Negotiations Over Biden’s Infrastructure Plan May Be Nearing the End

The top Republican negotiator said she did not have plans for a new offer and that the administration may soon move on. Here’s the latest from Washington.,

LiveUpdated June 8, 2021, 10:03 a.m. ETJune 8, 2021, 10:03 a.m. ET

“We’re going to keep talking, but I’m not coming back with anything in the next 24 hours,” the top Republican negotiator, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, said of the significant gap between her party and President Biden’s $1 trillion plan.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia in May. She is expected to meet with President Biden on Tuesday.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia in May. She is expected to meet with President Biden on Tuesday.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

President Biden is expected on Tuesday to speak with Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the lead Republican in talks over a bipartisan infrastructure package, as Democrats search for a way to enact his $1 trillion plan for investing in the nation’s public works system.

Ms. Capito, who has spoken with Mr. Biden repeatedly over the last month in an effort to cut a bipartisan agreement on how to fund roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects across the country, acknowledged that the administration may soon move on given the deep divisions that remain.

Though she expected to speak with Mr. Biden on Tuesday, she said she did not have plans to produce a new offer after the president rejected a $50 billion increase to an overall $928 billion Republican counterproposal to his infrastructure plan. The pair have yet to bridge the wide gap over how much new spending to pour into infrastructure and how to pay for such a plan.

Mr. Biden has said he wants at least $1 trillion, a number Republicans have dismissed.

“We made a good robust effort — biggest infrastructure package ever with pay-fors that we delineated,” Ms. Capito said on Monday. “And he said, ‘That’s not enough.’ So, I accept that — I mean I have to. He’s the president.”

“We’re going to keep talking,” she added. “But I’m not coming back with anything in the next 24 hours.”

On the president’s position in the negotiations, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday, “He has come down quite a bit — we are looking to see more.”

White House officials have not ruled out other possible legislative pathways, including engaging with a bipartisan group of senators who are quietly working on their own framework. A House committee is also set to advance surface transportation reauthorization legislation that would provide $547 billion over five years to maintain and adjust several existing transport programs, although potentially without Republican votes.

Democrats could also move legislation on their own through the fast-track budget process known as reconciliation, though that would require all 50 Democrats in the Senate and near unanimity in the House Democratic caucus.

“The president has been very patient, and at this point, if we can’t reach an agreement, we ought to consider alternatives,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat. Asked if it had reached that point, he said, “in my mind it has.”

A new report by two Senate committees concluded that a dysfunctional police force at the Capitol lacked the capacity to respond effectively during the Jan. 6 riot.
A new report by two Senate committees concluded that a dysfunctional police force at the Capitol lacked the capacity to respond effectively during the Jan. 6 riot.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Top federal intelligence agencies failed to adequately warn law enforcement officials before the Jan. 6 riot that pro-Trump extremists were threatening violence, including plans to “storm the Capitol,” infiltrate its tunnel system and “bring guns,” according to a new report by two Senate committees that outlines large-scale failures that contributed to the deadly assault.

An F.B.I. memo on Jan. 5 warning of people traveling to Washington for “war” at the Capitol never made its way to top law enforcement officials. The Capitol Police failed to widely circulate information from its intelligence unit that supporters of President Donald J. Trump were posting online about pressuring lawmakers to overturn his election loss.

“If they don’t show up, we enter the Capitol as the Third Continental Congress and certify the Trump Electors,” one post said.

“Bring guns. It’s now or never,” said another.

The first congressional report on the Capitol riot is the most comprehensive and detailed account to date of the dozens of intelligence failures, miscommunications and security lapses that led to what the bipartisan team of senators that assembled it concluded was an “unprecedented attack” on American democracy and the most significant assault on the Capitol in more than 200 years.

“The failure to adequately assess the threat of violence on that day contributed significantly to the breach of the Capitol,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “The attack was quite frankly planned in plain sight.”

The 127-page joint report, a product of more than three months of hearings and interviews and reviews of thousands of pages of documents, presents a damning portrait of the preparations and response at multiple levels. Law enforcement officials did not take seriously threats of violence, it found, and a dysfunctional police force at the Capitol lacked the capacity to respond effectively when those threats materialized.

“The failures are obvious,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairwoman of the Rules and Administration Committee. “To me, it was all summed up by one of the officers who was heard on the radio that day asking a tragically simple question: ‘Does anybody have a plan?’ Sadly, no one did.”

There was much information the panel was unable to learn. The senators secured only limited cooperation from key agencies, including the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the House sergeant-at-arms. Other agencies failed to meet deadlines to hand over documents.

The findings — and their limitations — are likely to fuel renewed calls for an independent commission like the one created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, populated by experts and armed with subpoena power to investigate what happened that day and why. Senate Republicans blocked the creation of such a body late last month, arguing in part that it would duplicate the work already underway by the Senate committees and prosecutors at the Justice Department.

In a letter to colleagues later Tuesday morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the Senate would reconsider its objections, but added that she would initiate a broader review in the House unilaterally if need be.

The United States Embassy in Havana. Staff at the embassy suffered  unexplained health incidents that many officials believe are attacks.
The United States Embassy in Havana. Staff at the embassy suffered unexplained health incidents that many officials believe are attacks.Credit…Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

The Senate passed a bill Monday evening designed to provide financial support for government employees injured in a series of mysterious health incidents.

The bill, drafted by Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, would give the C.I.A. director and Secretary of State additional powers to provide assistance to government officials who have suffered brain injuries as a part of an unexplained series of health incidents that many officials believe are attacks.

The bill broadens the requirement to report incidents to Congress and also allows the officials to extend the benefits to people who have been injured in the United States. While the majority of the more than 130 cases being investigated by the government happened abroad, there are at least two in the United States that are being examined as possible examples of domestic incidents.

Senator Collins said that many of the victims had undergone brain imaging and had their damage verified. Initially, however, several victims of the incidents “were treated with great skepticism,” she said.

“They should be treated the same way we treat a soldier who has suffered a traumatic brain injury on the battlefield,” Ms. Collins said in a recent interview. “It is unacceptable and appalling that these individuals — in some cases — were denied medical care that they needed.”

Ms. Collins praised William J. Burns, the director of the C.I.A., for believing the victims and speeding up the process to get agency officers affected by a health incident into the military’s Walter Reed National Medical Facility.

But some victims continue to be frustrated with how the State Department has handled the incidents. A group of injured government employees have demanded more support and financial compensation for themselves and injured family members — something the Senate bill would give them. State Department officials have said they have made the health and safety of their diplomats and other workers the top priority.

While some former officials believe the attacks could go back several decades, the most recent series of incidents began in 2016, when diplomats and C.I.A. officers working in Havana reported feeling dizzy and nauseous. Many developed chronic headaches. For some the health effects have lasted years and could be permanent disabilities.

After the Havana incidents, Americans serving in China reported similar episodes. There have also been Pentagon and C.I.A. officers affected in a variety of places in Europe and Asia.

A National Academy of Sciences report concluded a microwave weapon was the most likely cause of the injuries, but the U.S. government has not yet made any final conclusions.

Some officials believe that Russia is responsible for at least some of the attacks, a charge the Russian government has dismissed.

The intelligence community has not concluded if all or some of the health incidents were the result of a deliberate attack and what country might be responsible. Ms. Collins said she has concluded that the incidents are deliberate attacks but that she does not know what country might be responsible.

The bill will now need to go to the House, for that chamber’s approval. The bill is expected to get a vote in the coming weeks, according to a congressional official.

While the House is often divided over intelligence issues, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who leads the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican who is the ranking member, together introduced a bill similar to Ms. Collins’s in the House.

Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, and Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana, in the Capitol in May following a vote.
Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, and Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican from Louisiana, in the Capitol in May following a vote.Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

With the fate of the progressive agenda depending on the support of Senator Joe Manchin III, who said again on Sunday that he would not abandon the filibuster to pass an expansive voting rights bill, interest groups and activists are gearing up for a full push to try to sway the moderate Democrat. It would be enough to make almost any Democratic politician in the country squirm.

But probably not a Democrat from West Virginia.

None of the demographic groups that animate today’s Democratic coalition are well-represented in the state. Black, Hispanic, college-educated, young, urban and professional voters all represent a much smaller share of the electorate in West Virginia than just about anywhere else.

White voters without a four-year degree, Donald Trump’s demographic base, made up 69 percent of voters there in 2020, according to census data, the highest in the country. Mr. Trump won West Virginia with 69 percent of the vote in 2020, more than in every state but Wyoming.

With those sorts of numbers, it’s hard to understand how Mr. Manchin is a Democratic senator at all in today’s polarized era. His state voted for Mr. Trump by 39 points last November; no other member of the House or Senate represents a state carried by the other party’s presidential candidate by more than 16 points.

Yet Mr. Manchin’s unique ability to survive in West Virginia is the last vestige of the state’s once-reliable New Deal Democratic tradition, dating to old industrial-era fights over workers’ wages, rights and safety. It was one of the most reliably Democratic states of the second half of the 20th century, voting in defeat for Adlai Stevenson in 1952, Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Michael Dukakis. The so-called Republican “Southern strategy” yielded no inroads there.

But Democrats began to lose their grip on the state during the 1990s, at least at the presidential level.

Semiconductors are one of four product areas in which the United States relies on imports. President Biden signed an executive order in February requiring a 100-day review of critical supply chains.
Semiconductors are one of four product areas in which the United States relies on imports. President Biden signed an executive order in February requiring a 100-day review of critical supply chains.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Biden administration on Tuesday planned to issue several actions aimed at addressing supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and reduce reliance on foreign countries for crucial goods by increasing domestic production capacity.

White House officials said the administration had created a task force that would “tackle near-term bottlenecks” in construction, transportation, semiconductor production and agriculture, in a call on Monday evening detailing the plan to reporters.

The officials also outlined steps that had been taken to address an executive order from President Biden that required a review of critical supply chains in four product areas where the United States relies on imports: semiconductors, high-capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals and their active ingredients, and critical minerals and strategic materials, like rare earths.

“This is about making sure the United States can meet every challenge we face in the new era,” Mr. Biden said in February, when he signed the order.

The move was intended to address concerns about supply chain resiliency and long-term competition with China.

The Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, will use $60 million from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill to develop technologies to increase domestic production of active ingredients in key pharmaceuticals. The Interior Department will work to identify sites where critical minerals could be produced in the United States. And several agencies will work on creating supply chains for new technologies that will reduce reliance on imports of key materials.

The Biden administration also signaled that it was prepared to use trade policy to bolster domestic supplies of key minerals and components. As part of that effort, the Office of the United States Trade Representative said it would establish a so-called strike force that could propose actions against overseas companies deemed to be engaged in unfair trade practices.

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