The Hill's Morning Report - Infrastructure vote fails; partisan feud erupts over Jan. 6 panel




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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 609,021; Tuesday, 609,231; Wednesday, 609,529; Thursday, 609,862.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy MORE’s (D-N.Y.) attempt to open debate on a bipartisan infrastructure proposal, but negotiators indicated that they are closing in on a final agreement.


The attempt to get the ball rolling on an infrastructure package fell, 49-51, with Schumer voting against the bill in order to hold another vote (The Hill). Despite the setback, positive news could be just around the corner as a group of 22 senators involved in talks said following the vote that they are nearing a deal on the $1.2 trillion blueprint.


“We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement. We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right—and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America’s infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days,” the group said in a statement.


Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (D-W.Va.), a leading negotiator, said that he expects the Democratic leader to schedule another procedural vote as early as Monday to open the infrastructure debate, contingent on the bipartisan group striking a deal. Eleven Republicans — including the 10 who issued the joint statement Wednesday afternoon — added in a letter to Schumer that they will vote to proceed on the infrastructure debate next week once the picture is clearer of what the deal looks like (The Hill). 


President BidenJoe BidenCDC chief clarifies vaccine comments: 'There will be no nationwide mandate' Overnight 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 Biden urges local governments to stave off evictions MORE also sounded optimistic that there will ultimately be an agreement in place in the coming days. During a town hall in Ohio on Wednesday night, Biden talked up the involvement of home state Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOn 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 Senate starts infrastructure debate amid 11th-hour drama MORE (R-Ohio), adding that “I think it’s going to get done” (The Hill).


The Associated Press: Infrastructure bill fails first vote; Senate to try again.


The Hill: Schumer leaves door open for second vote on bipartisan infrastructure deal.


Speaking Wednesday before the vote, Schumer begged Republicans to vote to advance debate, maintaining that it was not meant as a hard deadline to reach a deal. Republicans, however, were having none of that and dismissed the push out of hand. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Bill 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 MORE (R-Maine) told reporters prior to the vote that she considered it a “meaningless exercise.”


More than anything though, the vote was an attempt by Schumer to speed up the process for both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget resolution that will serve as the basis of a $3.5 trillion package, which can be passed with only Democratic votes. It also means that this week is another one lost for Biden’s agenda as Congress falls behind in implementing his priorities ahead of the August recess. 


As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, the latest development has Democrats increasingly skeptical that any infrastructure package will ultimately pass. 


“Time was never on our side,” said one Democratic senator who requested anonymity to raise doubts about his colleague’s progress in negotiating with Republicans as how to pay for the bill remains a key sticking point in discussions. “I’m somewhat cynical. We’re close until we’re not close and we’re not close until it’s all done.”


The Washington Post: Biden says eliminating filibuster would “throw the entire Congress into chaos.”


The Hill: Democrats warn leadership against excluding House from infrastructure talks.



Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) at the Capitol



Across the Capitol complex, a brouhaha erupted on the House side as Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D-Calif.) announced a self-proclaimed “unprecedented decision” to block Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJordan acknowledges talking to Trump on Jan. 6 AP Fact Check rates GOP claim Pelosi blocked National Guard on Jan. 6 'false' Officers' powerful Capitol riot testimony underscores Pelosi's partisan blunder MORE (R-Ohio) from serving on the special committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol (The Hill). The decision prompted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyAfter police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi Capitol Police asked to arrest the maskless 228 Republican lawmakers urge Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Calif.) to turn right around and yank all of the GOP’s appointed members from the panel (The Hill). 


“Pelosi has broken this institution,” McCarthy later told reporters at a press conference alongside the five GOP choices for the committee.


The news boomeranged around Capitol Hill, escalating tensions further between the two leaders. It also meant the panel will have eight Democratic-appointed members, including Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPhotos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris Jordan acknowledges talking to Trump on Jan. 6 Stefanik calls Cheney 'Pelosi pawn' over Jan. 6 criticism MORE (R-Wyo.). Dating back to Congress’s attempt to create a commission to investigate the attack, Republicans have attempted to brand Pelosi’s planned probe as a political fishing expedition. On Wednesday, GOP members felt they were vindicated, arguing that the decision was a gift to McCarthy.


“This is proof Pelosi is looking for the exit,” one GOP member told the Morning Report. “McCarthy wins the week. Pelosi showed her weakness; she caved to a few members whining. She wanted to say yes to her members even if it disadvantages her party’s position next year.”


Upshot: It remains to be seen if McCarthy's decision not to pick two substitutes will pan out over the long term, but his counter-move to Pelosi's decision wasn't surprising (The Hill).


The New York Times: Why Banks and Jordan were blocked from the Capitol riot panel.


The Hill: Cheney: GOP leader seeking to block real Jan. 6 investigation.


Politico: Jan. 6 select panel Dems cast a wide net for Trump. 



House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) speaks alongside Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) at a news conference



> Debt ceiling: Republicans on Wednesday fired the first salvo in the fight over the federal debt limit, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP MORE (R-Ky.) warning Democrats that it will be up to them to avoid a default as Biden pushes for trillions in additional spending. 


As The Hill’s Sylvan Lane, Naomi Jagoda and Jordain Carney write, Senate GOP leaders are indicating that there will not be enough support on their side of the aisle to raise or suspend the debt limit, adding another potential roadblock for their infrastructure push.


Schumer fired back early on Wednesday, labeling them “shameless, cynical, and totally political.” 


“This debt is Trump debt. It's COVID debt. Democrats joined three times during the Trump administration to do the responsible thing. And the bottom line is that leader McConnell should not be playing political games with the full faith and credit of the United States. Americans pay their debts,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. 


Experts indicated that they are unsure how long the U.S. can stave off a default, which raises the stakes for an already major challenge.


The Associated Press: Dems hit McConnell over his debt ceiling blockade. 


CORONAVIRUS: Elected officials revisited public health debates on Wednesday about mandatory vaccinations and masks amid escalating COVID-19 infections in many states linked to the delta variant and others. What’s on politicians’ minds? The upcoming school season, the challenges ahead for parents and teachers and the still-wobbly economy.


Biden on Wednesday said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will likely advise unvaccinated students to wear masks indoors as they return to in-person instruction this fall (The Hill). Speaking during a CNN town hall from Ohio, the president said, “The CDC is going to say that what we should do is, everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask in school.” 


In New York City, outgoing Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioBiden rolls dice by getting more aggressive on vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge On The Money: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration | Economic growth rose to 6.5 percent annual rate in second quarter MORE (D) ordered staff members in city-run hospitals and clinics to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by early August or submit to weekly testing as a condition of employment. The new policy will apply to more than 10 percent of the more than 300,000 people who work for city government. Two million adults in the city are still unvaccinated. Some of the largest labor unions representing city health care workers have publicly stated their opposition to mandatory vaccination requirements (The New York Times).


North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Wednesday said his state was updating its guidance for public schools to indicate they should require masks indoors for everyone — students and teachers — in kindergarten through eighth grade. The update, with its focus on in-person instruction this fall, also directs schools to ensure unvaccinated high school students and teachers wear masks indoors (WECT).


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida coronavirus cases jump 50 percent in one week Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' Publix will require employees to wear masks MORE (R) — who has been criticized for trying to have it all ways when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines and precautions — on Wednesday said, “these vaccines are saving lives,” noting that he wants Floridians to understand that the vast majority of residents who will become seriously ill with COVID-19 will be those who are unvaccinated. DeSantis, seen as a potential presidential contender in 2024 (The Hill), has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate since the start of the pandemic. He repeated his opposition during Wednesday’s news conference.


Understand what that message is sending to people who aren’t vaccinated. It’s telling them that the vaccines don’t work. I think that’s the worst message you can send to people at this time because I think that the data has been really, really good in terms of preserving people, saving people’s lives, reducing mortality dramatically,” DeSantis said. 


> White House officials want to “normalize” the inevitability of breakthrough COVID-19 infections in fully vaccinated people because they worry that what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says are “rare” but headline-grabbing infections confuse people and play into misinformation that discourages millions of Americans from getting vaccinated. There is no federal count of mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 infection in those fully vaccinated against the virus (The Associated Press). … New Jersey officials say 49 fully vaccinated people out of the roughly 5 million people who got shots in the state have subsequently died from COVID-19. Most had underlying health complications ( subscribers and The Hill).


> The CDC is concerned that lagging vaccination rates among nursing home staff are being linked to a national increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths at senior facilities. The CDC is investigating deaths of fully immunized residents at a nursing home in Mesa County, Colo. In the Grand Junction area of the county, 16 residents at a memory care facility who were fully inoculated against COVID-19 became infected with the virus and four died in May and June, according to The Associated Press. The deceased had been in hospice care and had a median age of 93.


> Today, the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee will consider an additional vaccine shot for immunocompromised people to protect them against COVID-19. The group will discuss the clinical evidence for giving additional doses to those with weak immune systems. A small percentage of U.S. adults — about 2 to 4 percent — are considered immunocompromised due to organ transplants, cancer treatments and diseases such as rheumatologic conditions, HIV and leukemia (The Washington Post).


> More variants: Illinois is reporting six times more cases of COVID-19 infection with the gamma variant of the virus than the highly infectious delta strain (CBS Chicago). … The lambda variant of the coronavirus has been identified in a Houston hospital. The World Health Organization in June called lambda a "variant of interest," meaning it has genetic changes that affect the virus' characteristics and has caused significant community transmission in multiple countries (USA Today).


> Travel: United Kingdom border officials are instructed to stop routinely checking travelers for their COVID-19 status, British media reported on Wednesday, as detailed by The Associated Press. The new policy applies to people arriving from so-called green and amber list countries, the top two levels of the government’s three-tier traffic light system for foreign travel. Everyone entering Britain is still legally required to fill out a passenger locator form and have a negative COVID-19 test even if border officials don’t routinely check their documentation.



Students attend an in-person English class at St. Anthony Catholic High School during the Covid-19 pandemic



POLITICS: Biden on Wednesday took swipes at Republicans during a CNN town hall appearance for their repeated assertions that Democrats want to defund police departments or are anti-police, which he has rejected since he was a candidate for the presidency (The Hill). 


“They’re lying,” he said. “We have to change police conduct, we have to have rules where things are open, we have to have rules where you can be able to determine ... how many times a cop has violated the rules, and be able to have access to what’s going on at a police department so the Justice Department can get involved in whether or not they have to change the pattern or practice.”


The president also suggested that Fox News hosts had markedly revised on-air commentary about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines to encourage their audiences to get the shots. “They’ve had an altar call, some of those guys,” Biden said, referring to the act in the Catholic Church of stepping forward to make a spiritual commitment (The Hill).  


On the issue of affirming voting rights in the states, the president insisted he does not want proposed federal legislation “wrapped up” in a separate debate within his party about jettisoning the Senate filibuster, which he has opposed (The Hill).


Asked how he believes employers such as restaurants and hospitality companies can recruit and retain enough workers to operate while hiring remains a challenge, Biden focused on two trends. He described the importance of competitive wages and benefits and workers’ desire during the pandemic to contemplate career changes as the economy rebounds (The Hill). “I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things and where there is a shortage of employees, people are looking to make more money and to bargain. And so I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while,” Biden told a questioner seated in the town hall audience.


South Carolina: Biden on Wednesday tapped South Carolina lawyer Jamie Harpootlian, the wife of Democratic state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, to become the next U.S. ambassador to Slovenia, pending Senate confirmation. Jamie Harpootlian currently works as counsel at her husband’s law firm (Palmetto Politics). Dick Harpootlian told journalists he is not leaving his state legislative position. 

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America has too many elections, by Richard H. Pildes, opinion contributor and legal scholar, The New York Times.


Biden has two infrastructure plans. That’s a mistake, by Matt Bai, opinion contributor, The Washington Post.


The House meets at 9 a.m. McCarthy will hold his weekly press conference at 12:30 p.m.


The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. and will resume consideration of Jill Hruby to be under secretary for nuclear security at the Department of Energy.


The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the Oval Office at 10:30 a.m. Biden will be briefed at 1:15 p.m. by members of the White House COVID-19 response team. At 2:15 p.m., the president will sign the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 and deliver remarks on the topic with Harris in attendance. Biden and Harris will meet at 4 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room with union and business leaders to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure effort.


Harris will also meet in her ceremonial office at 12:15 p.m. with DACA recipients, Dreamers without DACA, and immigrant rights leaders.


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 is in Japan to lead the U.S. delegation at the Summer Olympics (The Hill).  


The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meets at 11 a.m. in Atlanta.


The White House press briefing will take place at 12:15 p.m. and include Commerce Secretary Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoSunday shows - Jan. 6 investigation dominates Commerce secretary: We're 'very close' to passing bipartisan infrastructure bill Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe MORE.


Economic indicators: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. reports filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 17. The National Association of Realtors reports at 10 a.m. on U.S. sales of existing homes in June.


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


STATE WATCH: Conversion therapy is now illegal in half of U.S. states. LGBT Americans have waged a ferocious political war against a practice that claims to alter sexual orientation or gender identity, which many experts maintain does more harm than good (The Hill). … A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked Arkansas’s near-total ban on abortion as unconstitutional (The Washington Post). … When Western states burn, states on the East Coast thousands of miles away receive their smoke (The Associated Post and The New York Times graphic).  


OPIOID SETTLEMENT: The nation’s three major drug distributors, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson, and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson on Wednesday reached a $26 billion deal with states that would release some of the biggest companies in the industry from all legal liability in the opioid epidemic in exchange for billions of dollars paid to communities across the country for addiction treatment, prevention services and other steep expenses linked to the opioid epidemic. A separate deal between the companies and Native American tribes is still being negotiated (The New York Times).


NORTH AMERICA: The Biden administration on Wednesday extended closure of land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel such as tourism through Aug. 21 even as officials debate whether to require visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before entering this country (Reuters). Essential travel is permitted, according to a federal fact sheet, and U.S. citizens are permitted to return home. The State Department since April has advised U.S. citizens not to travel to Mexico because of the COVID-19 infection rate. Canada on Monday announced it would reopen its borders to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents Aug. 9, with plans to allow fully vaccinated travelers from any country on Sept. 7 (USA Today).


And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! In the puzzle, we’re measuring some of the news of the week.


Email your responses to and/or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


Billionaire Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosIt's time for US to get serious about cleaning up space junk Press: Give those unemployed writers a job! Progressive group launches M ad campaign to call for tax hikes on the rich MORE rocketed aloft ___ miles to gain 3 minutes of weightlessness on Tuesday.


  1. 50
  2. 66
  3. 82
  4. 108


The Tokyo Summer Olympics competition in softball actually takes place ___ miles from Tokyo.


  1. 150
  2. 160
  3. 200
  4. 300


The wildfires in Western states, especially Oregon, created columns of smoke and ash that climbed what distance into the atmosphere, eventually drifting to create a visible haze in New York City?


  1. Half a mile
  2. 1 mile
  3. 6 miles
  4. 11 miles


Nevada experienced a mild earthquake on Wednesday morning at a depth of about _____ miles, according to data recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey.


  1. There was no earthquake
  2. Between 1 and 5 
  3. 8
  4. 10



A pyrocumulus cloud from the Bootleg Fire drifts into the air near Bly, Oregon