Infrastructure Week — make that weeks — is coming for real.
The Biden administration’s next big legislative push is starting to take shape. It’s generally described as an infrastructure package, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. What the White House is planning covers not just building stuff like roads and bridges, but all of the structural economic changes on which President JOE BIDEN campaigned.
As Annie Karni and Jim Tankersley put it in the NYT, “It’s more than just concrete and steel.”
Let’s start at 30,000 feet and work down to the granular level.
The big idea(s). There are several strains of progressive thought that animate the Biden jobs agenda:
— Inequality. There wasn’t a consensus early in the last Democratic administration about tackling income inequality as a top priority. Now there is. Though it’s not a word Biden likes to use, his big economic policies (cash payments to lift families out of poverty, steeper taxes on corporations and the wealthy, a boost to the federal minimum wage) are all highly redistributive. While some populist conservatives have started to compete with Democrats on these policies, this remains one of the widest intellectual gulfs between the parties. Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL started attacking the Biden infrastructure agenda for its revenue raisers before the Covid bill was even signed.
— Racial equity. The era of Democrats talking about a rising tide lifting all boats is largely over. Biden’s plans are carefully attuned to how policy can affect some racial groups differently. There is almost no buy-in from the right on this view of policy, and many prominent congressional Democrats don’t speak this language in the same way that Biden’s progressive economic wonks do.
— Climate. The Biden administration wants to spend enormous sums of money promoting a green economy that will help reach “a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035” and “a net-zero economy by 2050.” The climate agenda pits two crucial Democratic constituencies against each other: labor and environmentalists.
— Industrial policy. Finally, you’re going to be hearing a lot about how this legislation can spark a Made in America manufacturing renaissance as a way to counter China. As NYT’s Noam Scheiber reported recently, the infrastructure bill will pit free traders and protectionists against each other. It will create strange bedfellows: Climate activists are often on the free trade side of these debates.
The big price tag. The NYT, WaPo and WSJ all agree it’s a roughly $3 trillion plan, though the Times notes that the “overall price tag of the package could approach $4 trillion since it includes several tax incentives, like credits to help families afford child care and to encourage energy efficiency in existing buildings.” The cost could climb by “hundreds of billions more” if “temporary tax cuts meant to fight poverty” are added.
The big question. As we reported recently, chief of staff RON KLAIN has told Democrats that the Biden jobs agenda should be split up into multiple bills. There’s only one more opportunity to use reconciliation this year, so by definition “multiple bills” means that the White House will need a 60-vote strategy for any pieces that move through the Senate outside of reconciliation.
NYT: “Mr. Biden’s advisers plan to recommend that the effort be broken into pieces, with Congress tackling infrastructure before turning to a second package that would include more people-focused proposals, like free community college, universal prekindergarten and a national paid leave program.
“Some White House officials believe the focus of the first package may be more appealing to Republicans, business leaders and many moderate Senate Democrats, given the longstanding bipartisan push in Washington for an infrastructure bill.”
WaPo also sees the Build Back Better agenda on a dual track, noting it is “expected to be broken into two parts — one focused on infrastructure, and the other focused on other domestic priorities such as growing the newly expanded child tax credit for several years.”
The WSJ puts it this way: “The first proposal would center on roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects and include many of the climate-change initiatives Mr. Biden outlined in the ‘Build Back Better’ plan he released during the 2020 campaign.
“That package would be followed by measures focusing on education and other priorities, including extending the newly expanded child tax credit scheduled to expire at the end of the year and providing for universal prekindergarten and tuition-free community college …
“Some Democrats are pushing for the administration to reach a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure spending focused on roads, bridges, transit systems and more. That could mean later considering major tax measures through reconciliation, given the low chances Republicans would sign on to big tax increases.”
That strategy raises an obvious question: Can Biden get 10 Republican senators to cooperate on “concrete and steel” when they know the tax and social welfare stuff they oppose is coming next via reconciliation?
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: REPUBLICANS GO ON OFFENSE IN IOWA-2 — With some centrist House Democrats now balking at their leadership’s bid to try to overturn a state-certified House election in Iowa, Republicans are preparing to pounce. The conservative American Action Network is activating its organizers in 19 districts, spending five figures to fund calls to constituents urging them to speak out against the effort.
Targets include a mix of members on the House Administration Committee who will adjudicate the contested election in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, as well as Democrats in tough seats. The group polled the issue in Democratic Rep. CINDY AXNE’S Iowa district in December and found that three-quarters of voters opposed overturning the results — and two-thirds said they’d be less likely to back Axne for reelection if she votes to oust Rep. MARIANNETTE MILLER-MEEKS (R-Iowa). The poll should be taken with a grain of salt since it was conducted by GOP pollsters, but if it’s in the ballpark of voter sentiment, it would be problematic for vulnerable Democrats.
After Playbook’s look at the Iowa situation Monday, our colleagues Ally Mutnick, Sarah Ferris and Melanie Zanona reported that some of those front-line Democrats grilled DCCC officials about their plans to reverse the Iowa race. One Democrat told us Monday that moderates might actually welcome a vote so they can snuff it out — and demonstrate their willingness to buck their own leadership.
BIDEN’S TUESDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will leave the White House at 1 p.m. and travel to Columbus, Ohio, arriving at 2:35 p.m. He’ll tour the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute at 4:10 p.m. and deliver remarks at 4:50 p.m. He’ll depart Ohio at 6:05 p.m. and arrive back at the White House at 7:40 p.m.
— Press secretary JEN PSAKI will gaggle aboard Air Force One on the way to Ohio.
— Harris will swear in WILLIAM BURNS as CIA director at 9:10 a.m. and MARTY WALSH as Labor secretary at 5:25 p.m. The Senate confirmed him 68-29 on Monday
THE HOUSE will meet at 11 a.m. The Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on pandemic response from Treasury and the Fed at noon, with Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN and Fed Chair JEROME POWELL testifying.
THE SENATE will meet at 10 a.m. to take up the nomination of SHALANDA YOUNG for deputy OMB director, which could come to a vote at 2:15 p.m. A vote on VIVEK MURTHY to be surgeon general could come around 5:40 p.m. The Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on SAMANTHA POWER’S nomination to be USAID administrator at 10 a.m. The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on reducing gun violence.
— AHEAD OF THE GUN VIOLENCE HEARING: Huddle’s Olivia Beavers interviewed former Rep. GABBY GIFFORDS about gun policy reform. Giffords said this about last week’s Atlanta shootings: “It appears as though the suspect passed a background check, which serves as an important reminder that universal background checks are an essential but not sufficient policy. There is not one single solution to ending gun violence — we need to enact a comprehensive gun safety agenda.” Read the full interview in Huddle at 8 a.m. — sign up here
— AHEAD OF THE POWER HEARING: A coalition of Jewish groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER urging him to oppose Power’s confirmation. The groups, which include MORTON KLEIN’S Zionist Organization of America, faulted the Obama administration for failing to block a 2016 U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction while Power was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and expressed concern “that Power could use USAID’s massive budget to the detriment” of Israel.
Schumer, the first Jewish majority leader, has sided with Israel supporters before, such as his 2015 vote against the Iran deal — a stance the groups cited in the letter. But he’s also backed every Biden nominee to date, and he voted to confirm CHUCK HAGEL as Defense secretary during the Obama administration over the objections of some pro-Israel groups. The letter
ANOTHER MASS SHOOTING
— “‘A tragedy and a nightmare’: Ten dead, including officer, after shooting at Boulder King Soopers,” Boulder Daily Camera: “Boulder police Chief Maris Herold said at an evening news conference there were 10 dead, including Boulder police Officer Eric Talley. … Herold said police received a call at about 2:30 p.m. of a man with a rifle at the King Soopers at 3600 Table Mesa. Herold said Talley was the first on scene and was fatally shot. …
“The other nine victims have not yet been publicly identified by the Boulder County Coroner’s Office, but Herold said they were working to notify families as soon as possible. … Police said the shooting and possible motive were still under investigation, but police do have one suspect in custody and do not believe there is any threat to the public.”
— JUST LAST WEEK: “Can Colorado cities enact their own gun restrictions? A Boulder judge says no,” Denver Post: “A judge blocked Boulder from enforcing its 2-year-old ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in the city.”
— WAPO’S @JohnWoodrowCox: “Here’s the thing. We’re all talking about gun violence again because it felt like we’d gotten a break from it, but that never actually happened. Last year, 41,000 people — a record in modern American history — died in shootings.”
THE WHITE HOUSE
EAST WING READING — “Despite flurry of attention, Jill Biden is not leading family reunification effort,” by Anita Kumar and Eugene Daniels: “First lady Jill Biden actually has ‘no formal role’ in the effort, according to her office. Among lawyers and advocates helping the families, her lack of involvement reinforces a broader concern about the slow pace of reunification efforts under Biden. The administration has yet to locate additional parents or announce a specific plan to unite families …
“Some of the advocates and lawyers for migrant families are concerned that Jill Biden backed away from the issue because the administration is facing a torrent of criticism from both the right and the left on the border problems. … The first lady’s office maintains she never had an official role on the issue.”
ANOTHER NOMINATION WITHDRAWN — “White House pulls nomination of Elizabeth Klein to Interior amid Murkowski opposition,” by Ben Lefebvre: “[Elizabeth] Klein is a former Obama administration official and deputy director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law who focused on renewable energy and climate change issues. The Biden administration pulled her nomination after hearing of opposition coming from [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski …
“Murkowski earlier in March said she struggled in deciding to cast her vote to clear from committee Biden’s nomination of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, citing concerns that the administration would hobble oil and gas production on public land. Klein, a progressive on energy matters, was considered a step too far to serve as second in charge at Interior with Haaland.”
CHAMBER PLOTS — “Speedy House vs. slower Senate: Dems struggle to balance on Biden agenda,” by Marianne LeVine and Sarah Ferris: “Senior House Democrats say the Senate will need to make a decision soon on which pieces of the party’s agenda they’ll move first — and then whether to pursue a bipartisan compromise or move toward a reckoning on the filibuster. Some House Democrats, particularly on the left, are starting to get impatient.”
FOLLOWING THE MONEY — “Intern pay was supposed to boost diversity in Congress. Most of the money went to white students,” Roll Call: “The people getting paid internships were overwhelmingly white, [Pay Our Interns] found in a new report — 76 percent white, compared to just 52 percent of the national undergraduate population. Black and Latino students were underrepresented, comprising 15 percent and 20 percent of undergraduates nationally but just 6.7 percent and 7.9 percent of paid Hill interns.
“Congressional staffers aren’t as diverse as the nation they serve, and the problem starts with the lowly intern. While interns rarely have much impact on lawmaking, they often go on to more important positions that can actually affect legislation.”
STATEHOOD DEBATE PERSISTS — “Washington, D.C., Statehood Divides Congressional Hearing,” WSJ: “Democrats say that residents of Washington, D.C., nearly half of whom are Black, deserve the same representation as other Americans. Residents pay federal taxes, register for selective service and fight in the military, but they don’t have a full voice in Congress and local leadership can be overruled by the federal government. …
“Republicans argue that Congress doesn’t have the authority to make D.C. a state with regular legislation, and instead it would require amending the Constitution, a much higher bar that requires ratification by three-quarters of the states. They also say Democrats want statehood to increase their voting power in Congress.”
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — In the wake of Monday’s hearing on D.C. statehood and as the Democratic effort moves into a new phase, DC Vote is launching Statehood Yes, the first ever 501(c)(4) focused on the issue. Ramping up over the course of the spring, it’ll focus on both lobbying lawmakers directly and bolstering outreach to the public (through ads and public events) to generate more support and pressure. They’re focused on pushing constituents to engage with 11 senators from both parties.
TOP-ED — “Yes, a ‘Talking Filibuster’ Would Be Painful — for Senate Democrats,” by National Review’s John McCormack: “[I]n all likelihood, a three-week debate over any of the Democrats’ top legislative priorities would not end in Republicans caving because such a debate would probably make the legislation less popular. …
“For Senate Democrats who oppose the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for legislation, the talking filibuster makes sense only if it is a stepping stone toward majority rule. … But if that the pressure fails to persuade Manchin, Sinema, and other holdouts to abandon the 60-vote rule, then their Democratic colleagues would be the ones feeling the most pain.”
THE LAST-MINUTE PARDONS — “Securing a presidential pardon is rare. But SC’s Sen. Tim Scott landed one for his cousin,” The Post and Courier
IMMIGRATION FILES — “Biden team searching for new ways to slow border surge,” WaPo: “During a closed-door virtual retreat with Democratic senators on Monday evening … Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) asked the president what the administration’s timeline was for additional resources and facilities to manage the increase in the number of migrants at the border, as well as coronavirus testing protocols there.
“Kelly, a border-state freshman who is likely to face a tough reelection challenge in 2022, told Biden he was concerned that the state’s resources could become strained under the migration challenges. In response, Biden did not delve into specifics but stressed to the senators that his administration was building additional capacity to care for the migrants, and that the current challenges began under his predecessor.”
— “Mysterious new system at border keeps migrants guessing,” AP: “The criteria to be allowed into the U.S. are a closely held secret.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
RACIAL RECKONING — “Evanston, Ill., leads the country with first reparations program for Black residents,” WaPo: “The Evanston City Council [on Monday] approved the first phase of reparations to acknowledge the harm caused by discriminatory housing policies, practices and inaction going back more than a century. The 8-1 vote will make $400,000 available in $25,000 homeownership and improvement grants, as well as in mortgage assistance for Black residents who can show they are direct descendants of individuals who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969.”
JACK SHAFER column: “Why Trump Would Make the Most Boring Social Media Site Ever”
WILY EVEN WHEN IT COMES TO ALCOHOL — McConnell is on the latest episode of the “Ruthless” podcast, posting this morning, where he’ll troll the White House for refusing to admit there’s a “crisis” on the border and wax about the filibuster. But our favorite exchange of the interview, which we got an early look at, is about bourbon.
Q: “There’s no way you can’t ask Mitch McConnell about bourbon. But coming from the great state of Kentucky, which distillery or what bourbon is your personal favorite?”
A: “Well, I have three daughters. That would be like asking me which of my daughters I preferred. No Kentucky politician will ever pick one bourbon. So I know it sounds terribly political, but I’m going to have to dodge that one. That could be a fatal mistake.”
Q: “Then my follow up would be, what’s your favorite bourbon cocktail?”
A: “I think an Old-Fashioned. I do like a Manhattan as well.”
IN MEMORIAM — “Eric Spinato, Senior Fox News and Fox Business Producer, Dies From Covid,” Mediaite: “Spinato first joined Fox in 1998, and was a senior producer and head booker until 2004. He worked at CNN and MSNBC before returning to Fox in 2007. He helped launch Fox Business, and most recently served as a senior head booker and senior story editor.”
SPOTTED at a Zoom vegetarian cooking class Monday night with Masseria chef Nicholas Stefanelli in honor of the charity Tracy’s Kids: Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Matt Gerson, Phil Tahtakran, Lorenzo Goco, Jenness Simler, Linda Bloss-Baum and Luke Albee. Deutsch cooked while Schiff did play-by-play. (Next in the series: John Podesta with his famous risotto and Josh Bolten.)
ALL APOLOGIES — “Meghan McCain apologizes for previously backing Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric,” L.A. Times: “After eight people were killed in the Atlanta area last week — including six women of Asian descent — Meghan McCain, cohost of ‘The View,’ expressed regret about her previous comments that supported former President Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric. ‘STOP ASIAN HATE’ she tweeted Wednesday, punctuating her message with three broken-heart emojis.
“Pointing to a clip from a March 2020 episode of ‘The View,’ in which McCain said she had no problem with then-President Trump referring to COVID-19 as the ‘China virus,’ [TV host John Oliver] said McCain’s post was ‘a fine sentiment to throw up on Twitter after the fact.’ His segment prompted McCain to issue a statement Monday morning.”
TRANSITIONS — Rricha Mathur deCant is joining Sen. Alex Padilla’s (D-Calif.) office as counsel, focusing on immigration and homeland security policy. She previously was legislative counsel to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.). … Rita Siemion is now senior counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee under Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). She previously was director of national security advocacy at Human Rights First. … John Lynch is joining Platinum Advisors DC as a senior associate. He previously was senior legislative assistant for Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Calif.). …
… The Ethics and Public Policy Center’s HHS Accountability Project has added David Gortler as a fellow and Rachel Morrison as a policy analyst. Gortler most recently was a senior adviser to the FDA commissioner, and Morrison most recently was an attorney adviser and special assistant to the general counsel at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. … Alexandra Harrison Gaiser is now director of regulatory affairs at bitcoin firm River Financial. She most recently was executive secretary at Treasury.
BIRTHWEEK (was Monday): GOP ad-maker Bob Gardner
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) (73) … The Intercept’s Ryan Grim (43) … Johnny DeStefano of Utility Strategic Advisors (42) … cartoonist Kevin Kallaugher (66) … Suzanne Turner … Evan Keller (26) … Dawn Selak of the Aerospace Industries Association … Debbi Mayster … Alec Gerlach … Maggie Gage of MetLife … Mike Berman of Citadel … Paul Neaville of the Markham Group … Cole Rojewski … L.A. Times’ Maya Lau … The Buckeye Institute’s Mike Franc … Shane Seaver … Lauren Hancock. … McKinsey’s Tara Maller … Nita Chaudhary … APCO Worldwide’s Joanna London … AFL-CIO’s Drew Waxman … Boeing’s Shaun Lara … Peter Vallone Jr. … former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (69) … Michael Caputo
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