Axios Sneak Peek

The back of a propped up cardboard cut-out of the U.S. Capitol.
October 31, 2021

🎃🎃 Welcome back to Sneak. Happy Halloween.

Situational awareness: President Biden cast off his declining poll numbers today with this declaration in Rome: “I didn’t run to determine how well I’m going to do in the polls.”

  • "I ran to make sure that I followed through on what I said I would do as president of the United States.”
  • "We’ll see what happens, but I’m not running because of the polls.”

Smart Brevity™ count: 1,424 words ... 5.5 minutes. Edited by Glen Johnson.

1 big thing: Biden hopes third time’s the charm

President Biden is seen addressing reporters in Rome.
Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden and congressional leaders are forging ahead with plans to have the House vote on his two massive spending plans, even while backing off their Tuesday deadline amid persistent concerns from key lawmakers.

Why it matters: For all their bluster, Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have failed twice to hold promised votes on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which would pave the way for a $1.75 trillion social safety net expansion package. Missing a third vote is a major risk for them both, writes Axios' Hans Nichols.

  • The delays have undermined Pelosi, who famously never holds — or schedules — a vote she can't win.

Driving the news: House leaders gave themselves more time this afternoon by punting procedural moves they'd planned for tomorrow by the House Rules Committee.

  • That would have set up floor votes on the actual bills as early as Tuesday.
  • “We have made extensive progress on Rx drugs and other key initiatives, which were not included in the text posted to Rules on Thursday,” a Democratic leadership aide told reporters.
  • “At this point, we will need additional time to craft language and get final agreement with all parties involved,” the aide said. “We still intend to vote as early as possible this week.”

Between the lines: Democrats in Washington wanted to hand Biden a political win before he departs from the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday, but that's no longer possible.

  • Before leaving the G20 summit in Rome for the COP26, Biden still struck an optimistic tone.
  • "God willing, going to be voted on sometime this coming week," he said today.
  • Over the weekend, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) stayed in contact with the speaker's office, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to explain his concerns.
  • Progressives have said they won't vote for the bipartisan bill unless the package to expand the nation's social safety net is voted upon simultaneously.

The big picture: Manchin still has concerns about the proposed revenue streams, and whether they'll cover the full cost of the $1.75 trillion package.

  • Sinema is working on a compromise about how to include savings from Medicare.
  • They'd be gained by allowing the government to negotiate prescription drugs directly with the pharmaceutical industry.

Keep reading.

Flashback: "House aims to pass infrastructure and social spending bills on Tuesday."

2. Kerry's big ask

Photo illustration of John Kerry.
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

John Kerry has made one special ask of world leaders since he became Biden's climate envoy in January: help me consign coal to history. As the UN Climate Summit convenes in Glasgow, Scotland, all signs suggest they won't deliver, report Axios' Zachary Basu and Andrew Freedman.

Driving the news: The COP26 summit is a proving ground of sorts for Kerry's style of personal diplomacy, which helped him broker the 2015 Paris climate accord. The challenge is having it pay off in a world rife with multilateralism, and with the U.S. leadership role in question.

  • Kerry has billed Glasgow as the world's "last, best chance" for averting potentially catastrophic effects from global warming.
  • At the same time, he's been working to lower expectations. As recently as last Thursday, Kerry acknowledged there will be a gap after Glasgow between where the world needs to be on emissions and where it is.
  • He's also started to look past COP26, emphasizing that this needs to be a "decisive decade" and "decade of action."

The U.S. and other countries secured some commitments on coal use at the G20 summit today, but this fell short of what Kerry had been fighting for.  

  • Efforts to curb coal usage in his own country have been hampered by the resistance of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who used to be governor of a coal state.

Between the lines: Any shortfall isn't for lack of effort.

  • Kerry has mimicked his time as the most-traveled secretary of State in history, maintaining a frenetic schedule.
  • He's visited at least 15 countries since January, some more than once, with a single-minded focus that other U.S. foreign policy officials can't afford.
  • Unlike his time heading the State Department, he largely flies commercial, toting his own bag into the passenger cabin.

In every meeting with his foreign counterparts, Kerry has sought five commitments, State Department officials tell Axios:

1. Reduce emissions

2. Phase out coal use by a specific date

3. Increase financing to help developing nations adapt to climate change

4. Join a new Global Methane Pledge

5. Strengthen emissions targets after COP26

Between the lines: Kerry arrives in Scotland with Biden's domestic climate agenda hanging in the balance — weakening U.S. credibility.

  • If Democrats fail to pass a robust climate bill, Kerry told the AP in September, "it would be like President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, again."

Keep reading.

3. By the numbers: Climate confidence

Reproduced from Pew Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

About half or more residents of more than a dozen countries think their own country is doing a good job dealing with global climate change, according to polling by Pew Research Center reviewed by Axios' Stef Kight.

Why it matters: The United Nations climate summit began today — kicking off two weeks of international debate about what the world is doing to slow climate change and deal with its impact.

By the numbers: Just under half of Americans say the U.S. is doing a good job at dealing with climate change.

  • That's the lowest percentage for the countries polled, except for South Korea and Taiwan, according to Pew.
  • However, people in other countries are less positive about the U.S.' actions on climate change. Most European adults see the U.S. as doing a bad job addressing climate change, including three out of four Germans and Swedes, according to Pew.
  • People in Singapore and New Zealand are most confident in their response to climate change, with a third of Singaporeans saying they are doing a "very good" job.

4. First look: Rubio urges GOP-Big Business divorce

Sen. Marco Rubio is seen speaking during a congressional hearing.
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will call for Republicans to break up with Big Business when he addresses the National Conservatism Conference tomorrow, Axios' Alayna Treene and Sarah Mucha have learned.

Why it matters: Rubio is seeking re-election in one of the most high-profile and expensive races of the 2022 cycle. He's using this speech to differentiate himself from traditional economic conservatism by branding himself as a leading proponent of the working class.

  • "There would be a lot less craziness in America’s corporations if the people voting their shares were actually firefighters and teachers, rather than their union bosses or Wall Street," Rubio will say, based on a prepared text of his remarks.
  • "Promising to cut more regulations and corporate taxes will garner the applause of campaign donors and glowing coverage in media outlets focused on the stock market."
  • "But it leaves millions of hard-working Americans who do not want a 'woke' socialist America with no voice in our politics, and no answers to their problems."

The big picture: Among those vying for Florida's Democratic Senate nomination is Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.). Should Rubio win re-election next year, his victory and branding would help position him for another potential presidential run in 2024.

  • The speech also provides a glimpse into how some Republicans will approach the midterms and 2024: criticize the Biden administration and the embrace of so-called "Marxist-style" policies by Democrats.
  • The conference in Orlando, Florida, will host other prominent Republicans too.
  • They include Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), both potential 2024 presidential candidates, Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance and tech billionaire and GOP booster Peter Thiel.

Details: Rubio's speech is titled, “We Need Corporate Patriotism to Defeat American Marxism."

  • He'll call for a requirement that company boards are committed to U.S. national interest and devoid of conflicts of interest with nations such as China.
  • Rubio will contrast that with what he says are "requirements that companies’ board of directors be sufficiently 'diverse,' like what the Biden administration is pushing."
  • "More challenging," Rubio is expected to say, "is how to take power away from big institutional shareholders that use regular retirees’ savings to push 'woke' policies at corporations by voting in corporate elections on their behalf."
  • He'll argue the solution is that institutional shareholders transmit the votes of their clients — like the firefighters and teachers he described — instead of casting votes on their behalf.

5. Pic du jour: Babies on board

CNN's Dana Bash and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are seen laughing as they discuss his children's first Halloween costume.
Screenshot via CNN's "State of the Union"

CNN's Dana Bash asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg what his new twins would dress as for their first Halloween.

  • Buttigieg said his husband, Chasten, had found "these traffic cone costumes."
  • As he laughed, the secretary added: "They're going to be going as infrastructure."

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