What to Know in Washington: China Bill Slowed by Detail Changes

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) plan for the Senate to pass a sweeping bill this week to help the U.S. compete with China is being swamped by Republican requests for changes and additions that risks dragging out debate.

“This thing needs some work and I’m not sure we’re at the point where we can do what needs to be done” to get it passed, said Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking Republican on Foreign Relations Committee. Getting to a final vote within days “is really ambitious,” he said.

The legislation — totaling almost $200 billion and including $52 billion to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing — has already been through a wringer of revisions as it was expanded and tweaked in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

But Democrats and Republicans still have to bridge some political differences, large and small, even as bipartisan concern about China’s rise has created broad Senate support for an effort to pour billions of dollars into technology and manufacturing research and development.

The bill’s also shouldering some of the burden of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal. In a counter-offer to Republicans on Friday, the White House said it was reducing the size of the president’s $2.25 trillion plan because some of the spending he sought for manufacturing and research and development had been incorporated into the Senate bill. Read more from Daniel Flately.

Photographer: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg
Schumer speaks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on May 19.

Happening on the Hill

Today’s Agenda: Senators will vote at 5:30 p.m. on the motion to invoke cloture, or limit debate, on the nomination of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

  • The House has no scheduled floor votes this week.
  • Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings.

Biden Tax Hikes Are Hitting Resistance: Weeks after Biden pitched the first major set of tax increases since 1993, signs are mounting that anxiety among congressional Democrats will significantly temper any increases that manage to pass Congress. “We are trying to identify a menu of options” that can pass, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in an interview. “You need to get every one of your 50 Democratic Senators on board. There is no room for error.”

The Treasury Department is slated to release the administration’s most detailed tax proposals yet, in a report known as the Green Book. But congressional staff are already paring down the ideas that have been floated and fine-tuning them to make them workable from both policy and political standpoints, a Democratic aide said on condition of anonymity. Read more from Nancy Cook and Laura Davison.

GOP Balks on Spending Plan: Biden “will not let inaction be the final answer” on his infrastructure spending plan, and will change course if it becomes clear a bipartisan outcome is impossible, said a top White House adviser. Senate Republicans on Friday panned a trimmed-down $1.7 trillion infrastructure proposal from the White House, saying the revised offer suggested the two sides were even further apart than the GOP lawmakers had thought. Sunday brought no change in tone.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Biden aide Cedric Richmond said the president showed good faith by coming down $550 billion from his original proposal. “The real question is whether the Republicans will meet the effort the president is showing,” Richmond said.

“We’re still pretty far apart,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Main) said on ABC’s “This Week.” She cited differences between the parties on the scope of spending as well as the price-tag. “Negotiations should continue, but it’s important to note that there are some fundamental differences here, and at the heart of the negotiations is defining the scope of the bill. What is infrastructure?” Collins said. Read more from Yueqi Yang and Todd Shields.

Disabled Americans See Opening for Fixes: More than 30 years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, at least 18% of transit stations aren’t ADA-accessible, according to the most recent data from the Federal Transit Administration. Now, Biden’s push to advance equity through infrastructure offers an opening to make rail and transit more accessible, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and disability advocates say. Read more from Lillianna Byington.

Senators Reach Bipartisan Deal on Highway Package: A group of senators said they struck a bipartisan agreement on highway funding a day after Republicans rejected the White House’s infrastructure proposal. Top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced Saturday they’d reached agreement on the surface transportation bill, which would provide $304 billion in funding for highways, roads and bridges. Read more from David McLaughlin.

Elections & Politics

Cheney, Kinzinger Land New Donors: Vocal anti-Trump House Republicans Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) are raking in campaign cash and garnering accolades from some lobbyists who lauded the lawmakers for taking on the former president for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Hundreds of K Street lobbyists, lawyers, and communications professionals donated to Cheney, including nearly 200 who gave to her for the first time this year, according to Federal Election Commission records analyzed by Bloomberg Government. Kinzinger attracted almost 50 first-time lobbyist donors. Read more from Megan R. Wilson.

‘Breyer Retire’ Push Aims to Focus Liberals on Court: A progressive group has started a campaign to pressure a sitting Supreme Court justice to retire so a Democratic president can replace him, the first step in a broader effort to focus the party’s attention on the judiciary — the way Republicans have for decades. Yet so far, few Democratic lawmakers are joining the calls for 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer to step down. The group, Demand Justice, is using social-media hashtags to get its point across, and also drove a truck-mounted electronic billboard around Capitol Hill last month, urging Breyer to retire. Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith and Gregory Korte.

Biden Faults Seizure of Journalists’ Phone Records: Biden said it’s “simply, simply wrong” for the Department of Justice to obtain the telephone and email records of journalists, after reports the department had obtained those records of multiple reporters during the Trump administration. “I will not let that happen,” Biden told reporters at the end of a White House news conference Friday when asked if he’d let his DOJ seize records from journalists. Jordan Fabian and John Harney have more.

CNN Ousts Santorum After Native American Remarks: CNN dropped Rick Santorum as a political commentator following an outcry over comments about Native American culture by the former senator from Pennsylvania. Alison Rudnick, a CNN spokeswoman, said Saturday the network had “parted ways” with Santorum, without providing details. Santorum, a GOP presidential candidate in 2016, said in April that “there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.” Read more from David McLaughlin.

Around the Administration

Today’s Agenda: Biden will receive a briefing at 1:30 p.m. on the Atlantic’s hurricane outlook and preparedness efforts at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington. The Atlantic Ocean over the weekend produced its first named storm for 2021, making this the seventh straight year that tropical systems have emerged before the official June 1 start of hurricane season, Brian K. Sullivan reports.

Biden to Meet Floyd’s Family on Anniversary of Death: Biden will meet with the family of George Floyd on the anniversary of his death tomorrow, according to a schedule of public events for the week released by the White House, Max Zimmerman reports. Biden also will travel to Cleveland, Ohio to deliver remarks on the economy Thursday.

Blinken to Visit Israel, West Bank This Week: Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday, Reuters reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Blinken had said previously that he’d travel to the region in the coming days and that he looks forward to meeting regional leaders. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the planned trip. Read more from Tiago Ramos Alfaro.

  • Meanwhile, Biden on Friday strongly defended Israel, a day after the announcement of a cease-fire with Hamas, and said there won’t be peace until the region acknowledges the country’s right to exist. At the same time, Biden said the U.S. will help provide security in the West Bank and plans to put together “a major package” to help rebuild homes in the Gaza Strip. He reiterated his call for a two-state solution. Read more from Jordan Fabian.

Biden, Moon Vow Unity on North Korea: Biden said he would appoint a special envoy to address issues regarding North Korea and vowed to coordinate policy toward Pyongyang closely with South Korea’s government. Following meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Friday, Biden said he’s appointing Ambassador Sung Kim to be his special envoy and that the U.S. and South Korea are willing to take “pragmatic steps” to cut down tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Read more from Justin Sink and Jordan Fabian.

Biden Says U.S. Could Produce 1 Billion Shots: Biden said Friday that the U.S. could produce up to 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses by as early as year-end. The “hope and expectation” is for the remainder of 2021, the U.S. will “be able to vaccinate every American,” Biden said at a White House event. Meanwhile, states have introduced innovative ways to draw residents to get inoculated. Read more from Mario Parker and Jordan Fabian.

  • Current shots provide a high level of protection against both hospitalization and mortality, according to a summary of the efficacy of eight vaccines that showed the Pfizer-BioNTech jab might better at stopping at least two worrisome Covid-19 variants. Efficacy against Covid-19-linked disease averaged about 85% after a full course, hitting nearly 100% protection against severe cases and death, Julia Shapiro, Natalie Dean, Ira Longini and colleagues said in a report. Jason Gale has more.
  • Federal Health officials are ramping up their surveillance of the highly transmissible Covid-19 variant first identified in India as experts warn that under-vaccinated areas in the U.S. could become hot spots for the mutation. While U.S. cases attributed to the B.1.617 variant currently sit below 1%, the growth rate remains unclear due to the small sample size. Read more from Fiona Rutherford.
  • China accused the U.S. of promoting theories that the coronavirus escaped from a high-security lab in Wuhan, as a fresh report about sick workers at the facility prompted Beijing to reaffirm denials. Read more.

Forced Ryanair Landing Spurs U.S. Outrage: The U.S. and Europe reacted with outrage after Belarus ordered a Ryanair flight transiting its airspace to land and arrested a journalist on board, an unprecedented violation of European air travel protocols. “The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Roman Pratasevich,” Blinken said in a statement. Read more from Milda Seputyte and Aliaksandr Kudrytski.

Military Takes Steps to Nix Confederate Names: A panel Congress created to help erase remnants of the Confederacy from hundreds of Defense Department facilities, aircraft, and ships will visit nine military bases over the summer and fall as part of its work. The Naming Commission has until Oct. 1, 2022, to make its recommendations on renaming “assets that commemorate the Confederate States of America or any person who served voluntarily for the Confederate States,” Chair Michelle Howard said. Roxana Tiron has more.

Iran Likely to Extend UN Nuclear Monitoring Deal: Iran is likely to extend a U.N. nuclear inspections agreement by a month, buying diplomats time to revive a landmark deal that would usher a return of the Persian Gulf nation to world oil markets in exchange for curbs on its atomic work. Read more from Jonathan Tirone, Golnar Motevalli and Arsalan Shahla.

To contact the reporters on this story: Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

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