Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to put the proposal to fund roads, bridges and other concrete projects on the floor before Congress’ August recess. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will force a vote next Wednesday on advancing the bipartisan infrastructure package, a hardball tactic aimed at moving President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda forward before the August recess.
“Everyone has been having productive conversations and it’s important to keep the two-track process moving,” Schumer said in a floor speech Thursday. “All parties involved in the bipartisan infrastructure bill talks must now finalize their agreement so that the Senate can begin considering that legislation next week.”
The New York Democrat added that he is setting the same deadline for the Democratic caucus to reach a consensus on a budget resolution setting up a $ 3.5 trillion social spending plan.
The fate of Wednesday’s vote, however, remains uncertain. Although Democrats expressed optimism about the timetable, Republicans were less sure. At the moment, it’s not clear whether 10 Republicans will vote to advance the bipartisan bill.
When asked whether he was confident the bipartisan group would meet Schumer’s deadline, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the group negotiating the bipartisan framework, had a blunt response: “No.”
“We’re not done yet,” Rounds said. “I don’t think we’re going to have any artificial deadlines. I think we’re going to do our best to get done in an expeditious fashion, but if we were successful in coming to an agreement, it’d be great to have it done before” August recess.
Schumer’s timetable comes as the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure negotiators are unlikely to meet their own self-imposed Thursday deadline to resolve outstanding issues among members, according to two sources familiar with the talks. The group met again early Thursday afternoon, but members still need to resolve key disagreements over how to pay for the $ 1.2 trillion physical infrastructure deal that Biden supports. The bipartisan group met Tuesday evening and made progress, but a host of questions about spending priorities also remain unanswered.
Among the proposed funding sources that could change is a provision related to IRS enforcement, a source of controversy for Republicans. One Senate Democrat suggested that money from increased IRS enforcement could instead be used to pay for for Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion package.
Members of the group are racing to turn the bipartisan framework they announced last month into legislative text, and Schumer’s deadline will only add pressure to wrap up the discussions. Several Senate Republicans interpreted it as an effort to sink the bipartisan talks, given the absence of legislative text and the likelihood that members will not yet have a score from the Congressional Budget Office by Wednesday.
“Why in the world would you vote for something that hasn’t been written yet,” asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a McConnell confidante. “I don’t know whether Sen. Schumer is just setting this all up to fail so he can then move to the budget. That may part of his Machiavellian scheme.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who attempted to negotiate a bipartisan infrastructure package but failed, interpreted Schumer’s move as an attempt “to put pressure on the group to either put up or shut up.”
Schumer will take the first steps toward moving the bipartisan physical infrastructure proposal Monday, using a House bill as a legislative vehicle that would later be amended to reflect the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal. Even if a deal is clinched and the Senate votes to move ahead on the bill next week, it will likely take days or even weeks to finish its work on the bipartisan legislation because of intense desire to vote on amendments to a bill likely to win Biden’s signature.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has vowed that the House will not move forward on the bipartisan infrastructure package until the Senate passes a budget setting up the $ 3.5 trillion social spending package. Senior Democrats do not expect that calculation to change based on the Senate’s latest moves.
And with Democrats just starting to hash out the details of that party-line spending package, it could be weeks, if not months, before the House takes up the bipartisan bill.
Both the physical infrastructure and social spending bills are top priorities for Biden, who attended a Senate Democratic caucus lunch Wednesday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has withheld judgment so far on the bipartisan plan, encouraging his members to view it as a separate effort from Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion bill. Several Republicans have expressed concerns about its financing and are waiting for an official score from the Congressional Budget Office once the bill’s text is completed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is aware of the conventional wisdom that he will ultimately knife the deal and is taking pains not to become the face of its opposition. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Something strange is happening in Washington: Mitch McConnell might go along with a central piece of Joe Biden’s agenda.
The self-appointed “Grim Reaper” of the Senate, a minority leader who said just two months ago that “100% of my focus is on standing up to this administration,” has been remarkably circumspect about the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal. He’s privately telling his members to separate that effort from Democrats’ party-line $ 3.5 trillion spending plan and publicly observed there’s a “decent” chance for its success.
Other than questioning its financing, McConnell has aired little criticism of the bipartisan agreement to fund roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure, even as he panned Democrats’ separate spending plans on Wednesday as “wildly out of proportion” given the nation’s inflation rate.
His cautious approach to a top Biden priority reflects the divide among Senate Republicans over whether to collaborate with Democrats on part of the president’s spending plans while fighting tooth and nail on the rest. Many Democrats predict McConnell will kill the agreement after stringing talks out for weeks, but the current infrastructure talks are particularly sensitive for the GOP leader because one of his close allies, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, is the senior Republican negotiator.
McConnell is aware of the conventional wisdom that he will ultimately knife the deal and is taking pains not to become the face of its opposition.
“He usually is the brunt of the demonization of the other side,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), another McConnell confidant. “I don’t think he is Dr. No when it comes to all legislation.”
For the moment at least, McConnell’s approach marks a shift from his past strategy of blocking Democratic priorities to portray the governing party as chaotic and inefficient. Advisers say he understands the bipartisan appeal of infrastructure and views it as less ideological than other Democratic priorities.
The Kentucky Republican is also perceptive of moments when his power is limited, evidenced by his 2013 decision to oppose — but not try to defeat — his members’ immigration compromise with Democrats. He’s also sent emissaries out in the past to engage with Democrats on health care and the deficit, efforts that eventually failed.
Even Democrats who’ve harshly criticized McConnell notice a shift in tactics in recent weeks. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the Republican leader’s strategy “feels different” this time around.
“His problem is that many of his members like what’s in it,” Murphy said. “McConnell is going to have a hard time keeping his caucus together if he decides to oppose it.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who helped negotiate the bipartisan framework, was skeptical that McConnell would sink it, given that Democrats could simply then fold the failed cross-aisle deal into their larger partisan package.
“I don’t think it would be smart for him to do that, so I don’t think he will,” Tester said. “It’s better for them to pass the bipartisan bill and let the Democrats fight it out on the $ 3.5 trillion bill.”
McConnell could take a similar tactic this summer to his 2013 play on immigration, opposing the deal without whipping against it. But there’s a flip side to the squeeze he’s feeling, and it’s coming from the right. Conservatives are increasingly leaning on the Senate GOP to rip up the bipartisan deal and kill its attempt to pour $ 40 billion into increased IRS enforcement. Former President Donald Trump has trashed the deal, as well.
And many Republican senators worry they are stepping into a trap by agreeing to an infrastructure deal that will help Biden pass a larger spending bill, one designed to increase taxes on the wealthy while expanding social programs and policies to fight climate change. At a closed-door Tuesday lunch, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) bluntly asked his party what working with Democrats will get the GOP in the end, attendees said.
McConnell later responded that Republicans can’t control Democrats’ separate spending plans, urging his party to look at Portman’s effort as separate from the multi-trillion-dollar package Biden’s party plans to pass without GOP votes.
Asked afterward if that argument appeals to him, Johnson responded: “No.”
“All I see is a greater chance for much larger deficits,” Johnson said. “I’m not on board with this strategy of: Let’s do this and complicate their ability to pass reconciliation. I don’t agree with that.”
Republican proponents of the bipartisan infrastructure plan, however, argue that the GOP has nothing to lose by supporting it. Doing so, they say, lets the 50-vote minority put its stamp on a physical infrastructure proposal that doesn’t include tax hikes and later put vulnerable Democrats on the spot for supporting the $ 3.5 trillion tax-and-spend package.
Even if he ultimately sides against the deal, McConnell is cognizant that being too heavy-handed in bringing it down carries risks. Much more likely, allies say, is that a handful of Republican senators who initially endorsed the accord end up balking at Democrats’ big spending plans and the bipartisan deal’s rocky revenue sources.
McConnell’s top deputy on Wednesday winced at Democrats’ plans to marry the nearly $ 600 billion in new spending on roads and bridges with a $ 3.5 trillion, GOP-free package of spending to fight climate change and expand Medicare.
“I want to try and look at the infrastructure bill on its own. But it’s awfully hard, when they continue to link them publicly, not to view them through that lens,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “That complicates passage of the infrastructure bill for a lot of Republicans.”
Democrats view Thune’s comment as a harbinger of McConnell’s eventual opposition. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a frequent McConnell antagonist, said “the fact that he’s quiet now means he’s not sure of the lay of the land.”
“When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And all he does is oppose, and I don’t anticipate this will be any different,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
Republican negotiators say that thus far they have not sensed resistance from McConnell. Some proponents of the deal took it as a positive signal that he advised them to evaluate the bipartisan plan separately from the Democrats’ social spending plan.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) described the GOP leader, so often opposed to all of Democrats’ big ideas, as “very open-minded.”
“He has encouraged us to proceed,” she said. “He has not committed one way or the other, which is understandable, because we don’t have a final product.”
On Thursday, the bipartisan group is hoping to finalize the framework it laid out at the end of June. It’s unlikely McConnell will weigh in, however, until they release legislative text and the Congressional Budget Office rules on whether the proposed financing mechanisms actually pay for the legislation.
For weeks, the Biden White House has pushed forward on bipartisan infrastructure negotiations amid mounting skepticism that anything would materialize. As Republicans scoffed at negotiations and progressive frustration mounted, the president’s aides remained convinced of the savviness of their approach.
In call after call with Democratic lawmakers, White House counselor Steve Ricchetti, one of the president’s closest and most trusted aides, stressed that a bipartisan deal would prove to be a political boon for the president, according to multiple Democratic sources with knowledge of the conversations.
The genesis of Thursday’s agreement started even before Biden officially announced the details of his $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal in the spring. The White House wanted to lay the groundwork for a deal that not only attracted key centrist lawmakers but could get Republicans on board. So legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell and National Economic Council director Brian Deese headed to the Hill. Among their first visits was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who gladly laid out her priorities. Among them was the need to help support the electric ferry market. It went the same way with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and ultimately dozens of other lawmakers with whom they met.
“Part of what drove this strategy was a level of consistency, it was multi-track. People were cautioning, they were not sure this is going to work — ‘how can you thread this needle?’” Terrell said in an interview of landing both a bipartisan deal and moving forward with a broader Democrat-only spending plan. “We were talking on the Hill to a wide variety of people. We were hearing it all.”
The next several months would be marked by a flurry of phone calls, in-person meetings, Zoom sessions and Oval Office invitations as the White House lobbied lawmakers and wooed governors and mayors of the opposing party.
Administration officials were dispatched to states with faltering bridges and roads. There were media appearances by Biden himself as well as Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, among others.
On the Hill, the White House team was holding one-on-one meetings with members who were likely to be key players in the bipartisan deal.
“When we moved to this position of this bipartisan group, there was already some relationship building that had gone on,” Terrell said. “We were not walking into a room cold.”
At the same time, that bipartisan group of moderates — many of whom already regularly meet and socialize — continued to talk.
A senior White House official said that it was never the case that the president sought a bipartisan deal for the sake of bipartisanship. Rather, he was carrying out what he considered a mandate from Americans: to find common ground where he could.
Several sources close to the discussions said the White House was long interested in getting Republicans on board, even if it meant accepting a modest offer from them. White House negotiators knew before initial talks even began that the GOP would never agree to reversing the Trump tax cuts or hiking the corporate tax rate. But they’d pledged to be flexible. In an early meeting, Republicans offered that up as their red line, and Biden held up tax increases on those making less than $ 400,000 as his. The two sides kept talking.
The White House was ultimately unable to find a path forward in their first attempt at a deal with a negotiating group led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and made up of just Republicans. But instead of reverting to a Democratic-only plan, they quickly found another group of senators that was ready to negotiate.
That bipartisan group had always been willing to go higher in new spending than the Capito group, a Democratic Hill source said. And the two sides eventually agreed to not touch each other’s red lines when it came to the pay-fors. Led by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Portman, the group gradually came to a bipartisan framework that included close to $ 600 billion in new spending on roads, bridges, Internet and other traditional infrastructure projects.
By the time White House negotiators left their meeting with senators on Wednesday night, they knew they had a deal. They just needed Biden to sign off on it. He did with glee hours later.
“I know the Senate and the House better than most of you know it,” Biden said as he laid out the bipartisan deal in the White House’s East Room, ribbing the reporters in the room who questioned how it would all become law.
Though there still is no legislative language and there remains much work to do in Congress to secure the votes, Biden’s supporters viewed Thursday’s breakthrough as a political triumph.
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who was an adviser on Biden’s presidential campaign, said the word “bipartisan” is less powerful politically than demonstrating an ability to bring people together.
“Finding common ground to unite people on a goal is a very good sell,” she said, noting that they had polling showing this during the campaign. “Women, who are the key swing votes of 2022, will be looking at who was cooperative and who wasn’t,” she said, adding that white suburban women in particular “like cooperation.”
But hurdles remain.
Liberal lawmakers in both chambers fear that the passage of a bipartisan bill focused just on traditional infrastructure will result in a watered-down reconciliation package that is expected to include other priorities like elder and child care, climate change provisions and money for higher education. Others are anxious that the reconciliation package won’t happen at all as moderate Democrats buck at the idea of voting on two trillion-dollar-plus bills.
MoveOn, the progressive advocacy group, immediately moved to launch a national five-figure ad buy on MSNBC next week featuring footage of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) promising he wouldn’t pass an infrastructure package without provisions to reduce carbon pollution and money for child care, paid family and sick leave.
Cognizant of those concerns, Biden on Thursday offered his most explicit promise to date that he was committed to a reconciliation Democrat-only package that would pass in tandem with a bipartisan infrastructure deal.
“I control that,” he said with a smirk. “I expect in the coming months this summer before the fiscal year is over that we will have voted on this bill — the infrastructure bill — as well as voted on the budget resolution. But if this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem.”
That commitment to a two-track strategy prompted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday night to question whether Republicans could end up supporting the infrastructure framework several of his members had just crafted. But it also assuaged progressive lawmakers who were concerned about getting half a loaf.
“It’s the ultimate backstop,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in an interview, referring to Biden’s comments. “You now have the speaker and the president saying that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa), likewise, said he was encouraged by Biden’s assurance Thursday that he would reject the bipartisan deal if it reached his desk alone. But, in a reflection of the state of limbo in which the infrastructure negotiations remain, he too said he still had questions.
“I can’t commit to supporting any such bill until I know we’re going to be working on the more substantial part of the American jobs and families plan combined,” Casey said in an interview. “We need to see how the two can be worked on together because I think there’s a lot of Democratic senators that are not going to go along with anything other than both.”
But Biden seemed confident about the fate of the two proposals on Thursday afternoon, appearing vindicated that his sometimes-derided approach to bipartisan dealmaking had yielded results.
“Let me be clear: Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal,” he told reporters. “That’s what it means to compromise. And it reflects something important. It reflects consensus. The heart of democracy.”
Biden said his attention would now turn to legislating “the other half” of his economic agenda, “to finish the job on child care, education, the caring economy, clean energy and tax cuts for American families.”
Such examples of what Biden called “human infrastructure” are “inextricably intertwined” with the physical-infrastructure provisions he had negotiated with the working group of senators.
Biden also sought to assuage the more progressive members of his party who remain skeptical of the bipartisan package and have demanded that moderate Democrats commit to coupling it with an expansive reconciliation bill.
“To them, I say this: I’ve already shown in my young presidency that I’m prepared to do whatever needs to get done to move the country forward,” he said.
And in a more explicit pledge, Biden said he was “not going to rest until both [proposals] get to my desk.” In a later exchange with the White House press corps, he reiterated that if the bills “don’t come” together, “I’m not signing it.”
Those remarks by Biden were just one of several examples of an apparently emboldened president, who repeatedly boasted about his command of tenuous congressional negotiations and reluctance to deliberate publicly before members of the media.
On a few occasions, Biden bent down to whisper points of emphasis into the microphone, and he claimed to reporters that he knew the raw politics of the House and Senate “better than most of you know it.”
The American public, however, “understands, and they’re seeing” tangible results from the White House’s agenda, Biden argued.
“Based on my being out on the street and polling data,” he said, “I think the people who need the help the most trust me to be fighting to get them the help they need.”
President Biden struck an infrastructure deal on Thursday with a bipartisan group of senators, signing on to their plan to provide about $ 579 billion in new investments in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other projects in hopes of moving a crucial piece of his economic agenda through Congress.
“We have a deal,” Mr. Biden said outside the White House, standing beside a group of Republicans and Democrats after a meeting in the Oval Office where they outlined their proposal. “I think it’s really important we’ve all agreed that none of us got all that we wanted.”
Mr. Biden’s endorsement marked a breakthrough in his efforts to forge an infrastructure compromise, but it was far from a guarantee that the package would be enacted. Both the president and top Democrats say the plan, which constitutes a fraction of the $ 4 trillion economic proposal Mr. Biden has put forth, can only move together with a much larger package of spending and tax increases that Democrats are planning to try to push through Congress unilaterally, over the opposition of Republicans.
“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Mr. Biden said during remarks in the East Room of the White House. “It’s in tandem.”
Still, he signaled optimism about the success of the compromise, calling it a major win for his economic agenda, for America’s competitive stance against China and for democracy itself.
“This agreement signals to the world that we can function, deliver and do significant things,” he said, standing with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Mr. Biden noted that the deal includes about two-thirds of the funding that he had called for in several parts of his American Jobs Plan, in areas like clean power and environmental resilience. He also took on liberals in his party who had criticized the negotiations, casting the outcome as both a sign of what is still possible in an increasingly polarized Washington and a first step in a process that could also include a larger budget reconciliation bill that would likely pass with only Democratic votes.
“It’s hard,” Mr. Biden said of bipartisan compromise, “but it’s necessary, and it can get done.”
It’s not clear, though, that the bipartisan plan — a product of five Republicans and five Democrats — will muster the support of at least 60 senators to overcome any filibuster. And the two-track strategy promises to be a heavy lift for Democrats in a Congress where they have only the thinnest of majorities, and moderates and progressives have very different priorities.
Still, if it succeeds, the bipartisan plan would, for the first time since President Barack Obama’s 2009 economic rescue plan, pump significant federal investments into the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — not only roads, bridges, and transit, but broadband, waterways and coastlines eroding as the planet warms.
Under the plan, $ 312 billion would go to transportation projects, $ 65 billion to broadband and $ 55 billion to waterways. A large sum, $ 47 billion, is earmarked for “resilience” — a down payment on Mr. Biden’s promise to deal with the impact of climate change.
Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said the package would pump around $ 40 billion into Internal Revenue Service enforcement to produce a net gain in tax revenues of $ 100 billion. A separate infrastructure finance program would leverage $ 20 billion in federal money to produce $ 180 billion in private financing on infrastructure construction.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden and the centrist senators at the White House cheered their compromise. The president, who spent more than three decades in the Senate and has staked his success on his reputation as a dealmaker, said the agreement “reminds me of the days we used to get an awful lot done up in the United States Congress.”
“This does represent a historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure,” Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, who helped spearhead the talks that led to the agreement, said at the White House.
But it would leave large swaths of the president’s economic proposals — including much of his proposed spending to combat climate change, along with investments in child care, education and other social programs — for a potential future bill that Democrats would try to pass without any Republican votes using a procedural mechanism known as reconciliation.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats signaled openness to accepting the initial details of the agreement, provided that their moderate colleagues accept a second, much larger reconciliation package.
“There ain’t no infrastructure bill without the reconciliation bill,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters on Thursday, repeating a comment she had made privately on a call with House Democratic leaders, according to two officials familiar with it.
President Biden celebrated on Thursday the stripped-down and rejiggered bipartisan rewrite of his infrastructure proposal, proclaiming in a White House news conference that it was a unifying accomplishment for the whole country.
Lawmakers have yet to release legislative language, but White House officials laid out the funding breakdown in a fact sheet that detailed proposed allocations for some of pillars of the plan, which would be phased in over eight years.
$ 66 billion in rail projects and $ 49 billion for public transit. Mr. Biden, speaking to reporters, said Republicans had agreed to funding for many of his transportation proposals, albeit at reduced levels — and touted the inclusion of a $ 7.5 billion investment in charging stations for electric vehicles.
$ 109 billion in road and bridge projects. The framework includes an additional $ 25 million to upgrade airports and $ 16 billion for improvements at the nation’s cargo ports and waterways.
$ 201 billion in water, sewer, power and environmental remediation projects. The plan includes $ 55 billion for water infrastructure, $ 21 billion for environmental projects, and $ 73 billion for power grid improvements.
$ 65 billion for broadband infrastructure. Mr. Biden has said his goal is to provide “universal” broadband access, an initiative that is especially popular with Republican senators from states with large rural and exurban populations.
No new taxes on the wealthy or on corporations. Gone is the rollback of President Donald J. Trump’s tax cuts or Mr. Biden’s plan to raise the rates paid by corporations, a core selling point of the plan for progressives. But gone too are the proposals by Republicans, including a gas tax, which Mr. Biden viewed as new taxation on the middle and working classes.
A $ 47 billion down payment on “resilience” projects to cope with climate change. The agreement includes billions slated for weatherproofing, upgrades to coastal infrastructure and projects intended to mitigate against severe weather.
Stepped-up tax collection by the I.R.S. The proposal is expected to include heightened enforcement efforts by the Internal Revenue Service to reduce tax evasion by corporations and high earners. One of the lawmakers who worked on the deal, Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, said the package would pump around $ 40 billion into enforcement to produce a net gain in tax revenues of $ 100 billion.
No major funding for housing. Mr. Biden lamented that he was unable to secure commitments for big new investments in affordable housing, but said he would keep pushing.
Biden’s big “human infrastructure” plan is gone — at least from this measure. The bipartisan proposal appears to leave out much of the president’s initial $ 2 trillion blueprint — which included massive spending to combat climate change and subsidize child care, education and other types of “human infrastructure” spending. That could make it a hard sell for many progressives in the House, who could easily scuttle any plan if they choose to buck the White House. Democrats are pushing inclusion of many of those programs in a second piece of legislation that could be passed without Republican support using a fast-track legislative process called reconciliation. Mr. Biden said the bills should be passed “in tandem.” “If this is the only thing that comes to me,” he said about the bipartisan bill, “I’m not signing it.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she would create a select committee to further investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, after Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan effort to form an independent commission of experts to look into the riot.
“Jan. 6 was a day of darkness for our country,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters. “Our temple of democracy was attacked by insurrectionists.”
The move came after Ms. Pelosi had signaled for weeks that she planned to take such a step to scrutinize the storming of the Capitol by a mob of supporters of President Donald J. Trump, who sought to disrupt Congress’s counting of electoral votes to formalize President Biden’s victory.
On Tuesday, Ms. Pelosi told top House Democrats that she planned to announce her decision on a select committee this week. She has maintained that her preference was for the Senate to approve a bipartisan commission, modeled after the one that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But with Republicans opposed and many G.O.P. lawmakers working to whitewash and downplay the riot, she has conceded that no longer seemed possible. Fewer than 10 Republicans — the amount needed to overcome a legislative filibuster — supported such an inquiry when it came to a vote in the Senate this month.
“It is imperative that we seek the truth,” Ms. Pelosi said on Thursday. “It is clear the Republicans are afraid of the truth.”
She said the committee would investigate the root causes of the attack, including white supremacist and extremist groups, and also Capitol security failures.
“Most of us had our hearts set on an independent bipartisan commission similar to the 9/11 Commission,” Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland and a member of Ms. Pelosi’s leadership team, said. “We just ran into a brick wall of G.O.P. opposition. They apparently see no political mileage in undertaking any inquiry.”
Mr. Raskin, who led the impeachment case against Mr. Trump over a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 riot, said his team was “not able to follow many leads about the president’s organization and mobilization of different groups to participate in the events of that day” and he hoped the select committee could pick up that work.
“We need to learn about how that coalition of extremists came together and who facilitated it. to what extent it’s a threat to us in the future,” he said.
It was not immediately clear who would chair the committee or be included in its membership. Ms. Pelosi said she would make those announcements at a later date and said she hoped that Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, would name “responsible” people to participate.
Mr. McCarthy said Wednesday that his preference was to allow Senate committees that have already been looking into the attack to continue, rather than to create the new body that Ms. Pelosi was proposing.
“When it comes to what happened on Jan. 6, we want to get to the bottom of that; it’s disgusting what transpired that day,” Mr. McCarthy said Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the speaker has always played politics with this. Time and again. She’s never once talked to me about it.”
But Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, who was the No. 3 Republican before she was ousted from her leadership post over her criticism of Mr. Trump — endorsed the idea of moving forward with the committee.
“It’s really important for us to make sure we have a full investigation into what happened Jan. 6,” Ms. Cheney said.
About 140 police officers were injured during the most violent assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812. Seven people died in connection with the siege, including one officer who had multiple strokes after sparring with rioters.
A New York appellate court suspended Rudolph W. Giuliani’s law license on Thursday after a disciplinary panel found that he made “demonstrably false and misleading” statements about the 2020 election as Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer.
The court wrote in a 33-page decision that Mr. Giuliani’s conduct threatened “the public interest and warrants interim suspension from the practice of law.”
Mr. Giuliani helped lead Mr. Trump’s legal challenge to the election results, arguing without merit that the vote had been rife with fraud and that voting machines had been rigged.
“We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at re-election in 2020,” the decision read.
Mr. Giuliani now faces disciplinary proceedings and can fight the suspension. But the court said in its decision that Mr. Giuliani’s actions had posed “an immediate threat” to the public and that it was likely he would face “permanent sanctions” after the proceedings conclude.
Mr. Giuliani’s lawyers, John Leventhal and Barry Kamins, said in a statement that they were disappointed that the panel took action before holding a hearing on the allegations.
“This is unprecedented as we believe that our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest,” they said. “We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing, Mr. Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years.”
Two top aides who oversee travel for Vice President Kamala Harris are departing, leaving the vice president with her critical support staff in flux as she seeks to ramp up travel ahead of big vaccine and voting rights pushes she is planning through July.
Karly Satkowiak, the director of advance, and Gabrielle DeFranceschi, the deputy director of advance, have both told the vice president’s office they plan to leave in the coming weeks, according to three sources familiar with their plans. A spokeswoman for Ms. Harris said the departures were long planned and that both women are currently engaged with finding their replacements.
Advance workers are an integral part of the vice president’s team, responsible for planning all of her trips. Ms. Satkowiak and Ms. DeFranceschi put together the teams that survey venues for Ms. Harris to visit, and negotiate with local officials to get the venues camera-ready.
The departures come as the administration has put out a broad call for “advance associates” to help Ms. Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, with a big push of vaccine-related travel in the summer months. The vice president’s office, according to a person familiar with its hiring, is currently short on travel support staff, and the call for advance associates came as the administration has also been planning Ms. Harris’s high-stakes trip to the southern border. That trip was announced Wednesday amid mounting pressure from conservatives and is scheduled days before former President Donald J. Trump also plans to visit the border with a group of House Republicans and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.
The Biden administration is trying to recruit advance associates — an unpaid position where travel expenses are paid for or reimbursed by the government — to help staff and manage the travel of Ms. Harris and her husband. They also asked anyone who previously served as an advance associate to “consider doing so again.”
“We aim to onboard a critical mass of talented logistical experts,” the administration said in an email sent widely to current and former Democratic employees.
Unlike President Biden, who has been surrounded by the same top aides for the majority of his political career, Ms. Harris entered the administration with many new employees. Many of those officials came in with an understanding that they would stay only on a short-term basis.
The Biden administration is preparing to relocate thousands of Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who worked with American forces to other countries in an effort to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, senior administration officials said.
With the American military in the final phases of withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, the White House has come under heavy pressure from lawmakers and military officials to protect Afghan allies from revenge attacks by the Taliban and speed up the lengthy and complex process of providing them special immigrant visas.
On Wednesday, administration officials started notifying lawmakers that they will soon begin what could be a wholesale move of tens of thousands of Afghans. Officials said the Afghans would be moved out of Afghanistan to third countries to await the processing of their visa requests to move to the United States.
More than 18,000 Afghans who have worked as interpreters, drivers, engineers, security guards, fixers and embassy clerks for the United States during the war have been trapped in a bureaucratic limbo after applying for special immigrant visas, available to people who face threats because of work for the U.S. government. Those applicants have 53,000 family members, officials said.
The officials declined to say where the Afghans would await the visa processing, and it is not clear whether third countries have agreed to take them. The opportunity to move will be given to people who have already begun the application process.
A senior administration official said that under the plan, transportation out of Afghanistan will not come with any assurance that a visa to the United States will be granted. It was unclear whether people who somehow do not qualify would be sent back to Afghanistan or left in a third country.
The officials spoke on grounds of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the decision.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday approved a one-month extension of the national moratorium on evictions, scheduled to expire on June 30, as officials emphasized this will be the final time they will push back the deadline.
The moratorium, instituted by the agency last September to prevent a wave of evictions spurred by the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus pandemic and extended earlier this year, has significantly limited the economic damage to renters and sharply reduced eviction filings.
On Thursday, the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, signed the extension, which goes through July 31, after a week of internal debate at the White House over the issue.
Local officials and tenants rights groups have warned that phasing out the freeze could touch off a new, if somewhat less severe, eviction crisis than the country faced last year during the height of the pandemic.
White House officials agreed and pressed reluctant C.D.C. officials to extend the moratorium, which they see as needed to buy them more time to distribute $ 21.5 billion in emergency federal housing aid funded by a pandemic relief bill passed this spring.
Administration officials, speaking on a conference call with reporters on Thursday, unveiled a range of other actions intended to blunt the impact of lifting the moratorium and the lapsing of similar state and local measures.
Among the most significant is a new push by the Justice Department, led by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, to coax local housing court judges to slow the pace of evictions by forcing landlords to accept federal money intended to pay back rent.
In a letter to state court officials, Ms. Gupta urged judges to adopt a general order requiring all landlords to prove they have applied for federal aid before signing off on evictions, while offering federal funding for eviction diversion programs intended to resolve landlord-tenant disputes.
Other initiatives include a summit on housing affordability and evictions, to be held at the White House later this month; stepped-up coordination with local officials and legal aid organizations to minimize evictions after July 31; and new guidance from the Treasury Department meant to streamline the sluggish disbursement of the $ 21.5 billion in emergency aid included in the pandemic relief bill in the spring.
White House officials, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said recently that the one-month extension, while influenced by concerns over a new wave of evictions, was prompted by the lag in vaccination rates in low-income communities.
Ms. Walensky was initially reluctant to sign the extension, according to a senior administration official involved in the negotiations. She eventually concluded, the official said, a flood of new evictions could lead to greater spread of the virus by displaced tenants.
Forty-four House Democrats wrote to Ms. Walensky, on Tuesday, urging them to put off allowing evictions to resume. “By extending the moratorium and incorporating these critical improvements to protect vulnerable renters, we can work to curtail the eviction crisis disproportionately impacting our communities of color,” the lawmakers wrote.
Groups representing private landlords maintain that the health crisis that justified the freeze has ended and that continuing the freeze even for an extra four weeks would be an unwarranted government intrusion in the housing market.
“The mounting housing affordability crisis is quickly becoming a housing affordability disaster fueled by flawed eviction moratoriums, which leave renters with insurmountable debt and housing providers holding the bag,” said Bob Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association, a trade group representing owners of large residential buildings.
Eager for more Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, President Biden spoke at a vaccine canvassing event in North Carolina on Thursday afternoon, while the first lady, Jill Biden, traveled to Florida to visit two vaccination sites, joined by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
The trips were part of a heightened “ground game” strategy that health officials hope will persuade those who have not yet gotten shots to do so.
Mass vaccination sites across the country have shuttered as the initial crowds eager to get vaccinated have receded, and the White House publicly acknowledged this week that the president did not expect to meet his self-imposed goal of 70 percent of adults partly vaccinated by July 4.
“The data couldn’t be clearer, if you’re vaccinated you’re safe,” Mr. Biden said. “But you’re still at risk of getting seriously sick or dying if you’re not vaccinated.” He then warned of the rising danger of the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India.
In early April, Delta represented just 0.1 percent of cases in the United States, according to the C.D.C. By early May, the variant accounted for 1.3 percent of cases, and by early June, that figure had jumped to 9.5 percent. As of a few days ago, the estimate hit 20.6 percent, Dr. Fauci said at a news briefing Tuesday.
“The best way to protect yourself against this virus and these variants is to be fully vaccinated,” Mr. Biden said. Experts say the Delta variant is unlikely to pose much risk to people who have been fully vaccinated.
The White House has sent key members of the administration crisscrossing the country in the final weekend of a monthlong push to help drum up local support. Vice President Kamala Harris met virtually on Thursday with community groups working to persuade people to be inoculated. At a vaccination event in Kissimmee, Fla., on Thursday, Mrs. Biden held the hand of a woman getting her vaccine before encouraging others to follow suit.
“I’m a teacher and everything I do is evidence based,” she said. “But if you still have questions, and you may, that’s OK,” and suggested contacting a doctor.
The highly targeted push is akin to a get-out-the-vote effort with volunteers knocking on doors. It comes as the administration confronts a hard road ahead, where the unvaccinated are far more difficult to reach and potentially unwilling to change their minds.
How successful such appearances will be remains an open question. Dr. Fauci and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington went door-knocking last weekend in the nation’s capital, but they were still met with refusals from some residents.
On Thursday afternoon, as Dr. Biden arrived in Kissimmee, Fla., at the Osceola Community Health Services for a drive-through vaccination event, her motorcade passed by a protester who held up anti-vaccination signs at the entrance. Inside, a line of cars crawled through the parking lot to the mobile clinic, where the first lady and Dr. Fauci greeted health care workers and those who were waiting for shots.
“See how easy that was?” Dr. Biden said after a driver received a jab and vaccine card.
Lazaro Gamio contributed reporting.
The Biden administration has defended a contentious pipeline project that would carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil through Minnesota’s delicate watersheds, urging in a court brief that a challenge brought by local tribes and environmental groups be thrown out.
The closely watched filing in federal court was the latest in a series of actions taken by the administration to back Trump-era approvals of oil and gas infrastructure, despite President Biden’s pledge to aggressively cut emissions from fossil fuels, a major driver of climate change. The pipeline, which is known as Line 3 and is being built by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy, has been the focus of mass protests in recent weeks.
Mr. Biden could still decide to withdraw the federal permits that the pipeline depends upon for construction to proceed. But for now, the administration is defending a decision by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to issue those permits. That decision was made in the closing days of the Trump Administration.
The clash between Mr. Biden’s pledges on climate change and his recent decisions has disappointed those who had hoped that the United States would finally start taking aggressive steps to ward off the worst effects of global warming. It also illustrates the difficulties of weaning the country off the oil and gas that has long powered its economy.
Indigenous groups have also been trying to flex newfound political clout. Native Americans, like the secretary of the interior, Deb Haaland, now hold important positions within the Biden administration and have said they intend to hold Mr. Biden to his campaign promises on racial equity, particularly for tribal communities.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Biden Administration continues the Trump Administration’s policy of ignoring tribal rights, environmental justice, and climate concerns in favor of fossil fuel industry profits,” Moneen Nasmith of the environmental legal organization Earthjustice, one of the lawyers on the case, said in an email.
The Enbridge project, which received its final approvals under President Donald J. Trump, is a 340-mile rerouting in a wider pipeline network. Once completed, it would carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta across northern Minnesota and into Wisconsin to the tip of Lake Superior.
It would replace an older crude oil pipeline, built in the 1960s, that has had problems with corrosion, leaks and spills, forcing Enbridge in 2008 to reduce its capacity by half. In 2015, Enbridge cited corroding pipes and future oil demand to say it would reroute Line 3, a move that would allow it to restore its original capacity.
A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked the Biden administration from making loan forgiveness payments to minority farmers as part of a $ 4 billion program intended to address a long history of racial injustice in American farming.
The judge, Marcia Morales Howard of U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, in Jacksonville, found that Scott Wynn, a white farmer in Jennings, Fla., who had challenged the program in a lawsuit in May, was likely to succeed on his claim that the program violates his right to equal protection under the law.
Known as Section 1005, the program was created as part of the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed in March. It was intended to provide debt relief to “socially disadvantaged farmers” — defined by the government as those who are Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander.
“Section 1005’s rigid, categorical, race-based qualification for relief is the antithesis of flexibility,” Judge Howard, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, wrote. “The debt relief provision applies strictly on racial grounds irrespective of any other factor.”
In defending the program, the Biden administration had said that the government had a compelling interest in remedying a well-documented history of discrimination against minority farmers in Department of Agriculture loan and other programs and in preventing public funds from being allocated in a way that perpetuates the effects of discrimination.
Nonwhite farmers have long endured discrimination, from violence and land theft in the Jim Crow South to banks and federal farm offices that refused them loans or government benefits that went to white farmers.
“It is undeniable — and notably uncontested by the parties — that U.S.D.A. had a dark history of past discrimination against minority farmers,” Judge Howard wrote.
But she agreed with Mr. Wynn who, echoing the sentiments of other white farmers, had argued that the program discriminated against white farmers and ranchers because of their race.
“Socially disadvantaged farmers” may qualify for 120 percent debt relief under the program, regardless of the size of their farms and even if they are “having the most profitable year ever and not remotely in danger of foreclosure,” Judge Howard wrote.
She ordered Mr. Wynn and the Agriculture Department to submit by June 29 an expedited schedule to resolve the case. She also said that the Biden administration could continue to prepare to provide relief under the program “in the event it is ultimately found to be constitutionally permissible.”
The Agriculture Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night.
John Boyd Jr., the president of the National Black Farmers Association, expressed disappointment that the payments had not been made before the ruling was issued.
Congressional Democrats, searching for any way forward on legislation to protect voting rights, find themselves softening their once-firm opposition to a form of restriction on the franchise that they had long warned would be Exhibit A for voter suppression: voter identification laws.
Any path to passing the far-reaching Democratic elections legislation that Republicans blocked with a filibuster on Tuesday will almost certainly have to include a compromise on the bill’s near-blanket ban on state laws that require voters to present photo identification before they can cast a ballot.
Such laws were first cropping up decades ago, and Democrats fought them tooth and nail, insisting that they would be an impossible barrier to scale for the nation’s most vulnerable voters, especially older people and people of color.
But in recent years, the concept of voter identification has become broadly popular. The idea that voters bring some form of ID to the polls has been accepted by Democrats ranging from Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia on the center-right to Stacey Abrams of Georgia, a hero of the left.
“As I have always said, a person should have to confirm that they are who they are in order to vote,” Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia and a key ally of Ms. Abrams, said in an interview. “What I get concerned about is when you say gun licenses are OK, when a student ID is not. Then I think any reasonable person has to ask, ‘Well, what’s that game?’”
Compared with newer state laws that restrict early voting and mail-in voting, limit ballot drop boxes and allow partisan elected officials to take on a greater role overseeing elections, voter identification suddenly seems like an expendable bargaining chip for some Democrats.
“I have been fighting voter ID since 1990 when I was in the State Legislature,” said Representative Gwen Moore, a Black Democrat from Wisconsin, where Republicans adopted an ID law a decade ago that Democrats said would devastate universal access to the ballot box.
“I don’t know that it’s less important,” Ms. Moore said, “but given the gravity of all the other things that they want to do, like shutting down polling sites, in the hierarchy of needs, I really believe we give them their old No. 1 thing.”
For Democrats, the only way to break their voting rights legislation free of Republican opposition is by changing the Senate’s filibuster rules — an institution-shaking step that so far remains out of reach. But while the filibuster is proving hard to kill, it has been wounded.
The unanimous Republican refusal to allow the Senate to open a debate sought by every Democrat on the expansive elections and ethics measure — coupled with the recent filibuster of other legislation with bipartisan support — has armed opponents with fresh evidence of how the tactic can be employed to give the minority veto power over the majority.
Democrats and activists say the increasing Republican reliance on the filibuster will only intensify calls to jettison it and potentially bring about critical mass for a rules change as Democrats remain determined to pass some form of the elections measure and other parts of their agenda opposed by Republicans.
The White House, which has been criticized for not engaging aggressively enough on voting rights, is promising more from President Biden on the issue next week, though Mr. Biden, a senator for 36 years, has not explicitly endorsed eliminating the filibuster.
But to curb the power of the filibuster through a rules change, all 50 Democrats would have to agree to do so on the floor, and so far Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have expressed strong public opposition to doing that. Ms. Sinema’s latest pronouncement came in a Washington Post op-ed published just before this week’s procedural vote, much to the frustration of some of her colleagues.
Other Democrats also remain reluctant to make significant changes to the filibuster, though they are much less outspoken than their two colleagues. One of them, Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who votes with Democrats and has previously voiced openness to changing the filibuster rule, said Wednesday that doing so still felt premature.
“I don’t think we are done trying to find a solution,” Mr. King said, referring to long-shot attempts to lure Republicans to support a compromise on voting legislation. “We need to give them another chance to see how they feel about democracy.”
A self-described democratic socialist, India B. Walton, 38, has never held political office. She was challenging Mayor Byron Brown, 62, who was seeking a fifth term, had served as chair of the state Democratic Party and once was mentioned as a candidate for lieutenant governor.
Few people thought Ms. Walton could win, and her opponent mostly tried to ignore her campaign. But on Tuesday, she defeated Mr. Brown in the city’s Democratic primary, making it almost certain that she will become not only the first woman elected mayor in New York State’s second-largest city, but also the first socialist at the helm of a large American city in decades.
“I don’t think reality has completely sunk in yet,” said Ms. Walton, who is a registered nurse and community activist, in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I’m India from down the way, little poor Black girl who, statistically speaking, shouldn’t have amounted to much, yet here I am.”
Her upset on Wednesday shocked Buffalo and the nation’s Democratic establishment as most of the political world was more intensely focused on the initial results of the still-undecided mayoral primary in New York City. Ms. Walton’s win underscored the energy of the party’s left wing as yet another longtime incumbent in the state fell to a progressive challenger, echoing the congressional wins of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman.
While rare, socialist mayors are not unheard-of: Bernie Sanders took office in 1981 as mayor of Burlington, Vt., a city one-sixth the size of Buffalo, nearly a decade before being elected to Congress. But the last time a socialist was the mayor of a large American city was 1960, when Frank P. Zeidler stepped down as Milwaukee’s mayor.
Ms. Walton ran an unabashedly progressive campaign in a Democratic city of about 250,000 people — about 37 percent of them Black — that had elected mostly white men as mayors for nearly two centuries. (Mr. Brown became the city’s first Black mayor in 2006.) Her own life has been defined by hardship: a teenage single mother at the age of 14, a high school dropout, resident of a group home and a victim of domestic violence.
“This is proof that Black women and women belong everywhere in positions of power and positions of leadership,” Ms. Walton said, “and I’m just super-excited.”
Details on how to pay for the proposal remain elusive, though the group has identified funding mechanisms for legislation that could total more than $ 1 trillion when new spending is included with the current transportation baseline. The White House has rejected proposals to gradually increase the gas tax alongside inflation as well as charge fees for electric vehicles. And Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday questioned such heavy reliance on public-private partnerships.
Details have remained scant other than an early spending breakdown from last week, and there’s been no public disclosure of the still-evolving talks as everything remains in flux. President Joe Biden’s trip overseas last week was an additional complication. The group could make an announcement on more details this week.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who separately sought a deal with Biden, said on Monday that Biden’s increased engagement will be helpful “because he really wants the bipartisan deal.” But she also said the brushback from the White House to the bipartisan group’s proposed pay-fors “is the same pushback I got.”
“Pay-fors will be the big issue. As it was with me,” Capito said, noting the Senate is about to take a two-week recess. “We’re only here this week.”
Biden is expected to meet with negotiators this week, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
The spending breakdown was circulated among the negotiating senators to help set up congressional committees who would begin drafting legislation, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The source said the document on Monday is a “fair representation” of where things stand but the numbers are subject to change.
The group proposes spending $ 360 billion for roads, bridges and major projects; $ 48.5 billion for public transit; $ 66 billion for rail; $ 55 billion for water infrastructure; $ 65 billion for broadband and $ 73 billion for power infrastructure. In addition, the group is proposing spending $ 47.2 billion on climate resiliency, $ 25 billion for airports, $ 10 billion on electric buses and $ 16 billion for ports.
It also outlines bringing in pieces of a large Energy Committee bill that Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is working on to deal with abandoned mines, weatherization and power and climate related provisions.
Many of the top-line numbers include a more detailed breakdown of the proposed spending. For example, of the $ 360 billion for roads and bridges, $ 258 billion is for highways, $ 40 billion is for bridges and the rest is for transportation alternatives, federal lands and tribal infrastructure. Of that money, $ 110 billion represents new spending.
The group proposed spending about $ 830 billion, according to an outline obtained by POLITICO, which includes some current spending on highway programs. Altogether, the new spending is still set to total $ 579 billion and total spending is expected to clock in around $ 1 trillion or more, depending on the timeline of how the money is parceled out.
But not all of the spending figures are finalized, and some of those details may require more work among the group’s 21 supporters. Last week, the group swept up support of 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans, though many Democrats are hesitant to sign on without more certainty about how to fulfill the party’s other priorities.
Senators still need to refine how to pay for the bill. Republicans say any agreement must be fully paid for and not raise taxes. And negotiators now must replace the gas tax and electric vehicle fees they had previously discussed.
Complicating things further, liberals are also pushing for commitments from their party leaders to pass a more sweeping spending package dealing with Democratic priorities like climate change and paid leave alongside a bipartisan deal.
Manchin, who is part of the working group, has not signaled yet whether he would commit to a package that only has Democratic support and would potentially contain trillions of spending for Democrats’ domestic priorities. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has Democrats on a “two-track” system, playing out the bipartisan negotiations while also preparing a possible party-line fallback plan under budget reconciliation.
A pair of officials from Biden’s legislative affairs team reiterated the dual-track approach in a call with senior House Democratic aides on Monday, according to several people listening.
Shuwanza Goff and Louisa Terrell said they are looking at both a bipartisan bill and reconciliation option, while assuring Democratic staffers that the White House was committed to going big.
“We’re not going to waste our time,” Terrell said on the call.
WASHINGTON (KXAN/NBC) — A Texas Republican Senator is joining forces with a Connecticut Democrat to pass a bipartisan bill to strengthen background checks on firearms. The change is small but would end an unintended loophole that has led to mass shootings.
Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, have been quietly negotiating this bill, NBC News reported Wednesday, but the senators believe they could be on the verge of a compromise deal.
Democrats in the U.S. House passed a bill that would require background checks on almost all gun purchases, but that bill then stalled in the Senate.
This new bill from Cornyn and Murphy would clarify who exactly must register as a Federal Firearms Licensee and conduct FBI checks on people buying a gun. The current law’s ambiguity has allowed unlicensed sellers to “transfer weapons to dangerous people who skirt the background system,” NBC reports.
“We need to clear that up,” Cornyn said. “That by definition will make more people get background checks because all Federal Firearms Licensees have to do background checks.
“What we’re trying to protect, or carve out, are the hobbyist and or casual transactions between friends and family members, but capture the people who literally are making a living and making a profit selling firearms, and give that to the U.S. attorneys to prosecute.”
Murphy has been one of the leading voices for gun control legislation on Capitol Hill ever since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in his state in 2012 killed 27 people, including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old.
Murphy says his partnership with Cornyn could encourage more support from reluctant Republicans to fix this loophole.
“It’s an opportunity for agreement,” Murphy said. “There is interest about reclassifying — about clarifying who is a dealer who isn’t. It’s very difficult to enforce, because the statute is ridiculously vague right now.”
NBC News says negotiations have been slow and quiet, but the two senators appear on the verge of a deal.
“Coming up with the exact language is a little bit of a challenge because you’re always going to find somebody who’s trying to parse those words,” Cornyn said. “But I think we can.”
Author: Wes Wilson
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin
“We would like bipartisanship, but I don’t think we have a seriousness on the part of the Republican leadership to address the major crises facing this country,” Mr. Sanders said. “If they’re not coming forward, we’ve got to go forward alone.”
Negotiations have also stalled on policing reform, with three lawmakers still unable to reach an agreement on how or whether to alter the legal liability shield for individual police officers — known as qualified immunity — to make it easier to bring civil lawsuits against them for wrongdoing. Disagreement over whether to change that doctrine had doomed attempts to pass policing legislation last summer, amid a national outcry for reform.
Mr. Biden had hoped lawmakers would broker a deal before May 25, the anniversary of the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer. But a breakthrough has remained elusive despite continued, closed-door negotiations between Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California, and Senators Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, and Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina.
“We want to eliminate qualified immunity, and that is where we’re starting,” Mr. Booker said in an interview broadcast on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Clearly, you’ve heard very publicly the red lines on the other side. And again, this is one of the big issues that we’re working very hard to see if we can bridge this wide gulf.”
Prospects to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol assault also dimmed last week, as Republican leaders dug in against the commission in an attempt to doom its prospects in the Senate even though one of their own House members negotiated its details with Democrats.
Several rank-and-file Republican senators who had publicly mulled backing the commission quickly fell in line, adopting the argument that the proposal was not truly bipartisan and that the investigation would take too long, underscoring a difficult path for Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold required for passage of the bill in the evenly divided Senate.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bill to increase the fees that companies planning the biggest mergers pay to government antitrust agencies and to give those agencies bigger budgets passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday on a voice vote.
The bill – co-sponsored by Amy Klobuchar, the top antitrust senator, and Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee – would lower the fee for smaller mergers under $ 161.5 million from $ 45,000 to $ 30,000. But for deals worth $ 5 billion or more, the fee would rise from $ 280,000 to $ 2.25 million.
Under the bill, those costs would increase with inflation.
The Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department’s Antitrust Division assess mergers to ensure that they comply with antitrust law.
The bill would increase authorizations to each, giving the FTC a budget of $ 418 million while the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division would receive $ 252 million.
In brief remarks before the vote, Klobuchar said the fees had not changed since 2001, and that the Justice Department sued Alphabet (NASDAQ:)’s Google last year while the FTC filed a major antitrust lawsuit against Facebook (NASDAQ:).
“You just cannot take on the biggest companies in the world with duct tape and Band-Aids,” she said.
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, said in comments during a discussion of the bill that he was “quite disappointed by the lax antitrust enforcement we saw in the previous administration.”
He said that he hoped that the FTC and Justice Department would be tougher. “Democrats have historically been more vigorous on antitrust than Republicans, and so perhaps that instinct, which at times can be harmful, will be positively directed towards the monopolists we have in Silicon Valley.”
The Senate overwhelmingly authorized $ 35 billion to improve the nation’s water infrastructure, offering a show of bipartisan support for a sliver of infrastructure legislation even as lawmakers remained divided over the scope of President Biden’s $ 4 trillion economic agenda.
The sweeping bipartisan vote on an 89 to 2 margin belied the broader divisions over the scope and cost of Mr. Biden’s ambitions to overhaul the nation’s aging public works system. But lawmakers in both parties insisted it was a sign, however small, of the potential for bipartisan cooperation on infrastructure.
The legislation, helmed by senators on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, would boost existing programs intended to improve water quality with the authorization of $ 35 billion in funds, with about 40 percent set aside in grant funding for small, rural and tribal communities that historically have struggled with inferior systems and poor water quality.
Mr. Biden’s $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which is paired with a $ 1.8 trillion plan intended to address child care, access to education and improving equity, also provides billions in new spending to address water quality across the country. But with Republicans questioning the scale of the plan, lawmakers have vowed to attempt to find bipartisan compromise on individual provisions.
“The bottom line is very simple: We are moving forward, wherever we can, in a bipartisan way,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader. “So let it be a signal to our Republican colleagues that Senate Democrats want to work together on infrastructure, when and where we can.”
The White House earlier this week issued a statement of support for the legislation, calling it “a good start to the much-needed funding required to provide communities with the water quality they deserve.”
“This legislation aligns with the administration’s goals to upgrade and modernize aging infrastructure, improve the health of children and small and disadvantaged communities, develop new technologies, and help address cybersecurity threats and mitigate dangers from climate change,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy.