What Now?! – 6/15/2021

“As the bipartisan group continues to educate their respective members on their $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal, Democratic leadership and key chairs will crank up the work on a potential Democratic-only infrastructure bill this week, paving the way for Democrats to go it alone if they choose to do so,” CNN reports.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told CBS News that the new tentative infrastructure deal from a group of bipartisan senators will not include a gas tax hike or any reversal of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reform bill.

Playbook: “We’re still skeptical. But senior Democrats were telling us Sunday night they think the White House is actually considering the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure deal floated by 10 centrist senators Friday.”

“First, however, they need to see if their own members can swallow it.”

“Democrats are going to have some candid family conversations this week. If they’re going to get behind an infrastructure proposal that’s half the size of what they were shooting for, they need assurances from two colleagues in particular — Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin — that they will be there to back a lot more later through reconciliation.”

“Some Democratic leaders are concerned that if they endorse a bipartisan deal like the pair of centrists want, the duo will play hard to get when it comes time to go Democrats-only.”

Politico: Why Bernie’s not sweating White House’s infrastructure dance with GOP.

Politico: “Sanders isn’t as concerned as other progressives are about their priorities being left out of the overall infrastructure package because the budget process is only just beginning… And Sanders believes strong climate provisions — one of his biggest priorities — will be in a reconciliation bill.”

Said one aide: “He’s focused on building momentum for a reconciliation bill that will be the most consequential legislation for working people enacted since the 1930s.”

The Economist: “After 100 days in office, Joe Biden looked ruthless and Rooseveltian. He had just passed a $1.9trn rescue package despite painfully narrow majorities; his administration was triumphantly preparing future plans to spend trillions more on climate, infrastructure and safety-net expansions. Since then, however, little has happened, and the prognosis looks murky.”

“When mathematicians confront a system of equations, they sometimes find that there is no solution set—the equations are simply inconsistent and cannot be resolved. The various constraints on governance—Democratic squabbles over the importance of bipartisanship, the brutal mathematics of thin margins, unrelenting opposition from Republicans—are starting to resemble such a system.”

CNN: Biden’s agenda hits roadblocks as he preaches democracy overseas.

NBC News: “A pattern is emerging for legislation the majority seeks to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate: When McConnell supports it, it has a chance. When he opposes it, it tends to run headlong into the 60-vote barrier. In short, there is no easy route to pick off the necessary 10 Republicans without him.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Hugh Hewitt that the odds of a bipartisan infrastructure proposal were “maybe 50-50.” That’s extremely generous. Here’s why:

Five Republican senators in the bipartisan working group signed off on the broad terms of a deal. That plan includes $974 billion in “hard” infrastructure with no tax increases. Republicans have vowed to not reopen the 2017 tax bill and the White House has nixed an increase in gas taxes. But McConnell buried a poison pill in his remarks that make any agreement unlikely: “We want it to be paid for.”

Without repealing some of the 2017 tax cuts or hiking the gas tax, it’s hard to see how any bill will be paid for. Repurposing pandemic relief aid “still in the pipeline,” as McConnell also suggested, isn’t going to do it.

A bipartisan deal will need at least 10 Republicans along with all 50 Democrats in order to bypass the filibuster. That means at least five more Republicans will need to get on board. But those Republicans will not support any deal unless McConnell gives them the green light.

Furthermore, to keep all 50 Democrats together, the White House will need to promise a second bill which could pass through budget reconciliation with just Democratic votes. That bill would likely include corporate tax increases, clean energy investments and other “soft” infrastructure spending. It’s impossible to see McConnell giving Biden a bipartisan win on infrastructure when a second bill would quickly follow including everything he opposes.

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) signaled that Republicans, if they win back control of the chamber, wouldn’t advance a Supreme Court nominee if a vacancy occurred in 2024, the year of the next presidential election,” The Hill reports. Said McConnell: “I think it’s highly unlikely — in fact, no, I don’t think either party, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election.”

McConnell blocked Merrick Garland 8 months before election but confirmed Amy Coney Barrett 8 days before election. “It’s the single most consequential thing I’ve done in my time as majority leader of the Senate.” — Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, on blocking Barack Obama from appointing a new Supreme Court Justice to fill the late Antonin Scalia’s seat.

McConnell is taunting Democrats with this statement — and betting they won’t do anything to retaliate.

“President Biden is joining other world democratic leaders on the first day of the Group of 7 summit in Britain, hoping to restore U.S. relations with the world’s democracies and urging them to unite to confront COVID-19 and other global challenges,” CBS News reports.

CNN: “Biden said Sunday he would reiterate the US’s commitment to NATO’s collective defense clause and communicate to allies that the US believes Article 5 is a ‘sacred obligation.’”

Politico: “Overall, the G-7 has delivered a significant win for Biden. While the leaders were panned for not doing enough to vaccinate the world and frequently fell short of consensus on the toughest issues, they’re definitely moving in the same direction, and other leaders fell over themselves to welcome Biden to their table.”

Washington Post: “Trump’s shadow has loomed large over Biden’s first trip abroad as president — an eight-day swing through Cornwall, England; Brussels; and Geneva, where Biden is being welcomed as much for who he is not as for who he is…”

“Biden, by contrast, was greeted with delight by leaders at the Group of Seven gathering of the world’s wealthy market democracies, who are relieved that Trump’s tantrums will be replaced by Biden’s backslapping…”

“Leaders have dark memories of past NATO summits, when Trump threatened to pull the United States out of the alliance — and once shoved the prime minister of Montenegro during a photo op. They remember the G-7 meetings where Trump repeatedly interrupted discussions to ask why they couldn’t invite Putin, a leader the rest of them viewed as an adversary but whom Trump saw as a friend.”

“Apple told Donald McGahn, the White House counsel to former President Donald Trump, last month that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about an account that belonged to him in February 2018, and that the government barred the company from telling him at the time,” the New York Times reports.

“McGahn’s wife received a similar notice from Apple.”

“The disclosure that agents secretly collected data of a sitting White House counsel is striking as it comes amid a political backlash to revelations about Trump-era seizures of data of reporters and Democrats in Congress for leak investigations.”

Playbook: “Nobody thinks these are isolated incidents. Clearly someone at Justice was targeting Trump’s perceived enemies, perhaps in a bid to crack down on leaks or for some other reason. Former A.G. Bill Barr and former Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein have both denied they were aware of the activity on lawmakers, and it’s unclear who at DOJ was. We’re told A.G. Merrick Garland is trying to quickly figure out what happened, but his department isn’t fully staffed up, complicating his efforts.”

“We haven’t seen the last of this. Think about it this way: We’re just now learning about these secret requests for data that were made about three years ago because the gag orders on the tech companies, after having been renewed annually, just expired. That puts us in early 2018. So it’s not unreasonable to ask: Who else did they request information about in the last three years of Trump’s presidency that we don’t yet know about? Democrats expect many more names to surface.”

New York Times: “John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, is expected to step down at the end of next week… a departure that was arranged months ago but now comes amid widespread backlash over investigations into leaks of classified information that began under the Trump administration.”

“Mr. Demers was the longest-serving Senate-confirmed official from the Trump administration to remain at the Justice Department during the Biden presidency.”

Gregory Koger: “Filibusters help members of the majority party when they are pressured to support proposals that they privately believe are bad policy or risky politics. That is, there are members of the majority party who privately believe their party’s proposals are politically dangerous or terrible policy, but they are afraid to publicly defy their party leadership.”

“In a simple-majority legislature, these conflicted members would have to make difficult choices between their private views or personal interest and the position of their party, backed by a populist president or powerful interest groups.”

“In a supermajority legislature, on the other hand, conflicted legislators can publicly support their party’s position while privately applauding the obstruction of the minority party.”

“Novavax, a Maryland biotechnology company that endured delays in developing a coronavirus vaccine, revealed results Monday showing that the world is close to having another shot that prevents illness and death, stops virus variants — and proves easy to store,” the Washington Post reports.  “The two-shot regimen was 90 percent effective at preventing people from falling ill in a 30,000-person trial conducted when variants had begun to complicate the pandemic in the United States and Mexico.”

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that 80% of its eligible population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, Axios reports.

Bloomberg: “Mr. Netanyahu, unseated after a bruising, two-year battle to hold on to his job, is already plotting a comeback. The once-invincible Israeli leader was voted out of office on Sunday after 12 uninterrupted years in power, replaced by a shaky governing alliance beset by deep internal divisions.”

“When Netanyahu addressed parliament in his waning moments as prime minister, there were no pro forma well wishes for his successor, religious Jewish nationalist Naftali Bennett, but rather a pointed warning, delivered in his U.S-accented English: ‘We’ll be back — soon.’”

Punchbowl News: “Pelosi will want to move on from the controversy over Omar’s latest comments criticizing Israel, but count on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to go on offense here.”

“This is news: McCarthy is expected to offer a privileged resolution stripping the Minnesota Democrat of her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, according to GOP sources. Censure is an option too. But censure may not be enough for some House Republicans, who’ll want payback after Democrats booted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from her House committees for an array of racist and Islamophobic commments.”

“How will Democrats respond? This is a complicated question, more complicated than you might think. Omar is unpopular in the Democratic Caucus. A number of Jewish Democrats believe that Omar is anti-Semitic, and they’re tired of having to deal with her.”

Playbook: “The GOP believes that any time spent on Omar is a win for Republicans: She’s a lightning rod for their base, and after weeks of stories about MTG they’re eager to point the finger elsewhere.”

“Pelosi has some lingering internal drama to deal with as well. The Squad and its allies are furious with Democrats they say gave the story life and made Omar a target of the right again.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin denied ordering a hit on political rival Alexei Navalny, but in an interview with NBC News he did not guarantee that the jailed Kremlin critic, who survived being poisoned with a nerve agent, would get out of prison alive.

Said Putin: “Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president.”

Washington Post: Biden will give Putin a list of demands. The Russian president may ignore them.

CNN: “The US government has spent the past week assessing a report of a leak at a Chinese nuclear power plant, after a French company that part owns and helps operate it warned of an ‘imminent radiological threat.’”

“The prosecutor of Jordan’s state security court on Sunday filed sedition and incitement charges against two confidants of King Abdullah II’s half-brother Hamzah, marking the latest step in a rare, intrigue-filled palace drama that has rattled the Western-backed kingdom,” the AP reports.

“Police in Nicaragua have detained five more prominent opposition figures, in what critics say is a crackdown on opponents of the country’s president,” the BBC reports.

Associated Press: “Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate said its operatives blew up two minivans carrying ‘disbeliever Shiites’ using so-called sticky bombs. Sticky bombs slapped onto cars trapped in Kabul’s chaotic traffic are the newest weapons terrorizing Afghans in the increasingly lawless nation.”

“Just two years ago, nearly every national politician in the Democratic Party was calling for Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia to resign. A racist picture was discovered on Mr. Northam’s medical school yearbook page, and the physician-turned-politician said he did not know which person he was in the photograph — the white man dressed in blackface or the one in Ku Klux Klan regalia,” the New York Times reports.

“A series of twists helped Mr. Northam stay in office, including simultaneous scandals that engulfed his possible successors, a cross-generational coalition of Black activists who decided to defy national politics and stick by him, and a commitment from Mr. Northam’s administration to prioritize racial justice. And he followed through, shocking even his most ardent supporters, with a series of policy accomplishments that focused on racial equity.”

New York Times: “Almost daily, Democrats warn that Republicans are pursuing racist, Jim Crow-inspired voter suppression efforts to disenfranchise tens of millions of citizens, mainly people of color, in a cynical effort to grab power. Metal detectors sit outside the House chamber to prevent lawmakers — particularly Republicans who have boasted of their intention to carry guns everywhere — from bringing weaponry to the floor. Democrats regard their Republican colleagues with suspicion, believing that some of them collaborated with the rioters on Jan. 6.”

“Republican lawmakers have systematically downplayed or dismissed the dangers, with some breezing over the attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful protest, and many saying the state voting law changes are to restore ‘integrity’ to the process, even as they give credence to Mr. Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 election.”

“They shrug off Democrats’ warnings of grave danger as the overheated language of politics as usual.”

Politico: “Texas Democrats who killed a Republican elections bill with a dramatic state legislative walkout last month are heading to Washington this week to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and pressure lawmakers on voting rights — part of a week of action that culminates in an Austin rally hosted by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.”

“The push comes with Democrats’ expansive federal voting rights legislation on life support after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he’ll vote against it.”

Politico: “U.S. wariness over the Russia-China relationship has grown to the point where high-level American strategists are weighing how to factor it in as they try to orient U.S. foreign policy to focus more on a rising China. President Joe Biden is expected to discuss Moscow’s ties to Beijing during his Wednesday meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.”

Matthew Winkler: “No one anticipated the latest data readout showing the Golden State has no peers among developed economies for expanding GDP, creating jobs, raising household income, manufacturing growth, investment in innovation, producing clean energy and unprecedented wealth through its stocks and bonds. All of which underlines Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement last month of the biggest state tax rebate in American history.”

“By adding 1.3 million people to its non-farm payrolls since April last year — equal to the entire workforce of Nevada — California easily surpassed also-rans Texas and New York. At the same time, California household income increased $164 billion, almost as much as Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania combined.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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