The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Jan. 6 commission vote delayed; infrastructure debate lingers into June

 

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Friday on the precipice of summer! 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; Thursday, 591,953; Friday, 593,288.

Senators ran into some unforeseen delays on Thursday, postponing until today floor action on two major pieces of legislation as lawmakers prepare to flee Washington ahead of Memorial Day.  

Left in limbo overnight: the anticipated blockade by Republicans of the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, and a bipartisan compromise to move a measure intended to strengthen U.S. competitiveness with China. 

On the sidelines of those dramas were White House and Senate Republican offers and counteroffers to spend a trillion dollars or more on infrastructure, a debate that will linger into June for additional talks with President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE.  

The Associated Press: After delays, GOP poised to block bipartisan Jan. 6 riot probe.

After a Thursday session that bled until the wee hours of this morning, the Senate postponed a long-awaited vote on the widely-debated commission because of stumbling blocks with an unrelated bill aimed at combating China’s competitive dominance. Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Trump urged DOJ officials to call election corrupt 'and leave the rest to me' MORE (R-Wis.), who sought amendments to the China bill, hit the brakes on a planned floor vote. 

“Everybody else seems to have gotten something in this manager's package,” he said, after getting support for his objections from a cadre of conservative Senate colleagues.

The package earlier in the day had been finalized by Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin on reported boos at Democratic luncheon: 'I heard a lot of nos' Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill MORE (R-Idaho). A vote on the China bill — which sets aside more than $250 billion in new monies for semiconductor production and research in a bid to counter China’s economic rise — is now expected to take place later this morning or this afternoon, with a subsequent vote on the Jan. 6 commission. The Senate adjourned shortly before 3 a.m., and will reconvene at 9 a.m. (The Hill).  

The Hill: GOP snag complicates Schumer's China bill — again.

Politico: Senate bid to counter China thrown into chaos amid GOP objections. 

When the commission vote does take place, Senate Republicans are expected to successfully filibuster the bill, marking the first time they will have employed the tactic since Biden was inaugurated. At least three Senate Republicans are expected to side with Democrats, leaving the majority party about 6 to 7 votes short of the requisite 60 votes.

The impending vote in the upper chamber once again will bring the 60-vote threshold into the spotlight, increasing pressure on Democrats to do away with the legislative filibuster as it prevents them from implementing much of the Biden agenda. Democrats remain  unlikely to go nuclear over the Jan. 6 bill, but acknowledge talk within the caucus is ramping up even as they are still short of the votes on a number of issues. 

Orchestrating the Senate GOP’s expected opposition to the panel is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Manchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Ky.), who has kept his conference largely unified on the topic.

The Hill: Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Alaska) voices frustration with GOP over Jan. 6 commission: “Something bad happened.” 

Politico: Senate GOP moderates fume as McConnell prepares to block Jan. 6 commission. 

The Hill: Majority of Americans say Jan. 6 riots were an “attack on democracy”: poll. 

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans waded back into the waters of infrastructure Thursday morning by delivering a counteroffer to the White House: a $928 billion package that includes $506 billion for roads, bridges and major projects and $98 billion for public transit systems. 

The latest offer, which remains focused on “traditional” infrastructure items, is substantially more than the $568 billion infrastructure framework the group, led by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBiden to return to pre-Obama water protections in first step for clean water regulations The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-W.Va.) (pictured below), introduced last month. However, the two sides remain nearly $800 billion apart after the White House lowered the price tag of its proposal to $1.7 trillion (The Hill).

 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

 

“Senate Republicans continue to negotiate in good faith,” Capito told reporters Thursday morning. “We’ve had a lot a good dialogue with the White House. “We’re trying to get to that common goal of reaching a bipartisan infrastructure agreement that we talked about in the Oval Office with the president several weeks ago and I talked with him even previous to that.”  

According to a one-page summary released by Senate Republicans, there are no new details on how the plan would be paid for — a major hang-up between the two sides as the White House has proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent. Lawmakers and sources have indicated that most of the package will be funded by repurposing money already approved in past legislation, including the American Rescue Plan passed in March, and through raising the gas tax. 

The offer comes ahead of Monday’s self-imposed soft deadline by the White House. However, Biden told reporters while en route to Cleveland on Thursday that he expects to meet with Capito and other Senate Republicans to continue negotiations. In a statement, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Hunter Biden blasts those criticizing price of his art: 'F--- 'em' MORE labeled the new proposal as “constructive,” but noted the lack of pay-fors in the offer. 

The Hill: McConnell says GOP is “open” to spending more on infrastructure. 

The Washington Post: Senate Republicans make new infrastructure offer as House Democrats urge Biden to dig in. 

The Hill: Senate Republicans warn Biden against using reconciliation for infrastructure.

The new GOP blueprint, however, did not go over well with Senate Democrats, with some arguing that it is time for them to plow ahead on a gargantuan bill without Republican votes. Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Lawmakers introduce bipartisan Free Britney Act MORE (D-Pa.) said that the offer is a “non-starter.” Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (Ill.) (pictured below), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, added that “it’s getting close to pulling the plug time” for the Senate majority (Politico).  

 

Sen. Dick Durbin

 

 

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LEADING THE DAY

ADMINISTRATION: For months Biden has been telling Americans and Congress that his proposed expansion of the federal government is intended to “meet the moment.” Today, that moment has a $6 trillion price tag atop a budget the administration is sending to lawmakers ahead of a three-day holiday weekend. In other words, it’s gargantuan, includes popular and controversial ideas, and will not be the last word on what the United States can afford in fiscal 2022 — or the years after that.

The New York Times’s Jim Tankersley on Thursday reported many hallmarks of the proposed blueprint that heads to Capitol Hill this morning: the highest sustained spending since World War II; total proposed spending that would rise to $8.2 trillion by 2031; annual deficits above $1.3 trillion for a decade; growth in spending for national defense, along with higher spending for Biden’s vision for infrastructure, green jobs, electric vehicles, federally supported health coverage, senior care, families with children, and policies to combat climate change.

The president previously described how he would like to raise revenues to offset some of the new spending by hiking taxes on companies and wealthy Americans, which his budget document includes. It also asks Congress to let the 2017 tax cuts that benefit low- and middle-income Americans, enacted under Republicans, expire in 2025. GOP lawmakers are opposed to all that, and are braced to pummel Biden and Democrats over what they are now arguing would be a sea of red ink and indebtedness that would choke the momentum of the U.S. economy by the end of the next decade.  

The president and his economic team say they’re eager for a fiscal debate about investments to bolster U.S. competitiveness, jobs, security and a healthier planet. 

The Hill: Biden’s budget would expand the government’s role.

The Associated Press: Social spending, business tax hike drive $6 trillion Biden budget.

Anticipating what’s ahead, Biden on Thursday claimed credit for putting a pandemic-battered U.S. economy back on track — proclaiming that “the Biden economic plan is working,” The Washington Post reported. But he also used his remarks during a visit to Cleveland, Ohio, to urge Congress to make “generational investments” in education and infrastructure to keep the country competitive. “Now’s the time to build on the foundation that we’ve laid to make bold investments in our families and our communities and our nation,” the president said at a community college. 

His Ohio visit took place as U.S. jobless claims reported by the Labor Department on Thursday fell to 406,000 for the week ending May 22, a new pandemic-era low. The data suggests an economy on the mend, but there are still hundreds of thousands of Americans without jobs (The Associated Press).

 

President Biden departs Air Force One

 

The Hill: The president needled Republicans who have touted provisions of the coronavirus relief law they opposed this year, saying “some people have no shame.” 

> Biden-Putin summit: Russia on Friday called a U.S. decision to not rejoin the Open Skies arms control pact, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, a political mistake that strikes a sour note ahead of the planned June 16 summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIs Ukraine Putin's Taiwan? Democrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE, Russian news agencies reported (Reuters).

> Immigration: In other news, the administration is poised to unveil agreements with major U.S. companies to invest in Central America as part of a long-term effort to curb the flight of migrants to the United States (The Wall Street Journal). 

> Asian Americans: Responding to congressional calls to help combat hate crimes, bigotry and domestic attacks, Biden today will sign an executive order to create a  “White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” to coordinate a federal response to the rise in acts of anti-Asian bias and violence.

> Ambassadors: Axios on Thursday reported a lineup of former Democratic politicians and insiders Biden is expected to nominate to plum diplomatic posts abroad, including former senators, such as Missouri’s Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGiuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri McCaskill shares new July 4 family tradition: Watching Capitol riot video Joe Manchin's secret MORE, well known players such as Rahm Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Eric GarcettiEric GarcettiLos Angeles uses emergency alert system to push COVID-19 vaccines Biden nominates Garcetti as ambassador to India Biden on Dodgers' visit: 'We need sports more than we ever realized' MORE, and perhaps a Republican or two. The White House would like to play up experience and diversity, and play down the idea of perks offered to big Democratic donors.

> Cabinet: Energy Secretary Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmEnergy chief touts electric vehicle funding in Senate plan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Western wildfires prompt evacuations in California, Oregon| House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Granholm announces new building energy codes Granholm announces new building energy codes MORE, who has been criticized by Republicans for a potential conflict of interest, divested holdings in electric vehicle manufacturer Proterra (The Hill). 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: Republican state legislatures are responding to the 2020 elections en masse as many move forward with attempts to overturn the will of the voting electorate by stripping power from rival politicians and consolidate power after losses in key states.  

As The Hill’s Reid Wilson details from Phoenix, the legislature in Arizona is moving to limit the power of Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, shifting her authority over election litigation into the hands of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R).   

In Georgia, the legislature passed bills that critics argue will limit voting rights. In Wisconsin, the legislature took power from a Democratic governor even before he took office. Republicans in the two states are also looking into following the lead of Arizona, whose GOP-controlled state Senate is conducting what it calls an audit of more than 2.1 million ballots cast last year in Maricopa County.

The Hill: Caitlyn Jenner (R) vows to “cancel cancel culture” if elected to be California’s governor. The state is embroiled in a recall campaign focused on Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomBiden rolls dice by getting more aggressive on vaccines California Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires MORE (D). 

> You (don’t) got mail: A 26-year-old New Jersey postal worker pleaded guilty to discarding 99 general election ballots and other mail last year instead of delivering it to addressees. He discarded 1,875 pieces of mail into dumpsters on the days of Sept. 28, Oct. 1 and Oct. 2. The mail dumps included ballots, 627 pieces of first-class mail, 873 pieces of standard class mail and two pieces of certified mail. Law enforcement officials also recovered 276 campaign flyers for West Orange Town Council and Board of Education candidates (The Hill).

 

Mail piled up

 

> RIP: Foster Friess, a multimillionaire investor and GOP mega donor, died Thursday at the age of 81. Friess played a major role in conservative politics, from providing funding for the 2012 launch of the Daily Caller to financing presidential campaigns for GOP candidates. In recent years, Friess tossed his own hat into the ring, having lost in a GOP primary for the Wyoming governorship (The Hill).

The Wall Street Journal: Rush Limbaugh’s radio show will be taken over by Clay Travis and former Hill.TV host Buck Sexton

******

CORONAVIRUS: The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into Eli Lilly Co. focused on alleged manufacturing irregularities and records tampering at a factory in Branchburg, N.J., that produces the pharmaceutical giant’s COVID-19 therapy and other drugs (Reuters).

The New York Times: U.S. intelligence officials told the White House they have a large amount of unexamined evidence related to the potential origin of COVID-19. The officials declined to describe to The Times the data that will undergo computer analysis.

The French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and its British partner GSK announced Thursday that the companies are starting a late-stage human trial for a coronavirus vaccine. The trial will also include studies for boosters and the vaccine’s efficacy against a string of variants and comes after phase two trials showed a high efficacy rate for the shot (The Hill). 

CVS Health is jumping on the U.S. jab-incentives bandwagon to try to help Americans overcome vaccine hesitancy. The company announced on Thursday that between June 1 and July 10, people who have been or will be vaccinated in their stores can enter a special sweepstakes giveaway for a variety of prizes, including a trip to the Super Bowl, $5,000 to fund a family reunion, cruises or cash (USA Today). Customers must be 18 years or older to enter the giveaway and have received a vaccination or “certify that they’ve registered to receive a vaccination from CVS Health,” among other requirements (The Hill). 

> Global headlines: In Japan, Naoto Ueyama, the chairman of the Japan Doctors Union, warned Thursday that an “Olympic strain” of the coronavirus could emerge if the sports event goes forward this summer in Tokyo. He has repeatedly sounded the alarm about the Japanese government and International Olympic Committee’s decision to hold the games despite rising coronavirus cases and an increasingly burdened health care system (The Washington Post). …  In Australia, 7 million people were ordered into a new lockdown because of COVID-19 outbreaks (The Hill). … In Manitoba, Canada, the coronavirus is raging and hitting indigenous people particularly hard (The New York Times).

 

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!

 

OPINIONS

How to save the Olympics, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3c0QxUZ 

In warfare, the future is now, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2Tp7WAn 

The conservative case for expanding a Democrat-led tax credit, by The Chicago Tribune editorial board. https://bit.ly/2StwN5v

 

A MESSAGE FROM UBER

 

 

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.

 

Learn more

 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. Lawmakers resume legislative work in the Capitol on June 14. 

The Senate will convene at 9 a.m. 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden, accompanied by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) at 10:45 a.m. in Alexandria, Va., will talk about the state’s progress in mitigating COVID-19 infections and getting its residents vaccinated. The White House will release the president’s fiscal 2022 budget to Congress today. The president and first lady Jill BidenJill BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge First lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MORE will depart before noon to fly to Wilmington, Del., for the Memorial Day weekend. Along the way, they will stop in Hampton, Va., and speak to an audience at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.

Vice President Harris at 10 a.m. will deliver the keynote speech at the U.S. Naval Academy commissioning ceremony in Annapolis, Md. (Capital Gazette).  

Economic indicator: Because analysts are closely tracking spending and inflation, today’s report on U.S. income and outlays in April will get attention. The Bureau of Economic Analysis report will be released at 8:30 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

TRANSPORTATION: General Motors is reopening four plants abroad and one in Michigan that were shut down due to a shortage of semiconductor chips. The facilities — located in Mexico (2), South Korea, Canada and Michigan — will reopen on May 31 (Mexico and South Korea), June 14 (Canada) and June 21 (Michigan) (The Hill). 

ENTERTAINMENT NOW & LATER: The New York Times offers some recommendations for summer reading: 73 highlighted options, including thrillers, audiobooks, cookbooks, historical fiction, music books, sci-fi, romance, horror, true crime, sports books or Hollywood tell-alls. Take a look HERE. … After a topsy-turvy pandemic-driven year in film, the Academy Awards will be back (as usual) next spring. The 94th Oscars program is scheduled March 27 at the Dolby Theater, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The eligibility period for films closes at the end of this year, which is a return to the academy’s tradition (The Associated Press).

LOST & FOUND: A giant tortoise species, thought to be extinct a century ago, is living large in the Galapagos islands, at least since 2019 when researchers came across a (formerly) lost Chelonoidis phantasticus species. The result since genetic confirmation with a 1906 specimen? Scientists are searching for more of the lumbering giants (CNN).  

 

Tortoise



THE CLOSER

And finally …  ⭐⭐ Kudos to Morning Report Quiz masters who aced four questions about Memorial Day

Here’s who Googled or guessed their way to puzzle fame this week: Lesa Davis, Pam Manges, Chuck Shoenenberger, Patrick Kavanagh, Ki Harvey, Candi Cee, Susan Widmer, Robert Zerrillo, Daniel Bachhuber, Dan Sacco, Jane Heaton, Leanne Caudill, Terry Pflaumer, Michel Romage, Ed Glaubitz, John Donato, John Hayden, Joan James, Craig Wesley, Mary Anne McEnery, Tim Burrack, Joe Erdmann, Joan Domingues, Luther Berg, Carol Gwinn Brill and Eric Truax.  

They knew that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day

It wasn’t until 1971 that Congress secured Memorial Day, observed on the final day in May, as a federal holiday.

Red poppies are worn by some people on Memorial Day because it’s a World War I and American Legion tradition inspired by the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by a surgeon on the battlefield who was inspired by blooms that emerged from the churned soil where thousands of soldiers died. 

Many Americans associate the Memorial Day holiday with advertised sales for mattresses, according to Consumer Reports. 

 

Memorial Day parade