Biden Set to Release Initial Budget Plans, Revealing His Priorities

The release of the first parts of President Biden’s budget could detail proposed spending in areas like climate change. Here’s the latest on politics.,

LiveUpdated April 9, 2021, 9:37 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 9:37 a.m. ET

On Friday, the White House will release a document of overall funding levels for agencies and some detail on proposed spending in areas like combating climate change. Senator Joe Manchin’s focus on bipartisanship shows President Biden a path to win him over.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during a White House appearance on Thursday.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during a White House appearance on Thursday.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The White House budget office will release the first fragments of President Biden’s budget proposals to Congress on Friday, providing a fresh sense of his priorities as lawmakers wait on his administration’s full budget.

Officials have stressed that the document — which will outline plans for discretionary spending within government agencies — is not a formal budget and will not include tax proposals or so-called mandatory spending in areas like Social Security. Instead, it will provide overall funding levels for agencies, like the Treasury and Defense Department, and some detail on proposed spending across the administration in areas like combating climate change.

The request will cover the 2022 fiscal year, which starts in October. White House officials had originally announced it would be released last week, before pushing back the timeline. The budget office does not have a confirmed director, after Mr. Biden’s first pick for the job, Neera Tanden, withdrew from consideration amid Republican opposition centered on her past statements on Twitter that were critical of conservatives.

Shalanda D. Young, who was confirmed by the Senate last month to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director.

Officials have promised that Mr. Biden’s full budget will be released later this spring. They have blamed delays on a lack of cooperation from outgoing members of the Trump administration.

“Well there’s no question, as we talked about during the transition, that we dealt with some impactful intransigence from the outgoing political appointees,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters this week.

“We had some cooperation from the career staff, but we didn’t have all of the information that we needed,” she added. “As you all know, we also don’t have a budget director. We have not had a budget director confirmed. We have now an acting budget director, which is an important step forward.”

Congress, which is responsible for approving government spending, is under no requirement to adhere to the White House budget, which is generally viewed as a political messaging document. In recent years, lawmakers rejected many of the Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.

Officials say the proposal that will be released on Friday will not reflect the details in Mr. Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which he introduced last week, or of a second plan he has yet to roll out, which will focus on what officials call “human infrastructure” like education and child care.

Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, is a pivotal swing vote in the Senate.
Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, is a pivotal swing vote in the Senate.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia flashed a warning sign for President Biden’s infrastructure ambitions this week, renewing his pleas for fellow Democrats not to ram through a large spending bill without first working to compromise with Republicans who have panned the president’s plans.

In a divided Washington, the chances that such a compromise will materialize are slim — at least for a sprawling spending plan of up to $4 trillion, as Mr. Manchin, a pivotal swing vote in the Senate, and administration officials favor. But even so, Mr. Manchin’s calls for bipartisanship were less an insurmountable obstacle for Democrats than a road map for Mr. Biden if he wants his party’s tiny congressional majorities to deliver him another economic policy victory.

It involves reaching out to Republicans to explore possible areas of compromise while laying the groundwork to steer around them if no such deal materializes.

Mr. Biden has already begun the outreach to Republicans, while senior Democrats in Congress are exploring a budget maneuver that would allow the infrastructure bill to pass quickly with only Democratic votes. Both are aimed at increasing the pressure on Republicans to compromise — and, if they will not, giving Mr. Manchin and other moderate Democrats whose backing Mr. Biden needs the political cover to accept an all-Democratic plan.

“I’m going to bring Republicans to the White House,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday. “I invite them to come. We’ll have good-faith negotiations. And any Republican who wants to get this done, I invite.”

A moment later, he urged Republicans to “listen to your constituents,” arguing that voters across America back infrastructure spending on the scale Mr. Biden envisions — not the scaled-back versions many Republicans have floated.

The comments reflected a huge caveat in Mr. Biden’s willingness to negotiate that Republicans say could scuttle any deal: The president wants to be the one to set the terms of how large the problems are, and of whether the proposed solutions are sufficient.

Behind the scenes, his team is working to soften the ground for bipartisan work. And business lobbyists and some lawmakers remain hopeful that Mr. Manchin’s appeal could prod Mr. Biden and congressional leaders toward a set of mini-compromises on infrastructure.

But some Democrats worry that such compromises could sap momentum for the rest of Mr. Biden’s agenda, including forthcoming proposals for education, child care and more. Others say the opposite: that a few deals would give Mr. Biden and his party traction with voters, and fuel to pass a large spending bill, funded by tax increases, later this year with only Democratic votes.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas vetoed an anti-transgender bill only to be overridden by the legislature.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas vetoed an anti-transgender bill only to be overridden by the legislature.Credit…Jim Young/Reuters

In recent weeks, a number of Republican state legislatures have introduced bills placing new restrictions on transgender rights and medical care.

One of the farthest-reaching measures passed in Arkansas this week, prohibiting gender-confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youths — the first such ban to become law anywhere in the country.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, opposed the bill, after supporting other laws limiting transgender rights. He has been making the case that the legislation not only violates conservative principles but could also hurt Republicans politically.

The Times spoke to the governor about the new law, his belief that Republicans are too enmeshed in the culture wars and whether the party has strayed from fundamental conservative values.

In the interview, Mr. Hutchinson criticized the bill as “the most extreme law in the country.”

“The bill is overbroad, it’s extreme and, very importantly, it does not grandfather in those young people who are currently under hormone treatment, which means that those in Arkansas who are undergoing, under the doctor’s care and parents’ care, hormonal treatment — that would be withdrawn in the middle of that,” Mr. Hutchinson said.

He added, “That’s a terrible consequence of this bill. This is the most extreme law in the country. Arkansas would be the first state to have adopted this bill. And I could not in good conscience sign it with concerns that I had.”

But he defended his signing of two other bills: one barring trans women and girls from participating in sports competitions consistent with their gender identity, and another allowing doctors to refuse to treat trans patients because of religious or moral objections.

“You’ve got to evaluate each one as to whether it’s the proper role of government, whether it makes sense and whether it is the right balance,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “When I saw this third bill come forward, I thought it went too far. And I said: ‘We’ve got to show greater tolerance. We’ve got to show greater compassion.’ And so I didn’t sign that.

Mr. Hutchinson also warned that pushing laws restricting trans rights could hurt the Republican Party with young voters.

“The risk for the party, is that particularly millennials, young people, they want to see more tolerance. They do not believe in judging someone else and making laws that make their lives more difficult,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “And so while the transgender community is very small, there’s a larger group that does not like the government picking on them. And that’s where we lose in the broader population — reflecting intolerance and reflecting a lack of diversity.”

He added, “If you’re going to be a broad-based party, you have to be true to your principles. And it starts with a restraint on government action.”

Senator Mitch McConnell excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats, before backpedaling.
Senator Mitch McConnell excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats, before backpedaling.Credit…Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

Republican lawmakers are passing voting restrictions to pacify right-wing activists still gripped by former President Donald J. Trump’s lie that a largely favorable election was rigged against them. G.O.P. leaders are lashing out in Trumpian fashion at businesses, baseball and the news media to appeal to many of the same conservatives and voters. And debates over the size and scope of government have been overshadowed by the sort of culture war clashes that the tabloid king relished.

This is the party Mr. Trump has remade.

As G.O.P. leaders and donors gather for a party retreat in Palm Beach this weekend, with a side trip to Mar-a-Lago for a reception with Mr. Trump on Saturday night, the former president’s pervasive influence in Republican circles has revealed a party thoroughly animated by a defeated incumbent — a bizarre turn of events in American politics.

Barred from Twitter, quietly disdained by many Republican officials and reduced to receiving supplicants in his tropical exile in Florida, Mr. Trump has found ways to exert an almost gravitational hold on a leaderless party just three months after the assault on the Capitol that his critics hoped would marginalize the man and taint his legacy.

His instincts for red-meat political fights rather than governing and policymaking have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for, even when it comes to business, which was once the business of Republicanism. Yet his single term has made it vividly clear what the far right stands against — and how it intends to go about waging its fights.

Having, quite literally, abandoned their traditional party platform last year to accommodate Mr. Trump, Republicans have organized themselves around opposition to the perceived excesses of the left and borrowed his scorched-earth tactics as they do battle. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats on G.O.P.-backed voting restrictions, only to backpedal after seeming to suggest he wanted corporations out of politics entirely.

They are doing relatively little to present counterarguments to President Biden on the coronavirus response, his expansive social welfare proposals or, with the important exception of immigration, most any policy issue. Instead, Republicans are attempting to shift the debate to issues that are more inspiring, and unifying, within their coalition and could help them tar Democrats.

So Republicans have embraced fights over seemingly small-bore issues to make a larger argument: By emphasizing the withdrawal from publication of a handful of racially insensitive Dr. Seuss books, the rights of transgender people and the willingness of large institutions or corporations like Major League Baseball and Coca-Cola to side with Democrats on voting rights, the right is attempting to portray a nation in the grip of elites obsessed with identity politics.

It’s a strikingly different approach from the last time Democrats had full control of government, in 2009 and 2010, when conservatives harnessed the Great Recession to stoke anger about President Barack Obama and federal spending on their way to sweeping midterm gains. But Mr. Biden, a genial white political veteran, is not much of a foil for the party’s far-right base and is unlikely to grow more polarizing with the country at large.

There were 3,215 ballots cast, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, from 55 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters at the warehouse.
There were 3,215 ballots cast, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, from 55 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters at the warehouse. Credit…Bob Miller for The New York Times

The counting of ballots in the closely watched unionization drive at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., is set to resume Friday at 8:30 a.m. Central time.

With about half the ballots counted late Thursday, votes against unionization had an advantage of more than 2-to-1 over those in favor, according to a live broadcast of the counting that was tallied by The New York Times. When the counting paused, there were 1,100 votes against unionization and 463 in support.

There were 3,215 ballots cast, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, from 55 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters at the warehouse. The union must get support from more than half of the votes cast to prevail.

1,608 yes votes are needed for the union to win today.

The New York Times.As of 9:44 a.m. Hundreds of ballots have been contested, which could delay either side from reaching the threshold. One ballot was marked as void.

The ballots were being counted in random order in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, Ala., and the process was broadcast via Zoom to more than 200 journalists, lawyers and other observers.

The voting was conducted by mail from early February until the end of last month. A handful of workers from the labor board called out the results of each vote “Yes” for a union or “No” for nearly four hours on Thursday.

Amazon and the union had spent more than a week in closed sessions, reviewing the eligibility of each ballot cast with the labor board, the federal agency that conducts union elections. The union said several hundred ballots had been contested, largely by Amazon, and those ballots were set aside to be adjudicated and counted only if they were vital to determining an outcome. If Amazon’s large margin holds steady throughout the count, the contested ballots are likely to be moot.

The incomplete tally put Amazon on the cusp of defeating the most serious organized-labor threat in the company’s history. Running a prominent campaign since the fall, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union aimed to establish the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the United States. The result will have major implications not only for Amazon but also for organized labor and its allies.

Labor organizers have tapped into dissatisfaction with working conditions in the warehouse, saying Amazon’s pursuit of efficiency and profits makes the conditions harsh for workers. The company counters that its starting wage of $15 an hour exceeds what other employers in the area pay, and it has urged workers to vote against unionizing.

Amazon has always fought against unionizing by its workers. But the vote in Alabama comes at a perilous moment for the company. Lawmakers and regulators — not competitors — are some of its greatest threats, and it has spent significant time and money trying to keep the government away from its business.

The union drive has had the retailer doing a political balancing act: staying on the good side of Washington’s Democratic leaders while squashing an organizing effort that President Biden has signaled he supported.

Labor leaders and liberal Democrats have seized on the union drive, saying it shows how Amazon is not as friendly to workers as the company says it is. Some of the company’s critics are also using its resistance to the union push to argue that Amazon should not be trusted on other issues, like climate change and the federal minimum wage.

Sophia June contributed to this report.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg greeted a United Parcel Service employee while he toured the company's Facility in Landover, Md., in March.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg greeted a United Parcel Service employee while he toured the company’s Facility in Landover, Md., in March.Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

As mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg grew to view asphalt as his enemy. As governor of Michigan, Jennifer M. Granholm faced a Republican-led Legislature intent on blocking her biggest infrastructure ambitions. As governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo overcame early opposition to an infrastructure plan from moderate members of her own party.

All three are among five cabinet secretaries President Biden has selected to serve as the administration’s salespeople for the American Jobs Plan, which seeks to pour trillions of dollars into infrastructure and other new government programs.

“Every square foot of asphalt, from a mayor’s perspective, is a square foot you have to pay forever to maintain, to resurface, to fill potholes on it,” Mr. Buttigieg, now the transportation secretary, said in a recent interview. “There were roads that maybe saw one car every few minutes that were paved wide enough for four cars side by side. There’s a cost to maintaining that.”

The lessons in asphalt Mr. Buttigieg learned in Indiana informed how he is trying to sell Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan across the country today. “The point is we design for the future and ask what we want to build, instead of redoing everything we’ve done in the past,” he said. In terms of making the case for the ambitious plan, he said, “there’s nothing like being able to say, ‘Here’s how we faced it in my community.'”

Along with Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Granholm, the energy secretary, and Ms. Raimondo, the commerce secretary, the group includes Marcia L. Fudge, the housing and urban development secretary, and Martin J. Walsh, the labor secretary.

Their job is to push the infrastructure plan on Capitol Hill and across the country with voters. They were picked because they lead agencies that oversee the bulk of the proposals in the jobs plan, which covers broadband, public housing, climate change and job training, in addition to roads and bridges.

But they are also former mayors or governors who have tackled the challenges at the local level that Mr. Biden now faces nationwide.

In fact, they all tried — and sometimes failed — to sell their own infrastructure plans, either to a recalcitrant legislature or to resistant members of their own party.

Central Americans who have been deported from the United States waiting to register in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Central Americans who have been deported from the United States waiting to register in Chihuahua, Mexico.Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

MEXICO CITY — Record numbers of asylum seekers are applying for sanctuary in Mexico — some after arriving at the southwest border of the United States hoping to find a safe haven under President Biden, but hitting a closed door.

In March, the Mexican government received asylum petitions from more than 9,000 people, the highest monthly tally ever, officials said. And they predicted that the surging demand would continue, possibly reaching a total of 90,000 asylum requests by the end of the year, which would also be a record high.

The soaring numbers are in part a reflection of the turmoil at the American border, where the Biden administration is struggling to deal with a surge in undocumented migration and has prevented many asylum seekers from presenting their cases to immigration officials.

Mexico has also become an increasingly attractive destination in its own right for refugees, who have generally found asylum easier to achieve in Mexico than in the United States. Some have also been drawn by the opportunity to reunite with family and friends, and by possibilities of work and a degree of safety that they lacked at home.

The sharp increase has put additional stress on humanitarian groups and on the Mexican government, which has been under pressure from Washington to do more to curb the northbound flows of migrants.

“Enormous amounts are arriving,” Andres Alfonso Ramirez Silva, general coordinator of the Mexican government agency that processes asylum petitions, said of the caseload. “With the personnel we have, we have to deal with a number that grows and grows and continues to grow.”

For decades, Mexico was essentially a thruway for people from Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere in the world seeking to reach the United States. But in the last few years, Mexico has become a more attractive destination for migrants.

President Donald J. Trump accelerated this process with aggressive efforts to restrict both legal and illegal immigration, including strategies to discourage asylum seekers by making it more difficult for them to secure sanctuary.

During Mr. Trump’s term, the number of people seeking asylum in Mexico skyrocketed, to more than 70,400 in 2019 from about 14,600 in 2017, according to the Mexican government. Amid the pandemic and a drastic slowdown in global migration, the number of asylum petitioners dropped to about 41,200 last year. But in the last several months, the volume has risen sharply once again.

Oscar Lopez and Natalie Kitroeff contributed reporting.

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