The TAKE with Rick Klein
Call it an inflation-exploding, deficit-busting, socialism-advancing, tax-raising, Green-New-Deal embracing boondoggle, since Republicans are already calling it all of those things and more.
Or call it not nearly enough to meet the moment in history, since progressive voices harbor fears of the consequences of a missed opportunity.
The debate from here over Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending plan will, once again, be an exercise in securing party loyalty for President Joe Biden's White House. The package needs Democratic unanimity in the Senate and a virtual equivalent in the House, with progressives and centrists just as pivotal -- a dynamic that all involved know well.
Getting to this point was an achievement. Getting to the point of actual legislation that can pass the House and Senate under budget reconciliation rules would be something close to heroic for a Democratic Party where elements mistrust each other's motivations and political skillsets.
Yet in a familiar pattern, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has unanswered questions. Ditto liberals in the House; the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told reporters that her caucus' support is "not guaranteed," and some prominent advocates on the left would rather see the president focus his efforts on voting rights in the coming months.
On Thursday, Biden and his fellow Democrats will mark the first checks and direct deposits flowing to taxpayers under the expanded child tax credit. It's a reminder that Democrats united behind the president's massive COVID relief package earlier this year.
The months since then have introduced new political wrinkles for Democrats who are clinging to narrow congressional majorities. Biden said he felt at home on Capitol Hill Wednesday, and he may have to get used to that feeling.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
Democrats in the Senate want to blaze -- a path forward, that is, for cannabis legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., with Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., unveiled a plan that aims to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. The group arguing it was high time federal legislation catch up with public opinion on marijuana use.
"The War on Drugs has really been a war on people, particularly people of color," Schumer said Thursday.
"The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would help put an end to the unfair targeting and treatment of communities of color by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances," Schumer added. "It's not just an idea whose time has come, it's long overdue."
At the heart of the plan are several restorative justice measures -- expunging federal non-violent marijuana offenses, allowing offenders serving time in federal prison to petition a court for re-sentencing, investing cannabis tax revenue in communities impacted by the war on drugs and creating programs to ensure those same communities can profit off of the burgeoning cannabis industry.
But their proposal is likely to go up in smoke unless the group of lawmakers can hash out a plan to get the buy-in of wary Democrats, some Republicans and the president, who remains opposed to legalization.
Without that support, legalizing cannabis will remain a pipe dream.
The TIP with Meg Cunningham
With weeks to go until a final report is issued for Arizona's partisan audit, members of Congress have requested documents related to the effort from Doug Logan, the CEO of the group contracted by the Arizona Senate.
"We are concerned about your company's role in this highly unusual effort," Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jamie Raskin wrote, "given Cyber Ninjas' apparent lack of experience in conducting election-related audits; reports that the company engaged in sloppy and insecure audit practices that compromised the integrity of ballots and voting equipment and were questioned by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ); and evidence that you and other individuals funding the audit have sought to advance the 'big lie' of debunked voter fraud allegations in the November 2020 presidential election."
Logan and Cyber Ninjas have two weeks to present documents related to the "audit," including any communications officials had with former President Donald Trump or any attorneys representing or aligned with him, including Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and Lin Wood. They're also requesting information about the company's shareholders and where exactly the funding for the audit is coming from, since that information has been kept concealed.
The Senate already announced that Cyber Ninjas ballot count does not match Maricopa County's official total. Given the unique and unofficial methods they used, this is something election experts expected and have cautioned against trusting.
ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Thursday morning's episode features Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who said she was fired from her job at the Tennessee Department of Health for promoting COVID vaccines. ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz has more on that foiled kidnap plot against a U.S.-based Iranian opposition activist. And ABC News' Katie Kindelan tells us what we need to know about Child Tax Credit payments, which begin rolling out Thursday. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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