Political News

(WASHINGTON) -- The vast majority of American families with children will automatically receive up to $300 per month per child beginning July 15, the IRS and Treasury Department announced Monday.

On the same delayed deadline day for Americans to file their taxes, the IRS said families who qualify for the Child Tax Credit, which was expanded as part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, will receive monthly payments without taking any further action. Initial eligibility will be based on 2019 or 2020 tax returns.

The changes increased the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for children over 6, and to $3,600 for children under 6. 

As people send in returns, Biden announced in White House remarks, "they should know a new tax cut will be coming their way."

Biden said that the change is part of his belief that the tax system "should work for the middle class."

"That's why I think we should ask corporations and the top 1% to start paying their fair share, and why we should crack down on millionaires and billionaires who escape taxes by cheating," Biden said. "But I also think we need to give ordinary families a break, a tax break, to help them with the cost of raising their kids."

Earlier, he pressed Congress to keep the enhanced tax credit, which is only applicable for 2021 taxes.

"The American Rescue Plan is delivering critical tax relief to middle class and hard-pressed working families with children. With today’s announcement, about 90% of families with children will get this new tax relief automatically, starting in July. While the American Rescue Plan provides for this vital tax relief to hard working families for this year, Congress must pass the American Families Plan to ensure that working families will be able to count on this relief for years to come," Biden said. "For working families with children, this tax cut sends a clear message: help is here."

On a call with reporters, senior Biden administration officials said that 39 million households covering 65.25 million children will automatically receive the monthly payments via direct deposit, paper checks or debit cards.

Direct payments be made on the 15th each month for the rest of 2021, sliding a day before or after if it falls on a holiday or weekend.

Along with the increased amount, one remarkable change is that the credit is now refundable, meaning families get checks throughout the year, rather than waiting until after filing taxes. Biden praised that change during remarks Monday.

"Here's the great news: you won't have to wait until your next year's tax return to get that break," Biden said. "I'm announcing today that, on July 15th and the 15th of every month thereafter, throughout the year, you will get deposited in your bank account half of your tax cut at least, $250 per child each month, a direct deposit into your account."

Proponents of the expanded tax credit hail that aspect of the credit and the effects it could have on children in poverty.

A report published in March by the nonpartisan think tank, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities the expanded credit would "lift 9.9 million children above or closer to the poverty line including 4.1 million Latino children, 2.3 million Black children, and 441,000 Asian American children."

ABC News' Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden announced on Monday that the U.S. will share more doses of vaccines with the rest of the world, starting by sending at least 20 million additional doses to help countries battling the pandemic by the end of June.

"These are vaccinations and vaccines that are authorized to be put in arms of Americans and, by the end of June, when we'll have taken delivery of enough of such vaccines to protect everyone in the United States, the United States will share at least 20 million of those doses, that extra supply, with other countries," Biden said. "This means over the next six weeks, the United States of America will send 80 million doses overseas."

Those doses, expected to be of Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson as they become available, are in addition to the 60 million doses of AztraZeneca that the administration previously announced it would share overseas.

He did not detail which countries would get the vaccines.

Biden touted that the total number of vaccines donated is "more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date, five times more than any other country."

Biden also emphasized the necessity of international cooperation to defeat the pandemic.

"I want to be clear: Beating this pandemic globally is beyond the capacity of any one nation, even the United States. But we'll continue to, the United States will continue to donate our excess supply, as that supply is delivered to us, but that won't be nearly enough," Biden said. "What we need to do is lead an entirely new effort, an effort that involves working with the pharmaceutical companies and others and partner nations to vastly increase supply..."

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will take up an abortion rights case seen as a major challenge to Roe v. Wade and what would be the first direct test on the issue for the court's new conservative majority, including the three justices nominated by President Donald Trump.

The justices said Monday that next term they would hear Mississippi's appeal of lower court decisions striking down a state ban on all abortions after 15 weeks, with exception of medical emergencies or severe fetal abnormality.

The court said it would be considering the question of whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.

The case will likely be argued next fall and decided by June 2022.

The lone abortion clinic in Mississippi responded to the court's decision calling this case a "strategy to eliminate abortion access entirely." Abortion remains legal in Mississippi and the ban will remain blocked as the Supreme Court reviews the case.

Diane Derzis, the owner of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the sole abortion clinic in Mississippi, said in a statement what the ban could mean for her patients who she says she sees travel to the clinic.

"If this ban were to take effect, we would be forced to turn many of those patients away, and they would lose their right to abortion in this state. Mississippi politicians have created countless barriers for people trying to access abortion, intentionally pushing them later into pregnancy," Derzis said. "It’s all part of their strategy to eliminate abortion access entirely.”

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 12 other states have attempted to enact abortion bans at various points in pregnancy since 2019, and each ban that has been challenged has been subsequently struck down: Alabama; Arkansas; Georgia; Kentucky; Louisiana; Montana, Missouri; Ohio; Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee; and Utah. Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said that the consequences of a reversal would be "devastating" in a statement.

"Alarm bells are ringing loudly about the threat to reproductive rights," Northrup said. "The Supreme Court just agreed to review an abortion ban that unquestionably violates nearly 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and is a test case to overturn Roe v. Wade."

Some lawmakers have already reacted to the announcement.

"Roe is supported by a huge majority of this nation," Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., tweeted Monday morning. "Roe should remain the law of the land despite the partisanship of some political judges wearing robes."

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(WASHINGTON) -- More than six months after the 2020 election, several members of former President Donald Trump's inner circle are pouring millions into a renewed push to challenge the election's outcome -- an effort that has gained new life in Arizona as it captivates the former president and many of his followers.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, a sprawling collection of Trump loyalists, fueled by a host of baseless conspiracies involving disproven claims of widespread voter fraud, failed over and over again to overturn the election results in the courts. And while the effort resulted in dozens of unsuccessful lawsuits, many of the same Trump supporters -- from a former CEO to longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon -- have reemerged as key forces boosting the Republican-backed Arizona audit of the 2020 election results.

The audit, which comes after two previous audits found no evidence of fraud sufficient to invalidate President Joe Biden's victory in Arizona and Maricopa County, has not only commandeered the attention of the MAGA movement but also of Trump himself, who has continued to push false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump has repeatedly issued email statements encouraging the audit, while behind the scenes he's been making periodic calls to get updates from those involved, including Arizona Republican chair Kelli Ward, according to people familiar with the situation.

"Some very interesting things are happening in Arizona," Trump said in late April during remarks at his Mar-a-Lago resort, according to a video posted online.

The former president even tipped his hat to a growing right-wing conspiracy that suggests the Arizona audit could be the first domino to fall in a series of events that returns him to the White House.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes," said Trump. "After that we'll watch Pennsylvania, and you watch Georgia, then you're going to watch Michigan and Wisconsin, and you're watching New Hampshire."

"This was a rigged election, everybody knows it, and we're going to be watching it very closely," he said.

Steven Slugocki, the former chairman of the Maricopa County Democratic Party through the 2020 election, said that the audit has become fertile ground for those looking to raise money and boost engagement among the former president's loyal base.

"There are some people that are making a lot of money on this -- and unfortunately, it's coming at the cost of our elections," he told ABC News. "They don't have Donald Trump anymore to lead them on social media, they're looking for content, they're looking for ways to engage the people who believe this election was stolen, and they're raising money off of it."

"It's turned into even more of a circus than anybody could have imagined," Slugocki said.

And while the Arizona audit is being partially funded with taxpayer dollars based on the Arizona Senate allocating $150,000 to the effort, it's also being bankrolled by private donations -- including some from those who pushed the baseless election fraud conspiracies that set the stage for the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Funding the audit

Former CEO Patrick Byrne, who emerged following the 2020 election as a key figure in pushing baseless election fraud claims, is one of the main fundraising forces behind the Arizona audit, having launched a website that aims to raise $2.8 million.

Byrne, who previously said he'd been funding his own team of "hackers and cybersleuths and other people with odd skills" to search for voter fraud, has so far raised over $1.5 million to support the audit, according to the website created by his new nonprofit organization, The America Project. The former CEO also claims to have donated at least $500,000 of his own money to fund the audit.

In an online video stream in early May, Byrne, who after the election reportedly met with Trump in the Oval Office, compared his work funding recount efforts over the last six months to providing seed money for a start-up -- in this case, "a bunch of organizers in Arizona, Michigan, and Florida."

"We're the kind of angel money, setting the fires, doing the really under-the-radar stuff," Byrne said, adding, "That stuff is starting to burn and come to life."

Byrne did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Lin Wood, a far-right pro-Trump attorney who recently called for former Vice President Mike Pence to face "firing squads" over certifying the 2020 election, has also been boosting the Arizona audit by donating what he claims is $50,000 of his own money to the effort. Wood's accusations of 2020 voter fraud quickly propelled him to prominence among the MAGA faithful and followers of the far-right QAnon conspiracy.

Wood brought multiple lawsuits of his own challenging the 2020 election results, and is currently in the midst of running for chair of the South Carolina Republican Party -- despite Trump having already endorsed his opponent multiple times. The lawyer, who's been banned by Twitter, has amassed a massive following on the messaging app Telegram, where's he's used his nearly 850,000 subscribers to solicit funds for the Arizona audit, promising that all the money will be used for the effort.

"Please consider joining the effort. We can get this done, Patriots! $5, $20, $100 -- every dollar you give goes STRAIGHT to the AZ election audit," Wood wrote to his followers on Telegram in early April. "When the fraud is finally revealed in one state, just watch the other states fall like dominoes!"

Wood linked the post to a fundraising website for a group called Voices and Votes, which is run by One America News host Christina Bobb and also has One America News' White House reporter, Chanel Rion, as its chief marketing officer.

Wood also has a connection to cybersecurity consultant Doug Logan, who also previously spread baseless election conspiracies and is the founder of the private Florida firm Cyber Ninjas, which the Arizona Senate tapped to lead the audit.

Logan met with Wood at his South Carolina property late last year while Logan was investigating the 2020 elections, Wood told Talking Points Memo in an interview last month.

"He was there working on the investigation into election fraud," Wood said, according to the website.

Neither Wood nor Logan responded to a request from ABC News for comment.

The return of "Stop the Steal"

Others who have gone all-in on the Arizona audit include longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon, who has devoted around-the-clock coverage to the audit on his video podcast, similar to how he used his show to promote "Stop the Steal" rallies around the country in the lead-up to Jan. 6.

His "War Room" show regularly displays a live video feed of the audit on screen and regularly features appearances by key figures involved in the audit, including Arizona State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, who recently said that the Justice Department's warning that the audit could be in violation of federal voting and civil rights laws proves that the audit is "right over the target."

Bannon has also said on his podcast that the Arizona audit "is going to lead to Georgia and it's going to lead to Michigan."

A representative for Bannon declined to provide comment when contacted by ABC News.

The Arizona effort has attracted others who helped organize and promote "Stop the Steal" events around the country, including the Jan. 6 rally ahead of the storming of the Capitol. Conservative activist Scott Pressler, who promoted and attended the Jan. 6 rally, met with Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and discussed the audit in March, according to a post Pressler shared on Twitter.

Fann did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

"Stop the Steal" founder Ali Alexander has promoted the Arizona audit on social media, as has Amy Kremer, who runs Women for America First, the group behind the Jan. 6 rally.

Alexander, who's been banned from several major social media sites including Twitter and Facebook, shared a message on Telegram in March telling subscribers that, moving forward, the "Stop the Steal" movement will be "focusing on the following states: Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan as a start."

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(NEW YORK) — New mask guidance for vaccinated individuals does not grant permission for widespread removal of masks, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

"If they're vaccinated, they are safe. If they are not vaccinated, they are not safe. They should still be wearing a mask or better yet, get vaccinated," she told "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

Since the new mask guidance was announced on Thursday, many states, local governments and businesses have updated their mask ordinances based on the CDC's recommendation that vaccinated individuals can be maskless indoors, outdoors or in large crowds. The guidelines still call for masks to be worn on public transportation and in homeless shelters, hospitals and prisons.

Some states, including California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York, are keeping their universal mask mandates intact.

As late as Tuesday, Walensky and other health officials were still recommending universal mask wearing during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

"When it was finally announced on Thursday it came as a huge surprise. It left some administration officials, doctors, businesses off guard. So why so suddenly, and why did you not tell the Senate panel what you had decided?" Raddatz asked.

"During the past week we were making decisions," Walensky responded. "Our subject matter experts were working just as I was testifying in front of Congress.”

Walensky and other U.S. health officials have stressed that their guidance is up to individuals to follow and if vaccinated people wish to continue wearing their masks they can.

"We wanted to deliver the science of the individual level, but we also understand that these decisions have to be made at the community's level," Walensky said.

The CDC is also facing criticism from some infectious disease specialists who are concerned that there is no way of knowing who is vaccinated -- leaving vulnerable populations, including some children who don't have the option of getting vaccinated, at risk if everyone decides to stop wearing masks.

"The challenge here is that not everybody is eligible for vaccination," Walensky told Raddatz. "We still have children under the age of 11 and they should obviously still be wearing masks. So, if you're unvaccinated, we are saying, wear a mask, continue to distance if you're unvaccinated and practice all of those mitigation strategies."

"Who is supposed to be the vaccination police?" Raddatz pressed. "You look at Costco and Walmart, these essential workers, what are they supposed to do? There again, there's a quarter of the country that says they will not get vaccinated."

"We are asking people to take their health into their own hands to get vaccinated, and if they don't, then they continue to be at risk," she said.

Raddatz also asked Walensky what the CDC knows about the "breakthrough" COVID-19 infections in eight vaccinated members of the New York Yankees.

"We're still working to understand what has happened in that," Walensky said. "I would consider that when you look at the details that I'm aware of, seven of those eight were completely asymptomatic. The eighth was a mild case."

"This is the vaccine working," Walensky continued. "You didn't get a severe infection. You didn't require a hospitalization. And most likely, those people were not transmitting to other people."

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ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said Friday it was "indefensible" that some House Republicans have minimized the Jan. 6 riot and downplayed violence between Capitol Police officers and former President Donald Trump's supporters who attempted to disrupt the congressional count of the 2020 election results.

"The notion that this was somehow a tourist event is disgraceful and despicable," Cheney said in an interview with ABC's "This Week" Co-Anchor Jonathan Karl. "I won't be part of whitewashing what happened on Jan. 6. Nobody should be a part of it and people ought to be held accountable."

At a Wednesday House hearing, several Republicans dismissed the storming of the U.S. Capitol, which led to the death of five people, including a Capitol Police officer.

"It was not an insurrection," said Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga. "If you didn't know that TV footage was a video from (Jan. 6), you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit."

Cheney, who was replaced Friday as the House GOP conference chair, said she has spoken repeatedly to the mother of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died after clashing with protesters, and Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who suffered numerous injuries battling rioters outside the Capitol.

The Wyoming Republican recalled her experience on the House floor as the Capitol was under siege.

"(Democratic Rep.) Jamie Raskin was sitting on the other side of the aisle and you could hear the mob coming, and he looked at me and showed me his phone and said, 'Liz, there's a Confederate flag flying in the Rotunda,'" she said. "And that moment of, you know, this cannot be happening in the United States of America."

"I think everybody understood after that, that it could not be happening, and that it could not happen again and that people had to be held accountable," she added. "It is disgraceful that so many Republicans since then have tried to sort of whitewash or gloss over what happened."

When Cheney first worried about Trump rejecting election results

While Trump spent years sowing doubts about the election results -- and even raised the possibility that he wouldn't accept the results in 2016 had he lost to Hillary Clinton -- Cheney told Karl that Trump's unwillingness to abide by a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election "was certainly a concern" for her.

"After the (Dec. 14 electoral college vote), it became very clear in very concerning ways that Donald Trump was willing to do potentially anything to stay in office," Cheney said.

She said her fears grew when Trump's campaign attorneys refused to argue in court the claims of fraud his key surrogates, including attorney Rudy Giuliani, were making in public.

"You can begin to see the real danger, between what they were attempting to do in terms of making these claims, lying to the American people and the press conferences, and what had actually happened, what they were actually claiming -- and I think that that was a moment of recognizing real danger," Cheney said.

Cheney defends greeting Biden at speech to Congress

The Wyoming Republican pushed back against criticism of her greeting President Joe Biden when he addressed Congress from the House chamber on April 28.

"I will always, no matter who the president is, always greet them," she said. "That is the place we have to get back to, understanding that we ought to be having really close battles about policy."

"I'm willing to put that up against theirs and have that debate on substance, and recognize they are not our enemies," she continued. "They're our political opponents, and we've got to be able to win that debate and stop some of the really vitriolic hatred that has been characteristic of so much of our politics recently."

Cheney also criticized House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for the campaign text message he sent to supporters after his infrastructure meeting with Biden and congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday, which referred to the president as "corrupt Joe Biden."

"It's unserious behavior," Cheney said. "That is not the way to go about actually getting a bipartisan agreement. It's also true that the White House has been saying they want bipartisanship but not very willing to actually take any Republican ideas into account."

A run for president

Cheney has thrown her full weight behind blocking an attempt by Trump to return to the Oval Office and scoffed at members of her conference who have predicted a Trump 2024 victory.

She told Karl that Rep. Jim Jordan's prediction that Trump is a shoo-in for the Republican nomination and the presidency if he chooses to run is "wrong."

"Jim has been wrong before, and I'm sure it won't be the last time," Cheney said of the Ohio Republican. "But he is wrong. And I think there are millions and millions of Republicans who won't let that happen again."

Cheney has not ruled out a presidential run of her own if that's what it takes to keep Trump from reclaiming the White House in 2024.

"I think we have to get back to the days where we're able to say to people that this is the greatest nation on Earth, and policies that help defend or protect freedom are the ones that are the right ones for us," Cheney said. "And I'm going to be part of doing that ... and making sure that Donald Trump isn't our nominee in any way I can."

But for now, Cheney said she's focused on her reelection effort in Wyoming. It could prove a difficult cycle for the state's sole member of the House of Representatives.

Cheney has branded herself an opponent of the former president in a state that voted overwhelmingly for him. Seventy percent of Wyoming's vote went to Trump in 2020.

ABC's "This Week" Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz traveled to Wyoming, where she spoke to many of Cheney's constituents including Dennis Laughlin, a Harley-Davidson dealership owner in Green River, Wyoming, who said Cheney is falling in popularity.

"I think voting your conscience is noble. But not necessarily the best move that you can make for your political career," Laughlin said. "The vast majority of people in the state of Wyoming are not happy with her decision."

Cheney knows her vote to impeach Trump is not popular with many of her constituents, but she said she's committed to making sure voters in her state understand her reasoning and where she believes the party can be headed with the right guidance.

"The people of Wyoming fundamentally believe in the Constitution and faithfulness to it and our oath," Cheney said. "If the choice is between somebody that Donald Trump decides he's going to anoint and that person's basis for being in this race is their loyalty to some person, to Donald Trump, every day of the week I will stack my record and my commitment to the Constitution and my commitment to people of Wyoming up against that."

Cheney is confident in her political future. And if she does make a presidential bid, she told Karl she's got at least one high-profile politician backing her: her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Karl asked Cheney if her father would like to see her run.

"Well, yeah," Cheney said. "He's my dad, he's not objective."

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden gathered a group of "Dreamers" at the White House on Friday for a discussion about the importance of the DACA program, which provides deportation relief to young people brought into the country as children.

The group of six "Dreamers," a reference to the DREAM Act proposals in Congress that would offer DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship, met with Biden for about 45 minutes. Each engaged on a personal level with the president, according to those in attendance.

The latest iteration of an attempt to get "Dreamers" legal status was introduced by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., as the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021. The bill would give an estimated 2.3 million "Dreamers" the ability to stay in the U.S. legally.

The meeting underscored Biden's efforts to prioritize more permanent forms of relief for "Dreamers," including a pathway to citizenship for those already in the country. It comes as the fate of the DACA program rests, in part, with a federal judge overseeing a lawsuit that argues DACA is unconstitutional.

Biden offered each "Dreamer" the opportunity to ask him one question during the meeting. Astou Thiane, who was 7-years-old when she immigrated to the U.S. from Senegal, asked Biden to describe the country, a place where he spent a lot of time as vice president.

"All I wanted to know was what was Senegal like," she said. "It was very overwhelming to hear about this place that I hope to be able to return to and visit while also not losing my home here."

Astou became overwhelmed with emotion and described the moment the president embraced her.

"When I was breaking down, he came and he had this moment where he put his forehead on my head and hugged me," Astou said. "And so I think that I believe him, I think that he is going to do his work and to do his all to make sure that the folks who need to hear our stories can hear it so that they're not just thinking this is a political issue."

Astou said she had the opportunity to share with Biden her own experience navigating college admissions as an undocumented Black immigrant, as well as her work with Caribbean and African immigrant families in Canarsie, Brooklyn.

A White House readout of the meeting highlighted the president's political goals and his support for a new pathway to citizenship.

"President Biden reiterated his support for Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other essential immigrant workers," the White House said in a statement. "The President and the Dreamers also discussed the continued need for immigration reform and the White House’s strong support for the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, two bills that have already passed the House with bipartisan support and are awaiting action in the Senate."

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act would create a system for more than 1 million undocumented farm workers to apply for legal status.

Supporters of the DACA program worry that an upcoming ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas could disrupt the Biden administration's efforts to reinstate it after former President Donald Trump's administration attempted to dismantle it. Instead, they'd like to see the program bolstered by the DREAM Act.

But Hanen, an appointee of President George W. Bush, stopped an Obama administration effort in 2015 to create a deferred action program for parents of "Dreamers," known as DAPA, and stakeholders have been waiting months for a ruling in the case brought by Texas, among other states, which charged that DACA undermined the ability of Congress to establish immigration law.

Republicans have long argued that President Obama's decision to create DACA was an exercise in unconstitutional executive overreach. Supporters of DACA maintain that it's a necessary and reasonable means of law enforcement discretion given the lack of options presented by current immigration law.

ABC News’ Armando Tonatiuh Torres-García contributed to this report.

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(WASHINGTON) -- In addition to screening bags and patting down passengers at airports all over the country, the Transportation Security Administration has an additional little-known responsibility -- overseeing the security of the nation’s pipeline network, including the Colonial Pipeline targeted last weekend by a ransomware attack.

While the TSA employs nearly 50,000 transportation security officers to keep America’s skies secure, the number of TSA personnel devoted to securing 2.7 million miles of pipeline that crisscross the country is surprisingly small.

The agency has just 34 staff positions, including headquarters personnel, policy planners and field inspectors, to perform its pipeline and cybersecurity mission, according to a TSA official. Of those, only eight have attended any specialized cybersecurity training.

Critics in Congress say the TSA is understaffed and ill-equipped for the pipeline security mission.

"I don't think they have really the personnel or the expertise to do the job right now," Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., told ABC News. "We absolutely need more oversight on pipeline security and other areas of critical infrastructure."

Kiersten Todt, managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute, echoed that sentiment.

"I don't think that TSA should be responsible for the cybersecurity of the pipelines," she told ABC News.

But House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member John Katko believes oversight of pipeline security should remain with the TSA.

"Right now, we need to focus on building existing capabilities and resources while ensuring federal roles and responsibilities are clear," Katko said in a statement.

Katko is one of 12 bipartisan Homeland Security Committee members who introduced pipeline security legislation Friday, calling for the TSA’s pipeline security responsibilities to be codified into law and for the agency to be required to employ staff with cybersecurity expertise. The proposed "Pipeline Security Act" stops short of mandating any new security requirements for the pipeline industry.

The TSA’s tiny pipeline security division is considerably larger than it was just a few years ago. In 2019, TSA Surface Division Director Sonya Proctor testified that the agency’s pipeline security division had only five employees and none with cybersecurity expertise.

But the disruption caused by the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline has brought renewed attention to protecting critical infrastructure from crippling cyberattacks.

The TSA provides the oil and gas industry with physical and cybersecurity recommendations that pipeline operators "should" implement, but current and former Homeland Security officials tell ABC News that compliance with those security guidelines and practices is voluntary.

Colonial Pipeline's statement on its website says the company "complies with all guidelines established by [the TSA]," and "submits a risk-based security plan to the TSA for review on an annual basis."

While there are stringent regulations and safety standards for pipelines and the fuels and hazardous materials they carry, there are not comparable enforceable standards for securing those pipelines, according to industry observers.

Other parts of the U.S. energy infrastructure, like electric power grid operators, have far more significant security requirements, dedicated agencies that enforce them and face steep fines for failing to meet them.

"When you see a company like Colonial Pipeline, that is responsible for transporting 45% of the East Coast's gas and jet fuel not doing the basics when it comes to cybersecurity, that is all the more reason to look at ensuring that there are requirements for these companies," Todt said.

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(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly a week into what has been getting close to all-out war between Israeli forces and Hamas, the terror group that governs Gaza, President Joe Biden is facing sharp criticism from Republicans and some Democrats at home for his response.

His administration has tried to show high-level involvement after criticism that Biden wasn't engaged on the issue, but his vocal support for Israel's government has now sparked condemnation from progressive lawmakers, even as it fails to ward off former Trump officials' criticisms, too.

"My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later," Biden told reporters earlier this week, adding the next day that he'd seen no "overreaction" in Israel's response so far and that he backs Israel's "right to self-defense."

Despite his administration's calls for "de-escalation," those comments appear to have been taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a green light for further military action.

After Biden and Netanyahu spoke Wednesday, Hamas rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes continued Thursday, and on Friday, Israeli ground troops deployed along the border, firing into the blockaded Palestinian territory from the Israeli side of the border while aircraft continued to strike targets.

In five days of bloodshed, 122 people, including 31 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip, and least 900 others have been injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Seven people, including a 6-year-old, have been killed in Israel by rocket fire, with more than 523 others wounded, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday for meetings with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials in Israel and the West Bank, according to State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter.

Amr's trip comes after phone calls from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Netanyahu, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has also spoken to his Israeli and Egyptian counterparts.

But the Biden administration has been criticized as flat-footed here, a charge they reject, because the White House has yet to nominate a U.S. ambassador to Israel or restore the U.S. consul general in East Jerusalem, a de facto envoy to the Palestinians. Unlike the Obama or Trump administrations, there is also no special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian issues. Amr, who served as President Obama's deputy special envoy, is the highest ranking official for the issue.

The Biden administration "didn't stumble blindly into ignoring the conflict. It was an affirmative decision, perhaps a calculated risk," said Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, director of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, noting the "little political and foreign policy benefit to gain by investing significant capital" in addressing the decades-old conflict.

But while the U.S. didn't light the "fire," she added, "the U.S. by its actions can either be in the realm of ignoring, fueling -- and I think sometimes ignoring is fueling -- or fire-fighting, as it's having to do right now. If we don't want to find ourselves in that constant pendulum swing from fire-fighting to ignoring, I think we need to be in the business of active fire-proofing and that is going to be the question for the administration as it moves forward," she said.

To critics on the left, Biden has been setting his firehose on the wrong side, defending Israel's response and declining to call Palestinian leadership.

"This is not about both sides. This is about an imbalance of power," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on the House floor Thursday. "The president and many other figures this week stated that Israel has a right to self defense ... But do Palestinians have a right to survive?"

In a letter this week, Ocasio-Cortez was one of over two dozen progressive lawmakers who urged the Biden administration to exert pressure on Israel to halt the potential evictions of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, an East Jerusalem neighborhood where they face pressure from Israeli settlers -- and to review U.S. assistance to the Israeli government.

The issue of evictions is pending before the Israeli Supreme Court, but has prompted protests from Palestinians in recent weeks -- along with the use of force against Palestinians at Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest site located in Jerusalem's Old City. Israeli forces stormed the building last week, saying Palestinians were stockpiling rocks and Molotov cocktails and sparking clashes that left hundreds injured.

While that violence precipitated this latest round of bloodshed, several Republican officials, have accused Biden of not standing strongly enough with Israel. They say his delay in calling Netanyahu after being sworn in or his resumption of U.S. financial assistance to the Palestinians helped spark the violence.

"A weak foreign policy emboldens terrorists and makes the world less safe. America's leaders must be clear: we stand unequivocally with our ally and friend, Israel," Mike Pompeo, Trump's Secretary of State and a likely 2024 presidential contender, tweeted Friday.

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(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said she was concerned about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's, R-Ga., "perceptions of reality" on Friday, following an episode in which Greene aggressively confronted Ocasio-Cortez, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to suggest an Ethics Committee investigation into Greene's behavior.

The Washington Post first reported that Greene confronted Ocasio-Cortez Wednesday night during a vote, shouting her first name repeatedly and asking her why she supported Black Lives Matter and other "terrorists and antifa."

"Yeah, no it's--she does keep discussing this, but it's not a thing, and so I'm concerned about her perceptions of reality," Ocasio-Cortez said to reporters Friday.

Greene contends she simply wants to debate Ocasio-Cortez.

"I don't know why she needs security. She shouldn't have a problem debating," Greene said. "I was talking to AOC saying you need to debate me about the Green New Deal. She should be able to defend it to the American people."

"She doesn't need to file ethics violations or whatever she's doing, that's reacting like a child," Greene added.

But Pelosi called the outburst "beneath the dignity of a person serving in the Congress of the United States," saying "it’s causing fear and trauma among members."

Greene's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about Ocasio-Cortez's statement.

Shortly after taking office in January, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said she repeatedly asked Greene to put her mask on, to which Taylor Greene and her staff responded by "berating" her, with one staffer yelling, “Stop inciting violence with Black Lives Matter."

Greene alleged she was actually the one who was "berated."

The episode prompted the Missouri Democrat to request her office be moved farther away from Greene's.

In another incident, Greene was stripped of her committee assignments after social media posts and videos from 2018 and 2019 showed her appearing to support violence against Pelosi in a post that is now deleted and suggesting that Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings were staged.

Greene has also sparred with Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., over rights for transgender Americans.

Newman accused Greene of making transphobic comments during debate on the House floor over the anti-discrimination Equality Act, when Newman referenced her transgender daughter. Newman then started displaying a transgender pride flag outside her office, across the hall from Greene's, who put up her own sign that read: "There are TWO genders: Male and Female "Trust the Science!""

Ocasio-Cortez has also been the subject of Republican outrage before. She was harassed outside the Capitol last year by former Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who reportedly called her a "f***ing bitch" as they crossed paths.

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(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Liz Cheney on Friday said she regretted voting for former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election given his efforts to overturn his defeat and sow doubt in the integrity of the process.

"I was never going to support Joe Biden and I do regret the vote," Cheney told ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl. "It was a vote based on policy, based on substance and in terms of the kinds of policies he put forward that were good for the country. But I think it's fair to say that I regret the vote."

Cheney, R-Wyo., also blasted House Republicans for elevating Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to replace her in party leadership, calling it "dangerous" to promote yet another leader who has promoted former President Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election.

"What does it say about the party choosing somebody to replace you, who was effectively chosen by Donald Trump and saying what he's been saying - those very lies you were talking about?" Karl asked Cheney in the interview, which will air in full on "This Week" on Sunday.

"I think it's dangerous. I think that we have to recognize how quickly things can unravel," Cheney told Karl. “We have to recognize what it means for the nation to have a former president who has not conceded and who continues to suggest that our electoral system cannot function, cannot do the will of the people."

After an unsuccessful attempt in February, Republicans, with the backing of GOP leaders, removed Cheney from the No. 3 party leadership post in a closed-door vote Wednesday amid her repeated criticism of Trump and his comments about the 2020 election.

On Friday, the conference overwhelmingly appointed Stefanik, who was endorsed for the position by Trump, to fill her role. Stefanik has also promoted some of the unfounded conspiracy theories questioning the election results in Arizona and voted against the election results in Pennsylvania on the House floor on Jan. 6.

"Frankly, it's the same kinds of things that the Chinese Communist Party says about democracy: that it's a failed system, and America is a failed nation," Cheney said of Trump’s election comments promoted by many Republicans. "I won't be part of that. And I think it's very important for Republicans who won't be part of that to stand up and speak out."

Cheney’s leadership position was called into question earlier this year when she voted to impeach Trump following the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. She was one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to do so.

Since that attack, Cheney has been an outspoken opponent of Trump’s, blaming him for inciting violence that day and painting him as a threat to democracy.

"I think the issue really is Donald Trump and it really is the party and whether we're going to be a party that's based on the truth," Cheney said. "I think we've seen consistently since the election, certainly since Jan. 6 and in ways, it's increased since Jan. 6, the former president's willingness to be very aggressive in his attacks on democracy and on our electoral process."

The events of Jan. 6 remain a central focus for lawmakers in both chambers. After months of negotiations, a bipartisan pair of House lawmakers announced an agreement to form a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol attack and its aftermath.

While Democrats are expected to bring the measure to the House floor next week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters he had not reviewed the proposal.

Cheney: McCarthy 'absolutely' should testify about Jan. 6

Cheney told Karl that McCarthy "absolutely should" testify before any commission, and that she "wouldn't be surprised if he were subpoenaed."

"I think that he very clearly and said publicly that he's got information about the president's state of mind that day," Cheney said.

McCarthy spoke to Trump on Jan. 6, and reportedly told him to call off his supporters during the riot at the Capitol, according to a statement from Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who cited a conversation with McCarthy.

Herrera Beutler said Trump replied, "'Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election then you are.'"

McCarthy did not deny Trump’s comments but downplayed them when pressed in a Fox News interview, saying Trump was "engaged in the idea of making sure we could stop what was going on inside the Capitol at that moment in time."

"I would hope he doesn't require a subpoena, but I wouldn't be surprised if he were subpoenaed," Cheney said of McCarthy.

Aides to McCarthy, who had called for a panel to investigate political violence beyond Jan. 6, did not respond to a message seeking a response to Cheney’s comments.

"The elements of that commission are exactly as they should be. I'm very glad they rejected leader McCarthy's suggestions that somehow we should dilute the commission, it's really important that it be focused on just on January 6 and the events leading up to it," Cheney said.

Cheney's full interview with ABC News will air on "This Week" on Sunday morning.

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(WASHINGTON) -- A one-time close ally of Rep. Matt Gaetz, former Florida Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, will plead guilty to multiple federal crimes including sex trafficking of a minor, and has agreed to cooperate with federal investigators, according to court papers filed on Friday.

Greenberg does not directly name Gaetz in the papers, but he admitted that he and others who are not identified in the document had paid a 17-year-old girl for sex and that he "introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts."

Greenberg will plead guilty to six of 33 federal charges he was facing, but the government states they reserve the right to prosecute him on the other charges if he violates any terms of the cooperation deal. He will plead to charges of stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official, as well as the sex trafficking charge, according to the documents.

Greenberg is set to appear at a "change of plea" hearing Monday morning in federal court in Orlando, Florida.

Gaetz has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, including having sex with an underage girl.

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(WASHINGTON) -- Lawmakers announced on Friday that after months of stalled negotiations they had reached an agreement on a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

While Republicans had called for the commission to also look into violence stemming from left-leaning groups, the legislation calls for an investigation only into the riot at the Capitol and "the interference with the peaceful transfer of power, including facts and causes relating to the preparedness and response of the United States Capitol Police... as well as the influencing factors that fomented such attack on American representative democracy."

Republicans also gained concessions in that Democrats and Republicans will get equal subpoena power on a body with an even partisan split.

A vote on the commission bill is expected on the House floor next week, but the timing for a vote in the Senate is still unclear.

"It is imperative that we seek the truth of what happened on January 6 with an independent, bipartisan 9/11-type Commission to examine and report upon the facts, causes and security relating to the terrorist mob attack," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

"Today a bipartisan agreement to form such a commission has been reached, with legislation to create it set to reach the Floor as soon as next week," the statement said.

The announcement of an agreement follows months of intense negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on the size and scope of the commission. It also comes as the facts about the Jan. 6 riot continue to be disputed by Republican members of Congress and just days after Rep. Liz Cheney lost her GOP leadership position in the House for speaking out against the "big lie" that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump -- the same baseless narrative that led to the Capitol insurrection over four months ago.

On Wednesday, during a hearing on the Capitol riot, Republican lawmakers floated various conspiracy theories about Jan. 6, including that those who stormed the Capitol weren't actually Trump supporters and that there was no "insurrection." Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga, compared the breach of the Capitol with a "normal tourist visit."

"We will find the truth," Pelosi responded during her weekly press briefing on Thursday, saying the comments "fell into the range of sick." "And we're hoping that we can do so in the most bipartisan way possible. I think that that's essential. But I think it's also important to the American people to have confidence in the results of such an investigation."

Earlier this month, Pelosi deputized House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., to finalize negotiations on the commission with ranking member GOP Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y.

The agreed-upon commission would include 10 members with significant expertise in the areas of law enforcement, civil rights, civil liberties, privacy, intelligence and cybersecurity. Current government officers or employees would be prohibited from appointment, according to the bipartisan duo, and each party would select five members to be on the commission.

The commission would have the authority to issue subpoenas as part of its investigation, but that would require agreement between the chair and the vice-chair, or a vote by a majority of commission members, according to the bill text.

The body would also be required to issue a final report with findings regarding the facts and causes of the attack, along with recommendations to prevent future attacks on American democratic institutions by the end of the year.

While Pelosi touted victory on Friday, her counterpart, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, said he still hasn’t looked at the details.

"I haven't looked all the way through it," McCarthy said, adding that he believes the commission should look at all political violence, instead of the narrower scope that Democrats have called for.

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(WASHINGTON) -- House GOP members elected Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace Rep. Liz Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican during a party conference Friday.

The final vote count in the secret ballot was 134-46.

Her opponent, Freedom Caucus conservative Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, received 46 votes.

At a news conference afterward, Stefanik, from New York, said she wanted to thank President Donald Trump for his support and said the American people are "suffering" from what she called the "socialist, radical" policies of President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"He is a critical part of our Republican team," Stefanik said about Trump.

Within minutes, Trump released a statement praising her.

"Congratulations to Elise Stefanik for her Big and Overwhelming victory! The House GOP is united and the Make America Great Again movement is Strong!" Trump said.

Asked by reporters whether she thought Trump was the leader of the party, Stefanik said he was the one Republicans "look to."

"I believe that voters determine the leader of the Republican Party and President Trump is the leader that they look to," Stefanik said. "I support President Trump, voters support President Trump, he is an important voice in our Republican Party, and we look forward to working with him."

Asked whether there was room in the House GOP for Cheney, who has vowed to keep Trump out of the Oval Office, calling him a danger to the party and democracy, Stefanik said she wanted unity with both her and Cheney supporter Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

"Liz Cheney is a part of this conference, Adam Kinzinger is a part of this conference," Stefanik said. "They were elected and sent here by the people in their district they are part of this Republican conference, we are unified in working with President Trump."

Stefanik was elected behind closed doors this morning by a slew of GOP lawmakers representing the full breadth of the Republican spectrum. Moderate Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., who vote to impeach Trump, freshman Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, who Stefanik recruited and supported during her run for office, and Trump loyalist Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa.

"Republicans have a strong agenda for this country… We as a conference have a very important story to tell," Hinson said in remarks obtained by ABC News. "Elise is the right person to unify us so that we can best tell it to the American people. Let’s unite behind Elise and unite behind a goal I know we all share -- taking back the House in 2022."

The 36-year-old New York Republican's only competition was Roy, a conservative who has essentially said he is running because he doesn’t like the idea of Stefanik running for leadership unopposed.

Walking into the GOP conference meeting Friday morning, Roy told reporters he didn't have a "whole lot of time to whip" for votes. Despite some questions about how conservative Stefanik is, Roy said if Stefanik was chosen to succeed Cheney, the conference will be united.

"I am always going to try to be a voice for advancing the policies that I think are right and to try to make sure that we're representing the people, but we'll all be united," Roy said. "It's pretty easy to unite against the radical agenda of the current administration. I mean, we're seeing it play out right now in terms of energy prices. gas lines, people who don't have jobs because we're paying people not to work. There's businesses they want to hire them. So, we're gonna be united doing that."

Some conservative House members including Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., and Rep. Laura Boebert, R-Colo., will back Roy, preferring his conservative record.

House Republicans voted to remove Cheney from leadership Tuesday after repeatedly acknowledging that former Trump did not win the 2020 election and for condemning his actions during violent riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6

Cheney, despite being ousted from leadership, said she is "absolutely" running for reelection to the House in 2022, also said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy "is not leading with principle right now," calling his example "sad" and "dangerous."

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(WASHINGTON) -- Republican lawmakers left a meeting with President Joe Biden Thursday optimistic that an agreement can be reached on an infrastructure package, but lawmakers must act quickly if they hope to strike a deal before the president's fast-approaching deadline.

While Biden has long projected a desire to work across the aisle on an infrastructure plan, he's also been clear that Democrats will forge ahead without Republicans if bipartisan talks don't yield swift results. The White House wants to see "significant progress" on an infrastructure deal by Memorial Day and Biden is aiming for final passage by the end of the summer.

Republicans leaving the White House Thursday indicated that agreement was possible.

Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who is leading the Republican infrastructure effort, painted Biden as an "honest broker" and said that during Thursday's meeting, the parties laid out next steps for trying to bridge the substantive divide between their two infrastructure plans.

"He was very open to suggestions as were we. I think it's the beginning of -- a good jump-start I think," Capito said on Fox News. "We promised to come back with another offer that he will react to and counter offer. We did what we intended to do, which is get next steps, be very cordial and ready to deal."

The Republican counter-offer, which is expected to be a more detailed version of the framework they presented to Biden Thursday, could come as soon as early next week, said Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who also attended the meeting.

Biden is then expected to counter that offer.

"We all know we need to move pretty quickly here," Blunt said.

There's limited opportunity to make legislative headway in the summer months because the Senate leaves town for Memorial Day, Independence Day and the August recess. The highway system and surface transportation systems expires in September, compounding the need for lawmakers to act swiftly.

The central sticking point left to be resolved is how broadly infrastructure ought to be defined.

Biden has proposed two infrastructure plans totaling about $4 trillion that fund everything from roads and bridges to a boost in the power grid, electric-vehicle charging stations, in-home care and public buildings, such as schools.

The administration branded some items in the package, like childcare and home care as "human infrastructure." Republicans scoffed at that and offered a counter proposal, led by Capito, that focuses on "core" infrastructure. Their original framework would fund roads, bridges, ports, waterways, airports and broadband at about $568 billion.

Despite the substantive divide, following their meeting Thursday, Capito said Biden seemed to understand the narrower Republican approach.

"I'm not saying he agrees with it or with everything, that's the point of a negotiation here," Capito said. "He understands why we knocked some things out. If he wants to try to have us reconsider -- that's part of a negotiation. I think he got our point. He understands what we think modern infrastructure is."

To reach an agreement with Republicans, the White House is signaling it is willing to split its package and allow funding for traditional infrastructure to pass with some GOP backing.

It will then pursue use of a procedural tool called reconciliation to pass the more controversial aspects of the Democratic plan.

Biden used reconciliation, which allows the Senate to bypass the usual 60-vote threshold, to pass the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill down partisan lines in March -- a move that left some Republicans with a bitter taste after they said the president failed to negotiate with them in good faith.

Some were skeptical that infrastructure discussions would play out differently, but Capito signaled Thursday that if Biden chooses to use reconciliation to pass the more controversial aspects of his plan, it won't prevent Republicans from negotiating on a separate, more narrowly tailored traditional infrastructure bill.

Even if Biden musters a bipartisan success on "core infrastructure" it's not clear he'd have the support of all 50 Democrats needed to pass the "human infrastructure" aspects.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said he supports a smaller, more narrowly tailored package, not unlike the one that Republicans are proposing. And he's said he'd like to try to find a middle ground between Capito's $568 billion plan and Biden's much larger proposal.

Price is not necessarily a sticking point for Republicans, there's wiggle room so long as the bill is tailored to traditional infrastructure.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell signaled earlier this week that the price tag could be as high as $800 billion.

"I made it clear that this was not a stagnant offer from us," Capito said after suggesting she was potentially open to raising the price of the bill. "I didn't want it to be perceived that way at all and I think that was clear. He made it clear that he's sincere in wanting to pursue this and in the end we agreed if it doesn't work, we'll walk away friends."

But while Republicans find cost negotiable, there are rigid lines on how to fund the bill.

Biden proposed funding his robust infrastructure plan by hiking the corporate tax rate, a non-starter for Republicans who see this as a referendum on the 2017 Trump tax bill, which some consider the most significant legislative achievement of the former president's tenure.

"We're not interested in re-opening the 2017 tax bill. We both made that clear to the president," McConnell said following a meeting at the White House between Biden and the four Congressional leaders. "That is a red line."

During their meeting Thursday Republicans tried to convince Biden that there are better ways to fund the package. They've proposed repurposing previously allocated unused money from the COVID-19 relief bills, as well as private-public partnerships and user fees, like tolls.

It's not yet clear whether Biden is receptive to these funding models, but Republican optimism is clear.

"I think we moved the ball forward today," Capito said.

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