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Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool / Getty Images

The White House will release two documents on Monday: its much-ballyhooed infrastructure plan and its 2018 budget. Readers should file both documents under the genre of “science fiction.” The budget is dead on arrival because presidential budgets are always dead on arrival, and the infrastructure plan appears to be dead on arrival because of a larger crisis facing the party. 

Behind-the-scenes: We've spent the past two weeks interviewing Republican aides and lawmakers on Capitol Hill about their support for a massive infrastructure spending bill. Though some will publicly applaud the plan, most Republican members will crinkle their noses. Few want a midterm-year spend-a-thon when they’re marching toward a $1 trillion deficit this year.

"I think [the budget deal] does hurt the chances for an infrastructure package to get done, unless you use the money we’re just now spending... I think there’s not going to be the appetite to continue to add additional monies without real offsets.”
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows

It’s not just ultra-conservative House Freedom caucus members who worry about the mushrooming debt under total GOP control of government.

Sources say Speaker Paul Ryan has zero interest in juicing the debt even more with a massive infrastructure package. (The White House plan is to leverage $200 billion of new federal spending into a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package.)

  • At Tuesday’s Republican Study Committee meeting, members vented about metastasizing debt and deficits. ​Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker called the national debt a “moral problem, not a financial problem,” according to two sources in the room. ​And that was even before Republicans passed a budget bill that put the debt on steroids.

All that said, it’s certainly plausible Congress could move some hodge-podge of provisions which they could describe as an infrastructure package. It won’t look remotely like Trump’s proposal, but it may give cover for a Rose Garden celebration.  

  • A White House spokeswoman pushed back vociferously on this story, saying Republicans and Democrats are aligned “in a lot of places” on infrastructure. She pointed to polling that shows a vast majority of Americans want some sort of infrastructure spending, and said the president’s team has spent the past year trying to build support from both parties. But privately, several senior administration officials have admitted to me they see no path to passage for anything resembling their infrastructure plan. 

Meanwhile, congressional leadership is hedging. GOP leadership aides reminded me of all the infrastructure legislation Republicans have already passed under Trump, but didn’t dispute that there’s scant GOP appetite for another mammoth spending bill this year.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell — whose wife, Elaine Chao, is Trump's Transportation Secretary and invested in infrastructure happening — was a little snarky in his statement:

“It’s easy to write obituaries in advance — it’s hard to cover dozens of hearings and weeks of floor debate."

Good one, Don.

Go deeper

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UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 12 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker