Axios Sneak Peek

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September 28, 2021

Welcome back to Sneak. Congressional "hell week" has begun.

Situational awareness: "Jan. 6 committee to issue more subpoenas soon."

Smart Brevity™ count: 1,828 words ... 7 minutes. Edited by Glen Johnson.

1 big thing: Dems’ sneaky sabotage

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is seen at a campaign event.

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A group tied to prominent Democratic strategists is posing as a conservative outfit to try to drive a wedge between the Republican candidate for Virginia governor and his core voters, Axios' Lachlan Markay has learned.

Why it matters: The state's gubernatorial race is expected to be tight and could be a national bellwether. As Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin's campaign hypes improving poll numbers, Democrats are trying to chip away at his support in GOP strongholds.

What's happening: During the past week, Virginians have been targeted with ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google and Snapchat questioning Youngkin's commitment to the Second Amendment.

  • They're the work of a new political group called Accountability Virginia PAC. Its website says nothing about the individuals or organizations behind it.
  • "While the NRA backs Donald Trump, they REFUSED to endorse Glenn Youngkin. We can't trust Glenn Youngkin on guns," one of the ads says.
  • Public records show the PAC has spent more than $25,000 on the ads, which have been viewed between 1 million and 5 million times.

The intrigue: While clearly designed to hit Youngkin from the right, all indications point to Democrats behind the PAC.

  • Accountability Virginia's online donation page is hosted by the Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue. Its bank account is at Amalgamated Bank, a labor union-owned financial institution popular with Democratic political groups.
  • The PAC was incorporated in Virginia by compliance consultants at the MBA Consulting Group, which works uniformly with Democrats.
  • Its ads on Snapchat were purchased by Gambit Strategies, a firm founded this year by the Biden presidential campaign's digital director and the former head of Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.
  • "Fake information is prevalent on the internet," Gambit's website warns. "Research shows time and time again that the best way to combat false negative information is to provide people positive information about a candidate, cause, etc."
  • Neither Gambit nor MBA Consulting responded to requests for comment.
Areas targeted by Accountability Virginia PAC ads
Data: Snap Political Ads Library; Map: Will Chase/Axios

Keep reading.

Go deeper: "Youngkin clarifies he would have certified 2020 election"

2. First look: Yellen, Raimondo lobby business for Biden

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo are seen in side-by-side images.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (left) and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Photos: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images (left) and Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo are delivering a pair of speeches tomorrow lobbying the business community to back the entirety of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, Axios' Hans Nichols has learned.

Why it matters: While business groups have endorsed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, they're opposed to the concurrent $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package — which would raise taxes on corporations.

  • In choreographing speeches from Yellen and Raimondo, the administration is going on the offensive to convince the public their overall agenda will lead to productivity gains and help grow the economy for all Americans.
  • The $1.2 trillion bill would invest in "hard" infrastructure like roads and bridges. The $3.5 trillion package would spend on so-called “human” infrastructure, including day care, universal preschool and caregivers.
  • “The bipartisan infrastructure bill and Build Back Better are two parts of one economic vision that finally addresses the challenges that have held back families — and, in turn, our economy — for decades," Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, told Axios.

Driving the news: Raimondo will speak at 11:30am ET at the Economic Club of Washington.

  • Yellen will address the annual meeting of the Association of Business Economics at 2:30pm ET.

The other side: The Chamber of Commerce, which overwhelmingly supported the bipartisan bill, is running ads against moderate House Democrats, urging them to oppose the $3.5 trillion bill, which Democrats plan to pass alone through the reconciliation package.

  • The Business Roundtable also is opposed to the new social spending, and, in particular, the tax increases that Biden has proposed to pay for it.
  • CEO and President Joshua Bolten said it “would put millions of American jobs at risk."

Go deeper: During her remarks, Raimondo will focus on how the package will improve supply chains and make investments in workforce development, an administration official told Axios.

  • The daughter of a factory worker who lost his job when his company relocated to China, the former Rhode Island governor also will tie her personal story to Biden's overall economic agenda.

Between the lines: Yellen will start her morning before the Senate Banking Committee, testifying alongside Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

  • They'll discuss the effects of the roughly $4 trillion in COVID-19 relief spending signed into law by former President Trump.
  • Then, in the afternoon, Yellen will target her Biden remarks on climate change and infrastructure.

3. Mapped: No majority-Hispanic districts added in Texas

Data: Texas Capitol Data Portal; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios
Data: Texas Capitol Data Portal; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Texas Republicans propose adding seats in Austin and Houston — but no majority-Hispanic districts — in new congressional district maps released today and reviewed by Axios' Stef Kight.

Why it matters: Texas is a rapidly growing, diversifying and politically changing state. Census results mean it will get two additional House seats. While its changing demographics don't bode well for Republicans long term, they control how district lines are drawn for now.

The takeaways: The two new seats proposed for Austin and Houston would favor a Democrat and Republican, respectively.

  • Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), a moderate, border Democrat, already faced a tough re-election fight last year — and could be on the chopping block under the proposed maps.
  • His district will turn red.
  • The map would likely result in 25 Republican House seats, while maintaining 13 Democratic seats, according to the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman.

What to watch: "Texas is now a Hispanic-plurality state, and this map doesn’t include any additional Hispanic-majority districts," Abhi Rahman, a Texas Democratic strategist, told Axios.

  • He labeled the maps "terrible," and their lines could be cause for litigation.
  • The National Democratic Redistricting Committee also complained
  • “The congressional map confirms what we knew Texas Republicans would do: decrease the number of competitive seats, ignore the growth and influence of communities of color and gerrymander for power," said President Kelly Ward Burton.

At least nine Republicans would get a big boost from the proposed maps.

  • They include Reps. Dan Crenshaw, Michael McCaul, Van Taylor and Jake Ellzey, according to Wasserman.
  • Democratic Reps. Lizzie Fletcher and Rep. Colin Allred would also benefit, with their blue, city districts remaining extra-safe Democratic territory.

4. Democrats hit GOP over abortion far from Texas

Illustration of a pencil filling in a ballot with the checkbox in the shape of the state of Texas.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are trying to attack Republican political candidates over abortion rights far from Texas — including libertarian states like New Hampshire and Nevada, Axios' Sarah Mucha writes.

Why it matters: The strategy highlights the national resonance of the new Texas law banning abortions past six weeks. The Democratic Party sees an opening in next year's midterm elections to capitalize on voters’ opposition to it.

  • Both Nevada and "Live-Free-or-Die" New Hampshire also have female senators up for re-election in 2022.
  • The Democrats' ad campaigns have the potential to drive up turnout by women.

What we’re watching: Democrats are already releasing ads hitting Republicans for their record on choice in the hope of making an early impression on voters.

  • The New Hampshire Democratic Party has a digital ad, released today, that attempts to blame the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, for the New Hampshire Executive Council’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood.
  • In the ad, titled "Laughing," the first text to appear on the screen references the Texas law.

In Nevada, Democrats are hitting Andy Laxalt, a Republican Senate primary candidate, by tying him to Dean Heller, who's running for governor, through their abortion rights comments.

The backdrop: Both states have a history of supporting abortion rights measures that Democrats intend to highlight.

  • In Nevada in 1990, over 60% of voters approved a ballot measure that reaffirmed allowing abortion up to 24 weeks. The law can only be changed by a “direct vote by the people,” meaning the legislature cannot amend it.
  • 65% of voters in the state consider themselves "pro-choice," according to a poll conducted over the summer by OH Insights.
  • The issue was a deciding factor in the 1990s in New Hampshire. Many credit the successful gubernatorial campaign of now-Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)with her highlighting her support for abortion rights against an anti-abortion Republican opponent.

Go deeper: "Swing voters oppose Texas abortion law"

5. House coalescing around infrastructure deal

Rep. Peter DeFazio is seen surrounded by reporters following a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus on Monday.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is seen leaving a meeting of the House Democratic caucus tonight. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

House Democrats started tonight to coalesce around a deal to pass the Build Back Better package, with progressive opposition weakening and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seeming to de-link the biggest components of it, Axios' Alayna Treene and Sarah report.

What they're saying: “We can’t be ready to say, 'Until the Senate passes the [$3.5 trillion reconciliation] bill, we can’t do BIF,'" the speaker told House Democrats, using shorthand for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. She indicated the House would vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill on Thursday.

Why it matters: The movement would be huge. If enough progressives cave, it would open a path to immediate spending on roads and bridges with a promise of future work on climate change and other progressive priorities.

The House Democratic caucus met tonight after Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) spoke with the president over the phone.

  • Pelosi's overarching message to members was they need to project unity and purpose, not divisiveness, several members told Axios.
  • Several members, mostly moderates facing competitive re-election fights, stood up and spoke. Many emphasized the need for the caucus — read: progressives — to accept the political reality of the Senate.
  • "The Senate's not going to go along with $3.5 trillion," Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told reporters after the meeting. "We don't need to sacrifice our transportation infrastructure bill on something that the Senate may never come to an agreement on."
  • "I've been a legislator for 44 years, longer than many [progressives] have been on the Earth. Nobody's been more progressive than me. And I know politics. But you've got a Senate, there's certain realities," Cohen added. "If we can pass the infrastructure bill, we need to do it."

House centrists, who bit their tongues after Pelosi delayed a planned vote on the bipartisan bill from tonight until Thursday, said they’re hopeful enough progress will be made on the broader reconciliation package to garner the votes they need.

  • Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) told Axios he and other centrist Democrats are “totally good” with debating the bill this week and voting on it Thursday, as long as it isn’t delayed further.

The big question now is whether enough progressives are still committed to sinking the $1.2 trillion package without a formal vote on the $3.5 trillion package.

  • "What is the commitment, other than a vote?" said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters. "I don't know what that would be; that's why I keep saying 'a vote.'"

Keep reading.

Go deeper: "Senate Republicans sink short-term government funding, debt limit bill"

6. Pic du jour: Back to work

Sen. Joni Ernst is seen in silhouette arriving at the U.S. Capitol.

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) arrives at the Capitol for the start of a busy week.

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