Biden Says He’s Open to ‘Good Faith Negotiations’ on Infrastructure Plan
The tax plan, if enacted, would overhaul the corporate tax code and raise $2.5 trillion in revenue to help pay for infrastructure spending. Here’s the latest.,
President Biden on Wednesday signaled his openness to “good faith negotiations” on his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal — but bluntly warned Republican opponents of the plan that he would “not be open to doing nothing.”
Mr. Biden pushed back against critics who have argued that his sprawling plan contains elements — such as the renovation of veterans’ hospitals, expansion of broadband internet and anti-poverty programs — that do not fit the traditional definition of infrastructure.
“To automatically say that the only thing that’s infrastructure is a highway, bridge, or whatever, that’s just not rational,” said Mr. Biden, who urged Republicans to ask working-class Americans “what infrastructure they need to build a better life, to be able to breathe a little bit,” rather than rejecting his proposal on sight.
“I don’t know why we don’t get this,” added Mr. Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris as he delivered remarks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, veering off script repeatedly to deliver an impassioned, at times exasperated plea of support.
Mr. Biden’s speech was overtly aimed at Congressional Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, who have expressed nearly unanimous opposition to the plan.
But he was also targeting red and swing state voters, who support projects in their communities, and speaking to moderate Democrats, like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who have suggested they might agree to a corporate tax increase, but one not quite as big as the 28 percent Mr. Biden has proposed. The current rate is 21 percent.
Asked if he was willing to compromise on the corporate rate in his plan — perhaps to 25 percent — Mr. Biden replied, “I’m willing to negotiate,” adding that he was “wide open” to new proposals that would pay for his plan.
“Debate is welcome, compromise is inevitable, changes are certain,” he said. “In the next few weeks the vice president and I will be meeting with Republicans and Democrats to hear from everyone. And we’ll be listening, we’ll be open to good ideas and good-faith negotiations. But here’s what we won’t be open to: We will not be open to doing nothing.”
Democrats on Capitol Hill were buoyed on Monday by a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, saying that Democrats could use the fast-track budget reconciliation process for a second time this fiscal year. The ruling means Democrats can essentially reopen the budget plan they passed in February and add directives to enact the infrastructure package or other initiatives. If they opt to use the move, it would shield them from a filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.
Treasury Department officials said Wednesday that Mr. Biden’s complete tax plan, which also eliminates tax subsidies for fossil fuel companies, would raise $2.5 trillion in new revenues over the next 15 years.
The nonpartisan Penn Wharton Budget Model, at the University of Pennsylvania, estimated on Wednesday that Mr. Biden’s tax plans would raise $2.1 trillion over the course of a decade. Analysts at the group estimate that the plan would spend $2.7 trillion over the decade, and that the programs it invests in would help the economy function more productively.
But they calculate the combination of tax increases and additional government debt incurred by the plan would slow economic growth slightly, leaving the economy 0.8 percent smaller in 2050 than it otherwise would have been.
Treasury Department officials said Wednesday that they were still reviewing the analysis but disagreed with its conclusion, insisting that Mr. Biden’s plans will boost growth.
The Biden administration unveiled its plan to overhaul the corporate tax code on Wednesday, offering an array of proposals that would require large companies to pay higher taxes to help fund the White House’s economic agenda.
The plan, if enacted, would raise $2.5 trillion in revenue over 15 years. It would do so by ushering in major changes for American companies, which have long embraced quirks in the tax code that allowed them to lower or eliminate their tax liability, often by shifting profits overseas. The plan also includes efforts to help combat climate change, proposing to replace fossil fuel subsidies with tax incentives that promote clean energy production.
Some corporations have expressed a willingness to pay more in taxes, but the overall scope of the proposal is likely to draw backlash from the business community, which has benefited for years from loopholes in the tax code and a relaxed approach to enforcement.
Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday that the plan would end a global “race to the bottom” of corporate taxation.
“Our tax revenues are already at their lowest level in generations,” Ms. Yellen said. “If they continue to drop lower, we will have less money to invest in roads, bridges, broadband and R&D.”
The plan, announced by the Treasury Department, would raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. The administration said the increase would bring America’s corporate tax rate more closely in line with other advanced economies and reduce inequality. It would also remain lower than it was before the 2017 Trump tax cuts, when the rate stood at 35 percent.
The White House also proposed significant changes to several international tax provisions included in the Trump tax cuts, which the Biden administration described in the report as policies that put “America last” by benefiting foreigners. Among the biggest change would be a doubling of the de facto global minimum tax to 21 percent and toughening it, to force companies to pay the tax on a wider span of income across countries.
That, in particular, has raised concerns in the business community, with Joshua Bolten, the chief executive of the Business Roundtable, saying in a statement this week that it “threatens to subject the U.S. to a major competitive disadvantage.”
Some companies, however, expressed openness to the new proposals on Wednesday.
John Zimmer, the president and co-founder of Lyft, told CNN that he supports Mr. Biden’s proposed 28 percent corporate tax rate.
“I think it’s important to make investments again in the country and the economy,” Mr. Zimmer said.
The Biden administration also made clear that the proposal was something of an opening bid and that there will be room to negotiate.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo urged lawmakers on Wednesday not to reject the plan out of hand, inviting them to have a “discussion” — even as she suggested the basic parameters of the proposal would remain in place.
“We want to compromise, she said during a briefing at the White House. “What we cannot do, and what I’m imploring the business community not to do, is to say, ‘We don’t like 28. We’re walking away. We’re not discussing.’ That’s unacceptable.”
The plan would also repeal provisions put in place during the Trump administration that the Biden administration says have failed to curb profit shifting and corporate inversions, which involve an American company merging with a foreign firm and becoming its subsidiary, effectively moving its headquarters abroad for tax purposes. It would replace them with tougher anti-inversion rules and stronger penalties for so-called profit stripping.
The plan is not entirely focused on the international side of the corporate tax code. It tries to crack down on large, profitable companies that pay little or no income taxes yet signal large profits with their “book value.” To cut down on that disparity, companies would have to pay a minimum tax of 15 percent on book income, which businesses report to investors and which are often used to judge shareholder and executive payouts.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer warned on Tuesday that expanding the size of the Supreme Court could erode public trust in it by sending the message that it is at its core a political institution.
Justice Breyer, 82, is the oldest member of the court and the senior member of its three-member liberal wing. He made his comments in a long speech streamed to members of the Harvard Law School community. He did not address the possibility that he might retire, giving President Biden a chance to name a new justice while the Senate is controlled by Democrats. But his talk had a valedictory quality.
He explored the nature of the court’s authority, saying it was undermined by labeling justices as conservative or liberal. Drawing a distinction between law and politics, he said not all splits on the court are predictable and that those that are can generally be explained by differences in judicial philosophy or interpretive methods.
Progressive groups and many Democrats were furious over Senate Republicans’ failure to give a hearing in 2016 to Judge Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s third Supreme Court nominee. That anger was compounded by the rushed confirmation last fall of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald J. Trump’s third nominee.
Liberals have pressed Mr. Biden to respond with what they say is corresponding hardball: expanding the number of seats on the court to overcome what is now a 6-to-3 conservative majority. Mr. Biden has been noncommittal, but has created a commission to study possible changes to the structure of the court, including enlarging it and imposing term limits on the justices.
Justice Breyer said it was a mistake to view the court as a political institution. He noted with seeming satisfaction that “the court did not hear or decide cases that affected the political disagreements arising out of the 2020 election.” And he listed four decisions — on the Affordable Care Act, abortion, the census and young immigrants — in which the court had disappointed conservatives.
Those rulings were all decided by 5-to-4 votes. In all of them, the majority included Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and what was then the court’s four-member liberal wing to form majorities.
“I hope and expect that the court will retain its authority,” Justice Breyer said. “But that authority, like the rule of law, depends on trust, a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics. Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that perception, further eroding that trust.”
Around the country, businesses, schools and politicians are considering “vaccine passports” — digital proof of vaccination against the coronavirus — as a path to reviving the economy and getting Americans back to work and play.
But the idea is raising charged legal and ethical questions: Can businesses and schools require employees, customers and students to provide proof that they have been vaccinated? And can governments mandate vaccinations — or stand in the way of institutions that demand proof?
Legal experts say the answer to all of these questions is generally yes, though in a society so divided, politicians are already girding for a fight. Government entities like school boards and the Army can require vaccinations for entry, service and travel — practices that flow from a 1905 Supreme Court ruling that said states could require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox or pay a fine.
Private companies, moreover, are free to refuse to employ or do business with whomever they want, subject to only a few exceptions, ones that do not include vaccination status. (States could probably override that by enacting a law barring discrimination based on vaccination status.)
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, is offering electronic verification apps to patients vaccinated in its stores. Universities like Rutgers, Brown and Cornell have already said they will require proof of vaccination for students this fall. The Miami Heat this week became the first team in the N.B.A. to open special “vaccinated only” sections. Airlines including JetBlue and United are testing the CommonPass app, which lets users display testing and vaccination records.
New York has rolled out “Excelsior Pass,” billed by the state as “a free, fast and secure way to present digital proof of Covid-19 vaccination” in case reopening sports and entertainment venues require proof of attendees’ status.
But some states are moving in the opposite direction. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas became the latest Republican governor to issue an executive order barring state agencies and private entities that receive funds from the state from requiring proof of vaccination.
The Biden administration has said it will not impose a federal vaccine-credential system. Still, officials are facing pressure to at least set standards for privacy and accuracy.
“The government is not now nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
She promised that the administration would provide guidance about privacy, discrimination and other concerns.
People who paid for the funeral and burial expenses of someone who died from Covid-19 will be offered expanded federal financial support starting on Monday, according to an announcement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 556,000 Americans, according to a New York Times database. Under the expanded assistance program, their survivors can apply for up to $9,000 in reimbursement for the purchase of a plot, burial, a headstone, clergy services, the transfer of remains, cremation or other services associated with a funeral.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought overwhelming grief to many families,” the agency said in a statement announcing the expanded benefits. “At FEMA, our mission is to help people before, during and after disasters. We are dedicated to helping ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus.”
Congress approved billions of dollars in funding for funeral benefits in two Covid relief measures, the one signed by former President Donald J. Trump in December and the one known as the American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed last month.
Both measures include added funds for funeral services in an attempt to cushion the financial blow to families, many of whom are already struggling because of the loss of income in the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
To qualify for reimbursement, an applicant must be a United States citizen or legal permanent resident who has documentation that they paid funeral expenses for someone whose death “‘may have been caused by’ or ‘was likely a result of’ Covid-19 or ‘Covid-19 like symptoms,'” or whose records include “similar phrases that indicate a high likelihood of Covid-19,” according to FEMA. The person who died need not have been a United States citizen or resident, the agency said.
FEMA will reimburse funeral costs for multiple people in the same family, up to a maximum of $35,000, according to the agency. But the amount of federal assistance will be reduced if applicants also received support from other sources, including insurance policies specifically designed to pay for funeral expenses.
The effort to soften the financial burden of the pandemic is one of the largest such efforts ever undertaken by the agency. It also offers an opportunity for fraud, as the agency acknowledges in bright red type on its website.
“Fraud Alert: We have received reports of scammers reaching out to people offering to register them for funeral assistance,” the alert says. “FEMA has not sent any such notifications and we do not contact people prior to them registering for assistance.”
The agency will begin taking applications on Monday. Applicants can call a hotline at (844) 684-6333.
A group of 10 Democratic members of Congress on Wednesday joined a federal lawsuit against former President Donald J. Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, claiming that they violated a 19th-century statute when they tried to prevent the certification of the presidential election on Jan. 6.
Representatives Karen Bass of California, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Hank Johnson, Jr. of Georgia, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, Jerrold Nadler of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and Maxine Waters of California on Wednesday all joined the lawsuit that originally also named the Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group, and the Oath Keepers militia group.
But since the official dissolution of the Proud Boys organization in February, the suit now names as defendants the Van Dyke Organization L.L.C., Warboys L.L.C. and Jazu Transport L.L.C., which it describes as successors to the Proud Boys.
The legal action accuses Mr. Trump, Mr. Giuliani and the other groups of conspiring to incite a violent riot at the Capitol, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the election. It contends that Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani violated the Ku Klux Klan Act, an 1871 statute that includes protections against violent conspiracies that interfered with Congress’s constitutional duties.
The N.A.A.C.P. originally brought the suit on behalf of Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi in February, adding to a host of legal problems that Mr. Trump is facing since leaving office. A spokesman for Mr. Trump, Jason Miller, said at the time that Mr. Trump did not “plan, produce or organize the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse.”
Mr. Thompson and the other plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the lawsuit that was filed in Federal District Court in Washington, as well as injunctive relief. The dollar amounts would be determined by a jury at a trial, an N.A.A.C.P. spokesman said.
All 10 of the lawmakers joining the suit were in the House gallery when pro-Trump rioters breached the Capitol on Jan. 6. Many of the lawmakers who were in the building that day continue to suffer from the trauma of hearing gunshots and seeing broken windows and the faces of rioters on the other side of the doors, the N.A.A.C.P. said. That includes nightmares and difficulty sleeping.
“As I sat in my office on Jan. 6 with rioters roaming the hallways, I feared for my life and thought that I was going to die,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement, even contemplating whether he would want to be buried with his family in Memphis or at the Congressional Cemetery.
“This violence was anything but spontaneous,” Mr. Nadler, who sought refuge in the Judiciary Committee’s office for hours, said in a statement. “It was the direct result of a conspiracy to incite a riot, instigated by President Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.”
More than a half-million Americans have signed up for Affordable Care Act coverage during the first six weeks of a special open enrollment period that the Biden administration started in February.
The new enrollment figures, released Wednesday morning by the Department of Health and Human Services, suggest there is strong demand for health coverage during the pandemic. They also show the health law starting to reach a more diverse population: 17 percent of enrollees during this six-week period identified as Black, an increase from 11 percent in recent years.
The federal marketplace is also showing a slight increase in enrollees who have earnings just above the federal poverty line.
Sign-ups this year are more than double that of the equivalent periods in 2019 and 2020, when only those who met certain criteria — having lost coverage at work, for example, or moved to a new state — were allowed to enroll. The Biden administration is allowing all Americans to purchase Obamacare coverage through Aug. 15 because of the national health emergency.
The new enrollment figures cover the 36 states that use Healthcare.gov to run their health insurance marketplaces. They do not include Americans enrolling in coverage in the 14 states and District of Columbia that manage their own markets, many of which also have extended enrollment periods this year.
The Biden administration has also made significant investments in advertising and outreach, after the Trump administration slashed such spending. The new administration plans to spend $100 million advertising the options on Healthcare.gov through this summer, and has also committed $2.3 million in additional outreach funding.
The new sign-up figures do not include people who enrolled after April 1, when billions of dollars in new premium subsidies went live on Healthcare.gov. That funding could further increase enrollment because it will reduce what nearly all current Obamacare enrollees pay for monthly premiums.
More than six million Americans — about three of every five uninsured people — will qualify for health plans that don’t cost them any premiums, according to a recent government analysis.
The additional funding is expected to lead to a further 1.3 million Americans enrolling in coverage, according to Congressional Budget Office projections.
President Biden is expected to unveil a series of executive actions addressing gun violence on Thursday, weeks after back-to-back mass shootings left 18 people dead and pushed the issue of gun legislation to the forefront for an administration tackling crises on multiple fronts.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, would not comment Wednesday on the substance of the executive actions that she said Mr. Biden was expected to announce from the White House.
But in recent weeks, administration officials have been reaching out to Democrats in the Senate to consult about three executive actions. One would classify as firearms so-called ghost guns — kits that allow a gun to be assembled from pieces. Another would fund community violence-intervention programs, and the third would strengthen the background check system, according to congressional aides familiar with the conversations.
With Congress unlikely to move on any gun legislation, the White House has been underscoring the importance of executive actions as a more realistic starting place to deliver on Mr. Biden’s campaign promises to end gun violence. Susan E. Rice, the director of the Domestic Policy Council, has been serving as the administration’s point person on the upcoming executive actions.
Still, Mr. Biden has recently faced criticism from gun control groups that supported his campaign for not making gun legislation a top priority, as he had promised to do on the campaign trail.
To others, Mr. Biden’s decision to forge ahead with his ambitious jobs plan — even in the wake of two mass shootings — represented a more pragmatic approach by a president dealing with several crises and a blockade of opposition by Republicans to any gun control measures.
The House passed two gun control bills last month, but they are languishing in the Senate in the face of Republican opposition and the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passing most legislation.
John Boehner, the Republican former House speaker, issued a stinging denunciation in his new book of Donald J. Trump, saying that the former president “incited that bloody insurrection” by his supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the Republican Party had been taken over by “whack jobs.”
The criticism from Mr. Boehner in his book, “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” is an extraordinary public rebuke by a former speaker of the House toward a former president from his own party, and showed how much Republican winds have shifted since Mr. Boehner left Congress in 2015. And his remarks came as Mr. Trump has sought to retain his grip on Republican lawmakers’ loyalty from his new political base in South Florida.
In the book, an excerpt from which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Boehner writes that Mr. Trump’s “refusal to accept the result of the election not only cost Republicans the Senate but led to mob violence,” adding, “It was painful to watch.”
At another point, he writes, “I’ll admit I wasn’t prepared for what came after the election — Trump refusing to accept the results and stoking the flames of conspiracy that turned into violence in the seat of our democracy, the building over which I once presided.”
Mr. Boehner’s remarks were a rejection of what the party he once helped lead has morphed into over the last several years. While he has criticized Mr. Trump in the past, Mr. Boehner’s comments about the events of Jan. 6 have the most resonance.
The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, sharply criticized Mr. Trump at the end of the Senate trial for the former president’s second impeachment, pointing to his role in the Capitol riot. Others, like Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 in the House Republican leadership, have also excoriated him.
Nodding to the divisions between the parties in Congress now, Mr. Boehner adds, “Whatever they end up doing, or not doing, none of it will compare to one of the lowest points of American democracy that we lived through in January 2021.”
Mr. Trump, Mr. Boehner goes on to write, “claimed voter fraud without any evidence, and repeated those claims, taking advantage of the trust placed in him by his supporters and ultimately betraying that trust.”
Georgia is still caught up in a political riptide, less than a week after Major League Baseball pulled its summer All-Star game out of suburban Atlanta in a rebuke to the state’s new election rules that restrict access to voting.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, embroiled himself in the controversy this week as he continued to lash out at executives with Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Delta and other corporations for criticizing the Republican-led efforts to impose restrictions on voting access in Georgia and other states. He accused them of “bullying” politicians.
“My warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” said Mr. McConnell, after an appearance promoting vaccine distribution in Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday.
When asked to define the activities that executives should avoid, Mr. McConnell — who has long argued that corporate campaign donations are a protected, nearly sacred, form of political communication — said he was “not talking about political contributions.”
M.L.B.’s decision to move the All-Star Game to Denver was a watershed moment for a sport long known for its traditionalism and slow-moving nature. Until 1947, baseball barred Black players from its teams. And just last year, M.L.B. waited nine days before addressing George Floyd’s killing and the ensuing protests, making it the last of the four major professional sports leagues in North America to do so.
The sport’s fan base is older and less diverse than the N.F.L. and the N.B.A. A majority of major league players are white, and many lean conservative in their personal politics. And not unlike their counterparts in professional basketball or football, M.L.B. club owners are largely Republican donors.
“There needs to be a greater reflection by all companies, baseball included,” said Reggie Jackson, 74, the Hall of Fame outfielder. “Baseball’s further behind the other sports.”
But there is at least one major sporting event held in Georgia that has escaped getting tangled in controversy so far.
Even among the fiercest critics of the state’s new election law, there are limited calls to upend the Masters Tournament, which is underway this week in Augusta, Ga.
Golf, like baseball, leans Republican. But the certainty that the state’s most cherished sporting event would go on as planned is a reflection of Augusta National Golf Club’s honed willingness to defy pressure and, crucially, the reality that the mighty, mystique-filled brand of the Masters hinges on that one course. Unlike M.L.B.’s All-Star Game, which is staged in a different city each year, Augusta National has always been the home of the Masters.
What scrutiny Augusta National is facing ahead of tournament play, which begins on Thursday, is focused not least on its membership, which includes executives whose current and former companies are under pressure to condemn the Georgia law.
President Biden on Tuesday said it was “up to the Masters” whether the tournament should be moved out of Georgia, adding that it was “reassuring to see that for-profit operations and businesses are speaking up.”
Lawmakers in more than 40 states are pursuing new voting laws that Democrats predict will make it more difficult for people of color to vote. Republicans argue that limiting early voting and absentee balloting and encouraging poll watchers are necessary steps to ensure election integrity.
But with Georgia’s new law prompting corporate America to began flexing its muscle by publicly criticizing the changes, Republican leaders are warning business executives to steer clear of this fight.
“It’s not what you’re designed for,” Mr. McConnell urged the business community. “And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of America’s greatest political debates.”
James Wagner, Alan Blinder and Bill Pennington contributed reporting.
Number One Observatory Circle is finally ready for its newest resident. After months spent living in temporary quarters at Blair House, Vice President Kamala Harris moved into her 33-room official residence on Tuesday evening following the completion of renovations, an administration official said.
Ms. Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, spent last weekend in California. On Tuesday, Ms. Harris stopped in Chicago to tour a coronavirus vaccination site before flying on to Washington, while Mr. Emhoff visited Washington State.
Scheduled improvements delayed the vice president’s move to the Victorian home, which has housed vice presidents and their families since the Mondales in the 1970s. Over the past two months, the home underwent extensive renovations, including the installation of a new heating and air system, refurbished wooden floors and updated chimney liners, the vice president’s office said.
The house, which features a large veranda, a pool and a sunroom, sits on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Northwest Washington.
According to government spending data, the Navy has awarded contracts worth at least $4.2 million in air conditioning, plumbing and heating upgrades since 2018.
Payment for preservation or aesthetic-related home improvements comes from the coffers of the Vice President’s Residence Foundation, which also pays to hang artwork and install new drapes, and handles some larger projects.
When the Bidens lived there, they painted the dining room the same shade of blue as their home in Delaware, and hung pieces on loan from the National Gallery of Art.
It has also become somewhat of a tradition for each new tenant to preside over improvements to the 128-year-old house. The Cheneys remodeled the kitchenette, for instance. The Pences added a beehive. (On Tuesday, an official with Ms. Harris’s office said the bees would “absolutely” be staying.) And the Bidens added a small garden that features the names of past occupants, and their pets, etched in stones surrounding a fountain.
“Each person has added something to make the home better for the next family,” Jill Biden told The Washington Post as the Bidens, then vice president and second lady, prepared to depart the residence in 2017. Most residents hired a designer to help, but Ms. Harris and Mr. Emhoff have not done so yet.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is making a string of public moves for the first time since the Trump administration ended, with a planned speech in South Carolina and a new advocacy group that could help him burnish his image among Republicans ahead of a possible presidential campaign of his own in 2024.
Aides to Mr. Pence on Wednesday announced the formation of Advancing American Freedom, a group with a series of allies of Mr. Pence and former President Donald J. Trump either running it or on the board. In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Mr. Trump gave the group his blessing.
Mr. Pence, a former governor of Indiana, was aligned with the traditional conservative wing of the Republican Party until Mr. Trump became the presidential nominee in 2016 and asked him to be his running mate. Mr. Pence became Mr. Trump’s most loyal advocate and adviser over four years.
But in the final weeks of the administration, Mr. Trump pressured Mr. Pence to refuse to certify President Biden’s Electoral College win in Congress on Jan. 6 and send the votes back to states, something the former vice president told Mr. Trump he did not have the authority to do.
When Mr. Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 during the certification, some chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” The vice president was whisked to safety from rioters who, video has shown, were closer than previously realized.
Mr. Pence appears to be trying to craft a separate identity from Mr. Trump while also focusing on the policies of the administration, including related to immigration laws, as he weighs a run for president.
Mr. Pence is also giving a speech to the Palmetto Family Council in South Carolina later this month, his first major event since leaving office. While Mr. Trump has been giving multiple interviews to conservative outlets, Mr. Pence has been abiding by the tradition of past officeholders in laying low.
Elsewhere, another close adviser to Mr. Trump, Stephen Miller, is creating a group that will file lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s policies in court. Mr. Miller worked informally with Republican attorneys general while Mr. Trump was in office on suits that would challenge policies enacted by Mr. Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was one of President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal allies during his term, publicly pledging loyalty and even signing a letter nominating the president for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.
Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida.
Mr. Trump denied the account, responding in a statement issued from his office on Wednesday. “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” he said in the statement. “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”
It was unclear whether Mr. Gaetz or the White House knew at the time about the inquiry, or who else he sought pardons for. Mr. Gaetz did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations when he made the request. But top White House lawyers and officials viewed the request for a pre-emptive pardon as a nonstarter that would set a bad precedent, the people said.
Aides told Mr. Trump of the request, though it is unclear whether Mr. Gaetz discussed the matter directly with the president. Mr. Trump ultimately pardoned dozens of allies and others in the final months of his presidency, but Mr. Gaetz was not among them.
This account of Mr. Gaetz’s dealings with the Trump White House is based on interviews with four people briefed on the exchanges about his pardon request and other Trump confidants. A spokesman for Mr. Trump declined to comment.
In recent days, some Trump associates have speculated that Mr. Gaetz’s request for a group pardon was an attempt to camouflage his own potential criminal exposure.
Either way, Mr. Gaetz’s appeal to the Trump White House shows how the third-term congressman sought to leverage an unlikely presidential relationship he had spent years cultivating.
Mr. Gaetz has denied having sex with a 17-year-old or paying for sex. A spokesman denied that he privately requested a pardon in connection with the continuing Justice Department inquiry.
“Entry-level political operatives have conflated a pardon call from Representative Gaetz — where he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic’ — with these false and increasingly bizarre, partisan allegations against him,” the spokesman said in a statement. “Those comments have been on the record for some time, and President Trump even retweeted the congressman, who tweeted them out himself.”
Since the existence of the investigation was publicly revealed last week, Mr. Trump’s advisers have urged him to stay quiet and sought to distance the former president from Mr. Gaetz.
Kentucky on Wednesday became the only state in the country with a Republican-controlled legislature to expand voting rights this year, as Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, signed a bipartisan law that cut against the push in many G.O.P.-led states nationwide to put up barriers to voting.
“When much of the country has put in more restrictive laws, Kentucky legislators, Kentucky leaders were able to come together to stand up for democracy and to expand the opportunity for people to vote,” Mr. Beshear said at a signing ceremony.
The law in Kentucky establishes three days of early voting in the state; introduces voting centers that would allow for more in-person balloting options; creates an online portal to register and request ballots; and allows voters to fix problems with absentee ballots, a process known as curing.
The reasons that Kentucky Republicans have diverged on voting rights range from the political to the logistical. For one, they had an easier sell: With sweeping new rules allowing the 2020 election to be held safely during the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans in Kentucky had one of their best cycles in years, with both Senator Mitch McConnell and President Donald J. Trump easily winning in the state.
And expanding voting access in Kentucky was a low bar to clear; the state had some of the tightest voting laws in the country before 2020, with not a single day of early voting, and strict limits on absentee balloting.
Republicans and Democrats alike in Kentucky have overwhelmingly supported and celebrated the bill, calling it a welcome bipartisan achievement. But voting rights advocates have been more muted, pointing to the legislation’s relatively limited scope and its mixture of measures, like the introduction of a short early voting period, as well as new restrictions heralded under the banner of election security. They caution that the proposal represents a modest improvement in a state long hostile to voting rights — a fact even conservatives have acknowledged.
“Kentucky actually had probably, until this point, the most restrictive laws in the country on voting,” said Michael Adams, the Republican secretary of state, who was the leading force behind the bill. “And that’s what we’re trying to change.”
Hours after a top Senate official informed Democrats that they could potentially have more chances to use a complex budget maneuver to push through their agenda without any Republican votes, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, was on television outlining the breadth of liberal ambitions.
Democrats aimed to enact President Biden’s plan to transform the nation’s infrastructure, he said, provide for paid family and medical leave, and expand health care, potentially including Medicare.
The musing by Mr. Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, reflected the high hopes that Democrats have that a new ruling from the chamber’s parliamentarian will open more avenues for them to push a wide range of their priorities through a Congress where they have precariously small majorities.
“The devil is in the details, and we don’t know the details yet — that’s going have to be negotiated, and better understood,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview on Tuesday. “It gives us the possibility of going forward with more than one piece of legislation, and that’s obviously advantageous to what we’re trying to do.”
All of it could be easier thanks to the parliamentarian’s opinion issued Monday that the budget resolution passed in February could be reopened to include at least one more round of reconciliation, which allows for measures governing taxes and spending to be protected from filibusters. That could give Democrats more chances to steer around Republican opposition and push through major budgetary legislation.
The process is fraught with challenges, including strict rules that limit what can be included, and Democrats would still have to muster 50 votes for any proposal, a tall order for some of their more expansive ideas.
But the newfound leeway could ultimately ease the way for some of their most ambitious endeavors.
Activists have also urged Mr. Biden to consider more remote possibilities, like using reconciliation to provide a pathway to citizenship for some of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including farmworkers, essential workers and those brought to the country as children known as Dreamers.
It remains unclear how and when Democrats might take advantage of the ruling. But pressure is mounting for them to push the boundaries of what the ruling party can do when it controls both congressional chambers and the White House.