McConnell Vows ‘Hell of a Fight’ on Dem Infrastructure Plans

McConnell Vows ‘Hell of a Fight’ on Dem Infrastructure Plans

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Plus, Pentagon cancels a $10 billion contract
Tuesday, July 6, 2021

House Problem Solvers Caucus Backs Infrastructure Deal; McConnell Vows 'Hell of a Fight'

The House Problem Solvers Caucus on Tuesday endorsed the infrastructure deal negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators and the White House, broadening the base of support for the agreement and signaling that the framework could draw some Republican backing in the House. If the group’s 29 Republican members vote in favor of the package, Democrats could afford to lose the votes of some skeptical progressives and still pass the legislation.

At the same time, the Problem Solvers urged that the legislation be brought up for a stand-alone vote in the House — potentially creating a problem for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has insisted that the package will only be considered alongside a larger one focused on caregiving and climate change that Democrats are likely to try to pass on a partisan basis.

The Problem Solvers Caucus said it “strongly supports” the Senate deal and noted that the framework closely aligns with an infrastructure proposal it released last month. “In light of the bipartisan, bicameral genesis of the framework, we encourage an expeditious, stand-alone vote in the House and thank our bipartisan Senate partners and the Biden Administration for working so closely with us to demonstrate that cooperation is still possible in Washington,” the group said.

Democratic resistance in the Senate: Key Senate Democrats are expressing concern about the proposed financing for the deal and calling for higher corporate tax rates instead of repurposing unspent Covid relief funds for unemployment benefits and state aid.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) has been working on his own proposal to pay for an infrastructure package, according to The Hill: “The Oregon Democrat is focused on raising an estimated $1 trillion from corporations as well as more than $300 billion from taxing unrealized capital gains, according to a source familiar with internal Democratic discussions.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), another member of the Finance Committee, also questioned the proposed pay-fors in the infrastructure deal. He said negotiators “used every conceivable thing other than normal increases in fees or taxes to pay for it,” according to The Hill.

McConnell vows a ‘hell of a fight’ coming: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday that Republicans would push back against Democratic attempts to use a special process called reconciliation to pass that broader spending package without GOP support. "The era of bipartisanship on this stuff is over,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky. “This is not going to be done on a bipartisan basis. This is going to be a hell of a fight over what this country ought to look like in the future and it's going to unfold here in the next few weeks. I don't think we've had a bigger difference of opinion between the two parties."

McConnell also reiterated his insistence that the bipartisan package be “credibly paid for, as opposed to adding it to the debt,” but added that there may be a path forward on that infrastructure legislation.

The bottom line: It’s not clear whether Democrats who have threatened to oppose the bipartisan package would ultimately buck President Biden if he presses for them to fall in line, but key elements of the deal continue to face resistance from both the left and right. The legislation, which is still being crafted, still faces plenty of hurdles — and Democrats have yet to agree on the specifics of their partisan bill, with progressives and moderates reportedly trillions of dollars apart.

Pentagon Cancels $10 Billion Contract With Microsoft

The Department of Defense said Tuesday that it has canceled a massive contract for cloud services with Microsoft.

Awarded in 2019, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract could have been worth upwards of $10 billion over 10 years. But the agreement to provide immense storage and computing power to soldiers in the field and commanders at the Pentagon was controversial from the start, with Amazon charging that the contract award was tainted by political considerations in the Trump administration. Former President Donald Trump has engaged in a long-running public feud with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

The Pentagon said the cancelation was driven by changing technological needs and capabilities, which have emerged during the ongoing litigation over the original contract. “With the shifting technology environment, it has become clear that the JEDI Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to fill the DoD’s capability gaps,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

What’s next: The Pentagon isn’t giving up on cloud computing and will now focus on what it calls Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability. According to Defense News, the JWCC will operate through a “multi-cloud, multi-vendor indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract” that is expected to cost billions of dollars, with new agreements expected to be signed by April 2022.

Biden: ‘We Can’t Get Complacent Now’ in Covid Fight

President Biden on Tuesday hailed the progress that nation has made in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic but warned against complacency and again urged unvaccinated Americans to get their shots, especially given the emergence of the highly transmissible delta variant.

Biden said that more than 182 million Americans have received at least one vaccination shot, including nearly 90% of seniors and 70% of adults over age 27. By the end of the week, Biden predicted, 160 million Americans will be fully vaccinated, reaching a target Biden had set for July 4.

The administration fell short of reaching the president’s goal of having at least 70% of Americans receive at least one shot by Independence Day. Biden outlined five ways his administration would focus on over the rest of the summer to promote vaccinations and make the shots more accessible. Biden said the effort would center on providing shots at local pharmacies, doctor’s offices, work places and mobile clinics. He said that special emphasis would be placed on getting vaccines to pediatricians and other health care providers for younger Americans.

About 1,000 counties in the U.S. have vaccination rates below 30%, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters last week.

“We can’t get complacent now,” Biden said Tuesday. “The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family and the people you care about the most is get vaccinated. … It’s the patriotic thing to do.”

Number of the Day: $13,000

The U.S. spent more than $40 million building a bridge over the Panj River at Sher Khan Bandar, Afghanistan, connecting the war-torn nation to Tajikistan, but the key piece of infrastructure has now fallen into the hands of the Taliban – and is providing a nice source of revenue for the militant Islamic group. Customs fees collected at the 2,204-feet-long bridge amount to about 1 million afghanis a day, or roughly $13,000, The Wall Street Journal reports. “The tax that used to be taken by the government is now taken by the Taliban,” a local businessman told the Journal, adding that the Taliban charges less than the government had.

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