White House press secretary Jen Psaki categorically ruled out paying for new infrastructure spending with an increase in the gas tax or other user fees, saying that would violate a “red line” from President Biden not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year.

Biden is also seeking to put a spotlight on immigration policy Friday as he holds an Oval Office meeting with six beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to discuss their experiences working in health care, education and agriculture during the pandemic.

Here’s what to know:

12:43 a.m.
Link copied

CDC’s mask guidance spurs confusion and criticism, as well as celebration

Federal health officials’ decision Thursday to rescind almost all masking and distancing recommendations for fully vaccinated Americans created as much confusion as it did celebration, sending states, businesses and individuals scrambling to figure out what rules, if any, are still appropriate and when.

Many, including President Biden, hailed the relaxation of restrictions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a milestone in the nation’s return to normal. But with a majority of Americans unvaccinated, others questioned the sudden and blanket recommendation, worrying that the onus is now heavier on state and local governments, businesses and individuals to determine whether precautions are necessary. They feared the guidelines could undercut two of the simplest and most effective tools — masks and physical distancing — for stopping the spread of a virus still infecting about 35,000 people in the United States every day.

More than a dozen physicians interviewed Friday expressed concern that the decision was premature, coming only days after regulators cleared a vaccine for 12-to-15-year-olds and while so many in the country are still unprotected.

“The guidance shifts all the burden onto individuals to be ‘on their honor’ and choose the appropriate actions when deciding whether to wear a mask,” said Lisa Maragakis, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “There is no way to know who is vaccinated and who is not in most scenarios. The likely result is that almost no one will wear a mask.”

The risk for people who have not yet been vaccinated, including millions of adolescents and children, “is going to dramatically increase as the rest of the population abruptly drops masking,” Maragakis added.

9:42 p.m.
Link copied

Biden meets with ‘dreamers’ at White House to spotlight immigration reform

Biden on Friday met with six people protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to discuss immigration reform and their experiences working on the front lines of the pandemic.

The “dreamers” who met with Biden, who were not named, work in health care, education and agriculture, according to a White House readout of the meeting. Biden expressed his support for them as well as other essential immigrant workers, and they discussed the continued need for immigration reform, the White House said.

Biden also reiterated his desire for Congress to pass both the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and the American Dream and Promise Act. The latter would grant citizenship to an estimated 2.7 million undocumented immigrants who arrived as children or have temporary permission to stay, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The legislation was passed by the Democratic-led House in March but has stalled in the evenly divided Senate.

The Obama-era DACA program, which President Donald Trump sought to disable, allowed undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country under certain conditions.

Last month, in his address to a joint session of Congress, Biden urged lawmakers to tackle immigration reform, saying it was time to “end our exhausting war over immigration.”

9:01 p.m.
Link copied

Cheney says she ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if McCarthy is subpoenaed as part of Jan. 6 commission’s probe

In an interview with Jonathan Karl on ABC News’s “This Week,” Cheney said Friday that she “wouldn’t be surprised” if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) were subpoenaed as part of the Jan. 6 commission’s probe into the events surrounding the storming of the Capitol that day.

The interview marks Cheney’s latest break with her party’s leader in the House.

“He absolutely should,” Cheney said when asked whether McCarthy should be willing to testify before the commission. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if he were subpoenaed. I think that he very clearly … said publicly that he’s got information about the president’s state of mind that day.”

Cheney added that the elements of the commission are “exactly as they should be.”

House Republicans and Democrats announced Friday that they had reached agreement on a bipartisan, 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. The House is scheduled to vote on the commission next week.

“I’m very glad they rejected Leader McCarthy’s suggestions that somehow we should dilute the commission,” she said. “It’s really important that it be focused just on Jan. 6 and the events leading up to it.”

Pressed on whether she would welcome a subpoena of McCarthy, Cheney replied, “I would hope he doesn’t require a subpoena, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he were subpoenaed.”

Immediately after the short-lived insurrection, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) said McCarthy had relayed details of his call with Trump. Trump had “initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol,” Herrera Beutler said, indicating that Trump would have already been aware of the siege when McCarthy spoke to him.

According to Herrera Beutler, after McCarthy told Trump it was his supporters storming the Capitol, Trump responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

But during an interview with host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” last month, McCarthy declined to say what Trump told him on the call.

“Did he say to you, ‘I guess some people are more concerned about the election than you are?’ ” Wallace asked.

“No, listen,” McCarthy replied. “My conversations with the president are my conversations with the president. I engaged in the idea of making sure we could stop what was going on inside the Capitol at that moment in time.”

In her interview, Cheney also said she regretted her vote for Trump in the 2020 election. "It was a vote based on policy, based on substance and in terms of the kinds of policies he put forward that were good for the country. But I think it’s fair to say that I regret the vote,” she said.

8:37 p.m.
Link copied

Neera Tanden lands job in Biden administration

Neera Tanden, a former nominee for Biden’s Cabinet who withdrew from the confirmation process after bipartisan opposition, will join the Biden administration as a senior adviser, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

Tanden’s responsibilities will include reviewing the United States Digital Service, which seeks to make government accessible to Americans online, the official said. She will also focus on preparing contingency plans for different scenarios that could result from Republican lawsuits attacking the Affordable Care Act.

Biden had nominated Tanden, who formerly led the Center for American Progress think tank, to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget. However, her nomination drew opposition from Republicans and some Democrats over her past social media posts, and Tanden withdrew her nomination in March.

Tanden’s new job will not require Senate confirmation.

8:22 p.m.
Link copied

Gaetz associate admits to sex-trafficking of a minor, agrees in writing to cooperate fully with prosecutors

A Florida politician considered key to the investigation of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) agreed to cooperate fully with federal prosecutors and, if needed, to testify in court, as he admitted in a lengthy written plea agreement that he paid a minor to engage in sex acts with him and others, according to a copy of the document filed Friday.

Joel Greenberg, a former tax collector for Seminole County, agreed to plead guilty to six criminal charges — including sex-trafficking of a child, aggravated identity theft and wire fraud — which come with a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years and a statutory maximum potentially decades longer.

In exchange, the prosecutors agreed to dismiss the other 27 counts Greenberg faced and recommend a term within federal sentencing guidelines, which are often far less than the statutory maximum penalties. They also agreed to recommend other possible sentencing breaks, especially if Greenberg provides meaningful help on other cases.

8:16 p.m.
Link copied

Biden revokes Trump’s proposed ‘Garden of American Heroes’

Biden on Friday rescinded several of President Donald Trump’s executive orders, including one Trump issued just before he left office that sought to establish a new “Garden of American Heroes,” with statues of dozens of figures from U.S. history and popular culture.

The proposed garden had been Trump’s attempt to counter what he saw as a “reckless attempt to erase our heroes, values, and entire way of life.”

The “gates of a beautiful new garden will soon open to the public where the legends of America’s past will be remembered,” Trump’s executive order had stated. “The National Garden will be built to reflect the awesome splendor of our country’s timeless exceptionalism.”

The eclectic list of proposed statues had included jazz legend Louis Armstrong, poet Emily Dickinson, explorer and colonizer Christopher Columbus, actress and recording artist Whitney Houston, NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, political theorist Hannah Arendt and “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek.

Among other executive orders Biden rescinded Friday was one for “protecting Americans from overcriminalization through regulatory reform,” which effectively limited potential criminal liability for anyone who committed “unintentional” violations of regulations.

7:32 p.m.
Link copied

GOP chairman of Arizona county calls state-led election review ‘dangerous’ as tensions rise over 2020 recount

A recount of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona’s largest county is becoming “dangerous,” the Republican chairman of the county board of supervisors declared in a fiery statement late Thursday, a sign of escalating tensions over the controversial election review commissioned by the GOP-led state Senate.

In a statement issued after a lengthy closed-door meeting of the Maricopa County board, whose five members include four Republicans, Chairman Jack Sellers blasted allegations made this week by a private contractor hired to reexamine the election that the audit has already identified problems with the vote.

Sellers said those claims, described in a letter by state Senate President Karen Fann (R), were “false and ill-informed.”

“I know you have all grown weary of the lies and half-truths six months after the 2020 General Election,” he wrote. He added that the private contractors — led by a Florida firm called Cyber Ninjas, whose founder has promoted baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election — “are in way over their heads.”

7:11 p.m.
Link copied

Democratic congressman moves to censure GOP lawmakers who downplayed Jan. 6 attack during hearing

Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) sent a letter to colleagues Friday asking them to support his effort to censure the three Republican congressmen who this week at a congressional hearing downplayed the Jan. 6 attack, likening the mob to tourists and saying it was not an insurrection.

“These members cannot be allowed to rewrite history at their convenience by disrespecting the sacrifices made by Capitol police officers and downplaying the violent, destructive intent that the rioters carried into this sacred building,” Cicilline said.

The Democratic congressman pointed to GOP Reps. Andrew S. Clyde (Ga.), Jody Hice (Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.) for their comments that he said “dangerously mischaracterized” Jan. 6 and put their political agendas above their country.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Clyde described the events of Jan. 6 as “acts of vandalism” and suggested it was a “boldfaced lie” to call what happened that day an “insurrection.” Gosar called people who breached the Capitol “peaceful patriots.” And Hice read the names of the Trump supporters who died that day and suggested “the narrative needs to be cleared up.”

Cicilline, who was a House impeachment manager in the Senate trial of former president Donald Trump over charges that he incited the Jan. 6 mob, said in the letter urging colleagues to co-sponsor the censure resolution that the men had legitimized the attacks and called their comments a “conscious and harmful decision calling into question their dedication to their role as representatives.”

6:50 p.m.
Link copied

House Democrats unveil details of $1.9 billion proposal for security upgrades at U.S. Capitol

Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, released the details of a $1.9 billion supplemental spending bill to pay for security upgrades at the U.S. Capitol and other parts of the federal government.

The proposed legislation — which has yet to draw Republican support — would dedicate over $500 million to physically hardening the Capitol campus, with movable “pop-in” fencing, reinforced doors and windows, and extra security cameras and screening checkpoints. An additional $200 million would go to fund a “quick reaction force” within the D.C. Air National Guard.

Nearly $700 million of the bill would go toward reimbursing the U.S. Capitol Police, the D.C. police, and the National Guard and other federal agencies for costs associated with their response to the Jan. 6 riot, and $40 million would go to cover the costs of prosecuting the many individuals charged in relation to the attack on the Capitol.

By comparison, far less funding in the bill goes toward making improvements to the security provided to members and for the training and equipment available to Capitol Police. According to a breakdown of the bill, $21.5 million has been specifically dedicated to providing enhanced security for members while they are in the Capitol or in their home districts, and while traveling between the two, and $18 million has been marked for new body cameras, riot control equipment and training for the Capitol Police.

Over $175 million has been proposed for improving security in and around the federal courts that will hear charges against those charged over the riot.

6:33 p.m.
Link copied

EPA orders accident-plagued St. Croix refinery shut, citing ‘imminent’ health threat

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday ordered a controversial refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands to stay shut for 60 days because it poses an “imminent” threat to people’s health, a rare step marking the first significant environmental enforcement action undertaken by the Biden administration.

St. Croix’s Limetree Bay Refining started operating in February after Trump administration officials expedited a key permit. Since then, it has showered oil on local residents twice, spewed sulfuric gases into the surrounding area and released hydrocarbons into the air.

“Today, I have ordered the refinery to immediately pause all operations until we can be assured that this facility can operate in accordance with laws that protect public health,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

6:26 p.m.
Link copied

Rep. Swalwell and an aide to Rep. Greene get into confrontation over mask use on House floor

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and an aide to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) got into a confrontation Friday over the use of face masks on the House floor, in the latest incident involving allegedly disruptive behavior by Greene and her staff.

“I had a mask on as I stepped off the Floor,” Swalwell said in a tweet. “An aide with @mtgreenee yelled at me to take my mask off. No one should be bullied for wearing a mask. So I told the bully what I thought of his order. Predictably, he went speechless. I regret I wasn’t more explicit.”

Nick Dyer, a spokesman for Greene, said in an email to The Washington Post that he passed by Swalwell “on the top of the steps” and “cordially and jovially” told him: “Congressman, Biden said you can take off your mask.”

Scott Wong, a reporter for the Hill who first wrote about the incident, said in a tweet that Swalwell then “confronted” Dyer and “got in his face.”

According to Dyer, Swalwell “chased me inside, aggressively leaned into me, got inches from my face” and said, “Don’t tell me what to [expletive] do.” Dyer described it as a “verbal assault” with “an attempt at physical intimidation.”

Contacted about the encounter, Swalwell’s aides said the congressman’s tweet was an accurate description of what had occurred and confirmed that he did use an expletive. The Post could not independently verify what happened during the exchange.

Under new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinated Americans can now mostly ditch their masks indoors — but lawmakers must still wear them on the House floor.

Asked by CNN whether the House’s mask mandate would be relaxed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said: “No. Are they all vaccinated?”

Her decision, which was outlined in updated guidelines issued Thursday night by Congress’s attending physician, drew swift backlash from Republicans who have long bristled at mask requirements. In a letter dated Friday, 34 GOP lawmakers urged Pelosi to drop the House’s pandemic restrictions.

The House in February voted to oust Greene from her committee assignments over her embrace of extremist beliefs that she publicly renounced in part just hours before the vote.

6:00 p.m.
Link copied

New DHS terror bulletin affirms threat from domestic extremists and ‘grievance-based violence’

The Department of Homeland Security issued a new threat bulletin Friday through its National Terrorism Advisory System reaffirming the risk posed by domestic extremists, the second time since Biden took office that DHS has issued a warning about homegrown attackers.

“The homeland is facing threats that have evolved significantly and become increasingly complex and volatile in 2021,” the advisory states. “These threats include those posed by domestic terrorists, individuals and groups engaged in grievance-based violence, and those inspired or influenced by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences.”

The bulletin was not prompted by any particular threat, and “DHS does not have any information to indicate a specific, credible plot,” the department said in a statement.

The NTAS bulletin replaces a similar warning issued after Biden took office, in the wake of the Jan. 6 mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. That advisory was the first time the warning system was used to highlight threats posed by domestic terrorists.

According to the bulletin, social media and online forums are being used to incite violence, and the threat of domestic attacks has been exacerbated by coronavirus pandemic.

“In this evolving threat environment, DHS is redoubling our efforts to detect and disrupt all forms of foreign and domestic terrorism and targeted violence, while safeguarding privacy protections, civil rights, and civil liberties,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

5:56 p.m.
Link copied

White House remains opposed to raising the gas tax to pay for infrastructure plan

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on May 14 said raising the gas tax would violate President Biden’s pledge to not raise taxes on certain Americans. (The Washington Post)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki categorically ruled out paying for new infrastructure spending with an increase in the gas tax or other user fees, saying that would violate a “red line” of President Biden’s not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $400,000 a year.

“The president’s pledge and his commitment, his line in the sand, his red line, whatever you want to call it, is that he will not raise taxes for people making less than $400,000 a year,” Psaki told reporters in the White House briefing room. “Fees that have been proposed out there, it would violate that.”

Her comments come as Biden and Republicans in Congress remain far apart on the scope of an infrastructure package and how to pay for it.

Republican leaders have drawn a “red line” at revising the 2017 tax cuts delivered under President Donald Trump. Biden’s proposal for paying an infrastructure package partly through a corporate tax increase would violate that.

On Thursday, Biden hosted Senate Republicans at a closely watched Oval Office meeting on infrastructure. Even as both sides stressed their commitment to a bipartisan deal, they acknowledged afterward that they’re still haggling over what it should include.

5:51 p.m.
Link copied

White House says politics played no role in CDC’s decision on face masks

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on May 14 said politics did not impact new coronavirus guidance from the federal government. (The Washington Post)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday dismissed the notion that politics played a role in the Biden administration’s guidance that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need masks indoors or outdoors in many cases.

The new guidelines were determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — “not by us, not by the White House, not by the president, to be very clear,” Psaki said at a regular briefing.

The CDC said Thursday that Americans who are fully vaccinated can go without masks or physical distancing in many cases, even when they are indoors or in large groups, paving the way for a full reopening of society. The move comes as a growing number have complained that they cannot do more even after being fully vaccinated and criticized the CDC for being overly cautious. More than 154 million Americans have had at least one shot and 117 million are fully vaccinated, about 35 percent of the population.

Psaki said the administration is “working to implement” the new guidelines across the federal government.

“It may take a couple of days, but certainly I would expect on federal lands, federal properties, that the guidelines will be the guide,” she said.