Good morning! It’s Thursday, May 13, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 544 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,272 days away.
Democrats and Republicans are talking again. Will they have anything to show for it?
President Joe Biden promised to restore bipartisanship in Washington, expressing confidence that he could reach across the aisle and find common ground. So far, Biden has little to show for those promises: his first economic package was passed with only Democratic votes, and his next two proposals have yet to attract any Republican support.
But Biden is redoubling his efforts at bipartisanship this week, hosting Republican lawmakers in the Oval Office today for the second consecutive afternoon. Here is a status update on the main areas for potential bipartisan compromise:
Infrastructure. Democrats and Republicans have long united over their desire to upgrade America’s infrastructure — but the agreement largely stops there. Biden is pushing for two packages that would invest $4 trillion not only in the nation’s “physical infrastructure,” but in “human infrastructure” as well. Republicans, meanwhile, have offered a $568 billion proposal focused solely on roads, bridges, and other more traditional infrastructure projects.
That puts the two parties trillions of dollars apart, but there are some signs of movement: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested that he would be willing to go bigger, floating a $600-800 billion compromise package. Biden is sitting down with the top GOP negotiators on infrastructure today; he met with McConnell and other congressional leaders on Wednesday, a huddle that both sides described as productive.
But the two sides have yet to make any progress on agreeing how to pay for a potential package. Biden wants to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans, but McConnell said Wednesday that any tax increases would be crossing a “red line” for Republicans. According to Politico, some Democrats are quickly losing patience with the talks; they have privately set a Memorial Day deadline to decide whether to move forward with a bipartisan deal or with a partisan measure passed through reconciliation.
Police reform. This might be the policy area that the two parties are closest to striking an agreement on. According to the Wall Street Journal, congressional aides are beginning to draft a compromise bill that would “limit the transfer of some military equipment to local departments, ban police use of chokeholds except in life-threatening situations, and set federal standards for so-called no-knock warrants.”
The major sticking point in the talks continues to be qualified immunity, which protects police officers from being sued. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the main Democratic negotiators, have been pushing for the legislation to end qualified immunity, which their GOP partner Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has opposed.
However, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) — the highest-ranking Black lawmaker in Congress and an influential voice in his party — said Sunday that he would be willing to support a bill that doesn’t end qualified immunity, a significant sign. “I will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect,” Clyburn said. “I just won’t do that.” President Biden has called for a deal to be on his desk by May 25, the anniversary of George Floyd’s death.
Immigration. This is another area, like infrastructure, that Democrats and Republicans have spent years searching in vain for compromise on. A group of Democratic and Republican senators met on Wednesday to jumpstart new talks on comprehensive immigration reform, but don’t expect a deal any time soon.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a key member of the bipartisan “gang” discussing the issue, has said that no agreement will come until the Biden administration moves to stem the flow of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. “I don’t think they’re going to have a snowball’s chance in hell of doing that given the massive influx at the border,” Graham told reporters. “There’ll be no immigration reform until you get control of the border.”
According to the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is already eyeing a Plan B, looking into whether it would be possible to attach a “broad revision of immigration laws” to a possible infrastructure package passed under reconciliation.
What else you need to know today.
House GOP ousts Cheney: “House Republicans voted Wednesday to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from the No. 3 position in caucus leadership after she vocally rebuked Donald Trump, a move that strengthens the former president's grip on the party.” NBC News
- “GOP leaders are moving swiftly to install Rep. Elise Stefanik as the No. 3 Republican in the House...but the move comes as a growing number of conservatives are expressing doubts that the New York congresswoman has the credentials or voting record needed to step into the job.” CNN
Israel-Palestine tensions escalate: “The Biden administration dispatched a top State Department diplomat to the Middle East ‘immediately’ to try to de-escalate the deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday.” USA Today
Colonial Pipeline resumes operations: “A sudden fuel shortage worsened across the eastern half of the United States on Wednesday after a cyberattack crippled a major pipeline, as long lines, sharp words and pumps gone dry greeted unhappy drivers from the Alabama foothills to the Chesapeake Bay.”
- “Although government and industry officials said the nation had plenty of fuel and the pipeline was set to resume operations in the evening, nervous drivers clogged gas stations and created shortages in parts or all of 11 states. At least 12,000 gas stations reported being completely empty, and the squeeze pushed the price of a gallon past $3, its highest in years.” Washington Post
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Policy Roundup: Legal
The week’s top legal news, by Anna Salvatore.
The Biden administration argued on Monday that it can detain people indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay. “We remain at war with Al-Qaeda,” said a government lawyer. The trial this week centers around Asadullah Haroon Gul, an ex-militia leader in Afghanistan who has been held at Guantanamo since 2007. In federal court, Haroon’s lawyers argued that because of a 2016 peace agreement signed between U.S. and Afghanistan, and President Biden’s vow to end the “forever war” by September 11, the U.S. is no longer fighting against Afghanistan and should release Haroon.
The Justice Department disagreed, claiming that it continues to battle a “morphing and evolving” Al-Qaeda. Haroon’s trial could have major implications for Guantanamo, which still holds 40 of its original 780 prisoners.
Should the courts punish former President Trump’s lawyers for trying to overturn the 2020 election? According to the Wall Street Journal, judges across the country are grappling with this question. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) has already urged a federal judge in Detroit to sanction Trump’s team, claiming that their suit was designed to “undermine the integrity of election results and people’s trust in the electoral process.” Similar complaints abound in Wisconsin and New York, where judges are being asked to discipline the lawyers — including Rudy Giuliani — and order them to to pay for litigation costs.
President Biden announced his third wave of judicial nominees on Wednesday. His picks are notable for their racial diversity: he has tapped Lauren King, a Seattle lawyer, to be the third active Native American judge in the country, as well as Puerto Rican judge Gustav Gelpí for the Boston-based 1st Circuit. In a move to diversify the experiences of federal judges — many of whom come from white shoe law firms — he also nominated two public defenders to appellate court positions.
What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern.)
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 10:45 a.m. Then, at 11:50 a.m., he will deliver remarks on the Colonial Pipeline incident.
At 1:30 p.m., he will meet with Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) to discuss infrastructure. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will also attend.
- Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for his intelligence briefing and his infrastructure meeting with Republican senators. At 5:15 p.m., she will hold the first meeting of the Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, a pro-union effort that she chairs.
- First Lady Jill Biden will travel to West Virginia. At 3 p.m., she will visit a vaccination center and deliver remarks at Capital High School in Charleston. The first lady will be joined by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and actress Jennifer Garner, who grew up in Charleston.
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.
- U.S. public health officials will hold their weekly COVID-19 press briefing at 4 p.m.The Senate will convene at 11 a.m. and resume consideration of Biden nominees. At 12 p.m., the chamber will vote to confirm Amber McReynolds to be a member of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors. At 1:45 p.m., the Senate will vote to confirm Donet Graves, Jr., to be Deputy Secretary of Commerce.
- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing at 10:15 a.m. on unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas will testify.
The House will convene at 12 p.m. The chamber will debate and vote on two pieces of legislation: H.R. 2547, the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act, and H.R. 2877, the Behavioral Intervention Guidelines Act.
- The House Republican Conference will hold a forum for candidates running to succeed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) as conference chair. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is the only announced candidate.
The Supreme Court is not in session.
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