On his 100th day in office, President Biden pitched his far-reaching investment and tax plans at a post-speech, drive-in car rally in Georgia, where he credited the state’s voters for electing two Democrats to the Senate and helping him win the White House. Earlier, Biden met with former president Jimmy Carter in Plains, Ga.

His trip Thursday is part of a blitz of travel by senior administration officials, including Vice President Harris, to continue the sales pitch for an ambitious agenda laid out by Biden on Wednesday in his first address to a joint session of Congress. Harris visited a vaccination site in Baltimore on Thursday.

Here’s what to know:

  • The U.S. economic recovery picked up speed in early 2021, with the economy growing 1.6 percent in the first three months of the year amid a coronavirus vaccination campaign and massive stimulus spending from the federal government.
  • Biden said that he was not given advance notice of a search warrant executed at the Manhattan home and law offices of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former attorney for former president Donald Trump.
  • Congressional Democrats are planning to pursue a massive expansion of Medicare as part of Biden’s new $1.8 trillion economic relief package, defying the White House after it opted against including a major health overhaul as part of its plan.

Florida legislature approves measure that curbs mail voting and use of drop boxes; DeSantis vows to sign the bill

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Florida’s legislature on Thursday night became the latest to approve far-reaching legislation imposing new rules on voting and new penalties for those who do not follow them, passing a measure critics said would make it harder for millions of voters to cast ballots in the Sunshine State.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who named voting security one of his top legislative priorities this year, said Thursday night he would “of course” sign the bill in the coming weeks.

“In Florida, we have voter ID, we’ve had voter ID,” DeSantis said on Fox News’s “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Thursday. “It works. It’s the right thing to do.”

DeSantis also vowed to sue if Congress passed H.R. 1, a comprehensive voting rights bill that would establish national standards, because he believed it would be unconstitutional. He boasted that in Florida, election officials counted 11 million votes by midnight on Election Night.

“So we think we led the nation, but we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve to make sure that these elections are run well," DeSantis added. “But in Florida, you can have confidence that your vote counts.”

Like similar bills Republicans are pushing in dozens of state legislatures across the country, the Florida measure adds hurdles to voting by mail, restricts the use of drop boxes and prohibits any actions that could influence those standing in line to vote, which voting rights advocates said is likely to discourage nonpartisan groups from offering food or water to voters as they wait in the hot Florida sun.

The passage of the bill was preceded by an hour of emotional debate, as Black lawmakers stood up to decry a measure they said was aimed squarely at curbing the clout of voters of color.

Trump calls in to support Texas congressional candidate

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Former president Donald Trump on Thursday night made his first appearance on behalf of a candidate since Georgia’s Senate runoffs, calling in to a virtual event on behalf of Susan Wright, a candidate in the race for Texas’s 6th Congressional District.

“All of the things I said in the campaign are true,” Trump said on a call organized with the Club for Growth, which has endorsed Wright. He criticized President Biden’s record since taking office, and his speech before Wednesday’s joint session of Congress (“not a good performance”), telling voters on the call that Wright would oppose Biden’s agenda.

“You will be very happy with this vote,” Trump added. He praised the late Rep. Ron Wright, the candidate’s husband, whose death prompted the May 1 special election. “He is looking down and he is so proud of Susan.”

The call was brief, with Club for Growth President David McIntosh introducing Wright, the candidate introducing Trump, and the ex-president speaking for fewer than seven minutes. He endorsed Wright well into the early voting period, after the candidate had been outspent by several rivals.

The Club, which backed Wright and her husband, was on the air on her behalf before Trump’s endorsement, and cut a radio ad this week to spread it. Trump thanked McIntosh and the Club for his 2020 victory in Texas, the closest GOP win in decades..

FBI warned Giuliani, key Trump ally in Senate of Russian disinformation campaign targeting Biden

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The FBI warned Rudolph W. Giuliani in late 2019 that he was the target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating falsehoods intended to damage Joe Biden politically ahead of last year’s presidential election, according to people familiar with the matter.

The warning was part of an extensive effort by the bureau to alert members of Congress and at least one conservative media outlet, One America News, that they faced a risk of being used to further Russia’s attempt to influence the election’s outcome, said several current and former U.S. officials. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive.

Giuliani received the FBI’s warning while deeply involved with President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and related activities in Ukraine to surface unflattering or incriminating information about the Biden family. The revelation comes as the FBI this week seized Giuliani’s cellphone and other electronic devices as part of a long-running criminal investigation into whether the onetime New York mayor and personal attorney for Trump acted as an unregistered foreign agent.

The warning, made by counterintelligence agents, was separate from the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal probe, but it reflects a broader concern by U.S. intelligence and federal investigators that Giuliani — among other influential Americans and U.S. institutions — was being manipulated by the Russian government to promote its interests and that he appears to have brazenly disregarded such fears.

The FBI last summer also gave what is known as a defensive briefing to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who ahead of the election used his perch as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate Biden’s dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president and his son Hunter Biden held a lucrative seat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

South Korean President Moon to visit White House May 21

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit the White House on May 21 to meet with President Biden, the White House announced Thursday.

“President Moon’s visit will highlight the ironclad alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, and the broad and deep ties between our governments, people, and economies,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

“President Biden looks forward to working with President Moon to further strengthen our alliance and expand our close cooperation,” she added.

Moon’s visit will mark the second in-person visit by another world leader to the White House since Biden took office. This month, Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as the first foreign leader at the White House. Because of precautions around the coronavirus pandemic, Biden’s meetings and summits with other world leaders have so far been virtual ones.

Biden, GOP Sen. Capito spoke about ‘willingness to negotiate’ on infrastructure bill, White House says

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President Biden and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who is leading Republican efforts to counter Biden’s infrastructure bill, spoke on the phone Thursday afternoon, the White House said.

According to a White House readout off the call, Biden and Capito had “a warm, friendly conversation and continued their dialogue about infrastructure and jobs, reiterating their willingness to negotiate. They also discussed having another potential in-person meeting in the near future.”

Capito later described it as a “constructive and substantive” phone call.

“We both expressed our mutual desire to work together and find common ground to address these challenges and deliver results for the American people,” Capito said in a statement. “I stand ready to be a partner in advancing infrastructure legislation in a bipartisan way — just as we’ve done in the past.”

Biden has put forth a $2 trillion infrastructure and climate plan, dubbing it the “American Jobs Plan,” and has urged Congress to pass it — including in his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night and at a rally in Duluth, Ga., on Thursday. He has indicated he is willing to compromise but has so far not worked out a deal with Republicans.

Republicans have balked at the size and scope of Biden’s plan, arguing that several of the items included within it should not be considered infrastructure. Last week, a group of GOP lawmakers, led by Capito, countered Biden with a $568 billion infrastructure plan of their own.

Speaking to reporters Thursday night, Biden said Capito could come to the White House next week or later.

Tyler Pager contributed to this report.

Sen. Tim Scott’s comments on race ignite a fiery debate

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Republicans rallied Thursday behind comments on race made by Sen. Tim Scott as part of his response to President Biden’s address to Congress, embracing what they hoped was an effective message in the ongoing debate over the role of racism in America that has sometimes left them struggling to articulate a clear position.

Scott, delivering the official GOP response Wednesday, suggested that liberals are using race as a political weapon, defining all White people as oppressors and seeking to use the language of civil rights to rig elections.

“Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country,” Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, said in the televised GOP rebuttal to Biden’s speech. “It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

Republicans, who have sometimes found themselves on the defensive in recent months when it comes to race, praised the South Carolina senator for addressing the notion that Democrats and Black activists are too quick to shout down those who disagree with them by calling them racists.

Democrats generally treated Scott’s words with caution, but many Black activists, who publicly criticized Scott into the wee hours Thursday morning, deemed him the latest in a line of Black apologists who give political and racial cover to White grievance.

Biden channels optimism at Georgia rally: ‘We’re working again. We’re dreaming again.’

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At a rally in Duluth, Ga., on Thursday, President Biden touted the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office and sought to cast an optimistic vision of a country “back on track,” echoing several of the themes from his first address to a joint session of Congress the night before.

“We’re working again. We’re dreaming again. We’re discovering again. And we’re leading the world again,” Biden told the crowd at a car rally Thursday, against large letters that spelled: “GETTING BACK ON TRACK.”

Biden boasted of hitting the vaccination goals he had set when he took office, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but encouraged those who had not yet received the shot to do so as soon as possible. He also touted the passage of the American Rescue Plan, his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that resulted in many families receiving stimulus checks.

Biden gave Georgia voters credit for making such accomplishments possible, by mobilizing in record numbers to elect not only Biden in November but also Democratic Sens. Raphael G. Warnock and Jon Ossoff in two hotly contested runoffs in January. Were it not for Warnock and Ossoff’s victories, which gave Democrats control of the Senate, the American Rescue Plan might not have passed, Biden said.

“Those two votes made the difference. It passed by a single vote. And that means we owe a special thanks to the people of Georgia,” Biden said. “Because of you … the rest of America was able to get the help they got. So if you ever wonder if elections make a difference, just remember what you did here in Georgia when you elected us.”

Biden responds to private-prison protesters: ‘They should not exist’

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Protesters interrupted President Biden’s rally on April 29 in Duluth, Ga., with shouts of “End detention now!" (The Washington Post)

Protesters interrupted Biden’s rally Thursday in Duluth, Ga., with shouts of “End detention now!” and “Abolish ICE!”

Biden, who was in Georgia to tout his accomplishments from his first 100 days in office, paused a few times, then called out toward the protesters: “I’m working on it, man! Give me another five days.”

The president then turned back to the crowd and said, “Folks, y’all know what they’re talking about. There should be no private prisons, period. None, period. That’s what we’re talking about in private detention centers. They should not exist.”

Staff escorted the protesters out of the rally, according to Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller.

As a candidate, Biden promised to end the federal government’s use of private prisons. Shortly after taking office, Biden signed an executive order that would phase out the Justice Department’s use of private prisons, but it has been criticized for falling short of what he promised on the campaign trail.

Senate confirms Gayle Manchin to Appalachian board

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The Senate unanimously approved Gayle Manchin to serve as co-chairwoman on the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Manchin, whose husband is Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), was nominated by Biden last month.

The Appalachian Regional Commission works on behalf of the 13 Appalachian states, which includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states, to secure funding and other resources for the region.

“I am pleased the Senate has confirmed my wife, Gayle Manchin, to lead the Appalachian Regional Commission. ARC is a vital partner to all those working and living in Appalachia, and I know that Gayle will bring the experience and skills necessary to successfully lead the commission as it serves the region,” Joe Manchin said in a statement.

“I know that she will make the states of the Appalachian region, including our home state of West Virginia, and our entire nation extremely proud.”

Senate confirms Bill Nelson as NASA administrator

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Former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) was confirmed by unanimous consent by the Senate Thursday as the next NASA administrator.

Nelson assumes the role as the space agency is pushing to get astronauts back to the moon for the first time since the Apollo program, and is restoring regular human spaceflight missions from United States soil.

As a longtime member of Congress, Nelson was a key supporter of space exploration and even flew on the space shuttle in 1986. His confirmation came swiftly — less than a week after his hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

In it, he said the Biden administration had embraced NASA’s ambitious moon program, born under the Trump administration, saying it had to transcend politics and that it “has to be continued, regardless of who’s in the majority, of who’s in the presidency.”

He received praise from both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), said his “reputation as a tireless advocate for the space program is well deserved. And at this moment, NASA needs a great advocate that we all can be confident in.”

The administration’s budget request for NASA, $24.7 billion, is an increase of more than 6 percent over what the agency received this year. Biden has nominated former NASA astronaut Pamela Melroy to be deputy administrator.

U.S. prosecutors release video of rioters spraying Officer Brian Sicknick in Jan. 6 Capitol attack

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Video footage released Wednesday of the January attack on the Capitol shows the moments when rioters appeared to spray an unknown substance at Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, forcing him to retreat behind police lines.

Sicknick, 42, was among the vastly outnumbered officers attempting to hold back a violent crowd on the west side of the Capitol at around 2:30 p.m. Jan. 6. He died the next day of natural causes, officials said, and has been hailed as a hero.

The video has been played in federal court at hearings for men charged with assaulting Sicknick by spraying a chemical irritant. Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of W.Va. are charged with assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to impede or injure an officer and other related counts. Neither man is charged in Sicknick’s death, which the D.C. medical examiner’s office concluded was the result of strokes.

'We’re looking to the future, not the past,’ McConnell says in response to Trump calling for his ouster as Senate GOP leader

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) responded to former president Donald Trump’s criticism of him Thursday by saying his attention is focused on the next generation of GOP leaders — not the past.

“We’re looking to the future, not the past. And if you want to see the future of the Republican Party, watch Tim Scott’s response to President Biden last night,” McConnell said, referring to the junior Republican senator from South Carolina. “He’s the future. That’s where we’re headed. We’re not preoccupied with the past but looking forward.”

Frustrated with the GOP’s inability to effectively stonewall Biden’s agenda, Trump criticized McConnell earlier Thursday saying that Republicans should oust the Capitol Hill veteran as the Republican leader.

“Mitch McConnell has not done a great job,” Trump said on Fox Business. “I think they should change Mitch McConnell.”

Trump has repeatedly criticized McConnell since December when the Republican senator acknowledged Biden’s win; the two men have not spoken since. After a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop certification of the election results, McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, resigned as Trump’s transportation secretary, citing the violence.

McConnell voted to acquit Trump on the single impeachment charge of incitement of insurrection on Feb. 13, but then delivered a speech condemning the former president, saying he was “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the riot.

Although McConnell has faced Trump’s wrath, he did say in February that he would support Trump if he were the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.

Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, delivered the GOP’s response to Biden’s address to the joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, and he has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. In his rebuttal, Scott largely credited the former president — who remains popular among Republican voters — for the progress being made in response to the coronavirus pandemic and accused the Biden White House of being partisan and extreme.

Senate passes clean-water bill, with only Cruz and Lee voting against it

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The Senate overwhelmingly passed in an 89-to-2 vote a bill to repair and improve the nation’s water systems, with only GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Mike Lee (Utah) voting against it.

The clean-water bill authorizes $35 billion to update drinking water and wastewater systems, including replacing lead pipes. The Senate also approved an amendment from Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) to require schools and buildings to replace their lead pipes.

The rare bipartisan feat was heralded by Democrats and Republicans.

“WE DID IT! The Senate just passed the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act of 2021. See? We CAN do infrastructure together. Let’s continue with this momentum and finish our work on core infrastructure next!” tweeted the account for Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

The bipartisan work even caught the attention of activist Erin Brockovich, whose legal battle for clean water became an Oscar-winning movie. She tweeted:

“GOOD NEWS ALERT — Senate Passes Clean Water Bill in true bipartisan fashion!! Good job red and blue with only our old friend @tedcruz and one other voting against. Government can work!! We want more!!

Harris makes case for broadband as ‘critical infrastructure’

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Harris took the administration’s pitch for an ambitious, multitrillion-dollar jobs plan on the road and sought to rebuff Republican claims that the proposal’s scope is too wide.

Speaking in Baltimore, the vice president made her strongest case around building more broadband Internet access, calling it “critical infrastructure.”

Harris compared the need to get broadband access to rural communities to Congress in 1936 ensuring everyone had access to electricity because they saw there were “folks that are being left out and that’s not going to be right because they will be left behind,” Harris said.

The need for reliable Internet access began more stark during the pandemic when people worked from home, children learned remotely and family gathered by video.

“Let’s be clear,” Harris said, “when we connect Americans to affordable and accessible broadband, we are connecting our children to education, we are connecting our seniors to telemedicine, we are connecting families to each other, and we connect Americans to economic opportunity.”

Under Biden’s plan, the goal would be for every American to have access to broadband Internet access by the end of the decade. Senate Republicans have offered a more limited infrastructure plan that includes $65 billion for broadband Internet access.