With the passage of the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus behind them, and a possibly $4 trillion infrastructure package coming, Republicans say they are listening to their voters during recess, and some aren't happy with the spending in Washington, Mike DeBonis, Eric Berger and Chris Dixon report for The Washington Post this morning.
- Key quote: “They feel like America is dramatically changing right before their eyes — I hear it everywhere I go,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, which has been helping to drive GOP messaging against the Democratic plans. “They hear about a $4 trillion dollar spending deal, and it’s not going to go toward helping them but go toward ideologically transforming America, and I think largely the American people are very anxious about it.”
Not so fast: The Biden administration has trumpeted the bipartisan public support for its pandemic spending. “Biden and Democrats have touted the support of Republican voters and independents in forging ahead with sweeping new proposals that could transform the American economy and reverse a decades-long national aversion to increased domestic spending, and early polling shows some Republican approval of their efforts.”
But conversations with dozens of voters in swing congressional districts during the recess showed there could be danger in going too far.
- “What do we need $1.9 trillion for? To buy more masks for people? I mean what are we doing?” said Roseanne Esposito, the owner of a Mexican restaurant in a St. Louis suburb, who got help from the Paycheck Protection Program during the pandemic.
- Tony Benz, who volunteers in St. Louis with Amtrak and voted for Donald Trump, said the recent stimulus bill was “over-exorbitant,:” “They need to look at who these people are, who gets it and who shouldn’t get it, and refine it,” he told our reporters.
Messaging: “Ahead of this month’s three-week recess, the National Republican Congressional Committee advised GOP lawmakers to describe the American Rescue Plan Act as a ‘socialist wish list’ that will lead to ‘costly implications’ for taxpayers,” Mike, Eric and Chris report.
- "The NRCC chairman, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), delivered a version of that critique to his southern Minnesota constituents during a telephone town hall last week, adding that lawmakers have 'turned a blind eye to our nation’s debt for far too long.'"
- “They hear about a $4 trillion dollar spending deal, and it’s not going to go toward helping them but go toward ideologically transforming America, and I think largely the American people are very anxious about it.”
- "The Biden administration is calling it an infrastructure plan. It looks like a $2 trillion tax hike to me," Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday.
Despite the GOP framing, “Biden and Democrats careful have been careful to note that the costs of any federal spending spree would not fall on working-class — or even middle-class — voters,” per our colleagues.
- “The coronavirus pandemic relief bill was almost entirely funded from borrowing, and Biden has pledged to finance his infrastructure plans from corporate tax hikes and higher levies on households earning $400,000 and up.”
Banks predicted GOP lawmakers will be “emboldened” when they return from recess to oppose Biden's plans. But the Biden administration shows no signs of shying away from their push for the historic nature of the infrastructure package.
Democrats maintain GOP opposition is a misread of the American public and administration officials signal they're prepared to move ahead on the package without Republican support. Though Biden will continue to sell the plan to both Democrats and Republicans in coming weeks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
- “…Biden is predicting that the broad appeal of wider roads, faster internet, high-speed trains, ubiquitous charging stations for electric cars, shiny new airport terminals and upgraded water pipes will undercut the expected barrage of ideological attacks that are already coming from Republican lawmakers, business groups, anti-tax activists and President Donald J. Trump,” the New York Times's Michael Shear, Emily Cochrane and Jim Tankersley reported last week.
The big picture: Biden is unapologetically embracing liberal ideas, our colleagues Annie Linskey, Jeff Stein and Ashley Parker note: “The coronavirus pandemic and millions of job losses have changed the political landscape in ways that have aligned Biden’s agenda more closely with the left, as the administration pushes for broad liberal policies as a way to recover from the pandemic.”
- “But the honeymoon could also be short-lived. Biden is entering a period of complicated negotiations on Capitol Hill over his jobs and infrastructure plan, which is almost certain to result in setbacks for the left. Many of the liberal wing’s biggest priorities — including a major voting rights bill and gun control legislation — lack support from some moderate Democrats, potentially dooming them in the Senate.”
- “And an overly close relationship poses risks for both sides. Liberal leaders could lose credibility with supporters, particularly if Biden does not make progress on items such as increasing the minimum wage or defies them on other key issues. Likewise, if Biden appears too cozy with the left wing of the party, it could help Republicans paint him as a radical or a socialist — a narrative that the GOP failed to carry off during the 2020 campaign.”
At the White House
BUTTIGIEG SAYS U.S. IS 'COASTING': “Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg rallied support for the Biden administration’s massive infrastructure plan in an interview on Sunday’s ‘Meet the Press,’ arguing the bill represents ‘a generational investment’ that can position the country for the future,” NBC News’s Ben Kamisar and Allan Smith report.
- Buttigieg: “Infrastructure is the foundation that makes it possible for Americans to thrive. And what we know is that foundation has been crumbling.”
- “We’re still coasting on infrastructure choices that were made in the 1950s,” he said. “Now’s our chance to make infrastructure choices for the future that are going to serve us well in the 2030s and onto the middle of the century when we will be judged for whether we meet this moment here in the 2020s.”
“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she wants to pass the bill around the July 4 holiday, but the plan’s fate in the Senate remains unclear,” per Kamisar and Smith.
- Why? “Biden plans to pay for the massive plan primarily by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, something Republicans have called a non-starter.”
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “I think that package they’re putting together now … is not going to get support from our side.”
But Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) says bipartisanship is possible on one condition:
INSIDE BIDEN'S WAR ON HUNGER: “With more than one in 10 households reporting that they lack enough to eat, the Biden administration is accelerating a vast campaign of hunger relief that will temporarily increase assistance by tens of billions of dollars and set the stage for what officials envision as lasting expansions of aid,” the New York Times’s Jason DeParle reports.
- “The effort to reduce hunger reflects a new willingness among Democrats to embrace an identity as poverty fighters that they once feared would alienate the middle class.”
- “The push reflects an extraordinary shift in the politics of poverty — driven, paradoxically, both by the spread of hardship to more working-class and white families and the growing recognition of poverty’s disproportionate toll on minorities.”
In the agencies
WATCHDOGS STRUGGLE TO OVERSEE TRILLIONS IN CORONAVIRUS SPENDING: “When the $2.1 trillion Cares Act was enacted just over a year ago, Democrats in Congress, mistrustful of the Trump administration’s ethical track record, created new oversight bodies and directed more than $270 million to new and existing watchdogs,” our colleagues Yeganeh Torbati and Erica Werner write.
- “Over the past year, oversight from three separate watchdog entities has been either undermined by partisan disagreements, slowed by bureaucratic hurdles or constrained by funding.”
- “Two months into the Biden era and more than a year after the pandemic began, the House subcommittee created by the Cares Act to undertake coronavirus oversight has continued to focus on the Trump administration’s failed pandemic response, while heaping praise on Biden’s team.”
- “At the end of the day, one of Congress’s jobs is to check the power of the executive branch, and that’s an important responsibility whether the president is of the same party that controls the House of Representatives,” Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, told our colleagues.
U.S. EMERGES AS MAIN ENGINE FOR GLOBAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY: “Amid steady progress with coronavirus vaccinations, the U.S. economy is gathering so much steam that its gains will not stay at home. Demand for goods and services this year is expected to spill well beyond U.S. borders, making the United States the largest single contributor to global growth for the first time since 2005,” our colleague David J. Lynch reports.
- “Free spending by the Biden administration — coupled with the Federal Reserve’s ultralow interest rates — is driving the nascent U.S. boom. Fresh evidence of the U.S. outperformance appeared on Friday as the Labor Department reported that the economy had gained 916,000 new jobs in March and that the unemployment rate fell to a post-recession low of 6 percent.”
- But global economic recovery is lopsided, “in part because the rollout of vaccines and fiscal support differ across borders,” Bloomberg’s Rich Miller and Enda Curran report. “While the U.S. is bouncing, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and Japan are contracting.”
- “Economic fortunes are diverging,” Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told the Wall Street Journal’s Yuka Hayashi. “Vaccines are not yet available to everyone and everywhere. Too many people continue to face job losses and rising poverty. Too many countries are falling behind.”
- Happening this week: “The annual spring meeting of the IMF and the World Bank will be held virtually between April 5 and 11. The pandemic response, including vaccine distribution and aid to struggling nations, is expected to dominate the conversations this year. Officials will also discuss ways to rebuild the global economy,” per Hayashi.
In the media
SPECIAL REPORT: 60 Minutes’s Sharyn Alfonsi explains how the wealthy cut the line during Florida’s frenzied vaccine rollout.
Outside the Beltway
ARE WE ON THE CUSP OF A ‘FOURTH WAVE’? “After weeks of decline, the average number of new U.S. coronavirus infections reported each day is higher than it’s been in a month. The number of hospitalized coronavirus patients has been stubbornly stagnant since mid-March. And even as highly contagious virus variants spread, state leaders are relaxing safety precautions,” our colleague Reis Thebault writes. “By now, this is a familiar script. But this time around, the country’s leading epidemiologists disagree about what to call this latest phase of the pandemic.”
- Michael T. Osterholm, an adviser to Biden’s coronavirus task force, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” the next two weeks will bring “the highest number of cases reported globally since the beginning of the pandemic.”
- Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb disagrees. “What we’re seeing is pockets of infection around the country, particularly in younger people who haven’t been vaccinated and also in school-age children,” he said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”
- Either way, experts agree on one thing: “The trends can be traced to a convergence of factors: increased spread of the more transmissible variants and a broad loosening of public health measures, such as mask mandates and limits on indoor dining.”
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson will take full control of its coronavirus vaccine production at Emergent BioSolutions’s Baltimore plant, our colleagues Amy Goldstein, Jon Swaine and Christopher Rowland report.
JORDAN ACCUSES KING’S BROTHER OF ‘PROMOTING SEDITION’: “The government of Jordan on Sunday accused former crown prince Hamzeh bin Hussein and several of his associates of cooperating with foreign entities to pursue a long-term plot to destabilize the kingdom, a day after arrests targeted up to 20 high-level officials,” our colleagues Taylor Luck, Shira Rubin and Sarah Dadouch report. Hamzeh is King Abdullah II’s half brother.
- “The activities included cultivating relationships with members of the Jordanian opposition abroad. There was also evidence of a person with foreign ties offering services to Hamzeh's wife, including the immediate use of a private jet to leave Jordan.”
- “The government proposed that the cases be referred to the state’s security courts, though it also announced that [King Abdullah II] would first discuss the matter directly with the prince, who has been under house arrest in his Amman palace since Saturday, to deal with the issue ‘within the framework of the family.’”
CARDINALS CLINCH NCAA TITLE: On Sunday, Stanford's women's basketball team “won the program’s third national championship with its third victory over Arizona this season, 54-53, in a game that came down to the final shot,” our colleagues Kareem Copeland, Gene Wang and Tramel Raggs report.