with Tobi Raji

Goood Monday morning. It's World Press Freedom Day 32 journalists were murdered or killed last year and at least 274 journalists are behind bars around the world for doing their job. Saluting those on the front lines 👊 Thanks for waking up with us. 

On the Hill

MAY-HEM: The 100-day sprint might be behind the administration but the laundry list of priorities outlined by President Biden during his joint address to Congress means lawmakers are going to have a busy month. 

During his address last week, Biden set some new ambitious timelines and urged Congress to move faster on ongoing legislative pushes. The president called on lawmakers to expand Medicare coverage and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug costs by the end of the year; reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act “now”; and pass legislation this year to create a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” farmworkers and those granted temporary protected status for humanitarian reasons. 

But more imminently, the president urged passage of police reform by the first anniversary of George Floyd's death on May 25, send voting rights legislation that already passed the House through the Senate and to his desk, and administration officials had previously set Memorial Day as a deadline for “real progress”  on its infrastructure proposal. 

  • Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) echoed Biden during an interview on Friday: He told the New York Times's Ezra Klein he would put “some bipartisan things on the floor that show the Republicans but my colleagues as well that we mean we’re serious that we want to do bipartisanship when we can. But second, we’re also going to put on the floor some of the things that don’t have bipartisan support.”
  • “That’s what we’re trying to do in May and June and then we’ll have to move forward because two of the most important things we have to pass, as you know I’ve said failure is not an option, is [voting rights legislation] and the American Jobs Plan.” 

And Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told CBS News's Face the Nation on Sunday Congress was close to a police reform deal and “significant numbers” of Republicans are open to supporting bipartisan legislation.  

The issue of qualified immunity, which protects police officers from civil lawsuits, has long been a sticking point in negotiations. This year, Scott has proposed civil suits against entire police departments instead of individuals, which he says would help improve police culture:

  • “Through negotiations and conversations, we are now closer on no-knock warrants, and chokeholds, and something called section 1033 that has to do with getting government equipment from the military for local police,” he said. “I think we’re making progress there, too. We have literally been able to bring these two bills very close together.”
  • Significant numbers in my party have already said to me, 'We will go where you go on this issue,' as long as I can explain my position, Scott said. And we're going to do that.
  • Schumer, who met with Floyd's brother Philonise and civil rights attorney Ben Crump last week, said we might see a compromise bill by the end of the month: … they’re making good progress,” Schumer told Klein of bipartisan efforts on the issue. “And we might underline might see in a few weeks a bipartisan bill that’s quite strong.” 
  • “I would say we have an 80 percent chance and in a couple of days I might even raise that to 90 percent,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), the lead author of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, told “TMZ Live” last week.

As for infrastructure, White House chief of staff Ron Klain signaled the administration is poised to ramp up bipartisan negotiations this week. Republicans have offered a $568 counterproposal — a significantly narrower offer than Biden's $2 trillion one — dedicating most of its funding to repairing roads, highways and bridges. The plan represents “the largest infrastructure investment Republicans have come forward with,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.). 

  • “At this point, I think now that the Republicans have put forth a reasonable offer, it’s up to the president to do a counteroffer to us,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Sunday on CNN.
  • Klain said Biden has invited Capito and others to meet this week: “We’re going to work with Republicans. We’re going to find common ground.” 
  • President Biden and top Democrats are signaling privately they are willing to make concessions over Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, or break it into chunks, if that will attract even a handful of Republican votes and allow them to notch a bipartisan win, people familiar with the strategy say,” our colleagues Matt Viser, Annie Linskey and Seung Min Kim reported over the weekend. 

Biden's plan to raise taxes on the rich to pay for his infrastructure proposals is a major problem for the GOP, which is loath to roll back any part of the 2017 tax overhaul it views as a major achievement. 

Administration officials insist infrastructure should be paid for by raising the corporate tax rate, closing corporate loopholes, and taxing the wealthy. “Republican legislators preached the opposite on Sunday, arguing that the tax increases will make the U.S. economy less competitive, not more, as the Biden administration is pitching,” Politico's Myah Ward reports. 

  • “Even some Democratic senators have suggested all of the tax increases may not be necessary. When asked if Biden would sign a bill without these pay-fors the administration has been pushing, [Treasury Secretary Janet] Yellen said she wouldn’t speak for how the president will negotiate and reiterated Biden's position that these spending increases should be paid for. She added that there will be a ‘big return’ on the investment.”
  • The Manchin factor: Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) expressed concern to our colleagues last week on tax increases: “That makes me very uncomfortable,” Manchin said. “Are we going to be able to be competitive and be able to pay for what we need in the country? We’ve got to figure out what our needs are, and maybe make some adjustments.”
  • Reminder: If Democrats decide to advance infrastructure through a process known as budget reconciliation, and without GOP support, they can't lose a single member of the Democratic caucus.

The policies

AS U.S. SEEKS TO OUTSOURCE IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT, MEXICO GAINS LEVERAGE: “Three consecutive U.S. administrations have turned to Mexico for help with immigration enforcement at moments of crisis along the U.S. southern border, and when Vice President Harris meets virtually with Mexican leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday, the United States will once more arrive in need of a favor,” our colleagues Nick Miroff and Mary Beth Sheridan report. 

  • “Since President Biden took office, the number of migrants taken into U.S. custody along the border has soared to the highest levels in nearly 20 years. Biden’s handling of the migration influx at the border ranks among his worst-polling issues, and he has tasked Harris — his party’s heir apparent  — to lead an international effort to address the root causes of migration and stem the flow.”
  • “Mexico is central to that plan, underscoring what has become a growing U.S. dependence on Mexico to carry out immigration enforcement functions at a time when such measures are subject to frequent legal challenges in U.S. courts or politically unpalatable to Democrats.”
  • “Mexico’s ability to limit migration has given its government significant leverage over an issue that is a political vulnerability for Biden. It also lands the Biden administration in the awkward position of asking Mexico to intensify its enforcement efforts after easing U.S. border controls by rolling back Trump-era policies, including deals made with López Obrador.”

HOW THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS HURTING ITSELF BY ECHOING TRUMP'S FALSE ALLEGATIONS: “Republican operatives worth their salt remember well the Sunshine State's 1988 U.S. Senate race,” our colleague Amy Gardner reports. 

  • “Floridians went to sleep that Nov. 8 believing that Democrat Buddy MacKay had prevailed. Then the last of the absentee ballots came in. They went 3 to 1 for Mack, delivering him a 34,518-vote victory.”
  • “So began a long and fruitful relationship between the GOP and absentee voting. Republican campaigns invested millions of dollars encouraging their supporters to cast ballots by mail. State legislators passed laws making it easier. Over the ensuing decades, GOP voters in Florida became so comfortable with casting ballots by mail that in 2020, nearly 35 percent of those who turned out did so.”
  • “Virtually every narrow Republican victor of the past generation — and there have been many, including two of the state's current top officeholders, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott — owes their victory, at least in part, to mail voting.”

“Now, some Florida Republicans are reacting with alarm after the GOP-dominated state legislature, with DeSantis's support, passed a far-reaching bill Thursday night that puts new restrictions on the use of mail ballots.”

  • “Not only are GOP lawmakers reversing statutes that their own predecessors put in place, but they are also curtailing a practice that millions of state Republicans use, despite Trump's relentless and baseless claims that it invites fraud.”
  • And “Republicans say their own political fortunes are in peril.”

The campaign

ROMNEY BOOED AT UTAH GOP CONVENTION: “Utah Republicans loudly booed Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) at a state party convention Saturday, shortly before a failed effort to censure him for his votes to convict former president Donald Trump,” our colleague Paulina Firozi report

  • The crowd also accused Romney of being a “traitor” and a “communist,” the Salt Lake Tribune’s Bryan Schott and Tony Semerad report.
  • “Later Saturday, a resolution to censure Romney for voting to remove Trump from office was defeated by a 798 to 711 vote,” per Firozi.
  • “The resolution cites Romney’s votes to remove Trump from office during both of his impeachment trials. The resolution alleges that Romney ‘consistently publicly criticized’ Trump and that those comments ‘not only hurt President Trump’s reelection but hurt other Republicans on the ballot.’”

“The weekend scene in Utah reflects a chasm within the Republican Party that has widened following Trump’s exit from office. Many in the GOP remain closely tied to Trump, even as some in the party question what role the former president should continue to play.” 

Jeers broke out on May 1 as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) took the stage at a Republican Party event in the state he represents. (Reuters)

More on that GOP divide. “Nearly six months after Trump lost to Biden, rejection of the 2020 election results — dubbed the ‘Big Lie’ by many Democrats — has increasingly become an unofficial litmus test for acceptance in the Republican Party,” our colleagues Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor report

  • “In Washington, normally chatty senators scramble to skirt the question, and internal feuding over who is to blame for the Jan. 6 insurrection has riven the House Republican leadership, with tensions between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, spilling into public view.”
  • “Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is facing a Trump-aligned primary challenger in her 2022 race, inspired by her call for Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 attack and her later vote to convict him over his role in inciting the insurrection.”
  • “Local officials, too, are facing censure and threats — in states from Iowa to Michigan to Missouri — for publicly accepting the election results. And in Arizona’s largest county, a hand recount of 2.1 million votes cast in November is underway by Republicans who dispute the results, in yet another effort to overturn the results of the November contest.”

TEXAS DEMOCRAT LOCKED OUT IN HOUSE SPECIAL: “Texas Democrats on Sunday conceded they had fallen short in a special election for a U.S. House seat in the state’s 6th Congressional District, ensuring that a Republican will win a seat that had been trending away from the party,” our colleagues David Weigel and Amy B Wang report

  • “Twenty-three candidates had been vying to represent the north Texas district following the death of Rep. Ron Wright (R) in February after he was diagnosed with covid-19. Wright’s widow, Susan Wright, secured the top runoff spot Saturday, with state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R) taking second place.”
  • “Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez came in third, failing to qualify for the runoff by fewer than 400 votes. Voters cast 18,707 ballots for other Democratic candidates, splintering the vote and locking the party out of the runoff.”

On K Street

HOW THE ATF BECAME AN NRA ‘WHIPPING BOY’: “In the 48 years since its mission shifted primarily to firearms enforcement, [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] has been weakened by relentless assaults from the [National Rifle Association] that have, in the view of many, made the A.T.F. appear to be an agency engineered to fail,” the New York Times’s Glenn Thrush, Danny Hakim and Mike McIntire report.

  • “At the N.R.A.’s instigation, Congress has limited the bureau’s budget. It has imposed crippling restrictions on the collection and use of gun-ownership data, including a ban on requiring basic inventories of weapons from gun dealers. It has limited unannounced inspections of gun dealers. Fifteen years ago, the N.R.A. successfully lobbied to make the director’s appointment subject to Senate confirmation — and has subsequently helped block all but one nominee from taking office.”

Outside the Beltway

3 KILLED, 27 HOSPITALIZED AFTER BOAT CAPSIZES OFF SAN DIEGO: “An overloaded boat crashed into a reef and broke apart off the coast of Point Loma Sunday morning, leaving at least three people dead and more than two dozen hospitalized in what officials said was a suspected human smuggling attempt,” the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Karen Kucher and David Hernandez report

  • “Human and drug smugglers increasingly turned to the Pacific Ocean as the Trump administration tightened border infrastructure on land in recent years.”