“At President Biden’s direction, the United States is actively pursuing measures that will both support the Cuban people and hold the Cuban regime accountable,” Chung tweeted.
Chung echoed much what White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at yesterday’s press briefing, including setting up a remittance working group to ensure that remittances – the practice of Americans transferring money to their Cuban relatives – end up in the hands of the Cuban people and not in the hands of the regime.
But in addition to augmenting staffing at the embassy in Cuba and expediting requests for humanitarian or medical supplies, Chung talked about holding Cuban officials accountable.
“We are going to focus on applying hard-hitting sanctions on regime officials responsible for the brutal crackdown,” Chung tweeted. “Cuban officials responsible for violence, repression, and human rights violations against peaceful protestors in Cuba must be held accountable.”
In more infrastructure news, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell talked to Punchbowl News about the debt ceiling, which he thinks Democrats should include in the reconciliation package.
A two-year suspension of the debt ceiling will expire at the end of July, but McConnell said he “can’t imagine” any Republican voting to raise it in the current “environment” of Capitol Hill.
“I can’t imagine a single Republican in this environment that we’re in now – this free-for-all for taxes and spending – to vote to raise the debt limit,” McConnell told Punchbowl News. “I think the answer is they need to put it in the reconciliation bill.”
Axios is reporting that in an effort to counter Republican attacks, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer will release a report today by Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi that argues that the bipartisan infrastructure deal and social-spending package would help the economy.
Some key points from the report, according to Axios:
Failing to pass the legislation “would certainly diminish the economy’s prospects,” Zandi wrote.
Inflation concerns are “overdone.”
“Greater investments in public infrastructure and social programs will lift productivity and labor force growth, and the attention on climate change will help forestall its increasingly corrosive economic effects,” Zandi wrote.
Today’s the day of the cloture vote on the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
Members of the bipartisan group that negotiated the deal – and are still smoothing out the last bits of pay-fors that have Republicans unhappy that they’re being rushed into a procedural vote – seem optimistic that they have the general idea, but not the text.
Reminder though that several Republicans balked on going forward with a vote to open debate on the floor on a bill without text, despite having done so before on the endless frontier bill in May and the AAPI hate crime bill earlier this year.
A quick recap because this is wonky and messy: there are two infrastructure bills that Democrats want to pass, the bipartisan infrastructure bill on roads, bridges, public transit and broadband that was negotiated with Republicans and Joe Biden and allegedly settled on last month – and an ambitious $3.5tn reconciliation bill that focuses on “human infrastructure” like social services and environmental measures and has drawn comparisons to the New Deal.
Most Republicans are against the reconciliation bill because of its sheer size and feel like after negotiating so long on the bipartisan framework, the Democrats tacked on the reconciliation bill as a package deal. The push by majority leader Chuck Schumer for a cloture vote today would move things along on the bipartisan bill so Democrats would be able to turn their focus on the reconciliation bill.
Either way, Republicans are very much against getting rushed by Schumer. Cloture requires 60 votes to pass, and while not getting the votes today doesn’t mean the end to the bipartisan deal as we know it, it would send a significant message pertaining to the Democrats’ ability to get it done.
Breakthrough Covid infections hit Washington amid reopening woes
What up, liveblog readers. Happy Wednesday. You’re halfway there.
We learned yesterday that a White House official tested positive for Covid-19 after coming in contact with a staffer for House speaker Nancy Pelosi who tested positive after escorting some Texas Democrats who tested positive this weekend.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki later disclosed that there have been other breakthrough cases among White House staff, but did not have the exact number. A memo from the attending physician at the US Capitol also disclosed that “several vaccinated Congressional staff” and “one member of Congress” have tested positive.
The news of these breakthrough cases in Washington comes as the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus tears through the rest of the country. The Delta variant accounts for 83% of all sequenced cases in the US, according to Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
Experts and officials are saying these breakthrough cases are underscoring the importance of vaccinations: everyone who has tested positive in Washington are either displaying mild or no symptoms, meaning there will be less of run on hospitals beds and medical services if more people inoculate themselves against the virus.
Infection rates are currently highest where vaccination rates are the lowest. Maya Yang has more on the Delta variant here: