Power Up: Democrats start massive lift of drafting Biden's infrastructure proposal by aiming to redress highway system

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  • Harris will also visit a manufacturing plant to discuss the $20 billion investment the administration is proposing to convert the entire U.S. fleet of gasoline and diesel-powered school buses to electric vehicles.
  • Although Harris has yet to explicitly highlight as much, her policy footprint threads through the far-reaching infrastructure proposal. As a senator, Harris co-sponsored several of the bills and investments incorporated into Biden’s infrastructure effort, including the plan’s proposed $111 billion investment in water infrastructure and $100 billion investment in high-speed broadband infrastructure.
  • Harris is also “planning to visit New Hampshire in person later this week, with one or more stops in the Laconia-Plymouth area likely, several sources confirmed to WMUR on Sunday,” WMUR’s John DiStaso and Adam Sexton report. “For Harris, it would be her first visit to the Granite State since September 2019…”

On the Hill

FIRST IN POWER UP: One of the key pieces of Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan will debut today on Capitol Hill. 

Key Democratic senators are introducing legislation to reconnect neighborhoods cut off by the Interstate Highway System.  The “Reconnecting Communities Act” is aimed redressing some of the historic inequities and racial disparities in the federal government’s transportation investments.

  • It’s being advanced by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
  • Expect more of this kind of thing as “…congressional committees are quietly preparing measures addressing parts of the nation’s infrastructure — efforts that predate the release of Biden’s plan on March 31 — that will help gauge Capitol Hill’s appetite for bipartisanship,” our colleagues Seung Min Kim, Marianna Sotomayor, Jeff Stein, and Tony Romm report. 

The legislation mirrors the $20 billion fund to take down highways outlined in President Biden’s infrastructure proposal: it calls for the same levels of funding to be distributed through a grant program that would live in the Department of Transportation, according to an advance copy of the bill provided to Power Up 

  • The DOT would help communities to “identify and remove or remediate infrastructural barriers that create obstacles to mobility or economic development, or expose the community to air pollution or other health and safety risks,” according to the bill.
  • That would include placing a cap over a segment of I-95 in Wilmington, Del., removing the Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans, tearing down I-81 in Syracuse, N.Y., and removing Baltimore’s “Highway to Nowhere,along with additional projects spanning the U.S.

In an interview with Power Up, Van Hollen dismissed the GOP’s jokes making light of Democrats use of the term “infrastructure,” describing the push to dismantle investments perpetuating racial disparities as key to “creating livable infrastructure for a community.” 

  • “This is a situation where infrastructure actually divided a community, so in order to redevelop this community and heal this wound and reconnect the community so that it can become a more economically vibrant place people want to live and work, we need to make these investmentsso this is an infrastructure project,” Van Hollen told us over the weekend.
  • “The development of the Interstate Highway System connected our country in ways it hadn’t been previously, but it also upended neighborhoods and left communities divided, many times over economic and racial lines,” Carper said in a statement. “In many communities of color, nearby highways continue to represent real barriers for getting around and getting ahead.”

Bipartisan test: Lawmakers and staffers have started the massive undertaking of turning Biden’s infrastructure plan into legislative text and a key group of lawmakers will today meet with the president at the White House. The text being introduced today builds off work done by Van Hollen and Carper last Congress, and was unanimously supported by Republicans on the Environment and Public Works panel. 

  • The committee passed a transportation bill in 2019 including Van Hollen’s measure to fund the study and removal of highway barriers  through a pilot program. That was further expanded and included in a measure targeting inequities due to the pandemic, which also includes a $10 billion grant program aimed at tearing down divisive urban highways.

Details: The new measure would establish a DOT grant program aimed at identifying which infrastructure should be removed; the planning and design of removing such structures; and the funding of construction to remove or retrofit them. 

The undertaking is also intended to alleviate traffic-related pollutiona continuation of the Biden administration’s push to address environmental justice. The draft legislation seeks to offset the adverse health effects on Black communities because of highway systems and infrastructure projects that have dramatically increased air pollutants. 

Just the start: The painstaking task of turning the rest of Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure blueprint into legislation is just beginning. Republicans, meanwhile, are working on a bipartisan alternative, which the White House has said it’s waiting for.

  • Unlike Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, which he signed in his seventh full week in office, there is no urgent deadline for an ambitious plan on the scale the White House wants, all but guaranteeing the legislative fight will take months,” our colleagues Seung Min, Marianna, Jeff and Tony report. 
  • “ … The White House says it wants a bipartisan deal, but Democrats are preparing to move ahead alone if necessary. That is a delicate prospect, with the House divided 218 to 212 and the Senate split 50-50, meaning Democratic leaders have little margin for error.” 
  • Also coming from Congress this week: “…the Senate expects to turn to a roughly $35 billion water infrastructure bill. Aiming to replace aging water pipes and bolster wastewater systems against natural disasters, it has broad bipartisan support, but it’s smaller than what Biden has proposed,” per SMK, Marianna, Jeff and Tony. 

At the White House

HAPPENING TODAY: “President Biden is scheduled to meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, all of whom are former governors or mayors, to discuss his $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal,” the Hill’s Mychael Schnell reports

  • “The group, which is made up of five Democrats, four Republicans and one independent, includes Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.); and Reps. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.), Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.).”

From the courts

A CITY ON EDGE: “The law enforcement response to the protests over [Daunte] Wright’s killing has elevated tensions in Minneapolis, a city already on edge as it braces for a verdict in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd,” our colleagues Tim Craig and Holly Bailey report

  • “Closing arguments are scheduled for [today] in the landmark case, and officials, business owners and residents across the city are afraid Minneapolis could see a repeat of the civil unrest that erupted after Floyd’s death last May.”
  • “Last week, thousands of Minnesota National Guard troops began deploying throughout the city, taking up armed positions along commercial corridors and in residential neighborhoods alongside police officers as part of what city and state officials describe as a deterrent to potential looting and violence in response to the Chauvin verdict.”
  • “But the wartime posture has alarmed some residents and elected officials who have repeatedly complained in recent weeks that the heavily militarized approach ignores the community’s trauma over the events of last summer, when mostly peaceful protesters were tear-gassed and injured by police action.”

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Maryland: “The Democratic-controlled legislature overrode a veto by the state’s Republican governor to pass a sweeping reform package … [which] erases the Law Enforcement Officers’s Bill of Rights.”
  • “Maryland’s new laws contain a range of provisions to rein in policing: a body-camera requirement for officers regularly interacting with the public, prison sentences of up to 10 years for violations of the state’s use-of-force policy, and restrictions on so-called no-knock warrants … Another Maryland law, named after Anton Black, requires disclosure of information about police misconduct investigations.”
  • Berkeley, Calif.: “In February, Berkeley, Calif., barred officers from pulling over motorists for not wearing a seat belt, misuse of high-beam headlights or expired registrations. The moves were in part based on research showing that Black motorists in the city were about six times more likely to be pulled over than white motorists were.”
  • Virginia: “In Virginia, a law went into effect last month limiting the minor traffic violations for which officers should stop vehicles. It also prohibits officers from conducting searches solely based on smelling marijuana.”

“But the laws, and new rules adopted by police departments across the country, are not enough to satisfy demands by Black Lives Matter and other activists who are pushing for wholesale reforms, cultural shifts and cutbacks at law enforcement agencies,” Eder, Keller and Migliozzi report.

  • “The focus has been so heavily on what do we do after harm has already been committed — after the police have already engaged in misconduct — and far less focused on how do we stop this from the beginning,” Paige Fernandez, an advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times.
  • And reform doesn’t always work. “While Chauvin was on trial last week, episodes in Virginia, Minnesota and Illinois — which have all enacted reforms — underscored how the new laws would not always prevent traumatic outcomes.”
  • As of Sunday, 982 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year, according to The Post’s Fatal Force database.

Outside the Beltway

HIS BROTHER’S KEEPER: “As the world awaits the jury’s decision on Chauvin’s fate, Philonise [Floyd] is having a more personal coming to terms,” our colleague Robert Samuels reports this morning in a must-read piece. “Civil rights activism was not so much a calling, but a duty that helped make sense of a sudden, gruesome tragedy that had befallen his tightknit family. His journey has required him to reconcile the image of the brother he admired and the struggles of George Floyd that he had not fully comprehended.”

  • “I had confronted racism before, but I always just tried to take the high road,” Philonise told our colleague. “When that officer killed him, my brother never got the chance to take the high road. Racism killed him. So now it is my duty to speak out.”
  • “The last time Philonise saw his brother in person was in June 2018 at their mother’s funeral. After the service, he said, George Floyd had refused to leave the casket. He kept kissing it, uttering ‘Mama, Mama.’”
  • “Philonise sometimes beats himself up for not picking up on the signs that his brother’s life was starting to disintegrate. He just left him alone in the city. ‘I was grieving too,’ Philonise said. ‘I didn’t help him.’”
  • “He figured his activism would be his chance to make it up to Perry” (what his family called George Floyd).

Meanwhile, “the nationwide pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine is likely to be lifted Friday, according to Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert,” our colleague Amy B Wang reports.

  • “By Friday, we should have an answer as to where we’re going with it,” Fauci said on ABC News’s “This Week.” “I would think that we’re not going to go beyond Friday in the extension of this pause.”

Global power

U.S. TO RUSSIA: ‘THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES’: “President Biden’s national security adviser warned Sunday that there will be repercussions for Russia if Putin critic Alexei Navalny dies, amid reports that his health is rapidly deteriorating in prison,” Politico’s Connor O’Brien reports

  • “We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Jake Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
  • A dire situation. “Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh has tweeted that Navalny is ‘dying,’ and several doctors said he could go into cardiac arrest at any time. Yarmysh said he had days to live,” our colleague Robyn Dixon reports.