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U.S. Capitol Building

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Democrats in Congress are working to determine the size and scope of a major budget package.

Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me repeatedly forgetting what day it is — short weeks always mess me up, and post-Labor Day seems like the worst week for that. In congressional news, the House and the Senate are still in their summer recess, enjoying their last days stateside before returning to the swamp. Here’s the lineup for this week’s memo: Democrats argue over budget reconciliation, Amy Klobuchar reveals her fight with cancer and Jim Hagedorn under fire.

Democrats have some decisions to make

After the House’s emergency call back to Washington for votes in August, lawmakers were able to nail down a September 27 deadline for voting on the massive infrastructure package, as well as open up the budget reconciliation plan for proposals and drafting legislative text. This would be great for Democrats, if only they could decide on anything.

And then there’s Rep. Ilhan Omar, whip of the Progressive Caucus, who has said that progressives will still delay votes on the infrastructure bill if the reconciliation is not finished by the September 27 deadline.

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The budget could be a boon for progressives, who hope that it will include priorities like universal pre-k, universal child care, and measures to fight climate change.

Time is ticking, but Democrats are still struggling to even decide on a number for the budget.

It started off with a $6 trillion price tag, which was then lowered it to $3.5 trillion. Now, there’s reporting suggesting West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin wants the total for Democrats’ reconciliation plan to drop as low as $1 trillion or $1.5 trillion.

So far, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are both proceeding as if $3.5 trillion is the magic number, at least for now. Progressives say they’ve given too much ground already: According to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, “That $3.5 trillion is already the result of a major, major compromise.”

All this back-and-forth is a sign of how much work the party has to do as it seeks to draft up the enormous bill by the end of September. The process officially started Thursday as the House Ways and Means and Education and Labor committees begin marking up their proposals. Get ready for a bumpy ride.

Klobuchar reveals her battle with breast cancer

Sen. Amy Klobuchar published a Medium article early Thursday morning revealing that she has been battling Stage 1A breast cancer since February of this year.

“In February of this year, doctors at Mayo Clinic found small white spots called calcifications during a routine mammogram. After this was discovered, I had a biopsy at Piper Breast Center in Minneapolis, and then learned that I had Stage 1A breast cancer… After a number of other tests, I returned to Mayo and had a lumpectomy on the right breast which involved the removal of the cancer. In May, I completed a course of radiation treatment, and after additional follow-up visits, it was determined in August that the treatment went well,” Klobuchar wrote.

Klobuchar also appeared on Good Morning America Thursday, where she spoke with host Robin Roberts, herself a cancer survivor, about her announcement and her health.

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Klobuchar said that she, like many Americans, had put off some regular medical screenings during the pandemic.

“It’s easy to put off health screenings, just like I did,” Klobuchar wrote. “But I hope my experience is a reminder for everyone of the value of routine health checkups, exams, and follow-through.”

Hagedorn under investigation

First District Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn is under investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ethics, in a probe that appears to be related to his office’s finances.

According to Bring Me The News, the committee’s chairman and ranking member released a brief statement Tuesday noting they chose to “extend the matter” regarding Hagedorn. The statement doesn’t give any details on why the investigation happened, only that the probe “was referred to the committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics on July 23, 2021.”

Public disclosure of the extension is mandatory. But, according to the announcement, it “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.” But a statement from an attorney on behalf of Hagedorn, provided to Roll Call, says Hagedorn “self-reported this matter to the Ethics Committee last year.”

Allegations of Hagedorn’s ethical violations surfaced during the 2020 election season.

The Minnesota Reformer reported last year that he paid a Texas-based company owned by one of his staff members more than $100,000 of taxpayer money to print constituent mail.

Shortly after that report, Hagedorn fired his chief of staff, Peter Su, over concerns about irregular spending.

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In addition to Rep. Hagedorn, Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski (New Jersey) and Republican Reps. Mike Kelly (Pennsylvania) and Alex Mooney (West Virginia), were also recently investigated by the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics.

The nonpartisan group concluded that there is substantial reason to believe that all four representatives have committed a violation of ethics. But the OCE is a fact-finding group and cannot discipline members, which is why the House Ethics Committee is now investigating.

The House Ethics Committee says it will make a further announcement on the investigations no later than Oct. 21.

What I’m Reading

  • Libyan warlord hires ex-Clinton aide Lanny Davis, ex-Republican House leader Bob Livingston, to lobby D.C.,” Wall Street Journal. Now that’s a headline you don’t see every day. As WSJ reports, a Russian-backed warlord vying for power in Libya has hired some former big-time politicos to lead a nearly $1 million effort to lobby the Biden administration for political support. The transition from hill staffer to lobbyist isn’t uncommon in Washington, but lobbying on behalf of a Libyan warlord is a little off the beaten path. But for Livingston and Davis, splitting $160,000 a month seems like the right price for whatever lobbying they’ll have to do over a six-month period. And anyway, one of the pair’s priorities is freeing their boss from the label “warlord.”
  • Police say demoralized officers are quitting in droves. Labor data says no,” The Marshall Project. Since last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, there’s been a popular idea echoing through police precincts and public discourse: Officers are fleeing police offices in droves. But The Marshall Project took a look at the actual labor data behind this trend, and found that it’s actually not true. They also dive into some of the factors behind the rise in violent crime in the U.S. in the past year.
  • The plan to stop every respiratory virus at once,” The Atlantic. I’m constantly blown away by the depth and creativity of The Atlantic’s science writers, and this story definitely delivers. London got rid of cholera in the 19th century with a modernized sewage system. The U.S. conquered yellow fever and malaria in the 19th and 20th centuries with pesticides, wide-scale landscape management and window screens. So, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, what will world leaders do to prevent another massive respiratory outbreak?

That’s it from me this week. Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to send any questions, comments or trillion-dollar questions to ahackett@minnpost.com, or find me on Twitter at @byashleyhackett.