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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the administration is lowering the size of President Biden’s infrastructure plan in the hopes of securing a deal with Republicans.

The original cost of the American Jobs Plan was $2.3 trillion, but the White House now proposes a $1.7 trillion plan — a reduction of $600 billion. Psaki described the move as “the art of seeking common ground.”

“This proposal exhibits a willingness to come down in size, giving on some areas that are important to the president ... while also staying firm in areas that are most vital to rebuilding our infrastructure and industries of the future, making our workforce and our industry more competitive with China,” she said.

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Psaki said the White House agreed to reduce the funding request for a broadband expansion to match a Republican offer and to reduce the proposed investment in bridges, roads and major infrastructure projects. Republicans have said they are willing to accept a package as high as $800 billion.

“The counteroffer also reflects our view that the Republican offer excludes entirely some proposals that are key to our competitiveness, key to investments in clean energy and in industries of the future,” Psaki said, “and rebuilding our workforce, including critical investments in our power sector, building and construction, workforce training, veterans, hospital construction and the care economy.”

Republicans have pushed back on the plan, arguing against increased taxes for businesses and wealthy Americans — one of the main ways Biden wants to fund the package. And conservative lawmakers have also criticized the president for including projects in the plan that traditionally are not connected to infrastructure.

Psaki added that the latest proposal would shift investments in research and development, supply chains, manufacturing and small business out of the infrastructure negotiations and into other efforts, such as the Endless Frontiers Act and the Chips Act. “There’s ongoing discussions and negotiations on a bipartisan level about those as well,” Psaki said.

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The White House still wants to include funding for elder care, which Republicans oppose. (Washington Post)

It’s official: US isn’t interested in buying Greenland

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Thursday that the United States was no longer interested in buying Greenland, scuttling for good a quixotic 2019 proposal by the Trump administration to annex the self-governing Danish territory.

“I can confirm that’s correct,” Blinken said during an appearance in Greenland with Danish officials and the premier of Greenland, Mute Egede, in response to a reporter who asked him to “definitively say that the United States does not seek to buy Greenland.” Earlier in the day, the secretary of state toured the territory and met privately with the premier to discuss “bilateral trade and investment.”

Blinken’s brief remarks closed the book on a bizarre episode in U.S. foreign policy. The Wall Street Journal had first reported in August 2019 that President Donald Trump had repeatedly asked aides to pursue a purchase of Greenland, in part to exploit the territory’s abundant natural resources. Trump’s advisers were highly skeptical of the idea, but agreed to investigate the matter.

News of Trump’s interest in annexing Greenland quickly became the butt of jokes online, while receiving a cold reception both from residents of the semiautonomous territory and among Danish leadership, who took umbrage at the then-president’s suggestion that the territory could be bought as, essentially, “a large real estate deal.”

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“Greenland is not for sale,” Mette Frederiksen, the prime minister of Denmark, told a Danish newspaper at the time. “Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously.”

Trump, angered at the Danish response to his idea, abruptly canceled a diplomatic visit to Denmark and described Frederiksen as “nasty,” sparking an international incident.

“All they had to do is say, ‘No, we’d rather not do that’ or ‘We’d rather not talk about it,’” Trump said to reporters on the day he canceled the trip. “Don’t say, ‘What an absurd idea that is.’” (New York Times)

Election official calls for replacement of some Ariz. voting machines

Arizona’s top elections official is urging the state’s most populous county to replace hundreds of voting machines that have been examined as part of a Republican-backed review of the state’s November election.

The request added fuel to charges by impartial election observers and voting rights advocates that the review, ordered in December by the Republicans who control the state Senate, had become a political sham.

In a letter to officials of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, the elections official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, said it was unclear whether companies hired to conduct the review had sufficiently safeguarded the equipment from tampering during their review of votes.

Hobbs, a Democrat, recommended that the county replace its 385 voting machines and nine vote tabulators because “the lack of physical security and transparency means we cannot be certain who accessed the voting equipment and what might have been done to them.”

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The advisory, in a letter to the county’s board of supervisors, did not contend that the machines had been breached. But Hobbs wrote that she had “grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines, given that the chain of custody, a critical security tenet, has been compromised.”

She added that she had first consulted experts at the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the national authority for election security issues.

A spokesperson for the county elections department said county officials “will not use any of the returned tabulation equipment unless the county, state and vendor are confident that there is no malicious hardware or software installed on the devices.”

If the county decides to scrap the machines, it is unclear who would be responsible for paying to replace them. The state Senate agreed to indemnify the county against financial losses resulting from the audit. (New York Times)

Cruz sees ‘woke, emasculated military’ in Army ad

The first half of the TikTok video shows a muscular Russian man with a shaved head doing push-ups, jumping out of a plane, and staring down the scope of a rifle. The second half shows a brightly animated US Army ad telling the true story of Cpl. Emma Malonelord, a soldier who enlisted after being raised by two mothers in California and graduating at the top of her high school class.

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The US Army said its ad showcases the ’'the deeply emotional and diverse’' backgrounds of its soldiers. But to Sen. Ted Cruz, who retweeted the TikTok on Thursday, the contrast with Russia’s campaign instead made American soldiers ’'into pansies.’'

’'Holy crap,’' Cruz said in his viral tweet. ’'Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea . . .’'

His jab did not sit well with critics, including many former service members, veterans groups and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who is a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel.

’'Holy crap,’' Duckworth tweeted Thursday, mimicking Cruz’s words. ’'Perhaps a US Senator shouldn’t suggest that the *Russian* military is better than the American military that protected him from an insurrection he helped foment?’'

In the hours after Cruz’s quip, #emasculaTED trended on Twitter.

’'Ted Cruz attacks a US Army soldier for telling her story, says he prefers Russians,’' VoteVets, a liberal political group that advocates for veterans running for office, said in a tweet responding to Cruz. ’'Because Ted Cruz is a sedition-loving traitor.” (Washington Post) '