Biden Is Set for a Big Week of Spending Plans
President Biden will detail plans for $3 trillion in new spending and up to $1 trillion in tax credits and incentives. Here’s the latest on Washington.,
President Biden and his administration will lay out a sweeping array of proposals for increased federal spending this week, including the first look at his budget plans for the year and the details of his much-anticipated infrastructure plan.
The president will travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to detail a “Build Back Better” proposal that aides say will include $3 trillion in new spending and up to $1 trillion more in tax credits and other tax incentives.
It will feature investments in traditional infrastructure projects like rebuilding roads, bridges and water systems; spending to advance a transition to a lower-carbon energy system, like electric vehicle charging stations and the construction of energy-efficient buildings; investments in emerging industries like advanced batteries; education efforts like free community college and universal prekindergarten; and measures to help women work and earn more, like increased support for child care.
Mr. Biden’s agenda is expected to be offset, at least in part, by a wide range of tax increases on corporations and high earners.
The president said at a news conference last week that his next initiative would be “to rebuild the infrastructure — both physical and technological infrastructure in this country — so that we can compete and create significant numbers of really good-paying jobs. Really good-paying jobs.”
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget is also expected this week to release Mr. Biden’s discretionary funding request for the next fiscal year — detailing spending that is separate from the infrastructure plan. White House officials say it will lay out agency-by-agency funding levels and other information to help congressional committees begin to write next year’s appropriation’s bills, which for the first time in a decade will not be limited by spending caps imposed by Congress. (Lawmakers have agreed to break those caps in recent years.)
That request will not include Mr. Biden’s tax plans, the officials said. The administration’s full budget will be presented to Congress later this spring.
Mr. Biden has already signed $1.9 trillion of new spending into law, a coronavirus relief bill that included direct payments to individuals, expansions of the safety net for the unemployed and low-income workers, and new tax credits meant to lift people, particularly children, out of poverty.
Aides presented Mr. Biden last week with a plan to break his infrastructure proposal in two, in order to maximize its chances of clearing a Congress where Democrats hold a narrow majority. On Sunday, a reporter asked Mr. Biden if he had chosen whether to split up the package or push a single bill.
“I have,” he said, “but I ain’t telling you.”
In interviews broadcast on CNN Sunday night, former President Donald J. Trump’s pandemic officials confirmed in stark and no uncertain terms what was already an open secret in Washington: The administration’s pandemic response was riddled with dysfunction, and the discord, untruths and infighting most likely cost many lives.
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, Mr. Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, suggested that hundreds of thousands of Americans may have died needlessly, and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the testing czar, said the administration had lied to the public about the availability of testing.
The comments were among a string of bombshells that emerged during a CNN special report that featured the doctors who led the government’s coronavirus response in 2020.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accused Mr. Trump’s health secretary, Alex M. Azar III, and the secretary’s leadership team of pressuring him to revise scientific reports. “Now he may deny that, but it’s true,” Dr. Redfield said in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent. Mr. Azar, in a statement, denied it.
Dr. Stephen K. Hahn, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said his relationship with Mr. Azar had grown “strained” after the health secretary revoked the agency’s power to regulate coronavirus tests. “That was a line in the sand for me,” Dr. Hahn said. When Dr. Gupta asked him if Mr. Azar had screamed at him, Dr. Hahn replied: “You should ask him that question.”
But it was Dr. Birx, who has been pilloried for praising Mr. Trump as being “so attentive to the scientific literature” and for not publicly correcting the president as he made outlandish claims about unproven therapies, whose disclosures may have been the most compelling.
As of Sunday, more than 548,000 Americans have died from infection with the coronavirus. “I look at it this way,” she said. “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge.”
“All of the rest of them,” she said, referring to almost 450,000 deaths, “in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially” had the administration acted more aggressively.
In what was in one of her first televised interviews since leaving the White House in January, she also described a “very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult” phone call with Mr. Trump after she spoke out about the dangers of the virus last summer. “Everybody in the White House was upset with that interview,” she said.
After that, she decided to travel the country to talk to state and local leaders about masks and social distancing and other public health measures that the president didn’t want her to explain to the American public from the White House podium.
Dr. Gupta asked if she was being censored. “Clearly someone was blocking me from doing it,” she said. “My understanding was I could not be national because the president might see it.”
Several of the officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci — who unlike the others is a career scientist and is now advising President Biden — blamed China, where the virus was first detected, for not being open enough with the United States. And several, including Dr. Redfield and Admiral Giroir, said early stumbles with testing — and the attitude within the White House that testing made the president look bad by driving up the number of case reports — were a serious problem in the administration’s response.
And the problems with testing went beyond simply Mr. Trump’s obsession with optics. Admiral Giroir said that the administration simply did not have as many tests as top officials claimed at the time.
“When we said there were millions of tests — there weren’t, right?” he said. “There were components of the test available but not the full deal.”
By the end of Monday, thousands of yellow envelopes mailed to a squat brick building in Birmingham, Ala., will hold the fate of one of the most closely watched union elections in recent history, one that could alter the shape of the labor movement.
The envelopes contain the ballots of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer. Almost 6,000 workers at the building, one of Amazon’s largest, are eligible to decide whether they form the first union at an Amazon operation in the United States, after years of fierce resistance by the company.
The ballots were mailed out to workers in early February and must be signed and received by the labor board by the end of Monday. On Tuesday, the vote counting begins — a process that could take many days.
The organizers have made the case in a monthslong campaign that Amazon’s intense monitoring of workers infringes on their dignity, and that its pay is not commensurate with the constant pressure workers feel to produce. The union estimates that roughly 85 percent of the work force at the warehouse is Black and has linked the organizing to the struggle for racial justice.
Amazon has countered that its $15 minimum wage is twice the state minimum, and that it offers health insurance and other benefits that can be hard to find in low-wage jobs.
Whatever the outcome of the vote, the union drive has already succeeded in roiling the world’s biggest e-commerce company and spotlighted complaints about its labor practices.
The vote comes at a delicate time for the company, which faces increasing scrutiny in Washington and around the world for its market power and influence, which have grown during the pandemic as consumers flocked online to avoid stores. President Biden has signaled his support for the workers, as have many progressive leaders.
If the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union succeeds, it would be a huge victory for the labor movement, whose membership has declined for decades. If the union loses, particularly by a large margin, Amazon will have turned the tide on a unionization drive that seemed to have many winds at its back.
“Obviously, we want to win,” Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, said Friday when he visited Alabama. “But I think a major point has already been proven. And that is that workers, even in the Deep South, are prepared to stand up and organize and fight for justice.”
Mr. Sanders’s visit appeared to have struck a nerve with Amazon. After he announced the trip, Dave Clark, who runs Amazon’s operations and worldwide consumer business, attacked Mr. Sanders in a series of messages on Twitter, as did the company’s official social media account.
“I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace,” Mr. Clark wrote in one tweet.