The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden seeks expanded government, tax hikes
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 549,335; Tuesday, 550,036; Wednesday, 550,996.
The era of big government is not over.
President Biden in Pittsburgh today will lead his party into an uphill battle to enact between $3 trillion and $4 trillion, accompanied by tax hikes, to expand the government’s reach into bridges and broadband, energy and climate change, housing and health care, child benefits and education, and the nation’s economic inequities.
Biden redefines infrastructure to include people, reports The Associated Press. Here’s a breakdown of his proposed investments, including $100 billion to build high-speed broadband that provides 100 percent coverage for the country and $400 billion to expand long-term care services under Medicaid for America’s aging population (The Associated Press).
There is a reason some call the multi-phase plan, outlined in part during a speech today, Biden’s New Deal. The goals are growth and jobs at a time when political analysts insist the just-enacted $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law will look like a cakewalk compared with what Biden has in store from now through the summer. Economic analysts argue that U.S. growth already is on track to surge, thanks to the most recent stimulus (CNN).
Democrats’ proposed tax hikes to pay for deficit spending and expanded government will deepen clashes with Republicans, frame stark differences between the parties, erode consensus among centrist and progressive Democrats and pose serious challenges for the president’s party ahead of the 2022 midterms.
Politico: Biden will not call for a wealth tax as proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The White House is expected, instead, to turn to a variety of other revenue raisers, including a hike in the corporate rate, the ending of federal fossil fuel subsidies and a push to end offshore tax havens for corporations.
The Hill: The Business Roundtable will oppose raising the corporate tax rate to offset spending for infrastructure.
A group of House Democrats has already threatened to withhold support for the president’s plan because of opposition to the capping of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which was enacted in 2017. It’s a potential hurdle for Democrats, who hold an eight-seat House majority (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Biden’s $2.25 trillion plan for infrastructure, climate, jobs.
The Wall Street Journal: Behind Biden’s big plans is a belief that government can drive growth.
NPR: Underserved rural and urban areas loom large in Biden’s plan. And it would spend more on boosting the electric vehicle market than on highway and bridge repairs.
The Associated Press: Biden vowed to double offshore wind production by 2030 and the Interior and Energy departments are moving ahead.
The New York Times: Under Biden, Democrats are poised to raise taxes.
The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Jonathan Easley take a look at five things to watch as Biden shares the details of the proposal. Among them: the exact price tag and pay-fors, the priorities included in the package, and whether the president can get moderate Democrats on board.
With the administration plowing ahead on the next phase of the “Build Back Better” plan, there are competing tensions over his pledge to restore bipartisanship to governance and Democrats’ desire to swiftly enact bold changes.
The burgeoning plan in excess of $3 trillion is already setting off a fight with Republicans, fresh off of their unanimous opposition to the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, and it could get worse. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) team previewed plans earlier in the week to possibly pass an infrastructure bill by budget reconciliation and a simple 51-vote majority. It remains up in the air whether Biden is supportive of that idea.
The move would almost certainly poison the well with Republicans, especially as Democrats hope to move a bill to expand background checks, an issue that polls with broad public support, and on voting rights, which is likely dead-on-arrival with the Senate GOP (The Hill).
Amie Parnes, The Hill: Biden seeks to learn from Obama errors.
The Hill: Biden signals he won’t be thrown off course.
More in Major … Folks, he’s in the news again. Major Biden, the first family’s 3-year-old pup, was involved in another biting incident on Monday that involved a National Park Service employee on the South Lawn of the White House. Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for first lady Jill Biden, told CNN that Major is “still adjusting to his new surroundings,” adding that he “nipped someone on a walk.” The individual received medical attention and resumed work. The famous pooch just returned last week to the White House after he went back to Delaware and received training following a biting incident in early March.
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: As vaccinations ramp up across the country and reopenings motor ahead, focus has shifted toward the feasibility of vaccine passports and their potential requirement by businesses and local governments to take part in various activities, including attending sporting events and other gatherings.
In short, Republicans are having none of that.
A number of top GOP figures have come out in recent days to slam the possibility, citing health privacy and constitutionality, as the White House talks about working on an initiative pushed by the private sector to help businesses identify vaccinated individuals. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was first out of the gate on Monday to pan the idea. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) followed suit, lambasting the chatter as Democrats continue to oppose voter identification laws.
“Considering that Democrats want to require vaccine IDs for people to conduct their basic daily activities, they now have zero grounds to object to voter ID laws,” Scalise told Fox News. “If under Democrat logic, you should need an ID to enter even a grocery store, surely there wouldn’t be an objection to showing an ID to legally vote.”
While Republicans livid about the possibility of vaccine passports, the Biden administration is keeping the issue at arm’s length, as The Hill’s Rebecca Klar writes.
“The government is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport nor a place to hold the data of citizens,” White House COVID-19 response team adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters on Monday.
As the New York Post notes, New York launched the “Excelsior Pass” — an app that will allow customers entering large venues, including Madison Square Garden, to prove they have been vaccinated or received a negative COVID-19 test. The app is the first of its kind in the U.S.
The Washington Post: Everything travelers need to know about vaccine passports.
Alex Gangitano, The Hill: Business groups rethinking value of in-person lobbying.
The Wall Street Journal: COVID-19 vaccinations of pregnant mothers also protect newborns, studies suggest.
> COVID-19 wave: The U.S. is staring down a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases as variants take hold among younger Americans and experts plead for individuals to remain vigilant in the coming weeks and months to slow the virus’s spread.
As The Hill’s Reid Wilson writes, the U.S. has reported an average of 65,000 new cases in the last seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new average is up roughly 10,000 cases per day since the most recent low point two weeks ago, though it remains far behind what the U.S. experienced in January, when more than 200,000 cases per day was commonplace.
However, although millions are receiving vaccinations, progress toward herd immunity has not kept pace with the new spike, with cases on the rise in about half of the states, led by those in New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
The Washington Post: Second gentleman Doug Emhoff reiterates plea to stay vigilant against the virus.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Biden faces risks as COVID-19 cases rise.
The Associated Press: German leaders meet as some halt AstraZeneca for under-60s.
The Washington Post: The World Health Organization leaves unsettled a “lab leak” theory about how the pandemic began. No consensus has emerged about where COVID-19 originated, and there are far more scientists who think it developed naturally than who entertain the possibility that it came from a lab.
The Associated Press: Beyond the pandemic: London tourism braces for slow recovery.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION & POLITICS: Georgia is ground zero for a legislative and political battle over voting rights that will animate court challenges for years to come.
Civil rights groups have intensified a legal fight against the state’s new Republican-backed voting restrictions with a third federal lawsuit, while Atlanta-based corporations Delta Air Lines Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. continued on Tuesday to face boycott calls from activists who say the companies should do more to oppose the law signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who is in a tough contest next year for reelection (Reuters).
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed the latest lawsuit on behalf of several grassroots groups. They included the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes more than 500 churches in Georgia, and the historically Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta. The state already faces two other similar lawsuits brought by civil rights groups over the law.
At the federal level, the Department of Justice is reviewing Georgia’s voting law, but is leery of challenging such restrictions if there is a risk of losing ground. In a 2013 ruling, a 5-4 Supreme Court struck down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had effectively given the department veto power over proposed changes to voting rules in former Jim Crow states with a history of race-based disenfranchisement. During this term, justices also heard arguments in an Arizona-based election law dispute, which could result in the conservative court reducing the department’s influence over voting rights even further (The Hill).
Voting rights advocates are wary of another major rights case reaching the Supreme Court, wrote Ari Berman in his 2015 book, “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.”
Berman wrote that Chief Justice John Roberts, a longtime critic of the Voting Rights Act, remains in a decisive position. Roberts wrote for the majority: “Violations of Section 2 should not be made too easy to prove, since they provide a basis for the most intrusive interference imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes.”
Republicans are so eager to regain political dominance in Georgia, where Democrats narrowly triumphed with wins in the White House and two Senate seats, that they worry about the unpredictable influence of former President Trump in 2022 contests. The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports that some GOP political analysts see Trump as a potential negative in a blue state in which voters are mobilized by racial politics.
Racial diversity was a theme on Tuesday as Biden released his first slate of judicial nominees (The Associated Press). The president signaled his intent to counter his predecessor’s reliance on white men to fill openings on the federal bench, and to appoint judges who bring a broader range of background and life experience to the role. Several of Biden’s nominees served as public defenders. One is a former military prosecutor. Nine of the 11 are women.
Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to fill Attorney General Merrick Garland‘s open seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. If confirmed, Jackson would be one of only a handful of Black women on the nation’s appellate benches, likely cementing her place on any future short list for the Supreme Court (The Hill).
Garland on Tuesday ordered a 30-day review of ways the Justice Department can deploy its resources to combat hate crimes during a surge in incidents targeting Asian Americans (The Associated Press).
Efforts are underway to recruit more members of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to run for public office. Supporters of the efforts say the strategy will ultimately give members of those communities a platform to advocate for solutions. Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) created In Our Hands PAC, which will recruit and support Asian American and Pacific Islander candidates and candidates of color to run for office. Republicans also want to capitalize on the success the party had when multiple Asian American GOP women won competitive House races in California last year (The Hill).
The Republican-controlled Kentucky legislature this week overrode Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a bill that significantly changes the process for appointing lawmakers to vacant Senate seats. The legislation, backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), requires the governor of Kentucky to temporarily fill a vacant Senate seat with a successor of the same political party as the departing lawmaker (The Hill).
“I don’t think we’re going to have a vacancy,” said McConnell, 79. “I’m not going anywhere. I just got elected to a six-year term. And I’m still the leader of my party in the Senate, so this is a hypothetical.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), 38, has been under investigation by the Justice Department to determine whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to cross state lines and travel with him. The alleged encounters took place about two years ago. The department’s investigation began under former Attorney General William Barr (The New York Times). The congressman on Tuesday denied having a relationship with a teenager (The Hill).
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Where did the pandemic begin? China holds the key, by The New York Times editorial board. https://wapo.st/3udvtkV
The next Suez threat? A big hack, by Victoria Coates and Robert Greenway, opinion contributors, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3w7FUZ3
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets on Thursday at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session. No votes are expected until April 13. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will be in Davenport, Iowa, to offer political support to Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), who is defending a six-vote victory in November being challenged by House Democrats (The Hill).
The Senate will hold a pro forma session on Thursday at 10 a.m. and return for legislative business on April 12.
The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Biden will depart for Pittsburgh at 2 p.m. and deliver remarks about his Build Back Better plan at 4:20 p.m. He will return to Washington in the evening.
Harris at 1:30 p.m. at the White House will convene a roundtable discussion with faith leaders about their efforts to encourage people in their communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The first lady will travel to Delano, Calif., and participate in union events supportive of farm workers. She will be joined by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).
The White House’s COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.
➔ JUSTICE: Day Two of the Derek Chauvin murder trial was dominated by a handful of eyewitnesses who recounted wrenching details of George Floyd’s death and what they observed. As The Hill’s Marty Johnson writes, four of the witnesses who testified were kept off-camera because they were minors at the time of Floyd’s death. Two of the witnesses who testified were bystanders who captured the viral graphic footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes, which was played for jurors on Monday.
➔ CYBER: A hacking group associated with the Iranian government targeted senior medical researchers in the United States and Israel in recent months (The Hill). … Suspected Russian hackers stole thousands of State Department officials’ emails last year, according to two Congressional sources familiar with the intrusion. It is the second known Kremlin-backed breach directed at the department’s email server since 2015 (Politico).
➔ SPORTS: The NFL officially announced on Tuesday the installation of a 17-game season after the owners voted to confirm the first change to the league’s schedule since 1978. The league also released the Week 18 slate of games spawned by the new season length, which was expected after the most recent collective bargaining agreement the NFL Players Association narrowly passed in March, 2020. The season will start on Sept. 9, with the Super Bowl set to take place on Feb. 13, a week later than usual (ESPN). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also said on Tuesday that he expects stadiums to be at full capacity by the fall (ESPN).
And finally … Looking like a pointy, chrome “W,” Virgin Galactic rolled out its newest spaceship Tuesday as the company plans new test flights in the coming months at its headquarters in the New Mexico desert. It will likely be summer before the ship — designed and manufactured in California — undergoes glide flight testing at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, according to company officials. That will coincide with the final round of testing for a current generation of spacecraft, on which British billionaire and Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson hopes to ride to the fringes of space later this year (The Associated Press).
Meanwhile, a SpaceX Starship prototype failed to land safely on Tuesday in Texas after a test rocket launch. Parts of the spacecraft were found five miles away (Reuters).