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Live Updates: Senators to Brief Biden on Infrastructure ‘Breakthrough’


Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

White House negotiators and a group of senators reached a tentative agreement Wednesday evening on the contours of what would be a bipartisan infrastructure agreement, with lawmakers set to brief President Biden on Thursday as details were filled in.

The framework is expected to increase federal spending by nearly $600 billion to invest in roads, broadband internet, electric utilities and other federal infrastructure projects. It is expected to be paid for with a suite of revenue increases that do not violate either Mr. Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class or Republicans’ red line of not reversing business tax cuts passed under President Donald J. Trump in 2017, though the details of the revenue sources have not yet been finalized.

The senators are scheduled to meet with Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at 11:45 a.m.

Those revenue increases, which have been a major sticking point in negotiations, are expected to include heightened enforcement efforts by the Internal Revenue Service to reduce tax evasion by corporations and high earners, which many economists say could yield a significant increase in tax collections over time. They most likely will not include any increases in the tax rates corporations pay, as Mr. Biden had proposed, or so-called user fees, as Republicans had proposed.

“There’s a framework of agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, told reporters as she left negotiations in the Capitol. “There’s still details to be worked out.”

“We also have to brief our respective caucuses,” she added. “But I’m optimistic that we’ve had a breakthrough.”

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said in a statement on Wednesday evening that “White House senior staff had two productive meetings today with the bipartisan group of senators who have been negotiating about infrastructure.”

“The group made progress toward an outline of a potential agreement,” she added, “and the president has invited the group to come to the White House tomorrow to discuss this in person.”

White House officials told Senate negotiators on Wednesday that Mr. Biden was prepared to support the framework once it was finalized with details, according to a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity. A White House spokesman declined to comment beyond Ms. Psaki’s statement.

Sealing a bipartisan deal would put Mr. Biden firmly on the path to a piecemeal approach to passing his $4 trillion economic agenda, with a first step focused on a large-scale investment in the nation’s aging public works system. Senators refused to disclose details, but a framework previously endorsed by the five Republicans and five Democrats would provide for $579 billion in new spending as part of an overall $1.2 trillion package distributed over eight years.

But it would leave large swaths of the president’s economic proposals — including much of his spending to combat climate change, along with investments in child care, education and other types of what administration officials call “human infrastructure” — for a potential future bill that Democrats would try to pass through Congress without any Republican votes using a procedural mechanism known as reconciliation.

Live Updates: Senators to Brief Biden on Infrastructure ‘Breakthrough’
Credit…Polat Niyaz/Featurechina, via Associated Press

The White House on Thursday announced a series of steps to crack down on forced labor in the supply chain for solar panels in China, including a ban on importing products from a silicon producer in the Xinjiang region.

A significant portion of the world’s polysilicon, which is used to make solar panels, comes from Xinjiang, where the United States has accused China of committing genocide through its repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

In one of the newly announced actions, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has banned imports of silica-based products made by Hoshine Silicon Industry Company as well as goods made using those products.

The Commerce Department also added Hoshine Silicon Industry (Shanshan) Company and four other Chinese entities to a trade blacklist, a move that restricts American companies from exporting products and technology to them. The other entities are Xinjiang Daqo New Energy Company, Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals Company, Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology Company and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

Those entities, the department said, “have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups” in Xinjiang.

In addition, the Labor Department added Chinese polysilicon to a list of goods believed to be produced by child labor or forced labor. The list, which already contained a number of other Chinese goods, is intended to increase awareness about exploitative labor practices.

Allegations of forced labor in the solar panel supply chain have created a dilemma for President Biden and his aides. The administration wants to press China over human rights abuses, but it also wants to expand the use of clean energy sources like solar power in the United States as it seeks to reduce carbon emissions.

Shortly before Mr. Biden took office, the Trump administration banned imports of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang. The Biden administration had faced pressure to take action regarding products containing polysilicon produced in the region.

In a letter this month to the acting head of Customs and Border Protection, a group of House Democrats wrote that there was “overwhelming evidence of the use of forced labor in polysilicon production,” adding, “Our government cannot sit idly by.”

The bans could create diplomatic and economic ripples.

China is the dominant global producer of the polysilicon products that are a key part of solar energy panels, and Xinjiang has over the past decade risen as the country’s main production base for the material. Xinjiang makes about 45 percent of the world’s polysilicon, according to InfoLink, a renewable energy research company.

The Biden administration has pursued a strategy of pressing the Chinese government on areas of contention, such as Xinjiang, while seeking to cooperate on global priorities like climate change. The ban on the solar energy products — important for reducing fossil fuel use — will test how far Beijing is willing to go along with that bifurcated approach, and the Chinese government may hit back through its growing arsenal of retaliatory powers.

A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, suggested earlier this week that Beijing could retaliate against the possible bans, which had been reported by Politico, though he did not specify what form that could take. Asked again on Thursday, Mr. Zhao said that the United States wanted “turmoil in Xinjiang to contain China’s development.”

“The U.S. is using lies as its basis,” he said at a regular news conference in Beijing, before the bans were announced in Washington. “This act not only violates the rules of international trade rules and market economies, it is also damaging global industry and supply chains.”

Live Updates: Senators to Brief Biden on Infrastructure ‘Breakthrough’
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Facing a surge in shootings and homicides and persistent Republican attacks on liberal criminal-justice policies, Democrats from the White House to Brooklyn Borough Hall are rallying with sudden confidence around a politically potent cause: funding the police.

In the nation’s capital on Wednesday, President Biden put the weight of his office behind a crime-fighting agenda, unveiling a national strategy that includes cracking down on illegal gun sales and encouraging cities to use hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic relief money for law-enforcement purposes. It was his administration’s most muscular response so far to a rise in crime in major cities.

In New York City, the country’s largest metropolis and a Democratic stronghold, it was Eric Adams, a former police officer who is Black, who rode an anti-crime message to a commanding lead in the initial round of the Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday.

The back-to-back developments signaled a shift within the Democratic Party toward themes of public safety. Senior Democrats said they expected party leaders to lean hard into that issue in the coming months, trumpeting federal funding for police departments in the American Rescue Plan and attacking Republicans for having voted against it.

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White House Defends Timing of Harris Trip to Southern Border

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Wednesday defended Vice President Kamala Harris’s upcoming trip to the Southern border. The vice president’s travel plans come amid pressure from Republicans who have seized on a surge of border crossings to criticize the Biden administration.

“Vice President will travel to El Paso, Texas, on Friday. She’ll be accompanied by Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Earlier this year, as you all know, the president asked the vice president to oversee our diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador to Guatemala and Honduras. And as a part of this work, she recently traveled to Guatemala and Mexico last month to have those discussions. And this trip to the border on Friday will be a part of this effort. I will note that I’ve also said here, from this podium, and she has also said that when it was the right time, she may go to visit the border. And I will note that we’re at this point, in part, because we’ve made a great deal of progress. And if you look just to a couple of months ago when 6,000 children were in Border Patrol facilities, we’re now at the point where there is far less than 1,000. If you look to just a couple of months ago when there were children who were waiting in Border Patrol facilities for more than 100 hours, and they were certainly overcrowded, now it’s less than 30 hours. In April, there were 22,000 kids in H.H.S. facilities, and now that number is 14,000. Is there still more work to do? Absolutely, that’s the purview of Secretary Mayorkas. But it’s important every component of our government is coordinated.” Reporter: “Was it important for the White House to have her seen at the border before former President Trump has a trip there next week?” “We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go to the border.”

Live Updates: Senators to Brief Biden on Infrastructure ‘Breakthrough’
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, on Wednesday defended Vice President Kamala Harris’s upcoming trip to the Southern border. The vice president’s travel plans come amid pressure from Republicans who have seized on a surge of border crossings to criticize the Biden administration.CreditCredit…Carlos Barria/Reuters

Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the United States-Mexico border on Friday, a visit that comes after weeks of criticism from Republicans who assailed her for not visiting even though she is in charge of addressing the root causes of migration.

The criticism came after Ms. Harris’s visit to Mexico City and Guatemala this month, when Lester Holt of NBC grilled her about why she had not visited the border. She responded by calling the visit a “grand gesture” and pointed out that she had not visited Europe yet, either — answers that confounded her critics and members of her own administration.

“She said in the same interview she would be open to going to the border at an appropriate time,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said, fielding questions about Ms. Harris’s visit on Wednesday. “We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go the border.”

Administration officials did not give a clear answer about what made this week an appropriate time. Ms. Harris has held the role since March, when President Biden tapped her to lead an effort to improve conditions in Central America to deter migration north. But even during this month’s trip aimed at improving conditions in the region, she continued to face questions over her absence from the border.

Ms. Harris and her aides have since been on the defensive, arguing that she is focused on addressing the poverty and persecution that force vulnerable families to leave their homes. Allies have cautioned the White House not to give in to criticism.

The visit, which was first reported by Politico, will come just days before former President Donald J. Trump is set to visit the border with a group of House Republicans and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who has pledged to finish the border wall that became a symbol of Mr. Trump’s restrictive immigration agenda.

Live Updates: Senators to Brief Biden on Infrastructure ‘Breakthrough’
Credit…Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press

For the 29th year, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn the Cold War-era American embargo on Cuba, with many diplomats exhorting the Biden administration to resume the reconciliation that was upended by former President Donald J. Trump.

The Biden administration’s “no” vote appeared to signal, at least for now, that it would move cautiously to undo Mr. Trump’s policy on Cuba, which remains a politically contentious issue in the United States — particularly in Florida, home to many Cubans who fled Fidel Castro and his successors.

The U.N. resolution denouncing the six-decade embargo is symbolic only, having no practical effect. But the vote, held since 1992, amounts to a tradition for critics of American policy to vent their anger and express solidarity with Cuba at the United Nations.

The United States had always voted against the resolution until it abstained from the vote during the last year of the Obama administration, while Mr. Biden was vice president, signaling a move to fully repair U.S. relations with Cuba after more than a half-century of estrangement.

But Mr. Trump sought to reverse that direction after he took office, and the United States resumed voting against the resolution during his term. He went much further, adding sanctions on Cuba and — in his final weeks in office — putting the country back on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A full termination of the embargo, which can only be rescinded by Congress, seems highly unlikely any time soon. But Mr. Biden is still expected to gradually move away from Mr. Trump’s stance on Cuba.

Live Updates: Senators to Brief Biden on Infrastructure ‘Breakthrough’
Credit…Sergio Flores for The New York Times

The Biden administration is forcing out the chief of the United States Border Patrol, Rodney S. Scott, who took over the agency during the final year of the Trump administration, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Wednesday.

The move comes as Vice President Kamala Harris plans to visit the southwest border on Friday for the first time since President Biden asked her to lead the administration’s efforts to deter migration from Central America. Republicans have increased pressure on both Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris to visit the border, where a record number of migrants have been trying to cross in recent months.

Mr. Scott, a 29-year veteran of the Border Patrol, took the helm of the agency in February 2020. He was a supporter of President Donald J. Trump’s signature border policy, a plan to complete a wall between the United States and Mexico. The Homeland Security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that while Mr. Scott had been asked to move on, it was possible he could be reassigned to a new post within the department.

The Border Patrol monitors nearly 6,000 miles of the nation’s borders with Mexico and Canada, in between official points of entry. It has been at the center of a highly polarized national debate over immigration policy, particularly as Mr. Trump employed hard-line tactics against undocumented immigrants.

At Mr. Trump’s direction, the Border Patrol sought to catch and detain hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including migrant families who had fled violence in their home countries.

Earlier this year, Mr. Scott refused to follow a Biden administration directive to stop using the term “illegal alien” in reference to undocumented immigrants. Referring to immigration laws, which use the term, Mr. Scott said that public trust in the Border Patrol would continue to erode if its agents were forced to use terms “inconsistent with law.”

Mr. Scott was in charge of the agency when highly trained Border Patrol agents, assigned to investigate drug smuggling organizations, were deployed to the streets of Portland, Ore., last summer. While their mission was to protect federal buildings during a series of protests against police violence, there were reports of federal agents in riot gear inside the city and away from federal property. Mr. Scott pushed back against those reports, but the episode and others like it last summer left an indelible mark on the Trump legacy.

Live Updates: Senators to Brief Biden on Infrastructure ‘Breakthrough’
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The rigors of protecting a president, a vice president and their families in an election year amid a pandemic placed a heavy burden on the Secret Service, with nearly 900 employees testing positive for the coronavirus, a watchdog group said this week.

The group, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, faulted former President Donald J. Trump for continuing to hold large campaign rallies, which it said had contributed to the infections.

It obtained the Secret Service data from the federal government as part of a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act. The cases were recorded from March 2020 to March of this year, according to the group, but the data did not include details of the assignments of the agent Ts who were infected. The government also did not disclose what percentage of the total number of Secret Service employees had contracted the virus.

The employees who tested positive included 477 special agents, 249 members of the uniformed division and 131 staff members working in administrative, professional and technical positions, according to the group. The Secret Service is the main federal law enforcement agency charged with protecting U.S. political leaders, including the president, and the families.

“Throughout the pandemic, then-President and Vice President Trump and Pence held large-scale rallies against public health guidelines, and Trump and his family made repeated protected trips to Trump-branded properties which the then-president was making millions of dollars a year from,” the group said on Tuesday in a post on its website. The group also blamed the former president for riding in a vehicle with Secret Service protection while he was under treatment for a coronavirus infection last October, “further putting agents in danger,” it said.

Representatives for Mr. Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night.

A spokeswoman for the Secret Service said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the agency had distributed masks, gloves and other protective gear to employees and conducted a robust virus-testing program. She added that the agency’s mission “required significant public interaction during a public health crisis” and that it “was fully prepared and staffed to successfully meet these challenges.”

Last November, the Secret Service’s uniformed-officer division experienced a coronavirus outbreak, according to several people who were briefed on the matter at the time. The outbreak was at least the fourth to strike the agency since the pandemic began, with at least 30 uniformed Secret Service officers testing positive for the virus over several weeks. About 60 officers had been asked by the agency to go into quarantine.

In the final months of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the virus permeated the West Wing. Several of his top aides tested positive, including Hope Hicks, his adviser; Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary; and two of Ms. McEnany’s deputies, Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt.

Mr. Trump, who had eschewed wearing masks for months, was sicker with Covid-19 last October than the White House publicly acknowledged at the time, according to several people familiar with his condition. At the time that he was hospitalized, his blood oxygen levels had plunged and officials feared he was on the verge of being placed on a ventilator.





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