“The Senate parliamentarian ruled on Monday that Democrats can use special budgetary rules to avoid a GOP filibuster on two more pieces of legislation, setting the stage for President Biden’s infrastructure agenda to pass in two packages with simple-majority votes,” The Hill reports.
“It’s a win for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) that allows him to pass Biden’s $2.25 trillion package by revising the fiscal year 2021 Budget Resolution. A second budget resolution can be passed this year to do the second half of Biden’s infrastructure agenda. Or the fiscal year 2021 budget could be revised a third time to set up a third reconciliation package.”
This is potentially, as one might say, a big fucking deal.
Despite talk of bipartisanship, President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan was always going to be done through budget reconciliation. There simply aren’t 10 Republican votes for anything close to Biden’s plan. But that would use just one reconciliation bill, not the additional one Schumer asked for. That suggests something really big might be coming. And there’s nothing bigger for Democrats than health care. The odds of Democrats trying to lower the qualifying age for Medicare, adding a public option to Obamacare or cutting the cost of prescription drugs just got a lot better.
Playbook: “The Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that the annual budget resolution can be revised to include new reconciliation instructions — think of it as a buy one, get one free to pass sweeping legislation by a simple majority — could have major implications for President Joe Biden’s first-year agenda.”
“If the annual budget resolution can be revised once, it can be revised again. So as the party in power could ‘theoretically use the tool as often as they want.’ The pressure on Biden to attract Republican votes is now diminished.”
“The expansion of reconciliation will have Democrats getting creative to push all sorts of stuff through the process (and Republicans, too, when they next have unified control of Congress and the White House). There’s already talk of doing a stand-alone Dreamers bill via reconciliation.”
Why didn’t Mitch McConnell think of this when he had the majority?
“Republicans are attacking corporations over their decision to condemn the controversial Georgia voting law, part of the party’s embrace of the populism espoused by President Donald Trump even as it creates tensions with traditional allies in the business community,” the Washington Post reports.
“The acrimony between Republicans and large companies over Georgia underscores the party’s increasingly fraying relationship with corporate America over social and cultural issues as GOP leaders grapple with the direction of the party after the 2020 election. The future of that relationship is complicated by the fact that Republicans continue to support economic policies advocated by the private sector on taxes and regulations, making it unclear what form of retribution leaders could pursue.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order prohibiting so-called “vaccine passports,” saying a system to track those who have been inoculated against COVID-19 infringes on citizens’ rights, The Hill reports.
In not unrelated news, 38,000 mostly mask-less fans attended the Texas Rangers home opener last night.
Philip Bump: “It’s the spasmodic nature of the Trump/Republican boycotts that makes them generally impotent. As any organizer can tell you, boycotts don’t work simply by calling for them to happen. They work only when there’s repeated pressure for the boycotts to be upheld, a slow, tedious process that depends on the public seeing a real motive for the boycott and that depends on a willingness to do without the product. Even Trump fans aren’t going to go out of their way to boycott Merck simply because the president asked them to…”
“Put simply, successful boycotts demand a concerted, vocal effort with dedicated resources. They require the demonstration of a viable threat.”
“Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has emerged as the staunchest Democratic defender of the filibuster, brushing off fire from the outspoken progressive wing of her party as she tries to stake out a bipartisan reputation in a battleground state,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Said Sinema: “When you have a place that’s broken and not working, and many would say that’s the Senate today, I don’t think the solution is to erode the rules. I think the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together, which is what the country wants us to do.”
President Joe Biden plans to announce Tuesday that he is moving up his deadline for states to make all American adults eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by almost two weeks, CNN reports.
Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll finds fears of contracting COVID are at the lowest point in a year.
Former Trump appointee Lynne Patton was penalized for a Hatch Act violation over a video she produced for last year’s Republican National Convention, The Hill reports. Patton will be fined $1,000 and barred from serving in the federal government for 48 months.
Politico: “In the days since news broke that the Department of Justice was looking into whether Gaetz had violated sex trafficking laws — an allegation he denies — no Trump aide or family member has tweeted about the Florida congressman. Nor have almost any of the most prominent Trump surrogates or Trump-allied conservatives and media personalities.”
“Operatives inside Trump World say the silence is owed to a variety of factors. Among them is the fact that Gaetz has always been regarded as a grenade whose pin had already been pulled.”
Former Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) writes in Vanity Fair that she and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) “forged an unlikely friendship in Congress, and he was one of the few colleagues who spoke out after a malicious nude-photo leak upended my life.” But she says “if recent reports are true, he engaged in the very practice he defended me from—and should resign immediately.”
A former aide to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said that he had recently been questioned by the FBI as investigators seek to determine whether the congressman violated federal sex trafficking laws, the New York Times reports. The aide, Nathan Nelson, said FBI agents showed up unannounced and believed he may have resigned last year after learning about “illegal activities” by the congressman.
While serving in the Florida Legislature, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) opposed a bill meant to stop people from sharing sexually explicit images of their ex-lovers because Gaetz believed that recipients of those images had a right to share them, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a frequent critic of Biden administration nominees for supporting the Iraq War and other “forever wars,” himself wrote in support of the Iraq War prior to becoming a senator in newly uncovered blog posts, CNN reports.
Stephen Miller tweeted a photo after his “terrific meeting” with former President Trump. Hidden behind Trump’s phone is a bottle of Diet Coke, just one day after the former president called for a boycott of the Coca Cola company.
Bloomberg: “Refusing to cede the limelight, the former president has issued almost daily statements, set up a website and turned up at multiple events at his Mar-a-Lago resort, including a wedding where he complained about the 2020 election results and President Joe Biden’s moves so far.”
“But planning for a library would suggest he’s done being president and that’s not something he’s ready to concede.”
Politico: “Over 10 weeks since inauguration and nearly a month after Merrick Garland was sworn in as attorney general, the president has yet to fill several critical Justice Department posts, including the assistant attorney generals for the criminal, national security, civil and antitrust divisions, along with a solicitor general. In comparison, Barack Obama had nominated people for all of those positions by his third day in office.”
“Justice Department insiders along with people familiar with the situation say the delay is partly the result of a delicate stand-off between Garland and the White House over who they want in the positions.”
Garland holds more sway than other Cabinet officials since the White House really doesn’t want to be seen as pressuring the new Attorney General.
Catherine Rampell: “Most of the key planks of Biden’s proposal poll well among Republican voters, whether or not those planks technically constitute brick-and-mortar infrastructure.”
According to pollster Geoff Garin, the problem for Republicans “is they have a talking point they can’t back up with an example of an investment they oppose, since nearly all the investments in the plan are popular in their own right.”
“Twenty House Republicans switched from voting ‘yes’ last Congress to ‘no’ this year on Democrat-led bills dealing with issues such as gun sales, women’s rights and immigration,” Roll Call reports.
“The rise in GOP opposition may seem connected to the 2022 midterm elections, when House Democrats’ tenuous hold on power is at stake and Republican moderates may face heat in primaries. But in interviews and statements, the vote-switchers mostly cited policy and process, saying Democrats dropped GOP-backed provisions from some bills and declined to incorporate Republican input into others.”
“Only in one case did a Republican acknowledge changing his view.”
Associated Press: “It’s a national security pitch for a domestic spending program: that the $2 trillion proposal for investments in U.S. transport and energy, manufacturing, internet and other sectors will make the United States more competitive in the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s massive infrastructure-building campaign.”
“The argument is that competition today with China is more about economic and technological gains than arms — and its outcome will impact the United States’ financial growth and influence, its ability to defend U.S. security alliances and interests abroad, and the daily lives of Americans… That pitch hasn’t won over Republicans.”
Wall Street Journal: “Sleek airports, grand stadiums and stylized skylines captivate visitors to China. Infrastructure may be the most tangible — and admired — aspect of a modernization drive that in a generation transformed a poor country into the U.S.’s primary strategic and economic rival.”
“Emulating China is another story. China’s leapfrogging—practically to bullet trains from bicycles — may have limited direct application to improving American infrastructure. The two nations have different needs and diametrically opposed political systems, starting with carte blanche for Chinese leaders to order up construction.”
“Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law allowing him to run for two more terms in the Kremlin once his current term ends in 2024,” Reuters reports.
“The legislation, which could pave the way for Putin to stay in power until 2036 should he choose to do so and win re-election, reflects sweeping changes to the constitution that were brought in last year.”
“Editors at Proyekt, a small Russian website, were jittery as they hit the button to publish their latest investigation – one of their most provocative to date,” The Telegraph reports.
“The team had been researching something completely different when they stumbled upon an incredible story: a secret lover of Vladimir Putin and a teenage daughter who looked incredibly like the Russian president.”
“They knew the consequences would be drastic, and they were right. Since the exclusive was published, some sources no longer take the team’s calls. Emails and social media accounts are often hacked. Some of the journalists were followed.”
“Russia is amassing unprecedented military might in the Arctic and testing its newest weapons in a region freshly ice-free due to the climate emergency, in a bid to secure its northern coast and open up a key shipping route from Asia to Europe,” CNN reports.
“Weapons experts and Western officials have expressed particular concern about one Russian ‘super-weapon,’ the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo… This unmanned stealth torpedo is powered by a nuclear reactor and intended by Russian designers to sneak past coastal defenses — like those of the US — on the sea floor.”
“The half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Saturday he has been placed under house arrest and accused the country’s ‘ruling system’ of incompetence and corruption, exposing a rare rift within the ruling monarchy of a close Western ally,” Politico reports.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) has died at the age of 84, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.
“Hastings crusaded against racial injustice as a civil rights lawyer, became a federal judge who was impeached and removed from office, and went on to win 15 congressional elections, becoming Florida’s senior member of Congress.”
The House Democratic majority now stands at 218 to 212.