The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – A huge win for Biden, centrist senators
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 610,891; Tuesday, 610,952; Wednesday, 611,288; Thursday, 611,801.
The Senate on Wednesday evening voted to open debate on a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal hours after negotiators and President Biden announced they reached a deal following months of up-and-down discussions.
Senators voted 67-32 to officially begin work on the bill with the hope of passing it through the upper chamber before the August recess, with 17 Senate Republicans voting with every Democrat. The agreement on the bill, which is worth roughly $1.2 trillion over eight years and includes $550 billion in new spending, was lauded by Biden as the “most significant long-term investment” in infrastructure “in nearly a century.”
“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things,” Biden said in a statement. “Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal. But that’s what it means to compromise and forge consensus—the heart of democracy.”
“The bipartisan infrastructure deal is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America that will help make our historic economic recovery a historic long-term boom,” Biden added.
As The Hill’s Jordain Carney notes, there were changes made to the agreement after a framework was agreed to last month. The total spending dropped to $550 billion from $579 billion, as the new blueprint cuts an “infrastructure bank” that was meant to help spur private investment in large projects. The accord includes funding for roads, bridges, public transit, electric buses, clean drinking water and broadband.
List of 17 Senate Republicans who voted to open debate: Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Susan Collins (Maine), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Hoeven (N.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), James Risch (Idaho), Mitt Romney (Utah), Thom Tillis (N.C.) Todd Young (Ind.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Bipartisan infrastructure pact clears key Senate vote after breakthrough in talks.
The Associated Press: Infrastructure deal: Senate suddenly acts to take up bill.
There are many tough votes ahead for the bill to pass the Senate, but if it does, it will likely become law. While some on the left may vote no in the House, there appear to be enough centrist Republicans in the lower chamber who want the deal to pass. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is a great vote counter, will need to deliver for the president.
While McConnell voted yes on Wednesday, House Minority Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is unlikely to be supportive — especially in the wake of former President Trump‘s public opposition this week.
No GOP lawmaker voted yes while three Democrats — Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) — voted no.
The New York Times: The roughly $550 billion infrastructure plan: What’s in and what’s out.
For weeks, an agreement proved elusive for the group of 22 senators who led the discussions. Various provisions, including mass transit and water, threatened to derail the process at any moment. The offsets to cover the budgetary costs of the package now appear to include repurposed and unspent COVID-19 relief funds and unemployment aid.
“We now have an agreement on the major issues. We are prepared to move forward,” Portman, the lead GOP negotiator, told reporters earlier on Wednesday. “We look forward to moving ahead. And having the opportunity to have a healthy debate here.”
Politico: Trump tries to sabotage the Biden infrastructure deal.
The bill also was the first of a two-track process to move in the Senate as Democrats prepare to advance a budget resolution that will tee up a $3.5 trillion reconciliation blueprint, launching a months-long process that will almost certainly involve headaches for the majority party.
One of those headaches cropped up on Wednesday when Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), the lead negotiator for Democrats on the bipartisan bill, said that while she will vote to proceed on the budget resolution, the $3.5 trillion price-tag is too high for her to throw her weight behind and will need to be altered.
“While I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion — and in the coming months, I will work in good faith to develop this legislation with my colleagues and the administration,” Sinema told the Arizona Republic.
Sinema and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have said they will support advancing the budget resolution but will need to see a final reconciliation product before deciding how they will vote. Her comments also sparked a fury among progressives, with Ocasio-Cortez panning the remarks immediately after they became public (Politico).
Axios: Biden meeting with Democrats on immigration today.
The Hill: “Good Trouble”: Black caucus embraces civil disobedience.
More in Congress: The House passed a spending bill on Wednesday that would boost the pay for Capitol Police and House staff members (The Hill). … House Democrats on Wednesday passed for the first time in more than 50 years a State Department and foreign assistance appropriations bill that does not include the Helms Amendment, a provision that blocks U.S. funding for women’s health services related to abortions. The state, foreign operations and related programs bill — which passed 217-212, with three Democrats voting no — an annual package that lays out U.S. foreign funding priorities, excludes text from the amendment for the first time since it was introduced in 1973 (The Hill).
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LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: This week brought home the difference between carrots and sticks when it comes to federal, state, municipal and business decisions during a pandemic in which three effective vaccines are available, too many people remain unvaccinated and a clear and present danger to everyone — the delta virus — is being allowed to spread.
A day after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) cracked down on health care and other municipal workers, mandating they be vaccinated or tested regularly, the city dangled a gentler incentive, offering New Yorkers $100 beginning on Friday if they get vaccinated at a city-run site.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who found himself boxed in by de Blasio, spun around on Wednesday and announced that state workers must get vaccinated or face weekly COVID-19 tests, and all patient-facing health care employees at state-run hospitals will be required to be vaccinated without the option to use testing to avoid being jabbed (The New York Times).
The White House used Cuomo’s announcement and actions in New York City and California to argue that Biden is following other leaders’ examples as he announces today that federal civilian employees and contractors will be required to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.
WTOP: The government of Fairfax County, Va., outside the nation’s capital is exploring whether to adopt a vaccine mandate for its 12,500 county employees.
Just as the vaccine requirements roll out, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is being skewered this week for seemingly punishing most of the nation’s vaccinated individuals with new guidance to wear masks indoors in public spaces because of those who ignore, resist or procrastinate official advice to get vaccinated.
The Hill: Retailers that are eyeing the latest CDC guidelines anticipate tightening mask requirements indoors, but which retailers will act and when remain questions.
Frustrated Americans argue the CDC has not revealed the compelling new scientific data that reverses earlier guidance that masks were not needed indoors among people who were fully vaccinated. The CDC also reversed another bit of its earlier advice: It now says people should get tested if fully vaccinated and exposed to COVID-19, even without developing symptoms (The New York Times). The CDC insists the delta variant changed the science, which forced changes in its advice as infections have spiked.
Some who watched Biden on Wednesday were confused to see him without a mask during an indoor event in Pennsylvania, glad-handing well-wishers as he finished speaking at a manufacturing plant. But while landing in Washington aboard Marine One hours later and making his way into the Oval Office, Biden’s face was covered both outdoors and as he entered the Oval Office (pictures below). Masks are mandated as of Tuesday for officials and staff inside the White House, but the Pennsylvania county Biden visited on Wednesday was not deemed by the CDC to be a location of high COVID-19 spread.
The Hill: Biden and his administration are entering a difficult stretch as they try to get the delta variant under control.
The Hill: Masks are a flash point on Capitol Hill. They are again a requirement in the House but a recommendation in the Senate. Surging coronavirus cases and the debates about vaccination and mask mandates are among issues that have Democratic and Republican lawmakers at each other’s throats, report The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis.
> In Missouri, Attorney General Eric Schmitt says he will sue Kansas City over the reinstatement of a mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Schmitt is going up against a Wednesday order by Mayor Quinton Lucas tied to CDC guidance (KMBC). In addition to Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike Parson, other GOP governors who say they’re opposed to the CDC’s mask guidance are Greg Abbott of Texas, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Brian Kemp of Georgia and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska (The New York Times).
> Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress are considering reducing proposed new funding for pandemic preparedness included in a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” blueprint. The lawmakers wielding the scissors want to trim $30 billion down to $5 billion, The Hill’s Peter Sullivan reports.
> In news from the United Kingdom, coronavirus limits imposed on vaccinated U.S. and European travelers will be lifted in Great Britain on Aug. 2 (The Washington Post).
> The Wall Street Journal: According to a study, Pfizer’s vaccine effectiveness drops from 96 percent to 84 percent within two months of inoculation, showing a weakening over the first six months but a high level of protection against the coronavirus.
> NPR: In rare cases, vaccinated people who are infected with COVID-19 are vulnerable to “long COVID,” or symptoms that linger, according to a small study of fully vaccinated health care workers in Israel.
> At the Tokyo Summer Olympics, American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, 28, a U.S. Army reservist who won bronze in Rio de Janeiro at the Olympics in 2016, dropped out of competition after he tested positive for COVID-19, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee confirmed on Thursday. Kenricks remains in isolation in a hotel in Japan in accordance with protocol (CNN).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: Rep.-elect Jake Ellzey’s (R-Texas) victory in Tuesday night’s special election runoff in Texas’s 6th Congressional District is putting the impact of Trump’s endorsement under the microscope after his support for Susan Wright did not put her over the top.
Speaking to Axios on Wednesday, Trump accidentally let slip that his side “lost” on Tuesday before quickly pulling a 180 and saying that it was a win because a Republican still won.
“I think this is the only race we’ve lost together,” Trump said of David McIntosh and the Club for Growth, the conservative outside group that is getting the lion’s share of the blame for Wright’s loss. Axios’s Jonathan Swan wrote that Trump suddenly caught himself mid sentence on the word “lost.” “This is the only race we’ve … this is not a loss, again, I don’t want to claim it is a loss, this was a win. … The big thing is, we had two very good people running that were both Republicans. That was the win.”
However, the GOP universe is viewing the Texas contest as a clear Trump loss. After years of Trump serving as a GOP primary kingmaker, Republicans are now questioning whether the former president’s endorsement is still the weapon it once was ahead of the 2022 GOP primary season as they look for clues out of Tuesday night’s contest.
“Anybody wondering the answer to that question should simply look at the result of the election,” one GOP strategist who worked on Trump’s reelection told the Morning Report. “It’s never been an issue before. Trump’s name used to be everything.”
Luckily for Trump and other Republicans, they get another chance to answer that question next week in the special election to replace former Rep. Steve Stivers (R) in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. Mike Carey, the Trump-backed candidate, is considered the front-runner, but he is squaring off against multiple opponents with a fighting chance heading into Tuesday’s election. Among them are former state legislator Ron Hood, who is backed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and state Rep. Jeff LaRe, whom Stivers is supporting.
In an interview with the Morning Report, Stivers said that there are similar issues at work in next week’s race, noting that the contest will be one of incredibly low turnout. Thus far, roughly 2,000 people have voted early, with more taking advantage of early voting in the special election in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge. The two contests will both be held on Tuesday.
“It’s just like last night,” Stivers, a former chairman of the House GOP campaign arm, said of Trump’s endorsement “It’s helpful. Trump’s still popular. But I don’t think his endorsement still delivers a victory. It does not guarantee a victory. People like him, but it’s not enough in and of itself.”
Alex Isenstadt, Politico: Texas loss alarms Trump advisers worried about party clout.
However, alarm bells did not go off for everyone in the GOP universe, with some maintaining that Tuesday night was the exception rather than the rule. One GOP operative, in particular, let loose on Wright and her campaign for their lackluster performance.
“She may have been the worst candidate and campaign in history,” the operative said, noting expectations of a Carey win on Tuesday night.
Amie Parnes and Hanna Trudo, The Hill: Vice President Harris’s bad polls trigger Democratic worries.
The Hill: “Blue wave” Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection.
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!
The Second Amendment is the latest issue to be reframed (wrongly) as racist, by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3zNDQGE
A Saudi official’s harrowing account of torture reveals the regime’s brutality, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2TLxvMA
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. and will resume consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure package.
The president and the vice president will receive the President’s Daily Brief in the Oval Office at 10 a.m. Biden will sign into law at 11:45 a.m. the Dispose Unused Medications and Prescription Opioids Act and the Major Medical Facility Authorization Act of 2021. Biden and Harris will receive an economic briefing from their advisers at 1 p.m. The president at 4 p.m. will describe in an East Room speech the next steps in the federal push to get more Americans vaccinated, including a vaccination requirement for the civilian workforce.
Harris and administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman of the Small Business Administration at 2 p.m. will participate in a virtual meeting with small business owners.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter (GDP in the first quarter was 6.4 percent). … The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 24 (claims rose in the prior week, surprising many analysts).
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m.
INVITATION TODAY: Join The Hill’s Virtually Live event “Energy Efficiency, Climate and Justice” at 1 p.m. Speakers include Brenda Mallory, White House Council on Environmental Quality chair; Kim Foreman, Environmental Health Watch executive director; Ben Passer of Fresh Energy; Jacqueline Patterson, The Chisholm Legacy Project founder and executive director; and Adrianna Quintero of the Energy Foundation. Information is HERE.
➔ WINGED VICTORY: A stunning gold and green bird in Hawaii that was believed to be dead last week was found alive and well, which researchers are gushing is “an amazing sign.” The five to six-inch kiwikiu, or the Maui parrotbill, is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a critically endangered species. According to the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, the creature was once found all over Maui and the neighboring Moloka’i, but because of humans, feral pigs, wildcats and mosquito-induced disease, its numbers dwindled to fewer than 150 birds. Surprised researcher Zach Pezzillo said he found a male kiwikiu a week ago, apparently a survivor of a failed relocation project among seven birds inadvertently exposed to malaria through mosquitoes. Pezzillo heard the little bird’s distinct song at the Nakula Natural Area Reserve in Maui, located on the slopes of the Haleakalā volcano, and snagged proof of his sighting (SFGate and MauiForestBirds.org).
➔ ECONOMY: After weeks of national hand-wringing about rising COVID-19 infections, hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans, supply chain and computer chip issues and price hikes seen in housing, gasoline and food, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday took a brighter, longer view. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the economy has made progress toward the central bank’s employment and inflation goals, and officials offered a hint they could begin to reduce Fed asset purchases later this year (The Wall Street Journal). The economy still has “some ground to cover” in the labor market before the central bank could begin easing off stimulus despite rising inflation, Powell told reporters (The Hill). The chairman spoke shortly after the Fed’s Federal Open Market Committee announced it would keep interest rates at a 0 to 0.25 percent baseline range and continue its monthly purchases of at least $80 billion in Treasury bonds and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities, as widely expected. Analysts say they are now focused on the Fed’s annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Aug. 22-24.
➔ INTERNATIONAL: Russian authorities raided the home of Roman Dobrokhotov, the chief editor of The Insider, an investigative news site, which was recently designated by the Kremlin as a “foreign agent.” A legal aid group said that police seized cell phones, laptops, tablets and Dobrokhotov’s international passport during the Moscow raid. The editor was slated to travel outside Russia later in the day. Dobrokhotov was subsequently questioned at a police precinct and released. The move comes amid a pressure campaign by the government against independent media outlets ahead of September’s parliamentary election (The Associated Press).
And finally … The Morning Report Tokyo Summer Olympics coverage today continues with some great photos and a medal leaderboard. (Our weekly Morning Report quiz, usually found here on Thursdays, is on hiatus until after the Olympics wrap up next month.)
The United States leads in medals with 37, of which 13 are gold. China has captured 29 (14 gold) while Japan piled up 23 medals (14 gold). Russia, competing as the Russian Olympic Committee in Tokyo, has 25 (seven gold), and Australia has 20 total so far, of which eight are gold. Check out medals, competitions and details at NBC Olympics.