President Biden expressed optimism Wednesday about a compromise on infrastructure spending as he held the first meeting of his presidency with the top congressional leaders from both chambers and both parties. “I’m encouraged that there is room to have a compromise on a bipartisan bill that’s solid and significant,” he told reporters after remarks at the White House on the rate of vaccinations nationwide.

On Capitol Hill, House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) as their conference chairwoman, the No. 3 leadership position in the GOP caucus, after her continued criticism of former president Donald Trump. Afterward, Cheney vowed to do all she can to keep Trump from returning to office.

Here’s what to know:

10:59 p.m.
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Kevin McCarthy says other Republicans welcome to run against Stefanik

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) said he welcomes other Republicans who want to challenge Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) for the third-ranking spot in GOP leadership, but said he expects she has the support to win.

McCarthy, who endorsed Stefanik for the job just before ousting Cheney, said he has not made calls on Stefanik’s behalf to try to secure votes, and she hasn’t asked him for his help.

“You’d have to ask her but it seems like she has the support she needed. I haven’t called anybody for her,” McCarthy said. “She hasn’t asked me for anything. She’s talked to everyone on her own.”

He added, “Anybody can run.”

McCarthy later reiterated that it was an open race, telling CNN reporter Ryan Nobles that “competition is good.”

10:26 p.m.
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Republicans downplay deadly Jan. 6 attack by pro-Trump mob

Several House Republicans on Wednesday tried to recast and downplay the events of Jan. 6, comparing the mob that breached the Capitol to tourists, railing against law enforcement for seeking to arrest them and questioning how anyone could be sure the rioters were supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

The Republicans’ distortions about the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 defy the well-documented reality of what occurred that day — 140 police officers were injured, some bludgeoned with flagpoles and baseball bats, with one officer’s eye gouged out; rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and erected a gallows on the Capitol grounds; and members of the House and the Senate were rushed to safety in secure locations for several hours. The attack resulted in five deaths.

The comments by a handful of House Republicans came during a congressional hearing with former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, former acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III focused on understanding the security lapses that allowed the attack to happen.

10:18 p.m.
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Texas special-election runoff to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright scheduled for July 27

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott scheduled the special-election runoff for July 27 to fill the seat of the late GOP Rep. Ron Wright, who died in February after contracting covid.

The competition is between two Republicans — Wright’s widow, Susan Wright, and state Rep. Jake Ellzey, neither of whom secured 50 percent in the May 1 special election.

The Democrat who ran came in a close third, narrowly missing the runoff by a few hundred votes.

Wright was endorsed by former president Donald Trump ahead of the May election, but getting to 50 percent was nearly impossible with 23 candidates running for the seat.

9:45 p.m.
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Biden speaks with Netanyahu amid worst Israeli-Palestinian violence in years

President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday as the worst violence in years between the Israeli military and Gaza Strip militants continued to escalate.

About 65 Gazans, including 16 children, have been killed in the worst bout of violence in seven years, according to Palestinian health officials. Israeli emergency-response officials said that six Israelis, including a teenage girl, have died.

The violence has resurfaced familiar patterns of tit-for-tat retaliatory rocket salvos while also spurring a more rare outburst of mass civil unrest among Palestinian citizens of Israel.

According to the White House, Biden condemned the rocket attacks launched by Hamas and others and “conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.”

“He shared his conviction that Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith from around the world, must be a place of peace,” the White House said in a statement.

Later Wednesday, in an exchange with reporters at the White House, Biden said that Israel “has a right to defend itself” and voiced optimism that the violence will end soon.

“My expectation and hope is this will be closing down sooner than later,” Biden said.

Shira Rubin in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.

9:41 p.m.
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Biden says more than 15,000 pharmacies will be ready to vaccinate young people

President Biden said Wednesday that more than 15,000 pharmacies across the country will be ready to vaccinate young teenagers.

“The vaccine for kids between the ages of 12 and 15 is safe, effective, easy, fast and free,” he said in brief remarks at the White House hailing the growing number of American adults who have been vaccinated. “My hope is that parents will take advantage.”

The Biden administration has been encouraging families to vaccinate more youths as the school year comes to an end and more young people are expected to be outside.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in young teens, calling it as safe and effective as the same dose being given to teens 16 and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday recommended the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children as young as 12, expanding access to adolescents after an advisory panel’s vote.

“This is one more giant step in our fight against the pandemic,” said Biden, who has said he hopes things are back to some semblance of normal by July Fourth.

To boost the level of immunity in the overall population — and to reduce hospitalizations and death — vaccinating children is essential, according to experts. As the number of vaccinated adults has increased, so has the number of infections among teenagers, according to the most recent CDC data.

8:57 p.m.
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Biden says Americans should expect ‘good news in the next 24 hours’ on gas pipeline

President Biden on May 12 said he was in close communication with Colonial Pipeline and that he lifted restrictions to increase accessibility to gas. (The Washington Post)

Biden sought to reassure Americans on Wednesday amid the gas shortages that have been taking place across the Southeast in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, projecting that there will be “good news in the next 24 hours.”

The Colonial Pipeline system shut down Friday after hackers thought to be based in the former Soviet Union infiltrated servers and encrypted its data, demanding a fee to restore access.

“We have been in very, very close contact with Colonial Pipeline. … And I think you’re going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours. And I think we’ll be getting that under control,” Biden told reporters at the White House after delivering remarks on the coronavirus pandemic.

“Secondly, I have in the meantime made it easier for us to have lifted some of the restrictions on the transportation of fuel, as well as access to the United States military, providing fuel and with vehicles to get it to places where it’s badly needed,” Biden said.

As of Wednesday, governors in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia had declared states of emergency and taken steps to relax fuel transport rules to ease some of the pain at the pump.

But the run on gas stations is also colliding with a shortage of truck drivers, compounding logistical challenges as states try to fill in for the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel.

Biden said the incident also reinforces his view that the United States should “make a greater investment in education as it relates to being able to train and graduate more people proficient in cybersecurity.”

The president argued that the country needs to make progress toward having a “significantly larger number of experts” in cybersecurity working in private companies. He also urged companies to be “willing to share data as to how they’re protecting themselves.”

8:26 p.m.
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Dow sinks nearly 700 points on inflation fears, notching third straight day of losses

Stocks fell sharply Wednesday, fueled by concerns over rising consumer prices and extending Wall Street’s losing streak to three days.

The Dow Jones industrial average shed nearly 682 points, or 2 percent, to close at 33,587.66. The S&P 500 gave up 89 points, or 2.1 percent, to close out at 4,063.04, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index plunged 358 points, or 2.7 percent, to close out at 13,031.68.

After showering investors with all-time highs this year amid the optimism of the vaccine rollout and a robust government rescue package, the stock market halted its astounding climb as inflation fears took hold.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department released data showing that consumer prices surged 4.2 percent in April, compared with the same time last year. The index also revealed the cost of goods and services rose 0.8 percent from March to April.

The data seemed to strengthen the case of some market observers, who contend that aggressive government policies have shrunk the purchasing power of consumers even as the economy recovers from the shocks of the coronavirus pandemic. But officials at the Federal Reserve and other experts maintain that momentum will ease once businesses catch up to pent-up demand and the economy heals further.

For many investors, including shareholders of dominant tech companies, inflation could spell higher borrowing costs. They anticipate that central bankers will raise interest rates ahead of schedule to counteract rising prices. And those worries appear to have solidified, despite Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell committing to holding rates at near zero until the economy achieves major progress in the labor market, which is still down millions of jobs since last spring.

8:02 p.m.
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Key Trump officials defend their response to Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol

On Wednesday, the two men who were in charge of the Pentagon and Justice Department on Jan. 6 defended their response to the Capitol riot, amid criticism that armed National Guard units took far too long to arrive after insurrectionists breached the Capitol.

Christopher C. Miller, who was the acting defense secretary at the time, told members of the House Oversight Committee that he stands by “every decision I made” on Jan. 6. He also said that “criticism of the military response is unfounded, and reflects inexperience with, or a lack of understanding of, the nature of military operations, or worse, that it is simply the result of politics.”

The defiant stance from Miller probably will rankle Democrats on the panel, who opened Wednesday’s hearing with demands for a reckoning.

6:53 p.m.
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Architect of the Capitol lacked updated policies to respond to emergencies such as Jan. 6 attack

The inspector general for the Architect of the Capitol told lawmakers Wednesday that updated policies were not in place to help prepare for an emergency event such as an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Christopher Failla spoke to members of the House Committee on Administration on the preparedness of the Architect of the Capitol, the agency responsible for maintaining and operating the complex, for the type of attack that occurred Jan. 6 when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building, leaving five people dead.

“Our Flash Report determined that the AOC lacked updated emergency management policies and procedures for active shooter, workplace violence, protesters and contained limited information on emergency actions in response to a riot or civil disturbance,” he said.

Many lawmakers have expressed anxiety about returning to work after hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol with the hope of overturning the 2020 election. And a Capitol Police inspector general report stated that the department had “experienced issues” and needed to hire more agents focused on assessing threats because of the increase in threats over the past five years.

“Even more concerning was that the AOC conducted limited virtual emergency management training in 2020 and the planned training, specifically drills and exercises, was inadequate because it failed to address active shooter, workplace violence, protesters and civil disturbances,” said Failla, who is on the board of Capitol Police, because of the coronavirus pandemic altering training procedures.

One of the major shortcomings that prevented various entities from responding to the insurrection as needed was a lack of communication and coordination among those who work at the Capitol, something Failla recommended change to prevent another incident from happening.

6:09 p.m.
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‘Bring it on,’ Cheney says of efforts by Trump to defeat her bid for reelection next year

Mere hours after being ousted from her House Republican leadership post, Cheney challenged Trump to “bring it on” if he wants to try to rally support around a GOP primary challenger to her reelection bid to her House seat next year.

Cheney’s comments came during an interview with NBC in which “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie relayed that Trump’s political team is looking to coalesce around a primary challenger and asked Cheney if she had a message for them.

“You know — bring it on,” said Cheney, who was ousted as the House Republican conference chair after continuing to criticize Trump for his insistence that last year’s election was stolen from him.

During the NBC interview, Guthrie also asked Cheney if she considers herself “the opposition in exile” within the Republican Party.

“I intend to be the leader, one of the leaders, in a fight to help to restore our party, in a fight to bring our party back to substance and principles, and in a fight to make clear that we won’t participate in the really dangerous effort that’s underway,” Cheney said.

She called her ouster an “opening salvo” in a “battle we have to win, because it’s not just about the Republican Party, it’s about the country.”

5:41 p.m.
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GOP leaders say infrastructure meeting was productive but draw a red line on how to pay for a package

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on May 12 said that the 2017 tax cut is a “red line” for congressional Republicans on an infrastructure package. (The Washington Post)

Republican leaders said Wednesday that they had a productive meeting with Biden at the White House on infrastructure but underscored large differences that remain in the scope of what the package should include and how to pay for it.

“There is certainly a bipartisan desire to get an outcome,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters after the meeting, before pivoting to Republican objections to Biden’s plan to pay for the package partly through an increase in the corporate tax rate, a move that would reverse provisions in a landmark 2017 Republican tax bill.

“Clearly, Republicans are not interested in revisiting the 2017 tax bill,” McConnell said, later describing that as a “red line.”

“I think the president and the vice president understand that,” McConnell said. “Beyond that, we’re interested in trying to get an outcome, and I think the first step is obviously to define what infrastructure is, the definition of it. And we all agreed to work on that together.”

Republicans have said that Biden is defining “infrastructure” too broadly, a point House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) echoed Wednesday.

“That’s not home health,” McCarthy (R-Calif.). “That’s roads, bridges, highways, airports, broadband. Those are places we can find common ground and work together.”

Overall, he said he thought the meeting with Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was “productive.”

The White House struck an optimistic note in a “readout” of the meeting.

Biden, it said, “emphasized that whatever differences exist between the parties, the real competition is between the United States and the rest of the world, and that other countries are not waiting for us to equip our people to win in the 21st Century — and that there is nothing we cannot do as a country when we do it together.”

5:40 p.m.
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McCarthy, who voted to overturn 2020 results, now says no one is ‘questioning the legitimacy’ of the election

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) voted — twice — to overturn results of the 2020 presidential election and has repeatedly defended Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

But on Wednesday, after a meeting with President Biden at the White House, McCarthy claimed that, in fact, no one is questioning whether Biden won the election.

“Well, first of all, the conference will decide,” McCarthy said in response to a question about the House Republican Conference’s leadership elections. “But I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with. We’re sitting here with the president today. So, from that point of view, I don’t think that’s a problem.”

McCarthy was addressing reporters hours after he and other House Republicans voted to oust Cheney from the No. 3 spot in their party’s leadership for — among other things — her insistence that the former president’s claims of a “stolen” election are false.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who is running to succeed Cheney in the No. 3 spot, has risen to prominence in part because of her embrace of Trump’s false claims about the election.

There is no evidence that any irregularities in mail-in ballots would have changed the results of the election in any state, including in Stefanik’s home state of New York, where Biden beat Trump 60 percent to 37 percent.

Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

4:55 p.m.
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Psaki says U.S. officials heavily involved in seeking ‘de-escalation’ between Israel military and Gaza militants

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on May 12 said U.S. officials have been heavily involved in trying to "de-escalate" violence in Israel and Gaza. (The Washington Post)

U.S. officials have been heavily involved in trying to “de-escalate” the worst violence in years between the Israeli military and Gaza militants, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday during a briefing.

In her comments, which came on a third day of deadly rocket attacks and airstrikes, Psaki emphasized that many of the U.S. efforts have been behind the scenes and focused on other parties in the region that could influence the course of the conflict.

“We’ve had more than 25 high-level calls and meetings by senior U.S. officials with senior officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and our partners and other stakeholders,” she said.

Psaki also said U.S. officials are in “regular dialogue multiple times per day” with Egyptian and Qatari officials, who she said have “significant influence” over Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.

“Our objective here is de-escalation as we look to protecting the people,” Psaki said.

4:44 p.m.
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki says Rep. Cheney’s ouster from GOP leadership is ‘disturbing’

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday described House Republicans’ ouster of Cheney from her leadership position as “disturbing,” in her most extensive comments on the topic.

At a regular news briefing, Psaki was asked about Cheney’s ouster as well as the impassioned speech the Wyoming Republican delivered on the floor of the House on Tuesday night.

Psaki noted that “more than 80 judges across the country threw out lawsuits attempting to overturn the outcome of the election,” and that the U.S. Capitol was attacked Jan. 6 by a pro-Trump mob.

“So it’s disturbing to see any leader, regardless of party, being attacked for simply speaking the truth,” Psaki said. “And as the president said last week, it’s hard to understand.”

“But our belief, his belief, is that the American people will have to make their own decisions about whether the reaction by the people they elected to represent them should be embracing and elevating conspiracies and attacks on our democracy, or whether it should be standing up for ideals that have historically been owned by both Democrats and Republicans representing the country throughout history,” she added.