October 27, 2021

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Biden’s Stimulus Plan Is on the Brink of Success: Live Updates and Analysis – nytimes.com

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President Biden, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, delivers remarks at the White House on Saturday, following the Senate vote to approve a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Around the midpoint of his first 100 days in office, President Biden is closing in on his first legislative triumph: congressional approval of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.

After the Senate passed the plan on Saturday, it is set to return to the House for final approval as soon as Tuesday. It was also possible that the vote could slip to Wednesday depending on when the House received the sprawling measure from the Senate.

Whether the vote takes place Tuesday or Wednesday, it will still beat the March 14 deadline when unemployment benefits are set to begin lapsing. And it will enable Mr. Biden to take a victory lap on Thursday night when he delivers a prime-time address marking one year since the coronavirus brought much of the nation to a halt.

“The president is taking nothing for granted,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday, describing the relief bill as “one of the most consequential and most progressive pieces of legislation in American history.”

The far-reaching legislation would send $1,400 direct payments to Americans, extend a $300-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit until September and provide funding for states, local governments and schools, as well as for coronavirus testing, vaccine distribution and other needs. It also amounts to an ambitious effort to combat poverty, instituting a significant expansion of the child tax credit for one year, among other provisions that would benefit low-income people.

The version of the bill that will go before the House has some notable changes compared with the measure the chamber originally approved on Feb. 27, though its final passage does not seem in peril.

The legislation no longer contains an increase to the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour and would have gradually risen to $15 per hour by 2025 under the House bill. In addition, the $300-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit is less generous than the $400-per-week benefit the House had initially approved. And stimulus checks would go to fewer people after the Senate imposed more restrictive income limits.

With the arduous process of approving the stimulus bill behind it, the Senate is expected to give Mr. Biden further good news this week, this time involving cabinet nominations. The chamber is on track to confirm three of his cabinet picks in the coming days, including Judge Merrick B. Garland as attorney general.

On Tuesday evening, the Senate is scheduled to hold procedural votes on the nominations of both Judge Garland and Representative Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio, selected to be secretary of housing and urban development, and both nominees are expected to be confirmed on Wednesday afternoon. The Senate is also likely to confirm Michael Regan, the president’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, by week’s end.

Former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada in his Las Vegas office in 2019.
Credit…Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times

They called it the Reid machine, the state Democratic Party apparatus that the former Senate majority leader Harry Reid built in Nevada. The machine not only helped him win re-election, but also helped to win Democratic presidential victories and sent a majority Democratic delegation to Washington.

But the machine lost last weekend.

A coalition of liberal candidates backed by the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter overtook the leadership of the state Democratic Party. And within hours of Judith Whitmer’s victory as the state chair, the party’s executive director sent an email informing her that she would be resigning, along with the rest of the staff.

The incumbents’ losses were not unexpected. Before the employees and consultants resigned, they transferred roughly $450,000 from the state party to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which will most likely use the money to campaign for Catherine Cortez Masto, who will be up for re-election in 2022.

The party leadership change comes just a year after Senator Bernie Sanders won the Nevada presidential caucus, demonstrating the ascendancy of the left wing of the party in the state.

President Biden had long promised to fill the holes of the Affordable Care Act. The pandemic relief bill will set out to do so, but it has a two-year time limit.
Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill will fulfill one of his central campaign promises: to fill the holes in the Affordable Care Act and make health insurance accessible for more than a million middle-class Americans who could not afford it under the original law.

The bill, which will most likely go to the House for a final vote on Wednesday, includes a significant, albeit temporary, expansion of subsidies for health insurance purchased under the act. With the changes, the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration will reach middle-income families who have been discouraged from buying health plans on the federal marketplace because they come with high premiums and little or no help from the government.

The changes will last only two years. But for some, they will be considerable: The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a 64-year-old earning $58,000 would see monthly payments decline from $1,075 under current law to $412 because the federal government would take up much of the cost. The rescue plan also includes new incentives to entice the few holdout states — including Texas, Georgia and Florida — to finally expand Medicaid to those with too much money to qualify for the federal health program for the poor, but too little to afford private coverage.

“For people that are eligible but not buying insurance, it’s a financial issue, and so upping the subsidies is going to make the price point come down,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy expert and professor at the University of Pennsylvania who advised Mr. Biden during his transition. The bill, he said, would “make a big dent in the number of the uninsured.”

But because those provisions last only two years, the relief bill almost guarantees that health care will be front and center in the 2022 midterm elections, when Republicans will attack the measure as a wasteful expansion of a law they have long hated. At the same time, some liberal Democrats may say the changes only prove that a patchwork approach to health care coverage will never work.

Mr. Biden made clear when he was running for the White House that he did not favor “Medicare for all,” but instead wanted to strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act. The relief bill, which is expected to reach his desk in time for a prime-time Oval Office address on Thursday night, would do that. The changes to the health law would cover 1.3 million more Americans and cost about $34 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala.
Credit…Wes Frazer for The New York Times

President Biden’s video message last week expressing support for organized labor amid a heated unionization drive at an Amazon warehouse outside Birmingham, Ala., has invigorated the drive to improve working conditions at the retail giant — in a state historically inhospitable to organized labor.

“I couldn’t believe he said something,” said Darryl Richardson, one of the workers helping to organize a campaign that has targeted one of the world’s most profitable companies and its billionaire chief executive, Jeff Bezos.

“It matters. It eased minds that might be worried about losing their job,” he said.

Around 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, a former steel town, are voting this week on whether they want to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

If successful, they would be the first of Amazon’s 400,000 American workers to join a union — a landmark undertaking and early test of Mr. Biden’s campaign claim that he will be the “most pro-union president” ever.

“Workers in Alabama, and all across America, are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace,” Mr. Biden said in a direct-to-camera address posted on the White House Twitter page, after a recent pressure campaign by pro-union groups pushing him to weigh in on the drive.

“We’ve been waiting on him,” added Mike Foster, one of the lead organizers for the union, of Mr. Biden’s statement.

The drive has pitted company against worker and neighbor against neighbor as a potentially broader labor push brews at a corporation that has long resisted similar efforts. Mr. Biden’s words demonstrated a willingness to support communities that have often fallen outside the Democratic Party’s governing focus: working-class voters in Republican states, many of whom are Black.

The message also elevated the national debate about the future of labor and unions, a cross-ideological issue on which Mr. Biden can uniquely find common cause with the progressive wing of his party even as many Democrats continue to shy away.

Mr. Biden’s statement did not mention Amazon specifically and carefully avoided backing the union, calling instead for a fair election that followed federal labor guidelines.

What’s more, the presidential nod to Alabama supercharged the Democratic arms race to find the next Georgia, a Southern state where the party capitalized on decades of organizing and demographic change to break Republicans’ grip on statewide elections.

The task will be tougher in Alabama: The state is much more firmly Republican than its Southern neighbor. It has not experienced the rapid demographic change that made Georgia’s political transformation possible, and does not have its considerable numbers of college-educated suburban moderates.

Still, Alabama Democrats see the growth of unions — and the vote in Bessemer — as a crucial first step.

“Watching what happened in Georgia has given people a lot of hope,” said Kathleen Kirkpatrick, the political director of Hometown Action, a statewide activist group. “What Stacey Abrams did started a decade ago and took a lot of help. So let’s think about where we are on that path.”

Vaccinations underway in Little Rock, Ark., on Monday. The rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines is expected to help the United States economy to grow 6.5 percent this year.
Credit…Rory Doyle for The New York Times

The American economy will accelerate nearly twice as fast as expected this year as the coming passage of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, combined with a rapid vaccine rollout, ignites a powerful recovery from the pandemic, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday.

But countries that are stumbling in the pace of their vaccination campaigns, especially those in Europe, risk falling behind in the global recovery as a failure to beat back the spread of the virus forces governments to keep swaths of their economies closed, delaying the chance for people to get back to normal lives, the organization said.

In its half-year outlook, the organization said the United States would expand 6.5 percent this year, up sharply from 3.2 percent forecast in December. The surge in the world’s largest economy will generate enough momentum to help lift global output 5.6 percent, from a 3.4 percent contraction in 2020.

China, which contained the virus earlier than other countries, remains a big global winner, with growth of 7.8 percent forecast.

Although a global recovery is in sight, spending by governments intended to jump-start their economies will have limited impact unless authorities accelerate national vaccine rollouts and relax virus containment measures, the report added. If vaccination programs aren’t fast enough to cut infection rates, or if new variants become more widespread and require changes to vaccines, consumer spending and business confidence would be hit.

“Stimulus without vaccinations won’t be as effective because consumers won’t go out doing normal things,” Laurence Boone, the O.E.C.D.’s chief economist, said in an online news briefing. “It’s the combination of health and fiscal policy that matters.”

That is especially the case for Europe, and Germany and France in particular, where a mix of poor public health management and slow vaccination programs are weighing on a recovery, despite billions in government support. Such spending “won’t be fully effective as long as the economy doesn’t reopen,” Ms. Boone said.

The euro area economy is expected to grow 3.9 percent this year, slightly more than forecast in December but slower than the United States. In Britain, which sped a national vaccination rollout late last year, the economy is expected to grow 5.1 percent, up from a 4.2 percent forecast.

India’s economy is expected to grow 12.6 percent after a 7.4 percent fall in 2020, the organization added.

Demonstrators stand outside the Georgia Capitol building to oppose voting restrictions.
Credit…Megan Varner/Getty Images

After hours of intense and occasionally emotional debate, the Republican-controlled State Senate in Georgia voted 29-20 on Monday to approve a bill that would impose new voting restrictions in the state, including a repeal of no-excuse absentee voting.

Multiple Republican senators abstained from voting, signaling some unease with the strident nature of the voting restrictions and indicating that they could face an uphill battle in the weeks ahead. The Senate bill passed just one vote above the required 28-vote majority threshold.

The bill will now go to the State House of Representatives, which is also led by Republicans. Last week, the House passed its own omnibus bill of voting restrictions that included similar barriers to the ballot box, including limiting early voting times.

Though each chamber passed its own bill, some legislators in Georgia view the House legislation as the likely central vehicle for voting overhauls in the state. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, has indicated that he generally supports “securing the vote,” repeating the Republican euphemism for imposing new voting laws in response to false claims of voter fraud following the 2020 election. Mr. Kemp, however, has not weighed in on many of the specific provisions in either bill.

Georgia has become one of the focal points of a national movement among Republicans to erect new barriers to voting in the wake of former President Donald J. Trump’s loss to President Biden in November. Mr. Biden narrowly won Georgia, as did the two Democratic Senate candidates in January.

At almost the same time that the Georgia Senate was passing its legislation on Monday, the governor of Iowa was signing new voting restrictions into law. The Iowa bill — passed on a party-line vote, with only Republicans voting in favor and only Democrats voting against — shortens both the early-voting period and Election Day voting hours.

During the hourslong debate in Georgia on Monday, Democrats rose repeatedly to denounce the Senate legislation, known as S.B. 241, as seeking to deny the right to vote to numerous groups, especially Black voters and other Georgians of color, and to erect new barriers to the ballot box simply in response to an election that Republicans in the state lost.

“We don’t have to continue this legacy of blocking access to the ballot,” said Nan Orrock, a state senator from Atlanta. “This is such a cloud over Georgia that these bills abound in our midst.”

Harold Jones II, the Democratic whip in the State Senate, noted the state’s history of laws aimed at suppressing Black voters, imploring his colleagues to listen to the protests and pleas from communities of color about the impact the new voting restrictions would have.

“As many of my colleagues come up, you would hear many of them, I’m sure, become emotional, and possibly their voice will crack, because that most basic right was denied to us,” Mr. Jones, who is Black, said. “It’s not 1800, it’s not 1850s. It is right here in this room. Many of the senators that sit here lived through that process. I see that every day with my parents. We live that. We understand how that most basic right was denied.”

Matt Brass, a Republican state senator who was removed as chairman of the redistricting committee by the Republican lieutenant governor after he backed efforts to overturn the election, rose in support of the bill, saying he was representing the Georgia voters who had lost confidence in elections.

“We still need the people of Georgia to believe in the process, and right now they are unconvinced,” Mr. Brass said.

But Senate Democrats pointed to the timing of the bill — following Republican losses in 2020 — as evidence that Republicans were not simply trying to address confidence in elections.

“The motivations are really suspect because it’s introduced immediately after voters of color dramatically increased their use of absentee voting this past year,” said Jen Jordan, a Democratic state senator from outside Atlanta.

A migrant boy walks amid tents at the Juventud 2000 migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico.
Credit…Guillermo Arias/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The number of unaccompanied migrant children detained along the southern border has tripled in the last two weeks to more than 3,250, filling facilities akin to jails as the Biden administration struggles to find room for them in shelters, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

More than 1,360 of the children have been detained beyond the 72 hours permitted by law before a child must be transferred to a shelter, according to one of the documents, dated March 8. The figures highlight the growing pressure on President Biden to address the increased number of people trying to cross the border in the belief that he will be more welcoming to them than former President Donald J. Trump was.

The children are being held in facilities, managed by the Customs and Border Protection agency, that were built for adults. The border agency has been the subject of widespread criticism for the horrific conditions in its federal detention facilities, in which children are exposed to disease, hunger and overcrowding.

Under the law, the federal government is required to move unaccompanied children within three days from the border facilities to shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, where they are held until they are placed with a sponsor. Homeland Security officials have often pointed to delays by Health and Human Services in picking up the children as a reason for the prolonged detention.

Until last Friday, when the government lifted the restrictions, the shelters managed by Health and Human Services were at reduced capacity because of the pandemic. The shelters for migrant children are 13 days away from “maximum capacity,” according to the documents. The data shows the stress on the system designed to hold the migrant children as Mr. Biden tries to make good on a campaign promise to be more compassionate to migrants during a global pandemic.

Border agents encountered a migrant at the border about 78,000 times in January, the highest number for that month in at least a decade. Most of those were adults or families who were rapidly turned away under a pandemic emergency rule. The administration is expected to announce an increase in those crossings this week, according to officials.

The rules are different for unaccompanied children, who, rather than being turned back, are taken into custody, forcing the administration to find space for them. More than 5,800 unaccompanied children were found at the border in January, an increase of more than 1,000 from October 2020.

The Biden administration recently reopened an emergency facility used during the Trump administration in Carrizo Springs, Texas, to create more space for the children. The shelters where migrant children are supposed to be held have been strained. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directed the shelters to return to full capacity last Friday.

Health and Human Services had more than 8,100 unaccompanied children in its shelters as of Sunday, with space readily available for only 838 more, according to the documents. More than 42 percent of the roughly 3,250 children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection were held longer than the maximum of three days, even though they were referred for placement in shelters by Homeland Security, according to the documents. Border agents had yet to refer more than 440 of the young migrants in its custody to the child migrant shelters.

The Border Patrol and Health and Human Services have long struggled to efficiently transfer migrant children to shelters.

“It’s a difficult coordination process,” said Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary under the Obama administration. She said the rise of unaccompanied children at the border presented an urgent challenge for the administration. “That’s why they need some facilities at the border,” she said, “and I think what they need to do is move as quickly as humanly possible to place those minors with a vetted adult.”

The decision was expected, after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken endorsed it in January.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

As many as 320,000 Venezuelans living in the United States were given an 18-month reprieve on Monday from the threat of being deported, as the Biden administration sought to highlight how dangerous Venezuela has become under President Nicolás Maduro.

The immigrants will be allowed to work legally in the United States as part of the temporary protective status the administration issued.

“The living conditions in Venezuela reveal a country in turmoil, unable to protect its own citizens,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement. “It is in times of extraordinary and temporary circumstances like these that the United States steps forward to support eligible Venezuelan nationals already present here, while their home country seeks to right itself out of the current crises.”

Venezuela is mired in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises under Mr. Maduro, who, through a mix of corruption and neglect, oversaw the decay of the oil infrastructure that had propped up the country’s economy. The United Nations has estimated that up to 94 percent of Venezuela’s population lives in poverty, with millions of people lacking regular access to water, food and medicine.

Two senior Biden administration officials said the new protections would be offered to those who could prove they were living in the United States as of Monday. The cutoff date is intended to discourage smugglers from enticing other Venezuelans to make the arduous journey to the United States when the Biden administration is already struggling with how to accommodate thousands of Central American migrants headed to the southern border.

It had been expected that President Biden would give temporary protective status to Venezuelan immigrants, as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had endorsed it during his Senate confirmation hearing in January.

Though the Trump administration resisted issuing the same protections — despite intense lobbying from Mr. Maduro’s opponents — President Donald J. Trump delayed deportations for many Venezuelans in the United States on his last day in office.

The first lady, Jill Biden, leading Champ into the White House in January. The Biden family’s dogs, Champ and Major, arrived four days after the inauguration.
Credit…The White House

President Biden’s two German shepherds have been moved to the family home in Delaware after one of the animals showed ongoing aggressive behavior to White House staff, according to a news report.

A report published by CNN on Monday evening said that the dogs, Champ and Major, had been moved after Major had what one person described as a “biting incident” with a member of the White House’s security staff.

In an interview on “Morning Joe” on Tuesday morning, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that she didn’t “have any specifics” about the details surrounding the episode, but she called Champ and Major “part of the Bidens’ family.” A White House official said later on Tuesday morning that the dogs were expected to return to the complex.

A person familiar with the dogs’ whereabouts said that Champ and Major had been moved to the family home in Delaware, but added that it was typical for them to stay there when Jill Biden, the first lady, was traveling. Dr. Biden is currently on the West Coast visiting with military families as part of her Joining Forces initiative.

The dogs joined the Bidens at the White House shortly after the family relocated to Washington. Since then, they have been allowed to roam unleashed on the White House grounds and have been given carte blanche to explore the complex. They are often part of the backdrop in Oval Office photos.

“They really don’t have any rules, they’re really good dogs,” Dr. Biden told People magazine during a joint interview with her husband published in February. In that interview, Mr. Biden said that Champ was 14 years old, and Major was about a year-and-a-half old.

Mr. Biden adopted Major in 2018 from the Delaware Humane Association after his daughter sent him a Facebook post about a litter of puppies up for adoption. Major was part of a six-pup litter that had been exposed to toxins and was nursed back to health before the agency listed the animals for adoption.

Major underwent a “special training” to become acclimated to the Biden household, and was fostered for several months before the Bidens officially adopted him, Kerry Bruni, the association’s director of animal care, said at the time.

“I imagine he has to learn how to travel on planes and stuff that normal house dogs don’t have to worry about,” Ms. Bruni said.

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