What the lawmakers meeting with Biden have in common
With Melanie Zanona.
ON TAP: President JoeBiden is meeting with a bipartisan and bicameral group of 10 lawmakers today to discuss the American Jobs Plan. The common thread with this group? All the senators in question, along with Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), are former governors and the rest are former mayors who the White House says “understand firsthand the impact of a federal investment in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure on their communities.”
Lawmakers attending: From the Senate, Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) Angus King (I-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). From the House, Crist, Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.), and Kay Granger (R-Texas), who is also the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.
It is an obvious sign from Biden that he is mixing things up with potentially productive members rather than just meeting with chairs — even as key committee chairs are full steam ahead on the infrastructure legislation. Also: Romney is one of a handful of Republicans working to put forward a counteroffer infrastructure plan.
A BRIDGE ACROSS THE AISLE?: Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a close ally to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), suggested Sunday that he could be open to a smaller, bipartisan infrastructure proposal. During a joint appearance on Fox News Sunday with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cornyn told host Chris Wallace: “There is a core infrastructure bill that we could pass…So let’s do it and leave the rest for another day and another fight.”
Cornyn’s remarks come after Coons suggested last week that the bill be split into two parts: A bipartisan package that’s around $800 billion and another package that would pass with just Democratic votes through reconciliation. When Wallace pressed Coons about what’s in it for Republicans to support part of the plan, Coons responded: “If we come together in a bipartisan way to pass that $800 billion hard infrastructure bill, then we show our people that we can solve their problems.”
Related: On infrastructure, lofty ideas are colliding with congressional reality, The Washington Post reports: https://wapo.st/3ealiqY | Senate Democrats settling on 25% corporate tax rate, by Axios’ Hans Nichols: https://bit.ly/3n1aMpG
(Also: Everybody is now waiting for Biden to release his “human infrastructure” proposal — it’s unclear if he’ll do it before he delivers his address to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday).
STATE OF THE DISTRICT: Democrats are also making another push for D.C. statehood this week with the House Rules Committee slated to take up such legislation on Tuesday.
ACROSS THE CAPITOL: The Senate, meanwhile, is aiming to wrap up and pass Sen. Mazie Hirono’s (D-Hawaii) legislation addressing the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. While the Senate voted overwhelmingly last week to consider the bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and McConnell have yet to reach a time agreement on amendments.
But that’s likely to change soon and at least two bipartisan amendments are expected. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) have an amendment to improve hate crimes reporting, while Hirono and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) are working on an amendment to tweak the bill’s language. In addition to the hate crimes bill, the Biden administration will hold an all-senators briefing on Afghanistan this Tuesday.
EARS ARE BURNING: Senate Republicans will vote Wednesday on whether to reinstate earmarks. The conference is currently divided on the issue, similar to their GOP counterparts in the House. But last month, House Republicans ultimately voted 102-84 to end the earmarks ban. Taking bets, so send me your thoughts → [email protected]
CONFIRMATION NATION: The Senate will continue the confirmation process for Biden’s sub-cabinet nominees, starting with Lisa Monaco, who is expected to be confirmed Tuesday for the No.2 slot at the Justice Department. The Senate is also expected to vote Tuesday to confirm Gary Gensler to the Securities and Exchange Commission for a term ending in June 2026. (We know, the Senate confirmed him as chair last week but that term expires this June.)
SPEAKING OF DOJ NOMINEES: Senate Republicans know there’s little they can do to block Biden from getting progressive nominees confirmed to top positions at the Justice Department. But that’s not stopping GOP lawmakers — especially those with eyes on the White House — from betting that Democrats will pay a political price. In recent weeks, Republicans have portrayed Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, Biden’s picks for the No.3 spot at the DOJ and the department’s civil rights division, as “extreme” and “radical.”
In interviews, Senate Republicans said the nominees, who are on leave from left-leaning organizations, are the latest example of Biden being a liberal in centrist’s clothing. “They represent a far left radical agenda that’s out of step with the American public and certainly with our respective states,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). “We’ve got to put that before the voters. That’s what we do. And in 2022, voters will have a chance to weigh in and we’ll go from there, but we have to make the case for that.”
The attacks and the tense confirmation hearings, however, are having no effect so far on Democratic support. Democrats are quick to highlight Gupta and Clarke’s endorsements from law enforcement groups to counter any GOP suggestion that the nominees support defunding the police. The Senate voted to move forward on Gupta’s nomination last week, though she could become the first Biden nominee to be confirmed without any Republican support.
Related: Biden choice for Justice Dept.’s no. 2 is seen as a consensus builder, by NYT’s Katie Benner: https://nyti.ms/3eb9uVq | Quiet no more: Sen. Hirono’s immigrant journey fuels her fire in Congress, by NPR’s Michel Martin: https://n.pr/2RNglNa
HAPPY MONDAY!Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill on this April 19, where Mel noticed that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the Senate’s most colorful member, was sipping what looks like Sangria while wearing a ring that had quite the message on it.
FRIDAY’s MOST CLICKED:McClatchy’s story on how former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens was the largest donor to his own Senate campaign was the big winner.
KEEP AN EYE ON THIS: GOP leader Kevin McCarthy is threatening action against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) after she called for demonstrators to “get more confrontational” and “stay on the street” if Derek Chauvin isn’t found guilty for murder charges in the George Floyd trial.
“Maxine Waters is inciting violence in Minneapolis — just as she has incited it in the past. If Speaker Pelosi doesn’t act against this dangerous rhetoric, I will bring action this week,” he tweeted.
Per Mel: “He can bring up privileged resolution to censure or kick off committees, but Dems could just table it if they stick together.”
Still, expect this to become a talking point from Republicans this week as the America First Caucus headache balloons for GOP leadership. (Republicans frequently cited comments Waters made in 2018 during the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump as an example of a Democratic member of Congress inciting violence against Trump cabinet officials.)
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted Sunday indicating that she plans to introduce a resolution to expel Waters from Congress over the comments, pointing to how Democrats impeached Trump over his comments on Jan. 6.
CAUCUS CONTROVERSY: Speaking of…Greene is still vowing to push ahead with a pro-Trump “America First Caucus.” But she is distancing herself from the incendiary and nativist rhetoric that was included in an early draft of the group’s potential policy platform, which was leaked to Punchbowl News on Friday. “They released a staff level draft proposal from an outside group that I hadn’t read,” she said in a statement. “I will never back down and I will never stop fighting for America.”
Greene’s response came after members of her own party — including McCarthy and fellow Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) — condemned the group’s proposal, which calls for respecting “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.” Still, the whole episode may ramp up pressure on McCarthy to more forcefully distance the GOP from its fringe members. More from Mel: https://politi.co/3eh2ZjA
Related: Inside Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s huge fundraising haul, fueled by controversies, by AJC’s Tia Mitchell and Isaac Sabetai: https://bit.ly/3tBeh9a | America First Caucus a crazy idea, John Boehner says, by our David Cohen: https://politi.co/3sDgUGd
FIRST IN HUDDLE: The NRCC is launching a website that aims to pressure more than two dozen frontline Democrats into returning donations they received from progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
The website’s “socialistgiveback” campaign and comes after Sarah, Ally Mutnick, and your Huddle host first reported that the New York Democrat had sent $5,000 to a list of frontline Democrats late last month, putting many of them in an awkward position of having to decide whether to keep it, send it back or decline it, if they had the opportunity to do so. Some declined it and returned it quickly after receiving it, Rep. Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) returned his after fundraising numbers became public late last week and now the GOP campaign arm hopes to get the others to return AOC’s cash as well.
The NRCC push is a further sign the GOP plans use its 2020 “socialist” playbook to target vulnerable Democrats again next cycle. “Vulnerable Democrats who are bankrolled by a radical, self-avowed socialist forfeit the right to complain when we accurately tell voters about their dangerous socialist agenda,” NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement to your Huddle host.
GAETZ UPDATEZ: How ‘Papa Gaetz’ tells you everything you need to know about Matt Gaetz, by our Gary Fineout: https://politi.co/3tqCJK6
ABOUT LAST NIGHT: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) broke with his pal, Donald Trump, on Biden’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, after the former president called it a “wonderful” and “positive” development.
Graham’s response: “With all due respect to former President Trump, there is nothing ‘wonderful’ or ‘positive’ about allowing safe havens and sanctuary for terrorists to reemerge in Afghanistan or see Afghanistan be drawn back into another civil war,” Graham said in a statement, noting that he couldn’t “disagree more” with Trump. And then here is a little snark: “We will see if ‘General’ Biden and ‘General’ Trump’s withdrawal strategy turns out to be sound national security policy.”
A STAT WE CAN ALL GET BEHIND: : “Congress crossed a critical threshold Wednesday that is a testament to the power of vaccines: 75 straight days without a single member announcing a positive test for the coronavirus,” the Washington Post’s Paul Kane reported over the weekend. In fact, the last lawmaker to announce an infection was Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) on Jan. 29, according to an NPR database.
The decline in positive cases comes as vaccines have been available to members of Congress now for months. According to a CNN survey, every Democrat in the Senate has been vaccinated along with the vast majority Republican senators. While House Republicans are less reluctant to talk about being vaccinated, GOP leaders estimate at least half of the 212 House Republicans have gotten it. https://wapo.st/3alTwq5
-Lara who?: Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, hasn’t decided whether she’s going to run for the opening North Carolina Senate seat, but that hasn’t stopped some Republicans from moving forward with their own plans, our James Arkin reports.
There are now two prominent candidates officially in the race, whichis expected to be among the most expensive of the 2022 cycle. Former Gov. Pat McCrory, who launched a bid last week, has high name ID, but he’s already taking some heat from other Republicans who say he is out of step with the current GOP. But McCrory is shaking off that criticism, telling James: “No one knows the state better than I do.” Right now, he’s running against former Rep. Mark Walker, who has been in the race for months. More here: https://politi.co/3ebJngU
–Warnock off to a fast fundraising start for 2022 Senate re-election race, by AJC’s Greg Bluestein: https://bit.ly/3ecCdsJ … Rep. Lee Zeldinsays he raised $2.5m in less than two weeks since declaring bid for governor (h/t NYT’s Jesse McKinley)…
–Missouri Senate Seat: Schmitt gets warmer reaction than Greitens at GOP dinner, by the Kansas City Star: https://bit.ly/3ghSq2B
-Florida’s 23rd Congressional District: Democrats demand DeSantis set election to replace Alcee Hastings, by the Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man: https://bit.ly/3v0kA6b
–Fundraising surged for Republicans who sought to overturn the election, by NYT’s Luke Broadwater, Catie Edmondson and Rachel Shorey: https://nyti.ms/3spP00d (GOP sources had mentioned how “Stop the steal” was considered a big $$$-getter at the time, following the election. Proof is in the pudding… or FEC filings.)
-Rick Scott navigates Trump, winning back the Senate — and his own ambitions, by WaPo’s Mike DeBonis: https://wapo.st/3subo8K
Michelle Moreno-Silva is now comms director for the Democratic Women’s Caucus. She previously led Schumer’s Hispanic media operation.
Caroline Canfield is now president of GuidePost Strategies’ government relations practice. She previously was Senate Veterans’ Affairs majority staff director to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
TODAY IN CONGRESS
The House meets at 2 p.m. Votes are not expected until 6:30 p.m.
The Senate meets at 3 p.m.
AROUND THE HILL
1:15 p.m.: A bipartisan group of lawmakers meets with Biden to talk about the American Jobs Plan.
2 p.m.: The Labor Energy Partnership holds a virtual forum on accelerating the energy transition, featuring Manchin, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
2 p.m.: The Heritage Foundation holds a webinar on health care with Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.).
3:15 p.m.: Reps. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) host a press conference on next steps after House passage of the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act.
FRIDAY’S WINNER: Conor Siemien was the first person to correctly guess that the King Kamehameha statue was the largest statue in the Statuary Hall collection.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From Conor: Besides Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is the only other person to have won the U.S. popular vote in a presidential election at least three times in a row?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answer to [email protected].