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Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) has publicly advocated for taking a bipartisan approach to passing an infrastructure package.

Moderate and progressive Democrats in the Senate are at odds over how to respond to Republicans’ $568 billion infrastructure counter-offer.

On one side are Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), all of whom have reacted positively to Republicans providing an alternative to Democrats’ mammoth $2 trillion proposal.

Coons, a close ally of President Biden who sits in the president’s former Senate seat, has publicly advocated for taking a bipartisan approach to passing an infrastructure package.

In that spirit of bipartisanship, Coons appeared over the weekend on Fox News alongside Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to reveal they were working on a compromise package. “It strikes me as a serious attempt at providing a counteroffer that meets the general framework that I was hoping for,” Coons replied when asked Thursday by Politico about the GOP proposal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after the Senate Republican lunch on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2021.

He added that he was “encouraged” by Republicans appearing to be acting in good faith by actually making a serious counteroffer.

Warner, a moderate Democrat and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Hill, “I think this is a starting point for discussions.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) speaks at a press conference about the introduction of a Republican infrastructure proposal.

Manchin, one of the most influential senators as a red-state Democrat in a tightly divided chamber, has pledged that he would not support a package that wasn’t bipartisan.

After being asked about the counteroffer, made by his home-state colleague Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Manchin called the proposal “a starting point.”

Telling reporters that he was “sure that we can find a compromise,” he applauded his fellow West Virginian for putting together the proposal.

Joe Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

“I appreciate and respect what she did.”

Not all Democrats felt the same as Manchin and his fellow moderates, though.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) appeared to mock the size of Capito’s plan Thursday, asking, “It seems small, doesn’t it?”

“I was never that good at math but $2.3 trillion versus $568 billion,” he continued.

While he said he agreed with the spending priorities in the GOP plan, Republicans’ funding levels “need to be a lot bigger.”

“Delay just raises the cost. It needs to be a really big proposal.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a moderate representing a purple state, expressed his distaste for the GOP proposal in no uncertain terms.

“The decision by Senate Republicans to completely cut the funding for home and community-based services that is in the American Jobs Plan is a slap in the face to older adults and people with disabilities. It’s also an insult to the workers who provide home and community-based services,” the Pennsylvania senator said in a statement Thursday.

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“Senate Republicans need to go back to the drawing board and present a real offer. I won’t be a part of any scheme that sells out our seniors and those with disabilities who have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic,” his statement continued.

Speaking to reporters on a press call Thursday, Casey and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, continued to voice their ire at the GOP effort at bipartisanship.

“This Republican proposal is light years out of the ballpark in terms of being able to get a bipartisan compromise. They really dump it all on the backs of middle-class workers,” Wyden said.

Casey went on to note how Republicans slash the $400 billion in-home elder care component of Biden’s proposal, calling it “a slap in the face” and a “terrible insult” to everyday Americans.

The Capito-backed legislation also sparked negative reaction from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and one of the most vocal progressives in the Democratic caucus.

“I think that number is totally inadequate given the infrastructural needs facing this country and the funding for their proposal is very regressive, coming down on working families,” he said of the $568 billion in proposed spending from the GOP.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declined to offer an immediate reaction to the offer, instead reiterating his position Thursday from the Senate floor that “any infrastructure bill we consider here in the Senate must include green infrastructure, create green jobs and make significant progress towards the reduction of greenhouse gases.”

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Capitol breach

Jan. 6 hearing: Ingraham ridicules officers, give out awards to best dramatic performances

She gave the top award to Officer Michael Fanone, who she accused of giving a “performance” when addressing Congress.

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham began her segment on the Jan. 6 committee by mocking the police officers who testified before Congress.

The host who “purports to back the blue” tore them down and beat them with her unique style of cruel mockery. Ingraham, who has never served in uniform, fought in a war, been beaten and tased, or even reported from a war zone, gave the top award to Officer Michael Fanone, who she accused of giving a “performance” when addressing Congress.

It isn’t surprising that Ingraham hasn’t seen previous interviews with Fanone that have appeared on CNN. His descriptions are consistent and his anxiety has been on full display from the beginning. Over time, things appear to have gotten better, with Fanone making it through videos and descriptions without breaking down. That wasn’t always the case.

Still, Ingraham thought the right decision was to mock the men.

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Congress

Democrats only get one more chance to sidestep GOP this year

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Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has effectively ruled that only one more automatic budget reconciliation is permissible this year, dealing a blow to Democrats who previously thought they would have two more chances to sidestep Republicans in advancing President Biden’s agenda.


MacDonough ruled that a revision to the 2021 budget resolution cannot be automatically discharged from the Senate Budget Committee, meaning Democrats would need at least one Republican on the 11-11 panel to vote with them.
The bombshell ruling effectively means Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) will be able to use only one more reconciliation vehicle to pass Biden’s key legislative priorities this year. He will not be able to divide up the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, as well as Biden’s calls to expand Medicare and lower the price of prescription drugs, into multiple reconciliation packages, as was envisioned only a few weeks ago.

Anything that Schumer wants to pass through the Senate with a simple-majority vote in 2021 will have to go into one budget reconciliation package. 
Prior to the parliamentarian’s latest ruling, quietly issued on Friday, Schumer thought he might be able to pass two or even three more reconciliation bills in 2021, and thereby bypass GOP filibusters and enact Biden’s agenda through several packages.
MacDonough advised Schumer’s staff in April that multiple revisions would be allowed to a budget resolution, which Schumer’s spokesman at the time hailed as “an important step forward.”

“The Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions. This confirms the Leader’s interpretation of the Budget Act and allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues,” the spokesman said at the time.
But the advice was only provided in a broad brush, and important details of what exactly would be allowed had not yet been fleshed out.
The Schumer spokesman acknowledged in April “some parameters still need to be worked out.”
Now, the only way Democrats could create multiple reconciliation vehicles based on the 2021 budget resolution or a yet-to-be-enacted 2022 budget resolution would be if Schumer convinced a Republican on the evenly divided Budget Committee to vote to discharge a Section 304 revision to the budget.

A spokesman for Schumer declined to comment on the parliamentarian’s latest ruling. 
Democrats were able to move the 2021 budget resolution out of the Budget Committee earlier this year because Section 300 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 sets an April 1 deadline for the Budget Committee to report a concurrent resolution on the budget for the next fiscal year.
That enabled Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to automatically discharge the 2021 budget resolution to the floor earlier this year because he did so well after the deadline of April 1, 2020.
But MacDonough has ruled that no such forcing mechanism exists for a revision to the 2021 budget under Section 304.
“Unlike the 301 resolution, a section 304 resolution is an optional procedure untethered to the Section 300 structure,” the parliamentarian wrote in her guidance to senators. “There is no deadline for its reporting from committee or its completion in the Senate.”

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The parliamentarian warned that allowing for automatic discharge of revisions to the budget resolution out of the Budget Committee and onto the floor would risk “eroding the budget process,” characterizing it as a scenario in which the budget panel would be churning out “meaningless, stop-gap measures or shells for future consideration.”
“That kind of chaos was not at all what was intended with auto-discharge. Rather, the purpose of auto-discharge is to provide an incentive for committee compliance with the law and to provide a remedy when compliance with and through the mandatory processes of the [Congressional Budget Act] have not been met,” she wrote.
“Auto-discharge is not appropriate for a 304 resolution,” MacDonough wrote in conclusion.
As a result, Democrats will need a majority of Senate Budget Committee members to support passing a revision to the 2021 budget resolution or create multiple budget reconciliation vehicles based on a single budget resolution.

Any of Biden’s legislative priorities that do not make it into the next reconciliation package — which will come out of the concurrent budget resolution for 2022, which the Senate has yet to pass — would have to wait until next year, when the budget resolution for fiscal 2023 is automatically discharged out of the Budget Committee.

MacDonough in her memo to senators warned that the drafters of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act were leery of potential abuse of the power to revise budget resolutions and made clear in their drafting of Section 304 of that law that they intended it only to respond to changing economic conditions.
“The drafters and early users of 304 uniformly believed that it was to be used in extraordinary circumstances and not for things that should have been or could have been foreseen and handled in a 301 resolution,” MacDonough wrote. “The potential for abuse was clear in 1974 and is all the more obvious now.” 

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Senate to vote on bill aimed at countering China’s influence this month

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The Senate will vote on legislation aimed at countering China’s economic influence this month, Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Monday. 

The Senate Commerce Committee will mark up the bill on Wednesday, a vote that was delayed after senators filed hundreds of potential amendments to the bill.  

“The Senate Commerce Committee will begin to mark up the Endless Frontiers Act …. a number of other Senate committees are working on bipartisan legislation to improve our competitiveness and make the United States a world leader in advanced manufacturing, innovation and supply chains,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

“It is my intention to have the full Senate consider comprehensive competitive legislation during this work period,”  he added.

The Senate’s current work period lasts until May 28. 

The bill, a priority for Schumer and GOP Sen. Todd Young (Ind.), would establish a Technology and Innovation Directorate at the National Science Foundation, which would use $100 billion in federal funds over five years to research emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors. 
As part of a deal worked out by Senate Commerce Committee leadership, the bill will also now create a White House manufacturing officer position that would need to be confirmed by the Senate and would head a new Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Policy, according to Reuters.  

Schumer is hoping the bill can get the 60 votes needed to ultimately pass the Senate, and underscore that bipartisanship is still possible in an increasingly polarized chamber, with frustration toward China crossing party lines. 

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But the legislation is coming under fire from conservatives. 

The House Republican Study Committee, which has 154 members, said in an internal memo the bill is too expensive and should include tougher actions against China for stealing intellectual property rights and for industrial espionage.


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