What to Know in Washington: GOP May Thwart Infrastructure Vote

Senate Republicans are set to thwart Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)’s attempt to speed President Joe Biden’s agenda through the chamber by blocking his bid to start Senate debate on a yet-unfinished infrastructure plan.

Schumer’s decision to force an early test vote this afternoon spurred a faster pace in protracted talks for a $579 billion infrastructure plan, but not the completed deal GOP senators are demanding as a prerequisite to begin debate.

If the vote to move forward on the Senate floor fails to get the 60 votes needed, as expected, talks among a bipartisan group of 22 senators could continue, at least a few more days. Schumer could use a procedural maneuver to try again.

But Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) expressed optimism last night: “I really believe tomorrow it will be done. We are so close.” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he was confident that a final deal would be forged. Read more from Erik Wasson and Laura Litvan.

Photographer: Tom Brenner/Bloomberg
Schumer at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Hurdles Remain to Bipartisan Bill: As senators scramble to finalize and begin debate on bipartisan infrastructure legislation, a separate battle over the forthcoming bill looms in the House.

Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated about what’s likely to be left on the cutting room floor, with progressives in the party slamming the Senate deal at a rally yesterday. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) called the Senate bipartisan agreement “woefully inadequate.” House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said that at a meeting with committee Democrats yesterday “there wasn’t a single one who said they want to move forward with a status quo bill.”

A major issue for House Democrats is the provisions on fossil fuel pollution and carbon reduction that were part of a wide-ranging infrastructure bill they passed earlier this month, over Republican objections. That legislation included more than $715 billion in spending for surface transportation and water infrastructure. DeFazio touted at the time that the policy specifics included could fill in the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure framework. Now, after learning the Senate bill would leave out the environmental and other policies, he’s rallying his party to demand their inclusion. Read more from Emily Wilkins and Lillianna Byington.

Rail Boosters Try to Hitch Ride on Budget, Infrastructure Plans: Connecticut’s Democratic senators see two emerging deals totaling some $4.1 trillion as the ticket to modernizing rail in the U.S. Northeast, adding a new wrinkle to the fragile agreements on the legislative underpinnings of Biden’s economic agenda. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal are typically reliable votes in an evenly divided Senate. Neither of them have said they would sink the measure, but their last-minute push for more rail financing makes clear that every Democrat has sway in the talks on both the infrastructure plan and a related $3.5 trillion budget blueprint. Read more from MacKenzie Hawkins.

Happening on the Hill

Today’s Agenda:

  • The House is set to consider a measure to tackle pollution from a group of substances often called “forever chemicals.”
  • Senators plan to cast their first votes on whether to consider the bipartisan infrastructure package.
  • Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings and markups.

Biden Pressed on Drug Trafficking Response: A bipartisan Senate group is renewing a push to permanently ban highly addictive fentanyl analogs but are waiting for the Biden administration to weigh in first. The rise in overdose deaths in the U.S. is partly driven by the presence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be made in various ways, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) said. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

Cyber Breach Reporting Mandated in Bill: Federal agencies and critical infrastructure operators such as energy companies would have to report cyber intrusions within 24 hours to the Department of Homeland Security or face penalties, under a bipartisan bill unveiled today. The legislation from Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the most substantive congressional effort this year to address the spike in cyber and ransomware attacks on federal government and private companies following the Colonial Pipeline hack. Read more from Rebecca Kern.

  • Meanwhile, the Energy Department’s cybersecurity oversight would be strengthened and the electric industry’s defenses bolstered under three bipartisan measures House lawmakers passed this week. Rebecca Kern has more.

DeFazio Sees ‘Miserable’ Diversity Metrics in Aviation: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the lack of diversity in the aviation workforce yesterday, and leaders on a House panel pledged to make the issue a priority. There has been some progress by certain airlines, but overall “the numbers are miserable,” DeFazio said at an aviation panel hearing on the issue. Read more from Lillianna Byington.

House Panel Advances Expanded Leave for Federal Employees: The House Oversight Committee voted to advance legislation yesterday that would offer 12 weeks of paid family leave to all federal employees, Andrew Kreighbaum reports. The bill is endorsed by the American Federation of Government Employees as well as other National labor unions. Senate Democrats have introduced similar legislation but have not garnered Republican support for the measure.

Politics & Influence

Lobbying Firms Rack Up Record Revenues: Washington’s lobbying shops generated record-breaking revenues in the first half of the year as they rushed to meet client requests on massive legislation moving through Congress including Covid-19 relief, infrastructure, and appropriations measures. When lawmakers are debating bills with trillion dollar prize tags, it is the rare client that isn’t working 24/7 with us,” Stewart Verdery, chief executive of lobbying and public affairs firm Monument Advocacy, said in an email. His firm took in $4.89 million during the first half of this year, a 12% increase over the same period in 2020.

Midnight was the deadline for firms to submit filings to the Senate disclosing how much they earned in the second quarter, spanning April through June. Twenty-two top firms provided those numbers to Bloomberg Government ahead of the deadline. Almost all of them posted gains over last year. Read more from Megan R. Wilson.

  • The largest U.S. technology companies continued to spend millions on lobbying last quarter, seeking to sway legislation intended to bolster antitrust enforcement and force other changes on the industry. Apple increased its spending to $1.64 million in the second quarter, up 12.3% from the previous quarter. Amazon’s total increased by 1.3% to $4.86 million. Lobbying expenditures by Microsoft dipped slightly, down 4.6% to $2.47 million and Facebook mostly held steady at $4.77 million. Alphabet’s Google spent $2.09 million, down 22.3% from last quarter, but up 23.7% from last year. Read more from Anna Edgerton and Bill Allison.
  • Huawei Technologies ramped up spending on lobbyists last quarter as a U.S. ban on the company’s equipment means it would be left out of projects associated with the billions Congress plans to spend on infrastructure. Huawei spent $1.06 million in the second quarter of 2021, up from $180,000 in the first quarter this year, according to disclosures filed yesterday. The company listed broadband and infrastructure bills as specific interests, as well as trade and a digital privacy measure, Anna Edgerton and Bill Allison report.

Democrats Outraised GOP, But Republicans Have Cash: The Democratic National Committee raised $87.1 million over the first six months of the year, more than its Republican counterpart, according to its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission. Combined with the $3.8 million haul of its Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, which supports the national and state party committees, the DNC raised more in the first half of 2021 than it did in all of 2017. The two raised $14.4 million in June, and ended the month with $67.6 million cash on hand, less than the GOP. The Republican National Committee had $81.7 million in the bank, part of a windfall the committee enjoyed thanks to former President Donald Trump’s post-election fundraising. Read more from Bill Allison.

  • The 147 Republicans who voted against certifying Biden’s victory are still feeling the sting of decreased support from corporations, a review of second quarter Federal Election Commission filings shows. Those Republicans saw a 31% decline in contributions from other committees, including corporate political action committees, in the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2019, the most recent non-election year. Read more from Bill Allison.

NRA’s Permitless Gun Laws Sweep Red States: The high-profile legal troubles of the National Rifle Association may suggest a powerful organization on the ropes, but in statehouses, the pro-gun movement it helms is racking up victories. New laws are giving millions of Americans increasingly unfettered access to firearms even as gun violence rises across the country. So far this year, five states—Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah—have passed permitless-carry laws, bringing the total number of states with such laws to 21. Read more from Neil Weinberg.

Around the Administration

Today’s Agenda:

  • Biden plans to visit Cincinnati, Ohio this afternoon to discuss his infrastructure proposals before participating in a CNN town hall this evening.

Yellen Confronts Clashing Deadlines to Clinch Global Tax Accord: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will have to manage two separate sets of delicate negotiations this fall around a global corporate-tax accord, each with clashing deadlines that could threaten the ultimate success of the deal. Group of 20 nations plan to finalize the details of a landmark global minimum tax and a rewrite of international tax rules at a summit in late October. That’s also right when congressional Democrats hope to be nearing passage of a $3.5 trillion bill that’s the party’s one shot to make much of Biden’s economic agenda a reality. Any change in the parameters in one negotiation risks jeopardizing the other deal. Read more from MacKenzie Hawkins and Laura Davison.

Agencies Eye Funding Sources for Justice40: Biden’s “whole-of-government” effort to fight environmental injustice calls upon agencies to steer resources through an array of programs to communities bearing the brunt of historical pollution. The programs include climate change, clean energy, transportation, energy efficiency, and affordable housing, the interim guidance from the Office of Management and Budget says. Read more from Dean Scott.

Regulator to Repeal Community Lending Rules: The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is officially killing Trump-era rules changing how banks are graded on their lending to and investments in low-income communities. The OCC yesterday said it plans to rescind Community Reinvestment Act regulations that the regulator issued in 2020 and that it plans to work with the the Federal Reserve on unified rules. Read more from Evan Weinberger.

Terror Prevention Plan Said to Ignore Outside Risks: The Homeland Security Department needs more study of how outside factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic, affect its efforts to combat terrorism, a government watchdog said. The Government Accountability Office in a report yesterday urged the department to revise a strategy for preventing violent extremism after assessing the risks and resources the DHS needs to do its job. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

U.S. Says Trump Ally’s UAE Lobbying Struck Heart of Democracy: Even before Trump was elected president in November 2016, a foreign government turned to one of his close associates in an effort to gain influence — and this time it wasn’t Russia. Instead, according to an indictment of Trump’s former inaugural chairman Tom Barrack unveiled yesterday, the nation that sought such clout was the United Arab Emirates, a staunch U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf region. Prosecutors say the UAE relied on Barrack, a longtime Trump associate and real estate developer, to build a backchannel to senior U.S. officials.

Barrack and two of his associates were charged with failing to register as foreign agents for work they allegedly did to promote the United Arab Emirates’ foreign policy interests and increase its political sway in the U.S. Read more from Patricia Hurtado, Peter Martin and Mark Niquette.

With assistance from Andrew Kreighbaum

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