What to Know in Washington: Senate Group Has Infrastructure Deal

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A bipartisan group of 10 senators has agreed to pitch a $1.2 trillion eight-year infrastructure spending package to President Joe Biden, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.

The proposal, backed by Republicans including Mitt Romney (Utah) and Democrats including Joe Manchin (W.Va.), calls for $579 billion in net new spending beyond outlays that Congress was already expected to enact, according to the person.

The proposal is limited to core physical infrastructure and omits the social programs such as elderly care Biden included in his “American Jobs Plan,” the people said. They also said there are no tax increases included, although Romney earlier said the group was discussing indexing the gasoline tax to a measure of inflation — something he doesn’t count as a tax hike.

“We are discussing our approach with our respective colleagues, and the White House, and remain optimistic that this can lay the groundwork to garner broad support from both parties and meet America’s infrastructure needs,” the group of 10 senators said in a joint statement yesterday.

White House officials met yesterday with Democratic senators working on a bipartisan agreement. “Some questions still need to be addressed, particularly around details of both policy and pay-fors,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. Read more from Erik Wasson.

Bad Bridges Stoke Safety Fears: The Department of Transportation estimated in 2019 that it would cost $125 billion to make all fixes that are economically justified for the nation’s crumbling bridges. That cost must be weighed against the economic losses that can result from a bridge disruption if it falls.

Still, the most recent Biden administration proposal appears to fall short of the funds needed to restore all bridges to top condition. The president’s initial $2.25 trillion infrastructure package proposed $40 billion for a bridge investment program. Biden later dropped his offer to Republicans to $1.7 trillion, cutting the proposed funding for roads, bridges, and major projects to $120 billion. The administration declined to say exactly how much of that funding would go to bridges, and how distribution would be prioritized.

An analysis by Bloomberg Government and Bloomberg Law showed where in the nation’s bridge infrastructure is suffering the most. Read more from Aaron Kessler, Jasmine Ye Han, Lillianna Byington, and Valerie Bauman.

Graphic: Cordelia Gaffney/Bloomberg Law

Roles Reverse on Infrastructure Pay-fors: The debate over how to pay for the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems is leading some normally anti-tax Republicans to embrace higher levies on motorists — even a new one based on miles driven instead of fuel purchased. But some Democrats who have supported the idea of charging a mileage fee are now opposed. They see infrastructure as an economic stimulus measure and want it paid for by corporate taxes. That change of positions has Washington observers scratching their heads. Read more from Keith Laing.

Happening on the Hill

Today’s Agenda: The Senate is out. The House meets at 11:30 a.m. for a pro forma session. Click here for a complete list of today’s hearings.

Democrats Build Case for Voting Rights Bill: Democrats are taking a deliberate approach with a voting rights bill that would return oversight power of some states’ election laws to the federal government. They’re using congressional hearings to build a case for the legislation to both improve its chances of becoming law and survive an inevitable court challenge.

The House Administration Elections Subcommittee is holding its fourth hearing today on the yet-to-be-introduced John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chair of that subcommittee, said he expects 16 hearings to be held on the bill, including some held by the House and Senate Judiciary committees, and that it won’t be ready for floor action until fall. Read more from Emily Wilkins.

Democrat Seeks to Wedge Child Welfare Into Infrastructure Bill: A top Senate Democrat wants to include money for health care, child care, and nutrition as part of Biden’s signature infrastructure legislation, setting the stage for a battle with Republicans who say such a measure should focus on roads, bridges, and other needs. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families, could introduce legislation for a package of proposals as soon as next week. The framework will also address child abuse and wealth inequality. Read more from Andrew Kreighbaum.

Democrats Seek Path Through House for Chips Bill: House Democrats are maneuvering to quickly pass legislation to boost semiconductor manufacturing and support U.S. innovation by adding in parts of a Senate bill passed earlier this week to a bill being weighed by the House. Under the strategy being weighed, the House Science Committee would amend its bill to tuck in elements of the $250 billion package that cleared the Senate in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, sources familiar said. Read more from Anna Edgerton and Daniel Flatley.

Manchin Blocks Party’s Push to Repeal Hyde: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a moderate Democrat, effectively closed the door yesterday to ending the long-time ban on federal funds for abortion services, announcing he’ll support the existing policy “in every way possible.” Manchin, a member of the Senate appropriations subcommittee overseeing most spending on federal health programs, said he opposes ending the Hyde amendment. Read more from Alex Ruoff and Jack Fitzpatrick.

Yellow Corp. Defends Covid-Aid Loan: Trucking company Yellow said there was nothing inappropriate about the $700 million pandemic relief loan it received, and that it will “conclusively” confirm that to a House panel investigating the matter. The loan was made under a program to offset losses for businesses considered critical to national security. It allowed Yellow to remain a “critical link” in key U.S. supply chains, CEO Darren Hawkins told a House Judiciary subcommittee. Read more from Billy House.

Democrats look to Ban Corporal Punishment in Schools: Corporal punishment would be banned in schools that receive federal funding under legislation announced yesterday by Congressional Democrats. The bill from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) would also establish a private right of action for students to sue over the practice. Corporal punishment is legal in 19 states and 92,000 students were subject to the practice in the 2015-16 academic year, the most recent year for which data is available, Andrew Kreighbaum reports.

Senators Introduce Summer Meals Program Bill: A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill yesterday that aims to continue feeding school children over the summer months as the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation was introduced by Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Chair John Boozman (R-Ark.). The Agriculture Department’s summer meals program, which provides children with free lunch and snacks, “is in desperate need of an update,” Boozman said, Megan Boyanton reports.

Politics & Influence

Three Percenters Charged in Jan. 6 Attack: A group of men affiliated with the anti-government Three Percenter movement was charged with conspiring to block the electoral vote confirmation of Biden at the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The Justice Department yesterday unsealed charges against Alan Hostetter, 56; Russell Taylor, 40; Erik Scott Warner, 45; Felipe Antonio Martinez, 47; Derek Kinnison, 39; and Ronald Mele, 51. All six are from California. The charges represent the first major conspiracy case to target members of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia with local chapters across the country. Read more from David Yaffe-Bellany.

Schiff Says Trump Justice Department Improperly Probed His Panel: House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said last night that the Trump Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed personal records of people tied to his panel. Lauren French, a spokeswoman for the panel, said material tied to Schiff himself “was included in the subpoenas” for metadata. Schiff, who enraged President Donald Trump with congressional investigations of his administration, released a statement after the New York Times reported that the department had seized his records and those of several other people in an attempt to track down leaks that had led to articles about Trump’s circle and Russia. Read more from John Harney and Billy House.

Around the Administration

Today’s Agenda: Biden will participate today in the opening session of the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, U.K. The president will work to advance U.S. policy priorities on public health, economic recovery, and inclusive growth, according to the White House schedule. In the evening, Biden will participate in a reception and dinner with the other G-7 leaders and the U.K. royal family.

G-7 Leaders Poised to Turn Spotlight on Green Finance: The world’s richest governments are under mounting pressure to help poor countries fight climate change. At the G-7 summit in the U.K., they’ll get a fresh chance to do something about it. Heads of the G-7, including Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are meeting in England through Sunday. On the agenda is talks over financing a shift to green energy in poorer countries. Ewa Krukowska and Jessica Shankleman have more.

Biden Prods UAE to Dump Huawei: The Biden administration is pressing the United Arab Emirates to remove Huawei from its telecommunications network and take other steps to distance itself from China, raising the risk that the country’s purchase of some $23 billion in F-35 jets and drones may be at stake, people familiar with the matter said. Read more from Nick Wadhams and Sylvia Westall.

Senate Confirms First Muslim Federal Judge: The Senate voted yesterday by an 81-16 margin to confirm District of New Jersey nominee Zahid Quraishi, who would be the first Muslim life-tenured federal judge. Quraishi, who is currently a magistrate judge, was previously nominated by former President Barack Obama, but the GOP-led Senate didn’t take action on his nomination. He becomes the third Biden judicial pick the Senate has confirmed. Read more from Madison Alder.

Gateway Rail Advocate Wins Confirmation: The Senate confirmed Nuria Fernandez to run the Federal Transit Administration as the Biden administration seeks to improve bus and rail service, with an emphasis on greener technologies and serving previously neglected communities. Fernandez, confirmed by voice vote yesterday, will become the first woman of color confirmed to the job. She’ll lead the 550-person agency as the nation recovers from the pandemic. Read more from Lillianna Byington.

HUD Restores Obama-era Fair Housing Rule: The Department of Housing and Urban Development reinstated a 2015 rule which lets the agency suspend housing grants to municipalities that don’t actively combat housing discrimination, but eased compliance requirements for grant recipients. HUD issued an interim final rule reinstating its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation, which Trump repealed with fanfare during his 2020 presidential bid. Read more from Evan Weinberger.

With assistance from Andrew Kreighbaum and Megan U. Boyanton

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

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