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.”
His father, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has not held office for 20 years, although he remains a prominent figure in national politics as one of former President Donald Trump’s most loyal allies. Andrew said his family name could bolster his campaign and thinks it “evokes a reaction in most people.”
The Republican candidate and former Trump White House aide also said he plans to use guidance from his father to help his run. “If I didn’t use him as an asset, as an adviser, as somebody who I’d rely on, I’d be foolish,” Andrew told the outlet.
But the report also delves into Andrew’s strained relationship with Rudy. After his parents divorced and Rudy remarried in 2003, Andrew went through “long stretches” of his life in which the pair hardly spoke.
Heather McBride, Andrew’s former babysitter and now his campaign spokesman, told the magazine that Rudy is not a member of “the 12-member family group chat that includes extended Giuliani relatives and close friends.”
Still, Andrew has grown to stay by his father’s side, the report says. Andrew spoke out on his behalf in April when federal agents executed search warrants on Rudy’s home and office and seized his electronic devices, per New York Magazine.
“He’s a tough guy. He can take anything,” he told the magazine. “And what he knows is he’s got his son backing him.”
GOP officials and associates close to Giuliani’s family are unsure why Andrew has decided to run for governor, especially in a state where Democrats are virtually guaranteed to win. Some are convinced it has to do with his father.
“There’s pain and daddy issues that exist beneath this,” an unnamed source close to Rudy told New York Magazine.
Even given the remote odds of the eventual Republican nominee becoming the first to win statewide since 2002 – when Republican Gov. George Pataki unseated Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo, denying him a fourth term – Giuliani is reportedly not the favored candidate.
The House on Wednesday passed bipartisan legislation to make June 19, known as Juneteenth, a national holiday celebrating the emancipation of people who were enslaved in the US.
The bill passed by 415-14 vote, with all votes against it coming from Republicans.
“It has been a long journey,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Houston and author of the bill, said on the floor. “This bill and this day is about freedom.”
The bill passed the Senate 24 hours earlier, winning unanimous support on Tuesday. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law ahead of this weekend’s annual celebration.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, had been vocally opposed to the legislation, saying that it was too costly to give federal employees another day off work. But he ended his blockade of the bill on Tuesday, which allowed the Senate to move forward.
In the House Wednesday, Republican objections largely focused on process, with speakers complaining about the bill being fast-tracked without sufficient committee input. Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican from Louisiana, objected to the name of the bill, the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,” saying that it was “coopting” the Fourth of July. But he added that he supported it regardless.
Democrats, meanwhile, linked the creation of the holiday to fights for social justice.
“It’s also a recognition that we have so much work to do to rid this country of systemic racism, discrimination, and hate,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat from Detroit, said. “Juneteenth, what we are doing today, should empower us to fight even harder every single day for criminal-justice reform, for racial equality, and for economic empowerment of Black people in America.”
Juneteenth will become the US’s 11th federal holiday. The last one, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was added to the calendar nearly 40 years ago. The legislation will give federal employees a day off, and private companies are expected to follow suit.
On the campaign trail last year, Biden publicly commemorated the holiday by tweeting: “#Juneteenth reminds us of how vulnerable our nation is to being poisoned by systems and acts of inhumanity-but it’s also a reminder of our ability to change.
“Together, we can lay the roots of real and lasting justice, and become the extraordinary nation that was promised to all.”
Juneteenth, which has been celebrated since the late 1800s, comemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, and announced that the region’s 250,0000 enslaved African Americans had been emancipated, thus ending slavery in the last Confederate territory.
The day came two years after President Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation and a few months after Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery and “involuntary servitude,” except as punishment for a crime.
“It’s long overdue to be recognized as a federal holiday,” Rep. Randy Weber, a Republican who represents Galveston, said Wednesday. “Juneteenth reminds us of the freedom so bravely defended by so many Americans,”
He added that it “reminds us we have a ways to go.”
Calls to make Juneteenth a national holiday, which has been in the works for years, gained momentum last year amid the nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Democrats are weighing tucking immigration reform into a large infrastructure package using reconciliation this summer, a step that could significantly expand the scope of a Democratic-only package.
Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said that Democrats were interested in fully financing Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plans instead of deficit-spending, meaning the cost of the plan is added onto the national debt.
“Anytime there’s been a CBO examination on immigration reform, it produces a significant increase in the GDP without really costing much money,” he told Insider, referring to budgetary analyses produced by the Congressional Budget Office.
He went on: “So that may not be a traditional pay-for but if we feel like there’s something we could do within a reconciliation vehicle that could produce significant economic growth.. that could be a very legitimate way to look at trying to find a balanced package.”
Reconciliation is a legislative tactic that requires only a simple majority for bills related to government spending. It’s the same method Democrats used to muscle through the $1.9 trillion stimulus law in March.
Earlier this year, House Democrats passed two measures to set up a legal path to citizenship for farm workers and young immigrants brought to the US as children illegally. Neither has cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate, as it doesn’t have the 10 Republican votes needed to cross the 60-vote filibuster threshold.
Progressive Democrats in the House, along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, back a party-line approach to immigration reform, Roll Call reported.
Kaine also told reporters that “big picture” immigration ideas were discussed among the Senate Democrats attending a major infrastructure strategy meeting late on Wednesday.
Experts say some immigration provisions could run into trouble with reconciliation’s main arbiter because not all would be directly related to the federal budget – a key rule of the process.
“Immigration reform, like the 2013 Gang of Eight bill for example, definitely has a CBO score,” Zach Moller, a budget expert at the liberal-leaning organization Third Way, told Insider. “But not all provisions will have a budget score and those that have savings or costs may run into issues if the parliamentarian rules the effects are ‘merely incidental’ to the underlying policy.”
Moller pointed to the 2013 immigration reform plan which CBO projected would have saved $175 billion over a decade. Those negotiations ultimately collapsed due to conservative attacks.
For now, Democrats are taking a two-pronged approach to the infrastructure discussions. They are still negotiating with Republicans on a skinny bill while setting the stage to approve a massive package without GOP support in several months.
A group of eleven Republican and ten Democratic Senators announced on Wednesday that they supported a bipartisan infrastructure framework.
Sens. Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Chris Coons, Lindsey Graham, Maggie Hassan, John Hickenlooper, Mark Kelly, Angus King, Joe Manchin, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, Mitt Romney, Mike Rounds, Jeanne Shaheen, Kyrsten Sinema, Jon Tester, Thom Tillis, Mark Warner, and Todd Young issued a joint statement outlining their support. Senator Jerry Moran threw in his support after the joint statement was issued, bringing the number of Senators who support the package up to 21.
The group is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. That amount of Republicans would be enough to approve the package if every Democrat lined up behind it – an unlikely scenario, given that at least three senators say they’re opposed to its lackluster climate provisions.
None of the details of the package have been made public, though some details have emerged. The framework is concentrated on physical infrastructures like roads and bridges, with limited support for electric charging stations.
In the US Senate Budget Committee, this week, Democrats met to discuss a budget resolution, which would trigger the reconciliation process. That’s a tactic that would allow Democrats to approve the legislation in a party-line vote.
“We have a lot of things we have to do to help the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said as he left the meeting. And we have to have unity to do it and everyone has to listen to one another.”
Progressives have mounted a pressure campaign to get Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer off the bench while the Senate is still under Democratic control, which would clear the way for President Joe Biden to appoint his successor.
Eighteen legal academics endorsed an ad set to run in the New York Times on Friday, urging the 82-year-old Breyer to step down to avoid a possible scenario in which Republicans win the Senate in 2022 and block future judicial nominees put forth by Biden.
“It is time for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to announce his intent to retire,” reads the letter, signed by scholars at Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, among others. “Breyer is a remarkable jurist, but with future control of a closely divided Senate uncertain, it is best for the country that President Biden have the opportunity to nominate a successor without delay.”
The news site Politico ran a full-page ad signed by more than a dozen major advocacy groups on Wednesday, which likewise called on Breyer to retire. Demand Justice, Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, Working Families Party and Sunrise Movement were among the 13 progressive organizations that signed on to the statement, first reported by The Huffington Post.
“If Breyer were replaced by an additional ultra-conservative justice, an even further-right Supreme Court would leave our democracy and the rights of marginalized communities at even greater risk,” the groups said in the ad.
“For the good of the country, now is the time to step aside,” the ad concludes.
Renewed calls for Breyer’s retirement come in response to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shutting down hopes for Biden to fill a potential Supreme Court vacancy if Republicans regain the Senate next year. In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, the GOP leader said it is “highly unlikely” that he would allow Biden to confirm a justice should a court seat open up under his Senate majority leadership.
Alarmed by that possibility, progressives are demanding that Breyer, the oldest Supreme Court justice, leave the bench.
“Anyone who still doubted that Stephen Breyer not retiring could end in disaster should pay attention to Mitch McConnell’s recent comments,” Demand Justice Executive Director Brian Fallon said in a statement. “If Republicans regain control of the Senate before Breyer’s replacement is confirmed, the Court’s legitimacy and our democracy will be at even greater risk.”
McConnell’s blocking of Garland: ‘The single most consequential thing I’ve done’
After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell famously blocked then-President Barack Obama’s pick to replace him, Merrick Garland.
The top Republican denied Garland a hearing or vote for his confirmation, leaving the seat empty until President Donald Trump won the 2016 election and took office. As Senate majority leader, McConnell advanced Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court in April 2017 – more than a year after the vacancy opened up.
The move sparked outrage among Democrats, yet McConnell has lauded the effort as “the single most consequential thing I’ve done in my time as majority leader of the Senate.”
Under Trump, McConnell ushered in two more Supreme Court justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the bench. The newly appointed justices replaced retired Justice Anthony Kennedy and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, respectively.
McConnell is now signaling that if the GOP takes back the Senate next year and he once again becomes majority leader in 2023, he would rely on the same tactic to prevent a Biden nominee for the Supreme Court from moving forward.
“McConnell isn’t just saying the quiet part out loud – he’s shouting it in the face of Justice Breyer and Congressional Democrats and daring them to do something about it,” Aaron Belkin, director of Take Back the Court, another progressive group that endorsed the ad, said in a statement to Insider.
“At this point Democrats only have two choices: expand the Court or accept that Republicans will get to make the rules in perpetuity no matter how unpopular they are,” he added.
Breyer isn’t commenting publicly
Since Biden was sworn in and Democrats won the Senate in January, progressives have called for Breyer’s retirement to ensure that a new liberal justice will sit on the bench for decades to come.
Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, Breyer has served for 27 years on the nation’s highest court. The current Supreme Court term ends in just a few weeks but Breyer has not yet publicly weighed in on his retirement.
Recently, he stressed the importance of having an independent judiciary, potentially suggesting that he won’t make a decision based on politics.
“My experience of more than 30 years as a judge … has shown me that once men and women take the judicial oath – they take that oath to heart,” Breyer said during a virtual lecture in April at Harvard Law School. “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment.”
“It is wrong to think of the court as just another political institution and it is doubly wrong to think of its members as junior league politicians,” he continued.
Some left-leaning congressional Democrats have also expressed their support for Breyer’s retirement in recent days. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on Sunday told CNN that she agreed with fellow New York Rep. Mondaire Jones, who said Breyer should leave at the end of the court’s term.
“It is good to see even more progressive leaders step forward to say that Breyer needs to step down now to protect his legacy,” Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, said in a statement.
Biden also faces pressure to fill a Supreme Court seat of his choice, previously promising on the campaign trail to put the first Black woman on the bench during his tenure. Yet White house press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in April that the president would not push Breyer to announce his retirement.
“He believes that’s a decision Justice Breyer will make when he decides it’s time to no longer serve on the Supreme Court,” she said.
Progressives argue that another conservative justice on the court would tilt its ideological balance even further to the right and bring decades of jurisprudence that may threaten their priorities, which include universal health care, voting rights, LGTBQ+ protections, and other issues.
“Leaving this Supreme Court seat up to Democrats’ chances in 2022 is dangerous and would threaten the lives of women, immigrants, a stable climate and the future of our generation,” Sunrise Movement said in a statement to Insider.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday said there are people within the US who doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s work for him by continuing to cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election. Her comments came as President Joe Biden held a historic summit with Putin in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We never thought we had to worry about domestic enemies. We never thought we had to worry about people who didn’t believe in our democracy,” Clinton said. “Sadly, what we’ve seen over the last 4 years, and particularly since our election in 2020, is that we have people within our own country who are doing Putin’s work … to sow distrust, to sow divisiveness, to give aid and comfort to those in our country who, for whatever reason, are being not only disruptive but very dangerous.”
Biden is aware of the problem, Clinton said, and knows he has to work to do on “both fronts.”
“There has been … a big flirtation by some on the right in the Republican Party with the Putin model. They really resonate to the authoritarianism,” Clinton said. “They find that kind of macho approach to everything quite attractive.”
Clinton, who’s also met with Putin on behalf of the US, said the Russian leader is “the great disruptor” and “has a clear mission to undermine democracies, first and foremost, the United States.”
The former secretary of state said Biden needs to make clear to Putin that “ridiculing the United States, undermining us, allowing – as well as overseeing attacks – on our election structure, on our energy delivery system, on so much else, has to stop.”
Clinton said she’s confident that Biden will be far more assertive with Putin than former President Donald Trump, and that she hopes the president will address issues like nuclear arms agreements and cyber attacks in his summit with the Russian president.
“We don’t have Trump being, in effect, a spokesperson for Putin any longer,” Clinton said. “We have a president who will stand up and defend American interests.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is calling for Rep. Ilhan Omar’s removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee as Republicans continue to misconstrue recent comments she made on war crimes investigations, while Democrats largely appear to have moved on.
McCarthy urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to strip Omar from the committee based on what he described as “anti-Semitic” and “anti-American” language from the Minnesota lawmaker.
“I will promise you this. If we are fortunate enough to have the majority, Omar would not be serving on Foreign Affairs or anybody that has an anti-Semitic, anti-American view. That is not productive, and that is not right,” McCarthy said during a “Fox & Friends” appearance on Tuesday.
The comments mark the GOP’s latest efforts to attack Omar, who last week criticized both Democrats and Republicans for taking her words about the US’s opposition to investigate potential war crimes out of context.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle then accused Omar of “equating” the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, pressuring Omar to clarify her statements. Pushing back against the criticism, she underscored that she was explicitly referencing open ICC investigations.
“Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice,'” Omar continued. “You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has thought us that the truth can’t be hidden or silenced forever.”
The Democratic leadership in a statement last week erroneously suggested Omar drew “false equivalencies” between democracies like the US and Israel and terrorist groups, while welcoming the “clarification” issued by the Minnesota Democrat.
In a separate statement, Omar said she was “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
“To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the US and Israel,” Omar said.
Several Democrats came to Omar’s defense, citing a history of Congress members making Islamophobic and racist remarks toward her, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.
“I am tired of colleagues (both D+R) demonizing @IlhanMN. Their obsession with policing her is sick. She has the courage to call out human rights abuses no matter who is responsible,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted. “That’s better than colleagues who look away if it serves their politics.”
Pelosi: ‘End of subject’
Pelosi in a CNN interview on Sunday made it clear that the Democratic leadership wanted to put the matter to bed and move on.
“She clarified, we thanked her, end of subject,” Pelosi said.
The top Democrat said Omar was a “valued member” of the caucus, and rejected the notion that the Democratic leadership had rebuked the Minnesota lawmaker over her statements.
“We did not rebuke her. We acknowledged that she made a clarification,” Pelosi said. “She asked her questions of the Secretary of State. Nobody criticized those, about how people will be held accountable if we’re not going to the International Court of Justice. That was a very legitimate question. That was not of concern.”
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York also appeared on CNN on Sunday and said Omar’s comments were “absolutely mischaracterized” by Republicans and warned about the consequences of Democrats joining in and legitimizing their bad faith attacks.
“When we feed into that, it adds legitimacy to a lot of this kind of right-wing vitriol. It absolutely increases that target,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And as someone who has experienced that, it’s very difficult to communicate the scale and how dangerous that is.”
“As Speaker Pelosi said, we are putting this behind us and I believe that we will ultimately come together as a caucus,” she went on to say.
Republicans have engaged in a prolonged smear campaign against Omar
The recent attacks on Omar are part of a broader trend or smear campaign primarily perpetuated by Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media.
In 2019, Omar sent tweets that led to widespread allegations of anti-Semitism, and she promptly apologized. The tweets suggested politicians in Congress had been bought off by influential groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which critics said echoed anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money.
Since that controversy, Omar has been vocal in condemning anti-Semitism and attacks on Jewish people while also calling for a more balanced approach to addressing potential human rights abuses by the US and its allies, including Israel.
Omar is one of the first two Muslim women in Congress in US history, and her defenders in Congress say it’s not a coincidence she’s been the target of a coordinated smear campaign by Republicans.
In a statement offering support to Omar last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus said, “We cannot ignore that a right-wing media echo chamber that has deliberately and routinely attacked a Black, Muslim woman in Congress, distorting her views and intentions, and resulting in threats against Rep. Omar and her staff.”
“We urge our colleagues not to abet or amplify such divisive and bad-faith attacks,” the statement added.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday evening publicly apologized for her previous comparisons of COVID-19 mask requirements and vaccination efforts to the horrors suffered by Jews in Nazi Germany.
The Georgia Republican, known for her controversial statements, took a markedly different tone during a solo news conference, starting off by saying: “I always want to remind everyone – I’m very much a normal person.”
“One of the best lessons that my father always taught me was, when you make a mistake, you should own it. And I have made a mistake and it’s really bothered me for a couple of weeks now, and so I definitely want to own it,” she said.
Greene told reporters that she visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, earlier in the day and wanted to make it clear that “there is no comparison to the Holocaust.”
“There are words that I have said, remarks that I’ve made, that I know are offensive. And for that I want to apologize,” she said.
Greene attacked Speaker Nancy Pelosi for keeping the House mask mandate in place although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted mask-wearing guidelines indoors for fully vaccinated individuals. Pelosi said that she was following guidance from the Capitol attending physician as vaccination rates in Congress, especially among Republicans, was unknown.
During an interview on a conservative podcast on May 20, Greene said: “You know, we can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”
She also tweeted at the time that “vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star.”
The “gold star” reference, which historians more commonly refer to as a yellow star, was an identifier that Nazi Germany forced Jews to wear.
Several House Democrats swiftly condemned Greene’s language, followed by House Republican leadership. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy called her statements “wrong” and “appalling.”
Greene did not express any regret over her comments at the time, and instead doubled down on them in a series of tweets in which she described Democrats as “reminiscent of the great tyrants of history.”
Widely circulated video footage and photos of the Capitol on January 6 show large numbers of apparent Trump supporters rioting, constructing a gallows on the complex, holding zip ties, and attacking police officers. Federal investigators have charged 521 people so far in connection with the riot.
Former President Donald Trump has been widely accused of inciting the insurrection after he rallied his supporters to protest the 2020 election results based on lies that the race was stolen from him. Lindell, a staunch ally of Trump’s, has repeatedly pushed his false claims about the election.
Congressional Republicans last month voted to block the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol insurrection. Trump had been against the bill.