Quite a busy summer Tuesday! Lots going on today, between the harrowing testimony of police officers in the first hearing of the House select committee investigating the January 6 riots and the shocking withdrawal of Simone Biles from the Olympic women’s gymnastics team finals, in which the U.S. settled for silver. On Capitol Hill, negotiators working on a bipartisan infrastructure deal say they are still going for the gold, though, as their marathon talks continue after some late stumbles. Here’s what you need to know.
Biden Meets With Sinema as Senators Signal Progress on Snarled Infrastructure Deal
President Joe Biden met Tuesday with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the lead Democratic negotiator on the teetering bipartisan infrastructure deal, as senators involved in the talks said that they had made progress in resolving some lingering disagreements, though other differences remain.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that both Biden and Sinema remained hopeful that a deal could be reached. "Both feel optimistic about the path forward and clearly both understand having lived through many iterations of legislating and negotiating before that it is always at the tail end when you have some of the trickiest discussions," she said.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) also said he was optimistic, according to Bloomberg News. "Nothing’s 100%, but it looks pretty good," he said.
Negotiators reportedly resolved a dispute over funding for water infrastructure, Bloomberg’s Erik Wasson reports, but money for mass transit remains a sticking point. Some Republicans are looking to change a decades-long approach to dividing highway trust fund spending on roads and mass transit, arguing that the traditional 80-20 split should be shifted and the transit share should be cut to 18% given the billions of dollars provided elsewhere in the bill for trains and buses.
Broadband regulation and prevailing wage provisions are reportedly obstacles as well, as is the accounting for unused Covid relief funds.
Other lawmakers growing more frustrated: While negotiators have consistently expressed optimism, some of their colleagues have less rosy views of the talks. "Republican and Democratic Senate lunches turned into venting sessions Tuesday afternoon," Politico’s Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett reported, adding that "the internal party dissension illustrates that the physical infrastructure package is far from a done deal."
What’s next: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is letting the talks continue without a hard deadline, and he reiterated Tuesday that the Senate might have to work through the weekend or cancel its August recess as he pushes to pass both a bipartisan infrastructure package and a $3.5 trillion Democratic budget resolution setting the stage for the rest of Biden’s economic agenda. "We’re close," Schumer said. "We’re going to get this done through the August recess if we have to stay, period."
The bottom line: There may be too much at stake for the talks to collapse at this point, with Democrats eager to advance their larger spending package focused on "human infrastructure". Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told reporters Tuesday: "If the bipartisan deal falls apart, then I think everything falls apart."
A $2 Billion Deal That Includes Funding for the Capitol Police
On a day when all eyes were on members of the U.S. Capitol Police testifying in Washington, senators from opposite sides of the aisle said they had reached a deal on an emergency security bill that includes about $100 million for the agency that protects Congress.
Facing extraordinary expenses, the embattled police force has warned that it could run out of money as soon as next month, and the agreement would provide funds to reimburse costs incurred during the January 6 assault on the Capitol complex by supporters of former President Donald Trump, as well as trauma support for officers and additional security for lawmakers who have received threats.
The agreement would also provide $521 million to reimburse the National Guard for expenses incurred in the aftermath of the assault; about $300 million for security improvements around the Capitol; and roughly $1.1 billion for a program to relocate Afghans who assisted the U.S. military.
"We're going to take care of the Capitol Police and fix some of the problems that need to be done here. Certainly, take care of the National Guard," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said. "Both sides had to compromise on some things, but I think we're in pretty good shape."
Sen. Richard Shelby (AL), the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he is "pleased this legislation sticks to immediate security needs, as I have long advocated. ... I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation."
What’s next: The House passed a $1.9 billion supplemental security bill in May, so the chambers are getting close on the size of the legislation. However, the House version includes $200 million for the National Guard to create a rapid response security force for the nation’s capital, while the Senate agreement does not, and that difference will have to be ironed out.
The Senate version could face resistance internally, as well, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) indicating that he does not support the Afghan relocation program. "That could be a problem," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the minority whip. "If they decide to slow that down or block it, yeah, we'll have to use a lot of floor time."
No Hiring Boom in States Cutting Unemployment Benefits Early: Analysis
In an effort to speed jobless workers’ return to employment, 20 Republican-led states reduced unemployment benefits in mid-June. But according to a new analysis, those states did not see a boom in hiring, though they did see a change in the mix of workers getting new jobs.
The analysis, performed by the payroll processing firm Gusto for The Washington Post, found that employment growth has been roughly equal in states that ended the $300 per week supplemental federal unemployment payments in June and those that are continuing to pay them until Labor Day, when Congress scheduled them to expire.
Using April 2021 as a base, the total number of employed people rose by 11.6% in the states that cut unemployment benefits by the end of June, and by 11.2% in the states that did not.
However, in the benefit-cutting states, more workers over the age of 25 returned to work in June — an increase that was offset by fewer teenagers getting jobs. By contrast, in the states maintaining benefits a higher percentage of workers aged 15-19 found jobs.
"The findings suggest hiring is likely to remain difficult for some time, especially in the lower-paying hospitality sector," the Post’s Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam write. "The analysis also adds perspective to the teen hiring boom, revealing that more generous unemployment payments played a role in keeping more experienced workers on the sidelines, forcing employers to turn to younger workers."
Gusto economist Luke Pardue said the analysis shows that there is no clear and simple relationship between the enhanced unemployment benefits provided by Congress and the sluggish jobs recovery. "If what we want is a speedy economic recovery, ending unemployment insurance is not the silver bullet," he told the Post.
Former Senate Budget Chair Mike Enzi Dies at 77
Former Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), who chaired the Senate Budget Committee from 2015 until his retirement this past January, died Monday after suffering serious injuries in a bicycle accident Friday. He was 77. Enzi, a conservative, was elected to the Senate in 1996 and served four terms, or 24 years.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a fellow Republican who waged a short-lived primary challenge against Enzi in the 2014 elections, remembered him Tuesday as a mentor and teacher with a dry sense of humor. "Mike was a straight-shooter, an honest broker, and a soft-spoken but powerful advocate for the causes he cared deeply about," she said in a statement. "Whether it was pushing for fiscal discipline as head of the Senate Budget Committee or fighting for the needs of Wyoming’s energy industry, Mike was always guided by principle and conviction."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the current head of the Senate Budget Committee, called Enzi "a very decent human being" and said he "always found him to be friendly, civil and fair to all, regardless of their political views."
- Infrastructure Summer: The Untrained Bipartisan Deal-Makers – David Dayen, The American Prospect
- Republicans Are Refusing to Raise the Debt Ceiling. Go Figure. – Catherine Rampell, Washington Post
- Inflation and Infrastructure — Democrats’ Bad Bet for America – Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Fox News
- The Biden 15% Global Tax Puts Foreign Companies Ahead of American Workers – Erik Paulsen, The Hill
- What Does the Delta Variant Mean for the U.S. Economy? – John Cassidy, The New Yorker
- The Trump Administration Gave Us the Best Weapons Against Covid-19. We Should Use Them. – Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL), Washington Post
- I’m Tired of Being Nice to Vaccine Refusers – Paul Waldman, Washington Post
- It Is in Everyone’s Interest to Save Anti-Vaxxers From Their Stubbornness – Eugene Robinson, Washington Post
- Republicans Who Support Anti-Vaccine Bills Are Engaging in Performative Libertarianism – Michael Gerson, Washington Post
- America Shouldn’t Compete Against China With One Arm Tied Behind Its Back – Robert E. Lighthizer, New York Times