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The Daily 202: Biden has a lot more bridge-building to do on infrastructure deal

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6/25/2021 Olivier Knox

with Mariana Alfaro

Welcome to The Daily 202 newsletter! Tell your friends to sign up here. It’s the birthday of the author we all know as George Orwell, and everyone should read his “Politics and the English Language.”

President Biden yesterday celebrated a bipartisan infrastructure deal in which “none of us got all that we wanted,“ then sold it to wary progressives by vowing to kill it if they don’t get more of what they  and he  want in a companion bill. 

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I'm not signing it,” the president declared. “I'm not just signing the bipartisan bill and forgetting about the rest.” 

Given the dense parliamentary thicket through which the two proposals must slog to reach Biden’s desk, tweeted exuberance about the breakthrough could either be farsighted or end up as a minor digital display in the Museum of Disappointment.

Still, the White House took an understandable digital victory lap, tying the accord to the president’s career-long attraction to two-party transactions and his campaign-trail covenant to try to work with Republicans.

The deal, according to Paige Winfield Cunningham, aims “to revitalize the nation’s road and transit systems, while upgrading broadband and investing in other public-works projects.” 

What’s in it? Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Jeff Stein report:

The bipartisan agreement, crafted by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and eight others in the Senate, would spend $973 billion over five years (or $1.2 trillion over eight years). Of that, $579 billion is new spending that was not already allocated through other projects, according to details released by the White House. The new spending includes $312 billion for transportation projects, $55 billion for water infrastructure and $65 billion for broadband — figures hashed out by the five Democrats and five Republicans who had negotiated for weeks on the package.” 

The bill focuses on physical infrastructure, not on items like care for children and the elderly or on affordable housing, and it omits major measures to combat the climate crisis, all of which were in Biden’s original multi-trillion-dollar proposal.

The White House and its allies must now win over skeptical liberals and conservatives to the spirit of bipartisan bonhomie hardly a sure thing, and harder given skepticism from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

As regards that self-indulgent “thicket” metaphor, the plan is to turn the deal into legislation, pass a budget resolution to set up a process called reconciliation that lets Democrats pass a broader package without GOP votes, and then send the two packages to Biden. 

No part of this is easy.

McConnell accused Biden of “caving” to the left and criticized what he described as holding “hostage” the bipartisan deal to smooth the way for the “wasteful” bigger package, according to this Associated Press dispatch from Jonathan Lemire, Josh Boak, and Lisa Mascaro. 

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) promised progressives early yesterday she won’t bring the bipartisan plan to a vote until the Senate sends the House the reconciliation bill. 

“We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” she told reporters.

Biden cast the twin announcements the bipartisan deal, coupled with what seems likely to be the Democrats-only companion  in the image of his governing philosophy: Work with Republicans when he can, go one-party when he must. 

I know there are some of my party who discouraged me from seeking an agreement with our Republican colleagues, who said that we should, ‘Go bigger and go alone,” Biden said. 


“But let me say this: When we can find common ground, though, working across party lines, that is what I will seek to do,” the president said. 

Some of the cheerful language after Biden announced the deal made it sound like the real infrastructure breakthrough was the friends senators made along the way and across the aisle.

Two of the winners so far seemed to be Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Sinema (Ariz.), who have been at the center of Beltway political journalism so much over the past few months they may deserve their own celebrity name mashup (“Manchinema”? “Sinemin”?)

Over at Roll Call, Jessica Wehrman, Niels Lesniewski and Jennifer Shutt report: 

Republican lawmakers said the Democratic plan, which aimed to give Biden a win on the bulk of his domestic priorities, was not necessarily a deterrent to voting for the bipartisan agreement. 

I’m going to make a decision based on what’s on the floor,’ said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., of the bipartisan plan. ‘I want to make sure it’s legitimate infrastructure, it’s fully paid for and it doesn’t touch the taxes.’” 

They also got this from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.): 

“ 'It’s a huge investment,’ he said. ‘I think it’s an incredibly positive thing. Is it going to be as much as some people want? No. Is it going to be more than other people wanted? Yes. But in the end I think it's gonna be really good for the country and it shows the world that we're not just, you know, a hot mess here.’ ”

What’s happening now

Derek Chauvin will be sentenced today for the murder of George Floyd. The former Minneapolis police officer faces up to 40 years in prison, Holly Bailey reports. “While Chauvin will almost certainly receive prison time for Floyd’s killing — making him only the second police officer in Minnesota history to be jailed for an on-duty murder and one of less than a dozen officers nationwide — how much time he might serve has become a point of contention. An attorney for Chauvin, who has been held in solitary confinement at a state prison near the Twin Cities since his April 20 conviction, has argued that the ex-officer should get probation, while prosecutors are seeking at least 30 years.”

At least four people are dead after a condo partially collapsed in Surfside, Fla. The frantic search for survivors continues, Timothy Bella, Lateshia Beachum and Antonio Olivo report. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 159 people remain unaccounted for. Rescue teams continue working at the site. Biden this morning approved an emergency declaration that allows FEMA to assist.

“Experts on sea level rise and climate change caution that it is too soon to speculate whether rising seas helped destabilize the oceanfront condo. The 40-year-old building was relatively new compared with others on its stretch of beach in the town of Surfside,” Josh Partlow, Darryl Fears, Jon Swaine and Jim Morrison report. “But it’s already clear that South Florida has been on the front lines of sea level rise and that the impacts of climate change on the infrastructure of the region — from septic systems to aquifers to shoreline erosion — will be a management problem for years to come.”

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Lunchtime reads from The Post

  • In Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s clerics have groomed and promoted their ruthless enforcer,” by Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh: “Raisi is an awkward, perhaps paralyzing, problem for the Biden administration’s diplomatic strategy. First, there is the issue of human rights, which the White House says is a new priority for the United States. A revived Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which will release tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, will perforce be transacted with a new president who has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in no uncertain terms in 2019. ... And then there is the substance of the nuclear deal. The talks in Vienna will likely succeed and both parties will resume their compliance with an accord whose key provisions are rapidly expiring.”
  • DeJoy’s USPS slowdown plan will delay the mail. What’s it mean for your Zip code?” by Jacob Bogage and Kevin Schaul: “Las Vegas, Seattle, San Diego, Orlando and countless communities in between will see mail service slow by as much as a day under the U.S. Postal Service’s strategic restructuring plan. ... The new delivery regimen, for which the agency seeks regulatory approval, disproportionately affects states west of the Rocky Mountains and the country’s mainland extremities, including large swaths of southern Texas and Florida.”

… and beyond

  • Nearly all COVID deaths in the US are now among unvaccinated,” by the AP’s Carla Johnson and Mike Stobbe: “An AP analysis of available government data from May shows that ‘breakthrough’ infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations. That’s about 0.1%. And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. That translates to about 0.8%, or five deaths per day on average. ... Deaths in the U.S. have plummeted from a peak of more than 3,400 day on average in mid-January, one month into the vaccination drive.”
  • They seemed like Democratic activists. They were secretly conservative spies,” by the New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman: “Large donations to the Democratic National Committee — $10,000 each — had bought Beau Maier and Sofia LaRocca tickets to [a February 2020 Democratic] debate. During a cocktail reception beforehand, they worked the room of party officials, rainbow donkey pins affixed to their lapels. In fact, much about them was a lie. Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca were part of an undercover operation by conservatives to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle. ... The operatives aimed to gather dirt that could sabotage the reputations of people and organizations. ... “At the center of the scheme was an unusual cast: a former British spy connected to the security contractor Erik Prince, a wealthy heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune and undercover operatives like Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca who used Wyoming as a base to insinuate themselves into the political fabric of this state and at least two others, Colorado and Arizona. ... What the effort accomplished — and how much information Mr. Seddon’s operatives gathered — is unclear. Sometimes, their tactics were bumbling and amateurish. But the operation’s use of spycraft to manipulate the politics of several states over years greatly exceeds the tactics of more traditional political dirty tricks operations.”

The Biden agenda

The Justice Department will file a federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for its efforts to enact new voting restrictions that federal authorities allege discriminate against Black Americans.

  • “The legal challenge takes aim at Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, which was passed in March by the Republican-led state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R). The law imposes new limits on the use of absentee ballots, makes it a crime for outside groups to provide food and water to voters waiting at polling stations, and hands greater control over election administration to the state legislature,” David Nakamura reports.
  • The action is the first major voting rights case the Justice Department has filed under the Biden administration and comes as Republican-led state governments across the country have been seeking to impose broad new voting restrictions.”
  • Just yesterday, a Georgia judge “dismissed most of a lawsuit that alleged there were fraudulent mail-in ballots in Fulton County from the 2020 presidential election, dealing a potential blow to a group of local voters that has pushed to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in the state’s largest county last November,” Amy B Wang reports.

Biden will meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the White House today.

  • The visit comes amid a new U.S. intelligence assessment that says the Afghan government could fall within six months of American troops’ departure, Dan Lamothe and Shane Harris report. Still, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, John Kirby, said Thursday that the withdrawal continues “on pace,” with the expectation that it will be complete by September.
  • The Biden administration plans to evacuate thousands of Afghans who worked with the U.S. there, including interpreters, drivers and other staff. “The emergency relocation would help protect those former U.S. employees, often threatened by the Taliban, while they navigate a years-long process of seeking permanent residence in the United States,” Anne Gearan and Missy Ryan report. It is not clear how many people are eligible and where they would go. But the effort acknowledges that the Afghan government cannot fully step in to protect the vulnerable former employees.

As Democrats spar over advancing Biden’s climate agenda, they move to cut methane.

  • “The House voted Friday to restore a rule curbing leaks of methane from oil and gas operations, a step forward in the fight against climate change that comes amid growing tensions among Democrats over whether more dramatic action is being sacrificed in the push for a bipartisan infrastructure deal,” Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report.
  • “The move to put back in place the methane restrictions implemented under President Barack Obama is intended to combat that startling trend by taking aim at the oil and gas sector, which ranks as the nation’s largest industrial source of methane emissions.”
  • “While restoring the methane rule is being cheered by Democrats as a needed, if modest, step, it comes as prominent lawmakers warn they are prepared to torpedo a tentative bipartisan infrastructure deal unless they get assurances that a bill with more ambitious climate provisions moves at the same time.”

The Biden administration is backing a contentious pipeline project that would carry hundreds of thousands of oil barrels through delicate Minnesota watersheds.

  • In a court brief, the administration urged that “a challenge brought by local tribes and environmental groups be thrown out,” the Times’s Hiroko Tabuchi reports. “The closely watched filing in federal court was the latest in a series of actions taken by the administration to back Trump-era approvals of oil and gas infrastructure, despite President Biden’s pledge to aggressively cut emissions from fossil fuels, a major driver of climate change.”
  • “The pipeline, which is known as Line 3 and is being built by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy, has been the focus of mass protests in recent weeks.”

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will investigate conditions for migrant children at Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso.

  • The investigation comes amid reports that the children are desperate to leave the emergency care facilities there, Felicia Sonmez reports.
  • Symone Sanders, Harris’s chief spokeswoman, told reporters aboard Air Force Two this morning that Biden and Harris “instructed Secretary Becerra to do a thorough investigation” of the conditions at the fort and report back to them.

The future of the GOP

Trump is set to reemerge on the trail, and revenge is on his mind.

  • “Trump is set this weekend to kick off a series of political events,” Poliitco's Meredith McGraw and James Arkin report. “Aides and confidants say the goal is to boost his standing in anticipation of a possible future run and to scratch that never-soothed itch he has for publicity. But it’s also to exact some revenge.”
  • “On Saturday, Trump will hold a Make America Great Again rally outside Cleveland, Ohio in support of longtime aide-turned-Republican congressional candidate Max Miller, who is vying for the seat held by Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a Cleveland native who voted for the second impeachment of Trump after the Jan. 6 riot.”
  • “Saturday’s rally — the first of a MAGA tour that Trump’s aides have teased for months — is expected to draw out diehards longing to be taken back to an era when they were less bitter about the turns life took: one when Trump was in the White House. And the president is likely to indulge them.”

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley rejected Trump suggestions the military should “crack skulls” during protests last year.

  • In his new book, WSJ reporter Michael Bender details that “Trump's language became increasingly violent during Oval Office meetings as protests in Seattle and Portland began to receive attention from cable new outlets,” CNN’s Zachary Cohen writes. “The President would highlight videos that showed law enforcement getting physical with protesters and tell his administration he wanted to see more of that behavior.”
  • “‘That's how you're supposed to handle these people,’ Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Bender. ‘Crack their skulls!’ Trump also told his team that he wanted the military to go in and ‘beat the f--k out’ of the civil rights protesters.”
  • “When Milley and then-Attorney General William Barr would push back, Trump toned it down, but only slightly,” Bender writes.
  • “At times, Milley also clashed with top White House officials who sought to encourage the then-President's behavior. During one Oval Office debate, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller chimed in, equating the scenes unfolding on his television to those in a third-world country and claiming major American cities had been turned into war zones. ... The comment infuriated Milley, who viewed Miller as not only wrong but out of his lane, Bender writes. ... ‘Shut the f—k up, Stephen,’ Milley snapped.”
  • Last night … Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson described Milley as “a pig” and “stupid.” Carlson said Milley got his position as the highest-ranking and most senior military officer in the U.S. because “he knows who to suck up to and he’s more than happy to do it,” Forbes reports. The segment came after Milley defended the teaching of critical race theory in the military.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy will meet with a police officer injured during the insurrection.

  • “Officer Michael Fanone has said for weeks that he wanted to meet with McCarthy, who has opposed a commission” to investigate the riot, the AP’s Mary Clare Jalonick, Nomaan Merchant and Michael Balsamo report. “The meeting comes after Pelosi announced Thursday that she is creating a special committee to investigate the attack. She said a partisan-led probe was the only option left after Senate Republicans blocked legislation to form a bipartisan commission.”
  • “Fanone is expected to be joined by Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who was also among the officers who responded to the rioting, and Gladys Sicknick, the mother of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.”
  • A bipartisan group from the Senate Rules and Administration Committee filed a bill yesterday to give the chief of the Capitol Police independent power to directly request the National Guard in cases of emergency, dispensing with a rule that required such decisions to first get the approval of a three-person board, Karoun Demirjian reports.

Mike Pence defended his actions on Jan. 6, telling a Republican crowd would’ve been unconstitutional to reject electoral votes.

  • “In a speech Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Pence said he was proud that Congress reconvened the night of Jan. 6 to certify Joe Biden’s win even after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol,” Amy B Wang reports.
  • “ ‘Now, there are those in our party who believe that in my position as presiding officer over the joint session that I possess the authority to reject or return electoral votes certified by the states,’ Pence said, without specifying that Trump had been the most high-powered driver of that belief. ‘The Constitution provides the vice president with no such authority before the joint session of Congress.’”
  • “The remarks were Pence’s most extensive comments yet justifying his decision not to interfere with the election certification, as the former vice president continues to walk the line between staying in the good graces of Trump — and Trump loyalists — and decrying the violence that occurred on Jan. 6 in Trump’s name.”

Quote of the day

And the truth is, there’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone,Pence told the crowd of Republicans. “If we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections. We’ll lose our country,” he added.

Hot on the left

A group of Biden supporters traveling on a campaign bus that was surrounded and followed by Trump supporters on a Texas highway has filed multiple lawsuits over the incident, including a claim that the intimidation actions violated the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. “The suits target people who were allegedly following and harassing the bus, as well as local law enforcement for not helping after assistance was requested, according to those on the bus,” the Texas Tribune’s Kate McGee reports. Among the plaintiffs are former state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), bus driver Timothy Holloway and David Gins, a then-campaign staffer who now serves as Vice President Harris’s deputy director for operations. 

A lawsuit was filed in federal court this week against at least seven members of the so-called “Trump Train,” who are accused of violating the 1871 act that "prevents groups from joining together to obstruct free and fair federal elections by intimidating and injuring voters, or denying them the ability to engage in political speech.”

Hot on the right

Critical race theory is the hottest topic on Fox News. And it’s only getting hotter, writes Jeremy Barr. “The concept has been around for more than 40 years, according to EducationWeek, but it has become a major programming theme on Fox News only in recent months as parents, buoyed by conservative activists and groups, have vocally opposed the teaching of the theory — or something similar to it — in schools throughout the country. Republican-led state legislatures have voted to outlaw it,” our colleague writes. “The term ‘critical race theory’ was mentioned just 132 times on Fox News shows in 2020. In 2021, it has been mentioned 1,860 times, according to a tally using the media monitoring service Critical Mention.”

Inflation, visualized

Consumers are paying more for a range of products, including bacon, blouses and used Buicks, as the economy rebounds strongly from the covid-led recession with considerable help from Congress and the Federal Reserve.

a close up of text on a white background © Provided by The Washington Post

Today in Washington

Biden will sign a bill designating the National Pulse Memorial today at 1:30 p.m. First lady Jill Biden will be in attendance. Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will deliver remarks to commemorate Pride Month today at 2 p.m. At 3:30 p.m., the president will welcome Ghani to the White House. At 5 p.m., the president will go to Camp David, where he will spend the weekend. 

Harris is in El Paso, visiting a Border Patrol station and delivering remarks. At 12:30 p.m., she will leave Texas en route to Los Angeles, where she will stay overnight.

In closing

Seth Meyers said farewell to Rudy Giuliani’s New York law license:


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