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Biden gauging GOP appetite to pay for infrastructure plan before going all in

President Biden plans to test Republicans’ appetite to pay for any part of his proposed $4.1 trillion in infrastructure and social spending before deciding whether to pursue one big tax-and-spend package or two smaller ones, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: Biden is wary of boxing himself in, since it would dictate whether he seeks a bipartisan or all-Democratic approach. He told reporters on Wednesday, "I'm willing to compromise. But I'm not willing to not pay for what we're talking about. I'm not willing to deficit-spend."

  • The president's proposal to raise an additional $700 billion from wealthy Americans through increased tax enforcement could be the easiest way to attract Republican support for a pared-down package, according to Democrats close to the White House.
  • Biden will host his first bipartisan meeting with the "Big Four" congressional leaders next Wednesday, May 12, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
  • He'll also meet separately with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who's emerged as a key negotiator for the Republicans' $568 billion counterproposal on infrastructure.

Why it matters: If Republicans agree to pay for it, Biden is more likely to settle for a smaller, bipartisan bill focused on traditional infrastructure such as roads, bridges and broadband.

  • The final infrastructure bill could creep up to $1 trillion during negotiations but would be well short of the president's initial $2.3 trillion proposal. Republican support would be key, since it would need 60 votes to pass in the Senate.
  • Biden would then return to Congress for the remainder of his spending proposals.
  • He'd aim to pass them later in the year via budget reconciliation, a process requiring only a simple 51-vote Democratic majority for approval.

Between the lines: The one-two approach could require Biden to sacrifice many of the progressive priorities in his Build Back Better agenda.

  • A second package, focused on "human infrastructure" such as paid family leave and costing in excess of $3 trillion, could collapse under the bill's overall price tag and complexity.
  • Democrats expect centrists like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to press for a reduction in the size and scope of the second package.

The big picture: Biden initially proposed paying for his first $2.3 trillion infrastructure package by increasing corporate taxes.

  • For his second $1.8 trillion plan, he focused on personal taxes, including raising the top marginal income rate to 39.6%, treating capital gains as regular income and capturing another $700 billion in tax enforcement by investing another $80 billion in the IRS.
  • Despite pairing them that way, he's open to ideas about which taxes should be applied to which spending.

Go deeper: Biden's proposed $4.1 trillion in overall spending could actually be much higher, after the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation provide their official price tags.

  • Biden's initial $1.8 trillion American Families plan would actually cost $700 billion more than the White House has claimed, according to a new analysis by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Budget Model.

The bottom line: By decoupling the revenue-raisers from his spending provisions, Biden has expanded his options to pay for parts of his program.

  • Yet by increasing the likelihood of supporting one smaller bill, he’s potentially jeopardizing his bigger political agenda.

Vaccine mandates are suddenly much more popular

State governments, private businesses and even part of the federal government are suddenly embracing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for their employees.

Why it matters: Vaccine mandates have been relatively uncommon in the U.S. But with vaccination rates stagnating and the Delta variant driving yet another wave of cases, there's been a new groundswell of support for such requirements.

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American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

Team USA's Carissa Moore won gold in the first-ever Olympic women's surfing final, at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday.

The big picture: Brazil's Italo Ferreira won the gold medal in the inaugural men's Olympic surfing contest. The finals were brought forward a day due to the threat of Tropical Storm Nepartak.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Activist Tong Ying-kit found guilty of terrorism in first Hong Kong security law trial

Tong Ying-kit, the first person to be charged and tried under Hong Kong's national security law was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession by three judges Tuesday, per Bloomberg.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic tennis tournament in Tokyo

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka was eliminated from the Olympics after losing her Tokyo tennis tournament match 6-1, 6-4 in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Extreme drought pushes 2 major U.S. lakes to historic lows

Two significant U.S. lakes, one of which is a major reservoir, are experiencing historic lows amid a drought that scientists have linked to climate change.

What's happening: Lake Powell, the second largest reservoir in the U.S., has fallen 3,554 feet in elevation, leaving the crucial reservoir on the Colorado River, at 33% capacity — the lowest since it was filled over half a century ago, new U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data shows.

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North and South Korea restart hotline and pledge to improve ties

North and South Korea's leaders have pledged to improve relations and resumed previously suspended communication channels between the two countries, per Reuters.

Details: South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to "restore mutual confidence and develop their relationships again as soon as possible," South Korea's Blue House spokesperson Park Soo Hyun said in a televised briefing, AP notes.

  • This followed an exchange of letters between the two leaders since April.

Go deeper: Kim Jong Un says prepare for "dialogue and confrontation" with U.S.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

U.S. teen Lydia Jacoby wins Olympic gold medal in 100m breaststroke at Tokyo Games

Team USA's 17-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby has won the Olympic gold medal in the women's 100-meter breaststroke at the Tokyo Games.

Of note: The Alaskan is the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, and she beat Lilly King into second place.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Pelosi expected to extend proxy voting as Delta variant surges

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to extend proxy voting through the fall — and potentially until the end of the year — Democratic lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has alarmed both members and staffers anxious about interacting with the unvaccinated. Pelosi’s anticipated move — continuing an emergency COVID-19 measure enacted last year so lawmakers could vote remotely — is aimed at allaying those concerns.

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