What to Know in Washington: Biden Sees Normalcy by Summer

President Joe Biden offered a Fourth of July goal for the U.S. to begin returning to normal as “light in the darkness” to a weary nation last night, counting on a rapidly expanding supply of coronavirus vaccine to raise American hopes.

In his first prime-time address as president, Biden told states he wants all adults in the U.S. made eligible for vaccines by May 1. That vision was already within reach before his announcement, on the first anniversary of lockdowns that paralyzed the world’s largest economy.

The new goal carried echoes of the last time Biden made a promise he was already on track to meet — his declaration before taking office that his administration would preside over 100 million doses of vaccine jabbed into American arms in his first 100 days. By the time he was inaugurated, the U.S. was already nearing a pace of 1 million shots a day, virtually assuring the goal would be achieved. Biden said yesterday that the nation would hit the threshold next week, just 60 days into his presidency.

Still, the new steps he announced to bring the pandemic to heel helped turn his speech into a bright contrast with his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. Biden’s remarks were heavy on empathy and encouragement for Americans exhausted by demands that they isolate from family and friends and wear masks outside their homes. Read more from Justin Sink, Josh Wingrove and Jenny Leonard.

Photographer: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg
Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

It’s Still ‘America First’ on Vaccines: As a candidate and then president, Biden repudiated Trump’s “America First” approach to the world. But when it comes to vaccines, Biden is basically following his predecessor’s practice of making sure Americans are fully protected before sharing the doses around the world. Seeing an opportunity to exert “soft power,” Russia and China have stepped into that breach, doling out doses to countries from Chile to the Philippines as a way to curry favor. While the U.S. makes promises about the future, Russia and China are delivering, albeit modestly, now. Read more from David Wainer and Patrick Gillespie.

Happening on the Hill

Democrats Propose $300 Billion Infrastructure Measure: House Democrats introduced an infrastructure package investing in climate, broadband and public health, as Democrats move into the next phase of their economic recovery effort following passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders released the package that would provide more than $312 billion in funding for infrastructure projects under the panel’s jurisdiction. Read more from Rebecca Kern and Alex Ruoff.


Gun Votes Highlight Growing Party Polarization: Few House members broke party rank on a pair of Democratic-sponsored gun background check bills the chamber passed yesterday— continuing a trend of partisan voting on gun policy and underscoring an increased ideological homogeneity in the two parties. Just nine members crossed party lines on a bill that seeks to require background checks for firearms sales, including at gun shows. There were even fewer party-line defectors—four—on another background checks bill. Read more from Greg Giroux.

Labor Revamp Puts Moderates Under Pressure: A sweeping labor bill headed to the Senate is presenting a key test for Democrats, putting moderates right in the middle of a tug-of-war between business groups and powerful union donors. Labor unions’ strength was on display this week after the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, the top priority for organized labor, for a second time. But progressives fear that’ll be in vain without changes to the Senate filibuster. Andrew Kreighbaum and Ian Kullgren have more.

  • Union leaders also urged the Senate to scrap its longstanding filibuster rule, hoping to clear the way for the ambitious labor overhaul. The recommendation was unanimously approved by the AFL-CIO executive council, comprised of more than 50 representatives of the nation’s largest unions. Read more from Kullgren.

Warren Backs Ending Offshore Tax Breaks: Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are joining more than 100 Democrats in the House and Senate backing a new measure that would apply the same tax rate on a company’s overseas profits as on those profits earned in the U.S. The measure takes aim at tax incentives enacted by Trump in 2017, a statement says, Caitlin Webber reports.

DeJoy Embraces Electric Vehicles for USPS: Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, defending the selection of a gasoline-powered vehicle maker to build the next generation of U.S. mail trucks, said that he envisions the service moving quickly to electric power. “We are very, very excited about having a full fleet, or to the greatest extent we can, you know, electric fleet,” DeJoy told a House appropriations subcommittee. Read more from Todd Shields and Ari Natter.

Kirkpatrick Won’t Seek Re-Election: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) said her current term in Congress will be her last, the Arizona Republic reports, citing an interview with the five-term lawmaker. Kirkpatrick is expected to announce today that she won’t seek another term representing the Tucson area, according to the Arizona Republic.

Around the Administration

Biden Steers Off Blunt Anti-China Message: As Biden seeks to shore up ties with allies in Asia, he’s reshaping the messaging to avoid spooking them about America’s intentions regarding China. Australia, Japan, and India all fret about China’s expanding economic and military heft, and the first meeting today of leaders of the group known as the Quad will be a show of unity against Beijing. Even so, they’re wary of being pulled by the U.S. into a purely anti-China bloc. Read more from Ian Marlow, Archana Chaudhary and Justin Sink.

  • Also on China, the White House informed some suppliers to Huawei of tighter conditions on previously approved export licenses, prohibiting items for use in or with 5G devices, according to people familiar with the move. The 5G ban is effective this week, according to the people. Read more from Eric Martin.

Biden’s DOJ Picks Assailed for Corporate Ties: Liberal groups yesterday demanded the Biden administration stop appointing Justice Department officials with strong corporate ties and that those already nominated recuse themselves from key antitrust cases. About 46 groups issued the demands in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. “We are concerned by the recent appointments of individuals with backgrounds defending large corporations to the Department of Justice,” reads the letter obtained by Bloomberg News. Attorney General Merrick Garland was sworn in yesterday. Read more from Nancy Cook.

Yellen Says Americans to Start Seeing Payments This Weekend: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Americans would begin receiving $1,400 relief payments in their bank accounts this weekend following enactment of the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill. “We’re working hard first to get the direct payments out,” Yellen said yesterday in an interview with NBC News. She also promised to rush aid for vaccination support. Read more from Christopher Condon.

Tax Refunds Plunge 32%: Just under a month into federal tax filing season, the IRS reported a 32% slide in the number of refunds sent out compared with last year, showcasing the delays that have spurred Democrats to call for postponing the traditional April 15 deadline. The drop-off in the number of refunds is partly a consequence of taxpayers filing 12.3 million fewer tax returns so far this year compared with 2020, according to data released yesterday. Read more from Laura Davison.

Uber Will Push to Shape Direction of Gig Worker Rule: Uber and other gig companies are poised to continue defending their business model as the Labor Department moves to scrap a Trump-era regulation that would have made it easier to classify their drivers as contractors under federal wage law. The Biden administration proposed to rescind the rule yesterday. If it had gone into effect, the rule would have created a shorter, simpler test for determining when a worker is an independent contractor who isn’t entitled to minimum wage and overtime protections that the Fair Labor Standards Act affords to employees. Read more from Erin Mulvaney.

CFPB Reverses Limits on Enforcement: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has lifted Trump-era restrictions on the agency’s ability to collect civil penalties and disgorgement from banks and financial companies for abusive acts and practices. The agency rescinded a January 2020 policy statement from former CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger that established a two-part test for staff to bring abuse claims under the Dodd-Frank Act, Evan Weinberger reports.

Politics & Influence

Trump Holds Court in Mar-a-Lago, Demanding GOP Bows to His Will: Donald Trump is building a political operation to lead the Republican Party from his Mar-a-Lago resort, but the former president is clashing with other Republicans as he seeks to do it entirely on his terms. Trump’s Florida estate has become the center of gravity for the GOP, with political operatives and politicians waiting around to get a meeting with him and holding fundraisers in hopes he’ll attend. At the same time, party leaders have gone there to persuade him — so far in vain — to put winning a GOP majority in Congress in 2022 over retaliating against Republicans who opposed him. Read more from Mark Niquette and Billy House.

Geraldo Rivera Out of Ohio Senate Race: Less than a day after announcing he was pondering a run for the U.S. Senate, broadcaster Geraldo Rivera said yesterday he was already sitting this campaign out. “After a 36-hour pondering whirlwind I’ve decided not to seek public office. Erica and I deeply appreciate the good wishes of those cheering the idea,” Rivera said on Twitter, referring to his wife, Emma Kinery reports.

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