Chuck Schumer’s announcement came hours after two Senate progressives, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, said they would not support an infrastructure bill that did not adequately address the climate crisis.
“There has to be an absolute unbreakable guarantee that climate has to be at the center of any infrastructure deal that we cut,” Markey said at a press conference.
Merkley added, “If there is no climate, there is no deal.”
Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate budget committee, has similarly urged the Biden administration to focus on passing an infrastructure bill with only Democratic support via reconciliation, but it’s unclear whether Schumer has the votes for that.
Two of the most moderate members of the Democratic caucus, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have indicated they want to pursue bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure. And Schumer needs all 50 Senate Democrats on board to move forward with reconciliation.
Schumer takes step toward passing infrastructure bill via reconcilation
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has just announced that he will convene a meeting tomorrow with the budget committee to begin crafting a budget resolution for an infrastructure bill.
The resolution will be the vehicle to pass an infrastructure bill using reconciliation, meaning Senate Democrats would not need any assistance from their Republican colleagues to get the proposal approved.
Schumer insisted that senators are still pursuing a two-track plan on infrastructure, meaning they will continue to work on advancing the bipartisan $1.2 trillion proposal while also laying the groundwork for a separate bill that would theoretically pass with only Democratic support.
The majority leader’s announcement came after several progressive senators indicated they would only support the bipartisan bill if they received a guarantee that additional funds would be approved in a separate reconciliation package.
But Schumer will need all 50 Democratic senators on board to pass a bill via reconciliation, and it’s unclear whether moderates like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will be on board for this two-track plan.
The Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:
Joe Biden is officially tapping a leading voting rights lawyer for a role on a federal appellate court.
Biden is nominating Myrna Pérez, the director of the voting rights and elections program at the Brennan Center for Justice, to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd circuit, the appellate courts that oversees New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.
If confirmed, Pérez would be the only Latina jurist serving on the 2nd circuit, the White House noted in a press release earlier today.
Here’s one of her recent tweets.
Pérez is widely respected among voting rights attorneys, and has been involved in some of the most high profile voting cases in recent years, including the fight over Texas’ voter ID law and restoring voting rights to people with felony convictions in Florida.
She has led efforts to push back on overly-aggressive efforts to remove people from the voter rolls, a process often called voter purging, and has been outspoken about the damage of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down a critical provision of the Voting Rights Act.
Pérez was among five people the White House nominated for judgeships today. Hers is the latest of a number of voting rights experts Biden has put in key roles across government.
Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, two longtime civil rights attorneys, are currently serving in top roles at the Justice Department. Justin Levitt, a well-respected scholar, was hired as a senior White House adviser to work on voting rights issues.
More may be coming: Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer has also recommended Dale Ho, the ACLU’s top voting rights lawyer, for a position on the federal bench.
“With voter suppression laws on the rise, we need strong voting rights and civil rights champions on the federal bench who are committed to equal justice under law. Myrna Pérez is an exceptionally qualified attorney and has an unassailable record when it comes to protecting the fundamental right to vote,” Damon Hewitt, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Read more on the issues involved in “the fight to vote” in the US in our special section.
Donald Trump will resume his rallies next week in Cleveland, Ohio, according to a Washington Post reporter. The former president also plans to hold a rally in Tampa, Florida, on July 3.
Trump’s team had indicated for weeks that he would soon start holding his infamous rallies again, but the schedule for those events had been unclear.
The former president has been issuing a number of endorsements for Republican candidates, and he has signaled he wants to be closely involved in the party’s campaign efforts for next year’s midterms as he weighs another presidential bid in 2024.
According to a CNN reporter, Trump will appear at the Cleveland rally with Max Miller, a former aide who has launched a primary challenge against Republicans congressman Anthony Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted in January to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol insurrection.
As the US crosses the grim threshold of 600,000 deaths from coronavirus, the National Park Service has announced that, amid steeply declining cases and deaths and increasing numbers of people being vaccinated, that July Fourth Independence Day fireworks show will return to the National Mall in Washington, DC.
The fireworks will be launched from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool on Sunday, July 4, 2021.
The show is set to begin just after 9pm ET and last 17 minutes, the National Park Service says.
Ex-Biden adviser doubles down on Covid ‘sacrifice’ remarks
As the US death toll in the coronavirus pandemic ticked towards and past 600,000, the former White House Covid adviser Andy Slavitt has come under fire from the right for saying Americans could have avoided such severe losses if they had been prepared to “sacrifice a little bit for one another”.
Slavitt, who is promoting a book on the pandemic, made the contested remark on Monday, to CBS. On Tuesday, he spoke to CNN.
“We as a country could have put the lives of people higher on the list versus our own individual liberties,” he said.
“We as a country decided that we were going to get many, many more people exposed without pay, without healthcare insurance, without support. And so we decided that the creature comforts – keeping the meatpacking plants open when they were unsafe – were more important than making sure we protected each other.”
Garland: more than 480 arrests over Capitol attack
The attorney general, Merrick Garland, has said federal authorities have now arrested more than 480 people in connection with the deadly assault on the US Capitol on 6 January.
Garland called the assault by supporters of Donald Trump seeking to overturn his election defeat by Joe Biden a “large and heinous attack”.
Trump was impeached for a second time, for inciting an insurrection, but was acquitted when insufficient Republican senators could be convinced to vote for his guilt.
Republicans then used the filibuster, the means by which the minority in the Senate can block the will of the majority, to thwart legislation to establish an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate the attack.
“We have an enormous task ahead,” Garland said at the Department of Justice in Washington, during an address on policy regarding domestic terrorism.
This, he said, meant the US had “to move forward as a country, to punish the perpetrators, to do everything possible to prevent similar attacks, and to do so in a manner that affirms the values on which our justice system is founded and upon which our democracy depends.
“The resolve and dedication with which the justice department has approached the investigation of the 6 January attack reflects the seriousness with which we take this assault on a mainstay of our democratic system, the peaceful transfer of power.
“Over the 160 days since the attack, we have arrested over 480 individuals and brought hundreds and hundreds of charges against those who attacked law enforcement officers, obstructed justice and used deadly and dangerous weapons to those ends.
“That would have not been possible without the dedication of our career prosecutors and agents, as well as a critical cooperation of ordinary Americans who, large and small, have shown that they are our best partners in keeping America safe. Within the very first week following the attack, members of the public took it upon themselves to submit over 100,000 pieces of digital media to the FBI.”
With the US death toll from coronavirus passing the awful mark of 600,000, there is some more detail and context from the Associated Press.
The advent of successful vaccines means Covid-19 deaths per day in the US have plummeted to an average of 340 from a high of more than 3,400 in mid-January. New cases are running at 14,000 a day on average, down from a quarter-million per day during the winter.
Worldwide, the Covid-19 confirmed death toll stands at 3.8 million. The actual totals in the US and around the globe are thought to be significantly higher, with many cases overlooked or possibly concealed by some countries.
Los Angeles county is the county with the highest level of cases in the US, 1.25m and the most deaths at almost 25,000, according to Johns Hopkins data.
But the AP adds that California now has one of the lowest rates of infection, below 1%. That dramatic drop combined with an increasing number of vaccinated residents over 70% of adults have had at least one dose led Newsom to announce in April that most Covid-19 restrictions would be lifted June 15
US surpasses 600,000 deaths from coronavirus
The United States just reached a grim milestone, surpassing 600,000 deaths from coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins university coronavirus resource center, which is what the Guardian tracks for such data.
Although new cases of Covid-19 and deaths from the virus have dropped by around 90% since pandemic highs a few months ago, the terrible death toll is still the highest in the world. Johns Hopkins recorded the total moments ago as 600,012 people in the US killed by coronavirus since the pandemic reached the country in January 2020.
And the Associated Press has updated details on the racial disparities in who has been most likely to lose most family members and loved ones to the pandemic.
A toll of 600,000 people, the AP notes, is greater than the population of Baltimore or Milwaukee. It is about equal to the number of Americans who died of cancer in 2019. The racial disparities in the death rates have shifted over time:
- In the first wave of fatalities, in April 2020, Black people were slammed, dying at rates higher than those of other ethnic or racial groups as the virus rampaged through the urban Northeast and heavily African American cities like Detroit and New Orleans.
- Last summer, during a second surge, Hispanics were hit the hardest, suffering an outsize share of deaths, driven by infections in Texas and Florida. By winter, during the third and most lethal stage, the virus had gripped the entire nation, and racial gaps in weekly death rates had narrowed so much that whites were the worst off, followed closely by Hispanics.
- Now, even as the outbreak ebbs and more people get vaccinated, a racial gap appears to be emerging again, with Black Americans dying at higher rates than other groups.
Today so far
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Joe Biden has arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, ahead of his summit tomorrow with Vladimir Putin. The summit will mark Biden’s first in-person meeting with the Russian president since he took office in January. Biden also held a bilateral meeting with Swiss president Guy Parmelin today.
- The EU and the US resolved a 17-year trade dispute over aircraft subsidies for Boeing and Airbus, which had been going on for nearly 17 years. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Biden announced the deal this morning, after meeting for the EU-US summit in Brussels. The agreement involves suspending tariffs on Boeing and Airbus for five years and working to guarantee an even playing field for the two companies.
- The White House unveiled its first ever national strategy to fight domestic terrorism. The framework, released today by the national security council, emphasized that domestic terrorism must be addressed in an “ideologically neutral” manner. The announcement comes five months after a violent, pro-Trump mob attacked the US Capitol, resulting in five deaths.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
The Guardian’s Edward Helmore reports:
Vermont has become the first US state to reach its 80% Covid-19 vaccination goal and is now shedding all its statewide restrictions on dealing with the pandemic, including letting a state of emergency expire by Tuesday night.
Governor Phil Scott made the announcement on Monday and said he would drop existing physical distancing, crowd size restrictions and masking requirements.
“There are no longer any state Covid-19 restrictions. None,” the Republican governor announced. But Scott said he would allow municipalities and businesses to continue practices if they choose to do so.
Emergency medical service providers will continue to wear masks for the foreseeable future, regardless of their vaccination status. Public transportation and long-term care facilities workers will also continue to practice safeguards since they fall under federal guidelines.
State officials had initially planned to lift all remaining restrictions by the Fourth of July, but brought the decision forward after Vermont’s vaccination rate reached its goal.
“The ingenuity, creativity and dedication of all Vermonters to their friends and families, to their neighbors and to their communities, has been incredible and we should all be very proud,” Scott said in a statement.
US and EU resolve 17-year trade dispute over Airbus and Boeing
In case you missed it this morning: US and EU leaders announced they had resolved a trade dispute over aircraft subsidies for Boeing and Airbus, which had been going on for nearly 17 years.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and US president Joe Biden discussed the agreement when they met for the EU-US summit this morning.
“The meeting started with a breakthrough on the aircraft dispute,” von der Leyen said on Twitter. “Today we move from litigation to cooperation. We are ending the longest trade dispute in the history of the [World Trade Organization]. We are delivering.”
The agreement involves suspending tariffs on Boeing and Airbus for five years and working to guarantee an even playing field for the two aircraft giants.
“Significantly, we also agreed to work together to challenge and counter China’s non-market practices in this sector that give China’s companies an unfair advantage,” Biden said in a statement about the agreement.
“The U.S. and EU will work together in specific ways that reflect our high standards, including collaborating on inward and outbound investment and technology transfer. It’s a model we can build on for other challenges posed by China’s economic model.”
The agreement comes after Nato identified China’s rising power as a security threat after the alliance’s Brussels summit this week. Biden had pushed for the mention of China in the communique issued after the Nato summit.
Joe Biden is now meeting with Swiss president Guy Parmelin in Geneva, as the US president prepares for his summit with Vladimir Putin tomorrow.
Asked by reporters whether he is ready for his meeting with the Russian president, Biden replied, “I’m always ready.”
Donald Trump has hired a new spokesperson, now that his longtime senior adviser, Jason Miller, has decided to return to the private sector.
“I greatly thank Jason for his service—he is outstanding!” the former president said in a statement.
Far-right activist Liz Harrington, a former national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee and a longtime Trump supporter, will be taking Miller’s place.
“Liz Harrington is a fighter,” Trump said. “She was an important part of our receiving more votes than any incumbent President in U.S. history, far more than we received the first time we won.”
According to CNN’s Daniel Dale, Harrington has played a key role in spreading Trump’s lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.