Good morning! It’s Wednesday, June 2, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 524 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,252 days away.
The clock is ticking for President Joe Biden and congressional Republicans to strike a deal on infrastructure. Biden and the chief GOP negotiator, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), will take another stab at finding an agreement today when they sit down together in the Oval Office this afternoon.
That the meeting is taking place at all is a sign of the seriousness of the negotiations: it’s not every day that a rank-and-file member of the opposition gets a one-on-one meeting with president. But the broader dynamics in Washington do not necessarily bode well for those hoping for a deal.
Here’s where we are so far: Biden proposed a $2.3 trillion package to upgrade the nation’s physical infrastructure while also making investments in home care fore the elderly, electric vehicles, and other progressive priorities. Capito responded with a $568 billion counteroffer, mostly focused on roads and bridges.
Then Biden came back with a $1.7 trillion proposal, and Capito upped her price tag to $928 billion in the most recent GOP offering.
In other words: the two parties remain almost a trillion dollars apart. What’s more, each side is accusing the other of fudging the numbers to make their offer bigger or smaller than it appears.
Democrats point out that there is only $257 billion of new spending in the latest GOP proposal (the rest comes from repurposing funds Congress has already appropriated, mainly in COVID-19 relief packages). Meanwhile, Republicans highlight that Biden’s most recent counteroffer is smaller partly because it shifts over spending from his original proposal to other bills before Congress, including the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act.
And Biden and Capito are no closer to ironing out two big sticking points. They can’t agree on how to pay for their respective plans: Biden is calling for an increase of the corporate tax rate, while Capito backs paying for infrastructure through unused funds from other packages or through user fees such as a higher gas tax. (And each side has ruled out the other’s method.)
The two parties also remain divided on the very definition of “infrastructure”: Republicans say Biden’s plan is far too expansive, and he has been loath to give up his elder care and climate change investments as part of the package.
Further complicating matters, Republicans allege that Biden has been an inconsistent negotiator. GOP senators who met with Biden claim that he assented to a $1 trillion price tag in their must recent negotiating session, even though he later rejected their offer that was in that price range. Republicans have blamed the turnaround on Biden’s staff, suggesting that the president wants a deal but his advisers drag him back to more partisan ground.
One sign of how productive today’s meeting is will be whether Biden and Capito can even agree to what was said in the room, since that has been a topic of dissension after past meetings.
Ahead of the meeting, Biden officials have sent the message that the president wants a deal — but that time is running out. “Time is not unlimited here,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeg said on CNN this weekend, calling for there to be a “clear direction” in the talks by the time Congress returns from recess on June 7.
According to Politico, the president “still has faith in his ability to win over reluctant Senate Republicans and advisers see benefits — reputationally and politically — in working across the aisle.”
But there is always the chance that Democrats eventually lose their patience with the negotiations. If they do, they can always pursue infrastructure through the reconciliation process, which is filibuster-proof in the Senate.
But administration officials insist they are not there yet: “The White House really wants this to be a bipartisan effort,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said this morning. “We’re not willing to pull the rip cord on cutting bait until we really make sure that the Republicans are not willing to budge any more.”
Democrats reportedly hope to make a decision on which route they will take on an infrastructure package — a bipartisan deal or a reconciliation package — by next week.
Despite the obstacles, Capito expressed optimism in a Fox News interview on Sunday. “I think we can get to real compromise, absolutely, because we’re both still in the game,” she said.
More top headlines to know.
SPECIAL ELECTION: “Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat, won a landslide victory in a special House election in New Mexico on Tuesday, claiming the seat previously held by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and easily turning back a Republican effort to make the race a referendum on rising crime in the Albuquerque-based district.” New York Times
HARRIS’ NEW ASSIGNMENT: “President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he has tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the administration's efforts to protect voting rights, as he urged Congress to make June ‘a month of action on Capitol Hill.’ Speaking at an event in Tulsa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the massacre that ravaged a Black neighborhood, the president also assailed recent laws restricting voting rights passed by Republican-led states.” CBS News
CLIMATE: “The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, targeting one of President Donald Trump’s most significant environmental acts during his last days in office. The move by the Interior Department, which could spark a major legal battle, dims the prospect of oil drilling in a pristine and politically charged expanse of Alaskan wilderness that Republicans and Democrats have fought over for four decades.” Washington Post
🔒 Gabe’s Picks
What I’m reading and watching this morning. This section is currently available to readers who have used their unique referral link to refer other subscribers or donated to the newsletter.
An important read: “Tulsa isn’t the only race massacre you were never taught in school. Here are others.” Washington Post
Something to keep an eye on: “Bannon has his MAGA megaphone back. GOP candidates know it.” NBC News
Study of the day: “As many as three in four Americans overestimate their ability to spot false headlines — and the worse they are at it, the more likely they are to share fake news,” a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. CNN
Poll of the day: Researchers at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Texas conducted an interesting survey on where Americans stand on some of the most controversial cases facing the Supreme Court this term.
- Public opinion was fairly divided on most of the cases, with one standing out as the most lopsided: 71% said that public schools should not be able to punish students for things they say or write off campus, an issue the court is currently wrestling with. New York Times
Today’s thought bubble: Ahead of a highly-anticipated report coming out this month, politicians from both parties have been talking about UFOs.
This quote from Democratic strategist Adam Jentleson caught me eye in a Washington Post report on the latest frenzy.... “I can’t tell if this bodes well or ill for the direction of our democracy, but there’s certainly some irony around the fact that we can define bipartisanship around what used to be conspiracy theories.”
- “Maybe the lesson is that we are expanding our imaginations and the full range of things that are possible. The possibilities of what the future may hold may be beyond the bounds of what a worldview circumscribed by norms can envision.”
Two headlines I wasn’t expecting: “John Hinckley Jr., the Man Who Shot Reagan, Has a YouTube Channel Where He Sings His Own Songs” Washingtonian
- “Venmo Will Now Let You Hide Your Friend List Because We Found Biden’s Account” BuzzFeed
What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10:15 a.m., followed by a briefing at 11 a.m. on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination program. At 12 p.m., Biden will have lunch with Vice President Kamala Harris. At 1:15 p.m., he will deliver remarks to give an update on COVID-19 and vaccinations.
At 2:45 p.m., he will meet with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) on infrastructure. At 5:15 p.m., the president will travel to his vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with First Lady Jill Biden. They will remain there until Friday.
- Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for his intelligence briefing, COVID-19 briefing, lunch, and COVID-19 remarks. In addition, at 9:45 a.m., she will ceremonially swear in Eric Lander as the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Unlike in previous administrations, Biden has granted Cabinet-level status to Lander’s position.
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 12 p.m.
The Senate, House, and Supreme Court are not in session.
Due to a typo, Sen. John Barrasso’s home state was incorrectly reported in last Thursday’s newsletter. Barrasso is from Wyoming.
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