Press Secretary Jen Psaki takes the podium to talk about the Voting Rights Act, Biden’s infrastructure deal, and U.S. sanctions against Belarus. Delaney Tarr reports on the biggest stories from today’s briefing.
1. Voting Rights Act Set to Fail
Talk about the filibuster continues, as an expansive voting rights bill heads to a Senate vote later this week. The For the People Act would overhaul federal voting legislation. It’s largely guaranteed to fail the 60 vote requirement to pass a GOP filibuster with strong Republican opposition.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki posed the vote as a show of democratic unity in the face of questions about its imminent failure.
“We don’t expect there to be a magical 10 votes, but just two weeks ago there were questions about whether Democrats would be aligned. We certainly hope that will be the case tomorrow,” said Psaki.
One of the biggest Democratic holdouts is Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), who penned an op-ed citing his opposition to the bill and instead proposed a compromise plan on voting rights.
Psaki said the administration sees Manchin’s proposal as a “step forward”. She then pivoted conversation away from the federal level, and back toward statewide voting groups and legislators.
The impending failure of the bill has also sparked questions around President Biden’s stance on the filibuster. With a united Republican Party in opposition, the bill is ten votes short of crossing the 60 vote threshold.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said that if the vote is unsuccessful, the administration “suspects it will prompt a new conversation” around the filibuster.
The Senate is set to vote on the bill on Tuesday.
2. Battling Infrastructure Bills
Negotiations around Biden’s infrastructure bill continue as Republican and Democratic lawmakers share their different visions for the plan.
A team of 21 Senators recently introduced a bipartisan compromise to Biden’s bill, costing around $1.2 trillion over 8 years. The bill would focus on specific hard infrastructure changes like roads and bridges, but not Biden’s broader proposals around issues like childcare.
Disagreement around the funding of the bill has spurred between Democrats and Republicans. GOP Senators have proposed a hike in the gas tax and electric vehicle fees, rather than raising taxes on wealthy individuals.
Senators like Bernie Sanders have announced their opposition to the bipartisan bill, citing the funding methods as a red line.
Psaki stressed the Biden administration’s funding strategy. “One of them is ensuring the highest wealthiest individuals in this country pay what they’re supposed to pay as it relates to taxes,” said Psaki.
Psaki named tax enforcement as a better fundraiser than the proposed gas tax. Psaki also said Biden thinks it’s “responsible” to fully fund the bill.
A group of Democrats has recently introduced an alternative infrastructure bill with a $6 trillion price tag, with only about half of the cost paid for. They plan to push the bill through without any GOP support.
Amidst dueling proposals, Psaki said Biden will continue to have meetings and conversations with a number of Senators, saying it will likely be more than one face-to-face engagement.
3. Biden continues vaccine push
As Biden’s July 4th vaccination deadline approaches, Biden is unlikely to meet his target of having 70% of American adults partly vaccinated. Psaki shifted focus away from the target and towards broader goals.
“The ultimate goal has been to get America back to normal,” said Psaki. She highlighted a 90% reduction in the number of COVID-19 deaths and cited 16 states as meeting the 70% goal.
The Biden administration has now aimed his target on a younger population, the 18-25 age demographic. Psaki said the lower rates are “concerning”, especially with the rise of the Delta variant of the virus that doesn’t discriminate by age.
The Biden administration continues to promote local governments as the heads of the vaccine push but added that the President and Vice President will be traveling to advocate for the impact and efficacy of the vaccine.
Globally, the Biden administration announced the distribution list for the remaining 55 million of the 80 million doses of the nation’s own supply. Biden has pledged to send out globally and allocate those doses by the end of June.
In the past weekend, the administration said they sent 2.5 million doses to Taiwan and will continue to work with US manufacturers to produce more doses to share globally.
4. Sanctions against Belarus
The United States announced further sanctions against several senior officials in Belarus, in coordination with the European Union, Britain, and Canada. The sanctions come in response to actions taken by President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko’s government during his regime.
Psaki said the sanctions “send a clear message that the behavior is unacceptable.” The government in Belarus recently forced down a European passenger jet housing a Belarusian opposition journalist.
The journalist, Roman Protasevich, and his girlfriend were detained after the plane landed. The Biden administration cited the plane landing, along with oppression of democracy by Lukashenko as motivation for the sanctions.
European Union leaders have already placed economic sanctions on the nation, and the United States is reimposing previously lifted sanctions of their own. The sanctions will include visa restriction and property asset designation for certain individuals and organizations, among other measures.