Biden News Today: Live Updates

Biden News Today: Live Updates


Credit…Joel Martinez/The Monitor, via Associated Press

A battle between state politicians and the large companies that generate jobs and tax revenue shows no signs of slowing after Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas announced a personal protest against Major League Baseball after its decision to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

Corporate America began flexing its muscle after Georgia recently passed election restrictions, with companies including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, which are headquartered in the state, publicly criticizing the changes. And now politicians are fighting back, at least symbolically.

Mr. Abbott, who is pushing similar election legislation in Texas, said on Monday that he was declining an invitation to throw out a ceremonial first pitch for the Texas Rangers, that the state would no longer pursue the All-Star Game, and that he would cease participating in any M.L.B. events.

“It is shameful that America’s pastime is not only being influenced by partisan political politics, but also perpetuating false political narratives,” the governor, a Republican, said in a letter he sent to the Rangers.

Lawmakers in more than 40 states are pursuing voting laws, with Republicans saying that limiting early voting, absentee balloting and poll watchers are necessary steps to ensure election integrity and Democrats warning that those changes would make it more difficult for people of color to vote.

It is a head-spinning new landscape for big companies, which are trying to appease Democrats focused on social justice, as well as populist Republicans who are suddenly unafraid to break ties with business. Individuals like Gregg Popovich, the Spurs coach who denounced the Texas bills before a game this weekend, are given some leeway to present their personal opinions. But companies are often caught in the middle, facing steep political consequences no matter what they do.

Georgia lawmakers have already voted for new taxes on Delta, and more than 100 other companies have spoken out in defense of voting rights.

“Business leaders are still facing challenges on how to navigate a range of issues, and the elections issue is among the most sensitive,” said Rich Lesser, the chief executive of Boston Consulting Group.

Hours after Mr. Abbott’s announcement, a broad swath of the political leadership throughout Harris County, Texas’ largest Democratic stronghold, criticized the state’s election proposals and called for broader engagement from the business world to help stop the efforts.

“These bills will go through unless we collectively stand up and say no,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston, a former Democratic legislator.

The mayor applauded Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game and assailed Mr. Abbott for his public display of disapproval.

“There are a whole lot of people that can throw out that ball,” he said.

Leanne Montenegro, 21, covered her eyes to avoid seeing the needle when she received the coronavirus vaccine in Miami on Monday.
Credit…Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

President Biden plans to announce on Tuesday that he is speeding up the deadline for states to make all adults eligible for a coronavirus vaccine — to April 19 — according to an administration official familiar with his planned remarks.

The announcement will come as nearly every U.S. state has already heeded earlier calls by the president to accelerate their timelines for when all adult residents will be eligible to be vaccinated — the vast majority now meeting or beating the April 19 target. On Tuesday, Oregon said those who are 16 or older will be eligible for vaccination on April 19.

Mr. Biden’s newest target comes almost a month after he set an original deadline of May 1 for every state, and a week after he said that by April 19, 90 percent of adults would be eligible for a shot and within five miles of a site.

A White House official said last week that Mr. Biden revised the timeline because states, encouraged by increases in shipments, were ramping up their vaccination programs more rapidly than expected.

Mr. Biden on Tuesday plans to visit a vaccination site at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va., then deliver a speech at the White House on the state of vaccinations across the nation.

The U.S. vaccination campaign has steadily picked up pace: More than three million doses are being given on average each day, compared with well under one million when Mr. Biden took office in January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every state has now given at least one dose to a quarter or more of its population. About 62.4 million people — 19 percent of Americans — have been fully vaccinated.

Mr. Biden has said he hopes for 200 million doses to be administered by his 100th day in office, a goal that the nation is on pace to meet. The federal government has delivered about a total of 207.9 million doses to states, territories and federal agencies since last year.

The recent burst in supply has prompted governors to move up eligibility timelines on their own weeks ahead of Mr. Biden’s original May 1 marker.

“Today, we are pleased to announce another acceleration of the vaccine eligibility phases to earlier than anticipated,” Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said on Monday, announcing that all Maryland residents 16 or older would be eligible from Tuesday for a vaccine at the state’s mass vaccination sites, and from April 19 at any vaccine provider in the state.

Also on Monday, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said residents 16 or older in his state would be eligible on April 19. Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington said later on Monday that city residents 16 or older would also be eligible on April 19.

Public health experts have said that the vaccines are in a race against worrisome coronavirus variants that were identified in Britain, South Africa and Brazil. New mutations have continued to pop up in the United States, from California to New York to Oregon.

The shots will eventually win, scientists say, but because each infection gives the coronavirus a chance to evolve further, vaccinations must proceed as fast as possible.

As that race continues, the optimism sown by the steady pace of vaccinations may be threatening to undermine the progress the nation has made. Scientists also fear Americans could let their guard down too soon as warmer weather draws them outside and case levels drop far below the devastating surge this winter.

Cases are now rising sharply in parts of the country, with some states offering a stark reminder that the pandemic is far from over: New cases in Michigan have increased 112 percent and hospitalizations have increased 108 percent over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database.

The United States is averaging more than 64,000 new cases each day, an 18 percent increase from two weeks earlier. That’s well below the peak of more than 250,000 new cases daily in January, but on par with last summer’s surge after reopenings in some states, like Arizona, where patrons packed into clubs as hospital beds filled up. The United States is averaging more than 800 Covid-19 deaths each day, the lowest level since November.

Representative Alcee Hastings, Democrat of Florida, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida, a former civil rights lawyer and federal judge who served in Congress for nearly three decades and became the vice chairman of the House Rules Committee, died Tuesday morning. He was 84.

Mr. Hastings, a Democrat, had announced in 2019 that he had pancreatic cancer. His death was confirmed by his chief of staff, Lale Morrison.

His death will narrow Democrats’ already-slim House majority until a special election can be held to fill the seat. His district — Florida’s 20th, which includes Black communities around Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach as well as a huge, less-populated area around Lake Okeechobee — is reliably Democratic.

Mr. Hastings was born September 5, 1936, in Altamonte Springs, Fla. He attended Fisk University and earned a law degree from Florida A&M University. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, making him the first Black federal judge in Florida, according to his congressional biography.

He was impeached in 1989 on charges of bribery and perjury, but three years later, a federal court ruled that the Senate had improperly removed him. He won election to the House shortly after and took his seat in 1993.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia Williams, and four children.

With Mr. Hastings’s death, there are now 218 Democrats and 211 Republicans in the House, with six seats vacant. One of those seats is expected to be filled next week by Julia Letlow, a Republican who won a special election in Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District after her husband, Representative-elect Luke Letlow, died of Covid-19.

A highway construction project adds three lanes to the I-95 Rappahannock River Crossing in Fredericksburg, Va.
Credit…Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

A top Senate official ruled on Monday that Democrats could use the fast-track budget reconciliation process for a second time this fiscal year, potentially paving the way for them to move within months to push through President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan over Republican opposition.

The ruling by the parliamentarian means that Democrats can essentially reopen the budget plan they passed in February and add directives to enact the infrastructure package or other initiatives, shielding them from a filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.

They had already used the budget maneuver, which is known as reconciliation, to push through Mr. Biden’s nearly $1.9 trillion stimulus last month without any Republican votes.

But with some Democrats reluctant to dismantle the filibuster, the rest of Mr. Biden’s agenda risks stalling amid Republican objections. With the Senate divided 50-50, Democrats effectively need 10 G.O.P. senators to join them to move forward on nearly any major legislation.

Seeking alternative avenues, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, had argued that the rules permitted the Senate to revisit the budget blueprint, which allowed for passage of the pandemic relief plan, and take at least one more crack at reconciliation before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Because there was no precedent for doing so, Mr. Schumer asked Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, for guidance. On Monday, she blessed the gambit, according to Justin Goodman, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer.

The ruling “allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues,” Mr. Goodman said in a statement, adding that “some parameters still need to be worked out.”

He said no final decision had been made on legislative strategy for another round of reconciliation this year, but added that her ruling “is an important step forward” in case Democrats decide to use this “key pathway.”

But the plan is sure to undergo rounds of debate and adjustments to woo the necessary support — even among Democrats. On Monday, Senator Joe Manchin III, a centrist Democrat from West Virginia, told a radio host in his home state, Hoppy Kercheval, that “as the bill exists today, it needs to be changed.”

Mr. Manchin said he was against raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, up from 21 percent, and would demand changes be made before voting on the bill.

“If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere,” he said, adding that several other Democrats were against the plan in the current form. “So we’re going to have some leverage here.”

Miguel Cardona, the education secretary, is leading a review of the policies under Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools.
Credit…Pool photo by Anna Moneymaker

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that the public’s input will be included in an expansive effort to review all existing policies on sex and gender discrimination and violence in schools.

The review, announced by executive order last month, is part of President Biden’s effort to dismantle Trump-era rules on sexual misconduct that afforded greater protections to students accused of assault. On Tuesday, Suzanne B. Goldberg, the acting assistant secretary for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, issued a letter outlining ways for members of the public to include themselves in the process.

According to the letter, the department will hold a public hearing for students, educators and other stakeholders to share “important insights” on “the issue of sexual harassment in school environments, including sexual violence, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Students and faculty will also be issued questionnaires meant to provide a fuller picture of how the Trump-era rules have impacted schools’ handling of sexual harassment.

Lastly, the department will publish a notice in the Federal Register of its intent to amend existing Title IX regulations, an act that will open up additional opportunities for public comment.

With his efforts to overhaul Title IX, Mr. Biden has waded into an area that is important to him but has been politically charged for more than a decade.

As vice president, Mr. Biden was integral to President Barack Obama’s efforts to overhaul Title IX, which critics in and out of academia said leaned too heavily toward accusers and offered scant protections or due process for students and faculty accused of sexual harassment, assault or other misconduct.

The Trump administration swept those rules aside and delivered the first-ever regulations on sexual misconduct, which many saw as swinging too far the other way, offering the accused too much power through guaranteed court-like tribunals and cross-examination of accusers. The changes have led to a flood of lawsuits from accused students who have successfully claimed sex-based discrimination, a sign that could complicate efforts to undo the Trump-era rules.

It is unclear whether Mr. Biden’s review of all policies under Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools, will return the rules to the Obama administration’s approach or find some middle ground that incorporates lessons from the last two administrations.

Economists largely agree that infrastructure now means more than just roads and bridges and extends to the building blocks of a modern, high-tech service economy.
Credit…Tannen Maury/EPA, via Shutterstock

The early political and economic debate over President Biden’s $2 trillion American Jobs Plan is being dominated by a philosophical question: What does infrastructure really mean?

Does it encompass the traditional idea of fixing roads, building bridges and financing other tangible projects? Or, in an evolving economy, does it expand to include initiatives like investing in broadband, electric car charging stations and care for older and disabled Americans?

That is the debate shaping up as Republicans attack Mr. Biden’s plan with pie charts and scathing quotes, saying that it allocates only a small fraction of money on “real” infrastructure and that spending to address issues like home care, electric vehicles and even water pipes should not count.

“Even if you stretch the definition of infrastructure some, it’s about 30 percent of the $2.25 trillion they’re talking about spending,” Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“When people think about infrastructure, they’re thinking about roads, bridges, ports and airports,” he added on ABC’s “This Week.”

Mr. Biden pushed back on Monday, saying that after years of calling for infrastructure spending that included power lines, internet cables and other programs beyond transportation, Republicans had narrowed their definition to exclude key components of his plan.

“It’s kind of interesting that when the Republicans put forward an infrastructure plan, they thought everything from broadband to dealing with other things” qualified, the president told reporters on Monday. “Their definition of infrastructure has changed.”

Economists largely agree that infrastructure now means more than just roads and bridges and extends to the building blocks of a modern, high-tech service economy — broadband, for example.

But even some economists who have carefully studied that shift say the Biden plan stretches the limits of what counts.

Edward Glaeser, an economist at Harvard University, is working on a project on infrastructure for the National Bureau of Economic Research that receives funding from the Transportation Department. He said that several provisions in Mr. Biden’s bill might or might not have merit but did not fall into a conventional definition of infrastructure, such as improving the nation’s affordable housing stock and expanding access to care for older and disabled Americans.

“It does a bit of violence to the English language, doesn’t it?” Mr. Glaeser said.

Proponents of considering the bulk of Mr. Biden’s proposals — including roads, bridges, broadband access, support for home health aides and even efforts to bolster labor unions — argue that in the 21st century, anything that helps people work and lead productive or fulfilling lives counts as infrastructure. That includes investments in people, like the creation of high-paying union jobs or raising wages for a home health work force that is dominated by women of color.

“I couldn’t be going to work if I had to take care of my parents,” said Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “How is that not infrastructure?”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg touring a UPS facility in Landover, Md., last month.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

In promoting President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, administration officials have exaggerated a projection of its job creation impact.

“The American Jobs Plan is about a generational investment. It’s going to create 19 million jobs,” Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

And Brian Deese, Mr. Biden’s top economic aide, said on Fox News Sunday, “You look at just the analyses we’ve seen this week, Moody’s suggests it would create 19 million jobs. Goldman Sachs is projecting more than 7 percent growth this year if we passed the investment and the corporate tax plan.”

These claims were an inaccurate citation of a projection from Moody’s Analytics. The research firm estimated that the economy would add about 19 million jobs within 10 years if the infrastructure package became law, and 16.3 million within 10 years if it did not pass. In other words, the infrastructure package itself would create approximately 2.7 million jobs — about one-seventh of what Mr. Buttigieg and Mr. Deese claimed.

Other White House officials have offered more accurate renditions of this claim. Mr. Biden himself said last week that the economy overall will create 19 million jobs if the plan passes while Jen Psaki, his press secretary, said Monday that the infrastructure proposal “helps” create 19 million jobs.

Mr. Buttigieg corrected his claim on Monday, telling CNN that he “should be precise about this” and that the infrastructure plan creates 2.7 million more jobs than the baseline scenario.

Journalists waited outside the Vienna hotel where closed-door talks over Iran’s nuclear program were taking place on Tuesday.
Credit…Florian Schroetter/Associated Press

In Vienna on Tuesday, the signers of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are coming together with what would appear to be a simple task. They want to restore compliance with an agreement that put strict controls on Iran’s nuclear enrichment, to ensure that it cannot build a nuclear weapon, in return for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions.

Both Iran and the United States insist that they want to return to the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. But nothing about the meeting will be simple.

President Donald J. Trump pulled the United States out of the accord in May 2018, calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated,” and restored and then enhanced harsh economic sanctions against Iran, trying to force it to renegotiate.

Iran responded in part by enriching uranium significantly beyond the limits in the agreement, building more advanced centrifuges, and acting more aggressively in support of allies in the Middle East, like Hezbollah, Hamas, Shia militias in Iraq and the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Returning to a deal made six years ago will most likely be harder than many people realize. The accord was the outcome of years of negotiations with Iran. Under the chairmanship of the European Union, Britain, France and Germany made the first overtures to Iran, joined by the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: Russia, China and the United States.

But it was not until the United States started secret talks with Iran under President Barack Obama and agreed that Iran could enrich uranium, though under safeguards, that a breakthrough occurred. Even then, the deal was widely criticized as too weak by many in Congress and by Israel, which saw Iran’s possible reach for a nuclear weapon — an aspiration always denied by Iran — as an existential threat.

The Europeans tried to keep the deal alive after the United States left, but they proved unable to provide Iran the economic benefits it was due after Mr. Trump restored American sanctions.

The American sanctions, based on the global power of the dollar and the American banking system, kept European and other companies from doing business with Iran, and Mr. Trump intensified the pressure by adding many more sanctions.

The Vienna talks this week are intended to create a road map for a synchronized return of both Iran and the United States to compliance with the 2015 deal.

The I.M.F. forecast for global economic growth has climbed to 6 percent for the year.
Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

The global economy is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic faster than previously expected, largely thanks to the strength of the United States, but the International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that major challenges remained as the uneven rollout of vaccines threatens to leave developing countries behind.

The I.M.F. said it was upgrading its global growth forecast for the year thanks to vaccinations of hundreds of millions of people, efforts that are expected to help fuel a sharp rebound in economic activity. The international body now expects the global economy to expand by 6 percent this year, up from its previous projection of 5.5 percent, after a contraction of 3.3 percent in 2020.

“Even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible,” Gita Gopinath, the I.M.F.’s chief economist, said in a statement accompanying the fund’s World Economic Outlook report.

The emergence from the crisis is being led by the wealthiest countries, particularly the United States, where the economy is now projected to expand by 6.4 percent this year. The euro area is expected to expand by 4.4 percent and Japan is forecast to expand by 3.3 percent, according to the I.M.F.

Among the emerging market and developing economies, China and India are expected to lead the way. China’s economy is projected to expand by 8.4 percent and India’s is expected to expand by 12.5 percent.

Ms. Gopinath credited the robust fiscal support that the largest economies have provided for the improved outlook and pointed to the relief effort enacted by the United States. The I.M.F. estimates that the economic fallout from the pandemic could have been three times worse if not for the $16 trillion of worldwide fiscal support.

Despite the rosier outlook, Ms. Gopinath said that the global economy still faced “daunting” challenges.

Low-income countries are facing bigger losses in economic output than advanced economies, reversing gains in poverty reduction. And within advanced economies, low-skilled workers have been hit the hardest and those who lost jobs could find it difficult to replace them.

“Because the crisis has accelerated the transformative forces of digitalization and automation, many of the jobs lost are unlikely to return, requiring worker reallocation across sectors — which often comes with severe earnings penalties,” Ms. Gopinath said.

The I.M.F. cautioned that its projections hinged on the deployment of vaccines and the spread of variants of the virus, which could pose both a public health and economic threat. The fund is also keeping a close eye on interest rates in the United States, which remain at rock-bottom levels but could pose financial risks if the Federal Reserve raises them unexpectedly.

A line for meals at the Bowery Mission in New York last month. Some people who would benefit most from the stimulus are having the hardest time getting it.
Credit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times

For most Americans, the third stimulus payment, like the first two, arrived as if by magic, landing unprompted in the bank or in the mail.

But it’s not as straightforward for people without a bank account or a mailing address. Or a phone. Or identification.

Just about anyone with a Social Security number who is not someone else’s dependent and who earns less than $75,000 is entitled to the stimulus. But some of the people who would benefit most from the money are having the hardest time getting their hands on it.

“There’s this great intention to lift people out of poverty more and give them support, and all of that’s wonderful,” said Beth Hofmeister, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society’s Homeless Rights Project. “But the way people have to access it doesn’t really fit with how most really low-income people are interacting with the government.”

Interviews with homeless people in New York City over the last couple of weeks found that some mistakenly assumed they were ineligible for the stimulus. Others said that bureaucratic hurdles, complicated by limited phone or internet access, were insurmountable.

Paradoxically, the very poor are the most likely to pump stimulus money right back into devastated local economies, rather than sock it away in the bank or use it to play the stock market.

“I’d find a permanent place to stay, some food, clothing, a nice shower, a nice bed,” said Richard Rodriguez, 43, waiting for lunch outside the Bowery Mission last month. “I haven’t had a nice bed for a year.”

Mr. Rodriguez said he had made several attempts to file taxes — a necessary step for those not yet in the system — but had given up.

“I went to H&R Block and I told them I was homeless,” he said. “They said they couldn’t help me.”



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