Trump, who tried throughout his presidency to pass his own infrastructure bill, has railed against negotiations in recent days, telling Republican lawmakers to skip the talks – not, it seems, because of any specific issues with the content of the bill, but because passage of the bill would be “a victory for the Biden administration and Democrats and…heavily used in the 2022 election.”
Wednesday’s vote to advance the bill in the Senate precedes a final vote on the legislation coming sometime in the next week or two. Democrats are also preparing a reconciliation package that would pass the Senate without Republican support.
Enzi was elected to the Senate in 1996, having previously served as the mayor of Gillette, and he decided not to run for a fifth term in the 2020 election, The Washington Post reported. His time in office ended January 3, 2021.
He had friends on both sides of the political aisle, The Post noted.
He led the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia on Sunday said that he would support a “small carve-out” on the filibuster to pass voting-rights legislation.
On “Fox News Sunday,” he cautioned against the Senate morphing into the House, where the majority party holds enormous sway over legislation, emphasizing the importance of preserving voting rights.
“I don’t want the Senate to become like the House,” Warner said. “But I do believe when it comes to voting rights, when it comes to that basic right to exercise and participate in democracy, I get very worried what’s happening in some of these states where they are actually penalizing, saying if you give somebody water waiting in line to vote, or in states like Texas where they’re saying a local government can overcome the results of a local election. That is not democracy.”
He added: “If we have to do a small carve out on filibuster for voting rights – that is the only area where I’d allow that kind of reform.”
Warner supports the sweeping voting-rights legislation known as the For the People Act, also identified as S.1, which would end partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, establish national standards for voter registration, and blunt voter purges, among other measures.
Democrats would also like to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore federal preclearance from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was weakened in the 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder.
Former President Donald Trump’s false election claims have only deepened the partisan divide on voting rights, and GOP congressional leaders have come out against the Democratic-led voting bills.
Last month, a vote to advance the For the People Act failed 50-50, with Democrats unable to win any Republican support. In order for the bill to pass under current rules, it would need to meet the 60-vote threshold to overcome a legislative filibuster.
In an evenly divided Senate, that task has become nearly impossible, especially since the bill cannot be passed through the budget reconciliation process and moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oppose nixing the filibuster entirely.
Democrats, who have strongly opposed the raft of restrictive voting bills that have passed this year in states like Arizona and Florida, sense a narrowing window for voting rights as the 2022 midterm elections approach.
In the interview, Warner questioned former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s 2013 decision to change the filibuster rules for most presidential nominees, which now only require a simple majority.
“I would wish we wouldn’t even have started this a decade ago,” he said. “When the Democratic leaders actually changed the rules, I don’t think we would have the Supreme Court we did if we still had a 60-vote margin on the filibuster.”
He added: “But we are where we are, and the idea that somehow to protect the rights of the minority in the Senate, we’re going to cut out rights of minorities and young people all across the country, that’s just not right to me.”
On Sunday in separate appearances on ABC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ohio Senator Rob Portman offered up opposing viewpoints on the timeline of passing a bipartisan infrastructure package.
Pelosi reinforced her stance to hold up the $1 trillion agreement as Democrats work to finalize a separate $3.5 trillion spending package, in hopes that they both get passed together.
“We are rooting for the infrastructure bill to pass, but we all know that more needs to be done,” she said.
During his own interview on ABC, Portman, a Republican and one of the leading negotiators on the bipartisan package, called Pelosi’s stance”entirely counter” to President Joe Biden’s commitment to bipartisan efforts in the House and Senate, adding that $1 trillion infrastructure bill “has nothing to do with the reckless tax-and-spend extravaganza (Pelosi’s) talking about.”
The $1 trillion infrastructure package contains a total of $579 billion in new spending dedicated to increasing broadband connections nationwide as well as updating bridges and roads.
Earlier in the week, however, Republican Senators voted against that same infrastructure bill they’d previously come to an agreement on with the White House, citing concerns over an extra $40 billion in IRS funding.
According to reports from the Wall Street Journal, Senator Lindsay Graham went further by encouraging Republican members to leave DC in efforts to prevent Senate Democrats from having the 51 senators required to operate, which is called a quorum.
If the Democrats are successful, the agreement would total $4.1 trillion in new spending, making it one of the largest spending bills ever advanced by Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion package would pay for social program expansions including Medicare coverage for dental and vision care.
On July 20, President Joe Biden will have been in office for six months.
Since their January inauguration, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been met with a host of challenges, most notably the coronavirus pandemic, which, since last year, has upended life as we know it.
However, on a range of issues, from steering a largely-reopened economy and facing immigration challenges at the US-Mexico border to reshaping the country’s standing on the world stage and putting an imprint on the federal judiciary, Biden has made a clear pivot from the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Biden, who represented Delaware in the US Senate for 36 years before serving as vice president for eight years, is certainly not new to Washington, DC. But that familiarity has so far helped Biden navigate a city that he’s intimately familiar with, despite being a place that has also become much more partisan in recent decades.
Here are five key figures that currently defining the trajectory of Biden’s young presidency:
In April 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the US unemployment rate sat at 14.8%, a dizzying number that reflected the economic pain caused by businesses forced to shut down because of the deadly virus.
The unemployment rate rose by 0.1% from May to June, but it was a reflection of an expanding job workforce.
Earlier in the spring, there were some concerns about job growth and the effectiveness of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package championed by Biden and congressional Democrats.
However, as COVID-related restrictions eased and vaccination rates increased since the beginning of the year, the economy has clearly benefited.
After nearly six months in office, FiveThirtyEight’s polling average has Biden’s overall approval rating at 52.4%, with 42.5% disapproving of his performance, reflective of his relatively stable numbers over the past few months.
While many people were fighting to find appointments earlier this year, many sites offer now walk-in appointments as vaccination rates lag in many parts of the country.
Vaccine hesitancy is a real thing, and Biden, who pledged to prioritize fighting the virus during his presidential campaign last year, is trying to find new ways to encourage people to get their shots, especially as the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus takes hold across the country.
The administration missed its goal of 70% of the population having received at least one vaccine shot by July 4, but Biden recently outlined a strategy of a door-to-door effort to help protect the unvaccinated against the virus, along with getting vaccines to primary-care physicians and physicians.
Earlier this year, Democrats were thrilled to win back control of the Senate after sweeping the dual Georgia runoff elections, which gave them 50 Senate seats. However, with Republicans also possessing 50 seats, Democratic control is only a reality due to Harris’s ability to break ties in the evenly-divided chamber.
While Democrats have been able to get virtually all of their major Cabinet and administration nominees through the Senate, along with their ability to push through judicial nominees, they still have to contend with the legislative filibuster, which can be used when major legislation fails to meet the 60-vote threshold to cut off debate.
Party leaders desperately want to pass their marquee For the People Act, or S.1, the sweeping voting-rights bill that would end partisan gerrymandering, expand early and absentee voting, and establish national standards for voter registration, among other measures.
However, moderate Sens. Joe Manchin of Arizona and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have not relented from their longstanding pledges to keep the filibuster intact, which will continue to limit how much the administration can actually sign into law.
Senate Democrats last Wednesday reached a deal on a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill that would feature infrastructure priorities focused on childcare, clean energy, and education. This legislation would be separate from the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure framework crafted by a small group of senators and the White House.
However, the bill will have to be passed through reconciliation, which Republicans have already rejected on the grounds of its cost and its reach into areas that they deem as unrelated to infrastructure.
By using the budget reconciliation process, Democrats can pass the bill with a simple majority and avoid a filibuster.
Democrats are determined to pass a larger party-line package, though, and with the filibuster still intact, now will likely be the party’s best chance to enact such a massive piece of legislation before the 2022 midterm elections.
Sen. Bernie Sanders indicated that he would oppose a Democrat-only spending bill if its price tag didn’t top $3 trillion, brushing anything lower as too meager. It may set the stage for a confrontation between Sanders and moderate Democrats looking to restrain the size of a follow-up package.
In an interview with New York Times opinion columnist Maureen Dowd published Saturday, the Vermont senator ruled out backing a party-line infrastructure plan that amounted to either $2 trillion or $3 trillion.
“That’s much too low,” he told Dowd. He also pulled out a list of his priorities for a reconciliation package.
They appeared to include broadband, climate, childcare, universal pre-K, paid family and medical leave, Medicare expansion and housing among others.
“Does anyone deny that our child care system, for example, is a disaster?” Sanders told Dowd. “Does anyone deny that pre-K, similarly, is totally inadequate? Does anyone deny that there’s something absurd that our young people can’t afford to go to college or are leaving school deeply in debt? Does anybody deny that our physical infrastructure is collapsing?”
Sanders’s remarks could potentially set up a showdown with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as Democrats move ahead with a reconciliation spending package. Reconciliation is a legislative tactic Democrats are poised to use and circumvent Republicans because only a simple majority is needed for certain bills.
The party holds a narrow majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate that relies on a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. Every Senate Democrat must be onboard as a result or else the package fails.
Manchin has made clear he favors a party-line package that’s fully paid for with tax increases and doesn’t grow the national debt. He previously suggested a $2 trillion price tag.
“I’ve agreed that can be done. I just haven’t agreed on the amount,” he told MSNBC late last month. “I haven’t seen everything that everybody is wanting to put into the bill.”
As chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders wields enormous influence over reconciliation since the panel helps set overall spending levels. Senate Democrats are weighing up to $6 trillion in spending aimed at overhauling the economy with new initiatives in childcare, higher education, monthly cash payments to families, and clean energy programs.
Manchin along with a few other Senate Democrats like Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia have already balked at supporting $6 trillion in spending, making cuts likely.
President Joe Biden has already struck a $1 trillion infrastructure agreement with a centrist group of lawmakers concentrated on roads, bridges, and highways. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dug in on not passing the plan until the Senate also approves a separate reconciliation package containing measures unlikely to draw Republican support.
It’s unclear whether it will ultimately pass, given Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t thrown his support behind it yet. For now, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Democrats to gear up for potentially long days ahead to kick off the reconciliation process before the August recess next month.
“Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do,” Schumer wrote Friday in a letter to Senate Democrats. “Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period.”
Former President Donald Trump cautioned Senate Republicans against signing off on a bipartisan infrastructure bill and told GOP legislators to maintain the tax cuts that the party enacted during his tenure.
In a statement on Friday, Trump derided Republican members who are working with President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats as RINOs, or Republicans in name only, a pejorative generally reserved for members of the party who aren’t considered to be true conservatives.
“Very important that Senate Republicans not allow our hard-earned tax reductions to be terminated or amended in an upward trajectory in any way, shape, or form,” the former president said. “They should not be making deals on increasing taxes for the fake infrastructure proposals being put forward by Democrats, almost all of which goes to the ridiculous Green New Deal Marxist agenda.”
He added: “Keep the Trump Administrations [sic] tax cuts just where they are. Do not allow tax increases. Thinking about it, I have never seen anything so easy to win politically. Also, RINO Republicans should stop negotiating the infrastructure bill – you are just being played by the Radical Left Democrats – they will give you nothing!”
Last month, the White House and a bipartisan group of senators came to an agreement on a $1 trillion infrastructure framework that included funding for physical projects such as roads and bridges.
Republicans overwhelmingly oppose any infrastructure bill that raises corporate taxes, a key element of Biden’s earlier infrastructure proposal that would have struck at the heart of Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul. That law cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Democrats also hope to pass a separate infrastructure bill through the reconciliation process, which would allow them to enact legislation without the threat of a filibuster.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a leading moderate, said last month that he would consider changes to the Trump-era tax cuts, which were also passed through the reconciliation process on a party-line vote.
“Republicans have drawn a line in the sand on not changing anything, and I thought the 2017 tax bill was a very unfair bill and weighted to a side that basically did not benefit the average American. So I voted against it,” he told NBC News. “I think there are some adjustments that need to be made.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, wants to pursue a more robust Democratic-led $6 trillion reconciliation bill.
“The president has given us a framework, I think it’s a comprehensive and serious framework,” he said last month. “It is the function of the Congress now to take that framework and go with it. I think it is absolutely imperative that we deal with the existential threat of climate change, that we lower the cost of prescription drugs, that we make sure elderly people can chew their food because we expand Medicare to dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses.”
The bestselling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” J.D. Vance, addressed his anti-Trump history on Fox News on Monday, walking back his past criticism of the former president as the race for an open Ohio seat in the US Senate heats up among Republican hopefuls.
Vance announced his candidacy to fill retiring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman’s seat last week, mounting a populist-nationalist campaign in the spirit of former President Donald Trump.
Vance, who recently visited Mar-a-Lago in Florida to make a bid for Trump’s coveted primary endorsement, called the former president “reprehensible” for his treatment toward “Immigrants, Muslims, etc.” in the since-deleted tweets from 2016. He also said he would be voting not for Trump, but for independent Evan McMullin.
On Monday, Vance addressed the tweets for the first time, telling Fox News’ Alicia Acuna that he regrets his former stance.
“Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016,” he said. “And I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy.”
“I think he was a good president,” Vance added. “I think he made a lot of good decisions for people, and I think he took a lot of flak.”
Vance, who once told Daily Best columnist Matt Lewis that Trump gave the white working class “an excuse to not look inward [and] to not ask tough questions about themselves and their communities,” has done a public about-face in regards to his feelings on the divisive former president since he first started exploring a run for Senate.
Vance said on Monday that he has faced criticism for standing up for Trump voters and their beliefs.
“I think that’s the most important thing, is not what you said five years ago, but whether you’re willing to stand up and take the heat and take the hits for actually defending the interests of the American people,” Vance said.
Vance’s opponents are already using the unveiled tweets as ammunition – a development he told Fox News he was anticipating.
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who is also running for Portman’s Senate seat in 2022, tweeted on Thursday that he and Vance have “exactly one thing in common – neither of us voted for Donald Trump.”
Several Republicans and Democrats have already entered the Senate primary and the race is shaping up to be one of the most watched in the election cycle.
The editor of the conservative National Review Online on Friday called Sen. Lindsey Graham “an idiot” for thinking that President Joe Biden would approve bipartisan infrastructure legislation in the absence of a Democratic-led reconciliation bill.
In an op-ed column, Philip Klein gave a harsh assessment of the South Carolina Republican’s political acumen.
“Sen. Lindsey Graham is an idiot,” he wrote. “Don’t take it from me. Take it from Graham himself.”
Late last month, following weeks of bipartisan efforts to craft an infrastructure deal, Biden lauded the roughly $1 trillion legislative compromise. However, when the president linked signing the legislation to a separate reconciliation bill, Republicans in the group balked.
Biden quickly walked back his comments, which many perceived to be a veto threat, reassuring Republicans that he was committed to the bipartisan bill.
“The bottom line is this: I gave my word to support the Infrastructure Plan, and that’s what I intend to do,” Biden said in a statement last month. “I intend to pursue the passage of that plan, which Democrats and Republicans agreed to … with vigor. It would be good for the economy, good for our country, good for our people. I fully stand behind it without reservation or hesitation.”
Graham, enraged over Biden’s earlier statement, accused the president of making the GOP “look like a f—ing idiot” for attempting to tie the two bills together.
However, Klein noted that “yet a week later, Graham is back on board with the bipartisan deal citing a statement Biden made to reassure Republicans.”
On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said that the Democratic-controlled chamber wouldn’t take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill until she saw a Senate bill passed through reconciliation.
“Our caucus is very, very pleased with the bipartisan agreement that the President was able to achieve working with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate,” Pelosi said at the time. “What I said last week and I reiterate now is that in the House of Representatives that particular version as it is is something that we would take up once we see what the budget parameters are of the budget bill that the Senate will pass.”
Democrats want to pursue a larger bill through the Senate, using the reconciliation budget process that could survive in the 50-50 Senate with unanimous party support and a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris.
The second bill would focus on longstanding Democratic priorities including childcare, healthcare, and climate change, among other issues.
Klein argued that Pelosi’s comments show that “both Congressional Democrats and the White House view the two bills as linked. The only ones who don’t seem to understand that are Graham and the rest of the Republicans participating in the charade.”
He concluded: “Any Republican who signs on to this pile of hot garbage should be laughed at for getting duped by Biden. As Graham himself put it, ‘You look like a f—ing idiot now.'”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, criticized the “false pressure” to reach a 60-vote supermajority to pass legislation in comments to supporters 11 years ago, according to a 2010 video newly unearthed by the progressive media organization More Perfect Union.
Then an Arizona state representative, Sinema told the audience that she supported Democrats using reconciliation to pass major legislation, including healthcare reform, with just 51 votes. She also criticized then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who caucused with the Democratic Party, and then-Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, for being too moderate.
“In the Senate, we no longer have 60 votes,” Sinema told the audience. “Some would argue we never had 60 because one of those was Joseph Lieberman.”
She added that without 60 Democratic-voting lawmakers in the Senate, “there’s none of this pressure, this false pressure, to get to 60.”
She went on, “So what this means is that the Democrats can stop kowtowing to Joe Lieberman and, instead, seek other avenues to move forward with health reform.”
A spokesperson for Sinema didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
As one of the most moderate Democrats in the Senate, and one of the only who vocally opposes eliminating the filibuster, Sinema plays somewhat of a similar role in the chamber as Lieberman did in 2010.
Sinema now argues that the filibuster is essential in protecting American democracy, and she recently argued in a Washington Post op-ed that the 60-vote rule “compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles.”
She’s faced significant blowback from fellow Democrats and progressive activists who want to get rid of the 60-vote rule in order to pass much of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The senator argued that her position on the filibuster has been consistent during her tenure in Washington.
“I held the same view during three terms in the U.S. House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018,” she said. “If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.”