The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate

 

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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning: 555,001.

 

As of this morning, 32 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 18.5 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.



Official Washington found consensus over the weekend: Labels and definitions, talking points, and decades of policy assumptions are complicated by President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes 8B defense policy bill House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE’s plan to rebuild America, whether it’s arguing over the meaning of “infrastructure,” a definition of bipartisanship or the economic perils of red ink.

 

A common vernacular, let alone legislative agreement, appears to be missing.

 

The Hill: Battle lines are drawn on Biden’s infrastructure plan.

 

Biden calls the $2.3 trillion plan he unveiled last week a “jobs plan.” White House economic adviser Brian DeeseBrian DeeseBiden says 'consumer spending has recovered' to pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Arbery case, Biden spending bill each test views of justice Democrats optimistic as social spending bill heads to Senate MORE on Sunday repeated that the president’s goal is sustained employment growth (The Hill).

 

Bipartisan, which used to describe lawmakers’ support across party lines for legislation, now means public support across party lines for major initiatives, according to the president’s reading of recent polling (The Hill).

 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHouse approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike McConnell faces GOP pushback on debt deal McConnell 'confident' 10 GOP senators will back debt deal MORE (Mo.), the No. 4 Republican in the Senate, who will retire after next year, used an appearance on “Fox News Sunday” to urge the White House to drop parts of the president’s plan he argued are not about infrastructure. “I think there’s an easy win for the White House,” Blunt said without defining what that would be.

 

The Hill: Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) assailed Biden’s infrastructure proposal on Sunday as a left-leaning incarnation of progressives’ Green New Deal.

 

Across the aisle, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill White House 'strongly opposes' Senate resolution to stop Saudi arms sale MORE (I-Vt.) disagreed with Blunt’s appraisal that Biden’s plan is too much, arguing the president’s ideas are too modest (The Hill).

 

It “depends on what you call infrastructure,” the senator said, noting a “crisis in human infrastructure.

 

“Roads and bridges and tunnels are infrastructure. But I think many of us see a crisis in human infrastructure. When a working-class family can't find good-quality, affordable childcare, that's human infrastructure,” Sanders continued. “I think now is the time to begin addressing our physical infrastructure and our human infrastructure, I want to see that happen as soon as possible,” he added.

 

Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden's proposals spark phase 2 of supply chain crisis Biden returns restores tradition, returning to Kennedy Center Honors The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown MORE, one of the president’s surrogates tasked with helping sell the plan this spring and summer, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the proposal, which Biden says would be offset by higher corporate taxes spread out over 15 years, would begin to trim federal deficits 16 years from now. That would be 2037.

 

Republican lawmakers oppose Biden’s plan to raise corporate taxes. The challenge for GOP lawmakers, however, is that they supported deficit spending when former Presidents George W. Bush and Trump were in the White House.

 

Fox News host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceMurthy calls for people to be 'more vigilant' on omicron, but not to panic Ernst on Russian buildup on Ukraine border: 'We must prepare for the worst' Fauci to appear on Fox Business Friday for rare interview on the network MORE on Sunday questioned Blunt about the GOP’s “credibility” on the national debt after the party approved tax cuts in 2017 that lowered the corporate rate. "I don't think anybody has a very good record," Blunt replied (The Hill).

 

More than three and a half years ago, Blunt joined his GOP colleagues and Trump in supporting the GOP’s new tax “reform” law: “There’s a chance here to make a generational change that will last, I would hope, at least a generation as the structure. We can do that by lowering corporate rates,” he said, as a way to bolster “international competition.”

 

Corporate rates are now back on the table as one avenue to provide a revenue stream for Democratic policies over at least eight years, offset in the budget over nearly twice as long, or 15 years, according to Biden’s plan.

 

Energy Secretary Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmEnergy Department to seek feedback on voluntary nuclear waste facilities The massive messaging miscues of all the president's men (and women) White House looks to rein in gas prices ahead of busy travel season MORE on Sunday said the administration is open to moving Democrats’ ideas through the 50-50 Senate with a simple-majority vote and a budget tool known as reconciliation. “As he has said, he was sent to the presidency to do a job for America, and if the vast majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, across the country support spending on our country and not allowing us to lose the race globally, then he's going to do that,” Granholm told CNN (The Hill). 

 

Reconciliation, to be successful among Democrats, requires the narrow majority to move in lockstep on a mammoth spending bill. That’s a tall order. Fallback ideas: Break the president’s plan into separate measures that might attract some GOP backers, or scrap the filibuster and live with the consequences.

 

Paul Kane, The Washington Post analysis: Even without the Senate filibuster, Democrats lack votes for ambitious parts of their agenda. The two most likely bills to get approved in a simple-majority Senate are the DREAM Act, which would grant permanent status to millions of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, and the John LewisJohn LewisDole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills With extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one MORE Voting Rights Act.

 

The Hill on the Sunday talk shows: Infrastructure in the spotlight. 

 

Niall Stanage, The Memo: Democrats for a generation have been wary of being labeled the “tax and spend” party — but that may be changing.

 

The Washington Post: How Biden tamed the left, at least for now.

 

 

U.S. Capitol

 



LEADING THE DAY

CORONAVIRUS: The U.S.’s vaccination effort hit a new high-water mark over the weekend as the country hits a crucial stretch of the pandemic.

 

On Friday and Saturday, the U.S. reported that it administered 4 million and 4.1 million shots, marking two of the highest vaccine-output days of the year. Adding to the good news, the seven-day rolling average hit 3.1 million on Saturday — the highest average since the vaccine effort was launched (Bloomberg News). 

 

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services removed British drugmaker AstraZeneca and put Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in charge of the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore after workers ruined 15 million doses of J&J’s shot by conflating ingredients. J&J said that it is “assuming full responsibility” of the Baltimore facility, reiterating that it will deliver 100 million doses to the government by the end of May.

 

The news is yet another blow to AstraZeneca in its vaccine rollout, having been hampered by concerns in Europe that it could cause blood clots and criticisms by U.S. health experts over incomplete data the company released about its jab’s efficacy (Reuters)

 

Agence France-Presse: Questions about AstraZeneca jab linger.

 

The Wall Street Journal: J&J COVID-19 vaccine emerges as preferred shot for homeless.

 

Axios: Vaccines may limit the damage from coronavirus variants.

 

> Messaging: The communications skills of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyFauci: Omicron appears to be less severe Officials seek to reassure public over omicron fears The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE (pictured below) are being put to the test as she juggles criticism about her mix of negative and optimistic public comments regarding a potential fourth wave of COVID-19 outbreaks in the United States (The Hill).

 

The message problems were also raised on Sunday as Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, acknowledged a messaging “problem” surrounding whether vaccinated individuals should travel and are safe from COVID-19.

 

“It’s not perfect. It’s not 100 percent [protection from COVID-19],” Osterholm said of the three COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. 

 

“We do have a problem right now from a public health standpoint nuancing that message,” he continued, adding that Americans should “avoid [travel] if it’s nonessential” even after being vaccinated (The Hill).

 

CBS News: National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins said in a commentary that he is a physician and a scientist and is helping message for the administration by discussing his Christian faith. He said the COVID-19 vaccine is “an answer to prayer.”

 

The Associated Press: The United Kingdom eyes testing out COVID-19 passports at mass gatherings.

 

CBS News: Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, says coronavirus infections among young people are fueling new COVID-19 hot spots, but he does not anticipate a true fourth wave of U.S. contagion.

 

The Washington Post: Are we entering a “fourth wave” of the pandemic? Experts disagree.

 

 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky

 

 

*****

 

CONGRESS: Blunt opined on Sunday that it would be a “mistake” to leave as a permanent feature the fencing around the U.S. Capitol following Friday’s attack on the complex that killed a Capitol Police officer. 

 

“I think it would be a mistake for fencing to be a permanent part of the Capitol,” Blunt told ABC’s “This Week.” “Fencing can create a false sense of security on a daily basis.”

 

The member of Senate GOP leadership argued that it would send the “wrong message” to leave it up. Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, fencing was erected around the entire complex, including the Senate and House office buildings. That fencing was eventually pared back and is up around only the Capitol itself (The Hill). 

 

> Immigration: How much can Congress do to help the ongoing situation at the U.S.-Mexico border? According to lawmakers, the answer is not much.

 

Members of Congress indicated to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton that their role is likely to be very limited in corralling the immigration issue, saying that the problem is one for the Biden administration to fix. 

 

“I don’t know you need legislation. I think what we need is to make sure we get the people and the technology down there to stop it,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance White House: Biden would veto GOP resolution to nix vaccine mandate Second Senate Democrat to back vote against Biden vaccine mandate MORE (D-Mont.) of what is needed to address the surge of migrants at the border, many of them unaccompanied children.

 

The Hill: Vice President Harris is in a difficult starring role on the border crisis.

 

The Hill: Gun control advocates applaud Biden funding plan but say more must be done.

 

A former staff member who worked for Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCrenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Press: GOP freak show: Who's in charge? McCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP MORE (R-Fla.) will be part of a press conference this morning in Florida, the congressman announced on Sunday. Gaetz is implicated in an ongoing Justice Department sex probe that launched under the Trump administration (NPR).

 

Politico: Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyJan. 6 panel threatens Meadows with contempt Meadows reverses, won't agree to Jan. 6 panel deposition We must learn from the Afghanistan experience — starting with the withdrawal MORE (R-Wyo.) snags victories ahead of her next battle with Trumpworld.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & ADMINISTRATION: The backlash among corporations and entities to the Georgia voting law is putting other states on notice as they consider passing similar legislation.

 

As The Hill’s Alex Gangitano writes, Texas, Florida and Arizona are among the GOP-led states considering bills, setting the stage for potential clashes with major companies headquartered there. The backlash to the 2016 North Carolina “bathroom bill” is serving as a prime example of what may lie ahead. 

 

In the Lone Star State, companies are already warning against an effort in the legislature that would limit early voting hours and broaden the authority of partisan poll watchers. American Airlines came out against the legislation, passed by the state Senate on Thursday. Dallas-based Southwest Airlines did not oppose the measure outright, but said in a statement that “the right to vote is foundational to our democracy.”

 

The highest-profile form of opposition to the Georgia law came on Friday as Major League Baseball announced that it will move its All-Star Game from Truist Park in suburban Atlanta to a new location. According to Cobb County, home of the Atlanta Braves, the decision will cost the county about $100 million in tourism (The Hill). 

 

The Washington Post Fact Checker: Biden falsely claimed the new Georgia law “ends voting hours early” (four Pinocchios).

 

NBC News: Corporate America is wading into the voting rights brawl. Here's why. 

 

Golf Week: Civil rights advocates called on the Professional Golf Association and the Masters in Augusta, Ga., to pull the event that begins on Thursday to protest Georgia’s voting rights law. 

 

 

A general view of The Battery Atlanta connected to Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Brave

 

 

> “Money bomb”: While facing a cash crunch last year, the Trump campaign and the for-profit company that processed its online donations, WinRed, in September began an intentional scheme to boost revenues using default automatic deductions from online donors, The New York Times reports. Many people of modest means whose accounts were depleted complained of fraud to banks and credit card companies. Returning what amounted to interest-free loans after the election, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared accounts issued more than 530,000 refunds worth $64.3 million to online donors. Consumer advocates say deploying the practice of recurring withdrawals on voters in the heat of a presidential campaign — at such volume and every week before Nov. 3 — had serious ramifications. “It’s unfair, it’s unethical and it’s inappropriate,” said Ira Rheingold, the executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

 

> Positioning for 2024: Republican senators who may seek the presidency in three years opposed many of Biden's Cabinet nominations. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyProvision requiring women to register for draft stripped from defense bill Bob Dole: heroic, prickly and effective To counter China, the Senate must confirm US ambassadors MORE of Missouri was the GOP senator who voted against more of the president's picks than any of his colleagues, according to data compiled by The Hill. Of the 21 nominees confirmed by the Senate since Jan. 20, Hawley opposed 19 and approved two: U.S. Trade Representative Katherine TaiKatherine TaiBiden trade strategy must unlock new access for US dairy With trade meeting on hold, the US needs to get serious about WTO reform The WTO Ministerial is a chance to advance global commerce for good MORE and economist Cecilia RouseCecilia RouseBlack Caucus pushes for priorities in final deal On The Money: Inflation spike puts Biden on defensive | Senate Democrats hit spending speed bumps | Larry Summers huddles with WH team Larry Summers, White House officials meet to discuss Biden agenda MORE, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. No senator voted against Tai, and just four voted not to confirm Rouse (The Hill).

 

Dan Balz: The next phase of Biden’s presidency will be harder and riskier. 



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

COVID-19 arsenal needs pills as well as shots, by Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan, opinion contributors, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2PpWDq1 

 

Vaccine passports and the tough questions we haven’t confronted, by Megan McArdle, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3uk9rNl 



WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at noon for a pro forma session. No votes are expected until April 13.

 

The Senate will hold a pro forma session at 2 p.m. and return for legislative business on April 12.

 

The president will return to the White House after the Easter weekend at 11:30 a.m. He will receive the President’s Daily Brief at noon. Biden will deliver remarks at 1 p.m. from the Blue Room balcony about the tradition of Easter accompanied by first lady Jill BidenJill BidenBidens visit WWII memorial to mark 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor attack China warns of 'firm countermeasures' if US stages diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics Biden returns restores tradition, returning to Kennedy Center Honors MORE

 

Vice President Harris will travel to Oakland, Calif., to tour a facility and promote the administration’s infrastructure plan. Harris will also hold a listening session with California leaders and a small business owner while in Oakland. She will return to Los Angeles and overnight there.

 

Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenDemocrats offer bill to raise debt ceiling, avoid filibuster Treasury rules would crack down on anonymous shell companies The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - New vaccine mandate in NYC; Biden-Putin showdown MORE at 11 a.m. will speak about the global economic recovery from the pandemic during an event hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

 

Second gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffChina warns of 'firm countermeasures' if US stages diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics Biden returns restores tradition, returning to Kennedy Center Honors The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE will be in Eugene, Ore., today and in Yakima, Wash., on Tuesday for official events.

 

The White House press briefing will take place at 1:30 p.m. The administration’s COVID-19 response team will brief reporters at 11 a.m.

 

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

COURTS: The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged in the death of George Floyd, continues at 10 a.m. Here’s what to know from the trial’s first week (The Hill). The trial is expected to turn to Chauvin’s police training, which his defense lawyers argue he followed when he held his knee to Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. The former officer, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter (The Associated Press). … Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez: 'Embarrassment' that Democratic leaders are delaying Boebert punishment White House 'strongly opposes' Senate resolution to stop Saudi arms sale Press: GOP freak show: Who's in charge? MORE (D-Minn.) told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the Minneapolis community is on “edge” as it awaits the trial’s conclusion (The Hill). 

 

INTERNATIONAL: In Jordan, estranged Prince Hamza said in a voice recording released today that he would disobey orders by the army to not communicate with the outside world after he was put under house arrest over the weekend in a dramatic dispute with his half-brother, King Abdullah II (Reuters). Jordanian authorities said Sunday they foiled a “malicious plot” by Hamza to destabilize the kingdom with foreign support, contradicting Hamza’s claims that he was being punished for speaking out against corruption and incompetence. Faced with rival narratives, the United States and Arab governments quickly sided with the king, reflecting the country’s strategic importance in a turbulent region (The Associated Press). … As Russia steps up its saber rattling in Eastern Europe, the Pentagon is on alert, reports The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell. … The Biden administration is moving forward with steps to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. U.S. officials are set to participate this month in discussions in Vienna with signatories to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, reports The Hill’s Laura Kelly. … In his traditional Easter address, Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope on Europe's migrant crisis: 'stop this shipwreck of civilization' Pope calls on young people to protect environment The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Gosar censured as GOP drama heightens MORE decried the continued massive spending on weapons and wars while the COVID-19 pandemic plows ahead and poor people continue to struggle. He labeled the continued spending “scandalous.” The address came before a second straight diminished crowd at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City due to the pandemic (Reuters). 

 

 

Pope Francis

 

 

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: Today is the final day to submit ideas for renaming the team once known as the Washington Redskins. The burgundy and gold colors are staying. As part of the franchise’s rebranding project, Washington in August launched the website WashingtonJourney.com with the goal of giving fans a platform to contribute ideas for the team’s new moniker. The result? More than 15,000 submissions from 60 countries and six different continents as of mid-March (WTOP).

 

NCAA: The Stanford Cardinal on Sunday held off the Arizona Wildcats, 54-53, handing them their first NCAA women’s basketball championship since 1992 (ESPN). The Gonzaga-Baylor men's basketball final takes place later tonight. Tipoff is set for 9:20 p.m. (The Washington Post).



THE CLOSER

And finally … It was time to walk like an Egyptian this weekend. 

 

The Egyptian government held an elaborate parade through Cairo on Saturday to move 22 mummies from a museum, which has been their home for more than a century, to a new structure for display. As part of the momentous event, the mummies were transported in customized gold and black vehicles to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. 

 

Ahead of the planned move, chatter on social media erupted about the “curse of the pharaohs,” with some suggesting the recent blockage of the Suez Canal by a gargantuan container ship was somehow tied to unhappy mummies and their three-mile rehoming trek across Cairo. Archaeologists forcefully dismissed any curse of the undead (NBC News).

 

 

Specially designed vehicles transport mummies in a convoy from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization