Democrats Weigh Strategy to Force Through Biden’s Infrastructure Plan

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senior Democrats on Monday proposed a tax increase that could partly finance President Biden’s plans to pour trillions of dollars into infrastructure and other new government programs, as party leaders weighed an aggressive strategy to force his spending proposals through Congress over unified Republican opposition.

The moves were the start of a complex effort by Mr. Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill to pave the way for another huge tranche of federal spending after the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that was enacted this month. The president is set to announce this week the details of his budget, including his much-anticipated infrastructure plan.

He is scheduled to travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to describe the first half of a “Build Back Better” proposal that aides say will include a total of $3 trillion in new spending and up to an additional $1 trillion in tax credits and other incentives.

Yet with Republicans showing early opposition to such a large plan and some Democrats resisting key details, the proposals will be more difficult to enact than the pandemic aid package, which Democrats muscled through the House and Senate on party-line votes.

In the House, where Mr. Biden can currently afford to lose only eight votes, Representative Tom Suozzi, Democrat of New York, warned that he would not support the president’s plan unless it eliminated a rule that prevents taxpayers from deducting more than $10,000 in local and state taxes from their federal income taxes. He is one of a handful of House Democrats who are calling on the president to repeal the provision.

And in the Senate, where most major legislation requires 60 votes to advance, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, was exploring an unusual maneuver that could allow Democrats to once again use reconciliation — the fast-track budget process they used for the stimulus plan — to steer his spending plans through Congress in the next few months even if Republicans are unanimously opposed.

While an aide to Mr. Schumer said a final decision had not been made to pursue such a strategy, the prospect, discussed on the condition of anonymity, underscored the lengths to which Democrats were willing to go to push through Mr. Biden’s agenda.

The president’s initiatives will feature money for traditional infrastructure projects like rebuilding roads, bridges and water systems; spending to advance a transition to a lower-carbon energy system, like electric vehicle charging stations and the construction of energy-efficient buildings; investments in emerging industries like advanced batteries; education efforts like free community college and universal prekindergarten; and measures to help women work and earn more, like increased support for child care.

The proposals are expected to be partly offset by a wide range of tax increases on corporations and high earners.

Wind turbines near Block Island, R.I. The White House is setting a goal of deploying 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind in the United States by 2030.
Credit…Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The Biden administration announced a plan on Monday to vastly expand the use of offshore wind power along the East Coast, aiming to tap a potentially huge source of renewable energy that has so far struggled to gain a foothold in the United States.

The plan would designate an area between Long Island and New Jersey as a priority offshore wind zone and sets a goal of installing 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines in coastal waters nationwide by 2030, generating enough clean electricity to power 10 million homes. To help meet that target, the administration said it would accelerate permitting for proposed wind projects off the Atlantic coast, offer $3 billion in federal loan guarantees for offshore wind projects and upgrade the nation’s ports to support wind construction.

The White House said on Monday that the plan would avoid 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The moves come as President Biden prepares an approximately $3 trillion economic recovery plan that will focus heavily on infrastructure to tackle climate change, an effort he has framed as a jobs initiative. Officials made a similar case on Monday, saying offshore wind deployment would directly create 44,000 new jobs, such as building and installing turbines, and indirectly create another 33,000.

“The president recognizes that a thriving offshore wind industry will drive new jobs and economic opportunity up and down the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico and in Pacific waters,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said during a briefing on Monday.

Republicans said they were skeptical of Mr. Biden’s promise of millions of “green jobs.” They have criticized his earlier moves to suspend new oil and gas leases and revoke permits for the Keystone XL pipeline as responsible for killing well-paying jobs in their states.

Gina McCarthy, the White House national climate adviser, called offshore wind a “new, untapped industry” that “will create pathways to the middle class for people from all backgrounds.”

Last month, the Biden administration took a key step in approving the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm, off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts — a project that had stagnated under the Trump administration. The proposal for 84 large turbines with 800 megawatts of electric generating capacity is slated to come online by 2023.

Vineyard Wind is one of 13 offshore wind projects proposed along the East Coast, and the Interior Department has estimated that as many as 2,000 turbines could be rotating in the Atlantic Ocean by 2030.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.

Solar power, which generated less than 1 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2010, now generates about 2 percent and is growing fast.
Credit…Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times, via Associated Press

President Biden, charged as vice president under President Barack Obama to oversee the implementation of the 2009 stimulus bill, is preparing a new, vastly larger, economic recovery plan that would once again unite the goals of fighting climate change and restoring the economy.

While clean energy spending was just a fraction of the Obama stimulus bill, Mr. Biden wants to make it the centerpiece of his proposal for trillions of dollars — not billions — of government grants, loans, and tax incentives to spark renewable power, energy efficiency and electric car production.

Mr. Biden’s plan, for example, is expected to call for funding at least half a million electric vehicle charging stations.

But the failures of the Obama stimulus and Mr. Biden’s role in them — he oversaw Recovery Act spending — could haunt the plan as it makes its way through Congress. The risk to taxpayers could be much higher this time around, and Republicans for years have proven adept at citing Solyndra — a solar panel company that went defunct after securing federal subsidies — to criticize federal spending.

Mr. Biden’s advisers, many of whom worked on the Obama stimulus, say the situation is very different this time around.

For one, the market demand for electric vehicles is much higher, and the cost of the cars much lower than in 2009, the year after Tesla Motors produced its first roadster. Solar power is more economically competitive. The use of wind power is expanding rapidly.

“You have to step up to the plate and take a swing in order to hit the ball, and sometimes you swing and you miss,” said Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, who served as governor of Michigan during the Obama years.

Advisers to Mr. Obama concede they fell short, especially on electric cars. The recovery act was supposed to put a million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015, but mustered fewer than 200,000. Even today, fewer than 1 percent of vehicles on the road are electric.

Republicans are already weaponizing the losses of the Obama green stimulus in their political attacks against the Biden plan.

“The Obama administration promised thousands of green energy jobs,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy Committee. “These jobs never materialized.”

Most economists say that, on balance, the Obama green stimulus spending did lift the economy, and had a long-lasting impact. Clean energy spending created nearly a million jobs between 2013 and 2017, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

It also made money for taxpayers: The Energy Department’s loan guarantee program ultimately made $2 billion.

That is why Democrats say that one of the biggest lessons from the Obama stimulus is to go bigger — much bigger.

One element of the spending in Mr. Biden’s bill that was not in the Obama plan could draw bipartisan support: Mr. Biden has spoken explicitly of the need to adapt the nation’s roads and bridges to a changing climate, which will bring stronger storms, higher floods and more intense heat and drought.

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo speaking last month, on the third day of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In a series of speeches, interviews and Twitter posts, Mike Pompeo is emerging as the most outspoken critic of President Biden among former top Trump officials. And much as the former Trump secretary of state did when in office, he is ignoring the custom that current and former secretaries of state avoid the appearance of political partisanship.

In back-to-back appearances in Iowa and during an interview in New Hampshire over the past week, Mr. Pompeo questioned the Biden administration’s resolve toward China. In Iowa, he accused the White House of reversing the Trump administration’s immigration policy “willy-nilly and without any thought.” He derided Mr. Biden for referring to notes during his first formal news conference on Thursday.

“What’s great about not being the secretary of state anymore is I can say things that when I was a diplomat I couldn’t say,” Mr. Pompeo said the next morning, to a small crowd at the Westside Conservative Club near Des Moines.

It seems clear that Mr. Pompeo, a onetime Republican congressman from Kansas, is animated not just by freedom but also by a drive for high elective office long evident to friends and foes. His appearances in a pair of presidential battleground states only seem to confirm his widely assumed interest in a 2024 presidential campaign.

“Usually former presidents and secretaries of state try not to quickly trash their successors — especially in foreign policy,” said Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian. He said Mr. Pompeo “probably believes he is demonstrating his Trumpiness by castigating the performance of the newly installed President Biden.”

Last week, Mr. Pompeo tweeted that the Biden administration’s plans to restart aid to the Palestinians canceled under Mr. Trump were “immoral” and would support terrorist activity. “Americans and Israelis should be outraged by the Biden administration’s plans to do so,” Mr. Pompeo wrote.

But his commentary goes beyond foreign policy. Mr. Pompeo has also condemned Mr. Biden’s “backward” “open border” policies. And on March 19, he simply tweeted the number 1,327 — an apparent reference to the number of days until the 2024 election.

There is little sign that Mr. Pompeo’s criticism has struck a nerve among Biden officials and their allies. Asked about the remarks last month, a State Department spokesman, Ned Price, declined to respond directly but said the Biden and Trump administrations shared the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“No one cares,” Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, tweeted in response to a recent news report about a Pompeo critique of Mr. Biden’s policies.

Kelly Tshibaka, a former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration, spoke to reporters in Anchorage.
Credit…Mark Thiessen/Associated Press

Kelly Tshibaka, an Alaska Republican who promoted former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of rampant election fraud, announced Monday that she would challenge Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of Mr. Trump’s fiercest Republican critics, in 2022.

Ms. Murkowski, a moderate who called on Mr. Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and then voted to convict him on a charge of incitement in his subsequent impeachment trial, had expected a fight after the former president called her “disloyal” and invited challengers.

Ms. Tshibaka — who is from Alaska, served as the chief data officer in the U.S. Postal Service inspector general’s office, and held other high-profile jobs over a 17-year career in Washington before returning home in 2019 — is pitching herself as an “outsider” taking on the “insider,” Ms. Murkowski.

In a preview of the kind of campaign she intends to run, Ms. Tshibaka posted a five-minute ad on her campaign’s Facebook page that included a scathing takedown of Ms. Murkowski, who was censured by the state party earlier this year for being one of seven Republicans to vote for Mr. Trump’s conviction in the Senate.

“Lisa Murkowski is so out of touch that she even voted to remove Donald Trump from office, even after he was already gone,” Ms. Tshibaka said, in a video that alternated footage of her speaking in her kitchen with images of her standing in front of snow-blanketed mountains. (If Mr. Trump had been convicted in the trial, the Senate could have voted to bar him from running for office in the future.)

Earlier on Monday, Ms. Tshibaka stepped down as commissioner of Alaska’s sprawling Department of Administration, which oversees many of the state’s agencies.

In a resignation letter posted on her personal Facebook page, Ms. Tshibaka wrote that she was leaving, “effective immediately,” to pursue “other endeavors.”

Last November, Ms. Tshibaka, a graduate of Harvard Law School, wrote an op-ed in which she claimed, inaccurately, that there were “many credible allegations and documented incidents of fraud, voter oppression and voting irregularities” during the election. She slammed the news media for what she called its “premature announcement that Biden is our president-elect.”

Ms. Murkowski — a daughter of Frank Murkowski, who served as governor and represented Alaska in the Senate — has not formally announced her intention to run again, but she filed the necessary federal paperwork this month.

Speaking to reporters in Juneau last month, Ms. Murkowski said she was “doing what I should be doing to ensure that I have that option and that opportunity to run for yet another term.”

Ms. Murkowski, a resourceful and tenacious campaigner, has managed to win all four of her Senate campaigns, despite never breaking the 50 percent threshold, thanks to the presence of third-party candidates who have divided the opposition.

She has faced tough primary opponents before. In 2010, she lost the Republican nomination but managed a stunning victory as a write-in candidate with strong backing from local unions and Alaska Natives.

But the dynamic will be different next year.

In 2020, Alaska voters approved a ranked-choice system that eliminated party primaries and replaced them with a free-for-all primary from which the top four candidates, whatever their affiliation, will advance to the November election.

Goldman Sachs’s headquarters in New York.
Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A frustrated Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a securities fraud class-action case against Goldman Sachs, with several justices indicating puzzlement about what they were supposed to do in light of both parties’ seeming to agree about the governing legal standard.

Two justices, using the same metaphor, said they saw little daylight between the two sides.

The case was brought by pension funds that said they had lost as much as $13 billion because of what they called false statements about the investment bank’s sales of complex debt instruments before the 2008 financial crisis.

The contested statements were abstract and general. One example: “Our clients’ interests always come first.” Another: “Integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business.”

The plaintiffs argued that those statements and others were at odds with what they said were conflicts of interest at the firm, which they accused of packaging and selling securities intended to fail even as Goldman Sachs and its favored clients bet against them. Goldman has denied deceiving investors.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, said Goldman’s statements, in context, were enough to allow the case to proceed as a class action. If that decision is upheld, it would simplify future plaintiffs’ task in bringing class-action fraud suits.

Securities fraud cases often involve examining whether false statements caused a company’s stock price to rise, but in this case, the plaintiffs argue that the statements served to keep the stock from falling, until it plummeted in 2010 on word that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating one of the bank’s funds that dealt with subprime mortgages.

A lawyer for Goldman Sachs, Kannon K. Shanmugam, said the “exceptionally generic and aspirational statements” could not have affected its stock price, but conceded as a general matter that courts could take account of generic statements in deciding whether investors had relied on them.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said the positions of the pension funds and Goldman Sachs had evolved and converged during the litigation. “It seems to me that you’ve both moved toward the middle,” she told Thomas C. Goldstein, a lawyer for the pension funds. “They’ve backed off on how important they think generality is and whether it can be decided categorically. But you’ve also conceded that generality is relevant.”

And Justice Stephen G. Breyer suggested there might be nothing for the Supreme Court to do, as its main job is to announce general legal principles rather than to decide particular disputes.

“This seems like an area that, the more that I read about it,” he said, “the less that we write, the better.”

Watching President Biden’s inauguration in Havana in January.

Pressure is growing on President Biden to fulfill his campaign promise to renew the thaw in relations with Cuba that began under President Barack Obama.

Mr. Biden, focused on the pandemic and its economic devastation, has said little as president about how and when he would change United States policy toward Cuba, irking some progressives and former administration officials who urge a swift return to the more accommodating policies of the last Democratic administration.

“A Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities,” Mr. Biden’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said earlier this month.

“There’s no reason for the Biden Administration to stick with Trump’s failed reversal of the Cuba opening and plenty of good reasons for the Cuban people and US interests to reopen relations ASAP,” Ben Rhodes, an Obama White House official who helped negotiate a 2014 agreement with officials in Havana, wrote Monday on Twitter.

On Sunday, demonstrators in Havana demanded an end to the 60-year-old U.S. embargo on the island. Reuters reported that more than 50 small protests took place around the world, including in the United States, in an effort to press the Biden administration to act.

Earlier this month, 75 progressive congressional Democrats wrote the White House, urging Mr. Biden to use his executive authority to quickly void all of Mr. Trump’s actions on Cuba — especially his designation of Cuba as an official state sponsor of terrorism a few days before he left office. That reversed Mr. Obama’s decision in 2015 to remove Havana from the list.

“By signing a single order, you have the power to revert these regulations back to their status on the final day of the Obama-Biden administration,” the members wrote.

Mr. Trump took dozens of executive actions that chilled relations between the two nations, aimed at pleasing the politically critical, conservative Cuban-American community in South Florida. His actions included a renewed ban on the importation of Cuban goods such as rum and cigars, and an order that in effect prohibited Cubans residing in the United States from sending cash remittances to their relatives back home.

During the campaign, Mr. Biden sharply criticized those executive actions, suggesting he would swiftly reverse them and arguing during the 2020 campaign that they had “done nothing to advance democracy and human rights.”

But his administration has done little thus far, apart from beefing up the investigation into mysterious illnesses suffered by U.S. diplomatic officials in Cuba, known as Havana syndrome.

And Ms. Psaki, when pressed, offered no timetable for any changes, telling reporters only that the White House was “committed to carefully reviewing policy decisions made in the prior administration.”

Myanmar’s military has killed more than 420 people and assaulted, detained or tortured thousands of others since the Feb. 1 coup, according to a monitoring group.
Credit…The New York Times

The Biden administration suspended a trade pact with Myanmar on Monday following one of the deadliest weekends in the country since the military ousted the civilian leadership and began a killing spree on civilians.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a statement that the halt on a 2013 trade agreement with the country would remain in place until a democratically elected government is restored.

“The killing of peaceful protesters, students, workers, labor leaders, medics and children has shocked the conscience of the international community,” Ms. Tai said in a statement. “These actions are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the efforts of the Burmese people to achieve a peaceful and prosperous future.”

The suspension is largely a symbolic move to condemn the violence in Myanmar, where more than 100 people were killed on Saturday during protests against the Tatmadaw, the country’s military, according to the United Nations. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said during a briefing on Monday that the suspension would take effect immediately.

“We’re deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence against peaceful protesters in Burma,” Ms. Psaki said. “Burmese security forces are responsible for hundreds of deaths in Burma since they perpetrated a coup on February 1st.”

Myanmar, formerly Burma, is the United States’ 84th-largest trade partner, with the two countries exchanging $1.4 billion worth of goods during 2020. And the country was the United States’ 100th-largest goods export market last year, according to the Trade Representative’s office.

The Treasury Department last week also announced sanctions on two miliary holding companies in Myanmar to “target the economic resources of Burma’s military regime.”

The Tatmadaw has killed more than 420 people and assaulted, detained or tortured thousands of others since the Feb. 1 coup, according to a monitoring group.

Many of the civilians killed on Saturday were bystanders, including teenagers and a 5-year-old boy. A baby girl in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, was also struck in the eye with a rubber bullet.

“Last week’s killing of children is just the most recent example of the horrific nature perpetrated by the military regime,” Ms. Psaki said.




C.D.C. Director Warns of Possible Fourth Coronavirus Surge

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delivered an impassioned plea on Monday for Americans to recommit to following coronavirus guidelines as infections increase across the country.

When I first started at the C.D.C. about two months ago, I made a promise to you: I would tell you the truth, even if it was not the news we wanted to hear. Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen. I’m going to pause here. I’m going to lose the script. And I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now, I’m scared. We have come such a long way: Three historic scientific breakthrough vaccines, and we are rolling them out so very fast. So I’m speaking today not necessarily as your C.D.C. director, and not only as your C.D.C. director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer. I so badly want to be done. I know you all so badly want to be done. We are just almost there, but not quite yet. We can change this trajectory of the pandemic, but it will take all of us recommitting to following the public health prevention strategies consistently while we work to get the American public vaccinated. We do not have the luxury of inaction. For the health of our country, we must work together now to prevent a fourth surge.

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delivered an impassioned plea on Monday for Americans to recommit to following coronavirus guidelines as infections increase across the country.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Biden, facing a rise in coronavirus cases around the country, called on Monday for governors and mayors to reinstate mask mandates as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of “impending doom” from a potential fourth surge of the pandemic.

The president’s comments came only hours after the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, appeared to fight back tears as she pleaded with Americans to “hold on a little while longer” and continue following public health advice, like wearing masks and social distancing, to curb the virus’s spread. The nation has “so much reason for hope,” she added.

“But right now,” she said, “I’m scared.”

The back-to-back appeals reflected a growing sense of urgency among top White House officials and government scientists that the chance to conquer the pandemic, now in its second year, may slip through its grasp. According to a New York Times database, the seven-day average of new virus cases as of Sunday was about 63,000, a level comparable with late October’s average. That was up from 54,000 a day two weeks earlier, an increase of more than 16 percent.

Public health experts say that the nation is in a race between the vaccination campaign and new, worrisome coronavirus variants, including B.1.1.7, a more transmissible and possibly more lethal version of the virus that has been spreading rapidly. While more than one in three American adults have received at least one shot and nearly one-fifth are fully vaccinated, the nation is a long way from reaching so-called herd immunity — the tipping point that comes when spread of a virus begins to slow because so many people, estimated at 70 to 90 percent of the population, are immune to it.

The warnings come at the same time as some promising news: A C.D.C. report released Monday confirmed the findings of last year’s clinical trials that vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer were highly effective against Covid-19. The report documented that the vaccines work to prevent both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections “in real-world conditions.”

The seven-day average of vaccines administered hit 2.76 million on Monday, an increase over the pace the previous week, according to data reported by the C.D.C. On Sunday alone, nearly 3.3 million people were inoculated, said Andy Slavitt, a senior White House pandemic adviser.

Mr. Biden said on Monday that the administration was taking steps to expand vaccine eligibility and access, including opening a dozen new mass vaccination centers. He directed his coronavirus response team to ensure that 90 percent of Americans would be no farther than five miles from a vaccination site by April 19.

Demonstrators calling for lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California to pass rent forgiveness and stronger eviction protections legislation gather in front of the State Capitol in Sacramento in January.
Credit…Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended its nationwide moratorium on evictions through June 30, pushing it back from the end of March, when it had been scheduled to lapse.

The move, while widely expected, comes at a precarious moment in the pandemic as the increasing vaccine availability accelerates reopening plans by businesses and local governments — even as millions of families continue to struggle with hardships that might have led to mass evictions.

The C.D.C. issued the moratorium last fall, citing its jurisdictional authority to implement measures needed to promote public health, and agency officials cited those same powers in extending the moratorium on Monday.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” the agency’s director, Rochelle P. Walensky, said in a statement. “Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread.”

Under Mr. Biden, the Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year extended its own moratorium on federally financed housing to June 30. (A previous version of this item misstated the status of that moratorium. It was extended in February.)

The new housing secretary, Marcia L. Fudge, has signaled she would like to extend her agency’s eviction freeze even longer. Department officials have reached out to community groups to elicit suggestions on how to streamline the new rule.

The administration’s $1.9 trillion relief package, passed earlier this month, includes $21.5 billion for emergency rental assistance, $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers, $5 billion for homelessness assistance and $850 million for tribal and rural housing. But that aid will take months to be disbursed.

Initially, the C.D.C. ban was riddled with loopholes that allowed some landlords to evict some tenants. But overall, it helped to create a significant drop in eviction applications filed in the local housing courts.

The federal moratorium is part of a patchwork of federal, state and local efforts to prevent a national health and economic emergency from turning into a monumental housing collapse.

Most states — 43 in all, plus Washington, D.C. — have temporarily halted evictions during the crisis. But the range of protections varies wildly and some tenants, including in the New York City neighborhoods hit hardest by Covid, have been displaced because they were unaware of the protections.

As many as one in five renters said they did not pay last month’s rent, according to Census Bureau surveys, with a third of Black renters reporting a recent missed payment.

Alondra Nelson, the Biden administration’s deputy director for science and society, speaking in Wilmington, Del., in January.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The Biden administration will investigate Trump-era political interference in science across the government, the first step in what White House officials described as a sweeping effort to rebuild a demoralized federal work force and prevent future abuses.

In a letter to the leaders of all federal agencies, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced Monday the formation of a task force aimed at identifying past tampering in scientific decisions. It will review the effectiveness of policies that were supposed to protect the science that informs policy decisions from inappropriate political influence and develop policies for the future.

“We know that there were blatant attempts to distort, to cherry pick and disregard science — we saw that across multiple agencies,” Jane Lubchenco, the new deputy director for climate and the environment at the White House science office, said in an interview. The Biden administration, she said, is “ushering in a new era.”

Kelvin K. Droegemeier, who led the White House science office during the Trump administration, declined to comment on the Biden administration’s plans when reached through a former aide.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s disregard for science was regularly on display in his various efforts to belittle masks, dismiss the need for social distancing and declare cold snaps to be evidence against global warming. Behind the scenes, federal scientists said Mr. Trump and his top political officials also routinely sidelined researchers who worked on issues the administration disliked, like climate change; disregarded studies that identified serious health risks from certain chemicals; and meddled in scientific decision making, particularly around the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alondra Nelson, deputy director for science and society at White House science office, said that scientists across the government would review “Trump-era policies that eschewed science for politics” and develop new safeguards.

While the review may uncover or substantiate more instances of political tampering in science, White House officials acknowledged that there are few avenues for holding Trump administration officials to account for past actions. They also said that was not the point.

“The goal won’t be to look backward,” Dr. Nelson said. “The goal will be to try to implement practices and policies that prevent anything that might be uncovered from happening again.”

She and Dr. Lubchenco said it remained unclear whether the office would develop one new governmentwide scientific integrity policy or move to strengthen rules at individual agencies around things like improving transparency or prohibiting abuses like suppression and distortion of findings.

“Citizens need to trust the information from the federal government.” Dr. Lubchenco said.

The move follows on an plan already underway at the Environmental Protection Agency to create a public accounting of decisions in which politics undermined science.

Mandy Gunasekara, who served as chief of staff at the E.P.A. under the Trump administration, maintained that all the agency’s decisions were rooted in scientific advice from career staff and criticized the effort as an attempt to delegitimize work done over the past four years.

Sergey V. Lavrov, left, and Wang Yi, the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers, in Guilin, China, last week. They urged the United States to “reflect on the damage it has done.”
Credit…Lu Boan/Xinhua, via Associated Press

President Biden called for an “alliance of democracies” at his first presidential news conference on Thursday, presenting a foreign policy based on geopolitical competition between models of governance.

China is making it clear that it has alliances of its own.

After a rancorous encounter between American and Chinese officials in Alaska, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, joined his Russian counterpart last week to denounce Western meddling and sanctions.

He then headed to the Middle East to visit traditional American allies, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well as Iran, where he signed a sweeping investment agreement on Saturday. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, reached out to Colombia one day and pledged support for North Korea on another.

Although officials denied the timing was intentional, the message clearly was. China hopes to position itself as the main challenger to an international order, led by the United States.

A U.S.-dominated system “does not represent the will of the international community,” Mr. Wang told his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, when they met in the southern Chinese city of Guilin.

In a joint statement, they accused the United States of bullying and interference and urged it to “reflect on the damage it has done to global peace and development in recent years.”

The threat of a United States-led coalition challenging China’s authoritarian policies has only bolstered Beijing’s ambition to be a global leader, one that not only refutes American criticism of its internal affairs but that presents its own values as a model for others.

“They’re actually trying to build an argument like, ‘We’re the more responsible power. We’re not the spoilers or an axis of evil,’” John Delury, a professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, said of China’s strategy.

It is the United States dividing the world into blocs, China’s leaders argue. Mr. Xi recently said multilateralism should be based on consensus among many countries, not a view advanced by “one or the few.”

China and Russia have drawn closer since Mr. Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. While the possibility of a formal alliance remains remote, the People’s Liberation Army and the Russian military now routinely hold exercises together.

Still, Mr. Xi’s outreach to North Korea and Mr. Wang’s visit to Iran could signal China’s interest in working with the United States to resolve disputes over those two countries’ nuclear programs.

Mr. Biden’s administration may be open to that. But in other areas, a chasm is widening.

Since Mr. Biden’s election, China appealed to the new administration to resume cooperation after the confrontations of the Trump years. It made trade and investment agreements, including one with the European Union, hoping to box out Mr. Biden.

It didn’t work. The first results of Mr. Biden’s strategy emerged last week, when the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union jointly announced sanctions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang.

“I plan to take action to ensure that early voting becomes the law of the land in New Jersey,” Gov. Philip D. Murphy said on Friday.
Credit…Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

New Jersey is expanding voting rights, countering a push among conservative state legislators in Georgia and elsewhere to restrict voting access after Democratic gains in recent elections.

In Trenton on Tuesday, the Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy, will sign a bill authorizing early in-person voting in a ceremony laden with symbolism.

Mr. Murphy will be joined in a videoconference by Stacey Abrams, whose decade-long effort to enroll voters in Georgia helped Democrats win two runoff elections in January, winning them control of the Senate and handing President Biden an important victory.

New Jersey lawmakers’ final approval of two bills that expand voter access was not surprising. Democrats control the State House and Democratic voters outnumber Republican voters by more than one million in the state.

The legislation requires each of the state’s 21 counties to open three to seven polling places for machine voting in the days before an election. For the Nov. 2 contest, there would be nine days of early in-person voting, including two weekends, ending the Sunday before Election Day. The bill calls for fewer days of early voting before primaries.

New Jersey will become the 25th state to allow voters to cast ballots in person before elections for a period that includes a weekend day.

“Our accountability over government, opportunities to better our lives and the chance to elect our representatives all depend upon our ability to access the ballot,” said Senator Nia Gill, a Democrat who represents parts of Essex and Passaic Counties and was a sponsor of the bill.

Separate legislation that was also approved on Thursday calls for drop boxes for vote-by-mail ballots to be spaced out more evenly throughout counties, ensuring that there are access points closer to residential neighborhoods.

Some county elections leaders, while supportive of the intent of the early-voting bill, had urged lawmakers to delay implementation until after November’s election, when the governor and all members of the Legislature are up for re-election. The bill will require most counties to purchase new voting machines and electronic poll books, and could cost upward of $50 million.

Thursday’s final votes in New Jersey came on the same day that Georgia adopted a law that added voter identification requirements for absentee voting, limited drop boxes and expanded the Legislature’s power over elections. In a statement on Friday, Mr. Biden condemned the Georgia law as “un-American” and “Jim Crow in the 21st century.”

Republicans have already passed a similar law in Iowa, and are moving forward with efforts to limit voting in states including Arizona, Florida and Texas.

Lara Trump with her husband, Eric, in January. “I sort of feel like I’ve been an unofficial member of the team for so long,” Ms. Trump told the co-hosts of “Fox & Friends” on Monday.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Fox News just hired a Trump. But not Donald.

Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of former President Donald J. Trump, is joining the cable channel as a paid on-air contributor, the network announced on Monday. The move was not exactly a surprise, as Ms. Trump acknowledged during a morning appearance on “Fox & Friends.”

“I sort of feel like I’ve been an unofficial member of the team for so long,” Ms. Trump told the show’s co-hosts, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade. “Over the past five years, I would come there so often that the security guards were like, ‘Maybe we should just give you a key.’”

Mr. Doocy, Mr. Earhardt and Mr. Kilmeade welcomed their new colleague with an on-air round of applause.

Ms. Trump, who is married to the former president’s son Eric, was a frequent guest on Fox News during the 2020 campaign, when she served as a surrogate for her father-in-law. Recently, Ms. Trump floated the possibility of running for a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, her home state. On Monday, she told “Fox & Friends” that she had not “officially made a decision, but hopefully sometime soon.”

She is the second member of Donald Trump’s inner circle to join the Fox News payroll in recent weeks. Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House press secretary, signed on this month as a contributor.

If Ms. Trump does pursue a run for public office, Fox News policy would require that she and the network cut ties. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, another close ally of Mr. Trump who served as his press secretary, joined Fox News as a contributor in September 2019 after leaving the White House. The network terminated her contract in January after she announced that she would run for governor of Arkansas.

During her Monday appearance, Ms. Trump criticized the Biden administration for its handling of immigration policy and offered “100 percent complete credit” to her father-in-law for this year’s national vaccine rollout.

Her hiring was the latest example of the revolving door between Fox and Mr. Trump’s circle.

Larry Kudlow, a former CNBC anchor who directed Mr. Trump’s National Economic Council, was hired by Fox in January. He has since debuted a weekday Fox Business program and regularly appears as an analyst on Fox News.

Previously, Heather Nauert, a former “Fox & Friends” anchor, and John R. Bolton, a Fox News commentator, accepted roles in Mr. Trump’s administration. So did Bill Shine, a former Fox News co-president, who served as Mr. Trump’s deputy chief of staff. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former co-host of “The Five” on Fox News, worked as a top official on Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign and is dating the former president’s eldest son, Donald J. Trump Jr.

When Mr. Bolton appeared on Fox News in March 2018 shortly after being named Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, he appeared briefly confused about his status at the network. “I think I still am a Fox News contributor,” he told the anchor Martha MacCallum.

“No,” Ms. MacCallum replied. “You’re not.”

People protesting this month outside the governor’s mansion in Pierre, S.D. They were marching against a bill that would bar transgender girls and women from participating in sports leagues.
Credit…Stephen Groves/Associated Press

South Dakota is just one of a growing number of states where Republicans are diving into a culture war clash that seems to have come out of nowhere: an effort to bar transgender girls from school sports.

The last time Republicans in South Dakota made a serious push to bar transgender girls from school sports, in 2019, their bill was known only by its nondescript numerical title, Senate Bill 49. Its two main sponsors were men. And it died without ever getting out of committee, just 10 days after it was introduced.

But when Republicans decided to try again in January, they were far more strategic. The sponsors this time were two women who modeled their bill after a template provided by a conservative legal organization. They gave the bill a name that suggested noble intent: the “act to promote continued fairness in women’s sports.” Supporters traveled to the Capitol in Pierre to testify that a new law was urgently needed to keep anyone with male biological characteristics out of female competitions, even though they acknowledged only a handful of examples of that happening in the state.

“These efforts appear to be far more slick, and far more organized,” said Elizabeth A. Skarin of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, which opposes the bill.

Around the country, the push has been coordinated and poll-tested by social conservative organizations like the American Principles Project and Concerned Women for America, which are determined to move forward with what may be one of their last footholds in the fight against expanding L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Three other states have passed bills this month that resemble South Dakota’s. In Mississippi and Arkansas, they are set to become law this summer. And similar bills have been introduced by Republicans in two dozen other states, including North Carolina, where an unpopular “bathroom bill” enacted in 2016 prompted costly boycotts and led conservatives nationwide to pull back on efforts to restrict rights for transgender people.

The South Dakota campaign took an unexpected turn when Gov. Kristi Noem, who is seen as a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, demanded changes to the bill before she would sign it. The response was swift and harsh: Social conservative activists and Republican lawmakers accused Ms. Noem of being cowed by pressure from business and athletics organizations.

Rarely has an issue that so few people encounter — and one that public opinion analysts have only recently begun to study in depth — become a political and cultural flash point so quickly. The lack of awareness creates an environment in which the real impact of transgender participation in sports can be overshadowed by hyperbole.

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