What to Know in Washington: Biden to Meet With GOP Leaders

President Joe Biden is preparing for his first face-to-face meeting with the top two congressional Republicans, Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), just as the GOP is ramping up opposition to his $4 trillion economic plan, a rallying point for the party amid infighting over allegiance to former President Donald Trump.

After McConnell declared last week that he’s “100%” focused on blocking Biden’s agenda and with McCarthy aligning himself with the faction in his party that questions the legitimacy of the 2020 election, there’s little expectation of a breakthrough.

But the coming week still could prove pivotal for any chances of an agreement on the infrastructure portion of Biden’s suite of long-term economic proposals.

The White House session on Wednesday, which also includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), will take place the same day a Senate committee attempts to advance a bipartisan China-focused manufacturing bill widely seen as a test case for deal-making.

Both sides will be armed with Friday’s jobs report, which showed vastly weaker than expected U.S. job gains in April. Payrolls rose 266,000, less than half the median forecast, while unemployment edged up to 6.1%.

The White House said the report demonstrated the need for the infrastructure and manufacturing-focused American Jobs Plan and social safety net-focused American Families Plan. “We’re still digging our way out of a very deep hole we were put in,” Biden said Friday. Read more from Erik Wasson.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Bloomberg
McCarthy and McConnell at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 3, 2021.

Biden will meet only with Republican senators — including Sens. John Barrasso (Wyo.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Roy Blunt (Mo.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), and Roger Wicker (Miss.) — on Thursday to specifically discuss infrastructure.

Happening on the Hill

Today’s Agenda: The Senate returns today to consider the nomination of Andrea Joan Palm to be deputy secretary of Health and Human Services. The House isn’t in session until tomorrow.

  • Click here for a complete list of this week’s hearings and markups.

McCarthy Backs Stefanik for GOP Leadership: A battle over the future of the Republican Party is set to play out this week as House members vote on whether to dump Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a critic of Trump, from their leadership ranks. McCarthy and GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have both publicly backed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to replace Cheney. McCarthy made his endorsement yesterday in a Fox News interview. Stefanik tweeted her thanks.

At issue is not only the question of who is the GOP conference chair — the person responsible for getting the party’s message out to the public — but also whether Trump will remain the biggest single influence on the party’s direction. Read more from Daniel Flatley.

Democrats’ Medicaid Strategy in Red States: With no states jumping on the offer of added federal cash to expand their Medicaid programs, Democrats are mulling changing the federal-state partnership to cover millions of those left ineligible for government-financed insurance. Congressional Democrats in the 12 states that haven’t yet expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act say their state legislatures remain hostile to strengthening their public insurance programs, and have left too many uninsured. Alex Ruoff has more.

Around the Administration

Today’s Agenda: Biden will speak at 10:30 a.m. with NATO’s eastern flank allies, who will be meeting in a virtual summit of the Bucharest Nine, and will push for closer cooperation in Central Europe and the Baltic and Black Sea regions, according to the White House daily schedule. Biden also plans to speak about the economy from the White House at 1:15 p.m.

White House Creates Task Force for Pipeline Breach: The investigation into a major cyber-attack on the biggest U.S. pipeline continued yesterday as the White House pulled together an inter-agency task force to tackle the problem. The task force has been working through the weekend to address the breach, including exploring options for lessening its impact on the energy supply, according to a White House official. Colonial Pipeline halted all operations on its systems when it was hit with ransomware late Friday and is working to restore operations as investigators assess the damage. Meanwhile, new details emerged about the probable culprit behind the attack, a relatively new ransomware group known as DarkSide. Read more from Alyza Sebenius.

  • A series of major cyberattacks in recent weeks has underscored the brazenness of the attackers and the challenges of tackling the problem of ransomware, just as the Biden administration announced plans to take on the issue. In a matter of days, attacks were revealed against Washington, D.C.’s police department, Illinois’ Attorney General, and San Diego-based Scripps Health, all before Colonial Pipeline’s attack. Read more from Andrew Martin and Alyza Sebenius.

CDC Limits Reviews of Vaccinated but Infected: Federal health officials this month decided to limit how they monitor vaccinated Americans who’ve been infected with Covid-19, spurring concern from some scientists who say that may mean missing needed data showing why and how it happens. At the end of April, 9,000 Americans were reported to be infected after being vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. While a tiny percentage of the 95 million fully inoculated at the time, researchers still want to find out what mechanisms may be spurring the infections. Read more from Elaine Chen.

  • Biden’s top medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, said there is “no doubt” the U.S. has undercounted its number of deaths from Covid-19, which now stand at over 581,000. Still, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told NBC that a University of Washington study published May 6 that the true toll is over 900,000 is “a bit more than I would have thought.” Read more from Ros Krasny.

Pentagon Still Plans to Speed Cash to Contractors: The Pentagon is sticking with a plan developed in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic to speed progress payments to defense contractors, even as evidence mounts that major companies appear financially healthy and are stepping up stock buybacks. Under the accelerated payments plan, the Defense Department provided $4.6 billion to defense contractors as of March 31, department spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement. About $2.4 billion of that total was paid to top contractors Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and the Lockheed-Boeing United Launch Alliance joint spacecraft venture, Maxwell said. Read more from Tony Capaccio.

Thea Lee Will be Named To Labor Post, Report Says: Former AFL-CIO official Thea Lee will be named to a top role at the Labor Department, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing people familiar with the move. Lee will be appointed as deputy undersecretary for international labor affairs, the newspaper said. In that role she’ll oversee the section that investigates labor rights, forced labor, and child trafficking. Read more from Sebastian Tong.

U.S. Concerned About Jerusalem Violence: U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke by phone yesterday with his Israeli counterpart about violence that continued in East Jerusalem over the weekend, the White House said. Sullivan told Israel’s Meir Ben-Shabbat the U.S. has “serious concerns,” including “violent confrontations at the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount during the last days of Ramadan,” according to a readout from National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne. Read more from Ros Krasny and Alisa Odenheimer.

Politics & Influence

Trump DOJ Got Phone Records of Post Reporters: The Trump administration’s Department of Justice got telephone records and attempted to get the email records of three Washington Post reporters who were looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Post said. The reporters—Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller, and Adam Entous—were informed of the probe last week in letters from the department, the Post said, adding that their records were from calls made on work, home and mobile phones from April 15 to July 31, 2017. Read more from John Harney and Chris Strohm.

GOP Voting Curbs Show Reach of SCOTUS Ruling: Republicans across the U.S. can thank the U.S. Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Roberts as they enact the country’s most significant voting restrictions in generations. The court’s watershed 2013 Shelby County verdict created a glide path for many of election changes GOP-controlled legislatures are pushing this year. The Roberts-written decision wiped out the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s requirement that jurisdictions with a deep history of discrimination get federal clearance before changing their voting rules. Read more from Greg Stohr and Margaret Newkirk.

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