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Democrats

Senate fights against Democrat’s $3.5 trillion spending plan

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) has opposed the bipartisan infrastructure deal but called it passing a “fait accompli” and that the fight over the budget was the “main event.” 

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Senate Republicans say they are increasingly focusing their fire power in the two-step infrastructure fight on a chaotic budget brawl that will tear up Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending plan. 

Senate Democrats want to pass two things before letting senators leave for their summer break: A roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal and a budget resolution that lets them bypass Republicans later this year on a $3.5 trillion spending plan that includes top Democratic priorities like expanding Medicare, combating climate change and immigration reform. 

With Republicans viewing passage of the bipartisan agreement as increasingly inevitable—even as they haggle over potential changes—they say the real fight will be over the budget resolution. 

“That’s one that members really want to dig in and fight on,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. 

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) has opposed the bipartisan infrastructure deal but called it passing a “fait accompli” and that the fight over the budget was the “main event.” 

“I think the real action will be on reconciliation,” he said, referring to the process Democrats are using to pass their budget and spending plan. 

Democrats will need total unity as they take two steps to get their $3.5 trillion spending plan through the Senate. 

In the first step, the party must pass a budget resolution that includes the topline and drafting instructions. Senate Democrats are expected to try to take that step as soon as next week and appear confident that they will have total unity in their 50-member conference. 

They’ll then need to negotiate and write the spending plan itself. It’s less certain they’ll have all 50 Democrats on the same page for that vote.

Both steps spark what is known as a “vote-a-rama” in the Senate: A chaotic, hours-long session where any senator can force a vote on any proposal. 

It’s a prime opportunity for GOP senators to force Democrats to take politically difficult votes ahead of next year’s midterm election. 

“Let’s just say this process should be painful,” Thune added.  

Members of GOP leadership knocked the $3.5 trillion Democratic plan as a “reckless tax and spending resolution,” and Thune is going to lead a press conference on Wednesday to ramp up GOP messaging heading into the budget fight. 

Republican opponents of the bipartisan deal haven’t thrown in the towel. 

Heritage Action, a conservative group, is urging Republicans to vote against the bill, calling it “bad policy” and “bad process.” A group of conservative senators also blasted the way the bipartisan group proposes to pay for its spending. 

And Republicans are still trying to make changes to the bipartisan deal. As of Tuesday evening nearly 300 amendments had been filed with Republicans proposing changes to the broadband and energy sections as well as how the bipartisan group proposes paying for their bill. 

They warned Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) against quickly wrapping up debate, saying that the first test vote shouldn’t come up until at least Saturday. One scheduling curveball is that several senators are expected to fly to Wyoming to go to a funeral service for former Sen. Mike Enzi (W-Wyo.) on Friday. 

But they also made clear that they view the fight over the bipartisan deal, which several of their members support and helped craft, and the budget measure differently. 

“The infrastructure package stands on its own by itself,” McConnell said, repeating publicly a message he gave privately to Republicans last month. 

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And Republicans say they think it’s just a matter of when the bipartisan agreement will pass the Senate, either this weekend of next week.

“I think it passes, I think the question is when it passes and what else is in it that’s not in it yet,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). 

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) added that there was a “real high probability” that the bipartisan deal passes the Senate. 

Braun and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), neither of whom have supported the bipartisan deal so far, predicted it passes.

And Thune, McConnell’s No. 2, said there was a “pretty good” chance that it would pass and is already talking to Schumer about the timeline for wrapping up the bill. But even it was a “fait accompli,” he added, Republicans still wanted “integrity in the process,” meaning the ability to get some amendment votes. 

The core group of bipartisan negotiators have a deal amongst themselves to vote against any amendments that they believe threaten the ability for their bill to get the 60 votes needed to ultimately pass. 

And Republicans floated that having the budget fight coming up, where they can force any vote they want, takes off some of the pressure to go all in on amendments to the bipartisan deal, where getting an amendment vote requires buy-in for every member and is subject to intense negotiation. 

Asked if he thought the vote-a-rama meant fewer political amendments to the bipartisan deal, Thune added: “I think that’s right.” 

“I don’t think you’re going to find the hot button issue amendments. I think that probably comes next week or whenever we get on the budget resolution,” Thune said. “Any vote-a-rama lends itself, by both sides, to uses for political purposes.” 

A GOP senator predicted that the bipartisan deal “will benefit” from the upcoming vote-a-rama on the budget and result in “less of an appetite” for a laundry list of controversial amendment votes on the bipartisan bill. 

“Because if someone has a political point that they would like to make … I think it’s more likely for Republicans, and for Democrats perhaps, that it would be done in vote-a-rama,” the GOP senator said.  

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Democrats

Democrats seems to portray split in the party’s progressive active wing

Democratic primary voters are choosing between two House candidates who personify the split between the party’s progressive activist wing and its more-moderate establishment.

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Two House special elections in Ohio Tuesday are sharpening divisions within both political parties— and the results could indicate which factions gain the upper hand as Democrats and Republicans head into next year’s midterm fight for control of Congress.

In a nationally watched Cleveland contest, Democratic primary voters are choosing between two House candidates who personify the split between the party’s progressive activist wing and its more-moderate establishment.

Nina Turner, who was co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, has been endorsed by a who’s who of national progressive leaders and celebrities. Her principal rival is Shontel Brown, a local Democratic official who is backed by Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ rival for president in 2016, and Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., a powerful ally of President Biden.

Meanwhile, in a GOP House primary near Columbus, Ohio, former President Donald Trump is facing a fresh test of his sway in the Republican party: He has endorsed coal lobbyist Mike Carey, plucking him from a crowded field of Republican candidates that includes more established local political leaders.

The special election primaries — to replace Cleveland Democrat Marcia Fudge, who left the House to join President Biden’s Cabinet, and Republican Steve Stivers, who quit his Columbus-area seat for the private sector — are in districts so dominated by one party that the primary victors are near certain to win the fall general election.

Special elections are often quirky, with low turnout and buffeted by local dynamics, but these two are being watched nationally because they reflect the shifting ground of American politics in the wake of Trump’s defeat and Biden’s victory in 2020.

“These primaries represent the new tensions that we have seen in both political parties,” said John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. “Both the Democratic and Republican coalitions are unstable right now.”

In legislative and political arenas, Democrats are grappling with what kind of party they are becoming under Biden, who during the 2020 campaign cast himself as a transitional party leader who would prepare the way for a post-Baby Boom generation of leadership. After a period of relative peace between progressives and moderates earlier this year, the factions have been hurling increasingly pointed barbs over how far the party should move to the left.

While many Democratic leaders in Congress have embraced a bipartisan infrastructure bill, some progressives have objected to what Biden considers a signature achievement because it did not include more for low-income families and gave too much ground to the GOP. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., criticized a Democrat leading the group that crafted the compromise for “choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a ‘bipartisan accomplishment.’”

The infrastructure agreement also taps into emerging splits within the GOP: Trump is virulently opposed to it because he said Republicans were giving a “big win” to Democrats. But many Senate Republicans — including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — support it.

In Ohio and other GOP primaries this year, Trump is trying to extend his sway over the party by making a slew of endorsements. Some establishment-oriented Republicans worry his picks will not be the strongest candidates for general elections in swing states.

The value of a Trump endorsement came into question last week, when the candidate he backed in a Texas special House election was defeated by another Republican. Turnout was abysmally low, undercutting Trump allies’ arguments that his endorsement is a silver bullet and that his involvement in the 2022 midterm elections will drive Republican turnout.

In the Ohio contest, Trump endorsed Carey in June, saying: “He will be a courageous fighter for the people and our economy, is strong on the Border, and tough on Crime.”

The endorsement was a risky bet because Carey is one of 11 Republican candidates in the primary, including state Rep. Jeff LaRe, who was endorsed by Stivers, the previous incumbent, and Bob Peterson, a state senator endorsed by the anti-abortion group, Ohio Right to Life PAC.

In a late push to avoid another embarrassing loss, Trump spoke on a telephone rally for Carey Monday night, and alluded to the high political stakes — for him — in the outcome of this obscure special election: “A lot of people are watching this one. It’s a big deal.”

In Cleveland, the Democratic primary also features a big field of contenders, but Brown and Turner are the clear front-runners in fundraising and endorsements.

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Both women are Black, and their competition has underscored a generation gap among Black politicians. Brown was endorsed by the political arm of the Congressional Black Caucus, a group dominated by an older generation of more moderate lawmakers who were key to Biden’s victory in 2020. But there is a growing cadre of younger Black Democrats in the House who are much more progressive. Many of them — including Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Cori Bush of Missouri and Mondaire Jones of New York — have broken with the caucus group endorsement and backed Turner.

Many prominent Democrats from across the country have taken sides in the costly, increasingly nasty contest, some traveling to Ohio to campaign last weekend.

“You don’t have enough fighters” in Congress, said Sanders, campaigning for Turner. “You don’t have enough people who have the guts to take on powerful special interests.”

Cornel West, a political activist and intellectual, also campaigned for Turner, saying: “We can say to some of our brothers and sisters who are part of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party with their milquetoast neoliberalism: We want vision, integrity, we want a focus on the least of these, the poor, the working class, everyday people.”

Clyburn campaigned for Brown, and was joined by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who took a dig at Turner’s reputation as a rabble rouser.

“You don’t need somebody who will go in there and talk about tearing the place up,” said Thompson. “What we need is somebody who will be a good Democrat, work with the Democratic leadership, and support Joe Biden as president.”

Biden has not weighed in on the primary but he has loomed over the race because of Clyburn’s endorsement of Brown. Fudge also has stayed out of the primary, but her mother endorsed Brown.

Brown’s supporters — including a pro-Israel PAC opposed to Turner because she has not supported unconditional aid to Israel — have been spotlighting an infamous 2020 quote from Turner when, in an interview with the Atlantic, she compared the prospect of voting for Biden to “eating a bowl of s—.”

Turner says her critics care too much about her style and not enough about the poor.

“Fighting for justice is messy; it is radical; it is in your face,” she said at a prayer breakfast in Akron Monday. “When you fight for justice you might not always use the prettiest words.’

Turner’s campaign has denounced Brown for accepting campaign contributions from Republicans including Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots and a prominent Trump supporter.

“Shontel Brown: It’s hard to tell whose team she is on,” said a Turner ad.

The Brown campaign responded by portraying her as a unifying leader and strong Biden ally: “Unlike Nina Turner, who has attacked and insulted Democrats like President Biden at every turn, Shontel Brown has built a coalition of Democrats, Independents and yes, even some Republicans, who want to elect someone to Congress who will work with Joe Biden to deliver an economic recovery to Northeast Ohio and stop gun violence.”

One question is whether all the negative campaigning turns people off and depresses turnout.

“People are looking for some stability,” said Jeff Rusnak, a Democratic political consultant in Cleveland who is allied with no candidate in the race. “People are tired and worn out after the last four or five years.”

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Democrats

Trump threatened to primary GOP lawmakers who favor the bipartisan infrastructure plan

“Don’t do it Republicans – Patriots will never forget!” he wrote. “If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way.”

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Former President Donald Trump left no words unspoken in his most direct attempt yet to tank President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure deal.

The GOP frontman threatened “lots of primaries” ahead for any Republican lawmakers who cooperate with Democrats to get the bipartisan deal passed.

His statement was released after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would vote to advance the measure and preceded the procedural vote in the Senate on Wednesday. Seventeen Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to advance the bipartisan legislation , in a major test for the bill.

Trump, who tried throughout his presidency to pass his own infrastructure bill, has railed against negotiations in recent days, telling Republican lawmakers to skip the talks – not, it seems, because of any specific issues with the content of the bill, but because passage of the bill would be “a victory for the Biden administration and Democrats and…heavily used in the 2022 election.”

“Don’t do it Republicans – Patriots will never forget!” he wrote. “If this deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way.”

The threat comes as the former president has already endorsed primary challengers to try and unseat Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and GOP Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio.

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Despite his defeat at the ballot box in November 2020, Trump maintains massive power in the Republican party and has been making a show of handing out endorsements – or rejection . Most recently, however, on Tuesday, a Trump-backed candidate in Texas lost in a congressional special election .

Wednesday’s vote to advance the bill in the Senate precedes a final vote on the legislation coming sometime in the next week or two. Democrats are also preparing a reconciliation package that would pass the Senate without Republican support.

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