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The Hill’s Morning Report – Bidens to visit Surfside, Fla., collapse site

Biden touts infrastructure plan
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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 each morning this week: Monday, 603,967; Tuesday, 604,115; Wednesday, 604,467.

President Biden and first lady Jill Biden will travel Thursday to Miami to meet with officials and mourning families who have waited nearly a week as search teams comb through a mountain of debris without finding survivors of the Champlain South Towers tragedy. 

One hundred forty-nine people remain missing, leading officials and searchers to anticipate that the current official death toll of 12 will rise (Miami Herald). 

Biden — who is no stranger to loss and is practiced at delivering pathos among the bereaved — will bring to Florida’s disaster site expressions of sympathy and presidential reassurances about ongoing federal assistance. Engineering experts and a mounting collection of information describing structural problems and recommended repairs at the 1981 structure suggest that the partial collapse of the 12-story tower in less than 30 seconds might have been preventable. No cause has yet been identified, and the White House says Biden supports those who want to see a thorough investigation. 

The Associated Press: Biden (pictured below in 2020 during his campaign) will meet with victims’ relatives near the site of the Surfside, Fla., catastrophe. 

The president of the Champlain South Towers condo association warned residents of the building in an April letter about the need for major repairs and urged them to pay $15 million in assessments to begin the work (The Wall Street Journal). Separately, the Surfside official who gave the building a clean bill of health in November 2018 was placed on leave from his current job as interim building official for Doral, Fla., the city said Tuesday. 

In the early hours on Thursday following the building’s collapse, 37 survivors were pulled from the site, but none of the missing have been found alive in the days since. The search continues with fading hopes (The Wall Street Journal). 

The Washington Post: Video timeline: How the Miami-Dade condo building collapsed.

The New York Times: What we know about those who were killed.

Biden, who was in Wisconsin on Tuesday to promote his infrastructure agenda and will visit Michigan on Friday to urge Americans to get COVID-19 inoculations, will have appeared in three battleground states this week that are important to his party’s future in 2022 and 2024. 

The Hill: In Wisconsin, Biden says the infrastructure plan he backs would create millions of jobs. 

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the president, who will not attend this summer’s Olympics, said the first lady may lead the U.S. delegation in Tokyo. “We’re trying to work that out now. That’s the plan,” he told reporters (CNN). The Olympics have been roiled by controversy because of the coronavirus, calls from public health specialists in Japan to cancel the games and limits on spectators in an effort to mitigate transmissions of COVID-19. Japan’s Olympics opening ceremony, postponed a year, is scheduled on July 23, and the games conclude Aug. 8. 


Biden consoles a widow on the 2020 campaign trail



CONGRESS: Congressional Democrats received a boost on Tuesday when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said that he supports moving ahead with a wide-ranging infrastructure bill via budget reconciliation. 

However, Manchin also gave hope to Republicans, telling MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle that any Democratic-only package should not be linked to the bipartisan Group of 21 blueprint that was agreed to last week. 

“We’re going to have to work it through reconciliation, which I’ve agreed that that can be done. I just haven’t agreed on the amount, because I haven’t seen everything that everyone is wanting to put in the bill,” Manchin said (The Hill). 

Manchin’s remarks come amid some struggles for the bipartisan framework. According to The Washington Post, the proposal continues to be plagued by financing issues as lawmakers have been insistent that the bill does not raise taxes on middle-class Americans.  

Among the key provisions in the current $1.2 trillion package over eight years is $70 billion purportedly coming from reducing spending on unemployment benefits that are incorrectly paid out and considered waste. Nonpartisan analysts tell the Post that the total is closer to $35 billion and that the administration is struggling to come up with the remaining monies to cover the $70 billion.

USA Today: Senators celebrate bipartisan compromise on infrastructure. Now the hard part begins.


Sen. Joe Manchin


Political problems are also plaguing the infrastructure situation. Progressives are dissatisfied with how bipartisan negotiations played out, suggesting they over promised results to supporters last year during the campaign.  

As The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Hanna Trudo write, Democrats believed full control of Congress gave them a chance to pass sweeping bills to deal with myriad issues, including voting rights, health care and climate change, to name a few. But six months into Biden’s presidency, many of those plans look unpassable, as the party has been unable to nix the 60-vote threshold in the Senate, leaving all of them to languish.  

The situation is not at all dissimilar from what happened to Republicans in 2017 after years of promising a full repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, which never took place. 

More in Congress: Confederate statues in the Capitol could be removed following the vote on Tuesday by the House to rid the seat of American democracy of symbols of rebellion and racism. But first, the Senate has to agree. The House voted 285-120 to remove the statues, with only 67 Republicans voting with Democrats (The Hill). … The House Armed Services Committee is expected to consider a bill in mid-July to overhaul the military justice system in an effort to tackle the pervasive problem of sexual assault, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the panel’s chairman, said on Tuesday (The Hill).   


POLITICS: The New York City mayoral race is in turmoil after the city’s board of elections released a new round of primary results, only to remove them hours later and say they were released to the public in error. A new tally is expected today.

According to the results released, Eric Adams, president of the Brooklyn borough, held a 2 percentage point lead (16,000 votes) over Kathryn Garcia in the Democratic primary to become the next mayor of New York City. However, those figures were taken down en masse hours later, with the board of elections citing a “discrepancy.” 

According to the board, it failed to remove images of sample ballots from the overall tabulation, saying in a statement that the incorrect results released Tuesday “included both test and election night results, producing approximately 135,000 additional records.”

The board added that those results will be re-totaled and released later today (The New York Times).  

A winner is not expected to be declared until mid-July, due in large part to the city’s new ranked-choice voting system, which allows voters to list five choices in descending order on their ballots (The Hill).

The Associated Press: Error mars vote count in NYC mayoral primary. 

> Border politics: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), a Trump ally and potential 2024 presidential candidate, on Tuesday said she would deploy 50 members of her state’s National Guard to the U.S. southern border in response to Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s “request for help” with illegal border crossings.  

Noem made the announcement one day ahead of Trump’s visit to the border with Abbott, an event intended to criticize the Biden administration and gain publicity for the former president. The U.S. border with Mexico is 1,200 miles long, suggesting the “national security” response is something of an embellishment. Noem said the deployment would be for 30 to 60 days and is being paid for with “a private donation” (Newsweek). 

Noem’s announcement came one the eve of Trump’s scheduled visit to the border alongside Abbott and a group of roughly two dozen members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC). Afterward, Trump and Abbott are expected to participate in a town hall moderated by Fox News’s Sean Hannity and attended by supporters at a hangar in the South Texas International Airport in Edinburg.

“Republicans understand what a severe case of invasion and illegal behavior we have at the border. And the Biden administration has done nothing about it,” said Rep. Roger Williams (Texas), who will be among the RSC members who will join Trump at the border (The Hill). 

Fox News: Ahead of Trump border visit, Republicans mobilize effort to send law enforcement relief to Texas, Arizona. 

Politico: Arizona ballot audit shows signs of backfiring on GOP.

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Trump’s newfound critics invite skepticism. 

Meridith McGraw, Politico: A new darkness falls on the Trump movement.

> Senate contests: Former Kentucky State Rep. Charles Booker (D) said Tuesday he will have a special announcement Thursday. He said months ago he was considering a race for a Senate seat next year, which would likely be to challenge Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Booker previously ran for a Democratic nomination in the 2020 Senate primaries, facing off against Amy McGrath in challenging then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is now minority leader (WAVE3).

In Georgia, Trump said in an interview on Tuesday that former NFL running back Herschel Walker told him that he plans to run for Senate in Georgia in a bid to unseat Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.).

“He told me he’s going to, and I think he will,” Trump told “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show.” “I had dinner with him a week ago. He’s a great guy. He’s a patriot. He’s a very loyal person” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). 

In Ohio’s Senate race to succeed Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is retiring next year, the campaign staff of Republican candidate Josh Mandel quit because of what they say was a toxic work environment created by a staffer involved in a relationship with Mandel (The Columbus Dispatch).

NBC News: Ohio GOP Senate candidates escalate competition for Trump’s favor. 

Politico: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has the moxie to take on Trump. Will she?


ADMINISTRATION: Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, expressed concern Tuesday that the country could slide into a chaotic civil war and face “very hard times” unless its fractious civilian leadership unites and the haphazard array of armed groups joining the anti-Taliban fight are controlled and made “accountable” for their actions in battle. Miller, who met with a group of journalists, offered a bleak assessment as Taliban forces continued their rapid advance across northern Afghan provinces and expanded into other rural regions. The insurgents also began circling closer to Kabul (The Washington Post). 

> The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is beefing up protections for homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages, although a temporary federal ban on foreclosures will end on July 31 and will not be renewed (CNBC). 

> The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) newly named chairwoman, Lina Khan, faces a 30-day deadline to file an amended antitrust complaint against Facebook following a federal judge’s dismissal of the FTC’s case on Monday. Khan, an antitrust scholar, gained support from progressives and some of the most conservative senators before her confirmation this month (The Hill).  


FTC Commissioner Khan



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Republicans would only hurt themselves by not participating in Pelosi’s Jan. 6 select committee, by Henry Olsen, columnist, The Washington Post.  

I translated articles for Apple Daily. Can I go home to Hong Kong? by Jessica Leung, opinion contributor, The Wall Street Journal. 


The House meets at 10 a.m. 

The Senate convenes for a pro forma session at 11 a.m. on Thursday; senators are out of Washington through July 9. 

The president receives the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Biden will speak at 11 a.m. at a meeting of Cabinet officials, eight governors from Western states and attendees from the private sector about drought, record heat and the risks of wildfire season in the West. 

Vice President Harris will speak at 9:35 a.m. at the South Court Auditorium across from the White House while leading the U.S. delegation to the Generation Equality Forum. At 11 a.m., Harris will join Biden with eight governors, Cabinet members, plus private-sector representatives for a discussion of preparedness for wildfires, drought and high temperatures in Western states.

Jill Biden will travel to Phoenix today with second gentleman Doug Emhoff to meet with Mayor Kate Gallego (D) and tour a COVID-19 vaccination site at a middle school to encourage people to get vaccinated.  

The White House press briefing will take place at 1 p.m. and include Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

INVITATION TODAY at 1 p.m. ET to The Hill’s Virtually Live event, “Telos: ESG and Corporate Responsibility in America,” a national summit on environmental and social governance with CEOs, regulators, investment experts, activists and others. Speakers include Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), United Nations Global Compact CEO Sanda Ojiambo, PwC Chairman Tim Ryan and more. Information is HERE.  

Also today, join The Hill’s “The Road to Zero-Emission Trucks: Charging Infrastructure,” an event at 3:15 p.m. ET examining the future of electric trucks and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Information is HERE

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


SUPREME COURT: Justices on Tuesday left intact a nationwide pause on rental evictions put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 5-4 vote rejected an emergency request from a group of landlords asking the court to effectively end the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium, which is set to run through July (The Hill). … The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the government can indefinitely detain certain immigrants who say they will face persecution or torture if they are deported to their native countries. The court held 6-3 that the immigrants are not entitled to a hearing about whether they should be released while the government evaluates their claims. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court that “those aliens are not entitled to a bond hearing” (The Associated Press). … The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that New Jersey cannot block a natural gas pipeline. Justices by a 5-4 voted said PennEast Pipeline Company, the project’s developer, may exercise the federal government’s power of eminent domain to condemn land owned by New Jersey (The New York Times).

CORONAVIRUS: Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are likely to produce “persistent” immunity for years against COVID-19 and the known coronavirus variants, according to a new study published in the journal Nature (The New York Times). … Royal Caribbean International said on Tuesday it would require unvaccinated guests over the age of 12 who are traveling from Florida to show proof of insurance that covers COVID-19 related medical expenses, quarantine and evacuation. Proof of travel insurance is a condition of boarding on trips from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 and must be shown at check-in, the company said. Two unvaccinated teenagers tested positive on a company ship last week, and two others were infected on another cruise ship this month. The Florida government bars companies from requiring customers to show proof of vaccines, yet cruise operators are required under federal rules to demonstrate that a majority of passengers and crew have received COVID-19 vaccines before setting sail (Reuters).

➔ STATE WATCH: States are spending unprecedented amounts of money to prepare for what is likely to be a terrible fire season. Biden meets this morning with Western governors at the White House to discuss record temperatures, drought and wildfire preparedness. Expected to participate are the governors of Oregon, California, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Washington and Colorado (The Hill). … Some experts believe climate change has compounded the conditions that are producing a stifling summer in the Pacific Northwest, severe conditions that have sent some Portland, Ore., residents and their pets to cooling centers (pictured below) (The Hill). … The situation was laid bare in Portland, Ore., which shut down its streetcar and light rail services on Monday due to cables melting from the scorching weather (The Hill). … Next up amid the crushing heat: rolling power blackouts (The Associated Press).


The Portland cooling center



And finally … A Stone Age shaman who practiced “magical” rituals 4,400 years ago in what is now Finland may have used a 21-inch, carved wooden staff shaped remarkably like a snake, according to those who have studied the ancient implement unearthed last summer and now written about the unusual antiquity (NBC News).  

Archaeologists believe a prehistoric wetland site where the staff was found in southwest Finland was occupied by Neolithic (late Stone Age) peoples between 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.


A 4,400 year old wooden snake
Tags Adam Smith building collapse Doug Emhoff French Hill Heat wave House Infrastructure Jan. 6 commission Jill Biden Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kate Gallego Kristi Noem Lina Khan Lisa Murkowski Michael Regan Mitch McConnell Morning Report Rand Paul Raphael Warnock Rob Portman Roger Williams Samuel Alito Sean Hannity Senate Sherrod Brown Tim Ryan Yvette Clarke

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