Biden Information At the moment: Dwell Updates on China Funding Ban and the Newest

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Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

President Biden issued a new executive order on Thursday barring Americans from investing in Chinese firms linked to the country’s military or engaged in selling surveillance technology — both inside and outside of China — used to repress dissent or religious minorities.

The new order, which initially lists 59 Chinese firms, substantially expands an order issued in November by President Donald J. Trump. By rewriting that earlier order to include firms engaged in making and deploying the surveillance technology — used against Muslim minorities like the Uyghurs and dissidents in Hong Kong and in the Chinese diaspora around the globe — it intensifies a commercial and ideological battle between Beijing and Washington, one that Mr. Biden has termed the struggle between “autocracy and democracy.”

The move comes at a moment when China is both ramping up its ability to spy on its nearly 1.4 billion people, using a mix of facial-recognition cameras and software, phone-scanners and a range of other tools, and exporting that technology to nations around the world. It is often sold abroad as part of a package of communications equipment provided by companies like Huawei, or as part of China’s Belt-and-Road initiative, which aims to expand the country’s trade ties.

Mr. Biden’s aides said the move was justified by a new American commitment not to facilitate Chinese repression and human rights abuses.

But China regularly decries such moves as interference in its domestic affairs, and in the past has sought to retaliate with bans on American companies, leading to fears of broad economic decoupling between the world’s two largest economies. And the Chinese will likely argue that the United States and other countries use some of the same technologies and techniques to track terrorists and drug lords.

It is unclear how effective Mr. Biden’s order will be at stopping the spread of Chinese espionage technology. To make the investment ban truly effective, he would have to convince the European allies, Japan and South Korea, among others, to join in the effort.

That effort may begin next week. How to handle China is expected to be a major subject when Mr. Biden goes to the Group of 7 summit in Britain next week, followed by a meeting of NATO allies. It will be his first foreign trip as president. But in the preparations for the meeting, he is already running into resistance from nations that, like Germany and South Korea, rely on China as one of their biggest export markets for luxury cars, software and electronics.

As described by senior administration officials on Thursday, the new order will prohibit American companies and companies based in the United States from investing in the stock of publicly listed Chinese companies on the list or in debt issued by those firms. The ban will extend to investing in funds that, in turn, invest in those companies. Those funds will have a year to unwind their investments.

The new executive order is another example of a case in which the Biden administration is building on a Trump-era China initiative. Mr. Biden has also kept tariffs on Chinese goods in place, as leverage in negotiations. In this case, Biden administration officials say they were acting in part to fix the executive order issued last November, which they say was badly written and has been challenged, successfully, in American courts because it did not clearly lay out the factual basis for banning investments in Chinese firms linked to the defense industry.

Under the new executive order, the list of Chinese firms affected by the ban will be put together by the Treasury Department, which has long experience in issuing sanctions, rather than by the Pentagon.

Vice President Kamala Harris has not yet announced a formal strategy for her work on protecting voting rights, but her advisers say she will take a wide-ranging approach.Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris did not come to her role with a list of demands. She wanted to be a generalist, in large part to learn the political rhythms of a president she was still getting to know.

But on the matter of protecting voting rights, an issue critically important to President Biden’s legacy, Ms. Harris took a rare step. In a meeting with the president over a month ago, she told him that she wanted to take the lead on the issue.

Mr. Biden agreed, two people familiar with the discussions said, and his advisers decided to time the announcement of Ms. Harris’s new role to a speech he delivered on Tuesday in Tulsa, Okla. In his remarks, the president declared the efforts of Republican-led statehouses around the country to make it harder to vote as an “assault on our democracy, ” and said Ms. Harris could help lead the charge against them.

Her involvement in the issue stands to become her most politically delicate engagement yet. Her new role comes as the Senate enters a crucial month in the Democratic drive to enact the farthest-reaching elections overhaul in a generation, including a landmark expansion of voting rights that is faltering in the Senate.

Her office has not yet announced its plans, aside from calls Ms. Harris held with civil rights activists, including Derrick Johnson, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and a few scheduled meetings with prominent voting rights groups. Her advisers say she will take a wide-ranging approach to the issue.

Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, said that the decision to elevate Ms. Harris as the face of the administration’s work on the issue was a pivotal moment for the Biden White House given the number of voter suppression efforts that were moving forward — 389 bills in 48 states and counting, according to a tracker maintained the Brennan Center.

“It has been decades since a Democratic White House has made voting rights and democracy reform a central goal,” Mr. Waldman said, but he added, “the clock is ticking.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito spoke about the Republican counteroffer to President Biden’s infrastructure plan last week at the Capitol in Washington.Credit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

President Biden told the lead Republican negotiator on an infrastructure package on Wednesday that her party must embrace $1 trillion in new spending as part of any bipartisan deal but indicated he would be willing to narrow his corporate tax proposals to win Republican support, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Mr. Biden, who has proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, suggested a willingness to forego that increase in order to secure bipartisan agreement for an infrastructure bill — though Democrats would still attempt to raise the rate beyond 21 percent in separate legislation that could proceed without Republican support.

The president suggested the bipartisan bill could instead raise revenue without touching the 2017 tax cuts that passed during the Trump administration with just Republican support. That package — which cut the corporate rate to 21 percent and lowered individual tax rates for all earners — has been a red line for Republicans, who have refused to roll it back.

The bipartisan infrastructure package could instead be financed in part through Mr. Biden’s other tax proposals, including beefing up the Internal Revenue Service so that it can crack down on tax cheats and requiring companies that are profitable but have no federal income tax liability — like Amazon — still pay a 15 percent tax on their profits.

The offer is an acknowledgment by Mr. Biden that, if he wants Republican support for an infrastructure bill, he will have to drop his insistence that it include a corporate tax increase to pay for it. But the new proposal is still likely to face significant opposition from Republicans who have criticized Mr. Biden’s plan to boost I.R.S. funding by $80 billion, saying the agency will use its enforcement powers for political purposes to try and crack down on conservative-leaning individuals and groups.

Even if Republicans could get on board with Mr. Biden’s plans for how to pay for the bill, a wide gulf remains in terms of how much new money should go toward an infrastructure package.

The figure that Mr. Biden gave Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia at their meeting represents nearly four times the $257 billion in new spending that Republicans included in their latest infrastructure counteroffer.

Mr. Biden said any new spending should be on top of $400 billion he wants to maintain for existing programs over the next five years, according to a person familiar with ongoing discussions. Politico first reported details of the new offer.

Republicans have rejected the idea of raising taxes to finance an infrastructure measure, and while Mr. Biden’s latest proposal would amount to nearly $1 trillion less than he initially requested for the package, it is far larger than G.O.P. lawmakers have been willing to consider.

A group led by Ms. Capito last week proposed a $928 billion plan, the vast majority of which would be money from existing programs, paid for by increases in user fees for drivers and unspent pandemic relief money.

It was unclear if Ms. Capito and the five Republican senators who have been involved in the talks would assemble another counterproposal before Ms. Capito is scheduled to speak to Mr. Biden on Friday. Administration officials and Democratic congressional leaders have suggested they will decide as early as next week whether there is a bipartisan compromise to be had on infrastructure or they must proceed on their own.

Some Democrats have pushed for party leaders to abandon the search for a deal with Republicans and instead muscle Mr. Biden’s plan through Congress using the fast-track budget reconciliation process, which circumvents a filibuster and would require only Democratic votes.

But moderate Democrats have warned against abandoning the bipartisan talks, and are quietly discussing possible alternatives with some of their Republican colleagues.

A bipartisan group of senators including Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Ted Cruz of Texas spoke at a news conference about military sexual assault legislation in April.Credit…Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Over nearly a decade, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has painstakingly cobbled together a bipartisan Senate majority for legislation that would overhaul the way the military handles sexual assault and other serious crimes, a shift that many experts say is long overdue.

Ms. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has won backing from President Biden and numerous other colleagues. If it could get to the Senate floor, her bill would easily clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold that stymies many other pieces of legislation.

But now she is running up against a final hurdle: opposition from the leaders of her chamber’s Armed Services Committee, Senators Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, and James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma. Hardly a political sweater set, the two men, both Army veterans who arrived in the Senate in the mid-1990s, nonetheless often coordinate like one on military matters.

Mr. Reed, 71, and Mr. Inhofe, 86, have combined to push back against Ms. Gillibrand’s legislation and delay any move toward a swift vote, a stance that many of the bill’s backers say shows far more deference to military commanders and committee protocols than justified given the decades of failure in protecting victims in the armed forces. Ms. Gillibrand’s bill would cut out the military chain of command from decisions over prosecutions of service members for sexual assault, as well as many other serious crimes, which would be a sea change for the military justice system.

“They are both against my bill, and they would like to kill it in committee,” Ms. Gillibrand said in an interview on Friday. “They have such a deep respect for the chain of command that they are often overly deferential to it.”

To many backers of the legislation, the reluctance being displayed toward it in varying degrees by Mr. Reed and Mr. Inhofe threatens the will of the majority of the Senate, which has grown weary of inaction by military leaders to lower the number of assaults and provide victims a fairer way to seek justice.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, left, after testifying before the House Oversight and Reform Committee in February.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The Justice Department is investigating the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, over possible violations of campaign finance laws while he was running a company and building a reputation as a top Republican donor, his spokesman said on Thursday.

The investigation focuses on campaign contributions made by people employed by New Breed Logistics, the company in North Carolina that Mr. DeJoy led from 1983 to 2014, before he was appointed postmaster general a little over a year ago during the administration of President Donald J. Trump. Mr. DeJoy was a leading donor to Mr. Trump in the 2016 campaign.

“Mr. DeJoy has learned that the Department of Justice is investigating campaign contributions made by employees who worked for him when he was in the private sector,” said the spokesman, Mark Corallo.

“He has always been scrupulous in his adherence to the campaign contribution laws and has never knowingly violated them,” Mr. Corallo said. He added that Mr. DeJoy was cooperating with the inquiry.

Mr. DeJoy has received a grand-jury subpoena for information connected to the investigation, according to a person familiar with the inquiry who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose details related to the grand jury.

Spokesmen for the Postal Service, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. declined to comment.

The Washington Post, which reported the existence of the federal investigation into Mr. DeJoy on Thursday, reported last year that some New Breed Logistics employees believed that Mr. DeJoy and others close to him had pressured them to contribute to Republican candidates.

George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner, arrived for a kickoff rally on Wednesday with his wife, Amanda, announcing his plans to run for Texas attorney general.Credit…Eric Gay/Associated Press

George P. Bush — son of Jeb Bush, nephew of George W. Bush and grandson of George H.W. Bush — is running for attorney general in Texas, and away from the legacy of antipathy to former President Donald J. Trump embodied by his own last name.

The new campaign beer cozies handed out to supporters this week featured the Lone Star flag on the front, and, on the flip side, a quote from Mr. Trump — who relentlessly mocked Mr. Bush’s father in 2016 — that read:

“This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him.”

The younger Mr. Bush, who currently serves as commissioner of the Texas land office, a statewide post with a wide range of development and education functions, is taking on Ken Paxton, the ferociously pro-Trump incumbent who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit contesting election results in four states that the former president lost last November.

The Bush swag tells the story of a Republican primary challenger treading a narrow and perhaps unforgiving path between Mr. Trump and a center-right family philosophy now far out of step with the party’s base.

The primary takes place in March, followed by the general election in November. Two Democrats — Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney from Dallas, and Joe Jaworski, the former mayor of Galveston — have said they will run. In 2018, Mr. Paxton defeated the Democrat Justin Nelson by around three points.

At his Wednesday kickoff at a beer garden in Austin, Mr. Bush accused Mr. Paxton of corruption while emphasizing his own support for Mr. Trump. The attorney general was indicted on securities fraud charges five years ago; he has repeatedly denied the charges and claimed the case is politically motivated.

In a follow-up interview with Fox News on Thursday, Mr. Bush praised “the Trump days,” and criticized President Biden for reversing many of the previous administration’s policies at the border.

He went out of his way to describe the details of a chat he initiated with Mr. Trump, seeking his support.

“We had a great conversation a few days ago, he sent me his best — he had great words of encouragement,” Mr. Bush said of the man who delighted in taunting his father as “low energy.”

Mr. Trump, who commands the overwhelming support of Republicans in Texas but who won the state by only five points, has basked in the empowering glow of the candidates’ praise.

“I like them both very much,” he told CNN earlier this week. “I’ll be making my endorsement and recommendation to the great people of Texas in the not-so-distant future.”

The low-key Mr. Bush, a Florida native whose mother is Mexican-American, has also been adopting an increasingly confrontational posture with local Democrats.

Last week, Mr. Bush’s land office — which has broad discretion in doling out federal aid to localities — denied disaster mitigation aid to several cities with large minority populations, including Houston.

He reversed course a few days later under pressure from the state’s congressional delegation, announcing he would release about $750 million in funds allocated in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with other top economic officials at a Group of 7 summit this week.Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen will try to secure international support for a broad agreement that aims to put an end to global tax havens at the Group of 7 finance ministers summit in Britain this week.

Such a pact has been elusive for years, as countries like Ireland sought to keep taxes as low as possible in order to attract global investment. But the Biden administration has made securing a global minimum tax a priority as it looks to raise corporate taxes to help pay for a sweeping expansion of the nation’s infrastructure.

Such an agreement is critical to Mr. Biden’s goal of raising the corporate tax rate in the United States to 28 percent from 21 percent. Having a global standard that companies pay regardless of where their headquarters are would help discourage American businesses from simply offshoring their operations or intellectual property to countries with lower tax rates, administration officials contend.

Ms. Yellen has said the effort is aimed at ending a “race to the bottom” in which countries cut their tax rates in order to entice companies to move headquarters and profits across borders. Whether she can succeed remains unclear.

The Group of 7 finance ministers will gather on Friday and Saturday in London, and they are expected to produce a joint statement on the status of their negotiations at the conclusion of the meeting.

Queen Elizabeth visited the H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth ahead of the ship’s maiden deployment last month.Credit…Steve Parsons/Reuters

Queen Elizabeth II will meet President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, later this month at the royal residence of Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday. It would be the first meeting between the two leaders since Mr. Biden’s election.

No further details were given about the June 13 meeting, part of President Biden’s first presidential trip abroad, which will include stops at the Group of 7 summit in England, a meeting with the European Union in Brussels and a face-to-face with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Later on Thursday, the White House confirmed the Bidens’ visit with the queen.

The British monarch last hosted an American president in June 2019, when Donald J. Trump visited the country on a lavish state visit, which he later characterized as “a great time.” But the event stirred controversy, given only a handful of American presidents have received the honor of an official state visit. Some British citizens and lawmakers protested against the visit.

And on a previous visit in 2018, Mr. Trump famously made headlines by walking in front of Elizabeth, 95, during an inspection of the royal guard — a breach of protocol.

The world’s longest reigning monarch, Elizabeth has met with every American president since Harry S. Truman except Lyndon B. Johnson. She will celebrate her 70th year on the throne next year.

Visitors walked on the sand in Rehoboth Beach, Del., on Wednesday. President Biden will be in Rehoboth Beach on Thursday for Jill Biden’s birthday celebration.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

President Biden often commutes from the White House to his home state. He just usually waits until the end of the week.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden cleared his schedule to spend the day at his family’s beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., to celebrate the 70th birthday of Jill Biden, the first lady.

“Anyone who knows the first lady knows how much she enjoys her time in Rehoboth,” Michael LaRosa, her spokesman, said. “She will spend her birthday there with the president.”

The pair, who are rooted in their habits and not enamored with life at the White House — Mr. Biden has described it as living in a “gilded cage” — are planning a low-key celebration at home, with a cake but without the usual clutch of children and grandchildren, before returning to Washington for a rare weekend in the Executive Mansion.

Convention suggests that presidents should stay close to Washington and be judicious with taxpayer-funded travel, but that concept was tested to its limit with Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump spent over 417 days at one of his properties, a habit that blurred the line between his family business and presidential duties. He continues to charge the Secret Service for the cost of a room at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach, Fla., resort, according to The Washington Post.

Mr. Biden, by contrast, is essentially a president who commutes, continuing a routine into his presidency by swapping Amtrak for Air Force One. During his 36 years in the Senate, Mr. Biden made it a point to travel back to Wilmington, Del., to spend most evenings with his family, a habit so ingrained that he still speaks lovingly of the train service that brought him home. Mr. Biden has also spent at least five weekends at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, according to a review of his public schedule.

This trip is the first time this year that the president has traveled to the family beach house, a property he purchased in the summer of 2017 for $2.7 million. At the time, Mr. Biden said in a statement that “Jill and I have dreamed of being able to buy a place at the beach.”

Sharon McCown, a Target employee in Louisville, Ky., received hazard pay as well as a raise, which helped her to save more money than she otherwise would have been able to.Credit…Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

Workers in retail, hospitality and other service industries bore the brunt of last year’s mass layoffs. But unlike low-wage workers in past recessions, whose earnings power eroded, many of those who held on to their jobs saw their wages rise even during the worst months of the pandemic.

Now, as the economy bounces back and employers need to find staff, workers have the kind of leverage that is more typical of a prolonged boom than the aftermath of a devastating recession. Average earnings for nonmanagers in leisure and hospitality hit $15 an hour in February for the first time on record; in April, they rose to $15.70, a rise of more than 4.5 percent in just two months.

President Biden’s administration is embracing those gains and hoping they shift power away from employers and back toward workers. And Federal Reserve officials have indicated that they would like to see employment and pay rising, because those would be signs that they were making progress toward their goals of full employment and stable prices.

The stage is set for an economic experiment, one that tests whether the economy can lift laborers steadily without igniting much-faster price increases that eat away at the gains.

“Instead of workers competing with each other for jobs that are scarce, we want employers to compete with each other to attract workers,” Mr. Biden said in Cleveland last week. “When American workers have more money to spend, American businesses benefit. We all benefit.”

Businesses have returned to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

  • Initial claims for state jobless benefits were little changed last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

  • The weekly figure was about 425,000, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week. New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for jobless freelancers, gig workers and others who do not ordinarily qualify for state benefits, totaled 76,000, a decline of 17,000 from the prior week. The figures are not seasonally adjusted. (On a seasonally adjusted basis, state claims totaled 385,000, a decline of 20,000.)

  • New state claims remain high by historical levels but are less than half the level recorded as recently as early February. The benefit filings, something of a proxy for layoffs, have receded as businesses return to fuller operations, particularly in hard-hit industries like leisure and hospitality.

  • The government will provide a more complete look at the employment market on Friday, when the monthly jobs report for May is released. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg estimate that employers added about 655,000 positions in the month, the median forecast shows.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaking tonight in New Hampshire. “It is past time for America to discard the left-wing myth of systemic racism,” Mr. Pence said at the event.Credit…Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday described systemic racism as a “left-wing myth” during a speech hosted by a Republican group in New Hampshire, adopting the racial politics of his former boss, President Donald J. Trump.

But Mr. Pence, a potential candidate for a 2024 presidential run, also distanced himself from the former president, describing the Jan. 6 attack as “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.”

“President Trump and I’ve spoken many times since we left office,” Mr. Pence said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye-o-eye on that day.”

The speech illustrated the careful balance Mr. Pence is aiming to strike in squaring the rhetoric of the Republican Party under Mr. Trump while standing by his opposition to Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

After focusing much of his speech on touting the achievements of the Trump administration, Mr. Pence took aim at “critical race theory,” a graduate school framework that has found its way into K-12 public education, asserting that young children are being taught “to be ashamed of their skin color.”

“It is past time for America to discard the left-wing myth of systemic racism,” Mr. Pence said at the annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner hosted by the Hillsborough County Republicans in Manchester, N.H.

“America is not a racist country,” Mr. Pence said to raucous applause, two days after President Biden commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Republicans have launched an energetic campaign in recent months aiming to dictate how historical and modern racism in America is taught in schools, and Mr. Pence indicated his support of efforts to ban critical race theory through legislation advanced in Republican-led states. Mr. Pence had previously targeted critical race theory in tweets and in his first speech in April after leaving office.

Mr. Pence’s appeal to racial politics went beyond education. Discussing efforts to defund law enforcement agencies, the former vice president said “Black lives are not endangered by police, Black lives are saved by police,” co-opting the language of Black Lives Matter — a movement he had shunned in office.