What to Know in Washington: Biden and Putin Meet to Seek Detente

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin kick off what could be more than four hours of meetings this afternoon in Geneva, with officials from both countries keeping expectations low for any breakthrough agreement.

The meeting with Putin, the first of Biden’s presidency, is intended for the two leaders to set expectations in what’s become an adversarial relationship, and to take each other’s measure.

They’ll look to reach agreement on starting a new round of arms-control talks and perhaps on steps toward restoring diplomatic channels severed as relations plunged over the last several years.

The two men last met in 2011, when Biden, then vice president, told Putin not to run again after more than a decade at the helm in Russia. Since then, the U.S. has imposed round after round of sanctions in retaliation for acts including Russia’s annexation of Crimea, interference in U.S. elections, cyberattacks and the killings of opposition leaders and journalists. Putin has been undeterred, remaining an obstacle to U.S. foreign policy in eastern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. Read more from Nick Wadhams and Ilya Arkhipov.

Photographer: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg
Biden and Putin meet today in Geneva.

Happening on the Hill

Today’s Agenda:

  • The House plans to vote on a bill to compel publicly traded companies to disclose information on climate risks, political spending, tax jurisdictions, and executive pay raises. For more, see the BGOV Bill Summary.
  • The Senate is scheduled to vote on White House nominees to the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.
  • Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings and markups.

Some Democrats Say Highway Bill Misses Safety Mark: A $78 billion bill to fund rail, freight, and safety programs lacks enough safety upgrades to vehicles and trucks, some Democrats and advocacy groups say, suggesting divisions as the bipartisan measure heads into markup with controversial amendments. Democrats and safety groups want stronger safety provisions in the surface transportation legislation, including technology to avoid crashes. The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is scheduled today to consider the legislation. Read more from Lillianna Byington.

Juneteenth Would Be National Holiday Under Passed Bill: June 19 would become a federal holiday marking the emancipation of Black Americans from slavery under a bill the Senate passed by unanimous consent yesterday. Juneteenth is recognized by almost all states and Washington, D.C. as an official state holiday or observance. The bill will address a “long-ignored gap in our history,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a sponsor of the legislation. Read more from Megan Howard.

Google, Amazon Defend Home Device Business: Google and Amazon defended their smart-speaker businesses as senators warned the grip the companies have over the market could harm competition and consumer privacy. Republicans and Democrats at a hearing yesterday raised fears about what they called anti-competitive practices such as selling devices below cost and promoting their own services over those of competitors on their platforms. Read more from Anna Edgerton.

NASA Wants $11 Billion for Moon Landing: NASA’s head doubled down on his request to Congress to fund a second moon-landing demonstration for its Artemis program. Administrator Bill Nelson reiterated that NASA needs more funding to promote competition in its Artemis program, which seeks to send the first woman and first person of color to the moon by 2024, during a hearing of the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday. Read more from Nicole Sadek.

Bill Would Strengthen Tax Whistleblower Awards: Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) unveiled legislation yesterday to make several changes to an IRS whistleblower program aimed at catching tax cheats. The bill would change how the U.S. Tax Court reviews whistleblower awards on appeal, exempt whistleblower award money from budget sequestration, and instruct the Tax Court to give the presumption of anonymity. Read more from Colin Wilhelm.

  • Wyden also plans to propose changes to a business deduction established in the 2017 tax law that would limit the break for the wealthy while making it more broadly available. The bill will take aim at a temporary deduction of up to 20% that is available under Section 199A for partnerships, LLCs, and other entities taxed only at the individual owner level. Read more from Wilhelm.

Around the Administration

Terrorism, Immigration Overshadow Homeland Mission: The Department of Homeland Security should jettison some law enforcement functions and reevaluate its mission, national security and immigration professionals said in a new analysis. The report, issued today by the left-leaning Center for American Progress, is the latest in a stream of outside recommendations for restructuring an almost two-decade-old department that’s been repeatedly criticized as unwieldy. The CAP analysis pushes the Biden administration to amplify parts of the department’s work that the authors say are often overshadowed by counterterrorism efforts and immigration enforcement. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

Judge Blocks Biden Pause on Oil Leases on Public Lands: The Biden administration’s pause on new oil and gas leases on public lands and offshore waters was blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana at the urging of 13 red states. A preliminary injunction blocking Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order was issued today by U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump. Read more from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

U.S. Pledges Money for Poorer Nations to Cut Emissions: U.S. climate envoy John Kerry pledged that Washington would give more money to help developing nations tackle climate change, as he toured the Arab Gulf and pushed major oil and gas producers to adopt cleaner energy policies. “We’ve got to clearly close the gap on finance,” Kerry said Tuesday during an interview in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. “That’s absolutely imperative.” Kerry’s comments come after Biden in April vowed to spend $5.7 billion annually on climate finance for less wealthy nations. He has also asked Congress to deliver $1.2 billion more to the United Nations Green Climate Fund. While that’s a significant increase over previous American pledges, it falls far short of what climate activists say is necessary and what other nations have promised. Read more from Vivian Nereim, Will Wade and Verity Ratcliffe.

Biden Weighs Small Cut to Biofuel Targets: The Biden administration is developing targets for biofuel that are likely to be relatively flat or even lower as it seeks to balance the interests of blue-collar refining workers and advance a clean-energy agenda. The Environmental Protection Agency is set to propose renewable fuel requirements within weeks, according to several people familiar with the strategy who asked not to be named before a formal announcement. Read more from Jennifer Dlouhy and Kim Chipman.

Bus Relief Fund Access to Open After Months of Delay: The Treasury Department will soon allow bus and motorcoach companies to apply for funding provided by Congress last year, offering long-awaited support for businesses that struggled through the Covid-19 pandemic. None of the $2 billion provided by the Coronavirus Economic Relief for Transportation Services Act, enacted as part of a fiscal 2021 funding law in December, has been distributed. Read more from Lillianna Byington.

Labor Board Plots Worker-Focused Outreach Push: The Biden administration is seeking an influx of cash for the National Labor Relations Board to educate workers about their right to form a union—an effort that could prompt new organizing and is already drawing opposition from business lobbyists. The president’s budget proposal for fiscal 2022 calls for $2.1 million to launch programs to inform workers about their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Read more from Ian Kullgren.

Politics & Influence

Trump Lawyers Find Revolving Door Turns Slowly: The revolving door is as much of a Washington tradition as National Mall fireworks on the Fourth of July—people hold prominent government positions and then step into lucrative and often prestigious outside roles. More than 80% of top lawyers in Trump’s administration have landed somewhere since he left office, even if their roles are part time or not their first choice, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Law. (See complete list.)

But the Trump lawyers have been more difficult to place than those who served in previous administrations, particularly if they were closely connected to his most controversial policies or if they lacked the experience past alumni had, said Laura Drake, a partner at search firm Macrae.

Several companies and law firms distanced themselves from Trump after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Corporate law firm Crowell & Moring called for Trump’s removal from office and urged other large firms to make the same demand. Law firms Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Seyfarth Shaw dropped Trump and his businesses as clients. Read more from John Hughes and Jasmine Ye Han.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com