Feb 24, 2021

Axios Sneak Peek

Welcome back to Sneak. We're here to get you ready for Hump Day.

ūüö® Breaking: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced tonight the House will vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus bill Friday.

Today's newsletter ‚ÄĒ edited by Glen Johnson ‚ÄĒ is 722 words, a 2.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Scoop - Biden calling Saudi king ahead of damning report

King Salman speaks during the 2020 U.N. General Assembly. Photo: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden plans to call Saudi Arabia’s King Salman tomorrow, ahead of the public release of a potentially damning intelligence report about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a person familiar with the matter tells Axios' Hans Nichols.

Why it matters: The call, if it happens as scheduled, will be Biden’s first conversation as president with the Saudi king. While they are likely to discuss a range of issues, the conversation will be colored by the imminent release of the explosive report expected to involve one of the monarch's sons.

The report implies Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in Khashoggi’s murder and dismemberment at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

The president is moving to recalibrate the Saudi relationship after the Trump administration made Riyadh's preferences in the Persian Gulf a priority for U.S. foreign policy.

  • During the 2020 campaign, Biden accused the crown prince of ordering the murder, stressed he wouldn't sell weapons to the Saudis and promised to "make them the pariah that they are."

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2. Exclusive: Bernie ready to roll on roads

Illustration: A√Įda Amer/Axios

Senate Democrats are readying to pass Biden’s infrastructure package through the budget reconciliation process, a recognition they're unlikely to get much Republican support for a potential $2 trillion package, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

Driving the news: Sen. Bernie Sanders told Axios on Tuesday he‚Äôs consulted with the White House about how to prepare for the next round of spending, and he's ready to do it immediately via reconciliation ‚ÄĒ a process he controls as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

“If I have anything to say about it, it will, and I think the president wants it to happen," Sanders (I-Vt.) said during an interview in the Capitol.

  • Reconciliation requires only a simple 51-vote majority, rather than the usual 60 votes to pass major legislation.
  • A White House spokesman declined comment.

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3. Progressives see N.Y. AG as potential Cuomo challenger

Letitia James. Photo: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York Democratic strategists, operatives and progressives are viewing state Attorney General Letitia James as an appealing primary challenger to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, they tell Axios' Alexi McCammond.

Why it matters: The dynamics of New York politics are complex, especially when your last name is Cuomo. But the governor has been criticized recently for his handling of the coronavirus, and James is no stranger to picking big fights.

Her bombshell report about how the coronavirus rocked New York's nursing homes focused on the issue Cuomo rode to a heightened national profile during the past year. James also has targeted Donald Trump with an investigation into his real estate empire, as well as Facebook, Google and the National Rifle Association.

  • "You need to be less extreme but still to the left ‚ÄĒ but center enough ‚ÄĒ to get the party moderates," one Democratic operative who works on local races told Axios.

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4. Conservatives use new tack to target voting machines

Rep. Matt Gaetz. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) joined a group of conservatives last week at a training session for activists readying to combat the continued use of the voting technology that propelled Trumpworld's 2020 election-theft conspiracy theories, Axios' Lachlan Markay writes.

Why it matters: Theories about uncounted or overcounted votes have become politically toxic and legally problematic for their most prominent backers. The activist training is part of an effort to put a more respectable and pragmatic face on its continuation.

What's happening: The remote event was hosted Friday by the Leadership Institute and emceed by Matthew Braynard, who spearheaded a personal effort to unearth proof of 2020 voter fraud.

  • Braynard and a handful of Leadership Institute staffers trained activists about how to lobby state and county governments to oppose the use of voting machines such as those made by Dominion Voting Systems, which has been targeted with outlandish and false attacks by Trump, his legal team and supporters.

The training effort is part of a larger campaign by Braynard's group, Look Ahead America, to combat what it calls "black-box" voting technology.

  • The proprietary nature of equipment such as Dominion's makes it more difficult to publicly inspect the ways in which that technology tabulates votes, he insists.

Go deeper.

5. A racial breakdown of the Senate
Data: Brookings Institution; Note: Chart: Sara Wise and Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The 117th Congress is the most ethnically and racially diverse Congress yet, but there are no Native Americans nor Asian Republicans in the Senate, according to analysis by Axios' Stef Kight.

Why it matters: Representation has improved in Congress, but there have been only 33 Black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American U.S. senators. There are 11 in the current Senate, even though those demographic groups make up 39% of the total population, according to census data.

  • Freshman Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat, is the record sixth Hispanic senator, and the first Hispanic senator to represent California.
  • The victory of another Democrat, Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, made him the first Black senator to represent the state.
  • It also maintained the total number of current Black senators after Kamala Harris resigned to become vice president.
6. Pic du jour

Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund was sworn in today to provide the first official law enforcement testimony about the Capitol siege on Jan. 6.

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