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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Uber – Infrastructure, Greene consume Washington

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Clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol



Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 589,893; Tuesday, 590,533; Wednesday, 590,941.

Lawmakers are taking a slow approach to their expected summer of policy debates while filling the vacuum with sideshows and acrimony.


Chatter surrounding a potential infrastructure deal cropped up again on Tuesday as Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), are preparing to make a new counteroffer to the White House in the neighborhood of $1 trillion.


“I think the American people are behind us here on this in terms of core infrastructure,” Capito told reporters, adding that GOP members were “disappointed” by President Biden’s most recent offer late last week, which tackled matters that are not considered traditional infrastructure. 


Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a member of the group, pointed to the likely $1 trillion price tag, indicating that Biden told senators that he could also agree to that top-line figure. Wicker previously floated on Monday that Republicans could go as high as $1 trillion.


“He indicated that that would be a figure that he could agree to,” Wicker said of Biden. 


Declining to weigh in on the details of the impending proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that their expectation is that it will be a week of positive progression on the topic.


“Our view is that this week can be a week of progress, and including the counteroffer, which we expect to get later this week. I’m not going to prejudge what that looks like; we’ll have to look at the nitty-gritty details. Certainly, them coming up in funding is progress, but we’ll see what that looks like,” she said (CNN). 


As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the upcoming counteroffer comes as talks appeared to hit multiple snags, especially over how to pay for a bill and its scope ahead of the administration’s self-imposed soft Memorial Day deadline. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he expects to take up a package in July (The Hill).


The Associated Press: GOP senators ready $1 trillion infrastructure counteroffer to Biden.


NBC News: “A big divide”: Biden-GOP infrastructure talks sputter as Democrats ponder going it alone.


Not everyone is convinced the current GOP plan of attack will do the trick, including on their own side. According to The Washington Post, a group of more than a half-dozen senators, including Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), are in the early stages of drafting a plan that could earn broad support in each party after talks sputtered over the past five days between Biden and Capito.  


Romney told the Post that the group reached a “pretty close consensus” on a package that is centered on traditional infrastructure elements. However, the group is giving the Biden-Capito negotiations every chance to succeed, framing their efforts as a backstop in case they go south. 


The Washington Post: Bipartisan Senate group prepares a new infrastructure plan as talks stall between the White House and the GOP. 


Takeaway: A bipartisan bill remains unlikely. Biden gave the GOP an-end-of-May deadline and we’re nearly there. Democratic leaders are already plotting a path to pass a partisan measure.


The Hill: Democrats start putting GOP on notice as patience runs thin.



Sen. Mitt Romney



With the Senate hard at work on the policy front, the House is doing the exact opposite. Members on both sides of the aisle found themselves in a public spat with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) over multiple incendiary remarks and tweets equating COVID-19 vaccination and mask-wearing rules to the Holocaust, which resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jews during World War II.    


House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday condemned the remarks, calling the comparison “appalling,” adding that House Republicans as a whole condemn her language (The Hill). Absent from the GOP leader’s statement though is what, if any, action the conference will take on Greene’s latest remarks, even after a new video showed her at a public meeting in 2020 saying she would not take down a statue of Adolf Hitler.


The issue burst into the open Tuesday morning after Greene tweeted a news story about a grocery store in Tennessee that will allow vaccinated workers to stop wearing masks, noting that they will have a logo showing that they are vaccinated on their badge. 


“Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” she tweeted. “Vaccine passports & mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable.”


The bottom line: While the House is out of Washington, Republicans are spared reporters’ questions in the Capitol about Greene. And they are relieved.


The Hill: GOP senators introduce resolution condemning antisemitic violence amid “horrific” spike in attacks.


The New York Times: Greene’s Holocaust comparisons cause new headaches for GOP.


Cristina Marcos, The Hill: Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.) is the Republican that Democrats want to avoid.



Omayra Hernadez holds a sign reading, "Hey Congress Do Your Job"



More in Congress: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) became the third Senate Republican to throw her weight behind a commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6, after Romney and Collins (The Hill). Also on Tuesday, Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) issued a statement to “implore” their Republican colleagues to support a commission, with Schumer set to bring up the commission for a vote as early as this week … Schumer’s bipartisan bill seeking to improve U.S. competitiveness with China and other countries is attracting barbs from the GOP and progressives alike. The measure could be stalled past the Memorial Day recess, potentially delaying the rest of the Democratic agenda, with Republicans threatening to derail it due to a lack of votes on their amendments. Concurrently, Schumer is also feeling the heat Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who wants to add conditions to the $52 billion Schumer and other Democrats want to send to U.S. semiconductor manufacturers facing fierce foreign competition (The Hill). …Schumer tees up a vote on legislation to create a commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 (The Hill). 



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ADMINISTRATION: Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16, the White House announced on Tuesday, confirming plans the president for weeks said were in the works. In seeking relations with Russia that the new administration hopes can be “stable and predictable,” Biden in April invited Putin to a one-on-one summit. It will take place following the Group of Seven gathering of world leaders in June in Cornwall, England, and Biden’s stop in Brussels on June 14 to meet with NATO leaders (The Associated Press).


Biden and Putin have spoken by phone since January, and the two met previously when Biden was vice president. In past interviews and public remarks, Biden has described Putin as a killer and malign influence in geopolitics and ordered sanctions against Russia as punishment for cyberattacks. But the president has also said the U.S. and Russia share common interests he wants to discuss with Putin, including nuclear nonproliferation and climate change. 


Their meeting will take place exactly six years after former President Trump announced his presidential campaign with remarks that roped Russia in among economic complaints focused on China. “With all our problems with Russia, with all our problems with everything— everything, they got away with it again. And it’s impossible for our people here to compete,” he said at Trump Tower in 2015.


> Middle East: Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Tuesday that the U.S. would reopen its consulate in Jerusalem — a move that restores ties with Palestinians that had been downgraded by the Trump administration. The consulate long served as an autonomous office in charge of diplomatic relations with the Palestinians. But Trump downgraded its operations and placed them under the authority of his ambassador to Israel when he moved the embassy to Jerusalem (The Associated Press).


> Afghanistan: The Pentagon accelerated U.S. troop withdrawals, which will be completed in Afghanistan by early to mid-July rather than Sept. 11 (The New York Times). 


> Justice: Biden on Tuesday met at the White House with relatives of George Floyd, including his daughter Gianna Floyd (pictured below), and called on Congress to support “accountability when law enforcement officers violate their oaths.” He endorsed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House in March and remains in negotiations in the Senate. “I appreciate the good-faith efforts from Democrats and Republicans to pass a meaningful bill out of the Senate. It’s my hope they will get a bill to my desk quickly,” he said in a statement. … Separately, Attorney General Merrick Garland is attempting to strike a delicate balance at the Justice Department over secrecy, reports The Hill’s Harper Neidig



Gianna Floyd, daughter of George Floyd, departs the White House



> CMS: Chiquita Brooks-LaSure will lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) following a 55-44 vote by the Senate to confirm her on Tuesday. The first Black woman to become CMS administrator, she will oversee the Biden administration’s goals of expanding the Affordable Care Act (The Hill).


> Biden up close: Reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere reports on his interview with Biden, conducted after Inauguration Day for his book, “Battle for the Soul.” Find it in The Atlantic. … Biden’s Catholicism is getting some media attention. The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Amie Parnes report their take on the president’s faith in the context of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. … Biden’s beloved Delaware has a new bishop. One of the debates is whether Biden can or should receive communion because of his rejection of the church’s doctrine that abortion is contrary to moral law (The Associated Press).


CORONAVIRUS: As Americans return to active lives with (and without) COVID-19 inoculations, including travel, office work and in-person school schedules ahead, scientists are still trying to figure out how a novel coronavirus moved into Wuhan’s population and started a pandemic.


Some think the answer will never be clear because of China’s opaque policies. Others believe an answer can and should be found because knowing how a pandemic begins can help shut down the next one. The scientific community predicts it will not be long before another deadly pathogen will try to outwit the human immune system.


The question of COVID-19’s origins emerged with the first reported cases of mysterious and fatal infections in China. More than a year later, the quest for answers has become a scientific whodunit, fodder for hypotheses and myths, a target for political finger-pointing, and a puzzle inside government intelligence agencies.


In Congress, Republicans are demanding that Democrats launch investigations into China’s actions, including the role of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, seizing on recent comments from public health officials and scientists that a viral leak from the Chinese lab could still turn out to be responsible for COVID-19’s leap into humans (The Hill). Another explanation based on the scientific world’s experience with coronaviruses is that COVID-19 moved from bats to small mammals and eventually adapted to infect humans in Wuhan.


It’s an assumption the National Institutes of Health’s Anthony Fauci embraced last year in the White House briefing room, but he now says more investigation is needed. “I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened,” he said during a recent PolitiFact event. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a prerecorded message on Tuesday also called for continued international investigation (The Washington Post).


CNN: Chinese state media this week turned against Fauci in response to his remarks, assailing him for “fanning a huge lie against China.”


The continuing search for the origin of the virus has become a political irritant for conservatives because they believe the hypothesis was unfairly dismissed by the scientific world and by the news media simply because former President Trump asserted (without evidence or explanation) that he believed China’s lab was a likely culprit.


The “lab leak” theory recently moved back into U.S. conversations. The Washington Post published a timeline explaining how a hypothesis drifted from conjecture to dismissal to circumstantial evidence and then to second thoughts and credibility. U.S. intelligence agencies want to know more about workers from the Wuhan lab who were sick enough to be hospitalized in the fall of 2019 (denied by the lab director). The Wall Street Journal reported again on Monday that in April 2012, six miners in the mountains of Southwest China contracted a mysterious illness after entering a mine to clear bat guano. Three of them died. Wuhan Institute of Virology scientists investigated and, after taking samples from bats in the mine, identified several new coronaviruses. Is there a connection?


Shi Zhengli, a virologist known as China’s “bat woman” because of her study of coronaviruses found in bats (she’s pictured below), was seized with initial fears, recounted during an interview with Scientific American published in March 2020, that the virus could have leaked from the Wuhan lab she heads. “If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers thinking, ‘Could they have come from our lab?’” Through genomic testing, Shi said she determined that none of the samples from people infected with the mysterious Wuhan pathogen late in 2019 matched the viral sequences her team had sampled from bat caves.



Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli is seen inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan



A year ago, The Washington Post fact-checked the lab leak theory and the search for information by intelligence agencies with help from public health and scientific experts and labeled the theory “doubtful” as an explanation for the COVID-19 pandemic. “The balance of the scientific evidence strongly supports the conclusion that the new coronavirus emerged from nature — be it the Wuhan market or somewhere else,” the Post reported after lengthy explanations about what was known and still unknown.


In February, The New York Times reported efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) to secure China’s cooperation to investigate Wuhan and the virology lab to try to learn how the pandemic began. Experts and U.S. officials told the Times that evidence pointing to a lab accident was mainly circumstantial.


Along the way, some Republicans credited Trump and blamed news outlets for “bias” in focusing on the scientific world’s uncertainty as the hunt for the origin of COVID-19 continues. The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes that the news media face hard questions. Liberal journalist Jonathan Chait, writing for New York magazine, published a piece on Monday titled “How the liberal media dismissed the lab-leak theory and smeared its supporters.”


The Biden administration early this year shut down an internal federal investigation launched under former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department. Sources recently told CNN the new administration backs WHO’s continued probe into COVID-19’s origins but found the former administration’s internal assessment to be faulty.


> Vaccines: Moderna said on Tuesday it will seek an expansion of emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents, pointing to effectiveness in trials with teens (The Associated Press and CNBC). Pfizer’s vaccine is the only one currently approved for emergency use in adolescents. … The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Tuesday that more than 10,000 fully vaccinated Americans were nonetheless infected with COVID-19 from Jan. 1 through April 30, despite their inoculations (a result considered much better than the usual track record with annual influenza). The government said its figures for COVID-19 over four months are likely an underestimate. Two percent, or 160 vaccinated people, died, according to the CDC. About a quarter of those who were infected but vaccinated exhibited no symptoms (Medscape). The quarterly data mean the CDC will no longer investigate mild cases of COVID-19 infections in Americans (only hospitalization cases and/or deaths) (The New York Times). … The WHO is pushing for more data from Sinovac as it considers whether to approve its CoronaVac shot with the hopes of doling out more shots to poor nations (The Wall Street Journal).


> U.S. vaccination record: This week, 50 percent of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated, a fact celebrated in the White House. Biden has been shooting for 70 percent as a goal by July (The Hill).




POLITICS: The Manhattan district attorney on Tuesday convened a grand jury expected to weigh potential criminal evidence against Trump, the Trump Organization and company executives. The move indicates that prosecutor Cyrus Vance Jr.’s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. Vance’s term ends next year (The Washington Post).


> A federal judge on Monday dismissed a fraud case pending against former White House senior adviser Stephen Bannon, who received a pardon from Trump on Jan. 20. U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, citing examples of other cases being dismissed following a presidential reprieve, granted Bannon’s application — saying in a seven-page ruling that Trump’s pardon was valid and that “dismissal of the Indictment is the proper course.” Bannon was charged with fraud last year alongside three others in what prosecutors described as a massive fundraising scam targeting the donors of a private campaign to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border (The Washington Post). 


Politico: Trump is starting to put together his own Contract with America. And he’s teaming up with Newt Gingrich.


> Grand Canyon politics: In an interview with The Hill’s Reid Wilson, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) raised fresh concerns about the way auditors hired by the Republican-controlled state Senate have handled more than 2.1 million ballots from the 2020 election, panning the probe as “highly partisan” and a “fringe” effort.


The auditors, overseen by a Florida firm with zero experience auditing elections, earlier this month left ballots cast in November in Maricopa County inside a trailer blocks from the state capital after their count took longer than expected. During that time, temperatures neared 100 degrees as auditors paused the count to allow previously scheduled high school graduation ceremonies to take place at the location. 


Hobbs also criticized the hyper partisan nature of the audit, describing it as a faux effort that isn’t “based in reality.”


“If they were conducting a real audit, there would be willingness for bipartisan participation, but they’re not. Now that they’re blatantly recruiting partisans, there’s no confidence in this at all. It is not independent, it is completely biased, being run by people who have already said that Donald Trump won Arizona with no evidence to back that up,” Hobbs said. “These are folks with a highly partisan agenda who aren’t based in reality.”


The Hill: Tech company backs out of Arizona election audit.


Elsewhere in the state, Arizona Republicans are preparing to pass a massive tax overhaul that would cut tax rates and implement a flat income tax just months after voters approved a new, higher excise tax on high-income earners aimed at funding schools. 


Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and state lawmakers have proposed implementing a 2.5 percent flat income tax that would amount to a $1.5 billion cut in state tax revenues. A vote on a final budget in the state House and Senate are expected in the coming days (The Hill).


The Hill: Environmental issues at center of New Mexico special election.


Roll Call: Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) rules out a Senate bid. 


The Hill and The Wall Street Journal: CNN’s President Jeff Zucker said Tuesday that anchor Chris Cuomo made a “mistake” in advising his embattled brother, the New York governor, during calls with aides about how Andrew Cuomo could respond to a series of sexual harassment accusations and the resulting media coverage.

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


How Biden can bust through the gridlock, by William A. Galston, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. 


Who’s guilty of what in the Hamas-Israel conflict? by Charles Lane, columnist, The Washington Post. 



Meet Fallon. Delivering with Uber Eats helps her pay for college. “I like the flexibility of driving with Uber,” she says. “I can drive when I want to.”


*Driver earnings may vary depending on location, demand, hours, drivers, and other variables.


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The House meets on Friday at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. Lawmakers resume legislative work in the Capitol next month.


The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. to resume consideration of the Endless Frontier Act.


The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden has no events on his public schedule.


Vice President Harris at 3:30 p.m. will meet in her formal office with members of Congress from both parties to discuss federal investments in broadband infrastructure. 


The White House press briefing is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. 


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


DISSIDENTS AND DETENTIONS: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said on Tuesday that he is facing three new criminal investigations.”I’m becoming a more hardened criminal every day,” he joked in an Instagram post. “So don’t think I’m only sitting in a cell, drinking tea and doing nothing” (Reuters). … Navalny was also dealt a blow on Tuesday when Russian lawmakers greenlighted a bill barring members of what they consider to be extremist groups from running for office, a move aimed at preventing allies of the dissident from election (The Associated Press). … In Belarus, activist journalist and blogger Roman Protasevich, 26, arrested by the government on Sunday after being plucked from a Ryanair flight that was grounded in Minsk on false pretenses, appears to show signs of coercion and mistreatment in a video in which he purports to confess to organizing “mass riots,” according to his family and international human rights advocates (The Washington Post). The international community, including the United States, has called for Protasevich’s immediate release and threatened Belarus with punishment including sanctions. … Belarusan President Alexander Lukashenko is defending his actions in nabbing Ryanair’s flight as lawful under international rules. Charges he supports against Protasevich carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years, or possibly the death penalty (The Associated Press).


TECH: Amazon on Tuesday was accused of price fixing in a lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C., attorney general. The tech behemoth is alleged to use provisions and policies that prevent sellers that offer products on from offering their products at lower prices or on better terms on any other online platform, including their own websites (The Washington Post). … Tech companies are facing pressure from activists to adopt proposals at their upcoming shareholder meetings aimed at expanding whistleblower protections, investigating potential civil rights violations and curbing hate speech online (The Hill). 


TRAVEL: Memorial Day this year is colliding with soaring travel prices just as millions of Americans are eager to enjoy their first holiday weekend following a long year during which many families skipped vacations and travel because of COVID-19. The costs of airfares, car rentals and Airbnb bookings are up. Some lawmakers and industry leaders think the administration and Congress could help the travel industry by loosening some COVID-19 travel restrictions and providing more targeted assistance to companies (The Hill).



People enjoy the ocean, July 16, 2020 in Huntington Beach, California



And finally … The “flower” supermoon will grace the sky today and will be the closest moon to Earth this year. May’s supermoon will also be the first total lunar eclipse since January 2019. It’s called the “flower” moon because it’s when flowers blossom across North America. Most of North and South America will be able to see the eclipse in the early morning hours while eastern Asia and Australia will see it in the evening (CNN).



The moon is seen rising above the village of Brixworth on May 07, 2020 in Brixworth, England


Tags Andrew Cuomo Anthony Fauci Antony Blinken Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Chris Cuomo Donald Trump Doug Ducey Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kevin McCarthy Kyrsten Sinema Lisa Murkowski Marjorie Taylor Greene Merrick Garland Mike Pompeo Mitt Romney Newt Gingrich Paul Gosar Rob Portman Roger Wicker Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Susan Wild Vladimir Putin Xavier Becerra

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