What to Know in Washington: Biden Outruns GOP on Infrastructure

The Biden administration is aiming to corral overwhelming public support for its $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, targeting Republican voters, independents, mayors, governors and local politicians to counter opposition from GOP lawmakers, according to White House officials and Biden allies.

It’s the same outside-of-Washington playbook President Joe Biden’s team used to successfully pass his stimulus $1.9 trillion bill last month — applied to an even larger spending proposal that already enjoys a head start in public support, polls suggest.

While Biden says he’s happy to work with Republicans, listen to their ideas and make adjustments, the White House doesn’t want to let the GOP slow or water down Democrats’ sweeping policy agenda. One White House official said the president is a realist about what happened during the Obama years as well as about the internal dynamics of the GOP in Washington and the pressures its individual members face.

Congressional Republican leaders quickly stated their opposition to Biden’s $2.25 trillion plan last week, calling it a hodge-podge of liberal aspirations and arguing that its corporate-tax increases would hurt U.S. competitiveness. Read more from Nancy Cook.

Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg
Biden departs after delivering remarks at the White House on Friday.

GOP May Support a Much Smaller Infrastructure Plan: Republicans may be ready to support limited infrastructure funding in Biden’s spending proposal, which would require scaling back the $2.25 trillion plan by more than two thirds, a senior GOP senator said. With Biden’s “Americans Jobs Plan” on the table for less than a week, administration officials and Senate Republicans took to the Sunday news shows to lay out opposing positions. As Biden faces calls from parts of the Democratic Party to go bigger, Republicans are focusing their opposition on a corporate-rate increase they say will hold back job creation.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said he could envisage bipartisan support on improving facilities like roads and airports, and possibly water systems and expanding broadband access — if the administration pared the package to something like $615 billion. Read more from Laura Davison and Ben Bain.

Democratic Governors Urge Biden to Remove SALT Deduction Cap: Democratic governors from seven states, including New York, New Jersey and California, wrote to Biden urging him to remove the cap on state and local tax deductions enacted by Donald Trump. The governors said in Friday’s letter that the $10,000 limitation on state and local tax, or SALT, deductions “disproportionately” hit Democratic-run states. “We must go further and undo the cap placed on state and local tax deductions by the Trump administration” through the 2017 tax law, they wrote. Read more from Yueqi Yang.

Happening on the Hill

Exiting GOP Old Guard in Senate Jeopardizes Deals With Biden: Biden’s window to strike deals with Senate institutionalists who practiced traditional deal-making is steadily narrowing as more veterans prepare to head for the exits. As Biden starts a push to enact ambitious plans to invest $4 billion into the nation’s infrastructure, Republicans known for negotiating large bipartisan spending agreements are entering the homestretch of their Senate careers. Five have already said they won’t seek re-election in 2022.

Veteran congressional watchers say the planned departures of GOP Sens. Richard Shelby (Ala.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Rob Portman (Ohio), Richard Burr (N.C.), and Pat Toomey (Pa.) signal a continuing shift away from the kind of lawmakers who have long cobbled together bipartisan deals. Likely to take their place are hardliners less inclined to work with Democrats on expansive legislation, they said. Read more from Nancy Ognanovich.

Schumer Plans to Move Ahead on Federal Marijuana Legislation: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he plans to pursue comprehensive marijuana legislation despite tepid support from Biden. “I want to make my arguments to him, as many other advocates will,” Schumer told Politico in an interview published on Saturday. “But at some point we’re going to move forward, period.” Schumer, who’s been pushing cannabis legislation since 2018, will likely face some resistance from the White House because Biden hasn’t backed full legalization.

“He said he’d like to see more information on the issue. I respect that,” Schumer said. “I certainly will have an ongoing conversation with him, and tell him how my views evolved. And hope that his will to.” Schumer said he wants to pursue legislation that would allow marijuana growers and sellers to have access to the banking industry and give incentives to states to expunge records of those who have criminal charges tied to cannabis. Read more from Laura Davison.

Partisan Split Over Prep for Next Pandemic: Differences over how to prepare for future pandemics threaten lawmakers’ efforts to fix cracks in the U.S. health system that undermined the response to Covid-19. The first part of Biden’s $2.25 trilion infrastructure plan would provide $30 billion over four years to create jobs by improving the nation’s security against health threats.

Bipartisan legislation is needed to fund disease surveillance and response, key lawmakers say. Democratic leaders are pushing for billions of dollars to upgrade hospitals and data systems as part of the massive infrastructure package they want to pass in coming weeks. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has sought to work with her counterpart on the panel, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), on pandemic preparedness legislation. Read more from Alex Ruoff and Jeannie Baumann.

Around the Administration

J&J Takes Over at Emergent Vaccine Plant With Aid From Biden: Johnson & Johnson, with help from the Biden administration, is taking over a Baltimore vaccine production facility that was the site of a major manufacturing error last month—and moving production of material for a second company’s shot to minimize risk of another mistake.

J&J announced Saturday that it was “assuming full responsibility regarding the manufacturing of drug substance” at the Emergent BioSolutions plant. To facilitate that, the Department of Health and Human Services worked with AstraZeneca to move its production out of that plant so it can focus only on J&J, according to an HHS official familiar with the measure, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Read more from Josh Wingrove, Eduard Gismatullin and Riley Griffin.

U.S., Japan and South Korea Share North Korea Missile Concerns: The U.S., Japan, and South Korea sounded alarm over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, following a series of short-range rocket tests last month signaling fresh provocation from Pyongyang. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hosted his Japanese and South Korean counterparts for talks at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and the trio said in a joint readout that it was “imperative” for North Korea to fully comply with UN Security Council resolutions. Read more from Justin Sink.

Biden Pulls Trump Sanctions Against International Criminal Court: Biden said Friday he was revoking Trump’s executive order authorizing sanctions against officials who investigated the U.S. and its allies at the International Criminal Court, saying the threat was not “an effective or appropriate strategy” to address concerns with the court. Read more from Justin Sink.

Iran Rules Out Any Talks With U.S. in Vienna Unless Sanctions Go: Iran said it will hold no direct or indirect talks with the U.S. when the two countries and other world powers gather in Vienna tomorrow for planned talks on the possible resurrection of the 2015 nuclear deal. A U.S. official said last week that American and Iranian representatives would take part in indirect talks, but Iran’s deputy foreign minister ruled that out, according to state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. Read more from Arsalan Shahla.

DeVos’ Legacy Snags Biden’s Rewrite of College Male-Bias Rules: A string of recent court decisions have accepted sex-based discrimination claims by male students after their schools sanctioned them for harassment or assault, potentially complicating plans for a complete overhaul of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s campus sexual misconduct regulations. Biden plans to rewrite the DeVos rule governing Title IX, the 1972 federal law that bars gender-based discrimination at schools. The law has been at the center of debates over schools’ response to sexual harassment—mostly against women—on campus. Read more from Andrew Kreighbaum.

Politics & Influence

Hunter Biden Says Joining Burisma Board Wasn’t Mistake: Hunter Biden, the president’s son, says that he didn’t make a mistake by joining the board of one of the largest natural gas companies in Ukraine when his father was serving Barack Obama’s vice president. In wide-ranging interview with CBS News’ “Sunday Morning,” the younger Biden said that he did nothing wrong in taking the lucrative position with Cyprus-registered Burisma Holdings. His only error was “underestimating” how it would be used against him, he said, according to a transcript of the interview. Read more from Ben Bain.

Trump Keeps History at Bay by Putting Off Presidential Library: Trump is spending his first months as an ex-president trying to ensure that he’s remembered the way he wants — but he’s holding off on plans to establish a library that would enshrine his version of his presidency. Refusing to cede the limelight, the former president has issued almost daily statements, set up a website and turned up at multiple events at his Mar-a-Lago resort, including a wedding where he complained about the 2020 election results and Biden’s moves so far.

But planning for a library would suggest he’s done being president and that’s not something he’s ready to concede, say people familiar with his thinking. Trump has publicly dangled the possibility that he will seek the Republican nomination in 2024. Read more from Mark Niquette and Jennifer Jacobs.

Georgia Governor Says He’ll Fight After MLB Moves All-Star Game: Georgia’s Republican governor vowed a fight after Major League Baseball’s move to take this year’s All-Star Game and the MLB Draft event from Atlanta to show its concern for recently passed legislation on election procedures. Friday’s move also spurred a backlash from Trump, who has issued two statements on the subject so far, calling for boycotts of companies in favor of the shift in venue. Read more from Jim Silver.

To contact the reporter on this story: Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com