The Hill’s Morning Report – Will Schumer back down on his deadline?
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 609,021; Tuesday, 609,231.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) moved ahead on Monday with plans to open debate on the bipartisan infrastructure package on Wednesday despite warnings that 10 Senate Republicans will not vote to do so without a nailed-down deal.
Schumer on Monday teed up the midweek vote by filing cloture on a shell bill that can be used as a placeholder until a final agreement is reached. Speaking on the Senate floor, the New York Democrat held firm on his timeline to move ahead on both the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill and the $3.5 trillion Democratic-only reconciliation bill before the upper chamber breaks for the August recess.
“They have been working on this bipartisan framework for more than a month already. It’s time to begin the debate,” Schumer said of negotiators. “We must make significant progress on both bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget resolution before the end of the work period.”
Schumer’s decision comes as Republicans of all stripes indicated that they don’t expect for there to be the 10 votes needed to advance the infrastructure proposal unless magic strikes in the coming days and an agreement with legislative text is reached and finalized.
Jordain Carney, The Hill: Schumer sets up Wednesday infrastructure showdown.
The Associated Press: President Biden wants spending to boost economy, but GOP to block vote.
The Washington Post: Infrastructure deal in precarious state as endgame nears.
“We need to see the bill before voting to go to it. I think that’s pretty easily understood,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters after walking off the Senate floor on Monday (The Hill).
In recent days, the GOP chorus against Schumer’s plan has reached a crescendo, arguing that he is rushing the process and jeopardizing a potential final product, with top Republicans and negotiators saying that the bill is in no position to reach the floor.
“There’s no bill. You can’t expect that many Republicans to move forward on a pretty vague concept,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership (pictured below). “It’s pretty much up to the majority leader. If he wants to kill the bipartisan bill, insisting on a vote before there’s a bill is a certain way to kill the bipartisan discussion” (Politico).
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told The Hill that there simply isn’t enough time to land the infrastructure plane ahead of Wednesday. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a key negotiator, added that he will not vote to proceed if no accord is reached.
Across the aisle, Democratic negotiators indicated that they have no issue with the Democratic leader’s plan. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said that he is “anxious” to get a deal done but thinks Schumer is doing the right thing (CNN). Others were more blunt.
“It puts pressure on us to get some shit done,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a member of the group of 22 senators (CNN).
The New York Democrat added that top party negotiators, including Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), support his plan for the week. If the bipartisan group is unable to finalize the text of the agreement ahead of Thursday, Schumer said that he will bring up an amendment “consisting only of the elements of the bill that have already been put through committee on a bipartisan process.”
Schumer also has political incentive to move ahead with his game of hardball as he is up for reelection next year and will almost certainly get criticized by progressives if he caves. He is seeking a fifth term in the Senate.
Politico: Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) Democrats grit their teeth amid Senate infrastructure drama.
As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, offsets to avoid adding to the deficit remain a hurdle. Republicans oppose a proposed increase in IRS enforcement funding that Democrats say could bring in revenues and close a $100 billion funding gap. Senators seem to be clear about offsets that are contentious, rather than revenues or cuts that might be acceptable to colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
The Hill: Advocates say bigger deal needed to meet climate crisis.
The Hill: Post-court ruling, Democrats face pressure to deliver on immigration.
> Jan. 6: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday named five House Republicans to serve on the special committee to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
As The Hill’s Scott Wong writes, Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, will serve as the top party member on the panel. Others tapped to join are Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee; Rodney Davis (Ill.), the top GOP member on the House Administration Committee; Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.); and Troy Nehls (R-Texas).
Banks, Jordan and Nehls all voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election in Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6, while Davis and Armstrong voted to do so.
The Associated Press: A new Capitol Police chief has been chosen in the wake of Jan. 6 riot.
The New York Times: Capitol rioter sentenced to eight months for trying to stop vote certification.
More in Congress: Biden’s nominee for chief nuclear negotiator, Bonnie Jenkins, has not been confirmed by the Senate as the administration approaches a July 28 meeting between U.S. and Russian officials aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear weapons. Nuclear nonproliferation experts are raising the alarm that Jenkins’s appointment needs to be prioritized (The Hill). … Capitol rioter Paul Allard Hodgkins was sentenced on Monday to eight months in prison, the first felony sentence imposed on a participant in the attack on Jan. 6 (The Hill).
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: The fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus rattled financial markets on Monday as Wall Street saw its biggest daily decline in months (The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Washington Post). The S&P 500 fell 1.6 percent, its worst showing since mid-May, while the Dow dropped 2.1 percent. The sell-off was broad, reflecting a range of concerns about economic growth and rising COVID-19 infections that could lead to new restrictions for work, travel and school. The U.S. COVID-19 infection rate has surged 140 percent in the past two weeks, and deaths are up 33 percent as health experts and elected leaders throw up their hands in concern while trying to cajole the unvaccinated to get shots.
All children older than 2 should wear masks indoors in school, regardless of their vaccination status, according to a Monday recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The statement is stricter than guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and underscores an emerging belief in some scientific quarters that children are more vulnerable than first thought to becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 or spreading the virus to others (CNN and The Hill). “Many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff, and some communities overall have low vaccination uptake where the virus may be circulating more prominently,” the academy noted.
The summer of freedom was “premature,” according to a growing number of physicians, epidemiologists and researchers. Time for a reality check. The delta variant’s transmissibility is responsible for a majority of new infections in the United States, even as routine testing has ebbed. Many public health experts believe cases of infection are higher than reports would suggest because people who have been fully vaccinated are still being infected and are without symptoms, despite assertions that such “breakthrough” cases are rare. “We’re getting further away from the end than we should be. We’re in a bad place right now globally,” Maria Van Kerkhove, a World Health Organization epidemiologist, said (The Washington Post).
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), 70, who was fully vaccinated earlier this year, said Monday he tested positive for COVID-19 after experiencing mild, flu-like symptoms and will self-isolate at home to avoid transmitting the virus to House colleagues and staff members (The Hill).
Vice President Harris, who was vaccinated six months ago, was tested for COVID-19 on Sunday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center during what her spokespeople initially described as a “routine” medical appointment. Harris met last week with Democratic members of the Texas legislature who are in Washington to champion voting rights, and some of the lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated. “What’s important for everybody to know is that the vice president was tested,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed on Monday. She said “no additional precautions” were being taken to separate Harris from Biden following her meeting with the lawmakers. Officials said Harris was not in close contact with the infected lawmakers and would not need to quarantine (Fox News).
> Misinformation: The president walked back his statement last week that Facebook was “killing people” by facilitating the spread of false information about COVID-19 and vaccines. Biden said on Monday that while he remains critical of incorrect and unsubstantiated information about COVID-19 that circulates on social media, “Facebook isn’t killing people” (CNBC and The Associated Press). Meanwhile, Twitter suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for posting coronavirus misinformation (The New York Times).
> Vaccine mandates remain divisive across the country as a federal judge on Monday upheld Indiana University’s requirement that students and staff be inoculated against COVID-19 by this fall. The case will be appealed. As many as 500 schools around the country have said they would impose vaccination mandates when classes begin. In response, some states have banned such requirements for college students (The New York Times).
NBC News: Vaccine mandates more likely once FDA grants full approvals, health experts say.
Axios-Ipsos poll: Strategies to reach the unvaccinated.
> Tokyo Olympics outbreaks: In Japan, problems continue to consume the upcoming Tokyo Olympics for Team USA as multiple high-profile athletes have either tested positive for COVID-19 or found their spots in limbo only days before the games begin.
Kara Eaker, an alternate on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, tested positive for the virus, with fellow alternate Leanne Wong being placed in isolation as a potential close contact. According to Al Fong, the personal coach for the two gymnasts, Eaker was vaccinated against COVID-19 two months ago (ESPN).
Zach LaVine, a member of the U.S. men’s basketball team, was placed in health and safety protocols on Monday and missed the team’s flight to Japan. USA Basketball indicated hope that LaVine will travel to Tokyo later this week.
Yahoo Sports: American Katie Lou Samuelson is off the Olympics 3-on-3 women’s basketball team in Tokyo after becoming ill with COVID-19.
The Associated Press: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he believes the world needs to see Japan stage a safe Olympics.
The Washington Post: Becca Meyers, a deaf-blind Paralympian swimmer from Maryland, was told to navigate Tokyo alone without a “personal care assistant” because of COVID-19. Recognizing the challenges, she appealed, was rejected and on Sunday quit Team USA.
> Warnings: The rise in the delta variant also forced the hand of the CDC on Monday as it advised individuals to “avoid travel” to the United Kingdom due to the country’s increasing case totals (CNBC).
The news coincided with “Freedom Day” in the U.K., which removed restrictions across the nation on Monday. However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that nightclubs and other venues featuring large crowds will require attendees to provide proof of full vaccination by the end of September (Reuters).
The Hill: Famed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber says he’s closing “Cinderella” because of what he calls “impossible conditions” created by the British government.
The Hill: Canada to open its border for vaccinated Americans starting Aug. 9.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: The Biden administration on Monday transferred a detainee out of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility for the first time, sending Moroccan Abdullatif Nasser, who is in his mid-50s and was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan, to Morocco years after a government review board recommended his discharge in July 2016. The transfer of Nasser could suggest Biden is making efforts to reduce the Guantanamo population, which now stands at 39. Former presidents George W. Bush and Obama supported the prisoner transfer process, which stalled under former President Trump (The Associated Press).
> U.S. & Jordan: King Abdullah II, who on Monday became the first Arab leader to meet face to face with Biden at the White House, suggested he sought to reset the U.S.-Jordan relationship after four bumpy years with Trump. “You can always count on me, my country and many of our colleagues in the region,” Abdullah told Biden in the Oval Office. The two leaders discussed the situation in Syria, Iraq and Israeli-Palestinian tensions amid new leadership in Israel (The Times of Israel).
> U.S. & China: Biden put new pressure on China on Monday along with NATO nations by publicly attributing a hack of a Microsoft Exchange server to Chinese state-sponsored criminals. The United States led an effort with other allies to condemn Beijing’s aggressive behavior in cyberspace (The Hill and The Associated Press). China today denied the hacking charges (The Associated Press).
> Justice Department: Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday made good on a pledge he made in June and formally prohibited federal prosecutors from seizing the records of journalists in leak investigations, with limited exceptions, reversing years of department policy aimed at trying to identify confidential sources (The Associated Press).
> Office of Management and Budget (OMB): Biden has yet to nominate an OMB director after his first choice, Neera Tanden, flamed out under criticism in the Senate and was instead appointed to be a senior West Wing adviser. The budget agency, which is seen as key in any president’s economic team, is operating with a deputy director, who some believed months ago would get the nod for the top job (The Hill).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Delta’s unknowns complicate medical and economic responses, by Mohamed A. El-Erian, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion, https://bloom.bg/2V1Ixxy
Global spyware such as Pegasus is a threat to democracy. Here’s how to stop it, by David Kaye and Marietje Schaake, opinion contributors, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3xM3x9T
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of Jenkins to become under secretary of State for arms control and international security and the motion to proceed to the legislative vehicle for the bipartisan infrastructure package.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the Oval Office at 9:15 a.m. Biden will hold a meeting of his Cabinet at 3:15 a.m. He will also host the Super Bowl LV champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House at 11:15 a.m., along with Doug Emhoff, second gentleman.
The vice president will host King Abdullah for a working breakfast at the Naval Observatory, her official residence, at 8:15 a.m. Harris will participate in the Cabinet meeting this afternoon.
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 11:45 a.m.
INVITATION: TODAY at 1 p.m. The Hill’s Virtually Live hosts part of a three-part series, “The Road to Zero-Emissions Trucks.” Featured speakers: Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), House Energy and Commerce Committee member; Minnesota state Sen. David Senjem (R); Jack Allen, Proterra CEO; Zoe Lipman with BlueGreen Alliance; and John Paul Smith, United Steelworkers Union. Information HERE.
➔ BIG BROTHER: Revelations by The Washington Post and other global news organizations that Israeli firm NSO Group leased military-grade spyware to unsavory customers for unsavory purposes has broad implications for businesses, governments, activists, journalists and everyday people with smartphones in their pockets. Americans abroad using foreign cell phones are vulnerable to being hacked because of the NSO Group spyware (The Washington Post). The Israeli firm has spent millions of dollars trying to obtain contracts to operate in the United States market while offering pledges that its phone-hacking tool does not work in the United States. Those on the receiving end of the company’s money to try to gain U.S. business access include influential members of the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations (The Washington Post).
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Britain said today it would permanently deploy two warships in Asian waters in September as protection as China competes at sea for influence with the United States and Japan (Reuters). … Haitian interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph (pictured below) says he will step down from his position, paving the way for designated Prime Minister Ariel Henry to take over in accordance with the wishes of late President Jovenel Moïse, who was assassinated on July 7. Moïse designated Henry as prime minister one day before he was killed, but he had yet to be sworn in. Joseph has been serving as prime minister with the support of the military and police since the assassination (The Associated Press).
➔ IN THE KNOW: Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, is set to release a memoir late next year that will offer “an honest and captivating personal portrait” of the British royal family member (The Hill).
And finally … You may not have cleared your first cup of coffee this morning, but don’t forget that today Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos takes a ride from West Texas into zero gravity aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft. The aim: space tourism.
Named for the first American astronaut to head into space, Alan Shepard, Blue Origin’s rocket has completed 15 flights and has seen two major iterations since it first flew on April 29, 2015, according to CNET. Bezos and crewmates expect to recline inside a crew capsule shaped like a gumdrop for their ascent, which is controlled by onboard computers before returning to Earth. Crewmates are to include Bezos’s brother, Mark Bezos; aeronautics pioneer Wally Funk; 82, and 18-year-old paying customer Oliver Daemen (son of hedge fund founder Joes Daemen) from the Netherlands.
The Washington Post: Billionaire space race.
CNET: How to watch the Blue Origin launch live.
Business Insider: The New Shepard spacecraft has an emergency escape system.