The TAKE with Averi Harper
While a group of Senate negotiators have come to an agreement on the bipartisan infrastructure plan, there is a larger battle brewing over the $3.5 trillion Democrats-only plan focused on "human infrastructure."
That budget reconciliation plan aims to make vast investments in social priorities like health care, paid family leave, education and climate change. It would require that all 50 Senate Democrats be in lockstep agreement. In short, they're not.
"I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion," wrote Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., in a statement Wednesday.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., responded to Sinema via Twitter with her own warning saying in part, "Good luck tanking your own party's investment on childcare, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you'll survive a 3 vote House margin."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already said she wouldn't bring that bipartisan plan to the floor for a vote without the passage of the budget reconciliation plan. The president has expressed confidence in the bipartisan plan but is still selling that human infrastructure plan to Americans across the country.
"As the deal goes to the entire Senate, there is still plenty of work ahead to bring this home," President Joe Biden wrote in a White House-issued statement. "There will be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to forge along the way."
The president's latest statement foreshadows what he must know is to come -- a continued uphill battle to get these major agenda items done.
The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema
In its weekly COVID-19 forecast Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted that cases, hospital admissions and daily deaths will increase over the next four weeks. That trajectory, along with the agency's recently revised masking guidance, is adding to an already tense and partisan atmosphere in the nation's capital.
As reported by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega and Sarah Kolinovsky, Biden is expected to announce Thursday that federal employees will be required to be vaccinated or else they must abide by "stringent COVID-19 protocols like mandatory mask wearing -- even in communities not with high or substantial spread -- and regular testing."
Although the president also said the nation will not be heading back into a 2020-esque lockdown, Republicans seized on the changing messages coming from across the aisle.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said the return to using masks is "casting doubt on a safe and effective vaccine," despite the CDC adding that the return of mask requirements is based on a surge of highly transmissible variants.
McCarthy also said the move "is not a decision based on science." In response to that comment, Pelosi's office said she believes the view "is moronic."
The TIP with Quinn Scanlan
New Yorkers had something to say Wednesday about the body that runs elections in America's largest city.
"It's almost as if the Board of Elections is trying to overtake the MTA in most chastised public agency," quipped state Sen. John Liu during the Standing Committee on Elections' first of many hearings about voting and elections in the Empire State.
Those testifying before the committee, and the senators present, were in universal agreement that significant reform is in order for the NYC BOE, which has been plagued for years by headlines like last month's, when 135,000 "test ballots" were mistakenly added to preliminary ranked-choice voting results for the city's Democratic mayoral primary.
Reform will take time, and potentially a constitutional amendment, but it's needed to rid the BOE of its chronic "cronyism" culture that's led to unqualified, deeply partisan people running elections, witnesses testified.
"I really have no issue with the culture of nepotism and favoritism, but I do want the nepites and the favorites to be competent," said Henry Flax. "Sadly, this is not the case."
More hearings are set for next week in Syracuse and Rochester and the chairman urged voters to, like voting itself, make their voices heard.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega, who breaks down the politics of a potential federal vaccine mandate. ABC News' Trish Turner tells us what's in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee explains how western wildfire smoke is causing air pollution concerns across the country. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris receive the president's daily brief at 10 a.m. The president has a bill signing at 11:45 a.m. Biden and Harris receive the weekly economic briefing at 1 p.m. The president delivers remarks on the next steps in the administration's effort to get more Americans vaccinated and combat the spread of the delta variant at 4 p.m.
- The House Oversight and Reform Committee meets at 10 a.m. for a hearing on voting rights in Texas. Three members of the state legislature are appearing as witnesses.
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets at 11 a.m. for a hearing on the federal governments COVID-19 relief and response efforts.
- White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a briefing at 1 p.m.
- The vice president and Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman virtually visit a meeting with small business owners to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the administration's efforts to help small businesses at 2 p.m.
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