Democrats struggle to define bills they can’t agree on: The Note

Biden and Manchin are warring over what should be in the social spending bill.

October 18, 2021, 5:51 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It was a quote that earned an almost immediate spot in political infamy, and it may be relevant again.

"We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a gathering of local officials back in 2010, amid a messy endgame in passing Obamacare.

More than a decade later -- with Pelosi in the job she lost in part due to backlash from that last legislative push -- Democrats are again engaged in an extended intra-party fight to enact a president's agenda.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 12, 2021.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi meets with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 12, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Even as another pivotal week in Congress begins, President Joe Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin are openly warring with each other about what should and should not be in the massive social spending bill.

Biden plans to spend a few days lobbying his fellow Democrats to pass both that and the bipartisan infrastructure bill. But they are struggling to convince voters about what they're trying to do – partly because they can't agree on what that actually is.

This is an ominous sign about one of the largest and farthest-reaching proposals in American history: Only one in four voters said they will be better off if both bills pass, according to a CNN poll released last week.

Democrats with longer memories fear that process is again subsuming substance. Even if they get where they want to go, they still might be explaining what their bills don't do as opposed to what they are designed to accomplish.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is set to continue its probe this week as they meet Tuesday evening to adopt a contempt report against Steve Bannon, who was a top aide to former President Donald Trump. The development comes after Bannon refused to comply with a subpoena to provide testimony and any communications he may have had with Trump in the days surrounding the insurrection.

In a statement, Chairman Bennie Thompson said rather than cooperate, Bannon is "hiding behind the former President's insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke," and that the committee rejects his position.

PHOTO: Trump supporters rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump supporters rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021.
Jose Luis Magana/AP, FILE

But the process to refer Bannon to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress could be lengthy. The optics surrounding the situation may also now be complicated by comments from the president, who said on Friday that the DOJ should prosecute those who defy subpoenas to testify before the special committee.

On the heels of Biden's comments, DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley issued a statement saying the department "will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop."

In pledges expressed on the campaign trail and in office, Biden often sought to establish boundaries between the White House and the Justice Department on criminal matters -- a separation that was often seen as blurred under his predecessor. Attorney General Merrick Garland similarly backed the department's independence from the executive branch, which could become more difficult to portray in light of Biden's stance.

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

It's officially crunch time in Texas, where state lawmakers now only have two days to approve new congressional maps before the special session to accomplish redistricting wraps.

PHOTO: Texas House members confer as the Texas House considers HB1 the redistricting bill during the second-called 87th Legislature special session, Oct. 12, 2021, in Austin, Texas.
Texas House members confer as the Texas House considers HB1 the redistricting bill during the second-called 87th Legislature special session, Oct. 12, 2021, in Austin, Texas.
Bob Daemmrich/Zuma Press

On Saturday, legislators in the state House altered the map approved by the state Senate in a way that prevented two Black members of Congress, Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, from having to go up against each other. House legislators also reworked an Austin-area district so the majority of voters are now Hispanic, unlike the proposed district under the state Senate's approved map. However, the House’s version still leaves the district with less Hispanic eligible voters than it has under the present map.

But on Sunday, the Senate rejected those changes and requested a conference committee, meaning lawmakers from both chambers will have to get together to negotiate an agreement -- quickly.

Getting the new map passed is just the first part of the redistricting battle in Texas. Lawsuits challenging the map will come next. Marc Elias, the Democratic attorney who worked to expand voting access during the 2020 pandemic election cycle, took to Twitter Sunday to tease coming legal action in the Lone Star State.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast.

Monday morning's episode begins with the kidnapping of multiple U.S. missionaries, including children, in Haiti and how the Biden administration is responding, according to ABC's director of international news, Kirit Radia. Then, ABC News' Elwyn Lopez previews the murder trial of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. And, ahead of the release of "Out of the Shadows: The Man Behind the Steele Dossier," on Hulu, ABC News' George Stephanopoulos talks about his exclusive interview with Christopher Steele.


  • President Joe Biden receives his daily briefing at 10 a.m.
  • Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe holds an event on reproductive rights in Richmond, Virginia at 1:45 p.m.
  • First Lady Jill Biden hosts the Council of Chief State School Officers' 2020 and 2021 State and National Teachers of the Year during an event on the White House South Lawn at 2 p.m.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris holds an event in Las Vegas, Nevada, at 2:55 p.m.
  • Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin holds an early voting rally in Manassas, Virginia, at 3 p.m.
  • The Senate convenes and proceeds to an executive session to resume consideration of the nomination of Christine O'Hearn to be a United States district judge for New Jersey at 3 p.m.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi at the State Department at 4:30 p.m.

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