Infrastructure day in the House
With Sarah Ferris and Andrew Desiderio.
DEFAZIO'S THIRD PHASE — House Democrats today are set to pass a massive infrastructure bill that would spend hundreds of billions on roads, bridges, transit and rail. No, not THAT one.
The House will clear a mammoth surface transportation bill, likely with even a few Republicans — essentially creating a third lane in President Joe Biden’s existing maze of infrastructure talks. Some Dems, like Transportation Committee Chair Pete DeFazio (Ore.), are now making a public push to merge this bill with as much as possible with the White House bipartisan deal.
As top Democrats pitch a dual-track approach to infrastructure — a bipartisan deal alongside a monster party-line plan that goes beyond just roads and bridges — DeFazio and others say this is now the third, and perhaps most realistic, option.
Their argument: "Well, it took my staff seven months to write the policy,” DeFazio recalled recently telling Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Using the House language, DeFazio and others argue, could actually help a bipartisan bill get passed soon, maybe even before the August recess.
It’s the latest twist in months of convoluted talks about what Congress can actually achieve on one of Biden’s top priorities. Where the legislative highway goes next is anybody's guess, but this bill at least comes with a deadline — Sept. 30.
Sarah and Sam Mintz have the deets ahead of the vote: https://politi.co/3qId4fl
ART IS INFRASTRUCTURE — Relatedly... a spat over subway art briefly held up House Democrats’ massive transportation bill on Wednesday, though the bill is still on track for a final vote Thursday.
How it went down: Democratic leaders had planned to allow a last-minute amendment from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) to go into the transportation bill, but the bill’s author, DeFazio, was not a fan. Instead, DeFazio led more than 100 other Democrats in tanking the proposed changes by voting against the motion to allow it to come to a vote. (Yes, it’s wonky.)
We’re told that Slotkin, along with other frontline Democrats, were anxious about looming GOP attacks of using taxpayer dollars for the beautification of transit projects. (The amendment, initially drafted by GOP Rep. Bob Gibb of Ohio, had also been offered during the House Transportation Committee markup and failed.)
But DeFazio said he strongly opposed the amendment, which he said would have forced U.S. subways and transit projects to “just have bare concrete tunnels.” In the quote of the day, DeFazio told Sarah: “If the Russians can have tilework and chandeliers, we can at least have a little artwork.”
Slotkin said in a tweet later Wednesday, “before we allocate funding to landscaping & art, we have to make sure our biggest needs are met.”
VOTING RIGHTS UPDATE -- The Congressional Black Caucus is laying out the expedited timeline they want for the advancement of the voting rights bill named for the late Rep. John Lewis — they want the Judiciary Committee to hold its hearings on it in mid-July, with final passage as early as September.
“We are asking that they have their hearings during the July committee work week. We cannot wait until October or November for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” Black Caucus Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) said at a Wednesday evening press conference.
With H.R. 1 stalled out after Senate Republicans’ filibuster, Democrats point to this bill as one that could win support from the GOP. “There’s no reason why a formula update cannot be bipartisan,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who chairs a key subpanel overseeing federal elections. He’s set to deliver a 2,500-page report to Judiciary Democrats on evidence of voter discrimination as Democrats try to craft a bill that could survive scrutiny by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court.
The legislation, which would restore key provisions of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, is a top Black Caucus priority. The bill is likely to pass the House, but it’s unclear if it could make it through the 50-50 Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called the bill unnecessary. Even if it gained enough Republican support in the Senate to become law, it’s also not clear whether it could be enacted in time for redistricting in the fall.
GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Thursday, July 1, where we’re just trying not to melt in the heat. Nicholas Wu here, filling in for Olivia while she’s on assignment.
WEDNESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The Columbus Dispatch’s story on the fundraisers who quit Josh Mandel’s campaign because of the work environment created by a staffer in a relationship with Mandel was the big winner.
QUICK CLICKS -- After Israel controversies, Omar says some colleagues ‘not partners in justice,’ by the Times of Israel: https://bit.ly/3ha13w6 | So much for ‘action’: McCarthy dials back early pledge to rein in Republicans who cross the line as Gosar, others go unpunished, by the Washington Post’s Paul Kane: https://wapo.st/3jxnoVW | Democrats search for sweet spot on ‘SALT’ deduction, by Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson: https://bit.ly/3qCyFG9
SAY WHAT? House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday tasked Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, to investigate Tucker Carlson’s disputed claims that the National Security Agency was spying on him. It all started earlier this week when Carlson, the Fox News primetime host, said he had heard from a whistleblower that the agency “is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them to take this show off the air.” The NSA denied Carlson’s allegations in a rare public statement, writing that Carlson “has never been a target of the agency and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air.”
Of course, this doesn’t leave out the possibility that Carlson’s communications were collected incidentally, which often happens when an American is in contact with a foreign national whose communications are being monitored by the agency. McCarthy said that despite the NSA’s public denial, “I have serious questions regarding this matter that must be answered,” adding: “[T]he NSA cannot be used as a political instrument.”
Related: Tucker Carlson Says The NSA Wants Him Off The Air. Fox News Isn't Following His Lead, by NPR’s David Folkenflik: https://n.pr/3dsFzbF
MCALLEN DISPATCH -- Olivia, on assignment, reports that House Republicans want to make immigration a centerpiece of the 2022 midterms. And to do so, they have to fully embrace Donald Trump — a reunion that they sealed on Wednesday.
The group of roughly two dozen GOP lawmakers got outsized attention for their trip to this border city simply because it was a precursor to Trump's own visit. And Republicans soaked up that notice, with two immigration hard-liners even walking alongside migrants seeking asylum.
That embrace of Trump also means closely identifying the party with his coarse rhetoric, which helped push swing states like Arizona into Democrats' column last fall. Down here in the Rio Grande Valley, however, Republicans see a potential payoff against vulnerable border-state Democrats.
“I think you’re going to see a surge of voters who are fed up with a lack of security,” freshman Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) said in an interview. “The Biden administration is not prioritizing American security … In 2022, what I think we will see is people are tired of a lack of a good policy.”
More from Olivia: https://politi.co/3dsvb3F
Related from POLITICO’S David Siders: https://politi.co/3wed2wN
— Ex-Rep Max Rose (D-N.Y.) announced he’s leaving his post at the Defense Department as its Covid-19 task force winds down, per our Ally Mutnick. That leaves him free for a rematch against Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) in the newly redrawn 11th district of New York, which could look much better for Democrats in redistricting.
-Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) is posting strong fundraising numbers in a competitive district, with over $2 million banked ahead of the 2022 midterms. It’s led the New Jersey Globe to dub him the “Gottheimer of the South,” a reference to the fundraising prowess of his colleague from North Jersey: https://bit.ly/3yfEhIL
- Ohio congressional candidate Max Miller’s tax records show he claims his principal residence is in Washington, D.C. by cleveland.com’s Sabrina Eaton: https://bit.ly/36jNTql
WARNING SIGN -- The Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police union, sent a big warning sign yesterday about the state of police reform talks. In their view, talks were on the brink of collapse as they urged lawmakers not to give up on a potential bipartisan deal.
“Given the politics of the moment, we seem to be poised to undo more than a year’s worth of work toward common sense criminal justice reform,” said Patrick Yoes, the group’s president, in a statement. “Demagoguery and scare tactics have jeopardized the future of these efforts and may well have derailed the negotiations.”
More from Marianne: https://politi.co/3hpdzH1
Your Huddle fill-in host caught up with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who indicated lawmakers might see the warning sign but pay it no mind. She was not exactly sure what the FOP was referring to, but noted “sometimes in the midst of negotiation, when people have differences, sometimes those differences can lead to folks being upset”
She said she hoped to check in with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the lead Senate negotiators, on Thursday. She said she wanted some progress soon because “I think it gets very difficult through a long August recess. It's one thing to have a recess for a couple of weeks. It's another thing for it to be like four or five weeks.”
NOEM PHONE HOME — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem reportedly accepted private donations to fund the deployment of National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border. Now, House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith says he has some questions for Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Smith said the Guard should not be treated like a “private militia,” and that he would contact Austin to see whether a hearing would be necessary, POLITICO'S Marissa Martinez reports: https://politi.co/365QNPm
PROXY FIGHT -- CNN has a deep dive out this morning on how proxy voting, a system originally designed to protect members from COVID, has been used for political means. Democrats have used it when Biden showed up in their districts. Republicans used it when they went with Trump to the border.
One interesting stat? Of the Republicans who filed a lawsuit against the constitutionality of proxy voting, forty of the original plaintiffs have proxy voted at least once since then, according to CNN.
More from CNN’s Annie Grayer, Kristin Wilson, and Sarah Fortinsky: https://cnn.it/3ydSeao
Related: What’s next for proxy voting and hybrid committees?, by Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus: https://bit.ly/3hhCX1a
FLORIDA MAN BOOTED FROM CAPITOL — Every state contributes two statues to the National Statuary Hall Collection, and Florida is set to give one of its statues the boot. The statue of Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith, which currently sits in the Capitol Visitor Center, is going to be replaced by a statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, a Black civil rights advocate. The Florida Legislature voted to remove the Smith statue in 2016, but it took some time to craft a new statue.
On Wednesday, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), told the Miami Herald the Bethune statue was nearly done and would have its unveiling in Italy on July 10. “I think for someone of the stature of Dr. Bethune, she needs to be located in Statuary Hall,” Castor told the newspaper.
The House passed a bill to remove racist symbols earlier this week, but it faces an uncertain future in the 50-50 Senate. Some states might remove their own statues anyway, but on the other hand, Mississippi shows no indication it wants to remove its statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
More here from the Miami Herald’s Alex Daugherty.
Krister Holladay, former chief of staff to House Appropriations ranking member Kay Granger (R-Texas) will be head of legislative affairs for shipping company American President Lines.
Brian Kaissi, deputy chief of staff to Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), will be the congressman’s chief of staff. Mark Schauerte, Krishnamoorthi’s departing chief, will be the director of the speaker series at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
Kim Soffen is now legislative director for Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.). She most recently was senior legislative assistant for Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.)
TODAY IN CONGRESS
The House meets at 9:00 a.m.
The Senate has a pro forma session at 11:00 a.m.
AROUND THE HILL
9:00 a.m. Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis holds a hearing on “Building Trust And Battling Barriers: The Urgent Need To Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy”
9:30 a.m. Representatives Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) will hold a virtual press conference on the introduction of the AMERICA’S Children Act, bipartisan legislation to protect Documented Dreamers.
10:30 a.m. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly press conference.
11:00 a.m. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Democratic Women's Caucus Co-Chairs, hold a press event on the Care Economy.
11:30 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy holds a press conference.
WEDNESDAY’S WINNER: Wilson Golden was the first to correctly guess that James Polk, James Buchanan and Rutherford Hayes were the presidents who originally assumed office by election, served their first full term and then declined to run for reelection.
TODAY’S QUESTION: from Wilson: Which U.S. president’s (or presidents’) mother(s) was/were born in England?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to email@example.com.
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