The Hill's Morning Report - GOP pounces on Biden's infrastructure plan

 

 

 

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 549,335; Tuesday, 550,036; Wednesday, 550,996; Thursday, 552,072.



President Biden asked Congress on Wednesday to pass a jobs plan that would borrow from FDR’s New Deal, former President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system and former President Kennedy’s ambitious commitment to put a man on the moon.

 

The challenges, however, are that Biden is not governing a nation during a world war or calling for a web of asphalt so families can evacuate after a nuclear bomb, and Americans are not jockeying with the Kremlin in a race to the moon. Billionaires Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskAs inflation and government debt surge, Washington is ignoring our most critical economic crisis Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks Musk says Tesla likely to accept bitcoin again MORE and Richard Branson nudged their way into rockets and starships, and unmanned robotics are busy exploring the red dust on Mars.

 

America’s “war,” Biden has said for 12 months, is aimed at COVID-19. The moon shot he pursued for years as vice president was focused on curing cancer. This week, however, Biden turned infrastructure into a battle cry for a government-led national reboot — a “once-in-a-generation investment in America” — to be augmented next month with a focus on increasing the social safety net, which he calls the American Families Plan.

 

In 2017, former President TrumpDonald TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE sought a $1 trillion public-private investment in infrastructure, which attracted conceptual support in both parties. Two years later, after a White House meeting with Democratic leaders, Trump embraced a $2 trillion plan until regional debates in Congress and clashes over how to pay for it put the brakes on the proposal.   

 

Biden said his new jobs and economic ideas, with a price tag of more than $2 trillion, would fight unemployment, poverty, inequity and greenhouse gases, repair roads and build safer bridges, treat broadband like a nationally critical utility and expand affordable housing for families and the elderly.

 

We can’t delay another minute,” the president said. “It’s long past due.”

 

The Associated Press analysis: Bumpy road ahead for Biden’s infrastructure plan.

 

House Democrats say their time frame to move legislation through Congress is July 4 (The New York Times). Estimates of the number of jobs the plan would help create are gauzy; Biden spoke of “millions” of jobs and also said in Pittsburgh, “My American Jobs Plan will put hundreds of thousands of people to work.”

 

Higher corporate taxes levied over 15 years could offset the costs of the mammoth eight-year spending spree, according to the administration. Republicans in Congress and business representatives immediately said they oppose hiking taxes, although support for investments in traditional infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, airports and ports, is bipartisan.

 

The Hill: Biden clashes with business groups over tax hikes. 

 

The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant reports that the president and his allies on Capitol Hill may ultimately try to pass a measure with a simple majority by using the budget tool known as reconciliation to get around the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. To do that, Democrats need to reach consensus among themselves, a tall order.

 

The Hill: Five takeaways from Biden’s plan.

 

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that the president’s proposal on Wednesday fell short of what progressives were expecting and tees up a battle with liberal lawmakers, such as Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan To break the corporate tax logjam, tax overinflated CEO pay MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate confirms Biden's Air Force secretary Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Will Pence primary Trump — and win? MORE (D-Mass.), over the plan’s size and scope. Some House Democrats, particularly Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa JD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary MORE (D-N.Y.),, complain the White House plan is “not nearly enough.”  

 

Ahead of next year’s midterm elections, Republicans are already tuning up to turn tax hikes, big government, climate change and rising deficits into campaign attack ads against the majority party.

 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios House rejects GOP effort to seat McCarthy's picks for Jan. 6 panel Senators scramble to save infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.) (pictured below) warned on Wednesday that Biden’s infrastructure plan is “a Trojan horse” hiding “more borrowed money and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy.” He indicated he is unlikely to support it. McConnell, who knows Biden well from their decades of work in the Senate, said the president called him on Tuesday to discuss the plan (The Hill).  

 

The Hill: Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators scramble to save infrastructure deal On The Money: Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds | Trump tells Republicans to walk away | GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Schumer urges GOP to ignore Trump: He's 'rooting for failure' MORE (R-Ohio), a key moderate who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, described the president’s American Jobs Plan as the “wrong approach” in a statement on Wednesday, pointing to its high price tag and the administration’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent and end various business tax breaks to pay for the cost of the package over decade and a half.

 

The White House approach to U.S. recovery places a big bet on the ability of the federal government to drive sustained economic growth at a time when confidence in institutions is falling. It will almost assuredly open Biden up to attacks from Republicans that he’s undermining traditional American capitalism and implementing a socialist agenda (The Hill). 

 

The Hill: Five things to watch in Congress: Can Biden satisfy Democrats of all stripes? Can he attract any Republican support? Will the Senate parliamentarian give Democrats the green light to move initiatives using a second and possibly a third bite at reconciliation? 

 

The Associated Press: Biden today holds his first Cabinet meeting, with deliberate attention to timing.

 

 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

 



LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: More good news emerged on the vaccine front on Wednesday as Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a trial of children aged 12 to 15 shows that their shot is 100 percent effective at protecting against COVID-19.

 

The companies said in a statement that the jab was effective and produced a robust antibody response in a clinical trial of 2,260 children. Of the group, 18 COVID-19 infections were detected, though all of them were in the placebo group. There were no cases among those who received the vaccine. 

 

The vaccine producers added that they will submit their data to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization as soon as possible, with the goal to ensure that students in the age group can get back into the classroom by the fall. 

 

“We share the urgency to expand the authorization of our vaccine to use in younger populations and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “We plan to submit these data to FDA as a proposed amendment to our Emergency Use Authorization in the coming weeks and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year.”

 

The New York Times: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is said to be powerfully protective in adolescents.

 

 

A teen receives a COVID-19 vaccine

 

 

The upbeat vaccine news, however, was not universal, as a shipment batch of roughly 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was halted following an error at a Baltimore plant run by Emergent Biosolutions mixed up ingredients and ruined the doses (The New York Times).

 

As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan writes, the error does not affect doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that have already been distributed. Those shipments were made in the Netherlands. The development will slow the U.S.’s ability to ramp up vaccinations as the Johnson & Johnson shot — one of three being used in the U.S. — was key to that goal. 

 

The Associated Press: Company at heart of Johnson & Johnson vaccine woes has series of citations.

 

Politico: The White House knew more than a week ago of the Johnson & Johnson contractor vaccine-supply problems. The company should still be able to deliver the doses it promised under its contract with the federal government by the end of April, according to one administration official.

 

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: COVID-19 has been more deadly in Florida than reported, according to a study.

 

The Hill: U.S. death rate jumps by nearly 16 percent.

 

The Hill: Wisconsin Supreme Court rules governor exceeded authority with mask mandate, emergency orders.

 

> Business: The president on Wednesday criticized the Texas Rangers decision to allow a capacity crowd (40,300 fans) on Monday, bashing it as irresponsible.

 

"Well, that's a decision they made. I think it's a mistake," Biden told ESPN’s Sage Steele in an interview. "They should listen to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, the scientists and the experts. But I think it's not responsible." 

 

The largest crowd being allowed outside of Arlington, Texas is by the Houston Astros, which is allowing 50 percent capacity at Minute Maid Park (ESPN).

 

Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines revealed on Wednesday that it plans to begin selling middle seats on its aircrafts, becoming the last U.S. airline to end a practice that had been shuttered for much of the past year due to the pandemic. 

 

The new policy is effective on May 1. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said that 65 percent of customers who flew Delta in 2019 indicated that they expect to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by that date. 

 

Bastian added that the vaccine figures give “us the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft, while also introducing new services, products and rewards to support the journey” (CNBC).

 

The Associated Press: France to close schools, ban domestic travel as virus surges.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

MORE ADMINISTRATION: Biden won’t throw out the first pitch on baseball’s opening day today, the White House announced on Tuesday (NBC News), but the president said that he would support moving Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta this summer due to the state’s new election law.

 

“I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly,” Biden told ESPN. “I would strongly support them doing that. People look to them, they’re leaders” (Mediaite). 

 

The president also dubbed the laws passed in Georgia and other states as “Jim Crow on steroids.” 

 

“This is all about keeping working folks and ordinary folks that I grew up with from being able to vote,” he said. 

 

> Pentagon: The Defense Department on Wednesday announced it is scrapping restrictions on transgender troops that were imposed by the Trump administration, and will provide further protections and access to medical treatment for those service members. The Defense Department’s new policy will offer access to medical treatments for gender transition, permit troops to serve openly under their self-identified gender and prohibit discrimination (NBC News).

 

> Immigration: In a win for the U.S. tech industry and India’s IT services, the president allowed a pandemic-related ban on visas for certain temporary workers, enacted by former President Trump, to expire on Wednesday. The moratorium, which affected H-1B visas used by technology companies to hire foreign coders and engineers, was imposed in June (Bloomberg News). 

 

> Cyber security: A draft Biden executive order would require federal contractors to report cyber hacks within days (Bloomberg News).

 

> Federal pay raise: The administration is expected to propose a 2.7 percent federal pay raise for civilian federal employees in 2022, according to a budget passback document Federal News Network reviewed and confirmed with sources.

 

******

 

POLITICS: Republicans pulled off a major win on Wednesday when Democrat Rita Hart withdrew her challenge of Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’s (R-Iowa) six-vote victory in the November election, ending any chance of overturning the contest. 

 

Hart had been contesting the race to the House Administration Committee, maintaining that 22 ballots that were not tallied should have been part of the overall count. A decision by the committee in Hart’s favor would have led to a vote on the House floor on whether to seat her despite the race being certified by the Iowa election board.

 

“After many conversations with people I trust about the future of this contest, I have made the decision to withdraw my contest before the House Committee on Administration,” Hart said in a statement. “Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans” (The Hill).

 

In a video posted to social media, Miller-Meeks noted that she received a “very gracious” call from Hart to inform her of the decision, 

 

“I’m deeply appreciative that we’re ending this now,” she said. “It’s time to move forward, to unite as one group of people supporting Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District and Iowa.” 

 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: The mystery of post-presidency Trump.

 

> Gaetzgate: In times of turmoil, people quickly find out who their real friends are. Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzTrump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Britney Spears's new attorney files motion to remove her dad as conservator GOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Fla.) is quickly finding out how few he has. 

 

Following a report that Gaetz is under investigation by the Department of Justice for allegations of sexual misconduct and interstate trafficking of a 17-year-old girl, few Republicans are coming to his defense, with most indicating that they wouldn’t miss him if he left the political scene, report The Hill’s Juliegrace Brufke and Mike Lillis.

 

“I don’t know anything about this situation other than to say he has certainly made enemies and painted a bull's-eye on his back,” said one Republican lawmaker on the condition of anonymity. “This appears to be a self-inflicted wound.”

 

Gaetz has vehemently denied he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old-girl. In a number of interviews, he said that his family is being targeted in an extortion scheme and that he is the focus of a smear campaign.

 

The Washington Post: Gaetz investigation complicated by overture to his father about ex-FBI agent who went missing.

 

Des Moines Register: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Rick Scott (R-Fla.) says he is “very optimistic” that Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week Grassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi considers adding GOP voices to Jan. 6 panel MORE (R-Iowa), 87, will run again in 2022. 



The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 



OPINION

Biden and his trillions: Trojan horse or supreme commander? by Gail Collins, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3wqZEHg 

 

I got the placebo in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial. Here’s my full journey, by Leana S. Wen, contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3dog1vp 

 

George Will’s 2021 opening day quiz by George F. Will, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3fIQgcb 



WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session. No votes are expected until April 13. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse rejects GOP effort to seat McCarthy's picks for Jan. 6 panel GOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE (D-Calif.) will hold her weekly press conference (virtually) at 2 p.m.

 

The Senate will hold a pro forma session 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. They will have lunch together. The president at 1:15 p.m., joined by Harris, will hold his first Cabinet meeting with a full complement of Senate-confirmed department and agency leaders.

 

The vice president’s schedule actually begins at 9:15 a.m. with stakeholders to discuss COVID-19 public education efforts via virtual hookup. At the end of her day, Harris and second gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffBiden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act JD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Bezos completes first all-civilian space trip, deboards in cowboy hat MORE will depart for Los Angeles at 5 p.m., where they will remain through Easter Sunday. 

 

The White House press briefing will take place at noon.

 

White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week White House looks to cool battle with Facebook Texas Democrats are fighting harder than Biden or congressional Democrats MORE will discuss news of the day at 9 a.m. with Politico Playbook author Ryan Lizza. Registration HERE.

 

WomenLift Health at noon ET hosts a virtual event focused on what it means to bring a gendered and intersectional lens to the pandemic response, featuring four female health experts who served on the COVID-19 advisory board during Biden’s transition. Information is HERE

 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube



ELSEWHERE

JUSTICE: Day Three of the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, featured new footage from inside Cup Foods, the convenience store at the center of the case. The witness, Christopher Martin, 19, the cashier at the store, lamented that if he hadn’t called the police on Floyd for using a counterfeit bill to purchase cigarettes, the situation could have been avoided.  Floyd was taken into custody outside the store. Later, the court heard the testimony of Charles McMillian, 61. McMillian was also a bystander to Floyd’s arrest and can be heard in footage telling Floyd that he “can’t win.” “The officer was, you know, trying to get him in the car and everything, talking to him, I was telling him … ‘Just comply. Get in the car because you can't win,’ something to that nature,” McMillian said. After the prosecution played footage of the situation, McMillian grew emotional, cried and was unable to utter words. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill subsequently called a 10-minute recess (The Hill). 

 

ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING: A child was among four people killed Wednesday in a shooting at a Southern California office building that left a fifth victim and the gunman critically wounded, police said. The violence in the city of Orange southeast of Los Angeles was the nation’s third mass shooting in just over two weeks (The Associated Press and Reuters). 

 

INTERNATIONAL: Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, said on Wednesday that he has started a prison hunger strike to protest the lack of treatment he has received for pain in his back and leg, which has led to his worsened condition. Navalny said in a statement that prison authorities have refused to allow his doctor to visit him in jail or give him the proper medicine. His ongoing back pain spread to his right leg after he dealt with numbness in the opposite leg. “What else could I do? I have declared a hunger strike demanding that they allow a visit by an invited doctor. So I’m lying here, hungry, but still with two legs” (The Associated Press).

 

MARIJUANA: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) asked the General Assembly to make it lawful for an adult in his state to possess up to one ounce of marijuana on July 1 instead of waiting until early 2024, which was the original timeline approved by state lawmakers last month (The Washington Post). … New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoScarborough pleads with Biden to mandate vaccines for teachers, health workers Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? NYC George Floyd statue to be relocated after vandalism MORE (D) signed legislation on Wednesday legalizing recreational marijuana. New York is the 15th state to make the move, positioning itself to quickly become one of the largest markets of legal cannabis in the nation (The New York Times).

 

 

A marijuana plant

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by news coverage about infrastructure, we’re eager for some smart guesses drawn from headlines featuring ports and a canal.

 

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

 

What is the correct name of the troubled cargo ship that blocked the Suez Canal for six days? 

  1. Ever Forward
  2. Ever Given
  3. Evergreen
  4. Evermore 

 

The corporation that owns the container vessel that ran aground in the Suez Canal is ______ ?

  1. Belgian
  2. American
  3. Japanese
  4. South African

 

What really caused the ship to get stuck in the canal, according to news accounts? 

  1. High winds and a sandstorm
  2. Failure to pay the canal toll
  3. Egyptian pilots and ship’s captain were texting while sailing
  4. Electrical blackout
  5. None of the above; April Fools’ Day!

 

Cargo ships are waiting in a hugely expensive bottleneck this week to enter which U.S. ports, according to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times? 

  1. Los Angeles and Long Beach (California)
  2. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)
  3. Anchorage and Valdez (Alaska) 
  4. New Orleans and Baton Rouge (Louisiana)

 



 

Egypt's Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie holds a press conference