with Mariana Alfaro

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President Biden confronts as thorny a political problem as any faced by his recent predecessors: How to make policy and drive it through Congress when a majority of the Republican Party falsely says he’s not just wrong, but illegitimate.

My colleagues Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor reported yesterday on the hold former president Donald Trump’s whopper about the 2020 election that widespread electoral shenanigans cost him a second term has on Republicans nationwide.

Ashley and Marianna noted:

A CNN poll released Friday found that 30 percent of Americans say Biden did not legitimately win enough votes to win the presidency, including 70 percent of Republicans. Fewer than a quarter of Republicans — 23 percent — believe Biden legitimately won enough votes for the presidency. However, the percentage of Republicans who falsely say there is solid evidence that Biden did not win has dropped by eight percentage points, from 58 percent in January to 50 percent now.”

Weeks before he redefined “infrastructure” to include family services in addition to roads and bridgesBiden stretched the meaning of bipartisanship to include winning support from GOP voters, not elected Republicans inside the Beltway.

“If you looked up ‘bipartisan’ in the dictionary, I think it would say support from Republicans and Democrats,” Anita Dunn, a senior Biden adviser, said last month. “It doesn’t say the Republicans have to be in Congress.”

As the White House pushes ahead with a once-in-a-generation agenda to transform the relationship between Americans and their government, officials there can be pretty blunt about how they factor the 70 percent of Republicans who don’t think Biden is legitimate into their political calculations.

“We don’t,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“Our view is the election was certified and confirmed by election officials from both parties in every state. Court challenges were fully heard. Joe Biden is president for all Americans — no matter who they voted for.”

“And so our focus is on continuing to plug away on pushing for policies that will help everyone,” she said. “And through that work we can rebuild trust in government," she said.

Biden’s second 100 days could test this approach: What happens when the local Republicans — the governors and mayors whose support make a given initiative “bipartisan” by the White House definition — face a GOP electorate that wrongly thinks Biden won by fraud?

It’s not an academic question. Those beliefs fueled the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, an unprecedented effort to overturn the election results.

GOP critics of Trump have muted — or even reversed — public statements blaming him for the violence. Local Republicans have censured elected officials who refused to overturn the election or voted to impeach him. In several dozen states, the party is pushing new laws tightening limits on voting.

“The insurrection was an existential crisis, a test of whether our democracy could survive,” Biden said last week in his first speech to a joint session of Congress. “It did. But the struggle is far from over.”

Psaki’s answer was a blunter version of the reply White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain gave on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” when guest host (and all-around excellent questioner) John Dickerson twice put roughly the same query to him.

“The proposals the president's put forward have broad support. They have broad support in the country. They have support from Republican governors, Republican mayors,” Klain said. “I think what we have to see is whether or not Republicans in Washington join the rest of America.”

When Dickerson pressed Klain on whether passing the bulk of Biden’s agenda would require using a Democrats-only parliamentary tactic called budget reconciliation, the chief of staff demurred.

This is an eight-year plan to rebuild the country,” Klain said. “We have time to talk to people in both parties, find where the common ground is, find what people agree is mutually shared interests. I'm optimistic that we can make progress on that in the weeks ahead.”

Eight years is not the timetable you hear privately from White House aides, what with the 2022 midterm elections coming into view.

But the White House could point to a 92-7 Senate vote in March to extend the Paycheck Protection Program as proof federal aid sometimes erases stubborn partisan lines.

Asked on the same CBS program how to find common ground with those who say the election was stolen, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) was as direct as Psaki: “By moving on.

The election is over. Joe Biden is the president,” Scott said. (“The legitimate president?” Dickerson asked. “Of course he is!” the senator replied).

There are times, though, when Biden has seemed to hint he thinks the Republican divide could doom the party.

"Everybody talks about — can I do anything bipartisan? Well, I got to figure out if there's a party to deal with,” he told TV anchors before last week’s speech. “We need a Republican Party. And we need — we need another party, whatever you call it, that’s unified."

And, in his first press conference, Biden said this when asked whether he thought he’d face Trump in 2024.

“I have no idea. I have no idea if there will be a Republican party, do you? I know you don’t have to answer my question, but, I mean, you know, do you?”

Quote of the day

"Do they have the votes? If they don't have the votes, they're serious about bipartisanship. If they have the votes, they're not serious about bipartisanship," Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told NBC News about the Democrats’ willingness to compromise. "That's my presumption."

What’s happening now

Facebook’s Oversight Board said it will announce its decision on Trump’s account on Wednesday morning, Rachel Lerman and Heather Kelly report. It’s been four months since Trump was last allowed to post on the platform.

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Lunchtime reads from The Post

  • E.U. proposal would allow vaccinated American tourists by the end of June,” by Michael Birnbaum: “The European Union on Monday announced a road map to allowing vaccinated people from outside the bloc to travel to Europe, foretelling a more normal and connected continent after more than a year in which its boulevards and beauty have been off-limits to most other people around the world.” 
  • How the global chip shortage might affect people who just want to wash their dogs,” by Jeanne Whalen: “Of all the businesses to suffer from the global shortage of computer chips, dog washing — a low-tech affair involving soap, water and a dirty pet — ought to be near the bottom of the list. But as with so many low-tech tasks these days, high-tech options are available, and that’s how CCSI International, a family-run manufacturer in rural Illinois, ran afoul of the chip shortage. CCSI makes electronic dog-washing booths that dispense shampoo, water and optional fur-drying. The machines are a hit with dog-park managers and the U.S. military, which buys them for use on its bases. But the machines are controlled by computer chips, and recently, CCSI, which assembles the booths at its factory in Garden Prairie, Ill., was told by its circuit-board supplier that the usual chips weren’t available.”
  • Some schools skip student quarantines,” by Donna St. George: “In recent months, practices have loosened in some places. In Florida, at least one school system now requires quarantines only when students are within three feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes. A Pennsylvania school district recently modified quarantines to increase in-person instruction time for students with low-level exposure. States that have rewritten their rules include Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah, Idaho and Missouri. And Ohio.”

… and beyond

  • Swiss billionaire quietly becomes influential force among Democrats,” by the New York Times’s Kenneth Vogel: “The Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has quietly become one of the most important donors to left-leaning advocacy groups and an increasingly influential force among Democrats. Newly obtained tax filings show that two of Mr. Wyss’s organizations, a foundation and a nonprofit fund, donated $208 million from 2016 through early last year to three other nonprofit funds that doled out money to a wide array of groups that backed progressive causes and helped Democrats in their efforts to win the White House and control of Congress last year.”
  • Reaching ‘herd immunity’ is unlikely in the U.S., experts now believe,” by the Times’s Apoorva Mandavilli: “More than half of adults in the United States have been inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine. But daily vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever. Instead, they are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.”
  • Los Angeles County reports no new COVID-19 deaths,” by the Los Angeles Times’s Alex Wigglesworth: “Although officials cautioned that the figure was probably an undercount because of reporting delays on weekends, it still marked a bright spot, capping several months of progress in the fight against the coronavirus.”

The first 100 days

Biden plans on hosting top congressional leaders from both parties at the White House on May 12 to discuss his ambitious new spending plans. 
  • “The president at this point is open to various possibilities to pass his proposals, including breaking them into multiple bills, according to a White House official,” Bloomberg News’s Nancy Cook, Laura Davison and Erik Wasson report.
  • Biden’s plans to pitch his spending options in a bipartisan meeting are “something he didn’t do for the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package that passed with no Republican support. Whether a bipartisan deal can be done on a portion of his plans may hinge on whether the GOP abandons the comprehensive obstructionist model it used against President Barack Obama.”
  • “Meantime, Biden’s pressing ahead with a direct public appeal for his sweeping plans, featuring stops this week in Virginia and Louisiana after recent trips to Georgia and Pennsylvania.”
Four immigrant families separated at the southern border by the Trump administration will be reunited this week.
  • “Today is just the beginning,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said this morning. “We are reuniting the first group of families, many more will follow, and we recognize the importance of providing these families with the stability and resources they need to heal.”
  • “Two of the families include mothers who were separated from their children in late 2017, one Honduran and another Mexican, Mayorkas said,” Adam Taylor and Kevin Sieff report. “The DHS secretary said some of the children were as young as 3 years old when they were separated from their parents, as well as teenagers.”
  • “Under the Trump administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to prosecuting adults who crossed the U.S. border with Mexico illegally, more than 5,000 children were separated from their parents, according to court documents."
The administration will propose its first rule requiring a cut in climate pollutants. 
  • The Environmental Protection Agency will propose a rule Monday aimed at sharply cutting the use and production of a class of powerful greenhouse gases used widely in refrigeration and air conditioning. The proposal marks the first time President Biden’s administration has used the power of the federal government to mandate a cut in climate pollution,” Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni report. “Unlike many of the administration’s other climate initiatives, there’s broad bipartisan support for curbing hydrofluorocarbons, pollutants thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the planet. Congress agreed at the end of last year to slash the super-pollutants by 85 percent over the next 15 years as part of a broader omnibus bill.”
  • “With this proposal, EPA is taking another significant step under President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan in a statement
  • “The EPA is also proposing to establish a new enforcement system that targets one of the most powerful chemicals in this class — HFC-23 — which often arises as a byproduct of making Teflon and other plastics.”
The administration is considering partnering with private firms to surveil suspected domestic terrorists online. 
  • “The Department of Homeland Security is limited in how it can monitor citizens online without justification and is banned from activities like assuming false identities to gain access to private messaging apps used by extremist groups such as the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers. Instead, federal authorities can only browse through unprotected information on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and other open online platforms,” CNN reports. “The plan being discussed inside DHS, according to multiple sources, would, in effect, allow the department to circumvent those limits. A source familiar with the effort said it is not about decrypting data but rather using outside entities who can legally access these private groups to gather large amounts of information that could help DHS identify key narratives as they emerge.”

The voting wars

Senate Democrats are preparing to kick off a debate over voting rights. They are fretting over their strategy. 
  • The chamber’s Democrats “made a major commitment to muscle through Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ethics and voting reform bill. Yet many say they have no idea how to pass it and wonder what exactly the end game is for a signature Democratic priority,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine report. “Democrats are preparing to kick off a sensitive internal debate over the issue this month as the Senate Rules Committee takes up the sprawling House package. But no Republicans support it, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) hasn’t signed on and at least a half-dozen Democrats have issues with the bill.”
  • “That’s not to mention the constraints of the filibuster in a 50-50 Senate. ... What’s at stake is not only the party’s promise on a key issue, but also potentially the future Democratic majorities. Many in the party privately worry that frontline Democrats, like [Georgia Sen. Raphael] Warnock or House Democrats vulnerable to redistricting, could lose their seats if Congress doesn’t send a federal election and ethics bill to Biden’s desk by this summer.”
  • The issue took up much of Democrats’ last in-person lunch before the recess, several senators said. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) urged those in his caucus that want changes to submit their revisions to Senate Rules Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and chief sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) as soon as possible.”
Florida Republicans are now worried that curbing mail voting could actually hurt them. 
  • “Even as Democrats and voting rights advocates accuse the proponents of Senate Bill 90 of attempting to suppress the votes of people of color, these Republicans say their own political fortunes are in peril, too,” Amy Gardner reports. “The potential fallout in the key swing state illustrates how the Republican Party is hurting itself in its rush to echo Trump’s false allegations, they said. ‘Donald Trump attempted to ruin a perfectly safe and trusted method of voting,’ said one longtime Republican consultant in the state who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment.”
In South Texas, Hispanic Republicans are trying to cement their party’s gains. 
  • “Hispanic Republicans, especially women, have become something of political rock stars in South Texas after voters in the Rio Grande Valley shocked leaders in both parties in November by swinging sharply toward the G.O.P.,” the Times’s Jennifer Medina reports. “That conservative surge — and the liberal decline — has buoyed the Republican Party’s hopes about its ability to draw Hispanic voters into what has long been an overwhelmingly white political coalition and to challenge Democrats in heavily Latino regions across the country. Now party officials, including [Greg] Abbott, the governor, have flocked to the Rio Grande Valley in a kind of pilgrimage, eager to meet the people who helped Republicans rapidly gain ground in a longtime Democratic stronghold.”

Notebook: The $2,500 baseball bat Trump gave Mexico’s president

We finally have a price tag on that custom Louisville Slugger Trump gave visiting Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in July 2020. The bat, signed by Trump, came in a custom leather presentation box, along with a four-volume Lincoln book set, Lincoln bookends in their own custom leather box, and a framed photo of the two leaders. Total estimated value: $2,486.97.

The description of Trump’s presents to his guest, down to the 97 cents, came in a recent filing from the State Department to Congress as required by law.

Unlike gifts from foreign dignitaries to American officials, from the president on down, lists of presents from the commander in chief and top advisers to their foreign counterparts aren’t regularly made public. A source, aware I’m an absolute sucker for this strange little corner of diplomacy, sent me the most recent accounting, which spans October 2019 to September 2020.

The most pricey gift package on the list was a joint gift from Donald and Melania Trump to Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The then-president and first lady were visiting the United Kingdom when they bestowed a “custom porcelain friendship flag tea set in custom leather presentation case” estimated at $4,398.93.

Some of the gifts seem fairly standard: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave out quite a few “Red, White, and Blue Glass Sculpture in Custom Leather Presentation Case and Gift Box” ($719), “Mahogany Federal Box Featuring Eagle Design in a Custom Gift Box” ($1,326), and a $545.25 “Desk Clock Engraved with the Secretary’s Signature” makes a few appearances.

A certain subset of readers may be disappointed to learn the list of gifts from Trump does not include anything for Russian President Vladimir Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

In the modern era, two of the most memorable gifts from U.S. presidents have been in the audio department. In April 2009, President Barack Obama gave Queen Elizabeth II an iPod. And in June 2006, President George W. Bush gave visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi fully restored 1954 Seeburg R100 jukebox, originally manufactured in Chicago, with all of the original parts, and configured to play 100 songs, including 25 by Koizumi’s idol, Elvis Presley. What did the Japanese leader play first? Not “A Little Less Conversation,” which might have been awkward. No, he played “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.”

“So he and the president sang a duet,” then-first lady Laura Bush told reporters.

Hot on the right

The Republican debate over the “Big Lie” continues. This morning, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) accused those who continue falsely claiming that Trump won the election of poisoning American democracy. 

Cindy McCain slammed Arizona Republicans for its “ludicrous” election recount. McCain, speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union,” said Republicans’ baseless attempt to audit votes in her home state is “crazy.” “The election is over,” McCain said. “Biden won. I know many of them don’t like the outcome but you know elections have consequences."

Hot on the left

“The incremental, inadequate changes that nonetheless led to the Chauvin conviction,” by Betsy Hodges, former Minneapolis mayor, in the American Prospect: “Some of the changes I worked to put in place have been derided by detractors as insufficient band-aids to a systemic problem. I don’t disagree. No single reform or new policy will get us what we say we want until we shift the purpose of law enforcement in America away from the reasons it was established — protecting the property and comfort of white people — and shift it toward a role that it should play in an enlarged vision of true community safety. But individual reforms are nonetheless crucial as we build toward a more holistic vision of community safety. They create space for a new ending and an imagination for a new conversation about who we are as a people. Some reforms also make it possible to convict police officers who murder people.”

Rural Maryland and Virginia vaccinations, visualized

In Maryland, urban and suburban counties started to overtake rural areas in both vaccination rates and percent of population vaccinated since March. Similarly, in Virginia, rural counties reported an early sprint in vaccinations but fell behind around the same time, Rebecca Tan and John D. Harden report.

Today in Washington

Biden and first lady Jill Biden are visiting an elementary school in Yorktown, Va., and a community college in Norfolk this morning to tout his spending plans and how they would impact education. They will return to D.C. this evening. 

Vice President Harris ceremonially swore in Bill Nelson as the new NASA administrator. At 1:30 p.m., she will swear in Samantha Power as USAID administrator. 

In closing

John Oliver, worried that we may not reach herd immunity, encouraged Americans to get vaccinated: