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The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns

                             Presented by Facebook

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Today is Monday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths as of this morning: Monday, 581,754.

 

As of this morning, 45.8 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 34.4 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.

Congress returns to Washington today as top lawmakers prepare to meet with this week to discuss the administration’s ambitious infrastructure and spending proposals, and members of the GOP remain consumed with chatter surrounding the “big lie” and the future of House GOP Conference Chairwoman (Wyo.).

 

The “big four” leaders — Senate Majority Leader (D-N.Y.), Speaker (D-Calif.,), Senate Minority Leader (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader (R-Calif.) — are set to meet with Biden at the White House for the first time since the inauguration, with the White House facing a tall task to win GOP support in hopes of passing $4.1 trillion in infrastructure and jobs spending. 

 

The meetings are not limited to the leaders. Biden is also slated to sit down with a group of GOP senators on Thursday, headlined by Sen. (W.Va.), the author of a $568 billion infrastructure blueprint, as the two sides battle over the true definition of “infrastructure.” The GOP’s slimmed-down proposal includes funding for traditional infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges and increased broadband. The sweeping Democratic plan would include funds for manufacturing and to expand access to home and community-based care, among other items. 

 

The series of sit-downs will give leaders a sense if a bipartisan bill is possible by early July, which is Pelosi’s stated goal, or if Democrats will be forced to go it alone and advance a bill via budget reconciliation and a simple majority. 

 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney notes, the next 100 days will also serve as a crucial test for the majority party. Schumer noted in a recent interview that along with infrastructure, the Senate is likely to vote on a number of partisan measures, including a bill to overhaul federal elections, which Republicans oppose. That legislation, coupled with a progressive push to pass a $15 minimum wage and a Washington, D.C., statehood bill, is amping up the pressure on the Senate to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster. 

 

“The process that I outlined for S1 is a process that, I think, could very well cause the Senate to evolve,” Schumer told The New York Times’s Ezra Klein during an April interview about the filibuster.

 

The Wall Street Journal: Infrastructure talks could set the course of Biden’s spending plans.

 

Politico: “It’s not phony”: Biden hungry for a jobs deal with Republicans.

 

CNN: South Carolina and Montana to end expanded pandemic benefits for jobless residents.

 

The Associated Press: Some states plan big spending with Biden’s proposed infrastructure, jobs and benefits plans. Others wait.

 

The Hill: McCarthy slams Biden infrastructure plan for what he believes are misplaced priorities. 

 

As The Hill’s Brett Samuels notes, Wednesday’s Oval Office meeting will be the first face-to-face meeting between Biden and McCarthy since the inaugural, with the pair exhibiting a frosty relationship in the administration’s opening months. While Biden has a long history with McConnell, the same cannot be said of McCarthy, who refused to recognize Biden as president-elect following his election victory and voted to reject the certification of electoral results declaring Biden the winner of certain states. 

 

The White House shrugged off the idea that there’s any significance to the fact the two men have interacted sparingly since November.

 

“Do you think tens of millions of people are concerned about him not meeting with Kevin McCarthy?” White House press secretary said last week when a reporter asked whether the absence of a meeting since January undermined Biden’s efforts to unify the country.

 

Axios: Sen. (I-Vt.) told “Axios on HBO” he is impatient with the White House’s quest for Republican support for Biden’s infrastructure package. “The bottom line is the American people want results,” he said. “And frankly, when people got a, you know, $1,400 check or $5,600 check for their family, they didn’t say, ‘Oh, I can’t cash this check because it was done without any Republican votes.’”

 

The New York Times: “We may not have a full two years”: Democrats’ plans hinge on their own good health.

 

The Hill: This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning.

 

 

 

 

Across the aisle, the House GOP is gearing up for a Wednesday vote to oust Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican. Colleagues’ objections? Her continued shots at former and her break with leadership during its quest to retake the majority next year. 

 

The feud between Cheney and other GOP leaders simmered for weeks before boiling over as leaders, along with Trump, threw their support behind Rep. (R-N.Y.) ahead of this week’s vote to remove Cheney from leadership. Cheney has shown no signs of backing down, despite expectations the conference will replace her. She maintains that the party should reckon with its Trump-centric issues and the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, all of which puts her across a dividing line with fellow House conservatives. 

 

On Sunday, McCarthy officially threw in his lot for Stefanik, citing conference unity as the reason (The Hill). 

 

“To defeat [Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and the socialist agenda, we need to be united. And that starts with leadership,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we will have a vote next week. And we want to be united in looking, moving forward. And I think that’s what will take place. … As conference chair, you have one of the most critical jobs as the messenger of going forward. Are we talking about what the Democrats are doing on the border? Are we talking about all the missed jobs [in the] report that we just had? Are we building an economy?”

 

The New York congresswoman in 2016 criticized Trump following the emergence of the Access Hollywood tape and she voted against some of the former president’s top priorities, including the 2017 GOP tax bill. Nonetheless, Trump backs her and for that reason, she is likely to replace Cheney.

 

As The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis write, Wednesday’s vote will answer multiple questions: the direction of the GOP, the face of the party’s leadership and what role Trump should play in it.

 

“She’s done as a member of leadership. I don’t understand what she’s doing,” said a former House GOP lawmaker. “It’s like political self-immolation. You can’t cancel Trump from the Republican Party; all she’s done is cancel herself.”

 

The Hill: GOP divided over expected Cheney ouster.

 

The Associated Press: Trump’s “Big Lie” imperils Republicans who don’t embrace it.

 

Alexander Bolton, The Hill: McConnell safe in power, despite Trump’s wrath.

 

The Hill: Capitol Police watchdog back in spotlight amid security concerns.

 

Politico: Sen. (R-Iowa) is the octogenarian everyone’s waiting on.

 

 

 

 

More in politics: Sen. (D-Mass.) says she will seek reelection (The Hill). … Voting advocates say that the urgency and need for federal oversight of state voting procedures — a Democratic legislative priority — has increased as Florida became the latest state this week to implement new voting restrictions, and multiple other states are on the precipice of doing the same (The Hill) … California GOP gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner said on Sunday that she supports a path to citizenship for the 1.75 million undocumented immigrants in California’s labor force (The Hill).

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LEADING THE DAY

ADMINISTRATION: Cyber attack: The ransomware attack that forced the closure of the largest U.S. fuel pipeline over the weekend is evidence of how cybercriminals pose a far-reaching threat to the aging, vulnerable infrastructure that keeps the nation’s energy moving. It’s a concern within the energy sector, and at the Energy Department and Department of Homeland Security, reported The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets. The U.S. government is trying to assist the pipeline operator (Reuters), prompting White House deliberations about whether an executive order strengthening cybersecurity for federal agencies and contractors goes far enough even as Biden prepares to issue it (The New York Times).

 

On Friday, Colonial Pipeline Co. closed its entire 5,500-mile conduit carrying gasoline and other fuels from the Gulf Coast to the New York metro area as it moved to contain an assault that involved ransomware, code that holds computer systems hostage. No evidence has emerged thus far that the attackers penetrated the vital control systems that run the pipeline. But the consequences of an infection spreading to that deeper layer are dire for any energy company. … The Associated Press interviewed experts who called the ransomware attack a “wake-up call.” 

 

Reuters explainer: Will Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown spike U.S. pump prices?

 

NBC News: A Russian criminal group known as DarkSide may be responsible for the ransomware attack.

 

> Economy & jobs: Republicans in Congress seized on disappointing jobs data on Friday to argue that Biden’s spending and tax plans are already a drag on the economy and pose an inflation risk. The monthly jobs report for April — which showed the country adding a disappointing 266,000 jobs — could pose a challenge for the president and Democrats as they move ahead this week with proposals for $4 trillion in new spending financed by tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations (The Hill). … Neel Kashkari, the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, estimated on Sunday that the United States will need “a few years” to recover the 10 million jobs the economy would likely have gained by this point, if not for the pandemic (The Hill). … Commerce Secretary warned on Sunday that the United States still has “a long way to go” to recover economically from the pandemic (The Hill).

 

> Immigration: The administration’s first crop of judges deliberating over immigration cases set off alarm bells among advocates for migrants who say they see a slate of hires who look largely like those favored by the Trump administration. Among the first 17 judges chosen to help determine whether migrants remain in the United States are former prosecutors for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and some judges with scant experience with immigration law (The Hill). 

 

> Justice: The administration must decide soon whether to return thousands of prison inmates to incarceration who were released to home confinement because of the pandemic and coronavirus health risks behind bars. Attorney General is weighing pleas to rescind a policy implemented in the final days of Trump’s term that would revoke home confinement for those inmates as soon as the government’s emergency COVID-19 declaration is lifted. Activists and Democratic lawmakers have argued that the home confinement release program has been a resounding success and could be maintained (The Hill). … An internal probe found that three Louisville, Ky., police officers should not have shot into Breonna Taylor’s apartment, killing her in 2020. Taylor, 26, was Black. The officers involved who fired 32 shots are white. Previously, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said two of the officers investigated were justified in their use of force. Inside the apartment, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a shot that wounded an officer (The Hill). In March, prosecutors dropped an attempted murder charge against Walker stemming from the incident (BBC).

 

> Environment: An administration report, released last week outlining broad principles for conservation of 30 percent of all U.S. lands and waters, did not include specific details about what the federal government’s role would be and how conservation would be defined. Republicans, many of whom oppose the idea of conserving 30 percent of the country’s land, say they want more answers (The Hill). … The Washington Post reports on a narrow path for the ambitious 30×30 plan.

 

 

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CORONAVIRUS: More than 1 in 3 U.S. adults has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the number of doses administered daily hovers around 2 million. If that rate continues, and that’s a big if, it would still take another four months — into autumn — to reach three-quarters of the U.S. population. That assumes that Americans who are currently hesitant about vaccines will get inoculated, along with hard-to-reach communities.

 

The New York Times: Schools are open, but many families remain hesitant to return.

 

, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said on Sunday that the nation is unlikely to experience a surge in COVID-19 infections this fall and winter. The widespread availability of vaccines has become a “game changer” that is likely to prevent future surges, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

 

“If we get 70 percent of the people vaccinated by the Fourth of July, namely one single dose, and even more thereafter, you may see blips,” he said. “But if we handle them well, it is unlikely that you’ll see the kind of surge that we saw in the late fall and the early winter” (The Hill).

 

The government and states are being helped by businesses to get more Americans vaccinated. Incentive abound (The Hill).  

 

The Hill wrap-up on Sunday shows: U.S. officials believe the country is “turning the corner” in the battle against COVID-19.

 

 

 

 

The Hill: Biden’s powers are limited to get the country back to normal as rapidly as he would like.

 

In New York, at least 750 COVID-19 corpses are still in refrigerated trucks more than a year after the pandemic hit the state. Dina Maniotis, executive deputy commissioner with the medical examiner’s office, said most of the bodies could end up on Hart Island, off the Bronx, where the city has buried its poor and unclaimed for more than a century (The Washington Post).  

 

This year’s influenza cases could skyrocket, unlike last year’s U.S. experience of a steep drop-off in flu, thanks to mask wearing and social distancing (NBC News).

 

International: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ease some of his country’s lockdown restrictions, announcing today that “cautious hugging” and indoor pints at pubs are allowed (Reuters). … Some countries have no COVID-19 jabs at all (The Associated Press). … Emirates airline based in Dubai announced on Sunday that it will transport medical supplies from the capital to nine cities in India as the country continues to battle a surge in coronavirus cases (Reuters). … India will recruit hundreds of ex-army medics to support the country’s overwhelmed health care system as the COVID-19 surge sparks calls for a complete nationwide lockdown (Reuters). … BioNTech, the German biotechnology company, said today it will open a new regional headquarters for Southeast Asia in Singapore and a manufacturing facility to make its COVID-19 vaccine (CNBC).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected] We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 

OPINIONS

The next global disaster is on its way, and we aren’t ready, by Niall Ferguson, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3heqtcA 

 

Is Texas ready for Gov. McConaughey? by Mimi Swartz, contributing opinion writer, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3baFJTO

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WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The House Administration Committee at 3 p.m. today convenes an oversight hearing about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

 

The Senate will reconvene at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of Andrea Palm to be deputy secretary of Health and Human Services.

 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will speak with NATO’s eastern flank Allies during a virtual summit of the Bucharest Nine at 10:30 a.m. Biden will deliver remarks about the economy at 1:15 p.m., with Vice President Harris and Secretary of State in attendance.

 

The vice president will have lunch in the White House Ward Room with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations at noon.

 

The White House press briefing is scheduled at noon. 

 

INVITATION: The Hill Virtually Live hosts Wednesday’s “The Future of Mobility Summit at 12:30 p.m. with a standout roster of speakers, including major corporate CEOs, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Missouri Rep. , the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Register HERE to join a conversation about the intersection of technology and transportation and how technology advances in mobility can be supported by policymakers at the local, state and federal levels.

 

The National Press Club at 11 a.m. hosts an event with Rep. (R-Ill.) about the Republican Party. On Sunday, Kinzinger compared the party to the Titanic, describing conservatives as being in the middle of what he called a “slow sink” (The Hill). Information and live stream is HERE.

 

The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts an event at 1:15 p.m. with Reps. (D-Wash.) and (R-S.C.), who are steering the House Modernization of Congress Committee, to discuss efforts to improve and modernize the legislative branch. Information is HERE.

  

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube

ELSEWHERE

➔ INTERNATIONAL: In Israel today, Palestinian protesters threw rocks and Israeli police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets in violent clashes outside the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem as Israel marked the anniversary of its capture of parts of the city in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war (Reuters). … Most of Chinas hurtling, 20-ton Long March 5B rocket burned up upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere over the weekend, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said in a post on WeChat, before hitting a location just west of the Maldives. It was unclear if any debris rained down on the atoll nation. NASA criticized China for its failure to “meet responsible standards” after debris from the out-of-control rocket likely plunged into the Indian Ocean on Saturday night. “Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” said NASA Administrator in a statement released on the space agency’s website Sunday. “China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris,” he added (CNN)

 

 

 

 

STATE WATCH: Officials within New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D) office have expanded a probe into Gov. ‘s (D) sexual misconduct allegations to determine whether a top adviser to the governor linked access to COVID-19 vaccines to support for him. Several people familiar with the investigation told The Wall Street Journal that James’s office has interviewed at least three people who were contacted after the initial allegations against Cuomo were reported publicly and who said a former top adviser tasked with overseeing the state’s vaccination program had contacted them to gauge loyalty to the governor (The Hill). 

 

SPORTS: Medina Spirit’s standing as the winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby is in serious doubt after he tested positive for an excessive amount of betamethasone, a banned steroid, setting off a chain reaction that led Churchill Downs to bar legendary trainer Bob Baffert from entering horses at the track. Medina Spirit could be stripped of his win after more tests come out in the coming days. Churchill Downs said that Mandaloun would be the winner if those tests confirm that the horse doped. Mandaloun was a 25-1 longshot and bettors are out of luck even if Medina Spirit is disqualified. Baffert maintained his innocence, saying that he did not know how 21 picograms of betamethasone — more than double the allowable amount — appeared in Medina Spirit’s postrace sample (The Associated Press). 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Kudos to Kami Rita, 51, a Sherpa guide, who recently broke his own record by scaling Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, an astonishing 25th time. Rita and 11 other guides last week were the first group of climbers to reach the summit this year and were busy establishing the ropes on the icy route so that hundreds of other climbers can scale the peak later this month. Everest was closed to climbing last year on both its southern side, which is in Nepal, and its northern side, which is in China, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Nepal has issued climbing permits in 2021 to 408 foreign climbers, despite a surging COVID-19 outbreak (The Associated Press). 

 

Rita’s father was among the first Sherpa guides on Everest, and Rita followed in his footsteps. In addition to his yearly ascents to the top of Everest, Rita has scaled several other peaks that are among the world’s highest, including K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu and Lhotse.

 

He was at Everest’s base camp in 2015 when an avalanche swept through, killing 19 people. After the tragedy, his family encouraged him to quit mountaineering, but he decided to continue.

 

 

 



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