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Wake Up To Politics - March 23, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Dems eye infrastructure push
Wake Up To Politics - March 23, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 595 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,323 days away.

White House prepares massive infrastructure bill

With the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed and already being implemented, Democrats are looking ahead to their next big legislative push — and eyeing a package with an even larger price tag.

According to the New York Times, President Biden’s economic advisers are putting together a sweeping $3 trillion package aimed at addressing infrastructure, jobs, manufacturing, climate change, and economic inequality. The White House economic team is expected to brief the president and congressional leaders on the proposal later this week.

Democrats are currently discussing how best to proceed with the proposal, but many expect them to ultimately split it into two pieces of legislation. The first bill, the Times reported, would be focused on investing in infrastructure and creating jobs, based on the “Build Back Better” plan that the president outlined during the campaign.

That package is expected to include “hundreds of billions of dollars to repair the nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and rails,” according to the Washington Post, as well as $400 billion in spending to combat climate change, $200 billion for housing infrastructure, and $100 billion for schools and education infrastructure, among other expenditures.

The second package, then, would be focused on “human infrastructure”: per the Post, that will likely include many of Biden’s domestic priorities, such as universal pre-K, free community college, a national paid leave program, and an extension of the one-year expanded child tax credit included in the American Rescue Plan.

Biden promotes his “Build Back Better” plan during the campaign. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images) 

Taken together, the two packages would constitute a sweeping remaking of the American economy. But first, Democrats must find a way to pass them. And most observers agree: they can either go big or they can go bipartisan, but they can’t do both. Biden promised in the campaign to restore bipartisanship in Washington, but his first major package was approved through reconciliation, a process that allows legislation to go through with 51 votes — instead of the usual 60 — in the Senate.

As one senior Democrat acknowledged on a hot mic last week, the party will likely use reconciliation again in some fashion. But it’s unlikely that the budget rules would allow them to use the process three times in one year, which has never been done before; some in the party are hoping that the first package, the infrastructure portion, could receive Republican support.

Infrastructure has long been viewed as a bipartisan priority, but Washington has little to show for years of cross-party talks. The two parties are expected to run into a familiar problem: how to pay for the package. Democrats are considering raising taxes to pay for the infrastructure measure, potentially undoing former President Trump’s corporate tax cuts and increasing taxes for the wealthiest Americans. It would be the first major federal tax increase since 1993; it would also likely make the package dead-on-arrival among Republicans.

But don’t get ready for Infrastructure Week just yet. Biden is “considering a range of options, scopes, and sizes of plans, and will discuss with his policy team in days ahead,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday on Twitter, “but speculation is premature, given @POTUS does not play to lay out additional details this week.”

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The Rundown

Ten people were killed on Monday when a gunman opened fire at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. It was the second mass shooting in the United States in less than a week, coming after the killings in Atlanta. A suspect in the Boulder shooting is in custody, although his motive remains unclear; the only identified victim was a police officer who was one of the first to respond to the scene.

Democrats are sounding alarms as the party plans to move forward with contesting an Iowa congressional race. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) was sworn into the seat in January after her six-vote victory was certified by Iowa election officials. But her Democratic opponent, Rita Hart, has requested that the House investigate the race, and possibly seat her instead. Democratic leaders had approved plans to move forward with the review, but some vulnerable members are urging them to drop the matter over fears it will be tagged as hypocritical after opposing former President Trump’s attempts to overturn his election loss last year.

People gather near the King Scoopers grocery store in Boulder after the shooting. (Michael Ciaglo/USA Today Network/Reuters) 

Trump is returning to the media spotlight as he launches his revenge tour. The former president gave three interviews to Fox News and Newsmax on Monday, a return to the political arena after a period of relative quiet. One of his congressional allies, Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), launched a primary challenge on Monday against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who provoked Trump’s ire after the 2020 election when he refused to aid the ex-president’s attempts to overturn the state’s election results. Trump quickly endorsed the bid, one of several primary challenges he and his allies are backing against Republican politicians who crossed him during his White House tenure.

More headlines to know:

  • “Ex-Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned amid scandal, jumps in GOP race for U.S. Senate” NBC News
  • “Biden first president in decades to have first-pick Cabinet secretaries confirmed” CNN
  • “Evanston, Ill., leads the country with first reparations program for Black residents” Washington Post

Ask Gabe

Q: In Monday’s newsletter, you wrote that the Senate was voting on the final member of Biden’s Cabinet. Did I miss something? I thought we are still waiting for the Director of the Office of Management and Budget after Neera Tanden withdrew. — Brad B. of Hollywood, CA

A: I was referring there to the 15 heads of the executive departments who formally make up the Cabinet. The OMB Director is considered a Cabinet-level role, one of the positions that each president can decide whether or not to include at the Cabinet table but who still isn’t a full Cabinet secretary. Biden has designated nine officials as Cabinet-level; the OMB chief is one of two that have yet to be confirmed. But Marty Walsh became the final member of the core “statutory Cabinet” to be confirmed on Monday when the Senate approved him as Secretary of Labor.

Q: In Friday’s newsletter, you wrote that the White House was holding a “press gaggle” instead of a briefing. What’s that? — Andrea M. of New York City, NY

A: A gaggle refers to a less formal session that a spokesperson holds with reporters; they are generally on-the-record but not recorded on video, or sometimes even off-the-record. When the president travels on Air Force One, instead of holding an on-camera briefing, the White House will often hold one of these gaggles, which still allows reporters to ask questions and record the answers in writing — but the session won’t be televised like the normal ones from the briefing room.

Do you have a burning question about politics? Send it over to gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com and it might get answered in the newsletter! Don’t forget to include your first name and where you’re from.

In Monday’s newsletter, I mistakenly referred to a blitz of immigration actions President Biden took “shortly after leaving office.” That should have been “shortly after entering office.” Later, I also made a typo when writing about the amount of time minors are being kept in CBP custody. The sentence should have referred to “unaccompanied children.”

My apologies for the errors and my thanks to the readers who pointed them out.


All times Eastern.
Executive Branch
President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. In the afternoon, he will travel to Columbus, Ohio. At 4:10 p.m., he will tour the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute in Columbus. At 4:50 p.m., he will deliver remarks to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and discuss the updates to the law included in the American Rescue Plan. Biden will then return to Washington, D.C.

Vice President Kamala Harris will ceremonially swear in CIA Director William Burns at 9:10 a.m. and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh at 5:25 p.m. She will also join Biden for his daily intelligence briefing in the morning.

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Nebraska to promote the American Rescue Plan. He will thank frontline health workers and meet with health care professionals at a rural hospital and then tour a nearby vaccination site.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Brussels, Belgium to participate in a meeting of NATO foreign ministers. He will meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as with his counterparts from Italy, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry will participate in the 5th annual session of the Ministerial on Climate Action, a virtual conference of global climate officials. Kerry’s participation in the China-hosted conference comes on the heels of the acrimonious meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials last week.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press gaggle during the Air Force One flight to Columbus.

Legislative Branch
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will begin consideration of the nomination of Shalanda Young to be Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. At 11:45 a.m., the chamber will hold a cloture vote to advance her nomination. The Senate will then recess until 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings. After returning, the chamber will vote on Young’s confirmation, followed by a cloture vote and a confirmation vote on the nomination of Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General.

The House will convene at 11 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. to consider proposals to reduce gun violence.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at 2:30 p.m. on the 2020 census, amid an extreme delay in the data that is holding up congressional redistricting. Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin will testify.  

The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a “members’ day hearing” on infrastructure at 10 a.m., an opportunity for lawmakers on the panel to testify for five minutes each on infrastructure proposals and the revenue structure behind them. The hearing is the first step that House Democrats are taking towards putting together a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing at 11 a.m. on proposals to build on the Affordable Care Act, expand health coverage, and lower insurance costs.

The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing at 11 a.m. on reforming the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which allows the president to unilaterally take military action as long as he notifies Congress within 48 hours and withdraws the troops within 60 days (restrictions that many presidents have ignored without consequence).

The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing at 12 p.m. on the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s pandemic response. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will testify.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will also hold a hearing at 1 p.m. on curbing presidential war powers, which many Democratic lawmakers — and President Biden himself — have expressed support for in recent months.

Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 10 a.m. in United States v. Cooley.

“How much power do tribal police officers hold over non-Indians? Today, the Supreme Court will consider a ‘messy and complex case — even by Indian law standards’ about whether a tribal officer legally stopped and searched a non-Indian man on a federal highway,” WUTP legal contributor Anna Salvatore explains. “If the justices determine that the stop was unconstitutional, then the tribal officer can’t use any evidence that he collected in court.”

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