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Alex Brandon / AP

White House Legislative Affairs director Marc Short laid out the administration's legislative timeline Monday night, saying he expects Republicans to pass healthcare and the 2018 budget this summer so the fall can be focused on tax reform. Short said the administration still wants an infrastructure bill this year, but seemed wary about putting a firm timeline on that given the crowded agenda ahead.

Key takeaways:

  • Short acknowledged healthcare had become a purely partisan issue but said the administration was still hopeful of getting Democrats to support tax reform, and said the President has always believed infrastructure must be bipartisan.
  • He said the White House wants tax reform to be revenue neutral.
  • He did not answer the question of where the White House stands on the debt ceiling — indicating it was still a live debate. (Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has pushed for a "clean" debt ceiling bill, meaning it's not tied to other demands, whereas Budget Director Mick Mulvaney wants to tie spending cuts to the bill to force changes.)

Healthcare by the August recess:

  • Short was especially aggressive on healthcare reform. Asked about the timeline for passage he said "we're looking for before they [Congress] adjourn for August recess."
  • He said Obamacare was in a state of crisis with insurers dropping out and skyrocketing premiums — citing 176% premium increases on average in North Carolina — and said both of those factors would intensify the activity in June and July.
  • Asked how close he thought the Senate was to getting its own healthcare bill, Short said "there's been a lot of discussions with staff...significant progress over the recess...I think that written text is actually pretty far along."

The other side: Republican Senators have been openly saying that they doubt healthcare can get done this year. My colleague David Nather wrote an item this morning (headline: "Pessimism Update") with quotes from Senators Jeff Flake and Richard Burr in particular voicing their doubts about the White House's timetable. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham have also expressed skepticism about healthcare's prospects in the Senate.

Up next: President Trump will host a meeting Tuesday with Republican House and Senate members to his agenda, with a focus on healthcare and tax reform.

Go deeper

Scoop: Anthony Coley to lead Justice Department public affairs

The U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington, D.C. Photo: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images

Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden’s nominee for attorney general, has tapped Anthony Coley, an Obama-era Treasury Department official, to serve as a senior adviser and lead public affairs at the Department of Justice, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: As the public face of the DOJ, Coley will help explain — and defend — the department's actions, from sensitive cases to prosecutorial decisions, including the investigation into Hunter Biden.

AP: Justice Dept. rescinds "zero tolerance" policy

A young girl waves to onlookers through the fence at the US-Mexico border wall at Friendship Park in San Ysidro, California in Nov. 2018. Photo: Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden's acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issued a memo on Tuesday to revoke the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which separated thousands of migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, AP first reported.

Driving the news: A recent report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz emphasized the internal chaos at the agency over the implementation of the policy, which resulted in 545 parents separated from their children as of October 2020.

Biden picks up his pen to change the tone on racial equity

Vice President Harris looks on as President Biden signs executives orders related to his racial equity agenda. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden is making a down payment on racial equity in a series of executive orders dealing with everything from private prisons to housing discrimination, treatment of Asian Americans and relations with indigenous tribes.

The big picture: Police reform and voting rights legislation will take time to pass in Congress. But with the stroke of his pen, one week into the job Biden is taking steps within his power as he seeks to change the tone on racial justice from former President Trump.

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