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Week in Review
The Biden administration
President Joe Biden released his $1.5 trillion fiscal year 2022 budget, including a 16 percent increase in domestic spending to fund low-income schools, public health programs and fight climate change. In sum, it provides non-defense programs with $769 billion and $753 billion to national defense programs, including money for overseas activities.
Biden rolled out a slate of unilateral steps aimed at firearm safety, including two new Justice Department regulations to curb the spread of so-called “ghost guns” and regulate stabilizing braces that can make pistols more like rifles. Biden also nominated David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at the gun safety group led by former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, setting up a tough nomination fight on Capitol Hill.
The Treasury Department sent 135 countries negotiating international taxation a proposed model for taxing multinational corporations as part of the administration’s push for a global minimum tax. The plan, which aims to let Biden increase corporate taxes to pay for his spending packages without fear of being undercut by other countries, would have the world’s largest businesses pay taxes to their national government based on local sales, regardless of their physical presence in a country, according to the documents.
Biden tapped Gayle Smith, the former administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, to take a new State Department role leading his administration’s vaccine diplomacy efforts to get wealthy nations to distribute shots to poorer ones.
The administration moved forward with an operation put into motion under the Trump administration to close a failing facility at the military detention center in Guantánamo Bay that housed Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other former prisoners of the Central Intelligence Agency. The move to consolidate detention facilities could cut costs and reduce the U.S. troop presence in Cuba, according to the military.
New York Rep. Lee Zeldin said he will run for the Republican nomination to challenge embattled Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo next year. Zeldin, who was first elected in 2014, will likely have to give up his House seat to run for governor because all of the state’s primaries are likely to be held in June.
Gov. Brian Kemp, who saw his popularity decline among Georgia Republicans amid Donald Trump’s relentless pressure campaign, appears to be getting a boost from his signing of a controversial elections law, according to Morning Consult Political Intelligence tracking. Kemp doesn’t yet have a serious primary challenger, and according to strategists, that – along with the governor’s improved standing with the GOP base – raises questions about whether Trump would want to put his finger on the scales for someone who could potentially damage his status as a kingmaker.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), 84, died after a battle with cancer. His House district is safe for Democrats to hold, but the timeline for filling it (set by Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis) could drag out, narrowing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s majority as she works to advance Biden’s agenda on Capitol Hill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office said the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the reconciliation process can be used multiple times on the same underlying budget resolution, which could allow Democrats to bypass the legislative filibuster for major legislation but has sparked confusion within the chamber. The reconciliation rules – which had been believed to be allowed once per fiscal year – were used to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and are expected to be needed to advance Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, as well as a third package focused on child-care and anti-poverty efforts in the coming weeks.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, said Biden’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent to pass his infrastructure plan is a nonstarter, and called for changes. He was joined in his criticism by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who voiced skepticism about the plan.
Joel Greenberg, a former Florida county tax collector who’s at the center of a federal investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz, is reportedly negotiating with prosecutors to strike a plea deal in his sex trafficking case in a potentially ominous sign for the Florida Republican lawmaker’s own case.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a frequent critic of the current state of the GOP, became the first congressional Republican to call for Gaetz to resign.
Gaetz asked the White House during the final weeks of Trump’s presidency for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and an unknown group of congressional lawmakers for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people familiar with the discussions. White House officials reportedly shunned the request.
The House Ethics Committee said it has launched an investigation into Gaetz, along with a separate probe into Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), who was accused by a female lobbyist of sexual misconduct.
The House and Senate are in session this week.
The House is set to take up legislation that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to promote equal pay for men and women performing the same job, as well as a bill to grant statehood to Washington, D.C.
Pelosi has signaled that floor action on Biden’s infrastructure bill could come before July 4, setting up the prospect of House committee markups before Memorial Day.
The Biden administration — which has completed an intelligence review of Russia’s election interference, involvement in the SolarWinds hack and reported bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan — is considering retaliation against Moscow that could include sanctions and diplomatic expulsions, according to three sources.
Biden said all U.S. adults will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by April 19, bumping up his deadline for states to expand access by two weeks as his administration is on track to meet his goal of distributing 200 million doses of the drug by his first 100 days.
Roberta Jacobson, who recently served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico and is currently a special assistant to the president and coordinator for the Southern Border at the National Security Council, is retiring at the end of April amid a migration surge that is overwhelming government immigration and shelter systems.