Wednesday's politics & policy stories

$1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill clears major procedural vote in Senate

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The Senate voted 67-32 on Wednesday to advance the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Why it matters: After weeks of negotiating, portions of the bill remain unwritten, but the Senate can now start debating the legislation to resolve outstanding issues.

Updated Jul 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan group reaches agreement on $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

After weeks of long nights and endless Zoom calls, a bipartisan group of senators finally reached a deal on "the major issues" in their $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure package, GOP senators involved in the talks announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It could be days before the group finishes writing the bill, but the Senate can begin debating the legislation in earnest now that they have resolved the outstanding issues. The bill needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate.

Many Republicans reject latest CDC mask guidance

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) speaks during a press conference on June 8. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

Republican lawmakers across the United States are speaking out in opposition to Tuesday's recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people wear face masks in areas with high COVID transmission rates.

Why it matters: The Delta variant is driving up case rates across the country, with roughly 46% of counties across the U.S. currently classified as areas with high transmission rates.

Jul 28, 2021 - Health

White House says federal agencies must require masks in hotspots

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The White House Office of Management and Budget told federal agencies they must require masks to be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status, according to an email reviewed by Axios.

State of play: OMB deputy director Jason Miller wrote that consistent with new mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "in areas of substantial or high community transmission," employees, contractors and visitors must wear a mask inside federal buildings.

Scoop: Trump team blames conservative for loser endorsement

Donald Trump at rally in Texas. Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Donald Trump's advisers are angry at David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, for persuading the former president to endorse a losing candidate in the special election for Texas' 6th District.

Why it matters: Susan Wright's defeat Tuesday in a Republican runoff with Navy veteran Jake Ellzey dealt a blow to Trump's aura of invincibility as a Republican kingmaker. It's critical to his 2022 midterm endorsements and continued hold on the GOP.

DOJ: State audits of 2020 election could violate federal law

Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department on Wednesday issued a second warning to states that so-called audits of the 2020 election could violate federal laws, emphasizing the agency's intent to protect voting rights.

Why it matters: Several counties and states across the U.S. have completed or considered audits amid former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread election fraud.

D.C. officer reveals threatening voicemail received during Jan. 6 testimony

D.C. Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone received a profanity-laced voicemail from a Trump supporter who directed violent threats at him as he testified before the Jan. 6 select committee on Monday.

Details: In the voicemail, which aired on CNN without censorship at Fanone's request, a person accuses the officer of lying about the insurrection before using derogatory language to lambast him.

Rep. James Clyburn calls debate over critical race theory a "red herring"

Photo: Axios

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said Wednesday that the current debate over critical race theory is a "red herring" used to avoid addressing systemic racism.

Why it matters: Clyburn's comments at an Axios virtual event come amidst a Republican push to ban the teaching of critical race theory —which holds that racism is baked into the formation of the nation and is ingrained in the legal, financial, and education systems.

McConnell using campaign cash to pay for vaccine PSAs

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to use money from his reelection campaign to run radio ads on over 100 Kentucky stations in the coming days to promote getting vaccinated for COVID-19, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The most hardcore opponents of vaccination — the group who say they'll never get one — tend to be older, whiter and more Republican, according to an analysis of our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde defends comparison of Jan. 6 riot to "tourists"

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) departs a press conference on June 14. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) defended comments made during a House committee hearing in which he compared the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot to a "normal visit."

The big picture: In a heated back-and-forth during a Rules Committee meeting on Tuesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who sits on the select committee investigating the attack, pressed Clyde on whether he had watched the officers' testimony earlier in the day.

Updated Jul 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

White House, House reimpose mask mandate

Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

The White House announced Tuesday that it was reimposing its indoor mask requirement for staff, a White House aide confirmed to Axios.

The latest: Capitol physician Brian Monahan late Tuesday announced that the House would also require masks again "for meetings in an enclosed" space.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to propose a return to Obama-era mileage standards

Traffic develops ahead of the July 4th weekend in downtown New York, U.S., on Friday, July 2, 2021. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration is on the cusp of floating draft auto emissions and mileage rules, per several reports.

Why it matters: Transportation is the largest source of U.S. carbon emissions, but auto rules have been in a complex regulatory, courtroom and lobbying seesaw for years.

Jul 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Officers relive Jan. 6 terror

Photos (clockwise): D.C. Police Officer Daniel Hodges, D.C. Officer Michael Fanone, Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn. Credits: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP, Oliver Contreras via Getty Images, Jim Bourg via Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/AFP.

As the House's Jan. 6 committee opened its hearings, carried live on TV around the world, four officers gave raw, emotional testimony that was shocking even to people who had closely followed coverage of the riot.

Jul 28, 2021 - Axios Tampa Bay

School masking reemerges as pandemic fault line across Florida

Families protest masks outside the Hillsborough County school board meeting. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

Despite Hillsborough County's COVID positivity rate hitting an all-time high, many families and students are demanding that masks stay optional for the coming school year.

What’s happening: Public testimony at the county's school board meeting on Tuesday was largely dominated by people opposed to a mask mandate, even though no mask decision was on the agenda.

Exclusive: New ad pits DeSantis against Trump for donor dollars

Gov. Ron DeSantis gives two thumbs up toward former President Trump at The Villages Polo Club in October. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The same political action committee that launched one of the first ads in the 2022 Florida gubernatorial race — trumpeting tension between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Trump — is back with a new spot.

Why it matters: Remove Ron says its first ad went viral, with 350,000 organic views on social media, so it’s launching another to highlight the "growing number" of Trump backers who are now donating to DeSantis’ re-election campaign.

Jul 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

National parks "drowning in tourists"

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Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

Why it matters: Some are seeing such a record number they're being forced to limit, and even close, access to certain areas to avoid the danger of eroding the land. The result, ultimately, could change the way Americans interact with the parks going forward.

Proposed Biden rule aims to decrease U.S. dependence on foreign manufacturing

Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will announce a proposed rule on Wednesday that aims to increase U.S.-made content in federal purchases and bolster critical supply chains, according to administration officials.

Why it matters: The pandemic-induced PPE crisis and recent chip supply shortages have highlighted the U.S. dependence on foreign nations when it comes to manufacturing, Axios' Hope King writes.

Updated Jul 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Dem donor Ed Buck convicted of providing fatal meth doses to 2 men

Survivor Dane Brown (second from left), and LaTisha Nixon, Gemmel Moores mother (center) with friends and family orejoice in the guilty verdict for Ed Buck in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Photo: Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Ed Buck, a wealthy Democratic donor, was convicted Tuesday of charges related to the supply of fatal methamphetamine doses to two men at his West Hollywood apartment.

Driving the news: A federal jury found the prominent 66-year-old political activist guilty of all nine felony counts over the deaths. Prosecutors made the case of "an older white man using his power and money to exploit the poverty and drug addiction" of younger, gay Black men, per the Los Angeles Times.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Capitol riot lawsuit

Rep. Mo Brooks during a June news conference on Capitol Hill. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Alabama congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani. Brooks said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

Jake Ellzey defeats congressman's widow in Texas House runoff

Photo: Justin Hamel/AFP via Getty Images

Jake Ellzey won a special a runoff election for a U.S. House seat in Texas on Tuesday night, per AP.

Why it matters: To win the seat, Ellzey defeated Susan Wright, widow of Rep. Ron Wright. She was backed by former President Trump, whose endorsements have often boosted Republican candidates' chances of winning elections.

Jul 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Woman can display profane Biden signs after sanctions dropped

President Biden at the Office of the Director Of National Intelligence headquarters in McLean, Virginia, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Trump-supporting New Jersey woman on Tuesday won her fight to display profanity-laden signs criticizing President Biden.

Driving the news: The Superior Court, Law Division, in New Jersey vacated charges brought against Andrea Dick of Roselle Park — who was ordered by a municipal judge to take down the signs stating f--k Biden and other messages, or face fines of $250 a day following complaints from neighbors, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented her.

Biden weighing tailored vaccine mandates

Vice President Kamala Harris resumed wearing a mask indoors on Tuesday. Photo: Ken Cedeno/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Biden administration officials are debating how to expand vaccine mandates for some federal civilian health care workers as they prepare to put more testing pressure — and requirements — on the rest of the federal workforce.

Why it matters: With the Delta variant surging across the country, officials are exploring ways to persuade or pressure Americans hesitant or downright opposed to getting a coronavirus vaccine.

Jul 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

GOP doubters unswayed by Jan. 6 testimony

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Elise Stefanik watch Rep. Jim Jordan speak before today's meeting of the Jan. 6 select committee. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rather than winning over House Republicans, the dramatic testimony delivered during the Jan. 6 select committee's first public hearing led them to double down on their criticism that the investigation is purely political.

Why it matters: The remarks signal that regardless of the panel's eventual findings, many Republican lawmakers — most of whom didn't even watch Tuesday's hearing — will dismiss the proceedings as a partisan witch hunt.

Biden border policies rebuild that wall

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden is building his own kind of border wall.

Why it matters: By maintaining a Trump-era policy allowing border agents to kick asylum seekers back to Mexico — and now allowing some migrant families to face detention and fast-track deportations — a Democrat who promised a more humane immigration approach is taking some tough stances.

Seven-week House recess faces cut

The steps to the House of Representatives. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As members of the House fly home Friday for an extra-long August recess, they leave knowing they’ll almost certainly have their break cut short.

Why it matters: Despite the threat of a spreading Delta variant, riveting testimony about the Jan. 6 insurrection and debate over an infrastructure bill that will affect roads and bridges coast to coast, lawmakers are currently scheduled to be away from Washington until mid-September.

Maryland man accused of threatening to kill Fauci and his family

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a May Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Maryland man has been arrested on suspicion of sending repeated threats to harm Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint.

Why it matters: Having advised two administrations on the COVID-19 pandemic, Fauci has become a target for conspiracy theorists and others with a political agenda. He had to have security stepped up in the spring of 2020 due to threats made to him — as noted in the complaint against Thomas Patrick Connally, Jr., 56.