Age of the big number
Numbers tied to national programs and tragedies always sound stunning. The tax-cut bill in 2017 featured a slash in corporate rates and added up to $1.9 trillion. U.S. COVID-19 deaths during a year of pandemic total 542,000 so far. About 2.5 million Americans per day are now vaccinated against the coronavirus. President Joe Biden pushed for and signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief and stimulus package.
On Monday, policymakers in Washington were talking about a new mammoth estimate — a roughly $3 trillion infrastructure and jobs package that also includes massive domestic-policy provisions such as plans for pre-K and climate-change protection.
Former President Donald Trump's "infrastructure week," having led nowhere, was a running joke during his term. Such projects dominate the first phase of Biden's plans. But he has yet to reveal a solid strategy for getting it through Congress.
The $3 trillion cost doesn't include the cost of extending new tax cuts for those on the lower economic rungs, which could reach hundreds of billions of dollars, according to estimates cited by The New York Times. Officials have not yet broken out the price tags for separate pieces of legislation that might comprise the overall package.
How to pay for it is only partially projected so far. Biden is moving to increase tax rates on the wealthy, who data shows have made out very well since the coronavirus pandemic began, and on large corporations. With Republicans and business lobbyists resisting, Democrats will likely need to "go it alone" in trying to rewrite the tax code and set priorities.
White House aides seem to believe Biden's tax proposal will be popular because of the widening income inequality in the U.S. But a long process lies ahead, and in the meantime, the government seems to be struggling with the logistics of what is already in the law.
As many as 2 million unemployed workers could experience delays in getting extended jobless benefits under the terms of recent congressional action. The stimulus bill was enacted close to the expiration of those benefits, complicating the problem.
How far will the federal government go in treating pro-Trump rioters at the U.S. Capitol as the true enemies of the people? At least as far as to consider sedition charges against a number of them.
A former lead prosecutor in the case said evidence obtained in the probe of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, which was aimed at disrupting the congressional affirmation of Biden's election, likely meets the standard for charging some suspects with sedition. "I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements," Michael Sherwin said in his "60 Minutes" appearance on Sunday.
"I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that," said Sherwin, former acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
Two months into the big probe, prosecutors are preparing to start plea discussions as early as this week with many of the more than 300 suspects charged in the riot, The Washington Post reported.
Border concern surging
Border agents in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the center of the current migrant surge, were authorized on Saturday to begin releasing adults and families from custody before the migrants receive a date to appear in court, NBC News reported.
The move is "intended to mitigate operational challenges, including risks to national security, during significant surges of illegal migration as currently exist in the Rio Grande Valley" by reducing the time immigrants spend in custody, says a document cited by the network.
Customs and Border Protection usually gives migrants a "notice to appear" before they are released or sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for detention.
Biden meanwhile is sending high-ranking aides to Mexico and Guatemala to discuss the growing numbers of U.S.-bound migrants from Central America. Thousands of children stopped on the U.S. side are held in detention facilities.
Biden's Boston burgomaster OKd
The Senate on Monday confirmed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh Monday as the new labor secretary in a 68-29 vote. Walsh, 53, had been in that elected job since 2014, before which he was in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 17 years. He rose to prominence in Boston's building trade unions and is a friend of Biden's.
Meantime, it was disclosed that Biden will nominate antitrust expert Lina Khan to join the Federal Trade Commission. She's known for working on how to apply antitrust laws to the tech industry, signaling that the Biden administration wants aggressive oversight of the sector.
Kamala pitches COVID relief
Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday strode into what proved last year to be electorally hostile territory. As part of the administration's "Help is on the way" tour, she visited Jacksonville, Florida, where she stopped in at a food distribution warehouse and a federally run COVID-19 vaccination site at a mall.
"I’m here to emphasize the importance of vaccinations and getting the vaccine," she said as she departed Air Force Two at Jacksonville International Airport. "You know, when it’s your turn, you got to get it. And regardless of what we’re talking about in terms of the various variants."
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments on Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Robert Brodsky and Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Trump is back to singing one of his old hits. He told Fox News on Monday that China and other international rivals "laugh" at the U.S. over "woke" politics, such as the controversy over the Dr. Seuss Enterprises' decision to stop publishing six books that have racist imagery. Earlier this month, veteran political strategists said conservative commentators who prioritized culture-war issues like defending Dr. Seuss were doing so because they were struggling to define Biden.
- The Biden administration announced sanctions against two Chinese officials for "serious human rights abuses" against Uyghur Muslims, part of a larger sanctions action the U.S. coordinated with the European Union, Britain and Canada.
- An NYPD officer under scrutiny for his ties to pardoned dirty trickster Roger Stone is "friends" on a cash-sharing app with an accused member of the right-wing Oath Keeper militia who is charged with storming the Capitol, the New York Daily News reported.
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be positioning himself as a potential 2024 hopeful for president on the Republican ticket.
- The producer of "Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm" said Rudy Giuliani tried but failed to have arrests made after the famously embarrassing episode in which the then-Trump lawyer was punked in a hotel bedroom.
- Eric Greitens, the former Missouri governor ousted by multiple scandals 18 months into his term, announced Monday that he will run for the Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Roy Blunt.
- Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who compared Biden's election with the 1860 contest that preceded the Civil War, is seeking a seat to be vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Richard Shelby.
- Agitation for D.C. statehood is escalating.