‘We’re going to get this done’: Biden on Capitol Hill to push infrastructure package – live
Joe Biden left Capitol Hill after meeting with Senate Democrats for about 45 minutes to discuss their $3.5tn plan to invest in “human infrastructure”.
Reporters shouted questions at the president as he prepared to depart, and he said in response, “Great to be home. Great to be back with my colleagues. I think we’re going to get a lot done.”
With that, Biden left to return to the White House, where he will soon meet with a bipartisan group of mayors and governors to discuss the separate bipartisan infrastructure framework.
White House to start evacuating at-risk Afghans
Jenn Psaki announced earlier at the White House that the US will start evacuating from Afghanistan individuals at risk because they worked for the US government as translators and in other roles.
As Reuters puts it: “the evacuation, Operation Allies Refuge, is set to start during the last week of July. Fighting between US-backed Afghan forces and the Taliban has surged in recent weeks, with the militants gaining territory and capturing border crossings.
“The reason that we are taking these steps is because these are courageous individuals. We want to make sure we recognize and value the role they’ve played over the last several years,” Psaki said.
Joe Biden has set a formal end to the US military mission in Afghanistan for 31 August. The general leading the mission, Austin Miller, relinquished command on Monday.
Psaki said she could not provide specifics on the numbers of Afghans who will be in the initial evacuation flights “for operational and security reasons”.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the initial evacuation will include about 2,500 people and that they likely will be housed in US military facilities while their visa applications are processed. A final decision has not been made on the specific bases to be used, the official said.
Psaki said the objective is to get “individuals who are eligible relocated out of the country” in advance of the withdrawal of US troops at the end of August.
Here’s our latest report on the situation in Afghanistan ahead of the US withdrawal, which will come almost 20 years after troops first landed:
In an interview on Tuesday night, a Texas Democrat who fled the state for Washington DC in an attempt to stop a restrictive voting rights law challenged a Fox News host to say Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.
James Talarico, a representative from the Austin area, was one of more than 50 Texas Democrats who fled to Washington DC. The dramatic move was made to deny Republicans a quorum to pass legislation which critics say restricts ballot access among communities likely to vote Democratic.
Earlier on Tuesday, Joe Biden gave a major speech on voting rights in Pennsylvania, demanding of Republicans “Have you no shame?”
Later, Hegseth accused Talarico of being used “as a prop or puppet” by Democrats in Washington.
“I’m an eighth-generation Texan,” Talarico said. “I’ve only been in DC twice in my life … I’m a former middle-school teacher who ran for office just to try to make my community better and I swore an oath when I first got elected two years ago to uphold the constitution.
“The constitution of the United States, and also the constitution of the great state of Texas. And after our former President Donald Trump started his big lie that the election was stolen. Republican legislators in capitols across the country started …”
“How did you make this about Donald Trump in 20 seconds?” he asked.
Talarico was happy to explain:
Today so far
Here’s where the day stands so far:
Joe Biden is on Capitol Hill for a meeting to discuss Senate Democrats’ $3.5tn “human infrastructure” plan. The president will attend the Senate Democratic caucus’ weekly policy lunch, as senators await more details on the plan, which was announced last night. It’s still unclear whether the more moderate members of the caucus, such as Joe Manchin, will support the plan, which includes the Medicare expansion that progressives demanded.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer acknowledged it would be a “long” road to passing the $3.5tn proposal. Senate Democrats still need to hammer out the details of the spending package and get the entire caucus on board before they can move forward. “But we are going to get this done because we so fervently believe that we must make average American lives a whole lot better,” Schumer said.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Biden’s criticism of Republican voting restrictions, as experts warn that the US is facing a potential democratic crisis. The Republican leader specifically mocked Biden’s argument that the voting restrictions and the “big lie” of widespread fraud in the 2020 election represent “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War,” as the president said in Philadelphia yesterday. “What utter nonsense,” McConnell said. “It would be laugh-out-loud funny if it wasn’t so completely and totally irresponsible.”
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Biden arrives on Capitol Hill to discuss $3.5tn ‘human infrastructure’ plan
Joe Biden has arrived on Capitol Hill for his meeting on the $3.5tn infrastructure plan that Senate Democrats announced last night.
The president will attend the Senate Democratic caucus’ weekly policy lunch, as senators await more details on the “human infrastructure” bill.
Biden entered the Capitol walking next to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, and the longtime former senator joked that this was his “homecoming”.
As reporters shouted questions at him about the spending proposal, Biden simply replied, “We’re going to get this done.”
Schumer needs all 50 Democratic senators to support the plan in order to vote it out of the Senate, and some moderates in the caucus, including Joe Manchin, have not yet indicated whether they will support the proposal.
Asked about Olivia Rodrigo’s plans at the White House today, Jen Psaki said the pop star will meet with Joe Biden and Dr Anthony Fauci later this afternoon.
The press secretary reiterated that the White House will put out a video of Rodrigo encouraging young people to get vaccinated, although she did not offer an expected release time for the video.
Psaki said Rodrigo’s visit was the latest effort by the White House to “meet people where they are” as officials try to increase coronavirus vaccination rates.
“I will say, not every 18-year-old uses their time to come do this, so we appreciate her willingness to,” Psaki said.
After Olivia Rodrigo left the White House briefing room (much to the disappointment of this blogger), Jen Psaki took questions about Democrats’ $3.5tn “human infrastructure” package.
A reporter asked Psaki what are Joe Biden’s “must-haves” for the bill, as Senate Democrats start to hammer out the details of the spending package.
Psaki deflected that question, saying she did not want to negotiate from the briefing room podium. She did reiterate Bernie Sanders’ description of the bill as “historic,” and she said the framework outlined by Senate Democrats is “reflective of the president’s priorities”.
Noting Biden will be on Capitol Hill today, Psaki said, “Now he’s going to engage; he’s going to advocate with members; he’s going to advocate with the American people and communicate and sell the package about why it needs to go forward.”
Olivia Rodrigo encourages vaccinations in White House briefing room
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, is holding her daily briefing with reporters, and she was joined by a very special guest: pop star Olivia Rodrigo.
The actress and singer was at the White House to record videos to encourage younger Americans to get vaccinated against coronavirus.
Stepping up to the White House briefing room podium, Rodrigo said she was “beyond honored and humbled” to assist the Biden administration’s vaccination outreach efforts.
“It’s important to have conversations with friends and family members encouraging all communities to get vaccinated and actually get to a vaccination site, which you can do more easily than ever before,” Rodrigo said.
Rodrigo is also expected to meet today with Joe Biden and Dr Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser.
(And you’re welcome for sparing you any “Drivers License” puns because they have all already been made today.)
The Guardian’s Sam Levine provides some insightful analysis of Joe Biden’s voting rights speech yesterday:
Joe Bidengave his most muscular defense of the right to vote yet on Tuesday, but offered few specifics on how Democrats could overcome Republican efforts to stymie federal voting reform.
Coming after some activists questioned how seriously the White House was taking the issue, an impassioned speech in Philadelphia marked a clear escalation of the president’s defense of voting rights. Bluntly calling out lies about the 2020 election as “just that, a big lie”, Biden denounced “an assault on democracy”.
“There’s an unfolding assault taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote,” he said.
But the most significant part of the speech lay in what he did not say. Biden did not mention the filibuster, the Senate rule under which 60 votes are required to proceed on legislation.
Republicans used the rule last month to block sweeping voting rights reform. While the filibuster is in place, Democrats have virtually no chance of passing any such bill.
In Philadelphia, Biden made it clear he was not giving up on federal voting rights legislation. But he did not lay out a pathway. Even as he denounced “peddlers of lies” who he said were damaging democracy, he appeared to remain convinced Republicans could be persuaded to sign on to legislation.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell also mocked the Texas Democratic legislators who fled the state to block Republican voting restrictions.
The Democratic lawmakers left Austin on Monday to break quorum on the Texas House’ special legislative session, thus preventing Republicans from advancing their voting bill.
But McConnell questioned the legislators’ true intentions in coming to Washington as they try to run out the clock on the 30-day special session.
“In reality, they’ve just come here to Washington to snap selfies, bask in the limelight and beg Senate Democrats to take over Texas elections,” McConnell said on the Senate floor this morning. “Once again, this outrage is completely phony.”
The Democratic legislators met with Kamala Harris yesterday, and they have pleaded with Senate Democrats to pass national voting rights legislation.
“We are here in DC, our nation’s capital, because we want to protect the civil right to vote for millions of Texans,” said Texas state representative Rhetta Bowers at a press conference yesterday.
“We can’t stay here indefinitely to run out the clock to stop Republicans’ anti-voter attacks. That’s why we need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act. Texas Democrats will do everything in our power to fight back. But we need Congress to act now.”
McConnell mocks Biden’s criticism of voting restrictions as experts warn of democratic crisis
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Joe Biden’s fiery criticism of Republican voting restrictions as “utter nonsense”.
The Republican leader specifically mocked Biden for referring to the voting restrictions and the “big lie” of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election as “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War”.
“What utter nonsense,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech. “It would be laugh-out-loud funny if it wasn’t so completely and totally irresponsible.”
McConnell’s comments came one day after Biden delivered a speech in Philadelphia condemning Republican efforts to restrict access to the ballot box and emphasizing the need to pass national voting rights legislation.
“The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real,” Biden said yesterday. “It’s unrelenting, and we’re going to challenge it vigorously.”
Voting rights experts have echoed Biden’s concerns, warning that the Republican restrictions and the “big lie” could threaten the very foundation of American democracy.
“There is a ticking timebomb,” Wendy Weiser, the director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the Guardian in May.
The Brennan Center has called for the passage of Democrats’ two major voting rights bills, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which remain stalled in the Senate because of a Republican filibuster.
“It will be a significant failure if [Congress] doesn’t pass these two pieces of major voting legislation,” Weiser said. “It will be a significant failure for the country, for the American people.”
Read all of the Guardian’s voting rights coverage here.