The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, also released a statement in response to Republicans’ latest infrastructure proposal.
“At first review, we note several constructive additions to the group’s previous proposals, including on roads, bridges and rail,” Psaki said.
“At the same time, we remain concerned that their plan still provides no substantial new funds for critical job-creating needs, such as fixing our veterans’ hospitals, building modern rail systems, repairing our transit systems, removing dangerous lead pipes, and powering America’s leadership in a job-creating clean energy economy, among other things.”
Psaki also expressed hesitation about the Republican proposal to use unspent coronavirus relief funds to help pay for the infrastructure package.
Looking at the timeline for passing a bill, Psaki said, “Though there are no votes in Congress next week, we will work actively with members of the House and Senate next week, so that there is a clear direction on how to advance much needed jobs legislation when Congress resumes legislative business during the week of June 7.”
Biden on Republicans’ infrastructure counteroffer: ‘We have to finish this really soon’
Joe Biden took a few questions from reporters before boarding Air Force One to travel to Cleveland, Ohio, for a speech on the economy.
Asked about Senate Republicans’ latest counteroffer in the infrastructure negotiations, Biden said he had a brief but positive conversation with Senator Shelley Moore Capito about the new proposal.
“I haven’t had a chance yet to go over the details of the counteroffer made by Capito,” Biden said. “We’re going to meet sometime next week, and we’ll see if we can move that.”
Echoing Senate Democrats, the president emphasized the need to wrap up the infrastructure negotiations in the coming weeks.
“I told her we have to finish this really soon,” Biden said. “We’re going to have to close this down soon.”
Some Senate Democrats are already pushing to use reconciliation to pass an infrastructure bill, thus avoiding a potential Republican filibuster of the legislation.
The family of Officer Brian Sicknick met with several Republican senators as the Senate prepares to vote on the bill to establish a bipartisan commission to study the Capitol insurrection.
One of those senators, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said in a statement that he offered his condolences to the family of Sicknick, the US Capitol Police officer who died of a stroke the day after the January 6 insurrection.
In his statement, Johnson emphasized that the insurrectionists “should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” but he did not agree with the family on the need for a commission to study the attack.
“Although we respectfully disagreed on the added value of the proposed commission, I did commit to doing everything I could to ensure all their questions will be answered,” Johnson said.
Senate Republicans are poised to use the filibuster to defeat the commission bill, which passed the House last week.
The family of Officer Brian Sicknick is on Capitol Hill today, meeting with senators and pushing them to support establishing a bipartisan commission to study the January 6 insurrection.
Sicknick was a US Capitol Police officer who died the day after the insurrection. He collapsed shortly after clashing with rioters, and he later died at a nearby hospital. A medical examiner said last month that Sicknick died after suffering two strokes.
Asked how she felt listening to Republicans who oppose establishing a commission, Gladys Sicknick, the mother of Brian Sicknick, told reporters, “This is why I’m here today. I mean, usually I’ll stay in the background, and I just couldn’t stay quiet anymore.”
Senator Joe Manchin indicated he was not open to eliminating the filibuster in order to get the January 6 commission bill passed.
“I’m not willing to destroy our government, no,” the Democratic senator told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Manchin added, “I think we’ll come together. You have to have faith there’s 10 good people.”
According to CNN, Senate Republican leaders are confident they have the votes necessary to defeat the commission bill today.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer lamented that the January 6 commission bill cannot secure widespread bipartisan support in Congress.
Reflecting on how the “big lie” of widespread election fraud in the presidential election has overtaken the Republican party, Schumer said the country must put a stop to this “cancer” in the GOP.
The Democratic leader specifically criticized Republican legislators in Arizona for “chasing a bananas-crazy right-wing Internet conspiracy” that China tampered with ballots to swing the election to Joe Biden.
“We need to stand up to the big lie,” Schumer said. “We must get at the truth and do everything in our power to restore Americans faith in our elections and this grand, ongoing, noble experiment of democracy.”
With that goal in mind, Schumer said a bipartisan commission to study the Capitol insurrection is “exactly what the doctor ordered”.
McConnell dismisses January 6 commission as ‘extraneous’ to current investigations
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the idea of forming a bipartisan commission to study the Capitol insurrection, arguing that such a panel would be “extraneous” to the current investigations underway at the justice department and in Congress.
McConnell’s comments in a Senate floor speech this morning came as Republicans prepared to block the House-approved bill to convene a January 6 commission. If Republicans do block the bill, it may mark the first official use of the Senate filibuster in this session of Congress.
“There’s no new fact about that day we need the Democrats’ extraneous commission to uncover,” McConnell said moments ago.
The Republican leader noted that more than 440 people have already been arrested in connection to the Capitol insurrection and the attorney general has promised to maintain the investigation of the attack as a top priority for the justice department.
Democrats have pointed out that much remains unknown about the Capitol attack, including some insurrectionists’ potential ties to Republican lawmakers.
“I do not believe the additional extraneous commission that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” McConnell said. “Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to do that.”
McConnell added, “I’ll continue to urge my colleagues to oppose this extraneous layer when the time comes for the Senate to vote.”
Democratic Senator Bob Casey signaled this morning that it may be time to move on from negotiating with Republicans and instead pass an infrastructure bill using reconciliation, allowing Democrats to circumvent the Senate filibuster.
Asked whether it was time to focus on setting up a reconciliation pathway for the infrastructure bill, Casey told CNN anchor Jim Sciutto, “I think we’re getting to that point, Jim. It’s an old expression, fish or cut bait.”
Casey said Joe Biden had done “really good work here to engage Republican senators,” but he argued it was time for negotiations to come to a conclusion.
“I do think we’re getting to the last chapter of this,” Casey said. “Now the last chapter could result in an agreement, but it could also result in no agreement.”
Casey expressed a desire to move on to Democrats’ “next set of agenda items,” like funding universal pre-kindergarten and two years of community college for American families.
The Guardian’s Sam Levine and Daniel Strauss report:
After six months of aggressive Republican efforts to restrict voting access, Democrats are facing new questions about how they will actually pass voting rights reforms through Congress.
The most recent hand-wringing comes as Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democratic senator, made clear earlier this month he still is not on board with the For the People Act, which would require early voting, automatic and same-day registration, and prevent the severe manipulation of district boundaries for partisan gain.
Senate Democrats, including Manchin, met privately on Wednesday to map out a path forward on the bill, which has already passed the US House.
Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia said: “I think members of the caucus understand the urgency and we’re focused on getting something passed. We have an obligation to the American people to find a way to protect our democracy.”
Manchin’s opposition comes at a critical moment when there is escalating concern about aggressive state Republican efforts to curtail access to the ballot. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa and Montana have all put new restrictions in place this year.
Many see this as an existential moment for the Democratic party and fear that Republicans will permanently reap the benefits of a distorted electoral system if Democrats cannot pass federal legislation. There is heightened urgency to act quickly so that crucial protections can be in place when the once-per-decade redistricting process gets under way later this year.
Manchin lambasts Republican opposition to 6 January commission bill
Senator Joe Manchin has released a statement fiercely criticizing his Republican colleagues for opposing the bill to create a 9/11-style commission to study the Capitol insurrection.
“There’s no excuse for any Republican to vote against this commission since Democrats have agreed to everything they asked for,” the Democratic senator said.
Singling out the Senate minority leader, Manchin said, “Mitch McConnell has made this his political position, thinking it will help his 2022 elections. They do not believe the truth will set you free, so they continue to live in fear.”
Senate Republicans are poised to block the passage of the 6 January commission bill using the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for approval.
The question now becomes whether Manchin would be willing to scrap the filibuster to get the commission bill through the Senate. Manchin has been a fierce defender of the filibuster, and he has previously indicated he is not willing to eliminate it.
Moments after Senate Republicans concluded their press conference, one of their Democratic colleagues offered some criticism of their latest infrastructure proposal.
“I don’t really think this is a serious counteroffer,” Senator Elizabeth Warren told MSNBC.
The Democratic senator added that the Republicans’ proposal to redirect unused coronavirus relief funds toward infrastructure would not win any fans in the White House.
Shelley Moore Capito argued that Senate Republicans and Joe Biden are actually closer on an infrastructure deal than their topline numbers would suggest.
The Republican senator said she believed they could reach an agreement if Biden removed funding for issues like elder care and green energy from his plan, which would bring them much closer to an agreed-upon cost for the bill.
“I think the gaps are much less,” Capito told reporters.
However, Biden has consistently argued that the green energy sector and the care economy are critical parts of American infrastructure and must be included in this bill.
Something else to keep in mind: most of the latest Republican plan reflects baseline spending on infrastructure items.
The baseline number indicates how much the US will spend on infrastructure if the current level of activity continues, adjusting for inflation.
The $928 billion figure actually includes only $257 billion in new infrastructure spending over that baseline number.
That works out to spending an additional $32 billion or so on infrastructure in each of the next eight years, which will not likely please Joe Biden and his team.
It’s also important to keep in mind that much of the spending proposed by Senate Republicans comes from unused coronavirus relief funds.
Joe Biden and his team have indicated they are not at all pleased with the idea of redirecting coronavirus relief money to infrastructure.
But Republicans have said they are adamantly opposed to rolling back the Trump-era tax cuts to pay for the infrastructure plan, which is what Biden originally proposed.
Shelley Moore Capito said Senate Republicans’ latest $928 billion infrastructure offer is “sticking with the core elements of infrastructure”.
The Republican negotiators have consistently clashed with Joe Biden over how to define infrastructure as it relates to items that will be included in this massive bill.
For example, the president and his team have proposed massive investments in the green energy sector, but Republicans have been far less inclined to include that funding in this bill.
Republicans introduce nearly $1tn infrastructure plan
Senate Republicans are now formally introducing their counteroffer to Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
The Republican negotiating team, led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, is calling for spending $928bn over eight years to strengthen America’s infrastructure systems.
That proposal includes an increase of $91bn to improve roads and bridges and $48bn more to invest in water infrastructure.
“Senate Republicans continue to negotiate in good faith,” Capito said. “We’re trying to get to that common goal of reaching a bipartisan infrastructure agreement.”
However, the new Republican proposal is still far less than the $1.7tn plan that Joe Biden’s team outlined in their counteroffer last week.
Republicans to propose $1tn counteroffer to Biden’s infrastructure plan
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
Senate Republicans will soon hold a press conference on Capitol Hill to introduce their latest counteroffer to Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The new Republican plan is expected to cost around $1tn, which is nearly double the cost of their initial infrastructure proposal.
However, $1tn would still be far less than what the president has called for spending. Biden originally outlined a $2.25tn plan, but he counteroffered with a $1.7tn proposal last week.
According to reports, Biden indicated to Senate Republicans in a meeting last week that he would be comfortable with $1tn as the topline number for an infrastructure bill.
However, at that cost, many items will probably be left out of the final legislation, which could frustrate Democrats, some of whom are pushing to pass the bill using reconciliation and thus bypass Senate Republicans.
If Biden rejects the latest Republican offer, reconciliation may be the only way to get an infrastructure bill passed.
The Republican press conference will begin in about 20 minutes, so stay tuned.