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This week: Democrats set to begin chaotic three-week sprint

Senate Democrats are returning to Washington on Monday to kick off a three-week sprint that will define Capitol Hill between now and when they leave at the end of the month for their next recess. 

Democrats are staring down a June that is set to include epic clashes over some of the party’s biggest priorities, like voting rights, while also feeling increasingly impatient with longer-than-expected talks happening between the White House and Republicans on infrastructure. 

This week could be a make-or-break moment for the chances of a bipartisan deal between 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 and 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 (R-W.Va.), on a spending package to tackle issues like the nation’s roads, bridges and broadband. 

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Despite weeks of behind-the-scenes haggling, the two sides still seem deeply divided over both the price tag and the scope of a potential deal, leading to growing calls from Democrats for the White House to walk away. 

Biden and Capito spoke on the phone on Friday after an in-person meeting on Wednesday. They’ll talk again on Monday, and Capito is expected to brief a group of roughly 20 centrist-minded senators later this week during a lunch meeting. 

But there are few signs of momentum, with the White House disclosing that they had rejected an offer from Capito to raise the GOP’s top line by roughly $50 billion. 

While Biden “expressed his gratitude for her effort and goodwill,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Five states have yet to administer one dose of vaccine to half their populations MORE said in a statement, he also “indicated that the current offer did not meet his objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis, and create new jobs.”

Biden hasn’t put a hard end date on the talks, though some administration officials have suggested he could end them as soon as this week.

But he’s facing growing pressure from Democrats to pull the plug and let the party go it alone as Congress gets deeper into the legislative year. House 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.) has indicated that she wants to pass a package by early next month, while 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.) has pointed to July more broadly as when the Senate will take up a bill, with or without Republicans.

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Biden also spoke with Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioHouse moderates unveil .25T infrastructure plan This week: Democrats set to begin chaotic three-week sprint Biden rejects new GOP offer as spending talks drag on MORE (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, late last week. DeFazio’s panel will mark up a $547 billion surface transportation bill on Wednesday that includes many of the priorities laid out in Biden’s $2.25 trillion jobs plan. 

But that isn’t without potential stumbling blocks. 

Recent guidance from the Senate parliamentarian put limits on Democrats’ ability to use an arcane budget process known as reconciliation to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster. 

And to even use the fast-track process, they would need total unity from their 50-member caucus, something they currently don’t have. 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Ocasio-Cortez: 'Old way of politics' influences Manchin's thinking The Memo: Democratic tensions will only get worse as left loses patience MORE (D-W.Va.) indicated in a series of interviews late last week that he wasn’t ready to support using reconciliation to pass a pared-down infrastructure package. He added during a Fox News interview on Sunday that he was “very confident” that Republicans and the White House would figure out a deal. 

“There's a lot that's been done with the COVID bills that we put out that basically overlap in some areas of infrastructure, but there's a lot more that needs to be done. And I think we can come to that compromise to where we'll find a bipartisan deal. I'm very, very confident of that,” Manchin said. 

The divisions in strategy over infrastructure is just one of several headaches Democrats will face over the coming weeks. 

A Tuesday closed-door caucus lunch will be the first time Senate Democrats have gathered together since 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.) doubled down over the break on their opposition to nixing the filibuster. 

Though neither of their positions are new — they’ve long been outspoken opponents — it underscores the uphill path that Democrats face to keeping some of their biggest campaign promises through the Senate. Unless Democrats agree to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster, most bills will need the support of at least 10 Republicans. 

Schumer has vowed to hold votes in June on a sweeping election reform bill and a separate paycheck bill that are both expected to be blocked by Republicans. He’s also mulling votes on gun reforms and LGBTQ legislation, which would both face a filibuster unless senators cut a deal.

China

The Senate will wrap up work on legislation aimed at combating China’s competitiveness this week, after agreeing to kick it until after the Memorial Day recess.

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Democrats had hoped to finish the bill before leaving town late last month. But GOP slow-walking, with a handful of Republican senators arguing they should get more time to review changes to the legislation, pushed the Senate into a rare Friday session and threats of Saturday work during the holiday weekend.

Senators ultimately cut a deal to hold the failed vote on the House-passed Jan. 6 commission bill before leaving. They are scheduled to have a final series of votes and then vote on passing the China legislation on Wednesday.

The bill builds off a Schumer proposal with 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.) to provide $120 billion for activities at the National Science Foundation, Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy and NASA. It would also create a new directorate of technology and innovation at the National Science Foundation.  

In addition to the Young-Schumer bill at its core, the legislation provides $52 billion for semiconductor provisions, folds in a separate China-specific bill that passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 21-1 vote and provisions cracking down on the reliance of Chinese companies and technology. 

Capitol attack

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee are poised to release their report this week on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

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The report, which comes after a months-long investigation, is expected to focus on security and intelligence failures at the Capitol on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob breached the building. 

Unlike failed bipartisan calls to start a commission to probe the attack, the joint Senate investigation has been more narrowly focused and the report isn’t expected to delve deeply into the former president’s actions. 

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Bipartisan group reaches infrastructure deal; many questions remain MORE (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the Rules Committee, was one of the six GOP senators who voted to advance the House-passed bill late last month, an effort that ultimately failed to overcome the 60-vote legislative filibuster. Portman noted at the time that he supported moving forward in order to be able to make changes to the House legislation. 

“I believe an independent outside commission can build on that report and ensure a complete picture for the American people, including why the attack occurred and who was involved,” Portman said at the time.

Nominations

The Senate is poised to confirm its first round of Biden’s judicial picks this week. 

Schumer has teed up an initial procedural vote for Monday evening on Julien Neals’s nomination to be a district judge, setting up his confirmation for as soon as Tuesday. 

He’s also teed up a vote on Regina Rodriguez’s nomination to be a district judge.