The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday! 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 as of this morning: 601,825.


As of this morning, 53.3 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 45.1 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.

It’s crunch time for infrastructure talks this week as negotiators try to hammer out the details of the nearly $1 trillion bipartisan proposal and await word on whether President BidenJoe BidenThe Supreme Court and blind partisanship ended the illusion of independent agencies Missed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Senate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session MORE will support it.


The G-21 framework, which would spend $979 billion over five years, is backed by 11 Senate Republicans and 10 Senate Democrats, but questions center around the pay-fors in the package. The lion’s share of attention remains on a provision that would index the gas tax to inflation. The White House opposes such a move, which it classifies as a tax increase on middle-class Americans.


Negotiators indicated on Sunday that the ball is in the White House’s court to come up with a new way to pay for the package, which includes $579 billion in new monies.


“We understand that the administration has very strong views on that,” Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet On The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (R-Ohio) told “Meet the Press” about the provision. “But the administration, therefore, will need to come forward with some other ideas without raising taxes.”


Over eight years, the blueprint includes $1.2 trillion in funding for roads, bridges, broadband and water projects.


The Hill: Portman: Republicans are “absolutely” committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill.


The Sunday Shows: Infrastructure, voting rights in the spotlight.


The New York Times: Bipartisan infrastructure talks collide with Democrats’ goal to tax the rich.


Another key question facing the future of negotiations is where Biden stands. As The Wall Street Journal notes, Biden was set to review the bill over the weekend, having landed back in the U.S. late last week after the first foreign trip of his presidency. Republicans on Sunday called on the president to become more involved in negotiations, which were largely led at the congressional level while Biden was overseas.


“President Biden, if you want an infrastructure deal of a trillion dollars, it is there for the taking, you just need to get involved and lead,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Trump takes two punches from GOP The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (R-S.C.) told “Fox News Sunday.” “You’ve got a Republican party that’s willing to meet you in the middle.”


As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, the ongoing infrastructure discussions are testing his relationship with the party's liberal base, with the G-21 bill coming under fire from top progressive senators last week. Biden’s support would almost certainly unify the party around the bill, though there are fears in progressive circles that it would make passing the White House’s agenda more difficult overall.


“This is a very stressful moment,” said one Democratic senator who is torn on whether to side with Biden if he endorses the G-21 framework.


The Upshot: Politically, a legislative victory for Biden would be welcomed by many Senate Democrats who are staring down reelection in key states next year, many of whom have already thrown their weight behind the package (The Hill).


The Associated Press: Biden and Congress face a summer grind to create legislation.


The Hill: Graham: Biden has chance to determine legacy with infrastructure negotiations.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: The center strikes back.


The Washington Post: Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.), at the apex of his power, finds few allies in his quest for bipartisanship.


The Hill: Democrats seek new ways to expand Medicaid in holdout states.



President Biden



> Jan. 6 aftermath: A growing number of GOP lawmakers don’t believe that the Jan. 6 insurrection was actually an insurrection, with nearly two dozen House Republicans having voted against a bill last week to award Congressional Gold Medals to police officers who defended the Capitol that day.


As Cristina Marcos writes, the main rationale behind the “nay” votes was that the bill describes the mob of former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE’s backers who were trying to stop Congress from ratifying the election results as “insurrectionists.” The vote also lays bare the uphill climb facing lawmakers to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the day’s events.


The Hill: Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack.


The Hill: House to take big step on eliminating Trump-era rules.



The U.S. Capitol



More in Congress … Portman and Graham on Sunday both lobbed criticisms at the Democratic effort to overhaul the election system and voting rights. Portman called a compromise proposal by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) a “federal takeover of the election system,” while Graham labeled the For the People Act the “biggest power grab” in history (The Hill). … Republicans are drawing red lines as Congress moves toward a debt ceiling fight as early as next month. GOP senators indicate that they won't provide the 10 votes to raise the debt ceiling without cuts in spending, setting up a high-profile fiscal cliff with dramatic financial implications. Democrats dismiss the GOP threat as "political suicide” (The Hill).


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ADMINISTRATION: With U.S. forces set to depart Afghanistan by September, the Biden administration is struggling to spell out how the country will not fall back to Taliban control post-departure.


The U.S. is more than halfway through its troop withdrawal, as The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell notes, with top Pentagon officials maintaining that military operations can still be conducted and carried out from outside Afghanistan if necessary. However, they’ve laid out very few details on logistics, including where those troops would be based. Those lack of specifics came into focus on Friday when the Afghan government's chief peace envoy warned that the Taliban will not have an interest in reaching a peace agreement with Kabul once U.S. and NATO forces depart the country.


Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it China moves quickly to replace America in Afghanistan Harris to travel to Vietnam, Singapore in August MORE told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday there is a “medium” risk that an extremist group could reemerge the country within two years of the departure of U.S. forces. U.S. Army Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Watchdog warns US will repeat mistakes of Afghanistan Adaptability remains a constant — even as the 'character of war' changes MORE, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (both seen below), backed up those claims.


“If certain other things happen, if there was a collapse of the government or dissolution of the Afghan security force, that risk would obviously increase,” Milley told the panel.


The Associated Press: New leaders, new era: U.S.-Israel relations reach crossroads.



U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin talks with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley



> Domestic footing: After a trip to Guatemala and Mexico chock full of stumbles, Vice President Harris ventured back to her political comfort zone this week and turned her attention to voting rights and vaccinations.


As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels write, Harris, fresh off the two-nation trip that earned her scores of criticism from the right and even some within Democratic circles, moved swiftly into her element last week and attended events focused on voting rights and vaccine equity. Officials who met with Harris and those close to her say that she is passionate about the two issues and that they gave her a chance to refocus her portfolio after her immigration-focused trip drew friendly fire.


The Hill: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieChris Christie: Unvaccinated people don't want to be 'indoctrinated' by government Former lieutenant governor of New Jersey leaves GOP Half of states now restrict conversion therapy for LGBTQ kids MORE (R): “No damage was done” from Biden's overseas trip.


The Hill: Fiona Hill: Summit with Biden was 'a very important' symbolic win for Putin.


CORONAVIRUS: The U.S. delivered 2.5 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan on Sunday, tripling the initial pledge made to the island as it deals with a surge of cases since May.


Since the outbreak kicked off, Taiwan’s death toll has grown from only a few dozen to 549 as of Sunday, sending the island scrambling to procure doses of vaccine. Brent Christensen, the U.S.’s top official in Taiwan, said that the shipment is “proof of America’s commitment” to the island (The Associated Press).


The Hill: Jake SullivanJake SullivanTop Biden adviser: Passing infrastructure deal is 'urgent national security imperative' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 Biden walks fine line with Fox News MORE: US will not be issuing “threats or ultimatums” to China in COVID-19 origin investigation.


The Associated Press: Qatar to require fans at 2022 World Cup to be vaccinated.


> Olympic update: The Tokyo Olympics announced on Monday that it will allow 50 percent capacity at its venues, with attendance at any single event capped at 10,000 spectators, when it kicks off in just over a month (The Washington Post).


Only Japanese fans are allowed to attend the games, with those attending events under strict rules. Those attending events must wear masks at all times, may not cheer and will be asked to go straight home afterwards rather than going to a bar or another locale. The decision also goes against the wishes of Shigeru Omi, the top Japanese medical adviser, who recommended holding the games sans fans (The Associated Press).


The news comes amid a continued struggle for Japan to vaccinate the masses. According to Bloomberg News, only 16.5 percent of Japanese residents have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with only 6.4 percent being fully vaccinated.


> State watch: Arizona recorded a small spike in cases this past week when it recorded 641 new cases on Saturday, the highest reported single-day increase in about a month, after largely seeing cases decline. Arizona, not unlike most of the Southern states, is lagging behind the national vaccination rate, as 49 percent of its population has received at least one vaccine shot, compared with 66 percent nationally (The Hill).


The Hill: Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Israeli president receives COVID-19 booster shot AstraZeneca CEO: 'Not clear yet' if boosters are needed MORE says he puts “very little weight in the craziness of condemning me.”


Politico: COVID-19 broke the CDC. Can Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyUS vaccinations tick up as delta variant spreads Public health expert: 'Biden absolutely declared a victory too soon' Delta variant raises fears of worsening mutations MORE fix it?


CNBC: American Airlines cancels hundreds of flights due to staffing crunch, maintenance issues.




POLITICS: A new poll out of Iowa is showing warning signs for Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet 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-Iowa) as he continues to contemplate whether to seek an eighth term in the upper chamber next year.


According to a new Des Moines Register-Mediacom Iowa poll, nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) say that it’s time for someone else to hold the seat, while 27 percent say they would reelect the longtime Iowa senator. Of those who say it’s due time for a new senator, 37 percent are Republicans.


Nevertheless, if Grassley, 88, decides to launch another bid, he remains the heavy favorite to hold on to the seat, which he has occupied since 1981.



US Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa



> 2022 watch: Republicans have zeroed in on denying Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) a second term in office and have made winning back the governor’s mansion in Topeka a top priority ahead of next year.


As The Hill’s Tal Axelrod writes, the Kansas Democrat caught lightning in a bottle to win three years ago, having run in a good year for Democrats against one of the most deeply flawed GOP general election candidates in recent memory. However, Republicans do not foresee a redux next year, with Democrats readily conceding it will be an uphill climb for Kelly to nab a second term.


“By definition, it's no better than 50-50. Maybe you might see her favored a little bit if things are really going well, but you also might see her down to almost any Republican who's not Kris Kobach,” said Burdett Loomis, a professor emeritus at the University of Kansas, who is in touch with top Democrats in the state.


Reid Wilson, The Hill: Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat.


The Hill: New York City voters set to decide on replacement for Cyrus Vance Jr. amid Trump probe.

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Can Biden save the Democrats from themselves? By Matt Bai, contributing columnist, The Washington Post.


Dads just want to help, by Arthur C. Brooks, columnist, The Atlantic.


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The House meets at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session.


The Senate meets at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Christopher Fonzone to be general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.


The president receives the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden will meet with financial regulators to discuss the state of the country’s financial system, among other issues.


The vice president will travel to Pittsburgh. She will be joined by Labor Secretary Marty WalshMarty WalshPoultry plant fined M over 'entirely avoidable' deaths of six workers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots On The Money: Inflation spike puts Biden on defensive | Senate Democrats hit spending speed bumps | Larry Summers huddles with WH team MORE.


The White House briefing will take place at noon.


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


➔ INTERNATIONAL: Negotiators from Iran and six world powers on Sunday adjourned talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal, with plans to return to their respective governments for consultations. No date for a resumption of the talks has been set, though an envoy from Russia said they may begin again in as little as 10 days. The U.S. is not currently directly engaged in talks (The Hill).


➔ SPORTS: Jon Rahm won his first major championship on Sunday, taking home the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on Sunday, becoming the first Spaniard to win the tournament in its 121 year history. Rahm, 26, won by one stroke over Louis Oosthuizen in comeback fashion. The win also comes weeks after Rahm was denied a runaway victory at The Memorial, having led the tournament after three rounds before being informed that he tested positive for COVID-19 on June 5 (ESPN).



Jon Rahm of Spain celebrates with the trophy after winning during the final round of the 2021 U.S. Open



And finally … The International Space Station received a mini-facelift over the weekend as a pair of astronauts installed the first portion of solar paneling on the orbiting satellite.


French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough overcame a number of issues, including related to their suits, but were able to unfurl the 63-foot panel and bolt it together in roughly 10 minutes.


“It is beautiful,” Pesquet said (The Associated Press).


Video of the rollout is HERE.



Solar arrays deployed on space station