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October 03, 2021

Happy Sunday. Smart Brevity™ count: 1,188 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Fadel Allassan.

1 big thing: Left seizes control

President Biden carried The Washington Post as he headed to Wilmington, Del., yesterday. Photo: Al Drago/Reuters

The left was the week’s big winner. But now progressives risk getting blamed if President Biden’s agenda ultimately tanks.

When Biden spoke to House Democrats on Friday afternoon, he took progressives' side. The roads-and-bridges bill and the big social-spending package must stay linked.

  • With muscle that stunned many of their colleagues, progressives had successfully held that line.
  • Moderates had been pushing to pass the smaller infrastructure bill first, with a promise for future action on the bigger bill.

Progressives won the game of chicken.

  • Asked yesterday about moderates who are frustrated with the delay in the vote, Biden said as he boarded Marine One: "Everybody is frustrated. It's part of being in government — being frustrated."

What's next: Speaker Pelosi set a Halloween deadline yesterday in a letter to colleagues with the headline, "It's about time!"

  • "There is an October 31st Surface Transportation Authorization [Department of Transportation funding] deadline ... We must pass BIF [the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework] well before then."
  • The House is scheduled to be out for two weeks. But committees will meet, and Biden says he'll continue calls and meetings.

Between the lines: Progressives now need to swallow a smaller amount than the $3.5 trillion Biden had proposed in 10-year spending, and which they considered a compromise.

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the House Progressive Caucus, was the week’s big winner. She "caught the car," as one of her colleagues put it.

But if progressives won't compromise now, Biden could wind up with nothing out of more than $4 trillion in proposals.

  • Democrats know they’re more than likely to lose control of the House in next year’s midterms. As one top Democrat put it to me: “If we don’t get this, we'll have blown an opportunity we may not have again for a decade."
  • Biden has floated a final package of around $2 trillion. "I'm a realist," he said yesterday.

What to watch: Biden allies point out that President Obama didn't sign the Affordable Care Act until March of his second year in office.

  • "We are way ahead of schedule," a top White House official told me. "The agenda here — even at $2 trillion for Build Back Better and $1 trillion in infrastructure — is historic."

Democrats tell me that in 2022, their message will be: A pandemic defeated and an economy renewed. 

  • "We came into office with 4,000 deaths a day and 50,000 jobs [added] a month," the official said. "America is going to look very different than that in November 2022."

2. Chippy at the Capitol

Via Twitter

A Democratic lawmaker tells me everyone needs a cooling-off period after the week's drama: "Nobody can talk to anybody right now."

  • The anger, once closed-door, is now public:

🥊 Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), a leading moderate who is co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, posted a statement saying Speaker Pelosi "breached her firm, public commitment ... to pass the once-in-a-century bipartisan infrastructure bill on or before September 27."

  • "We cannot let this small faction on the far left ... destroy the President’s agenda."

🥊 Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) tweeted that the House failure to vote on infrastructure "is inexcusable, and deeply disappointing."

  • She said those thwarting the vote (the progressive holdouts) had pulled "an ineffective stunt to gain leverage."

3. Platinum coin's big backers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A rising chorus of commentators wants the U.S. Treasury to #MintTheCoin — issue a platinum token, give it a face value of $1 trillion, and deposit it at the Fed, Axios Capital author Felix Salmon reports.

  • Why it matters: The gambit, if successful, would prevent the potentially catastrophic debt default if Congress doesn't resolve a debt-ceiling emergency by Oct. 18.

When a Treasury secretary is tasked with averting cataclysm, she has to consider all possible options — even those that seem bizarre at first light.

  • Internal White House memos explored a range of untested theories for averting default, including the $1 trillion "coin" idea, but the options were "set aside as unworkable," The Washington Post reported Friday.

How it works: The Fed, once given the coin, would credit Treasury's account with $1 trillion that would not count toward the national debt.

  • The scheme looks legally feasible, although it would surely be challenged in the courts. Politically, however, it looks like a non-starter.

Bloomberg executive editor Joe "What'd I miss?" Weisenthal, who has an invaluable FAQ on the issue, says he's "been coinpilled since at least 2013."

  • This story originated when Mike Slacked Felix to ask if Joe was serious or trolling. The answer: Totally serious.
  • "I actually thought I would take the day off of coinposting," Joe tweeted at one point.

More recent converts include the N.Y. Times' Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate; economist Dean Baker; former Mint director Phillip Diehl; members of Congress including Rashida Tlaib and Jerry Nadler; and others, including Hayes Brown and Zachary Carter.

  • Krugman, in a column headlined "Biden Should Ignore the Debt Limit and Mint a $1 Trillion Coin," wrote: "[G]iven the stakes, who cares if the approach sounds silly?

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4. Marches around the world

Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP

The first Women's March of the Biden administration headed for the Supreme Court, where a new term begins Monday.

  • In 660 U.S. demonstrations, thousands marched in support of abortion rights, from Austin and Atlanta to Chicago and New York.

Women also demonstrated in London, some with signs saying: "March in solidarity with Texas."

Screenshot: CNN

See 7 photos on 1 page.

5. 🎬 Tonight on "Axios on HBO"

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

At 6 p.m. ET/PT on "Axios on HBO" (all HBO platforms):

Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., Adela Raz (above) — who's still in the embassy, still flying the flag — talks with Jonathan Swan in her first TV interview since the fall of Kabul.

CEO to CEO ... Jim VandeHei asks JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon: "Is Jamie Dimon woke?"

  • See a clip of Jim asking Dimon if his salary is fair.

And I travel to Rome to interview Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana — a close adviser to Pope Francis, and the Vatican's lead on climate, refugees and racial reckoning.

6. 🏈 Brady on aging

Tom Brady at the White House in July. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Ahead of Tom Brady's return to New England for tonight's "Sunday Night Football" (which sportsbooks expect will attract the most bets of the NFL's regular season), The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay talks with the 44-year old "Geezer, Still a Goat":

  • "I think I’m finding my voice again, you know?" Brady says. "I feel like I’m just coming back to life in a certain way."

I love this:

Brady recalls reading some wisdom about aging, about how younger people spend a lot of time obsessing about what other people think, or believing that people are hanging on their every word, but by the time they hit their 50s and 60s, they discover that nobody was really paying much attention in the first place.
"I think that’s probably how it’s going," he says. "You think people care what you think, and then you care less what people think, and then you realize no one cared, anyway."

Keep reading (subscription) ... Brady rapid round.

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