Axios Sneak Peek

The back of a propped up cardboard cut-out of the U.S. Capitol.

May 20, 2021

Welcome back to Sneak.

Situational awareness: After shaking hands with all the brass and dignitaries at the Coast Guard Academy today, President Biden took time to greet Ensigns Rebecca Dolan and Mark Sporay.

  • They were the two graduates from Delaware.

Today's newsletter — edited by Glen Johnson — is 1,102 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: The Jan. 6 commission's Senate graveyard

Supporters of then-President Trump are seen overtaking the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump supporters on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House vote tonight to approve a Jan. 6 commission is a sugar high about to confront the reality of a Senate comedown, Axios' Alayna Treene writes.

What we're hearing: Axios spoke with a series of Republican senators and as of now, it's hard to see a plausible pathway to getting the necessary 10 GOP votes in the Senate to approve a panel. This, despite 35 Republican votes in favor in the House.

  • Most Senate Republicans embraced the cover Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave them early Wednesday during floor remarks.
  • He laid out the reasons why he opposes the bill, and members of his caucus adopted the talking points the rest of the day.
  • This is true even among some of the Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump following the Jan. 6 insurrection — such as Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
  • Others, like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — all of whom also voted to convict Trump — are withholding judgment on a commission.

The main public argument against one: It would be duplicative of and distracting to other ongoing investigations being conducted by the FBI, Justice Department and congressional oversight committees.

  • Others say it will take too long to set it up, and an investigation will spill into 2022 — an election year.
  • A private argument is that it's going to be a political mess for the GOP and could jeopardize Senate seats next year.

What the senators who voted to impeach Trump are saying:

  • Burr, who is retiring in 2023, told Axios he's against the commission. He "always believed that investigations were better focused within the committees of jurisdiction."
  • Sasse told Politico he's "reserving judgment" on how he'll vote but added: "A lot of the jabbering in the House — for and against this thing — seems like thinly veiled midterm strategy.”
  • Collins told reporters she would support a commission but thinks the House bill needs changes, such as ensuring both parties can hire commission staff, and a pledge to wrap up the investigation by the end of this year.
  • Romney said, “I'll look at the legislation and decide whether it's adequate and truly bipartisan. But I do support the object of the commission."

Keep reading.

2. Scoop: Kinzinger allies launch advocacy group

Rep. Adam Kinzinger is seen addressing reporters after Rep. Liz Cheney's ouster as Republican conference chair.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Allies of Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a prominent Trump critic who now argues he's trying to save the Republican Party, are launching a new advocacy group, Alayna and Axios' Lachlan Markay have learned.

Why it matters: The group and a sister super PAC will boost Kinzinger's political brand, help insulate him from primary challenges next year and be able to boost like-minded politicians elsewhere in the country.

  • The congressman has drawn the wrath of the Trump faithful over his vote to impeach the former president and persistent criticism of the party's embrace of election conspiracy theories.
  • Kinzinger is an Air National Guard pilot who has flown missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What's new: Keep Country First Policy Action, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, plans to "use both earned and paid media to drive the national narrative on key issues," according to a memo on its launch shared with Axios on Wednesday.

  • It also hopes to "build a grassroots army" that it can activate in support of a centrist policy agenda to "improve political dialogue and reestablish faith in our institutions."
  • The group's board includes two former Republican members of Congress: Virginia's Barbara Comstock and Florida's Tom Rooney.
  • Republican consultant Mario Castillo also will have a board seat.

What they're saying: "We want to begin the process of restoring faith in our institutions by advocating for the sort of commonsense policies that will give the average American hope that the federal government can put their interests first," Comstock said in a statement about the group's launch.

The big picture: The nonprofit's launch comes shortly after Kinzinger allies unveiled a super PAC designed to support Republicans who break ranks with the party's Trump-aligned mainstream.

  • Kinzinger is among the most prominent of that bloc. It also includes Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican who was booted from House leadership last week over her criticism of Trump's role in fomenting January's siege on the U.S. Capitol.
  • Both are facing primary challengers firmly aligned with Trump and determined to purge the party of his critics.

Keep reading.

3. By the numbers: The most bipartisan freshmen

Data: Quorum; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The top five most bipartisan freshman members of Congress, based on the number of bills they've co-sponsored having opposite-party sponsors, are all House Republicans, data collected by Quorum and reviewed by Alayna reveals.

By the numbers: Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.) takes the lead with 58.57% of her co-sponsorships linked to bills written by Democrats.

  • Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) is the most bipartisan Senate Democratic freshman, at 28.3%, and Rep. Kaiali'i Kahele (D-Hawaii) leads House Democratic freshmen, at 8.1%.

Worth noting: Democrats naturally have a smaller percentage of bipartisan co-sponsorships, given they're currently in the House and Senate majorities.

4. GOP open to boosting IRS collections for infrastructure

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill with Ben Franklin wearing a construction hat.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Key Senate Republicans are open to paying for a potential bipartisan infrastructure package with one of President Biden’s proposals: increased IRS funding to boost tax enforcement and collections, Axios' Hans Nichols reports.

Why it matters: By inching toward an agreement about how to pay for a portion of a potential $800 billion, “hard” infrastructure package, centrist Republicans are creating an avenue for a deal.

  • Regular taxpayers can't stand it when somebody is not paying their fair share,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who's leading negotiations with the White House, told Axios.
  • “Providing IRS with more resources so that people who were evading taxes that they owe is a good idea,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “It is a possible pay-for."

Driving the news: After meeting with administration officials Tuesday, Capito said today the prospects of a bipartisan deal are greater than 50%.

  • She expects a White House counteroffer tomorrow or Friday.
  • “We put a lot of things on the table,” she said.

The big picture: When the White House unveiled its proposal to invest $80 billion in the IRS, it claimed that would raise $700 billion over 10 years.

  • Aides attached it to the president's secondary, $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, not his original, $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan.
  • After Republicans balked at paying for any infrastructure projects by raising the corporate tax rate, as Biden initially proposed, administration officials indicated the tax enforcement revenue could be used instead to pay for traditional infrastructure projects.

Between the lines: Republicans and the White House still disagree about how much revenue tax enforcement would actually raise.

  • Progressive economists say the number may be closer to $1 trillion, but that figure has been met with skepticism from both parties.
  • “I don't think anybody really thinks that's a true number,” Capito said.

Keep reading.

Of note: The Office of Management and Budget announced tonight the Biden administration will release its FY2022 budget on May 28, instead of May 27.

5. Pic du jour

President Biden is seen with fingers in his mouth as he whistles during the Coast Guard Academy graduation ceremony.

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The commander in chief whistles during the Coast Guard Academy's 140th commencement.

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