The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – GOP makes infrastructure play; Senate passes Asian hate crimes bill
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 567,217; Tuesday, 567,694; Wednesday, 568,470; Thursday, 569,402; Friday, 570,345.
Senate Republicans made their most formal foray into infrastructure talks on Thursday as they unveiled a $568 billion counter-proposal that was immediately met with derision by Democrats, who are growing frustrated as party priorities stack up in the Senate graveyard.
The Republican offer, which is roughly one-quarter the size of the Democratic bill, focuses on what the party considers “traditional” infrastructure, with the lion’s share of proposed funding going toward roads, bridges, airports and ports. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the leader of the group that created the bill, indicated that she hopes the proposal will serve as a starting point.
“This is something that Congress has done for many, many years together on a bipartisan basis. Our focus today is to say what our concepts are as Republicans [about] what infrastructure means, what our principles are in terms of pay-fors and to say to President Biden and his team and our Democrat colleagues: ‘We’re ready to sit down and get to work on this,’” Capito said.
As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton details, the blueprint would spend $299 billion on roads and bridges, $61 billion on public transit systems, $20 billion on rail, $35 billion on drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, $13 billion on safety programs, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $17 billion on ports and inland waterways, and $44 billion on airports. The bill also proposes user fees for electric vehicles and repurposing unused federal spending allocated by the $1.9 trillion stimulus law to cover the cost of the plan.
Capito described the bill as a “framework” for future negotiations.
The New York Times: Republicans look to slash the size of Biden’s infrastructure plan.
CNBC: Senate Republicans outline their own infrastructure plan — here’s what’s in it.
However, the proposal quickly received the cold shoulder from Democrats, who widely panned it as inadequate. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) described the bill as a “slap in the face” (The Hill ). Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) dismissed it as “far too small,” adding that it “paves over the status quo” (Politico).
However, that sentiment was not what emerged from the White House. Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the administration believes the outline is a legitimate starting point for ongoing talks and that President Biden would likely host lawmakers for further discussions in the near future.
“It’s the beginning of a discussion,” Psaki said. “And the next steps will be conversations at the staff level, conversations between senior members of our administration, members of Congress, appropriate committee staff through the course of next week, and then as I noted the president will invite members down to the White House. But there are a lot of details to be discussed.”
For weeks, Republicans have been wary of coming up with a counter to Biden’s proposal because they anticipate a replay of their experience with the COVID-19 relief law. Namely, Republicans work on a slimmed down bill, Democrats ignore it, and pass their own version without GOP backing by dodging the Senate filibuster using a budget tool known as reconciliation.
Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the House on Thursday greenlighted legislation to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state in the nation in a strict party-line vote, 216-208, the second time the lower chamber has passed a statehood bill in two years. However, the bill is expected to be dead-on-arrival in the Senate (The Hill).
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the D.C. statehood bill highlights the frustration among Democrats as party priorities make their way out of the House and pile up in the Senate, unable to garner the requisite 60 votes. This has forced the Senate to take up other legislative items, headlined by the infrastructure bill and other bipartisan bills that can make their way to Biden’s desk.
The Senate on Thursday passed legislation intended to combat the rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans. The bill passed 94-1. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the lone senator to vote against it (The Hill).
The legislation, now headed for the House, was spearheaded by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and requires the Justice Department to review COVID-19-related hate crimes while beefing up state and local resources.
“The Senate is poised to take real action to confront the wave of anti-Asian hate sweeping our country,” Hirono said as the Senate voted on amendments to the bill. “We will send a solid message of solidarity that the Senate will not be a bystander as anti-Asian violence surges in our country” (The Hill).
The Hill: Senate to vote next week on repealing Trump methane rule.
The Hill: Five big players to watch in Big Tech’s antitrust fight.
It’s time to update internet regulations
The internet has changed a lot in the 25 years since lawmakers last passed comprehensive internet regulations. It’s time for an update.
See how we’re making progress on key issues and why we support updated regulations to set clear rules for addressing today’s toughest challenges.
LEADING THE DAY
ADMINISTRATION: Financial markets sagged following Thursday’s headlines, first reported by Bloomberg News, that Biden will seek a capital gains tax increase that could go as high as 43.4 percent for long-term gains. The proposal would raise the capital gains rate to 39.6 percent for those earning $1 million or more, up from the current 20 percent.
Biden and progressive Democrats proposed during last year’s campaigns to try to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for federal proposals that could benefit low- and middle-income families and serve the goal of improving economic equity. Although polls indicate raising taxes on corporations and the rich is a generally popular idea, Republican lawmakers are mobilizing to defend the tax cuts they muscled through Congress in 2017 with former President Trump’s signature.
Last year, Trump campaigned to slash the 23.8 percent top rate on long-term capital gains to 15 percent, while Biden told voters the rate should rise to 39.6 percent (The Wall Street Journal). The proposed increase is one part of the administration’s push to raise taxes on Americans who earn more than $400,000 a year.
The challenges for Biden are many, including a 50-50 Senate in which some Democrats in certain states may be reluctant to vote for higher taxes. In general, Republicans maintain that increasing taxes slows growth, investment and job creation. But Axios reports that key GOP senators say they won’t rule out raising additional revenue from corporate taxes.
CNBC: Dow closes more than 300 points lower on reports of Biden eyeing capital gains tax increase.
CNBC: How the Biden capital gains tax increase would hit the wealthy.
The Hill: Details of Biden’s American Families Plan, an adjunct to his American Jobs Plan (otherwise known as his infrastructure plan), will come into focus when the president addresses the nation Wednesday when he appears before a joint session of Congress. Elements of Biden’s next pitch are health care, child care, education, social safety net programs and policy ideas that he believes help build the middle class (and the proposed tax changes to partially offset the costs).
> With the pomp of Earth Day and the cubism of Zoom screens, leaders of Russia and China put aside their disputes with Biden on Thursday long enough to pledge international cooperation to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming and changing the planet. Neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately followed the U.S. and some of its developed allies in making specific new pledges to reduce damaging fossil fuel pollution during the first day of the two-day U.S.-hosted summit. But climate advocates hoped the high-profile gathering would kickstart new action by major polluters, paving the way for a November U.N. meeting in Glasgow critical to drastically slowing climate change over the coming decade (The Associated Press).
The Hill’s Laura Kelly, Rachel Frazin and Zach Budryk report on the key takeaways from Thursday’s discussions, which continue today.
> U.S. immigration & Central America: Vice President Harris and other administration officials on Thursday described a U.S. approach to Central American countries responsible for a surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border with Mexico, reports The Hill’s Rafael Bernal. The administration wants to tackle the complicated stew of problems that prompt families to flee their countries for the United States.
“The bottom line is that this initiative, from my perspective, must be effective and relevant to the underlying issue, which is addressing the acute and the root causes of migration away from that region,” Harris told a group of philanthropists working in the region.
Harris on Monday is expected to meet virtually with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei to discuss relief needs, and she’ll visit the region in June (Axios). On Tuesday, the vice president will participate in a virtual roundtable with representatives of Guatemalan organizations, hosted by the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City.
CORONAVIRUS: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel is set to rule today whether to resume administering Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) vaccine, with all indications showing that officials are leaning toward doing so despite very rare side effects.
According to The Washington Post, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to recommend the continued use of the shot as soon as this weekend, but would include a warning of extremely rare blood clots. The panel is not expected to recommend an age restriction.
Administration of the jab was paused last week after six reports of blood clots emerged out of the 6.8 million J&J shots that had gone into the arms of Americans. As the Post notes, the expected outcome is likely to closely resemble the recommendation by European regulators for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, arguing that the benefits of the shot outweighs the risk.
As the U.S. awaits word on the future of J&J’s shot, continued evidence shows that the vaccinations are working with flying colors. According to The Associated Press, hospitalizations among senior citizens have fallen by more than 70 percent since the start of 2021, with the daily death toll dropping by roughly 20 percent compared to the January peak of the pandemic.
The good news for older Americans, however, means a mixed bag for younger adults as far fewer have received shots thus far in the vaccination campaign. As The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel notes, the White House’s goal of more than 200 million shots since the inauguration was the easy part as it faces two key obstacles moving forward: a significant percentage of hesitant individuals and demand likely to fall behind the supply of available shots.
The Associated Press: J&J vaccine “pause” latest messaging challenge for officials.
The New York Times: Vaccines are effective against the New York variant, studies find.
The Associated Press: California’s public universities will require COVID-19 vaccines for all students, faculty and staff.
NBC New York: New York’s mask mandate will stay in place until at least June. 2 million coronavirus cases surpassed in state. Field hospital closes.
The Associated Press: Japan issues third virus emergency in Tokyo, Osaka area.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will deliver the Republican response on Wednesday night following Biden’s televised address to a joint session of Congress. In announcing the selection of Scott, the sole Black GOP senator, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), called him “not just one of the strongest leaders in the Senate” but also “one of the most inspiring and unifying leaders in our nation.”
Scott, who has said his 2022 reelection campaign will be his last, already faces a Democratic challenger in South Carolina, but he also enjoys Trump’s backing in a conservative state (The Associated Press). Scott has been mentioned as a potential 2024 presidential candidate.
> STATE WATCH: Access to the ballot box is dividing Americans along partisan lines as Republican legislators promote measures to crack down on easy voting, according to a new Pew Research Center poll released on Thursday (The Hill). … Tumult within the top organization dedicated to electing Republican attorneys general now threatens to splinter the group ahead of critical elections in 2022, reports The Hill’s Reid Wilson.
> Republicans are eager to defeat Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) next year. A new potential challenger emerged following a closed-door meeting on Wednesday during which Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told party officials she’s considered stepping down from her post. She was just reelected at the RNC (Politico).
> House runoff: Louisiana’s weeklong early voting period wraps up Saturday in the runoff election between Democratic state senators from New Orleans — Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson — to fill a vacant U.S. House seat for a district centered in New Orleans and extending up the Mississippi River into Baton Rouge (The Associated Press).
The New York Times Magazine: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) vs. MAGA.
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The best way forward: Address the police accountability gap, by Elizabeth M. Daitz of the New York City Police Department, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3xgK6pO
Is rising income inequality just an illusion? by Nicholas Sargen, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3gwCMAt
Facebook supports updated internet regulations
It’s been 25 years since comprehensive internet regulations passed. But a lot has changed since 1996.
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at noon on Monday for a pro forma session.
The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. on Monday and resume consideration of the nomination of Jason Scott Miller to be deputy director for management with the Office of Management and Budget.
The president will participate for a second day in a virtual, live-streamed summit session on climate with global leaders at 9:15 a.m. At 11 a.m., Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief. The president will get his weekly economic briefing from advisers at 1:45 p.m. in the Oval Office. Biden will participate at 2:45 p.m. from the White House Situation Room in a virtual senior leaders conference with Department of Defense personnel.
Harris will be in Plymouth, N.H., at 11:55 a.m. at the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative to talk about broadband investments. She will be in Concord, N.H., at 2 p.m. at the IBEW Local 490 for remarks at 2:40 p.m. to promote proposed federal investments in workforce development and infrastructure (NBC10).
The National Park Service, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff at 9:30 a.m. will announce 16 new listings on the NPS’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program (The Washington Post recently reported on the location of the remains of Harriet Tubman’s father’s cabin in Maryland). The new listings join more than 670 sites in 39 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands already in the network, which showcases freedom seekers who escaped slavery.
The White House press briefing will take place at 11:30 a.m., including Haaland. The administration’s coronavirus response briefing for reporters is scheduled at 11 a.m.
➔ SUPREME COURT: Justices on Thursday ruled in a case that concerned a 15-year-old boy who killed his grandfather that judges need not determine that juvenile offenders are beyond hope of rehabilitation before sentencing them to die in prison. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 ruling, said it was enough that the sentencing judge exercised discretion rather than automatically imposing a sentence of life without parole. “In a case involving an individual who was under 18 when he or she committed a homicide,” he wrote, “a state’s discretionary sentencing system is both constitutionally necessary and constitutionally sufficient” (The New York Times). … Justice Amy Coney Barrett was on the high court bench six months before capitalizing on her prominence while securing a reported $2 million advance for a book contract with a conservative imprint of Penguin Random House (The Associated Press). Politico reported the book will be about how judges are not supposed to inject their personal feelings into how they rule. Criticism of the deal has been sharp (Bloomberg News).
➔ CHIP SHORTAGE: Four Ford Motor plants in the U.S. and one in Canada will remain shut down as the company responds to the global shortage of semiconductor chips that are used in high-tech devices and in many automobiles. The shutdown will continue for two weeks and affect four plants in Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City, Mo. A plant in Ontario, Canada will stay shut down for one additional week (The Hill).
➔ WOLVES: The Idaho Senate approved a bill this week that would permit the state to hire contractors to kill up to 90 percent of Idaho’s wolves with the goal, supporters said, of protecting cattle and other agricultural interests. “These wolves, there’s too many in the state of Idaho,” State Senator Mark Harris, a Republican, said on the Senate floor before the vote on Wednesday (The New York Times).
➔ SPACE & TECH: Using a recycled capsule and rocket, SpaceX successfully launched its third crew to the International Space Station this morning for NASA at 5:49 a.m. EDT. Four astronauts, representing the United States, Japan and France, had been delayed on Thursday at Cape Canaveral, Fla., because of poor weather offshore. (SpaceX’s Dragon capsule requires calm waves and winds in case an emergency splashdown is needed during the climb to orbit). Docking with the space station is scheduled on Saturday (The Associated Press). … NASA’s baby helicopter on Mars, known as Ingenuity, made its second flight over the red planet on Thursday, rising 16 feet and moving side to side before touching down again to complete a longer hop than its first adventure (The Associated Press).
And finally … Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners!
Here’s who aced the news coverage puzzle about Oscars history ahead of the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday: Lesa Davis, Mary Anne McEnery, Rich Davis, Daniel Bachhuber, Mark Neuman-Scott, Randall Patrick, John Donato, and Terry Pflaumer.
They knew that Judi Dench has not won multiple (or actually any) awards for best actress (despite having been nominated five times).
Oscar-nominated director David Fincher has never won the Oscar for best picture, but will try to change that this weekend with “Mank.”
“Beauty and the Beast” was the first animated film to be nominated for best picture in 1991 (one of three animated films to ever be nominated, along with “Toy Story 3” and “Up”).
Finally, Matt Damon has never won the Academy Award for best actor despite twice being nominated (for “Good Will Hunting” and “The Martian”).
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