IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Biden's voting rights push comes after months spent on other issues

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: A child waits between her father's legs as he and other voters cast their ballots for the mid-term elections
A child waits between her father's legs as he and other voters cast their ballots at a polling station set up at Grady High School for the mid-term elections on Nov. 6, 2018 in Atlanta, Ga.Jessica McGowan / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Tuesday ... President Biden and VP Harris head to Atlanta to talk voting rights. ... Sen. Ron Johnson is already up on Wisconsin’s airwaves. ... NBC’s Benjy Sarlin explains why Medicare premiums are coming back down. ... And it’s Election Day in the Florida-20 special to fill the congressional seat vacated by the late Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., who passed away last April.

But first: When President Biden delivers his voting-rights speech Tuesday afternoon, it will be just the second time of his presidency he has held an event solely dedicated to the issue. (His previous speech on voting rights came on July 13; he’s also addressed the topic on other occasions, such as when he commemorated the Tulsa Race Massacre and at the celebration marking the 10th anniversary of the MLK memorial.)

That’s compared to more than 60 Biden events solely dedicated to the coronavirus pandemic and his Covid relief plan, according to NBC News’ White House unit.

And nearly 40 Biden events and speeches focused on his “Build Back Better” and/or infrastructure bills.

“Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value,” Biden is fond of saying, per NBC’s Mike Memoli.

The same is true of a president’s events: Show us your schedule, and we’ll tell you what issues are bigger priorities than the others.

The White House has definitely raised expectations about today’s speech.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice?” Biden is expected to say today, according to excerpts the White House has released. “I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?”

But does it have a plan to get the legislation through the Senate?

And has it put in the work to get it done?

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is 5

That’s how many votes by which Florida Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick won her special primary election in November — a victory that paved the way for her to join Congress after today’s special election vote.

Cherfilus-McCormick, a CEO of a home health care company, is running to fill the seat vacated by the late Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., who died in April (the seat has been open since his death). The district is one of the most Democratic-leaning ones in America, so Cherfilus-McCormick’s narrow primary victory all-but secured her spot in Congress. She’s running against Republican Jason Mariner, as well as one libertarian candidate and three others with no party affiliation.

The winner will fill out the remainder of the term.

Other numbers you need to know today:

26: The number of House Democrats who are retiring, including Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter, who announced his retirement yesterday.

3: The number of congressional districts that could include parts of Nashville as Tennessee Republicans weigh carving up the city in redistricting.

1,343,167: The number of new Covid cases reported in America on Monday. While that likely includes a backlog from over the weekend, it’s still the most cases reported in one day since the start of the pandemic.

740,594: The seven-day average of new Covid cases in America, which is also a record.

842,788: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News.

Midterm roundup

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., wasted no time hitting the airwaves after kicking off his re-election campaign, launching a more than $700,000 ad buy (TV and radio) starting today, per AdImpact. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel breaks down Johnson’s two statewide spots, which address his broken term-limit pledge. One of Johnson’s Democratic challengers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, picked up an endorsement from Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign for re-election said it raised more than $7 million between July 1, 2021 and Jan. 7, 2022, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The Kemp campaign also reports more than $12 million cash on hand as the governor prepares for a tough primary fight against former Sen. David Perdue and a potential general election rematch against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced a $5 million haul in the second half of 2021, ending the year with $10.5 million on hand, per the Associated Press. Republican Rebecca Kleefisch, the former lieutenant governor challenging Evers, raised $3.3 million.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., raised $3.3 million in the final quarter of 2021 as she gears up for a competitive re-election race. She ended the year with $10.4 million on hand.

Yesterday, Laura Neuman joined nine men in the race for the Democratic nomination to be Maryland's governor. The former Republican was previously Anne Arundel's county executive and a tech entrepreneur. In her campaign announcement video, Neuman didn’t mention why she switched parties and her campaign website makes no mention of her political affiliation, the Baltimore Sun noted.

Talking policy with Benjy: Why Medicare premiums are coming back down

We’ve been tracking the saga of aduhelm, the controversial Alzheimer’s drug whose high cost threatens to add hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending, even as its efficacy is hotly contested.

Facing criticism from lawmakers over its proposed $56,000 price, drugmaker Biogen slashed it in half to $28,000 late last month. That’s still far higher than independent analysts like the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review have offered based on the data (they suggested a max of about $8,300), but it’s already having a ripple effect on Medicare.

Aduhelm, which Biogen purports can help slow the onset of dementia, still hasn’t been approved for coverage by Medicare. Regulators are expected to announce this week whether Medicare will cover the treatment and in what circumstances.

But it's so expensive and has such a wide potential pool of users that health officials already announced a proposed $21.60 increase in Medicare Part B premiums last year, half of which was in anticipation of Aduhelm even potentially being approved.

On Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that Biogen's decision to drop Aduhelm's price was “a compelling basis for CMS to re-examine” its own proposed premium hikes for Medicare Part B, which could come down as a result.

The Aduhelm story has hung over Congress as it debates drug pricing reform, which Democrats have tried to include as part of their now-in-limbo Build Back Better plan, though not every reform on the table would apply to this specific treatment. Medicare is currently not allowed to negotiate drug prices or factor in cost to its decision-making, only to decide whether or not to cover treatments and in what circumstances.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Politico reports that Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., aren’t the only Senate Democrats who aren’t completely behind changing the filibuster.

Chicago is poised to return to in-person school on Wednesday amid negotiations between teachers and schools over Covid mitigation.

Covid rapid tests will be covered by private insurance starting on Saturday, according to the White House.

Former President Donald Trump is attacking Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., after he said the 2020 election was “as fair as we have seen.”