Biden Administration News: Live Updates
President Biden will travel to western Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon to unveil his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, a far-reaching proposal that he will seek to pay for with a substantial increase in corporate taxes.
Mr. Biden will lay out the plan in an afternoon speech at a carpenters training center outside Pittsburgh. It is the first step in a two-part agenda to overhaul American capitalism, fight climate change and attempt to improve the productivity of the economy.
The scale of the infrastructure program he is rolling out — one of the most ambitious attempts in generations to shore up the nation’s aging roads, bridges, rail lines and utilities — is so big that it will require 15 years of higher taxes on corporations to fully offset eight years of spending.
Despite his ambitious programs, Mr. Biden had pledged that his long-term economic agenda would not add further to the growing national debt. But the fact that his proposed tax increases would not cover his spending over the same period shows the challenge he has in balancing his big goals and the deficit.
Mr. Biden’s proposals include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent and efforts to force multinational corporations to pay significantly more in tax to the United States on profits they earn and book overseas. The corporate tax rate had been cut under President Donald J. Trump to 21 percent from 35 percent.
The new plans come on top of the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan Mr. Biden signed into law this month, which was financed entirely by borrowing and was passed with no Republican support. The programs reflect Mr. Biden’s campaign promises and a leftward shift in his party in recent years.
If his full set of proposals become law, they would mark a new era of ambitious federal spending to address longstanding social and economic problems. Their odds of passing Congress have risen in the midst of a pandemic in which lawmakers have approved record amounts of government spending to rescue the economy from recession.
The spending in the first phase of Mr. Biden’s two-part agenda includes a wide range of investments in physical infrastructure, including highways, mass transit and electric vehicle charging systems and upgrades to water pipes, the electric grid and veterans’ hospitals. It also includes a big increase in federal research and development spending and efforts to provide home-based care to older and disabled Americans.
The second step, which officials have suggested will come next month, will feature spending and tax credits meant to invest in what liberal economists call human infrastructure. It will include aid to the poor, paid leave for workers and measures meant to reduce the cost of child care and help women work and earn more.
Together, those two proposals could cost as much as $4 trillion between spending increases and tax incentives. The second phase of the proposals is expected to include tax increases on high-earning individuals.
Business groups and large corporations reacted negatively on Wednesday to President Biden’s expected proposal to fund his $2 trillion package of infrastructure spending with a substantial increase in corporate taxes.
The scale of the infrastructure program — the details of which Mr. Biden is expected to unveil later on Wednesday — is so big that is that it would require 15 years of higher taxes on corporations to pay for eight years of spending. The plans include raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. The corporate tax rate had been cut from 35 percent under former President Donald J. Trump.
The Business Roundtable said it supported infrastructure investment, calling it “essential to economic growth” and important “to ensure a rapid economic recovery” — but rejected corporate tax increases as a way to pay for it.
“Business Roundtable strongly opposes corporate tax increases” to pay for infrastructure investment, the group’s chief executive, Joshua Bolten, said in a statement. “Policymakers should avoid creating new barriers to job creation and economic growth, particularly during the recovery.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce echoed Business Roundtable’s view. “We strongly oppose the general tax increases proposed by the administration, which will slow the economic recovery and make the U.S. less competitive globally — the exact opposite of the goals of the infrastructure plan,” the chamber’s chief policy officer, Neil Bradley, said in a statement.
Automakers embraced Mr. Biden’s bet to increase the use of electric cars. The plan proposes spending $174 billion to encourage the manufacture and purchase of electric vehicles by granting tax credits and other incentives to companies that make electric vehicle batteries in the United States instead of China.
“Customers want connected and increasingly electric vehicles, and we need to work together to build the infrastructure to help this transformation,” Jim Farley, the chief executive of Ford Motor, said in a statement. “Ford supports the administration’s efforts to advance a broad infrastructure plan that prioritizes a more sustainable, connected and autonomous future — including an integrated charging network and supportive supply chain, built on a foundation of safe roads and bridges for our customers.”
Jill Biden, the first lady, is traveling to California on Wednesday to visit a pop-up vaccination site for farmworkers, who have lobbied for priority access to shots amid the pandemic.
Thousands of Central Valley farmworkers are getting the coronavirus vaccine over six weekends in March and April at the “Forty Acres” property just west of Delano, a historic site that became the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America, the country’s first successful farmworker’s union. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, and his partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, will join the first lady at the site.
Earlier this year, California launched a landmark effort to get vaccines to farmworkers, many of whom are undocumented and whose close-quarter working conditions have left them particularly vulnerable to the virus. Researchers from Purdue University estimate that about 500,000 agricultural workers have tested positive for the virus and at least 9,000 have died from it. (The virus has killed over 550,000 people in the United States, according to a New York Times count.)
Dr. Biden will also deliver remarks for Cesar Chavez Day, a holiday honoring the birthday of the labor organizer who co-founded the union with the activist Dolores Huerta. Ms. Huerta told the website Bakersfield.com that Dr. Biden’s visit was “a great birthday present for Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers and the Latino community.”
Mr. Chavez’s family members will greet the first lady and give remarks when she visits Forty Acres. Julie Rodriguez, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs, is Mr. Chavez’s granddaughter, and is accompanying Dr. Biden on the trip.
Over the course of President Biden’s first two months in office, union leaders have praised his administration as one of the most labor-friendly in modern history. (One of Mr. Biden’s first official acts was to move a bust of Mr. Chavez into the Oval Office.) Mr. Biden has publicly supported the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, a bill that would grant temporary legal status to seasonal farm workers, many of whom are undocumented, and offer a 10-year path to citizenship.
“For generations, America’s farmworkers — many of whom are undocumented — have worked countless hours to feed our nation and ensure our communities are healthy and strong,” Mr. Biden said in a statement on the day the House passed the act and sent it on to the Senate. “This has been even more clear and crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic, as farmworkers have put their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line to ensure that families across the country have food on the table.”
Democrats in Congress are quietly splintering over how to handle the expansive voting rights bill that they have made a centerpiece of their ambitious legislative agenda, potentially jeopardizing their chances of countering a Republican drive to restrict ballot access in states across the country.
President Biden and leading Democrats have pledged to make the elections overhaul a top priority, even contemplating a bid to upend bedrock Senate rules if necessary to push it through over Republican objections. But they are contending with an undercurrent of reservations in their ranks over how aggressively to try to revamp the nation’s elections and whether, in their zeal to beat back new Republican ballot restrictions moving through the states, their proposed solution might backfire, sowing voting confusion and new political challenges.
The hand-wringing demonstrates how urgent the voting issue has become for both parties since November, when President Donald J. Trump spread false claims of voter fraud that many Republicans believed. In the months since, Republican-led statehouses have advanced a wave of new laws clamping down on ballot access.
Democrats have coalesced around the idea that pushing back on such measures is a modern-day civil rights battle that the party cannot afford to lose. “Failure,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said last week, “is not an option.”
But while few Democrats are willing to publicly say so, the details of the more than 800-page bill — which would radically reshape the way elections are run and make far-reaching changes to campaign finance laws and redistricting — have become a point of simmering contention. Some proponents argue that Democrats should break off a narrower bill dealing strictly with protecting voting rights to prevent the legislation, known as the For the People Act, from collapsing amid divisions over other issues.
“Democrats have a narrow opportunity. There is a window here that could close anytime,” said Richard L. Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine. “I worry the kind of fights necessary to keep even the Democratic coalition together could blow up the whole thing and lose the chance to get anything done.”
Dozens of the most prominent Black business leaders in America are banding together to call on companies to fight a wave of voting-rights bills being advanced by Republicans in at least 43 states. The campaign appears to be the first time that so many powerful Black executives have organized to directly call out their peers for failing to stand up for racial justice.
The effort, led by Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, is a response to the swift passage of a Georgia law that they contend makes it harder for Black people to vote. As the debate about that bill raged in recent weeks, most major corporations — including those with headquarters in Atlanta — did not take a position on the legislation.
“There is no middle ground here,” Mr. Chenault said. “You either are for more people voting, or you want to suppress the vote.”
The executives did not criticize specific companies, but instead called on all of corporate America to publicly and directly oppose new laws that would restrict the rights of Black voters, and to use their clout, money and lobbyists to sway the debate with lawmakers.
“This impacts all Americans, but we also need to acknowledge the history of voting rights for African-Americans,” Mr. Chenault said. “And as African-American executives in corporate America, what we were saying is we want corporate America to understand that, and we want them to work with us.”
The letter was signed by 72 Black executives. They included Roger Ferguson Jr., the chief executive of TIAA; Mellody Hobson and John Rogers Jr., the co-chief executives of Ariel Investments; Robert F. Smith, the chief executive of Vista Equity Partners; and Raymond McGuire, a former Citigroup executive who is running for mayor of New York.
In the days before the Georgia law was passed, almost no major companies spoke out against the legislation, which introduced stricter voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limited drop boxes and expanded the legislature’s power over elections.
Big corporations based in Atlanta, including Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and Home Depot, offered general statements of support for voting rights, but none took a specific stance on the bills.
Among the other executives who signed the letter were Ursula Burns, a former chief executive of Xerox; Richard Parsons, a former chairman of Citigroup and chief executive of Time Warner; and Tony West, the chief legal officer at Uber. The group of leaders, with support from the Black Economic Alliance, bought a full-page ad in the Wednesday print edition of The New York Times.
The executives are hoping that big companies will help prevent dozens of similar bills in other states from becoming law.
“The Georgia legislature was the first one,” Mr. Frazier said. “If corporate America doesn’t stand up, we’ll get these laws passed in many places in this country.”
Hunter Biden doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to personal revelations in his new memoir, “Beautiful Things,” which comes out on April 6.
“I’m a 51-year-old father who helped raise three beautiful daughters,” writes President Biden’s younger son, who now has a year-old son of his own, in the prologue.
“I’ve bought crack cocaine on the streets of Washington, D.C., and cooked up my own inside a hotel bungalow in Los Angeles.” He added, “In the last five years alone, my two-decades-long marriage has dissolved, guns have been put in my face, and at one point I dropped clean off the grid, living in $59-a-night Super 8 motels off I-95 while scaring my family even more than myself.”
The book is equal parts family saga, grief narrative and addict’s howl. Here are some key takeaways:
In 2016, while his father was vice president, Mr. Biden spent a month in a Washington apartment bingeing on vodka. He had relapsed after the death of his brother Beau the previous year. He recalls his father’s words toward him at the time: “He never let me forget that all was not lost. He never abandoned me, never shunned me, never judged me, no matter how bad things got — and believe me, from there they would get much, much worse.”
When it comes to his board membership at the Ukrainian company Burisma Holdings, Mr. Biden’s account is as dry as toast. An 18-page chapter that reads like a research paper compiled by a reluctant student. “The episode that led to the impeachment of a president and landed me in the heart of the decade’s biggest political fable is most remarkable for its epic banality,” he writes.
He credits his wife, Melissa Cohen, for his sobriety. They met in early 2019, when he was at a low point. An hour into their first dinner, they declared their love to one another. An hour after that, Mr. Biden told Ms. Cohen that he was a crack addict. She said, “Not anymore. You’re finished with that.”
The Justice Department is investigating whether Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.
Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.
It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.
The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said.
The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.
Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, was at the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.
No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.
Mr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”
Mr. Gaetz called the investigation part of an elaborate scheme involving “false sex allegations” to extort him and his family for $25 million that began this month. He said he and his father, Don Gaetz, had been cooperating with the F.B.I. and “wearing a wire” after they were approached by people saying they could make the investigation “go away.”
In a second interview later Tuesday, the congressman said he had no plans to resign his House seat and denied that he had romantic relationships with minors. “It is verifiably false that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman,” he said.
Representatives for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida.
Two Capitol Police officers who were on duty during the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol sued former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday, saying he was responsible for the physical and emotional injuries they had suffered as a result of the day’s events.
Supporters of Mr. Trump overran the Capitol as Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s victory over Mr. Trump in the November presidential election. Before the incursion, Mr. Trump spoke at a nearby rally, where he urged his supporters to “show strength” and “fight like hell.”
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died in the mayhem. Mr. Trump was later impeached by the House of Representatives on a single charge of “incitement of insurrection,” but was acquitted in February after a brief Senate trial in which few Republicans broke ranks to vote guilty.
The Capitol Police officers who sued Mr. Trump, James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, filed their complaint in the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, and are each seeking compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, plus punitive damages.
The lawsuit is the first to be brought against the former president by Capitol Police officers. The force has more than 2,000 officers.
Lawyers for the officers and for Mr. Trump could not be reached for comment early Wednesday. Mr. Trump has previously denied responsibility for the attack.
The complaint said the “insurrectionist mob” that stormed the Capitol was “spurred on by Trump’s conduct over many months in getting his followers to believe” his false assertions of widespread electoral fraud in November. The complaint also said that Mr. Trump’s supporters believed swarming the Capitol was their last chance to stop Mr. Trump from being unfairly forced out of the White House.
Mr. Trump “inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted” the mob that overran the building and attacked police personnel inside, the complaint said. It cited Mr. Trump’s Jan. 6 speech and other conduct, including what it said was his failure that day to “take timely action to stop his followers from continued violence.”
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken declared on Tuesday that women’s access to contraceptives and reproductive care is a global human right that will be monitored by the United States, reversing a Trump administration policy that overlooked discrimination or denials of women seeking sexual health services worldwide.
The announcement was one of several departures Mr. Blinken made from the previous administration’s approach as the State Department issued its annual report on human rights violations.
The report was completed during the Trump administration and, Mr. Blinken said, did not include examples of women who were refused health care and family planning information in nearly 200 countries and territories in 2020. He has directed officials to compile that data and identify violators this year “because women’s rights — including sexual and reproductive rights — are human rights,” Mr. Blinken told reporters at the department.
Mr. Blinken also announced that he had dismantled an advisory committee, set up by Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state at the time, that had prioritized religious liberties and property rights among universal freedoms. Critics of the panel had accused Mr. Pompeo of using it to promote his evangelical Christian beliefs and conservative politics.
On Tuesday, Mr. Blinken said his disbanding of the panel, the Commission on Unalienable Rights, was to “repudiate those unbalanced views.”
“There is no hierarchy that makes some rights more important than others,” he said.
Mr. Blinken also said the Biden administration would call out foreign governments’ persecution of dissidents, not just within their borders, but abroad as well — a reference to the 2018 killing of the journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by a squad of hit men from Saudi Arabia. The administration released an intelligence report in February that concluded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia had approved the assassination, although the United States has not announced penalties against him.
An effort by former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign to silence a former campaign worker who claimed she was the target of abusive treatment and sexual harassment by another member of Mr. Trump’s campaign was effectively voided on Tuesday by a federal court judge in New York.
Judge Paul G. Gardephe nullified a confidentiality agreement signed in 2016 by Jessica Denson, who had worked on Mr. Trump’s campaign that year as a phone bank supervisor and Hispanic outreach coordinator. Judge Gardephe concluded the agreement was “invalid and unenforceable.”
Mr. Trump’s campaign had won a $50,000 award against Ms. Denson after asserting that she had violated the confidential agreement when she first raised the mistreatment claims. That award was overturned by a New York State court last year.
Ms. Denson then sued on behalf of herself and other Trump campaign aides who had been forced to sign confidentiality agreements, asking that they all be invalidated as too broad and illegal in New York because they lasted indefinitely.
Judge Gardephe declined on Tuesday to invalidate all of the confidentiality agreements. But he did rule that the one Ms. Denson had signed was invalid.
“It is difficult if not impossible for Denson or another campaign employee to know whether any speech might be covered by one of the broad categories of restricted information,” the ruling says.
Ms. Denson’s lawyers — David K. Bowles of Bowles & Johnson, Joe Slaughter of Ballard Spahr, and John Langford from the nonprofit group Protect Democracy — worked on the case pro bono and now intend to ask the court to consider broadly invalidating all of the confidentiality agreements that Trump campaign workers signed.
Ms. Denson claimed she was “subject to a hostile work environment and experienced sex discrimination, and that after she complained, high-ranking persons in the campaign retaliated against her.”
Mr. Trump’s post-presidential office did not respond to a request for comment.
Her case was one of several in which Mr. Trump — using lawyers paid for by his campaign or at times even the Justice Department — went after former aides that criticized him or his campaign, including Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser to Mr. Trump, and Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide.
“The campaign has been using this to beat up campaign workers for years,” Mr. Bowles said on Tuesday. “Our position is now these things are illegal.”
G. Gordon Liddy, a cloak-and-dagger lawyer who masterminded dirty tricks for the White House and concocted the bungled burglary that led to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974, died on Tuesday in Mount Vernon, Va. He was 90.
His death, at the home of his daughter Alexandra Liddy Bourne, was confirmed by his son Thomas P. Liddy, who said that his father had Parkinson’s disease and had been in declining health.
Decades after Watergate entered the lexicon, Mr. Liddy was still an enigma in the cast of characters who fell from grace with the 37th president — to some a patriot who went silently to prison refusing to betray his comrades, to others a zealot who cashed in on bogus celebrity to become an author and syndicated talk show host.
As a leader of a White House “plumbers” unit set up to plug information leaks, and then as a strategist for the president’s re-election campaign, Mr. Liddy helped devise plots to discredit Nixon “enemies” and to disrupt the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Most were far-fetched — bizarre kidnappings, acts of sabotage, traps using prostitutes, even an assassination — and were never carried out.
But Mr. Liddy, a former F.B.I. agent, and E. Howard Hunt, a former C.I.A. agent, engineered two break-ins at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex in Washington. On May 28, 1972, as Mr. Liddy and Mr. Hunt stood by, six Cuban expatriates and James W. McCord Jr., a Nixon campaign security official, went in, planted bugs, photographed documents and got away cleanly.
A few weeks later, on June 17, four Cubans and Mr. McCord, wearing surgical gloves and carrying walkie-talkies, returned to the scene and were caught by the police. Mr. Liddy and Mr. Hunt, running the operation from a Watergate hotel room, fled but were soon arrested and indicted on charges of burglary, wiretapping and conspiracy.
Major, one of President Biden’s German shepherds, “nipped someone” during a walk on Monday, a spokesman for the first lady, Jill Biden, said on Tuesday.
The spokesman, Michael LaRosa, said that “out of an abundance of caution,” the individual, whom he did not identify, was seen by the White House medical unit “and then returned to work without injury.”
“Major is still adjusting to his new surroundings,” Mr. LaRosa said. The episode was reported earlier Tuesday by CNN, which said the individual was a National Park Service employee. A spokeswoman for the agency referred a request for comment to the White House.
The Bidens have two German shepherds: Major, the younger of the two, and Champ. Earlier in March, the dogs were sent back to Delaware for a time after a previous incident involving Major.
In that episode, Major “was surprised by an unfamiliar person and reacted in a way that resulted in a minor injury to the individual,” said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary.