The Briefing, Vol. IX, Issue 39

Washington, D.C. – Vice President Joe Biden will join Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and House and Senate Democrats for a press event today at 12:00 p.m. to urge Republicans to join with Democrats to take meaningful action to confront the urgent, unfinished issues facing the American people.

This week:

  • Biden’s agenda in peril
  • Did Terry McAuliffe just blow himself up?
  • Mark Kelly’s numbers less than astronomical


Biden Agenda: With her decision to put off a vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill, Nancy Pelosi has shown the weakness of her position and the grim state in which Joe Biden’s agenda find itself.

Pelosi’s situation is a difficult one. She has two bills: the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill she just set aside, and the big $3.5 trillion social spending bill (or $5.5 trillion, depending on how honest you want to be with the numbers). 

Although most of the smaller, bipartisan Senate bill could pass easily as a stand-alone measure, the House’s far-left Democrats do not want to vote on the bipartisan Senate bill. Rather, they want to use it as leverage to get moderates to support the big bill. They want the House to hold the bipartisan bill hostage until the Senate passes their giant bill. Last week, when she pulled the smaller bill from the floor, Pelosi was caving in to pressure from about four dozen of her party’s most extreme members. They want to avoid a repeat of 2009-2010, when Democrats voted on extreme measures (including an ambitious carbon-cap bill), only to have the Democrat-controlled Senate set them aside, so that so many House Democrats were crushed in the next election for nothing.

The problem here is that the “Big Bill” is completely dead on arrival in the Senate. Sen. Joe Manchin made that abundantly clear with an explicit statement about its unsuitability and excessive price tag — what he has openly asked for is basically incompatible with what the far Left wants. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has also made clear that she will not support the Big Bill. 

That means there are at most 48 votes for the Big Bill, whereas at least 51 are needed. 

But if it does come up on the Senate floor with insufficient support, several uncommitted moderate senators facing re-election next year are likely to jump ship as well, feeling no need (in the words of John Kerry) to be the last man to die for a mistake, i.e. to get voted out of office over an unpopular bill that will not pass anyway.

This puts Biden’s overall agenda on the rocks. If he cannot get the bill that won’t pass, the Left will not let him have the bill that will at least make him look like he’s getting something done. As his standing on COVID and on the economy diminish in the wake of his humiliating Afghan debacle, Biden really needs the win. 

This hearkens back to Republicans inability to repeal Obamacare despite having a congressional majority at the beginning of the Trump era. A rump of members of the majority party, such as the Freedom Caucus or part o it, can often exercise enough power to block everything. Sometimes they can accomplish a lot that way — this is how they forced sequestration on the Obama administration. But a minority of the majority can only rarely accomplish anything. For the party in power, that can be a nightmare. 

Biden has resorted to moving the goalposts — now he is saying that it might take six weeks, but they will pass something. It is not impossible, but it is quite an optimistic statement. So far, he has proven quite ineffective in persuading his party’s Left, in spite of giving in to them on nearly every issue so far.

Governor 2021

Virginia: Democratic former Gov. Terry McAuliffe might have sealed his fate with his comments about shutting parents’ out of their children’s education. 

His race for Virginia governor against Republican Glenn Youngkin was already very close before he did that, and it remains so. But the arrogance of his debate answer on parental involvement in education, and his unwillingness to walk it back afterward, could become the biggest late issue of this year’s governor’s race. 

Northern Virginia especially has been roiled by confrontations between angry parents and arrogant school boards attempting to shut parents out of decisions — for example, to carry obscene reading materials bordering on child pornography and to indoctrinate children with critical race theory, whose purpose is to racialize all issues and make children feel personal blame for past crimes by people who vaguely resemble them because they are white.

It is also significant that McAuliffe’s comment — “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” — could become something of a national rallying cry if he loses next month.

Senate 2022

Arizona: A new poll by OH Predictive Insights contains good news and bad news for Sen. Mark Kelly, D. The good news for him is that he leads all comers. The bad news, which is probably more important, is that he polls no better than 44 percent against any of them, even the little-known candidates. That is very lousy for an incumbent senator, especially given the coming midterm in which Democrats are not expected to get too many breaks. 

Republican Attorney General Mark Brovich only trails Kelly 43 to 39 percent in a head-to-head so far. Brnovich has a decent shot at the nomination, as he leads the pack by a long way in a prospective primary contest — 27 percent of the vote over Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire (14 percent) and two (up to now) little-known businessmen who combine for nine points. 

Republicans have now fumbled badly in Arizona in two consecutive elections, losing both Senate seats and the state’s electoral votes. If they are going to make their move and recover in Arizona, next year is the year, when Biden’s administration is sure to be unpopular and Kelly’s numbers are quite weak.


Texas: Republicans are trying something rather interesting in their Texas map. They are leaving South Texas Hispanic districts largely in place, knowing from the 2020 election result that they are getting redder and could well flip without the benefit of any serious gerrymandering. This is a good example of building on what President Trump was able to accomplish.

Excessive adjustments to South Texas seats such as those of Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, could have led to yet another successful Democratic lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act — such lawsuits seem to be constantly undoing Republican maps in Texas, going back at least to 2006.

This time, Republicans are finally making plans to do the work and win the votes of districts with large Hispanic majorities, represent these voters in office, and then in the long run make Republicans out of them. It’s not nearly as far-fetched as it once seemed. Besides, this has been the extremely successful model used by the Republican Party in Florida, which has sought to win votes not just among Cubans but also Puerto Ricans and other Hispanic nationalities.  The result has been a Republican state party that absolutely dominates in a swing state.

Gonzalez barely survived 2020 by three points — his Republican challenger from that year, Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez, is running again. Cuellar’s Laredo-based district might present an interesting opportunity because although he remains a popular moderate, he will face a leftist primary challenge that could make the race friendlier to the GOP.