewide ticket that lost under bad conditions for Republicans.
Heller lost by five points or 50,000 votes, and Laxalt by four points or 40,000 votes.
It is entirely possible that, under better conditions and amid the first Biden midterm, the same ticket could perform significantly better.
Texas: With Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s approval numbers down to 45 percent, former Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke is apparently planning another statewide run. Although a Dallas Morning News poll shows Abbott winning, 42 to 37 percent, that is not an impressive tally for an incumbent governor. This could become a struggle if that is the final general election matchup.
The same poll shows that Abbott is at least a cinch for re-nomination.