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Wake Up To Politics - July 29, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: It’s actually Infrastructure Week!
Wake Up To Politics - July 29, 2021

Good morning! It’s Thursday, July 29, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 467 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,195 days away.

After months of negotiations (and years of the issue being relegated to a running joke in Washington), the Senate advanced a bipartisan infrastructure package on Wednesday.

The chamber voted 67-32 to begin considering the measure, with 17 Republicans and all 50 Democrats voting in favor. In a significant show of support for the negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was among the Republicans to vote for the legislation to advance.

The final package is still being written, but we have some new details about what will be included. The legislation will cost around $1.2 trillion over eight years, about $550 billion of which is new federal spending. According to the New York Times, that includes:

  • $110 billion for roads, bridges, and major projects
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
  • $46 billion to assist states in addressing natural disasters arising due to climate change
  • $39 billion for public transit
  • $66 billion for broadband
  • $17 billion for ports and waterwaysAccording to a White House fact sheet, the deal will be paid for “through a combination of redirecting unspent emergency relief funds, targeted corporate user fees, strengthening tax enforcement when it comes to crypto currencies, and other bipartisan measures, in addition to the revenue generated from higher economic growth as a result of the investments.”

    The White House also said that the package includes America’s largest-ever investments in public transit and clean energy transmission, the largest investments in passenger rail and clean drinking water in decades, and an assurance that every American has access to high-speed internet.
The bipartisan group of senators responsible for the bipartisan infrastructure package celebrate with a press conference after the measure advanced on Wednesday. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

In short, the agreement is a major accomplishment for President Joe Biden and the Senate moderates in both parties who put it together. Many in Washington doubted that in such a polarized climate, the lawmakers would be able to craft a package that would receive such broad bipartisan backing.

But there is still a long road ahead. To the chagrin of many Republican lawmakers, the fate of the bipartisan package is intertwined with a much larger spending package Democrats are planning to pass along party lines through the budget reconciliation process.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Wednesday that he had secured support from all 50 Senate Democrats to move forward with a blueprint for the Democratic-only package, although centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) told the Arizona Republic that she will not support a final pricetag of $3.5 trillion, which Sanders has pushed for.

On the other end of the party’s ideological spectrum, progressive Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) tweeted in response: “Without a reconciliation package that meets the moment, I’m a no on this bipartisan deal.”

The messaging from Sinema and Jones underlines the tricky tightrope being walked by Democratic leaders, who must craft a spending deal small enough for moderates to sign on but large enough for progressives not to tank the bipartisan agreement. Sinema and other moderate Democrats have signaled they will oppose the Democratic-only package if it is not accompanied by the bipartisan deal.

They are working with small margins: the Senate is split exactly 50-50, while Democrats only wield a four-seat majority in the House.

For the bipartisan package, however, the road to passage was made easier by the larger-than-needed show of support from Senate Republicans on Wednesday, although not all of the 17 Republicans who voted in favor have committed to backing the final legislation.

The support from across the GOP caucus came despite a statement in opposition from the party’s nominal leader, former President Donald Trump. “If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way!” Trump threatened the Senate Republicans who backed it.

Policy Roundup: Legal

On Thursdays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Anna Salvatore offers a roundup on the week’s top legal news:

The Justice Department declined to defend Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) on Tuesday for his role in the January 6th insurrection. Brooks, who spoke at a rally shortly before the Capitol riot, told Trump supporters that “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” In a court filing on Tuesday, the Justice Department said it cannot defend Brooks because his remarks were “campaign activity,” and “it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections.” Earlier this year, the Biden DOJ took a different position when it defended former President Trump from a defamation lawsuit.

The 6th Circuit ruled last Friday that the CDC lacked the authority to repeatedly ban evictions during the pandemic. The nation’s original moratorium on evictions, authorized by Congress in the CARES Act, was 120 days long, but the CDC extended it several times over the following months. These decisions were “an unlawful exercise of the agency’s authority,” said the 6th Circuit, adding that the CDC’s interpretation of the law would give its director “near-dictatorial power.” According to George Mason law professor Ilya Somin, Friday’s decision “continues a pattern under which, with rare exceptions, Republican-appointed judges have ruled against the moratorium, while Democratic appointees have upheld it.”

Players on the U.S. women’s national soccer team lost an equal pay lawsuit last year. According to CNN, they are now appealing the decision. Judge Gary Klausner ruled in May 2020 that the women played more often than their male counterparts, earned more money, and had even rejected an agreement where the male and female teams would have the same compensation. But in an appeal filed on Friday, the women players denied that they were offered this agreement. “If a woman has to work more than a man and be much more successful than him to earn about the same pay, that is decidedly not equal pay and it violates the law,” said spokesperson Molly Levinson, referring to the Civil Rights Act.

Alabama congressman Mo Brooks speaks at a press conference last month. (Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

More legal headlines, via Anna:

  • The 11th Circuit handed a victory to the cruise ship industry last Friday, ruling that the CDC’s restrictions on cruises were overly burdensome.
  • President Biden announced eight new nominees for U.S. Attorney positions. “Most would be historic firsts, including the first Black or female attorneys to lead their districts,” reports the Associated Press.
  • The Justice Department will no longer pursue visa fraud charges against five Chinese researchers.
  • Senate Democrats are accusing the Trump Administration of mishandling some of the 4,500 tips about Justice Brett Kavanaugh before his nomination.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)

White House

President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10 a.m. Then, at 11:45 a.m., he will sign S. 957, the Dispose Unused Medications and Prescription (DUMP) Opioids Act, and S. 1910, the Major Medical Facility Authorization Act, into law. At 1 p.m., Biden will receive his weekly economic briefing. At 4 p.m., he will deliver remarks on vaccinations and combatting the spread of the Delta variant.

Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for his intelligence and economic briefings. At 2 p.m., Harris and Small Business Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman will join a virtual meeting with small business owners to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure package.

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press briefing at 1 p.m.

U.S. Senate

The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. and resume consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R. 3684, the vehicle for the bipartisan infrastructure package. Roll call votes are possible during the day, but none are scheduled.

U.S. House

The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will vote on H.R. 4502, the “minibus” appropriation package to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Agriculture, Energy, Interior, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as agencies pertaining to rural development, water development, financial services, general government, the environment, and military construction.

The chamber may also vote under “suspension of the rules” on up to 15 pieces of legislation:

  1. S. 848, the Consider Teachers Act of 2021
  2. S. 1828, the HAVANA Act of 2021
  3. H.R. 2278, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to designate the September 11th National Memorial Trail
  4. H.R. 1029, the Free Veterans from Fees Act
  5. H.R. 1154, the Great Dismal Swamp National Heritage Area Act
  6. H.R. 2497, the Amache National Historical Site Act
  7. H.R. 4300, the Alexander Lofgren VIP Act
  8. S. 325, to amend the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act to extend the deadline for a report by the Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children
  9. S. 272, the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021
  10. H.R. 3533, to establish occupational series for Federal positions in software development, software engineering, data science, and data management
  11. H.R. 3599, the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021
  12. H.R. 1204, the District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Salary Home Rule Act
  13. H.R. 978, the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act
  14. H.R. 2617, the Performance Enhancement Reform Act
  15. S. 2382, to authorize the National Cyber Director to accept details from other elements of the Federal Government on nonreimbursable basis

The Supreme Court is on recess until October.

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