Joe Biden

Biden’s Stimulus, 2022 Midterms and More News: Live Updates

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The Justice Department has charged two men in the assault on Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who died the day after he fought rioters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the case and court documents.

The F.B.I. on Sunday arrested George Pierre Tanios, 39, of West Virginia and Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania on charges of assaulting officers, including Officer Sicknick, with a chemical spray. Mr. Khater was arrested in New Jersey.

The arrests, which were reported earlier by The Washington Post, came weeks after investigators pinpointed one of the men in a video of the riot, in which he was seen attacking several officers with the spray, according to two law enforcement officials. The Justice Department has said in previous court filings that rioters were recorded on video talking about attacking officers, including Officer Sicknick.

It is not clear whether Officer Sicknick died because of his exposure to the spray. On Jan. 7, the day he died, the Capitol Police said in a statement that he “was injured while physically engaging with protesters” at the riot a day earlier and then “returned to his division office and collapsed.” He later died at a hospital.

In the hours after Officer Sicknick was rushed to the hospital, Capitol Police officials initially said that he had been struck with a fire extinguisher, but later said that his death was not caused by blunt force trauma. In the following days, investigators homed in on the potential role of an irritant as a primary factor in his death.

Officer Sicknick, 42, was an Air National Guard veteran who had served in Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan.

After the F.B.I. posted fliers with photographs of Mr. Khater and Mr. Tanios, seeking information about the Jan. 6 attack, a tipster told the F.B.I. that the two men had grown up together in New Jersey.

Another person told the F.B.I. that one of the men in the photos looked “very close” to Mr. Tanios, who had “bragged about going to the insurrection at the Capitol on Facebook.”

A tipster also identified Mr. Khater as a former colleague at a food establishment in State College, Pa.

“The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do,” President Biden said on Monday.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

President Biden said Monday that his administration was on pace to achieve two key goals by March 25: the distribution of 100 million shots of Covid-19 vaccines since his inauguration and 100 million stimulus payments under his economic relief bill.

“Shots in arms and money in pockets. That’s important,” Mr. Biden said in a brief address from the White House.

He also introduced Gene Sperling, a longtime Democratic policy aide, as his pick to oversee implementation of the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that he signed into law late last week.

“The American Rescue Plan is already doing what it was designed to do,” he said. “Make a difference in people’s everyday lives.”

Answering a question from a reporter after the speech, Mr. Biden brushed aside calls for his administration to enlist former President Donald J. Trump’s help in appealing to Republicans who have resisted getting vaccinated.

“I discussed it with my team,” Mr. Biden said, “And they say the thing that has more impact than anything Trump would say to the MAGA folks is what the local doctor, what the local preachers, the local people in the community would say. So I urge, I urge all local docs, and ministers, and priests, to talk about why — why it’s important to get that vaccine.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks came as his team launched a week of sales pitches for the relief bill. The president and several members of his administration will travel the country to promote a plan that contains direct $1,400-per-person payments to low- and middle-income Americans, new monthly checks for parents and additional relief for the unemployed, among other particulars.

Mr. Biden will visit Delaware County, Pa., on Tuesday and will appear with Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday in Atlanta, which helped deliver Democrats the Senate majority that made the rescue law possible.

A group of other administration officials, including the first lady, Jill Biden, and Ms. Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, will make their own trips. Ms. Harris and her husband landed in Las Vegas for an event on Monday afternoon, while Dr. Biden finished an event in New Jersey.

The road show is an effort to avoid the messaging mistakes of President Barack Obama’s administration, which Democrats now believe failed to continue vocally building support for his $780 billion stimulus act after it passed in 2009. The challenge will be to highlight less obvious provisions, including the largest federal infusion of aid to the poor in generations, a substantial expansion of the child tax credit and increased subsidies for health insurance.

Mr. Biden vowed on Monday to bring “fastidious oversight” to the spending in the relief bill, in order to ensure it is distributed quickly and equitably. He praised Mr. Sperling, a former National Economic Council director under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and said Mr. Sperling would be “a source of constant communication, a source of guidance and support, and above all, a source of accountability for all of us to get the job done.”

“We have to prove to the American people that their government can deliver for them, and that they can do it without waste or fraud,” Mr. Biden said.

An image of Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, released by the state media agency in January.
Credit…KCNA, via Reuters

The Biden administration has tried to restart discussions with North Korea over the fate of its nuclear program, but its overtures have not been returned, the White House press secretary confirmed on Monday.

Jen Psaki, the press secretary, told reporters in an afternoon briefing that “we have reached out” to North Korean officials but have not heard back from them, confirming a Reuters report from the weekend.

“We have a series of channels, as we have always had, that we can reach out through,” Ms. Psaki said. “We also are focused on consulting with many former government officials who have been involved in North Korea policy, including from several prior administrations. We have and will continue to engage with our Japanese and South Korean allies, to solicit input, explore fresh approaches. We’ve listened carefully to their ideas.”

“Diplomacy is always our goal,” Ms. Psaki said. “Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation. But to date, we have not received any response.”

Mr. Biden took office amid mounting threats of nuclear proliferation around the globe, including in North Korea, which has expanded its arsenal of missiles, some of which could reach the United States.

His predecessor, Donald J. Trump, cultivated a personal relationship with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un — including becoming the first American president in 70 years of conflict and standoff to meet personally with a North Korean head of state — in an effort to advance disarmament. Those efforts fizzled. North Korea continued to develop new weapons. A North Korean official declared last summer that hopes for peace with South Korea and the United States had “faded away into a dark nightmare.”

Mr. Biden discussed the North Korean issue early in February with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, agreeing to “closely coordinate” on the matter, according to a White House readout of the call.

The Capitol is seen through a temporary security fence in Washington last month.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

The Capitol Police in the coming days will begin scaling back and in some cases removing fencing erected around the Capitol after the Jan. 6 riot, a Democratic aide familiar with the plans confirmed on Sunday, a visible milestone as Congress tries to return to normal.

The agency, working with the architect of the Capitol, will take steps beginning this week to first move an inner perimeter of fencing closer to the Capitol building and remove looped razor wire strung atop it, according to the aide, who spoke anonymously to discuss security plans that were still private. The agency will then proceed to remove altogether a secondary, outer perimeter next week, allowing Independence and Constitution Avenues to reopen to traffic for the first time since January.

It was unclear exactly how long the inner perimeter fencing might remain in place, as lawmakers and the law enforcement agency plan a path forward to ensure there is no repeat of the deadly rampage. In an email to House members, Timothy P. Blodgett, the chamber’s acting sergeant-at-arms, wrote on Monday that it would stay in place for at least as long as it takes to make security repairs to the Capitol building.

“Working with their federal, state and local intelligence partners, the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) has informed the sergeant-at-arms (SAA) that ‘there does not exist a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol Complex that warrants the temporary security fencing,’” Mr. Blodgett wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

The Capitol Police did not respond to a request for comment.

In another change, Washington officials on Monday announced that 16th Street Northwest between H and K streets — renamed “BLM Plaza” for its role in Black Lives Matter protests last summer — would be reopening to two-way vehicular traffic.

A plaza in the center of the street with an iconic view of the White House will remain open to pedestrians until a more permanent plan is announced next month, the officials said.

Imposing and impenetrable, the fence has become a charged political symbol in the two months since the attack, barring most Americans from the seat of government and causing headaches for the thousands of staff members, journalists and lawmakers who work inside the Capitol. In recent weeks, lawmakers in both parties, wary about the message it sent the country, had been agitating for its removal and a broader reconsideration of the security posture.

It has also significantly disrupted the Capitol Hill residential neighborhood adjacent to the historic building, forcing road closures and cutting off access to a spacious plaza frequently used by nearby residents for recreation, commuting or even protesting.

National Guard troops who arrived after the attack will continue to patrol the Capitol building and grounds. Their ranks have already been cut roughly in half, to 2,200, but the Pentagon and the Capitol Police have indicated that they might further reduce that number in the weeks ahead.

As they curtail some of the fencing, the police are planning to place bike racks outside House office buildings to create another barrier.

“When not one but two cyberhacks have gone undetected by the federal government in such a short period of time, it’s hard to say that we don’t have a problem,” said Representative Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin.
Credit…Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, via Getty Images

The sophisticated hackings pulled off by Russia and China against a broad array of government and industrial targets in the United States — and the failure of intelligence agencies to detect them — are driving the Biden administration and Congress to rethink how the nation should protect itself from growing cyberthreats.

Both hackings exploited the same gaping vulnerability in the existing system: They were launched from inside the United States — on servers run by Amazon, GoDaddy and smaller domestic providers — putting them out of reach of the early warning system run by the National Security Agency.

The agency, like the C.I.A. and other American intelligence agencies, is prohibited by law from conducting surveillance inside the United States, to protect the privacy of American citizens.

But the F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security — the two agencies that can legally operate inside the United States — were also blind to what happened, raising additional concerns about the nation’s capacity to defend itself from both rival governments and nonstate attackers like criminal and terrorist groups.

In the end, the hackings were detected long after they had begun, not by any government agency but by private computer security firms.

The full extent of the damage to American interests from the hackings is not yet clear, but the latest, attributed by Microsoft to China, is now revealing a second vulnerability. As Microsoft releases new “patches” to close the holes in its system, that code is being reverse-engineered by criminal groups and exploited to launch rapid ransomware attacks on corporations, industry executives said. So a race is on between Microsoft’s efforts to seal up systems and criminal efforts to get inside those networks before the patches are applied.

“When not one but two cyberhacks have gone undetected by the federal government in such a short period of time, it’s hard to say that we don’t have a problem,” said Representative Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin and a co-chairman of a congressionally mandated cyberspace commission. “The system is blinking red.”

The failures have prompted the White House to begin assessing options for overhauling the nation’s cyberdefenses even as the government investigates the hackings. Some former officials believe the attacks show that Congress needs to give the government additional powers.

But the first problem is detecting attacks — and there, the United States has enormous work to do.

Migrant children waiting to be tested for the coronavirus at a shelter in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
Credit…Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

The Biden administration is directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in processing an increasing number of children and teenagers who have filled detention facilities at the southwest border, as criticism mounts over the treatment of young migrants.

FEMA, which normally provides financial assistance during natural disasters, will help find shelter space and provide “food, water and basic medical care” to thousands of young migrants, Michael Hart, a spokesman for the agency, said in a statement.

The administration also asked officials in the Homeland Security Department to volunteer “to help care for and assist unaccompanied minors” who have been held in border jails that are managed by Customs and Border Protection.

Previous administrations have also dispatched FEMA to help process migrants during surges in border crossings. However, the Biden administration cannot use disaster aid funding to support the processing of migrants in Texas after they cross the border without the consent of Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican. States must request the funding from the federal government.

A spokeswoman for the governor did not immediately respond to questions about whether he would submit a request.

More than 3,700 youths were in Customs and Border Protection facilities this week, more than the roughly 2,600 children and teenagers held in such detention facilities in June 2019. Troy Miller, the acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said last week that 9,457 children, including teenagers, were detained at the border without a parent in February, up from more than 5,800 in January.

The Biden administration has so far failed to quickly process the young migrants and transfer them to shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, where they are held until the government matches them with a sponsor. The administration has struggled to expand the capacity of those shelters, where roughly 8,500 migrants were held this week. The Biden administration recently directed the shelters intended to hold the children to return to normal capacity, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“A Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement on Saturday. “Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to H.H.S. as quickly as possible.”

Mr. Abbott and other Republicans have characterized the increase in border crossings as a direct result of Mr. Biden’s goal to roll back President Donald J. Trump’s restrictive immigration policies. But Mr. Biden has kept a Trump-era pandemic emergency rule that empowers border agents to rapidly turn away migrants at the border, with the exception of unaccompanied minors.

The surge of crossings is adding new pressure in a divisive policy fight that the last three administrations have also confronted.

Mr. Biden’s critics have moved quickly in recent days to blame him for the increase in arrivals, which they say threatens the country’s safety, economic recovery and health as the coronavirus pandemic continues to claim thousands of lives.

Nicholas Fandos and Chris Cameron contributed reporting.

As chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee, Senator Alex Padilla plans to push for an expedited pathway to citizenship for the more than five million unauthorized immigrants who are essential workers.
Credit…Pool photo by Al Drago

Less than two months into the job, Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat of California, is impatient to take on the kind of major immigration overhaul that has bedeviled Congress for decades.

Mr. Padilla, 47, was appointed to the Senate in January to fill the seat vacated when Vice President Kamala Harris was inaugurated, and he was quickly named chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Subcommittee, where he plans to push for an expedited pathway to citizenship for the more than five million unauthorized immigrants who are essential workers.

The son of Mexican immigrants who had little formal education, Mr. Padilla grew up to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became California’s secretary of state and is now the first Latino senator to represent the state with the largest Latino population in the country.

Before his first floor speech in the Senate on Monday, he sat down with The New York Times to talk about his vision for the office, what he wants to get done in Congress, and his family’s story. Here’s an excerpt.

“My parents came to United States in the late ’60s. They met in Los Angeles. They’re from different regions of Mexico. They found jobs, they found each other, they fell in love, decided to get married, and they applied for green cards. That was the sequence. I thank the U.S. government every day for saying ‘yes’ to their applications.

They became legal residents. They started a family in the San Fernando Valley. They came with very limited education. In hindsight, it makes all the sense in the world why they emphasized education so much for my sister, my brother and I. My mom had a chance to finish grade school; my dad wasn’t so lucky. For 40 years, he was a short-order cook. My mom cleaned houses. On that modest income, they raised three of us.

When I got the acceptance letter to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I had never been east of El Paso. So it was a little scary. But I knew I had to go for two reasons: One, it was the chance of a lifetime. Second, I wanted the fulfillment of my parents’ dreams, to know their work and their struggle and their sacrifice were all worthwhile.

In one generation, an immigrant cook and house-cleaner’s son gets to serve in the United States Senate. Talk about the American dream.”

Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, handed out Black Voters Matter face masks near a polling place in McDonough, Ga., on Jan. 5.
Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

State and national voting-rights advocates are waging the most consequential political struggle over access to the ballot since the civil rights era — and an increasing number of Democrats warn that immediate congressional action is needed to prevent a new era of voter disenfranchisement.

A new federal voting bill, which passed in the House this month with only Democratic support, includes a landmark national expansion of voting rights, an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts and new transparency requirements on the flood of dark money financing elections. The measure would override a rash of new state laws from Republican-controlled legislatures.

But the campaign to pass the For the People Act, designated Senate Bill 1, increasingly appears to be on a collision course with the filibuster and, in that regard, with the White House.

The filibuster rule requires 60 votes for passage of most legislation, meaning that Republicans can block the voting bill and scores of others. The chances of getting to the 51 votes needed to scrap the filibuster are slim, with two moderate Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, opposing the idea.

But there’s an even bigger roadblock: President Biden is also a no.

In Atlanta, the Black Voters Matter Fund and other groups are preparing a national campaign for Senate Bill 1 aimed at both senators and Mr. Biden, who has expressed hope for the bill’s passage but has not actively worked for it.

“He’s got to have his Lyndon B. Johnson moment,” said Cliff Albright, the group’s executive director, referring to the former president’s arm-twisting on Capitol Hill for the Voting Rights Act in 1965. “You’re president of the United States. You need to do more than hope that it passes.”

Similar initiatives are cropping up around the country. Two left-leaning elections groups, the advocacy arm of End Citizens United and Let America Vote, along with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, plan this week to announce $30 million to try to capitalize on the momentum around voting rights.

“We are at a once-in-a-generation moment,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United and Let America Vote.

Voting-rights proponents also say they have not given up on stopping restrictive laws in states. Advocates in Georgia, who claim to have slowed or killed some restrictive bills, are aiming at local companies that have supported the bills’ sponsors, including Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and UPS.

One possible sign of some success: On Sunday, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, whose members include those companies, expressed “concern and opposition” to restrictive clauses in two Republican bills.

“This is absolutely something I will campaign on next year,” said Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who may be the most vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrat on the ballot in 2022.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Democrats are starting to angle for a political payoff that would defy history: leveraging the passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus package to pick up House and Senate seats in the 2022 midterm elections against Republicans, who voted against it en masse.

President Biden and other Democrats are preparing a blitz of events to promote the package, which has broad bipartisan support everywhere in the country other than Capitol Hill.

“This is absolutely something I will campaign on next year,” said Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who may be the most vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrat on the ballot in 2022.

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, who heads the Democratic Senate campaign arm, said he would go on “offense” against Republicans who opposed the bill and sketched out the attack: “Every Republican said no in a time of need.”

Republicans need to gain only one seat in the Senate and five in the House in 2022 to take back control, an expected result in a normal midterm election, but perhaps a trickier one if voters credit Democrats with a strong American rebound.

Yet as Democrats prepare to start selling voters on the package, they remain haunted by what happened in 2010, the last time they were in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress and pursued an ambitious agenda: They lost 63 House seats, and the majority, and were unable to fulfill President Barack Obama’s goals on issues including gun control and immigration.

It has become an article of faith in the party that Mr. Obama’s presidency was diminished because his two signature accomplishments, the stimulus bill and the Affordable Care Act, were not expansive enough and the pitch to the public on the benefits of both measures was lacking.

“We didn’t adequately explain what we had done,” Mr. Biden told House Democrats this month about the 2009 Recovery Act. “Barack was so modest, he didn’t want to take, as he said, a ‘victory lap.’”

At the end of last week, with the House’s first extended recess looming at month’s end, Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed House Democrats to seize the moment. Ms. Pelosi’s office sent an email to colleagues, forwarded to The New York Times, brimming with talking points the speaker hopes they’ll use in town halls and news conferences.

For their part, White House officials said they would deploy “the whole of government,” as one aide put it, to market the plan; send cabinet officers on the road; and focus on different components of the bill each day to highlight its expanse.

Republicans say the Democratic bet is a foolhardy one, both because of how little of the spending is directly related to the coronavirus pandemic and because of voters’ fleeting attention spans.

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