What to Know in Washington: Senate, Biden Meet on Infrastructure

President Joe Biden, eager for a bipartisan infrastructure deal, will welcome the Democratic and Republican senators crafting a $559 billion plan to the White House for talks today, a crucial step toward moving his economic agenda through Congress.

Members of the group of 10 senators directly involved in the negotiations expressed optimism that they were close to a deal with the president.

“We are very, very close,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the leaders of the Senate group, said after yesterday’s round of discussions with Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president and other Biden aides.

Although some of the details of the package for roads, bridges and other projects are still to be resolved, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the talks had produced enough progress toward a potential agreement that the “president has invited the group to come to the White House tomorrow to discuss this in person.” Read more from Erik Wasson and Laura Litvan.

Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg
Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Longtime Political Winner Infrastructure No Longer a Sure Bet: Ambitious infrastructure bills laden with earmarks used to be a formula for a surefire bipartisan win. Congressional leaders in both parties viewed the project-filled bounty as campaign fodder certain to help their rank-and-file members win re-election and boost their own standing with voters. But Biden’s gamble that a $2 trillion-plus plan to boost everything from roads and bridges to schools and housing would bring everyone on board so far hasn’t paid off. Read more from Nancy Ognanovich.

Happening on the Hill

Today’s Agenda:

  • The House plans to consider four measures, including two resolutions to undue Trump administration rules.
  • The Senate is scheduled to vote on legislation that aims to help farmers, ranchers, and foresters participate in carbon credit-trading markets. The chamber will also vote on a judicial nomination.
  • Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings and markups.

LGBTQ Business Data Bill Gets Second House Vote: Proponents of a bill that would require banks to collect data on LGBTQ-owned businesses will get a second chance today to advance the legislation. The bill, which aims to shed light on potential discriminatory practices, is scheduled for a floor vote this afternoon. It will likely be passed this time because it needs only a simple majority. It crossed that threshold in the 248-177 vote held June 15, but it didn’t get the two-thirds support needed under suspension of the rules, which is usually reserved for widely supported, noncontroversial measures. Read more from Emily Wilkins.

Scott Says He Hopes for Deal on Police Bill Today: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the head Republican negotiator working on a bipartisan policing reform measure, said he hopes to reach an agreement on the legislation by today. “I don’t think there’s outstanding issues that need to be worked out, we just need to agree on the actual language that we’re using,” Scott told reporters. Scott previously said it’s important for the chamber to vote on the issue before the July 4 recess, Steven T. Dennis and Brody Ford report.

Democrats Lead Police Earmark Requests: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), the new chair of the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee, was among five House lawmakers—four of them Democrats—to request funds for gunshot-detection technology last month under the chamber’s revived system of earmarks. Cartwright and other congressional Democrats reject the notion that police accountability equates to “defunding” or de-emphasizing law enforcement, which was a theme in the wake of the police killing last year of George Floyd in Minneapolis. And in the earmark requests filed in May to the House Appropriations Committee, Democrats requested more than two times the police funding of Republicans, a Bloomberg Government review found. Read more from Jack Fitzpatrick.

Yellen Renews Debt-Limit Plea: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said her department may exhaust emergency measures to avoid breaching the U.S. debt limit as soon as August unless Congress acts to avert a potential default that would be “catastrophic.” “Defaulting on the national debt should be regarded as unthinkable,” Yellen said yesterday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on her department’s budget. “Failing to increase the debt limit would have absolutely catastrophic economic consequences,” she added. “It would precipitate a financial crisis. It would threaten the jobs and savings of Americans — and at a time when we’re still recovering from the Covid pandemic.” Read more from Christopher Condon.

  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Democrats should “re-evaluate their irresponsible spending plan” after Yellen warned the U.S. could soon risk default. “It is well past time for President Biden and congressional Democrats to stop their out-of-control spending,” McCarthy said in an email, Billy House reports.

House Panel Advances Big Tech Antitrust Bills: The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill to prevent companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google from advantaging their own products, a measure that critics warned could complicate the usage of Amazon Prime or Apple’s own apps on iPhones. The legislation was the fifth bill the committee approved in a session that ran for nearly 20 hours into early this morning, before breaking until later in the morning. The measure, sponsored by antitrust subcommittee Chair David Cicilline (D-R.I.), narrowly advanced on a bipartisan 23-21 vote. The panel will return at 11 a.m. to consider the final bill. Read more from Anna Edgerton.

DOD Leaders Reject Accusations Military Is ‘Woke’: The top uniformed officer hit back at allegations that the U.S. military is being indoctrinated with so-called “critical race theory” and seminars about White anger after two Florida Republicans said that anti-racist teachings could detriment troops. “I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military—our general officers, our non-commissioned officers—of being called woke,” Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. Roxana Tiron has more.

Lawmakers Clash Over Retirement Savings Vehicle: Momentum for comprehensive bipartisan retirement security legislation is building on Capitol Hill, but lawmakers can’t agree on what contributed to the retirement security crisis across the nation and what the future holds for traditional pension plans as Congress seeks to increase 401(k) access. The debate comes as a House panel plans to mark up a bill to automatically enroll new employees in their workplace retirement plans. Read more from Austin Ramsey.

SALT Limit Opponents Pull in Union Support: House Democrats agitating to lift the cap on state and local income tax deduction are enlisting teachers, firefighters and other union members to demonstrate the impact on workers in high-tax, strongly unionized states such as New York and New Jersey. “The states that are most affected by the SALT cap are states that have the highest levels of union membership in our country,” Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) said. Read more from Laura Davison and MacKenzie Hawkins.

Top Farm Panel Democrat Rushes to Expand Expiring Trade Program: The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee is rushing to expand a program set to expire in one week that helps American workers hurt by foreign competition. Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is set to introduce a bill today with Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) to expand Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers. The TAA program provides federal aid to workers who lose their jobs because of global trade. Read more from Megan U. Boyanton.

  • Concentration and consolidation in meat processing, an industry in which major producers dominate, is driving lawmakers to consider antitrust guardrails through several legislative measures, including the renewal of a price-reporting program. “With fewer companies—and more foreign-owned companies—controlling more of the marketplace, there is a widening gap between those giant players and the small- and medium-sized processors that many local farmers and ranchers count on,” Stabenow said at a hearing yesterday. Read more from Megan U. Boyanton.

Eshoo Wants Diversity Targets in Drug Trials: Drug companies would be required to set targets and develop action plans for diversifying their clinical trial populations under a bill in the works by a key House lawmaker in health policy. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said the bill ultimately would boost confidence among Black, Hispanic, and other groups historically underrepresented in studies used by the FDA to decide whether to approve these products. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

Politics & Influence

Trump Remains at Odds With House Committee Over Documents: Former President Donald Trump and the House Oversight Committee failed to agree on the release of his financial documents after several rounds of negotiations and the committee says a federal judge should make the final decision. Trump asserted that he’d make “a significant portion of the documents” available to committee staff and or members “on reasonable terms.” But the panel said in court papers that Trump proposed to produce “zero documents.” It added that restrictions the former president has proposed — making a limited set of documents available only privately — would make it impossible for the committee to use the information in an effective manner. Read more from Joe Schneider.

Oath Keeper to Cooperate With U.S. in Riot Case: A member of the far-right Oath Keepers admitted he conspired to riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors on the same day a 49-year-old grandmother who spent 10 minutes in the building avoided a prison term. Graydon Young of Florida entered his plea to obstruction of justice at a hearing in Washington yesterday. Read more from David Yaffe-Bellany.

FEC Eyes Whether Kelly Can Chair Illinois Democratic Party: The Federal Election Commission may be headed for a deadlock today on whether a member of Congress is allowed to chair a state political party that raises campaign money not regulated under federal rules – known as “soft money.” At issue is a provision of the McCain-Feingold law that says a federal candidate is barred from establishing or controlling a soft money group, Kenneth P. Doyle reports.

Rep. Robin Kelly, who was elected in March to chair the central committee of the Illinois Democratic Party, requested an advisory opinion the FEC is set to consider today. The state party raises both federally regulated “hard money” and state-regulated soft money, including contributions in amounts greater than FEC limits, as well as corporate and union funds. The advisory opinion asks if Kelly can serve as state party chair if she is “appropriately insulated” from raising soft money. One draft response released this week by the FEC essentially says yes, she can, while the other says no.

What Else to Know Today

Today’s Agenda: Biden travels to North Carolina today to discuss the administration’s vaccination effort. Biden is scheduled to visit a mobile vaccination unit at the Green Road Community Center in Raleigh, N.C. at 4:50 p.m. Biden will speak at 5:15 p.m. on the importance of vaccinations.

Civil Liberties Worries Loom in Plan to Identify Threats: Federal agencies are working to root out extremists in their ranks without encroaching on civil liberties, Biden administration officials said yesterday while discussing a new national plan for combating domestic terrorism. White House homeland security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall said the government recognizes the potential for an “insider threat” as domestic extremists try to recruit members of the military and law enforcement. Under the national strategy unveiled last week, the Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice departments are working to identify those individuals and improve their screening processes. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

U.S. Readies New Talks with Iran: U.S. diplomats are prepared to return to Vienna for a seventh round of indirect talks with Iran on re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior administration official said yesterday. The team, led by Biden’s Iran envoy Robert Malley, is ready to negotiate as soon as next week, though that date might be pushed back, according to the official. Iran hasn’t said when it wants to reconvene. Read more from Paul Wallace.

U.S. to Block Some Solar Goods Made in Xinjiang: The U.S. is set to bar some solar products made in China’s Xinjiang region, people familiar with the matter said, marking one of the White House’s biggest steps yet to counter the alleged human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims there. Factories in Xinjiang produce half of global supply of polysilicon, a key material needed to make solar panels. Jenny Leonard, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Brian Eckhouse and Ari Natter have more.

With assistance from Kenneth P. Doyle

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