President Biden plans to host a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers at the White House on Monday afternoon as he works to win support for his proposal to overhaul of the nation’s aging infrastructure.
Mr. Biden has already hosted two such bipartisan meetings to discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, as well as sessions with the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. The president invited former mayors and governors serving in Congress for Monday’s meeting, White House officials said, because of their experience confronting infrastructure issues in their communities.
The group includes two Republican senators, Mitt Romney of Utah and John Hoeven of North Dakota, two Democratic senators, John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and one independent senator, Angus King of Maine. It also includes five House lawmakers: Representatives Kay Granger of Texas and Carlos Gimenez of Florida, both Republicans, and Representatives Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, Charlie Crist of Florida and Norma J. Torres of California, all Democrats.
The president has repeatedly said it is his preference to pass a bipartisan deal. But White House officials and other Democrats have also made clear that they are willing to push through a bill on a party-line vote if necessary to achieve their priorities.
Republicans, who have criticized the proposal’s size, scope and reliance on tax increases, have warned that Mr. Biden needs to prove he is genuinely interested in their input, particularly after passing his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan without their votes despite initial bipartisan talks.
Still, a senior Republican senator said over the weekend that he believed a compromise was possible.
“There is a core infrastructure bill that we could pass,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on “Fox News Sunday,” citing a package of about $800 billion.
But the yawning gap between the size of Mr. Biden’s plan and what Republicans might support is only one indication of the difficulties ahead in Congress. While Republicans have pushed for a smaller, more focused plan, progressives were pressing Mr. Biden to go even bigger as they planned to unveil legislation Monday laying out markers on public housing and renewable energy.
Democratic leaders have not settled on a legislative strategy to pass Mr. Biden’s plan. They are exploring the possibility of using a fast-track budget reconciliation process to bypass both Republican objections and the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate. If they go that route, every Senate Democrat will need to remain on board to overcome united Republican opposition.
President Biden used his daily national security briefing on the morning of April 6 to deliver the news that his senior military leaders suspected was coming. He wanted all American troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
In the Oval Office, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wanted to make certain. “I take what you said as a decision, sir,” General Milley said, according to officials with knowledge of the meeting. “Is that correct, Mr. President?”
Over two decades of war that spanned four presidents, the Pentagon had always managed to fend off the political instincts of elected leaders frustrated with the grind of Afghanistan, as commanders repeatedly requested more time and more troops. Even as the number of American forces in Afghanistan steadily decreased to the 2,500 who still remained, Defense Department leaders still cobbled together a military effort that managed to protect the United States from terrorist attacks even as it failed, spectacularly, to defeat the Taliban in a place that has crushed foreign occupiers for 2,000 years.
The current military leadership hoped it, too, could convince a new president to maintain at least a modest troop presence, trying to talk Mr. Biden into keeping a residual force and setting conditions on any withdrawal. But Mr. Biden refused to be persuaded.
There would be no conditions put on the withdrawal, Mr. Biden told the men, cutting off the last thread — one that had worked with Mr. Trump — and that Mr. Austin and General Milley hoped could stave off a full drawdown.
They were told, Zero meant zero.
In that moment, the war — which had been debated across four presidents, prosecuted with thousands of commando raids, cost 2,400 American fatalities and 20,000 injured, with progress never quite being made — began its final chapter. It will be over, Mr. Biden has promised, by the 20th anniversary of the attacks that stunned the world and led to more than 13,000 airstrikes.
Lisa Monaco was President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser when she was handed an intractable problem: Fix the administration’s ineffective response to the kidnappings of Americans by Islamic State fighters, which had prompted outcries from victims’ families, without changing the government’s refusal to make concessions to terrorists.
Ms. Monaco quickly instituted a change, according to Matthew Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. She mandated that the families, who had been kept in the dark about the government’s restrictions and had even faced threats of prosecution should they pay ransoms themselves, be brought into the fold. Most had lost faith in the government, and she sought them out to ensure that a new hostage policy was fair and credible.
“For the administration to realize it was not handling this right was a lot to Lisa’s credit,” said Diane Foley, whose son James Foley was the first American to be beheaded by the Islamic State in 2014. After Ms. Monaco’s team completed its review, the administration adopted a policy that included advising families of all their options and refraining from threats of prosecution. Mr. Obama acknowledged that the government should have treated them as “trusted partners.”
Now Ms. Monaco, 53, a veteran of national security roles, is poised to become the deputy attorney general — the Justice Department’s No. 2 official — where her ability to broker consensus on politically charged issues will quickly be tested. Among other matters, she is expected to be a key player in the Biden administration’s push to combat domestic extremism, embodied most publicly in the Justice Department’s investigation into the deadly Capitol attack on Jan. 6 by a pro-Trump mob.
Her experience with cyberissues will help give her office an influential voice as the Biden administration confronts threats from countries like Russia, which it penalized on Thursday for hacking American government agencies and companies and for interfering in the 2020 presidential election.
Ms. Monaco will also work closely with Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to rebuild trust in the Justice Department after it became a target of President Donald J. Trump and his allies.
Her résumé makes her uniquely suited to tackle the department’s biggest issues, which include not only domestic extremism but also foreign cyberattacks, a sensitive investigation into Mr. Biden’s son and an open special inquiry into the roots of the Russia investigation.
Ms. Monaco is also known for being careful to build support for her views. “Good ideas die all the time because people don’t go to the right congressman or cabinet secretary and get buy-in,” said Ken Wainstein, who was Ms. Monaco’s predecessor as the head of the Justice Department’s national security division. “That’s the kind of thing that Lisa is masterful at.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee voiced unanimous support for her nomination last month and a bipartisan coalition of senators is expected to confirm her in the coming days.
All adults in every U.S. state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are now eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, meeting the April 19 deadline that President Biden set two weeks ago.
The United States is administering an average of 3.2 million doses a day, up from roughly 2.5 million a month before. More than 131 million people, or half of all American adults, had received at least one shot as of Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and about 84.3 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont were the last states to expand eligibility, opening vaccinations to all adults on Monday.
“It’s truly historic that we have already reached this milestone,” said Dr. Nandita Mani, the associate medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Washington Medical Center.
After a slow start, the pace of vaccinations has risen considerably in recent months. Mr. Biden, who initially said he wanted states to make all adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1, moved the deadline up as vaccinations accelerated. Mr. Biden has also set a goal of administering 200 million doses by his 100th day in office, which the nation is on pace to meet.
The expansion of eligibility comes as medical officials investigate whether Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot Covid-19 vaccine is linked to a rare blood-clotting disorder. All 50 states suspended administration of the vaccine last week, after federal health officials recommended a pause.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said on Sunday that federal regulators should come to a decision on Friday about whether to resume Johnson & Johnson vaccinations. Although he said he did not want to get ahead of the C.D.C. and the Food and Drug Administration, he said he expected experts to recommend “some sort of either warning or restriction” on the use of the vaccine.
Even if there is a link between the vaccine and the clotting disorder, the risk is exceedingly low, experts say.
Still, Dr. Mani said the pause was likely to harden the hesitancy of some Americans to get vaccinated.
At the same time, with the virus resurgent, public health experts are warning Americans not to let their guards down. The United States is averaging more than 67,000 new cases a day over the past seven days, up from over 54,000 a month ago, according to a New York Times database.
“Seventy thousand cases a day is not acceptable. We have to get that down,” said Barry Bloom, a research professor and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He said more vaccinations would help, but people must remain vigilant about wearing masks and social distancing.
At its current pace, the United States will vaccinate 70 percent of its population by mid-June. But vaccine hesitancy could slow progress toward herd immunity, which will also depend on vaccinating children.
Pfizer announced this month that it had applied for an emergency use authorization to make children ages 12 to 15 eligible for its vaccine. Moderna is expected to release results from its trial in young teenagers soon, and vaccinations in this age group could begin before school starts in the fall.
Trials in younger children are underway. Dr. Fauci also said on Sunday that he expected children of all ages to be eligible for vaccination in the first quarter of 2022.
Although vaccinations have picked up in the United States, many countries still face dire vaccine shortages. About 83 percent of Covid-19 vaccinations have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries, according to a New York Times vaccine tracker.
Dr. Funmi Olopade, the director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Chicago, said it was crucial for the United States to step up its role in the global vaccination campaign as supply increases. The virus, left to spread around the world, could continue to mutate and threaten the nation’s economic recovery, she said.
It is in everybody’s “self-interest to provide whatever we can in the way of excess vaccines to low- and middle-income countries,” Dr. Bloom said.
Emily Anthes and
Members of the National Association of Realtors — the nation’s largest industry group, numbering 1.4 million real estate professionals — are challenging a moratorium on evictions put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both the Alabama and the Georgia Associations of Realtors sued the federal government over the matter, and the national association is paying for all of the legal costs. A hearing is scheduled for April 29, Ron Lieber reports for The New York Times.
The N.A.R. spends more money on federal lobbying than any other entity, according to the Center for Responsive for Politics. To puzzle out its actions and advocacy, let’s first be crystal clear about what the N.A.R. is and whose interests it serves. As its own chief executive boasted to members in 2017, it’s really the National Association for Realtors, not of them.
And of those million-plus members, according to the association, about 38 percent own at least one rental property. The N.A.R. isn’t shy about this, stating on the lobbying section of its website that it wants to “protect property interests.”
Why would it do this? The N.A.R. expert on the topic was unable to schedule a phone call, according to a spokesman.
But if you’re selecting a listing agent for your house from among their members, ask that person about this issue if you’re curious or concerned. Many of them have no idea what the N.A.R. is advocating on their behalf.
Here come the lobbyists.
The cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, the asset manager Fidelity, the payments company Square and the investment firm Paradigm have established a new trade group in Washington: The Crypto Council for Innovation. The group hopes to influence policies that will be critical for expanding the use of cryptocurrencies in conjunction with traditional finance, Ephrat Livni reports in the DealBook newsletter.
Cryptocurrencies are still mostly held as speculative assets, but some experts believe Bitcoin and related blockchain technologies will become fundamental parts of the financial system, and the success of businesses built around the technology may also invite more attention from regulators.
“We’re going to increasingly be having scrutiny about what we’re doing,” Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s chief executive, said on CNBC. “We’re very excited and happy to play by the rules,” he added, but regulation of crypto should be on a “level playing field with traditional financial services.”
Here are four of the issues that will keep crypto lobbyists busy:
The Crypto Council’s first commissioned publication is an analysis of Bitcoin’s illicit use, and it concludes that concerns are “significantly overstated” and that blockchain technology could be better used by law enforcement to stop crime and collect intelligence.
New anti-money-laundering rules passed this year will significantly expand disclosures for digital currencies. The Treasury Department has also proposed rules that would require detailed reporting for transactions over $3,000 involving “unhosted wallets,” or digital wallets that are not associated with a third-party financial institution, and require institutions handling cryptocurrencies to process more data.
When is a digital asset a security and when is it a commodity? Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that are released via a decentralized network generally qualify as commodities and are less heavily regulated than securities, which represent a stake in a venture. Tokens released by people and companies are more likely to be characterized as securities because they more often represent a stake in the issuer’s project.
The Chinese government is already experimenting with a central bank digital currency, a digital yuan. China would be the first country to create a virtual currency, but many are considering it. Some crypto advocates worry that China’s alacrity in the space threatens the dollar, national security and American competitiveness.