The GOP’s hopes on striking an infrastructure deal with Biden: torching his proposed tax hikes

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From left, Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Senate Republican Policy Committee Chair Roy Blunt of Missouri.

  • Senate Republicans increasingly believe striking an infrastructure deal with Biden could derail some of his tax hikes.
  • Not every Senate Democrat is onboard with Biden’s planned programs or methods to finance them.
  • Passing a party-line bill is “going to take a lot of coordination in our Democratic caucus,” one Senate Democrat said.
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Bipartisan negotiations on a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package are poised to stretch into next week as lawmakers struggle to resolve key disagreements on how to finance it.

Democrats are pushing for a multitrillion-dollar package that would provide cash benefits to parents and set up universal pre-K, along with upgrades to roads and bridges – all paid for with tax increases on rich Americans and large firms.

But Senate Republicans are starting to believe that striking a deal with President Joe Biden on an infrastructure plan could torch the rest of his economic agenda, particularly some of those tax hikes and his planned social initiatives.

“I think if we can agree on an infrastructure package that’s paid for, we should,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told Insider. “But the Democrats want to do more on what I would call non-infrastructure and I assume they’ll try and do that in reconciliation.”

He went on: “The biggest challenge they have right now is not Republicans, it’s Democrats disagreeing on the use of reconciliation for that purpose.”

At least one senior Republican shared the assessment that Democrats’ use of the party-line approach could face a rocky path ahead, as all 50 Democrats in the Senate would have to remain united on a separate plan.

“It’ll be awful hard to get those moderate Democrats to be for that,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranked Senate Republican, told reporters on Monday. “The stars are kind of lining up for an infrastructure bill. And if you do do something bipartisan on that, then I think doing something partisan on reconciliation – in some ways, with certain Democrats – it gets a lot harder.”

Progressives are pushing for Democrats to scrap the talks so a massive package can be approved without Republican support. In an interview with Insider last month, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York singled out national paid leave and affordable childcare as the pair of initiatives most at jeopardy of being dropped from the talks entirely.

Those liberals are at odds with centrist-leaning Democrats who want the discussions to continue. Some have already expressed unease with Biden’s tax hikes on the rich to finance new programs – which could potentially cut the scope of a follow-up package. Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia and Bob Menendez favor scaling back Biden’s tax increase on capital gains, Politico reported.

“I know there needs to be reconciliation,” Warner told reporters on Thursday. “But that also doesn’t mean that I accept all of what the president has proposed.”

Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a key Biden ally in Congress, said he favors striking a deal with Republicans if possible, but he also backs a separate party-line bill which he acknowledged has no margin of error.

“I am equally determined to move ahead with a reconciliation package that will delivers on Biden’s boldest policy proposals and I think it is possible for us to do both,” he said in a recent interview. “But it’s going to take a lot of coordination in our Democratic caucus.”

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GOP senators oppose corporate tax hike as ‘non-negotiable red line’ as they float taxes on drivers to pay for infrastructure

Shelley Moore Capito
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Republicans were strongly opposed to corporate tax hike.
  • “I think that’s a non-negotiable red line,” she said, and other top Republicans around her agreed.
  • Republicans are drafting an infrastructure plan that may be mostly financed with taxes on drivers.
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Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said that GOP senators won’t budge from their resistance to hiking corporate taxes, a key element in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.

“I think that’s a non-negotiable red line,” Capito told reporters on Thursday of her party’s opposition to increasing corporate taxation.

Other Republican senators at the news conference said they agreed with Capito. The group also included Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, and John Cornyn of Texas.

Democrats assailed the Republican comments. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, called the red line a “completely unreasonable” position.

“Republicans’ insistence that the most profitable companies in the world shouldn’t contribute a single penny to investments in roads, schools and our clean-energy future is simply not acceptable,” Wyden said in a statement.

A faction of Senate Republicans in recent days appeared to be prepping a $600 billion to $800 billion infrastructure counterproposal to Biden’s $2.3 trillion package. Several lawmakers suggested financing the plan with a vehicle mileage tax on electric vehicles or raising the gas tax.

“I think we still haven’t defined what we mean by infrastructure and what’s going to be included and so how much it’s going to be, we don’t really have an idea,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters on Thursday. “It’s a very early process that we’ve engaged in.”

Still, other Democrats described the $800 billion indicated by Capito as too meager to address the country’s infrastructure needs. “We’re going to do whatever it takes. If it takes $4 trillion, I’d do $4 trillion but we have to pay for it,” Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told reporters on Thursday.

A JPMorgan economic research note on Thursday found that, although the corporate tax rate was higher than the global average before former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut, the US had a lower ratio of corporate tax revenues to GDP dating back to 2000.

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Psaki says Biden ‘does not spend his time tweeting conspiracy theories’ after a GOP senator criticized his tweets as ‘unimaginably conventional’

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Thursday, March 4, 2021.

  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden’s communication style on Monday.
  • Biden “does not spend his time tweeting conspiracy theories,” Psaki said.
  • The comments came after a Republican senator criticized Biden’s social media usage.
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday defended President Joe Biden’s communication style after a Republican senator criticized his limited social media usage.

“I can confirm that the president of the United States does not spend his time tweeting conspiracy theories,” Psaki told reporters during a news conference, in an apparent jab at former President Donald Trump’s Twitter habits before the social media platform permanently suspended his account after the Capitol riot on January 6.

Psaki’s comments were a response to GOP Sen. John Cornyn’s statement on Monday that Biden’s tweets are “unimaginably conventional.”

“The president is not doing cable news interviews,” Cornyn tweeted, quoting a Politico article. “Tweets from his account are limited and, when they come, unimaginably conventional. The public comments are largely scripted. Biden has opted for fewer sit down interviews with mainstream outlets and reporters.”

Cornyn also suggested that Biden’s messaging strategy undermines his leadership, tweeting, “Invites the question: is he really in charge?”

Psaki pushed back on the assertion on Monday, and said that Biden “spends his time working on behalf of the American people.”

Biden’s media interactions have largely consisted of participating in the occasional one-on-one interview, replying to reporters’ questions after public events, and sending tweets from his @POTUS account about his administration’s work. He held his first presidential news conference last month.

Biden’s approach significantly differs from that of Trump, who routinely made presidential announcements via late-night tweets and frequently appeared on cable TV channels, particularly Fox News. Trump would also use Twitter to attack his political rivals and drum up support from his base.

Toward the end of his presidency, Trump used social media to spread false claims and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. Twitter and Facebook eventually banned Trump from their platforms in response to the former president’s role in the Capitol insurrection, when swaths of his supporters stormed the building.

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Rep. Veronica Escobar says that Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn are using the southern border ‘as a prop’

Veronica Escobar
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) speaks on Capitol Hill.

  • Rep. Veronica Escobar said that Sens. Cruz and Cornyn are using the border “as a prop.”
  • Escobar said that the root causes of immigration must be addressed or the situation will not change.
  • “They had their chance to govern,” she said of Cruz and Cornyn. “They chose not to.”
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Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas said in a recent Daily Beast podcast interview that a southern border tour held last Friday by GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn was simply “political theater.”

During an episode of “The New Abnormal” featuring editor-at-large Molly Jong-Fast, Escobar lamented that immigration has been politicized to a point where crafting real solutions has been absent from the debate.

“I think there are 18 senators that are parachuting into Texas and that delegation is led by John Cornyn and Ted Cruz,” she said. “These are people who are about to engage in political theater, use the border as a prop, [and] do a whole lot of complaining and finger-pointing. But these are the same people who’ve been in the Senate for a number of years.”

She added: “They were in the Senate when their party had control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. They did not solve this problem.”

Escobar said that with the exception of former President Donald Trump’s child separation policy, the “vast majority” of his immigration policies are still in effect.

“It didn’t stop people from coming,” she said. “They had their chance to govern. They chose not to.”

The offices of Cruz and Cornyn did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read more: Meet the presidential confidants, Delaware’s closely-knit and well-positioned congressional delegation, Joe Biden’s entrusted with cementing his legacy

In 2014, Escobar, who represents a border district anchored in El Paso, wrote a piece called “Why the Border Crisis Is a Myth,” where she said many politicians were catering anti-immigrant sentiments to justify tightened immigration restrictions.

“What has happened repeatedly from Washington has been this idea that if we could just tough enough on the border, all of our immigration challenges will go away,” she said. “The walls kept getting bigger and taller and thicker and uglier, [with] investments in drones and personnel. Enter Donald Trump and his cruelty and dehumanization. What we now know after four years of some of the most draconian immigration policies is unless you address the root causes, you’re not going to change things much.”

She added: “The other thing that I hope we realize is that migration will happen. You cannot stop migration. People move around. What you can do is do your best as a country to work collaboratively with leaders of your hemisphere.”

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the former 2020 Democratic presidential contender and 2018 Democratic Senate nominee in Texas, recently mocked Cruz’s footage of his border excursion at the Rio Grande.

In a blurry video that Cruz posted on his Twitter account, he alleged to have observed smugglers on the other side of the US-Mexico border.

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GOP Sen. John Cornyn lamented on Twitter that the Biden administration treats all immigrants humanely

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas
Sen. John Cornyn is a member of the GOP leadership team.

  • Sen. John Cornyn attacked the Biden administration for emphasizing the “humane treatment” of all immigrants.
  • Cornyn noted on Twitter that prior Democratic presidents opposed undocumented immigration.
  • Hours later, Cornyn and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema sent a letter to Biden asking for more border resources.
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As Republican legislators continue to press President Joe Biden over a surge of immigrants at the US-Mexico border, Texas Sen. John Cornyn attacked Biden on Twitter for his administration’s “humane” treatment of undocumented immigrants.

Cornyn posted a string of tweets on Monday describing how former Democratic presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton took stances against undocumented immigration. The Republican senator then noted that Biden has “emphasized the human treatment” of all immigrants, regardless of their legal status.

The comments drew criticism online, as some questioned why humane treatment was being portrayed as a bad thing. Democratic Virginia Rep. Don Beyer called Cornyn’s attack an “incredible new low.”

Cornyn’s press team did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Hours after tweeting against Biden’s “humane treatment of immigrants,” Cornyn sent a letter to the president alongside Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona asking for more executive action regarding border migration.

The note specifically asked for more resources at the border facilities as well as a streamlined version of the asylum process to treat the mounting immigration case backlog.

The Biden administration has faced scrutiny for its border policy as officials reported a surge in child detentions at the border.

Over 15,000 unaccompanied minor immigrants are currently being held by Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Washington Post. The CBP told Insider that it encounters 337 unaccompanied migrant children on average per day.

Biden addressed the growing number of migrants seeking to cross the border in an interview with ABC News last week, telling Central American migrants not to come to the US.

“Yes, I can say quite clearly,” Biden said. “Don’t come over… don’t leave your town or city or community.”

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While President Biden visits storm-torn Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz will be giving a speech on ‘cancel culture’ in Florida

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While the president visits storm-torn Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz will be at CPAC.

  • President Joe Biden is heading to Texas on Friday to survey storm recovery efforts.
  • But he won’t be meeting with either Sens. Cruz or Cornyn.
  • Cruz will be giving a speech on cancel culture at CPAC that day instead. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

President Joe Biden heads to Texas on Friday to tour some of the hardest hit areas of the state, but while he’s there, he won’t be meeting with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. 

That’s because Cruz has a speaking engagement that day at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. He’ll be giving a speech entitled “Bill of Rights, Liberty, and Cancel Culture.” Cancel culture appears to be a major theme of the conference; former President Donald Trump will give a speech on Sunday entitled “America Uncancelled.”

Though it’s typical for senators to travel with the president when visiting their states, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that there were “limitations on space” on Air Force One, making it impossible for Cruz or his fellow GOP Sen. John Cornyn to join. Instead, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will accompany the president. 

“There are some limitations on space available, so there are not members, I don’t believe, of any party traveling with the president to Texas,” Psaki told reporters, noting that First Lady Dr. Jill Biden would be joining the president on his trip. “But again, he’s going to be spending the day traveling with Gov. Abbott and surveying the damage on the ground.”

According to Psaki, Biden will “meet with local leaders to discuss the winter storm, relief efforts, progress toward recovery, and the incredible resilience shown by the people of Houston and Texas.”

Some have speculated that Cruz was left off Biden’s travel plan because of the senator’s recent controversial trip to Cancun

Cruz angered many last week when he was spotted heading to Cancun amid one of the worst winter storms in the state’s history. Many accused the senator of abandoning his constituents, and Cruz later admitted the trip was “obviously a mistake.”

The White House has not directly commented on Cruz’s behavior, though Psaki did say last week that “Many people across the state are without power [and] without the resources they need, and we expect that would be the focus of anyone in the state who was elected to represent them.”

Insider has reached out to both Cruz and Cornyn’s offices for comment. 

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Majority of House Republicans support a lawsuit that aims to overturn the will of voters and hand 2020 election to Trump

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A protester in Pennsylvania holds a sign that reads “Count Every Vote.”

  • A majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives have signed on to an amicus brief asking the US Supreme Court to effectively overturn the results of the 2020 election.
  • The letter asks the Supreme Court to recognize the alleged right of Republican-led legislatures to ignore the popular vote and select electors who will support outgoing President Donald Trump.
  • No evidence of widespread fraud has been presented by the loser of the 2020 election or his allies.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A majority of House Republicans have formally expressed their opposition to recognizing the democratic outcome of the 2020 election, signing an amicus brief siding with a Texas lawsuit that aims to discard the will of voters in battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden.

President Donald Trump lost the November election in a relative landslide: 7 million more people voted for his opponent than for him, leaving the outgoing president with 232 votes in the Electoral College to 306 for Biden. But the lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeks to undo the outcome, specifically by throwing out the votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia, replacing the will of the people with pro-Trump electors appointed by the states’ Republican-led legislatures.

And at least 106 elected Republicans in the House of Representatives agree with that strategy, submitting a brief with the US Supreme Court that “defends the constitutional authority of state legislatures as the only bodies duly authorized to establish the manner by which presidential electors are appointed.”

Outside of those who are retiring, there are members who signed the letter who were returned to office in an election they now claim is illegitimate.

The litigation is highly unlikely to succeed; under the US Constitution, states administer their own elections, Texas provides no say over how they are run in Pennsylvania and vice versa. However, it signals a willingness on the part of many if not most elected Republicans to subvert democracy and their own commitment states’ rights for sheer partisan gain.

No evidence of widespread fraud has been uncovered, either by Trump’s lawyers, his Department of Justice, or Republican officials who oversaw voting in the states at issue, and certainly none sufficient to justify unprecedented intervention by judges that, as recourse, would effectively rob tens of millions of people of their right to vote – after their vote has already been cast, based on the results of them being counted.

Though in the minority, some elected Republicans have recognized that. On Wednesday, Texas Sen. John Cornyn told CNN he was “unconvinced” by what he characterized as the dubious legal arguments put forward by his state’s attorney general, who has since been joined by 17 other states.

Another Texan, Rep. Chip Roy, was more forceful, on Thursday calling the brief filed by his colleagues “a dangerous violation of federalism,” if not democratic values, saying he “cannot support an effort that will almost certainly fail… and is inconsistent with my beliefs about protecting Texas sovereignty from the meddling of other states.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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GOP senator says he’s ‘unconvinced’ by a Texas lawsuit that aims to overturn the 2020 election

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Detroit activists from 12 local organizations marched through the city on November 7th, 2020 to call for the protection of Detroit’s votes.

  • US Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, told CNN he’s not convinced by a Republican lawsuit aimed at overturning the 2020 election.
  • “I read just the summary of it, and I frankly struggle to understand the legal theory of it,” Cornyn said Wednesday.
  • The lawsuit in question was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and seeks to invalidate votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia.
  • While highly unlikely to succeed, the lawsuit has been welcomed by outgoing President Donald Trump and the likes of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has agreed to argue the case should it be heard by the US Supreme Court.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A lawsuit from President Donald Trump and 18 Republican-led states aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 election is based on dubious legal reasoning, US Senator John Cornyn said Wednesday. 

“I read just the summary of it, and I frankly struggle to understand the legal theory of it,” Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, told CNN’s Manu Raju.

“Number one, why would a state, even such a great state as Texas, have a say so on how other states administer their elections?” he continued. “It’s an interesting theory, but I’m not convinced.”

The lawsuit, filed this week by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeks to disenfranchise voters in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia, arguing their votes are “tainted.”

The unprecedented legal push, in which Paxton has been joined by Trump’s legal team and 17 other GOP state attorneys general, would deliver the presidency, if successful, to the certified loser of the election in each of the four states, where even Republican officials have rejected the president’s claims of widespread fraud. It calls for Republican-led legislatures to override the public’s vote and choose pro-Trump presidential electors instead.

Experts have said the push is likely to fail.

“The litigation is legally incoherent, factually untethered and based on theories of remedy that fundamentally misunderstand the electoral process,” Lisa Marshall Manheim, an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Law, wrote in The Washington Post.

While tepid, the criticism from a sitting US senator is nonetheless a major departure from the stance of many other elected Republicans, such as Cornyn’s fellow Texan, Sen. Ted Cruz. On Tuesday, Cruz, normally an advocate of the state rights vis-à-vis the federal government, agreed to argue the case should it reach the US Supreme Court, The New York Times reported.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has also welcomed the litigation, say it will provide “certainty and clarity about the entire election process,” as the San Antonio Current noted.

In a court filing, a group of moderate Republicans, however, including former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, has urged the lawsuit to be thrown out, The Dallas Morning News reported, characterizing it as an “unprecedented argument that a presidential election dispute is a controversy between two or more states.”

Read more: Meet Donald Trump’s new nemeses: The 15 prosecutors and investigators from New York who are primed to pepper the ex-president with history-making civil and criminal probes

On Twitter, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another Republican, welcomed Cornyn’s remarks. “[T]here is no legal theory,” he wrote, “and the conservative majority Supreme Court will reject it out of hand.”

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has also dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous, with a spokesperson telling The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it is “constitutionally, legally, and factually wrong.” That earned him a rebuke from the loser of the 2020 election, who in a 15-minute phone call on Wednesday night warned Carr not to rally other Republicans against the effort, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, is also defiant. “Donald Trump will not get away with his attempts to subvert a free and fair election,” the Democrat said Wednesday.

Odds are he’s right: Out of 38 lawsuits filed by the president’s legal team, zero have thus far resulted in a win.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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