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President Biden met Wednesday afternoon with Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, a Republican leading talks on a bipartisan infrastructure package, as negotiations reach a critical juncture.
Two months after Mr. Biden introduced his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, the administration has signaled that it is ready to move on from bipartisan negotiations barring significant developments this week.
While Republicans and the administration have exchanged offers in recent weeks, a wide gulf still remains over the scope, the size and how to finance what could be one of the largest single federal investments in infrastructure in American history. Some Democrats are ready to abandon the negotiations, as they are reluctant to narrow their ambitions to accommodate what could be just a handful of Republican votes.
After the Oval Office meeting between Mr. Biden and Ms. Capito, the White House released a statement describing it as “a constructive and frank conversation,” adding that “the two agreed to reconnect on Friday.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg set a deadline of sorts for negotiations to bear fruit, saying on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that “a clear direction” was needed by the time Congress returns on June 7 from a Memorial Day recess.
Ms. Capito, who has been doggedly pursuing a deal with the White House for weeks, struck an optimistic tone about the state of the negotiations over the weekend.
“I think we can get to real compromise, absolutely, because we’re both still in the game,” Ms. Capito said on Fox News. “We realize this is not easy. I think we bring every idea that’s on the table into the negotiations to see how we can achieve this and get it across the threshold.”
Last week, Senate Republicans made a counteroffer that included roughly $257 billion in new funding for roads, bridges and other public works projects. Their overall $928 billion proposal consisted mostly of funding for expected maintenance of existing programs, with new spending largely financed with unspent coronavirus relief funds and increased user fees for drivers.
But Mr. Biden and White House officials do not want to use funds from the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package for infrastructure investments. Mr. Biden has proposed raising taxes on corporations and wealthy taxpayers to finance the infrastructure package, which would involve rolling back some of the tax cuts Republicans pushed through in 2017.
Democrats have also taken initial steps toward beginning the fast-track budget reconciliation process, which would allow them to pass an infrastructure package without Republican support. They used the maneuver earlier this year to muscle the pandemic aid package through both chambers.
President Biden may be forced to hold a new lease sale for oil drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite his vows to slash fossil fuel pollution and his action this week to suspend Arctic drilling leases that had been awarded in the final days of the Trump administration.
A law passed by the Republican-controlled Congress in 2017 requires the president to hold two lease sales in the refuge before the end of 2024. President Donald J. Trump held the first, and now legal experts say the Biden administration could be locked into holding a second.
Until that law was passed, the fate of the 1.5-million-acre refuge along the Arctic Ocean — one of the last remaining stretches of untouched wilderness in the United States, home to migrating caribou, birds and polar bears — had depended on which party controlled the White House and Congress. Republicans wanted to allow drilling, Democrats to keep the area off limits.
But now, Mr. Biden, who has set forth the most ambitious climate change agenda of any president and wants to drastically cut fossil fuel use and emissions, is legally on the hook to advance a plan to allow more Arctic drilling.
Legal experts noted, however, that the Biden administration could find ways to delay or diminish the second auction of drilling leases. For example, while the law requires the Interior Department to hold an auction, it does not require that the agency actually award any leases, said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of law at the Vermont Law School.
President Biden on Wednesday laid out an aggressive campaign to meet his goal of having 70 percent of U.S. adults at least partially vaccinated against the coronavirus by July 4, with a string of new initiatives including an offer of free child care for parents and caregivers while they get their shots and a national canvassing effort resembling a get-out-the-vote drive.
Declaring June a “National Month of Action,” Mr. Biden appeared at the White House to implore Americans not only to get vaccinated, but also to join in the push to persuade their friends and neighbors to do so. The plan he outlined includes participation by celebrities, athletes, social media influencers and private companies like United Airlines, which is offering a year of free flights in a sweepstakes open to vaccinated Americans.
Currently, 62.8 percent of American adults have received at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 12 states have passed the 70 percent mark, according to the White House. But reaching more people is becoming increasingly difficult as the pool of the most willing adults shrinks.
“America is headed to the summer dramatically different from last year’s summer — a summer of freedom, a summer of get-togethers and celebrations, an all-American summer that this country deserves after a long, dark winter we’ve all endured,” Mr. Biden said. “We need everyone across the country to pull together to get us over the finish line.”
The campaign will have the tone of a get-out-the-vote effort, with phone banking and text messages to people in areas with low vaccination rates and door-to-door canvassing in neighborhoods close to walk-in clinics “where people can get vaccinated on the spot,” according to a White House fact sheet.
Four of the nation’s largest child care providers will offer free care to parents and caregivers while they get vaccinated. Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons will give out educational materials and host vaccination events with local health care providers. The National Association of Broadcasters will back a local radio and television advertising push, and a “Covid-19 College Challenge” is aimed at vaccinating students.
The administration has also created a website where Americans can learn about incentives including free beer, flights, cruises and tickets to sporting events.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 351 federally supported vaccination sites have closed since May 21, leaving 1,619 nationwide. As of Tuesday, providers were administering 1.23 million doses per day on average, a 64 percent decrease from the peak of 3.38 million reported on April 13, according to C.D.C. data. The C.D.C. recently reported that vaccination coverage was lower in poorer counties and ones with higher percentages of households with children, single parents and people with disabilities.
Former President Donald J. Trump has removed himself entirely from the internet.
Still banned from Twitter and Facebook, and struggling to find a way to influence news coverage since leaving office, Mr. Trump decided on Wednesday to shutter his do-it-yourself alternative, a blog he had started just a month ago called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump.”
Mr. Trump had become frustrated after hearing from friends that the site was getting little traffic and making him look small and irrelevant, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
The site, which cost a few thousand dollars to make and was put together for Mr. Trump by a company run by his former campaign manager Brad Parscale, was intended to be an online hub for supporters to see statements issued by the former president and communicate with him.
“In a time of silence and lies, a beacon of freedom arises,” a video introducing the platform last month advertised. “A place to speak freely and safely. Straight from the desk of Donald J. Trump.”
Last month, after The Washington Post reported that the blog was attracting virtually no readership, Mr. Trump played down its purpose, calling it a stopgap measure until he figured out what came next.
“This is meant to be a temporary way of getting my thoughts and ideas out to the public without the Fake News spin, but the website is not a ‘platform,’” he said in a statement. “It is merely a way of communicating until I decide on what the future will be for the choice or establishment of a platform.”
Some people in his small circle of advisers said on Wednesday that they were frustrated by his decision to shut it down. Others tried to put a more positive spin on it.
Jason Miller, an adviser, said on Twitter that the decision to suspend the blog was a precursor to Mr. Trump’s joining another social media platform.
“Yes, actually, it is,” he wrote when asked if the move meant that Mr. Trump would be returning to social media in another form. “Stay tuned!”
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has instructed state officials to end contracts with the Biden administration for shelters in the state that hold migrant children and teenagers who have been arriving alone, in record numbers, to the southwest border.
The order could affect thousands of migrant children waiting to be united with family members or other sponsors in the United States, and could create a new public relations challenge for President Biden.
“The Biden administration’s immigration policies are failing Texans, causing a humanitarian crisis in many Texas communities along the border,” Mr. Abbott, a Republican who has been calling for Mr. Biden to crack down on illegal immigration, said in the order, issued Monday.
The directive, which is part of a disaster declaration, applies to agreements between state-licensed shelters for children and the Department of Health and Human Services. There are more than 50 such shelters in Texas.
“If the governor actually implements the order, it could displace more than 4,000 children,” said Leecia Welch, a lawyer and the senior director of the legal advocacy and child welfare practice at the National Center for Youth Law. “And it would impact many more in the future given that many licensed beds are currently unused. At best, it’s creating a big mess, and it could be a total disaster.”
The Department of Health and Human Services said it was reviewing the order and did not plan to close any shelters in Texas as a result of it.
The state told the shelters that by the end of August, “you must wind down any operations at your child-care facility that provide care under a federal contract to individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
The order does not cover the emergency shelters that the federal government set up this year to house the surge in migrant children at the border. The situation was one of the Biden administration’s earliest challenges and has become a favorite line of attack from Republicans.
As of Wednesday, there were close to 17,000 migrant children under the care of Health and Human Services, including more than 8,000 living in shelters across the country that have been licensed for federal use, according to a report obtained by The New York Times. If Texas ends its contracts, it could lead to thousands of children being transferred to emergency sites that have a lower standard of care.
“This attack is against children,” Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, said on Twitter on Wednesday.
Accepting migrant children who arrive alone on the southern border is one of a spate of immigration policy changes that Mr. Biden has made. The Trump administration used a public health emergency rule to turn away children at the border because of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the Homeland Security Department ended another widely criticized Trump-era program that had stalled the asylum claims of more than 25,000 migrants, leaving them in administrative limbo in Mexico, where they faced threats of violence.
President Biden said on Tuesday that he had directed Vice President Kamala Harris to lead Democrats in a sweeping legislative effort to protect voting rights, an issue that is critical to his legacy but faces increasingly daunting odds in a divided Senate.
“Today, I’m asking Vice President Harris to help these efforts, and lead them, among her many other responsibilities,” Mr. Biden said during a trip to Tulsa, Okla., to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre. “With her leadership and your support, we’re going to overcome again, I promise you, but it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work.”
Mr. Biden told the crowd that he saw the protection of voting rights as one of the most fundamental, and most endangered, ways to ensure racial equity.
But his decision to install Ms. Harris as the leader of an effort to beat back state-level bills to tighten voting rules — “a truly unprecedented assault on our democracy, ” Mr. Biden told the crowd — added another politically thorny problem to the vice president’s policy portfolio.
Ms. Harris has already been tasked with leading the administration’s efforts to deter migration to the southwestern border by working to improve conditions in the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The vice president — who will visit Mexico and Guatemala next week — and her staff have worked to reframe expectations around her role, emphasizing that she will examine the root causes of migration, not single-handedly stop the flow of migrants to the United States.
She also has a host of other engagements, including but not limited to selling the American Rescue Plan, promoting Mr. Biden’s infrastructure package, representing women in the work force, highlighting the Black maternal mortality rate, assisting small businesses, assessing water policy, promoting racial equity, combating vaccine hesitancy and fighting for a policing overhaul.
Ms. Harris said she would embrace the new assignment.
“In the days and weeks ahead, I will engage the American people, and I will work with voting rights organizations, community organizations and the private sector to help strengthen and uplift efforts on voting rights nationwide,” she said in a statement. “And we will also work with members of Congress to help advance these bills.”
A Florida man who was among the angry mob that entered the Senate on Jan. 6 pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a single felony count, becoming the second person so far to publicly admit wrongdoing in connection with the riot at the Capitol.
Paul A. Hodgkins, 38, of Tampa, was caught on video breaching the Senate while carrying a Trump flag. At a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, Mr. Hodgkins pleaded guilty to the top charge in his case: obstructing an official proceeding of Congress. As part of an agreement with the government, four lesser charges were dismissed.
Under the plea agreement, the government recommended that Mr. Hodgkins, a crane operator, receive a sentence of 15 to 21 months in prison. His case provides an early hint of the penalties that some 200 similarly charged defendants may face if they plead guilty too.
About 450 people, from nearly every state, have been charged in connection with the riot, which contributed to the deaths of five people and resulted in injuries to nearly 140 police officers. About half of those facing charges have been accused of misdemeanors — largely trespassing and disorderly conduct — and may be sentenced to little or no prison time.
Many more defendants are in negotiations with the government and are expected to plead guilty in the days and weeks to come. But only one other person so far, Jon Ryan Schaffer, a heavy metal musician connected to the Oath Keepers militia, has formally entered a guilty plea.
Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat, won a landslide victory in a special House election in New Mexico on Tuesday, claiming the seat previously held by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and easily turning back a Republican effort to make the race a referendum on rising crime in the Albuquerque-based district.
Just after midnight Eastern time, Ms. Stansbury, a state representative, had captured 60 percent of the vote, while her Republican rival, Mark Moores, had won 36 percent.
Her dominating performance represented an early vote of confidence in the Democratic-controlled White House and Congress in a heavily Hispanic district and could quiet some anxiety in the party about its prospects going into the 2022 midterm elections.
An environmental policy expert who has worked as a congressional and White House aide, Ms. Stansbury emphasized economic fairness, the urgency of addressing climate change and the importance of Democrats’ retaining their four-seat House majority.
Mr. Moores, a state senator, ran almost entirely on crime and related issues. He assailed Ms. Stansbury for endorsing a bill in Congress that would shift money away from police departments, noting that there have been twice as many murders in Albuquerque this year as there were at this point in 2020.
Ms. Stansbury’s victory illustrates that the crime issue alone is insufficient for Republicans to win on in Democratic-leaning districts, at least when their candidates receive little financial help from the national party, as was the case with Mr. Moores.
Special elections in the first year after a president is newly elected can often carry grim tidings for the party in control of the White House. And with few such contests this year taking place on even remotely competitive terrain, Democrats moved aggressively to ensure that they were not caught by surprise in New Mexico.
Ms. Stansbury enjoyed a commanding financial advantage while benefiting from the Democratic tilt of the district, the First Congressional, which President Biden carried by 23 percentage points last year.
She also moved to rebut Mr. Moores’s line of attack, broadcasting a commercial that featured a retired sheriff’s deputy and trumpeting her work in the Legislature bringing state dollars for law enforcement back to Albuquerque.
Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state in Arizona who gained national attention for her stalwart defense of the state’s electoral system in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, announced Wednesday that she was running for governor, portraying herself as a pragmatic leader who did not back down in the face of criticism and threats.
Ms. Hobbs has become a frequent fixture on cable news shows since the fall — first as Arizona’s vote count continued for several days after Election Day in November, and again this spring as Republicans conducted a widely criticized audit of ballots cast in Maricopa County. She has repeatedly condemned the partisan recount as a threat to democracy and has assigned observers to track problems with the process.
“We did our job,” she said in a video announcing her campaign. “They refused to do theirs. And there’s a lot more work to be done.”
In some ways, the recount has elevated Ms. Hobbs, who some polls suggest is the most popular statewide elected official in Arizona. She joined a lawsuit to try to stop the recount, which has no official standing and will not change the state’s vote. She issued a scathing six-page letter detailing problems with the audit, and has recommended that Maricopa County replace its voting machines and vote tabulators because of the lack of physical security and transparency around the process.
A campaign video announcing her run opened by referring to the attacks and death threats that she had faced in the wake of the election — including armed protesters showing up at her home.
“When you’re under attack, some would have you believe you have two choices: fight or give in. But there is a third option: get the job done,” Ms. Hobbs said in the video announcement. “I’m here to solve problems.”
It is difficult to overstate the significance to Native people of Deb Haaland’s role as the first Native American to lead a cabinet agency, specifically the Interior Department, which was once responsible for eradicating the homes, culture and often the lives of Indigenous people.
It is also difficult to overstate the pressures and expectations Ms. Haaland faces from them, as they hope she will address 150 years of betrayal by a department officially entrusted with ensuring Native Americans’ welfare.
“Our ancestors have long foretold of a day of reckoning, when our values and the values of those who came to this country would collide. We’re at that day of reckoning,” said Fawn R. Sharp, the president of the National Congress of American Indians. “Deb will not only do the work to respond to and serve this generation, but her leadership is going to have a ripple effect for generations to come.”
Ms. Haaland’s portfolio is immense, addressing climate change, regulating mining and oil drilling on federal land and national waters, irrigating much of the West, monitoring earthquakes, preserving national parks and protecting wildlife.
But her early moves make clear she prioritizes the Interior Department’s responsibility for Native peoples, who fall under the jurisdiction of the department’s Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Indian Education.
Ms. Haaland was born in Arizona to a Laguna mother and a father of Norwegian descent. She enrolled in the University of New Mexico at the age of 28, eventually earning a law degree, and plunged into politics while running a salsa-making business. In 2019, she and Representative Sharice Davids, Democrat of Kansas, became the first two Native women to serve in Congress.
She was not angling for the Interior Department job when Julian Brave NoiseCat, a young writer and political strategist, began “a little guerrilla campaign” for her nomination that grew into a groundswell, with progressive activists and celebrities joining American Indians in support.
“She in many ways embodies the idea that has come out of grass-roots activism that Native people have real things to add to the environmental conversation,” Mr. NoiseCat said. “For young people and progressives, it can feel hard to get any authentic real wins. But that whole experience showed me it is possible to show the right thing can happen.”
Texas Democrats staged a last-minute walkout on Saturday to kill an elections bill that would have restricted voting statewide. The quorum-breaking move — a decades-old maneuver favored by Democratic lawmakers — worked, in dramatic fashion.
But by Tuesday, the reality of their short-lived triumph had settled in. The bill was very much still alive, with the Republican governor vowing to call lawmakers back to Austin for a special session to revive and pass the measure. It was a top legislative priority for the Republican Party, and would have been the final achievement in the ultraconservative session that concluded on Monday.
Democrats staggered out of that session after the passage of a number of other conservative measures, including a near-ban on abortion and a bill allowing the carrying of handguns without permits.
And Republicans, who seven months ago staved off a high-profile, top-dollar campaign by Democrats to flip the Statehouse for the first time in nearly two decades, applauded themselves for a series of conservative victories. They included bills that died in previous sessions for being too extreme but were now viewed as middle-of-the-road in the post-Trump era.
In past legislative sessions, Bush-style Republicans blocked many bills put forth by the far right. Many of those moderates are gone now from the Legislature, replaced in large part by pro-Trump Republicans who have taken to criticizing Gov. Greg Abbott for not being conservative enough.
“They’re flexing their muscle going into the 2022 primaries, so they’re all looking over their right shoulders, and I think that’s driving a lot of this,” said State Representative Chris Turner, who is the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “They certainly are pushing the envelope in a way they haven’t before.”
Whoever wins the race to become the next Manhattan district attorney will take over one of the most contentious, highest-profile criminal investigations in the office’s history: the inquiry into former President Donald J. Trump and his business.
Two of the leading candidates in the Democratic primary field, Alvin Bragg and Tali Farhadian Weinstein, have had past contacts with Mr. Trump’s administration — dealings that could become an issue if one of them is the next district attorney.
Mr. Bragg, a former official with the New York attorney general’s office, reminds voters frequently that in his former job, he sued Mr. Trump’s administration “more than a hundred times.”
Ms. Farhadian Weinstein, who once served as general counsel to the Brooklyn district attorney, has been less vocal about Mr. Trump. She only occasionally notes her involvement in a successful lawsuit against the Trump administration. And she has not spoken publicly about interviewing with Trump administration officials for a federal judgeship early in his term.
Mr. Bragg and Ms. Farhadian Weinstein are among eight Democratic candidates vying to replace Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney, who is not running for re-election. With the primary less than one month away, Mr. Trump continues to loom over the race.
Mr. Vance’s office recently convened a grand jury that will hear evidence about Mr. Trump and his company, according to a person with knowledge of the matter — a sign that the investigation could soon intensify.
Prosecutors were already using grand juries to issue subpoenas, obtain documents and hear some testimony, but the new grand jury is expected to hear from a range of witnesses in the coming months. There is no indication that the investigation has reached an advanced stage or that prosecutors have decided to seek charges against Mr. Trump or his company.
Mr. Trump’s advisers have said that he will try to impugn the motives of the prosecutors investigating him.
The gun control organization backed by Michael R. Bloomberg will for the second time in four months begin an advertising campaign aimed at pressuring Republican senators to back expanding and strengthening background checks for gun buyers.
Everytown for Gun Safety will begin airing $500,000 worth of television and digital advertisements Wednesday evening in Alaska, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas, as well as on national cable television, the organization said.
An official with the group said there was optimism that Republican senators, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Cornyn of Texas, might support background checks and other gun control measures.
Mr. Cornyn told NBC News last week that he was discussing background checks legislation with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a Democrat who has led the party’s gun control efforts since joining the Senate in the wake of the 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The ads are also targeting Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, who are both retiring after the 2022 elections.
All four Republican senators voted against the 2013 gun control legislation sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania. That proposal had support from a majority of the 100-member Senate but failed to advance because Republicans denied it the 60 votes necessary to bypass a filibuster.
As American mass shootings continue unabated, Republicans in Congress have offered little indication that they are willing to support universal background checks for gun purchases. During an earlier gun control push in 2013, leading Democrats negotiated for weeks with Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a conservative Republican who ultimately voted against the proposal.
Two of the four Everytown advertisements feature Texans shooting shotguns at clay targets. The other two show the police chief and sheriff from Columbia, S.C., a city whose mayor, Steve Benjamin, is a longtime ally of Mr. Bloomberg. The advertisements do not mention any of the Republican senators by name.