Sarah Ferris contributed.
FENCED IN: If you played a slideshow of thousands of snapshots of the Capitol this year, you’d see an insurrection blip across the screen and then a once-open Capitol campus quickly convert into a fortress, with various fences and National Guardsmen standing at the ready.
And then slowly, month by month, as the days flashed by, it would ebb away. The outer enclosure would recede, the concertina wire topping the remaining fencing would be pulled off, and the thousands of Guardsmen who patrolled the perimeter alongside Capitol Police officers would drop off until the camo of the Guard was gone entirely.
That is the view from the ground, as seen by your Huddle host and many others who walk into the Capitol almost daily. But there is still one big question mark: The fate of the existing inner fence barrier.
As Nick reports: “The fence is unpopular with both parties, and the money to maintain it is uncertain at best. Still, Hill security officials would have to reach tough decisions on fortification before bringing down the barrier — calls they don’t appear prepared to make any time soon.”
Senate Appropriations Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said his panel would consider more security measures, a statement that comes as Republicans have balked at the $1.9 billion price tag of a House-passed bill that would provide cash in part for a “retractable” fence rather than a permanent one. Leahy, too, says he doesn’t want the Capitol to turn into Fort CapHill.
But it’s the three-member Capitol Police Board, which has come under intense scrutiny since the insurrection, that has the final say on what happens to the remaining fence.
An aside: Just a few weeks ago, ahead of the recess, I was walking and talking with (he’d probably call it bugging) Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who dropped several well-known profanities that usually get bleeped out on TV upon learning that he couldn’t exit a certain way and had to keep walking with yours truly through a different exit. “You can quote me on that,” he later told me. I’m abstaining so we can keep this newsletter PG-13.
More here from Nick: https://politi.co/3wObkD2
GIMME, GIMME MOORE: We are in the infrastructure red zone. President Joe Biden and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) met yesterday, with no apparent breakthroughs. The most overwhelming message from the White House is: Clock is ticking, we need to get moving.
A last-minute sprint to reach an agreement is still underway, even if Democrats are sending signals in various colors — including green — that they are ready to proceed with the reconciliation process, which they can do at any point now.
According to a Capito readout of the meeting, which was mum on details: “Capito and President Biden discussed the latest of several counteroffers Republicans have put forth and how they can come together to reach a bipartisan agreement.”
Our friends over at Playbook report that Capito briefed five Senate Republicans in her negotiating group last night including Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Some are starting to feel discouraged — the gulf between the two parties is big right now. Sources tell Playbook that Biden wants $1 trillion in new spending and is set on corporate tax hikes to help pay for it, while the latest GOP counteroffer included only $257 billion in new spending in their $928 billion infrastructure plan. But still, Republican negotiators are considering making another counteroffer when Capito and Biden talk tomorrow. TBD if they actually do.
Capito and Biden are slated to speak again tomorrow. Don’t forget, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg marked Monday, June 7, as the deadline when the White House will need a clear answer of how to proceed. Tick tock. Tick tock.
Related: Time could be running out for infrastructure deal, by WaPo’s Seung Min Kim and Tony Romm: https://wapo.st/2RXdj9F | Why a Biden-Capito deal wouldn’t be a green light on infrastructure, by the National Journal’s Zachary Cohen: https://bit.ly/3g3oLbC
A DOSE OF GOOD NEWS FOR DCCC: House Dems say their surprisingly strong win in New Mexico this week is a sign that their House majority might not be doomed just yet. They say it offers a template on how Dem candidates can beat back the GOP’s “defund the police” messaging and ride on the popularity of Biden’s agenda — especially if Trump voters decide to stay home, as Ally Mutnick and Sarah report today.
In an interview, DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney said Melanie Stansbury’s win — outperforming Joe Biden and now former Rep. Deb Haaland last November — offers a playbook for candidates around the country on how to talk up the Biden agenda while also responding aggressively to GOP attacks. On “defund the police” for instance, Stansbury responded to claims by her opponent, Mark Moores, by tapping a retired local sergeant to cut a direct-to-camera spot touting her efforts to secure public-safety funds.
But, but, but: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz cautions: “Let’s not go crazy. We have a lot of seats where the margin is closer. But I think this is a formula that shows a pathway.”
And NRCC has this to say: “The fact that Democrats feel the need to celebrate holding a district President Biden carried by over 20 points tells you everything you need to know.”
Ally and Sarah have the good read: https://politi.co/34HQedF
FRIENDS OF THE FILIBUSTER: Pressure mounts on Joe Manchin as “panic” sets in among Democrats over voting rights, by WaPo’s Sean Sullivan and Mike DeBonis: https://wapo.st/3fKvNmy | Kyrsten Sinema defends filibuster, sparking progressive fury, by The Hill’s Jordain Carney: https://bit.ly/3g2xmeJ
HAPPY THURSDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this June 3, where your Huddle host doesn’t know what to think about this FDA guidance …
WEDNESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The Insider’s story on how some Capitol Hill staffers say they can’t afford to work in Congress was the big winner.
HOT TAKES BY MATT GAETZ: Federal investigators are examining whether Rep. Matt Gaetz obstructed justice by hopping on that call that involved a witness in the federal sex-crimes investigation against him, our Marc Caputo scooped last night. That witness in question had been speaking with Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend, who at one point patched in the Florida Republican.
Per Marc: “While it’s unknown exactly what was said, the discussion on that call is central to whether prosecutors can charge Gaetz with obstructing justice, which makes it illegal to suggest that a witness in a criminal case lie or give misleading testimony. The witness later spoke with prosecutors, the sources said.”
The witness in question is connected to Gaetz through Joel Greenberg, the congressman’s onetime wingman who pleaded guilty last month to a host of crimes, including sex-trafficking a 17-year-old in 2017.
Marc has the latest: https://politi.co/2RZmk1Y
HOW ABOUT THAT LUNTZ LEASE: Video indicates how Kevin McCarthy and Frank Luntz mixed friendship and business, by WaPo’s Glenn Kessler: https://wapo.st/34I9zLR
BACK BURNER: After Biden delivered a forceful and pointed speech about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — more so than any president before had him — he huddled with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. At one point, they raised their legislative push to create a commission to study reparations with the president, who suggested H.R.40 would be taking a back seat to other priorities in his administration.
As my colleague Eugene Daniels reported: Biden let them down gently.
“He didn’t disagree with what we’re doing,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), the 2nd vice chair of the CBC. “He did talk about his plate [being] full with trying to get the infrastructure bill passed and that he really wanted to make sure that he could get that through before he took on anything else.”
More here from Eugene: https://politi.co/3cdoWA2
Related: Senate Democrats call on Google to conduct racial equity audit, by our Cristiano Lima: https://politi.co/3fZtnj0
RECONCILIATION SENSATION: You know when you order a dish at a $$$$ restaurant, take one look at it, and think, “I could’ve gotten the same thing at McDonalds”? Well, that seems to be the double take Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his staff are taking as they review the latest ruling by Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough.
Democrats will actually need at least one Republican on the 11-11 Senate Budget Committee to vote with them — they cannot automatically discharge the 2021 budget resolution.
As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports: “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.” In other words, everything has to be squeezed into one budget reconciliation package.
More here from Bolton: https://bit.ly/3uLYIv0
ROADBLOCKS: Old-guard senators defy changes in how military treats sex assault cases, by Jennifer Steinhauer: https://nyti.ms/3g9uwo6 | House Agriculture chairman objects to Biden inheritance tax plan, by Roll Call’s Ellyn Ferguson and Lindsey McPherson: https://bit.ly/3uKxdly
WHAT FRONTLINERS ARE READING: “A new analysis of Census Bureau surveys argues that the two latest rounds of aid significantly improved Americans’ ability to buy food and pay household bills and reduced anxiety and depression, with the largest benefits going to the poorest households and those with children,” NYT’s Jason DeParle reports.
“Among households with children, reports of food shortages fell 42 percent from January through April. A broader gauge of financial instability fell 43 percent. Among all households, frequent anxiety and depression fell by more than 20 percent. While the economic rebound and other forms of aid no doubt also helped, the largest declines in measures of hardship coincided with the $600 checks that reached most people in January and the $1,400 checks mostly distributed in April.”
Read the NYT report here: https://nyti.ms/3ccj7Tv … And the full UMich analysis here: https://bit.ly/3yWep5T
BILL NYE GONNA TESTIFY: Bill Nye the Science Guy is gonna come to the House looking extra fly … when he testifies during a virtual hearing next Tuesday, as a House Homeland Security subcommittee seeks to examine the impact of climate change and its implications for homeland security.
MONTHLONG SPRINT: Biden, facing July 4 deadline, rallies nation with vaccination incentives, by NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg: https://nyti.ms/3fJTStW
-House GOP targets 5 northeast Democrats potentially vulnerable in 2022 midterms, by Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser: https://fxn.ws/3cgefNf
-Katie Boyd Britt, possible U.S. Senate candidate, resigns as president of BCA, by AL.com’s Leada Gore: https://bit.ly/2SVR7wo
Bernadine Williams Stallings will be deputy comms director for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). She most recently was comms director for Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.).
Elliott Tomlinson will be general counsel for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). He was previously with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and the Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property minority staff. Seth Williford is now senior counsel for Tillis, and Cirilo Perez joins Judiciary staff as a professional staff member.
TODAY IN CONGRESS
The House is out.
The Senate will convene at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session.
AROUND THE HILL
WEDNESDAY’S WINNER: David Cavicke was the first person to correctly guess that the original name of the oldest continuous standing committee in the House of Representatives — the House Energy and Commerce Committee — the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures, which was founded in 1795.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From David: Christine Todd Whittman was the 50th governor of New Jersey. She left the governorship in 2001, before her term ended, to become administrator of the EPA. By the time her term expired a year later in 2002, four individuals (both Democrats and Republicans) served as governor or acting governor of New Jersey. Who were they and how did that happen?
The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answer to [email protected].
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