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This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning

This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning
© Greg Nash

Congressional leadership will have their first joint meeting with President BidenJoe BidenBiden prepares to confront Putin Ukrainian president thanks G-7 nations for statement of support Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting MORE this week amid a GOP reckoning about the future of the party heading into 2022. 

The Senate is returning from a one-week break on Monday, while the House will return to Washington on Tuesday after being out for three weeks when much action took place off the floor. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Senate investigation of insurrection falls short Ocasio-Cortez: 'Old way of politics' influences Manchin's thinking MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerIt's not just Manchin: No electoral mandate stalls Democrats' leftist agenda DOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas MORE (D-N.Y.), Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPelosi, leaders seek to squelch Omar controversy with rare joint statement Omar: I wasn't equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries Schumer bemoans number of Republicans who believe Trump will be reinstated: 'A glaring warning' MORE (R-Calif.) will meet with Biden on Wednesday. 

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It’s the first time Biden has met with the four top congressional leaders as a group since being inaugurated in January. It will also be his first meeting with McConnell and McCarthy. 

While it appears Biden doesn’t have much of a relationship with McCarthy, who came to power under Trump, he’s spoken with McConnell on the phone and the two have known each other for decades, first as Senate colleagues and then cutting deals during the Obama administration. 

The meeting is expected to largely focus on Biden’s $4 trillion spending plan, which is divided up between a $2.3 trillion jobs proposal and a second $1.8 trillion bill focused on education and child care. 

Biden was already facing dug-in opposition to his package from Republicans, who warned that it went well beyond the bounds of “core” infrastructure like roads, bridges, rail and broadband. He was dealt a blow late last week with a jobs report that came in substantially below what economists were expecting, fueling criticism from Republicans that now is not the time to raise taxes. Biden has proposed paying for his plan by beefing up taxes on corporations, capital gains and some high-income earners. 

The two sides were already far apart on infrastructure. A group of Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Collins says infrastructure bill won't have gas tax increase or undo 2017 tax reform bill Overnight Energy: Biden seeks to reassert US climate leadership | President to 'repeal or replace' Trump decision removing protections for Tongass | Administration proposes its first offshore wind lease sale MORE (W.Va.), have proposed a $568 billion infrastructure proposal. 

But Capito told MSNBC that the divide between Biden and congressional Republicans on an infrastructure package is “not nearly as big as what you might think,” adding that the $568 billion proposal that she unveiled with 10 Republicans is not their “final offer.”

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Capito is expected to take a group of Republicans to the White House to meet with Biden on Thursday. 

But there are still big gaps on the scope of a bill and how to pay for it. McConnell has predicted that none of his caucus would support Biden’s plan, putting what Republicans would accept at around $600 billion, though other Republicans have suggested that could go as high as $800 billion. 

Democrats are likely to have to pass most, if not all, of Biden’s plan through reconciliation — a process that lets them sideline Republicans by bypassing the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster needed to pass most legislation. 

That comes with headaches of its own given the razor-thin margins in both chambers. That’s particularly acute in the Senate, where Biden would need the entire 50-member caucus in order to pass his plan without Republican help. 

But Democrats are set for a clash over whether to expand Medicare eligibility as part of the package. And a group is still pitching peeling off part of the infrastructure package that can get 60-plus votes into its own bill and then passing the rest through reconciliation. 

Cheney

The high-profile meeting with Biden comes as Republicans are dealing with their own headline-grabbing drama. 

House Republicans could vote as soon as Wednesday to try to boot Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyNew Israeli government should be a teaching moment for global leadership Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' House Democrats to Schumer: Vote again on Jan. 6 probe MORE (R-Wyo.) out from her No. 3 spot in leadership over her high-profile criticism of both former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE and the false claim, spread by both Trump and some of his most fervent supporters, that the 2020 election was “stolen.” 

Frustration with Cheney boiled over while the House was out of town, and McCarthy on Sunday publicly backed Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikRecovering America through the lens of wildlife Former Trump aide eyeing New Hampshire congressional bid GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message MORE (R-N.Y.) for conference chairwoman after days of behind-the-scenes maneuvering. 

Beyond just Cheney’s fate in leadership, the vote will have reverberations for both the direction of the party and Trump’s role heading into 2022 where McCarthy wants to win back the majority and fulfill his long-sought goal of securing the Speaker’s gavel. 

The vote comes months after Cheney handedly defeated an attempt by Trump’s allies to unseat her earlier this year. But this time McCarthy and Rep. Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseWisconsin state lawmaker compares museum mask policy to Nazi Party Overnight Health Care: Public option plan left out of Biden budget proposal | House Republicans demand congressional probe into COVID-19 origin | Half the total US population have received at least one vaccine dose House Republicans demand congressional probe into COVID-19 origin MORE (R-La.), his No. 2, are supportive of the efforts to oust Cheney, arguing that it will help Republicans unify going into the midterm election. 

“There are still a few members that are talking about things that happened in the past, not really focused on what we need to do to move forward and win the majority back next year,” Scalise told Fox Business. “We're going to have to be unified if we defeat the socialist agenda you're seeing in Washington.”

Election reform

The Senate Rules Committee will hold a vote Tuesday on Democrats’ top legislative priority: The For the People Act. 

Democrats in the House and Senate designated the bill as their first of the new Congress — giving it bill number H.R. 1 and S. 1, respectively — to signify its importance to their agenda. 

The House passed the bill for a second time earlier this year, but it faces a rockier path in the Senate. In an effort to solidify Democratic support, Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill House unveils antitrust package to rein in tech giants Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' MORE (D-Minn.), the Rules Committee chairwoman, filed a substitute amendment that largely leaves the bill unchanged but does give state and local officials more flexibility in complying with the legislation.

But that’s unlikely to satisfy Republicans, who are united in opposition to the bill, arguing that it effectively cedes control of elections to the federal government. Democrats argue that with state legislatures across the country introducing bills to tighten voting rights, action from Congress is needed. 

The bill is considered a must-watch for the fight over the fate of the Senate’s 60-vote legislative filibuster. 

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Schumer has vowed to put the bill on the floor and wants to pass it by August. 

But without the support of 10 Republicans, Democrats will need to decide what, if anything, they are willing to do about the legislative filibuster that requires 60 votes to pass most bills. 

Democrats, to the ire of progressive activists, don’t currently have the votes to nix the filibuster, a move that would require the support of all 50 members of their caucus. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (D-Ariz.) are on the record in opposition and several others are wary. 

Even if they did, Manchin has signaled that he has concerns about the broad election reform bill and would rather focus on the John LewisJohn LewisWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill Garland vows fight against voting limits that violate law MORE Voting Rights Act, which would renew and strengthen the Voting Rights Act. 

“The vote should be accessible. It should be secure and it should be fair and that’s the responsibility we have,” Manchin told “Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval." “The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, it’s something we used to ratify bipartisan, no problem at all. … I think we should ratify it for all 50 states.” 

Capitol attack

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House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenPelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative Democrats plot next move after GOP sinks Jan. 6 probe This week: House to vote on Jan. 6 Capitol attack commission MORE (D-Calif.) is holding high-profile hearings this week on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building and interrupted the counting of the Electoral College vote for hours. 

Michael Bolton, the inspector general for the Capitol Police, is scheduled to testify on Monday, when he’s expected to discuss his latest report on the Capitol attack. 

Bolton’s office determined that the Capitol Police "did not have adequately detailed and up-to-date guidance in place for its counter-surveillance and threat assessment operations, which could have led to unclear guidance and accountability.” 

“Additionally, a lack of clear and detailed communication procedures could have increased inefficiencies with processes as well as led to critical counter-surveillance information not being appropriately communicated throughout the Department,” Bolton wrote in a summary of his report that was released by Lofgren’s committee. 

The committee will also hold a hearing Tuesday on the Architect of the Capitol's emergency preparedness as part of its oversight of the Jan. 6 attack. 

China

The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to take up the Endless Frontiers Act, spearheaded by Schumer and Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungBipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Senate passes long-delayed China bill Five key parts of the Senate's sweeping China competitiveness bill MORE (R-Ind.), after a markup last month was delayed when committee members filed roughly 200 amendments to the bill.

The bill would invest more than $100 billion in emerging technologies in an effort to put the U.S. on a level playing field with China. 

That includes establishing a technology and innovation directorate at the National Science Foundation, which would use $100 billion in federal funds over five years to research emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors. 

Reuters reported over the weekend that as part of a compromise between Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate Democrats threaten to block 2026 World Cup funds unless women's soccer team get equal pay Senate confirms Biden's top scientist Senate chaos: Johnson delays exit as votes pushed to Friday MORE (D-Wash.), the committee chairwoman, and Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US Bipartisan bill proposes to add billion in restaurant relief funds MORE (Miss.), the panel’s top Republican, the bill will also now create a White House manufacturing officer that would need to be confirmed by the Senate and would head a new Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Policy. 

Nominations

Schumer has teed up nominees for the Senate floor this week. 

The Senate will take its first vote on Monday at 5:30 p.m. on whether to advance Andrea Palm to be a deputy secretary of Health and Human Services. 

After the Senate wraps up Palm’s nomination, they’ll turn it Cynthia Marten’s nomination to be a deputy secretary of State for political affairs.