13/05/2021

President Will Outline a Bold Agenda to Congress as Republicans Balk at Spending

Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

President Biden will speak to a deeply divided Congress and a weary nation on Wednesday, delivering his first formal address to lawmakers as he seeks to refashion the American government and economy in the wake of a devastating pandemic.

Marking his 100th day in the Oval Office this week, the president is eager to claim credit for aggressively confronting the health and economic crises that have at times overwhelmed the United States, killing more than 570,000 people and upending work, recreation and schooling across the country.

Mr. Biden campaigned for president on a promise to wage what he said would be a bipartisan battle against the coronavirus, but he failed to win the support of a single Republican as he pushed through a $1.9 trillion plan to begin reversing the pandemic’s economic destruction.

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Biden will return to Capitol Hill, where he served for nearly four decades as a senator, to try again. He will call for vastly greater spending to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure by imposing new taxes on businesses and corporations. And he will urge lawmakers from both parties to embrace a sweeping new vision for public benefits, financed by higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Taken together, Mr. Biden’s proposals are a complete reversal of the direction championed by President Donald J. Trump and a sharp departure from the more incremental change pushed by Democratic presidents like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

In his address, Mr. Biden will say that the moment of crisis demands a sufficiently bold response from both sides of the political aisle. But aides said the president would make clear that he was prepared to once again act without Republican support if necessary.

Mr. Biden will deliver his speech without some of the pomp and circumstance that typically surround a president’s first national address. Because of the pandemic, the House chamber will not be tightly packed with lawmakers and administration officials, but will instead feature a smaller, socially distanced selection of senators and representatives. In another break with tradition, White House aides said there would be no guests of the first lady sitting in the gallery.

But the president will still make use of a potentially large television audience to lay out his broader foreign policy and domestic agenda.

He will describe his decision to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11 as a way to make good on his promise to end America’s “forever wars.” But he will warn that the United States still faces a range of other threats: an emergent China, an increasingly aggressive Russia, the growing cyberattack threat, nuclear ambitions from Iran and North Korea, and pockets of instability around the globe.

Aides said they expected Mr. Biden to renew his call for Congress to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system, one that would provide a pathway to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. And he will urge Congress to come together around changes to policing practices, including passage of a federal policing overhaul named after George Floyd, who was killed last year by a police officer in Minneapolis.

After recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado led to calls for new action on guns, Mr. Biden this month issued several executive orders to address the problem, while calling the country’s gun violence “an international embarrassment.” On Wednesday, he will repeat his call for Congress to go further by passing new laws to tighten background checks.

President Biden’s plan to increase the scope of the child care industry would have a profound effect on working families and mothers in particular.
Credit…Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

In his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, President Biden is expected to unveil a sweeping plan to overhaul the child care sector, one that is intended to bring the country significantly closer to having a universal educational system for infants and toddlers, according to senior administration officials.

While the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan the president signed last month included a nearly $40 billion investment in child care assistance, the new proposal would set aside $425 billion — the largest ever federal investment in child care — to scale up and enhance the industry so that affordable, high-quality early education is available to almost every parent.

The plan is a part of Mr. Biden’s goal to cast caregiving, an industry that largely unraveled during the pandemic, as “a critical component of our economy,” Carmel Martin, deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, said in an interview with The New York Times.

The child care overhaul is set to be one part of Mr. Biden’s American Families Plan, which would increase taxes on the richest Americans to pay for the expansion of programs that benefit the poor and the middle class.

While that approach has already drawn harsh criticism from Republicans in Congress, administration officials argue that the higher taxes will be offset over the long-term by increased economic productivity, as better, more affordable child care would enable more parents, particularly women, to get back to work.

Even before the pandemic, the child care industry was hanging by a thread. According to a 2019 analysis by Moody’s Analytics, the cost of day care has doubled since 1999, rising at a faster rate than even housing and pharmaceutical costs, and can eat up almost a third of median household income. At the same time, the median pay for child care workers — a majority of whom are women and women of color — was a little over $12 per hour in 2020, or about $25,500 a year, compared with $60,000 a year for kindergarten teachers.

Mr. Biden’s proposal would markedly expand who would be eligible for child care subsidies, which are currently only available for those in the lowest income brackets. The president’s plan would ensure that a large chunk of Americans who fall in the middle-income bracket would pay no more than 7 percent of their income on care for children younger than 6 and low-income parents would pay nothing at all. The proposal would also spend $200 billion to make prekindergarten free for all 3- and 4-year-old children.

Those subsidies would be tied to certain quality standards that providers would have to meet, including paying their staff no less than $15 an hour and providing on-the-job training programs.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, said the American Families Plan would “incentivize women to rely on the federal government.”
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

As President Biden rolls out his far-reaching $1.8 trillion plan to expand access to education and child care, Republicans are not expected to present their own alternative package, instead arguing that such an ambitious expansion of the social safety net is unnecessary and harmful to the economy.

Republicans have tapped Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina to deliver their rebuttal to Mr. Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, spotlighting the party’s sole Black senator who often leans heavily on his extraordinary biography to argue against large government assistance programs.

Even before the president had outlined his proposal or Mr. Scott had responded, Republicans rejected Mr. Biden’s plan, which is to be financed largely by tax increases on high earners and corporations, protesting the notion of reversing a sweeping collection of tax cuts they pushed through in 2017 under former President Donald J. Trump.

“What this would do is incentivize women to rely on the federal government to organize their lives,” Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said in an appearance on Fox Business on Wednesday, calling the president’s proposal an “anti-family plan” that would lead to higher taxes. “It takes away from them the ability to organize their family life as they would like to organize it.”

While Republicans last week introduced their own, significantly slimmed down answer to Mr. Biden’s sprawling infrastructure package, offering a $568 billion counterproposal that Democrats dismissed as inadequate, they have not offered their own version of an education and child care bill. Some individual senators have introduced significantly narrower pieces of legislation designed to aid families.

Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Lee of Utah in 2019 introduced a paid parental leave plan. Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Josh Hawley of Missouri have both argued in favor of expanding the child tax credit to provide all but the wealthiest families with regular monthly checks. But those efforts have been largely driven by individual senators and have faced resistance from other Republicans, some of whom have chafed at any measures that might resemble “welfare assistance.” They have yet to win the imprimatur of the party’s leaders.

Mr. Romney expressed skepticism on Wednesday about the total cost of Mr. Biden’s package of economic proposals, calling it “a massive amount of spending.”

“Maybe if he were younger, I’d say his dad needs to take away the credit card,” Mr. Romney said to reporters.

Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, took to the Senate floor to accuse Mr. Biden of pushing unnecessary “partisan policies.”

“When you think about infrastructure, you think about roads, you think about bridges, you think about broadband,” Mr. Tillis said. “You don’t think about human infrastructure, but that’s what’s being pitched today. And it’s being pitched on a partisan basis, without even attempting to get a single Republican vote.”

A prompt counterproposal is unlikely to come from the House either. Top Republicans in that chamber selected members earlier this week to begin drafting a broad array of legislation on jobs and the economy, “the future of American freedoms” and other issues that are expected to shape their agenda leading up to the midterm elections.

President Biden at the White House on Tuesday. He is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.
Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

President Biden is a man with a plan. Three plans, actually.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden announced the third blockbuster domestic funding proposal of his presidency, hours before his first speech before a joint session of Congress. Mr. Biden’s plans add up to about $6 trillion and reflect an ambition to restore the federal government to the role it played during the New Deal and Great Society.

Here is what the plans — one passed and two pending — would do.

Mr. Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, passed in the Senate by a 50-to-49, party-line vote in March, was a sequel to the $2.2 trillion pandemic relief bill enacted during the Trump administration a year ago.

The centerpiece of the bill was a one-time direct payment of up to $1,400 for hundreds of millions of Americans, along with a $300 weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits through the summer, and money for distributing vaccines.

It included $350 billion in emergency funding for localities — $195 billion for states, $130 billion for local governments, $20 billion for tribal governments and $4.5 billion for territories.

But it was also aimed at reducing long-term poverty. The plan provides $21.6 billion for federally subsidized housing, an enormous infusion of cash into a long-stagnant sector, with billions in emergency rental assistance and longer-term capital projects.

Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan, unveiled on March 31, includes $621 billion for transportation projects, including bridges, roads, mass transit, ports, airports and electric vehicle development.

It would also funnel $111 billion into improving drinking-water infrastructure, and provide billions more for expanding broadband access and upgrading electric grids.

It adds $20 billion worth of tax credits for the construction and renovation of 500,000 units of affordable housing, an additional $40 billion for public housing capital improvements, and $100 billion for building and upgrading public schools.

About $300 billion is slated for assisting manufacturers and small businesses, and improving access to capital and investment in clean energy, along with $100 billion for work force development.

The most transformational and polarizing element of the plan is $400 billion for “home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities” — an attempt by Mr. Biden to expand the definition of infrastructure to include the fast-growing network of workers responsible for caring for the country’s aging population.

How he would pay for it: raising the corporate tax rate, which Republicans have cut in recent years, to 28 percent from 21 percent and forcing multinational corporations to pay significantly more in taxes.

The Biden administration on Wednesday detailed a collection of spending increases and tax cuts that seeks to expand access to education, reduce the cost of child care and support women in the work force.

While some details remain vague, the plan includes $1 trillion in new spending and $800 billion in tax credits.

It includes a $225 billion investment in federally subsidized child care and a paid family and medical leave program that will cost about $225 billion over the next decade as well as a $200 billion reduction in premiums for people enrolled in the Affordable Care Act.

It would also provide $200 billion in new education funding that would include free universal preschool for 5 million children in low-income and working-class families. In addition, Mr. Biden is also requesting funding for two free years of community college education to all Americans, including young immigrants known as the Dreamers.

How he would pay for it: The plan includes $80 billion in enhancements to the I.R.S., which the administration estimates could raise $700 billion from high earners and corporations that evade taxes.

Mr. Biden also wants to increase the marginal income tax rate for the top 1 percent of American income earners, to 39.6 percent from 37 percent and raise capital gains and dividend tax rates for those who earn more than $1 million a year.

President Biden discussed the American Jobs Plan with lawmakers in the Oval Office earlier this month.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Biden’s three big “American” plans — the first addressing the pandemic, the second focused on infrastructure, the third heralding a broad expansion of federal social investment — represent an epochal policy shift that dwarfs the aspirations of his recent predecessors.

But the $6 trillion trio of proposals, expected to be the focus of Mr. Biden’s Wednesday night address to Congress, represents a political strategy so basic, so rooted in old-school 20th-century Democratic orthodoxy, that it is easy to overlook its audacity.

Just as he did during his campaign, Mr. Biden is attempting to subvert, or at the very least loosen, the Republican grip on white working-class voters. He is doing so by offering an avalanche of federal funding intended to directly improve their day-to-day lives, and letting them know where to send their thank-you notes: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

“Why is he spending money is simple — he’s basically saying to Americans, ‘I’m going to spend rich people’s money on your needs,’” said Mitchell Moss, a New York University urban policy professor who has studied the intersection of public spending and politics for a half century.

“That message is intended for Trump voters just as much as it is intended for Biden voters,” Mr. Moss added. “Trump’s idea of picking a fight was to yell at somebody. Biden is killing everybody with warmth, and money.”

Republicans in Congress have decided, more or less en masse, to oppose proposals that are relatively popular among all voters, including their own, or to pitch much smaller fixes.

President Obama, Mr. Biden’s friend and former boss, was also a fan of a more cautious approach, opting for a $831 billion stimulus package that seems small compared to the Biden proposals.

Mr. Biden, who was frustrated by Mr. Obama’s unwillingness to sell his plan to voters, is intent on doing everything on a scale so enormous that even Trump supporters cannot ignore his work on their behalf.

One particularly successful federal benefit program, in terms of bipartisan political support, has been the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, widely known as food stamps, because it provides win-win benefits to big cities, which receive the food, and to agricultural areas, where it is produced.

Mr. Biden is supersizing the SNAP approach. His everybody-wins infrastructure proposal, and his $400 billion plan to fund home and communal care for the elderly and disabled, have been designed to distribute aid, more or less equally, on both sides of the red-blue divide.

Now Mr. Biden needs to ensure the passage of the $2.3 trillion infrastructure measure, then follow up with the $1.8 trillion education, work force and child care bill he rolled out ahead of his speech.

The Senate is deadlocked 50-to-50. Republicans, divided as they might appear, have proven adept in opposition, and have seized on Mr. Biden’s proposed tax increases on corporations and the wealthy to argue that Mr. Biden plans to stealthily raise taxes on the middle class.

“It’s like a Trojan horse,” Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, told reporters recently.

Members of the National Guard outside the Capitol in Washington this month. The building is under strict security measures and pandemic safety protocols.
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Congressional officials have ramped up security and drastically limited the number of attendees for President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, preparing the Capitol for the long-awaited speech under the strictures of a pandemic and a heightened threat level after the deadly Jan. 6 riot.

Inside the cavernous House chamber, Mr. Biden will address only 200 people instead of the usual 1,600. Only a fraction of members of the House and the Senate — some chosen by lottery, others on a first-come, first-served basis — have received invitations, and just a small group of the usual dignitaries from the other branches of government will attend.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will be the lone member of the Supreme Court on hand, according to a court spokeswoman. Instead of the full complement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman, will attend, along with Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.

Denied their traditional privilege of inviting a guest to sit in the House gallery for the speech, some lawmakers have resorted to remote invitations. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s virtual guest is a doctor who runs a community health center for Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in her hometown, San Francisco; Representative Sara Jacobs, a California freshman, invited a child-care worker.

But the Capitol itself will be emptier than it has ever been for the speech. The House sergeant-at-arms has asked anyone who does not have a ticket to attend — including lawmakers — to leave the building by 5 p.m. Wednesday, hours before Mr. Biden is to arrive.

The unusual preparations promise to lend a surreal mood to what is usually an elaborate and tradition-bound ritual in Washington — a State of the Union-style address delivered by a newly sworn-in president. They are the latest reminder of the challenges facing Mr. Biden, who took office during one of the more difficult and traumatic stretches in modern American history.

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Sen. Tim Scott Delivers G.O.P. Rebuttal to Biden

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina was chosen to deliver the G.O.P. rebuttal to President Biden’s remarks on Wednesday as the party seeks to broaden its support among people of color.

Good evening. I’m Senator Tim Scott from the great state of South Carolina. We just heard President Biden’s first address to Congress. Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words. But President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership. You promise to unite a nation, to lower the temperature, to govern for all Americans, no matter how we voted. This was the pitch. You just heard it again. But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that brings us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart. I won’t waste your time with finger pointing or partisan bickering. You can get that on TV any time you want. I want to have an honest conversation about common sense, and common ground. About this feeling that our nation is sliding off its shared foundation and how we move forward together. Growing up, I never dreamed I would be standing here tonight. When I was a kid my parents divorced. My mother, my brother and I moved in with my grandparents. Three of us sharing one bedroom. I was disillusioned and angry. And I nearly failed out of school. But I was blessed. First with a praying mom. And let me say this to the single mothers out there who are working their tails off, working hard, trying to make the ends meet wondering if it’s worth it. You can bet it is. God bless your amazing effort on the part of your kids. I was also blessed by a Chick-fil-A operator, John Moniz. And finally, with a string of opportunities that are only possible here in America. This past year, I’ve watched Covid attack every rung of the ladder that helped me up. So many families have lost parents and grandparents too early. So many small businesses have gone under. Becoming a Christian transformed my life. But for months, too many churches were shut down. Most of all I’m saddened that millions of kids have lost a year of learning when they could not afford to lose a single day. Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future. Our public schools should have reopened months ago, other countries did. Private and religious schools did. Science has shown for months that schools are safe. But too often powerful, grown ups set science aside and kids like me were left behind. The clearest case I’ve seen for school choice in our lifetimes, because we know that education is the closest thing to magic in America. Last year, under Republican leadership, we passed five bipartisan Covid packages. Congress supported our schools, our hospitals, saved our economy and funded Operation Warp Speed, delivering vaccines in record time. All five bills got 90, 90 votes in the senate. Common sense found common ground. In February, Republicans told President Biden we wanted to keep working together to finish this fight. But Democrats wanted to go it alone. They spent almost $2 trillion on a partisan bill that the White House bragged was the most liberal bill in American history. Only 1% went to vaccinations, no requirement to reopen schools promptly. Covid brought Congress together 5 times. This administration pushed us apart. Another issue that should unite us is infrastructure. Republican support everything you think of when you think of infrastructure. Roads, bridges, ports, airports, waterways, high speed broadband, we’re in for all of that. But again, Democrats want a partisan wish list, they won’t even build bridges to build bridges. Less than six percent, the president’s plan goes to roads and bridges. It’s a liberal wish list of big government waste. Plus the biggest job killing tax hikes in a generation. Experts say when all is said and done, it would lower wages of the average American worker and shrink our economy. Tonight, we also heard about a so-called family plan. Even more taxing, even more spending to put Washington even more in the middle of your life from the cradle to college. The beauty of the American dream is that families get to define it for themselves. We should be expanding opportunities and options for all families, not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best. Infrastructure spending that shrinks our economy is not common sense. Weakening our southern borders and creating a crisis is not compassionate. The president is also abandoning principles he’s held for decades. Now he says your tax dollars should fund abortions. He’s laying groundwork to pack the Supreme Court. This is not common ground. Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping. I remember every morning at the kitchen table, my grandfather would open the newspaper and read it, I thought. But later I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example. I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called Uncle Tom and the n-word by progressives, by liberals. Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege. Because a relative owned land generations before my time. Believe me, I know firsthand our healing is not finished. In 2015 after the shooting of Walter Scott, I wrote a bill to fund body cameras. Last year after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I built an even bigger police reform proposal. But my Democratic colleagues blocked it. I extended an olive branch. I offered amendments. But Democrats used the filibuster to block the debate from even happening. My friends across the aisle seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution. But I’m still working. I’m hopeful that this will be different. When America comes together, we’ve made tremendous progress, but powerful forces want to pull us apart. 100 years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic. And if they looked a certain way, they were inferior. Today kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again. And if you look a certain way, they’re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all. By doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal. You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination, and it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present. I’m an African-American who’s voted in the South my entire life. I take voting rights personally. Republicans support making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. And so do the voters. Big majorities of Americans support early voting, and big majorities support voter I.D. including African-Americans and Hispanics. Common sense makes common ground. But today, this conversation has collapsed. The state of Georgia passed a law that expands early voting, preserves no excuse mail in voting, and despite what the president claimed, did not reduce election day hours. If you actually read this law, it’s mainstream. It will be easier to vote early in Georgia than in Democrat-run New York. But the left doesn’t want you to know that. that they want people virtue signaling by yelling about a law they haven’t even read. Fact checkers have called out the White House for misstatements. The president absurdly claims that this is worse than Jim Crow. What is going on here? I’ll tell you. A Washington power grab. This misplaced outrage is supposed to justify democrats’ new sweeping bill that would take over elections for all 50 states. It would send public funds to political campaigns you disagree with and make the bi-partisan Federal Elections Commission partisan. This is not about civil rights or our racial past. It’s about rigging elections in the future. And no, the same filibuster that President Obama and President Biden praised when they were senators, the same filibuster that the Democrats used to kill my police reform bill last year has not suddenly become a racist relic just because the shoe is now on the other foot. Race is not a political weapon to settle every issue the way one side wants. It’s far too important. This should be a joyful springtime for our nation. This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run. Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines. Thanks to our bipartisan work last year, job openings are rebounding. So why do we feel so divided? Anxious. A nation with so much cause for hope should not feel so heavy laden. A president who promised to bring us together should not be pushing agendas that tear us apart. The American Family deserves better. And we know what better looks like. Just before Covid, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime. The lowest unemployment rates ever recorded for African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. And a 70 year low nearly, for women. Wages for, hear me, wages were growing faster at the bottom than at the top. The bottom 25% saw their wages go up faster than the top 25%. That happened because Republicans focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans. In addition to that, we passed opportunity zones, criminal justice reform, and permanent funding for historically Black colleges and universities for the first time ever. We fought the drug epidemic, rebuilt our military, and cut taxes for working families and single moms like the one that raised me. Our best future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you, the American people. Black, Hispanic, white and Asian. Republican and Democrat. Brave police officers in Black neighborhoods. We are not adversaries. We are family. We are all in this together. And we get to live in the greatest country on Earth. The country, where my grandfather in his 94 years saw his family go from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. So I am more than hopeful. I am confident that our finest hour has yet to come. Original sin is never the end of the story. Not in our souls and not for our nation. The real story is always redemption. I am standing here because my mom has prayed me through some really tough times. I believe our nation has succeeded the same way. Because generations of Americans in their own ways have asked for grace and God has supplied it. So I will close with a word from a worship song that really helped me through this past year of Covid. The music is new, but the words draw from scripture. May the Lord bless you and keep you. Make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May his presence go before you and behind you and beside you. In your weeping and your rejoicing. He is for you. May his favor be upon our nation for thousand generations. And your family and your children and their children. Good night. And God bless the United States of America.

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Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina was chosen to deliver the G.O.P. rebuttal to President Biden’s remarks on Wednesday as the party seeks to broaden its support among people of color.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina on Wednesday night dismissed President Biden’s latest ambitious economic package and accused him of abandoning his pledge to work with Republicans, advancing instead a divisive and partisan agenda.

Delivering his party’s rebuttal to Mr. Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Scott, the sole Black Republican senator, panned the president’s $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, as “big government waste” and unloaded on a litany of issues Republicans have sought to put front and center, including coronavirus lockdowns that shuttered schools, the influx of migrants at the southern border, and protests targeting police brutality against Black Americans.

“America is not a racist country,” Mr. Scott said, invoking his own experience as a Black man from the South. “It’s wrong to try to use our painful past to try to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

Mr. Scott leaned heavily on his extraordinary biography to argue against Mr. Biden’s two-pronged infrastructure plan — one measure to bolster the nation’s roads and bridges and another to expand access to education and child care.

“Our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes,” Mr. Scott said Wednesday evening. “We need policies and progress that brings us closer together. For three months, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.”

Mr. Scott, 55, offers a brand of unapologetic conservatism that has helped him rise from the Charleston County Council to national prominence in the Republican Party.

He is seen as a uniting figure in a fractious Congress, and Mr. Scott returned repeatedly throughout his remarks to the theme of partisanship, accusing Democrats of intentionally seeking to push divisive policies through Washington.

“The president who promised to bring us together should not be pushing agendas that tear us apart,” Mr. Scott said. “American families deserve better.”

Mr. Scott was tapped to deliver the rebuttal by the Republican leaders — Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California — at a time when the G.O.P. has been eager to bolster its support with people of color. And during his years in the Senate, Mr. Scott has often provided guidance for his colleagues on matters of race.

Most recently, as the debate about police brutality has intensified, Mr. Scott has offered his own candid experiences on the Senate floor of being racially profiled by police. He has also positioned himself as an informed voice on the challenges facing working families, invoking his early years growing up poor with a single working mother.

As he concluded his address, Mr. Scott, who is deeply religious, drew on themes of redemption and grace. “Our best future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams; it will come from the American people — Black, Hispanic, white, Asian, Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “We are not adversaries. We are all in this together.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will be the only Supreme Court Justice attending President Biden’s joint address to Congress.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

President Biden will deliver his first joint address to Congress at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, reflecting on his first 100 days in office and mapping out his administration’s legislative plans.

The speech will be an unusual affair by historical standards.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, attendance will be slim, with only about 200 people allowed into the House chamber. Mr. Biden’s remarks are also expected to combine elements of the traditional first joint address and the State of the Union speech that presidents have typically made later in their term.

Still, Mr. Biden is expected to make a broad case for his administration’s goals that will inform debate in Congress in the weeks ahead.

Mr. Biden is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. on Wednesday. The New York Times will provide video coverage of the address along with live analysis and fact-checking.

The speech will also be streamed live on YouTube and C-SPAN.

Taking into account pandemic protocols, Mr. Biden will speak before a reduced crowd of roughly 200 attendees, fewer than the 1,600 guests in past years.

With the House out of session this week, many lawmakers are not in Washington, and only a few from each party are expected to attend in person.

A number of prominent senators — including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina — have indicated that they will be present.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is expected to be the only member of the Supreme Court in attendance.

In recent years, a president’s first address to a joint session of Congress has had the trappings of a State of the Union speech, but it is not formally known as one. Just as with the State of the Union, a president uses the first address to promote his policy agenda, and Mr. Biden has no end of legislation to push for.

After working with Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill in March, Mr. Biden is now hoping to sell lawmakers on other similarly wide-ranging proposals, including a spending package focused on infrastructure and another on child care, tuition for community college and paid family leave.

Separate from the first joint address, the Constitution states that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

While it does not specify how early or often a State of the Union address should be delivered, many presidents have waited until later in their terms to do so.

Given that the United States is in the throes of a pandemic that has left deep scars on the economy, Mr. Biden is also expected to weave in an assessment of the country’s progress and his administration’s achievements since he took office in January.

Federal authorities have been largely focused on whether Rudy Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early Wednesday at the home and office of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became President Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, stepping up a criminal investigation into Mr. Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

The investigators seized Mr. Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the people said.

Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president. It is a major turning point in the long-running investigation into Mr. Giuliani, who as mayor steered New York through the Sept. 11 attacks and earlier in his career led the same U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that is now investigating him.

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer questions from prosecutors, except those regarding his privileged communications with the former president.

The federal authorities have been largely focused on whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the same time were helping Mr. Giuliani search for dirt on Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including President Biden, who was then a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan and the F.B.I. had for months sought to secure a search warrant for Mr. Giuliani’s phones.

Under Mr. Trump, senior political appointees in the Justice Department repeatedly sought to block such a warrant, The New York Times reported, slowing the investigation as it was gaining momentum last year. After Merrick B. Garland was confirmed as President Biden’s attorney general, the Justice Department lifted its objection to the search.

While the warrant is not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Mr. Giuliani, it shows that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase. To obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.

Spokesmen for the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

Flaring of natural gas in the Permian Basin, TX.
Credit…Jessica Lutz for The New York Times

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday to effectively reinstate an Obama-era regulation that sought to clamp down on the release of methane, a powerful climate-warming pollutant that will have to be controlled to meet President Biden’s ambitious climate change promises.

Taking a page from congressional Republicans who in 2017 made liberal use of a once-obscure law to roll back Obama-era regulations, Democrats will invoke the law to turn back a Trump methane rule enacted late last summer. That rule had eliminated Obama-era controls on leaks of methane, which seeps from oil and gas wells.

The vote will be the first time congressional Democrats have used the law, called the Congressional Review Act, which prohibits Senate filibusters and ensures one administration’s last-minute regulations can be swiftly overturned with a simple majority vote in both chambers of Congress.

If the Senate can muster 50 votes on Wednesday, passage in the House next month is considered pro forma, as is Mr. Biden’s signature. And with Donald J. Trump’s regulation out of the way, the Obama methane rule would go back into force.

That rule, released in 2016, had imposed the first federal limits on methane leaks from oil and gas wells, requiring companies to monitor, plug and capture leaks of methane from new drilling sites.

A woman dropped off her ballot at a drop box on the last day of early voting in West Palm Beach, Fla., in November.
Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

A bill that would impose a raft of new restrictions on voting in Florida cleared the State House of Representatives on Wednesday after hours of contentious debate. Democrats denounced the legislation as overly stringent and unnecessary, and Republicans argued that it would install necessary “guardrails” for securing elections, despite their acknowledgment that the state’s election last year had been a “gold standard” without fraud.

The bill passed on a 78-to-42 vote, largely along party lines. Because the House added significant amendments to the bill, which had previously passed the State Senate, the legislation now faces a final vote in the full Senate before it heads to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, who is expected to sign it.

The House revisions, which were made by Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican representative from Hernando County, north of Tampa, added new restrictions for the use of drop boxes, including an identification requirement for anyone who wants to drop a ballot into one. The revisions would also bar outside groups from providing funding or grants for the administration of local elections, and would further restrict who can collect and drop off absentee ballots.

The bill would also bar outside groups from giving items “with the intent to influence” voters within 150 feet of a voting location; add more identification requirements for absentee ballots; require voters to request an absentee ballot every election, rather than join an absentee voting list that would allow ballots to be sent out automatically for two consecutive cycles; and further empower partisan observers during the ballot tabulating process.

Democrats and civil rights groups have criticized the prohibition on giving voters items, saying it is meant to discourage providing food or water during potentially long, hot waits. Mr. Ingoglia said in a text message on Wednesday that if a truly nonpartisan group wanted to hand out food or drinks without any attempt to influence voters, “they are fine.”

Democrats in the Legislature repeatedly pressed Republican supporters of the bill for evidence of fraud in Florida that would bolster the G.O.P.’s case for the bill, but no examples were provided. Several Democrats noted that provisions of the bill, particularly the new identification requirements and ballot collection limitations, would have an outsize impact on communities of color.

“We know that it will have a disparate impact on folks like me, but it’s of no surprise because that’s our history,” said Christopher Benjamin, a Democratic representative from Miami-Dade County who is a Black man. “Our history has been to systematically, through subtleties that seem uninvasive, exclude our most vulnerable.”

“This bill doesn’t make elections better,” Mr. Benjamin said. “It doesn’t make elections easier. It continues a system that we have historically used to exclude.”

Republicans defended the bill, saying it was necessary to push forward with new rules for voting as a means of being proactive. They also noted that the current early voting laws in Florida, which allow for 45 days of in-person early balloting, are more expansive than those in other states.

“I take some issue with the fact that we’re trying to somehow restrict the vote,” said Ralph E. Massullo, a Republican representative from Hernando County. “There are more ways to vote in Florida, and a longer opportunity, than just about any state in the nation.”

But Democrats saw similarities to other states with Republican-controlled legislatures that have passed new restrictions on voting — most notably Florida’s neighbor Georgia, which recently passed a wide-ranging law.

“Please do not Georgia my Florida,” said Michael Grieco, a Democratic representative from Miami-Dade County.

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Ahmaud Arbery’s Final Minutes: What Videos and 911 Calls Show

Using security footage, cellphone video, 911 calls and police reports, The Times has reconstructed the 12 minutes before Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in Georgia on Feb. 23.

In February, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in the south Georgia neighborhood of Satilla Shores. In the two months that followed, no arrests were made. But local residents and lawmakers protested what they said was a deadly combination of racial profiling and flawed self-defense laws. “When they stop you, make sure you got your cameras on. Make sure you got a video.” Police did eventually arrest 2 suspects, but it was days after this video of the fatal shooting emerged. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis were charged with murder and aggravated assault. The case has reignited the national debate over racial violence. “I’m sure you saw the news about Ahmaud Arbery.” “It looks like murder.” “The American public saw the video.” What exactly happened in the last moments of Mr. Arbery’s life? Using security camera footage, cellphone video, and 911 calls and logs, The Times has reconstructed the critical 12 minutes from when Mr. Arbery appeared on Satilla Drive to his death, less than 300 yards away. It’s around 1 p.m. on Feb. 23 when Ahmaud Arbery is out, less than 2 miles from his home. A security camera at 219 Satilla Drive is recording when Mr. Arbery enters the frame at around 1:04 p.m. He may have been jogging in the area, but he stops on the front lawn of 220 Satilla, a house being built across the street. Arbery glances around and wanders into the open construction site. Inside, security footage briefly captures him looking around. Meanwhile outside, a neighbor walks from Jones Road towards Satilla Drive and calls 911. The neighbor waits by the street corner. He will later tell the dispatcher that Arbery resembles a recent trespasser in the area. On multiple occasions before Feb. 23, several trespassers were caught on camera at 220 Satilla. The owner routinely alerted the police. On four occasions, what appears to be the same man was filmed. It’s unclear if this was Arbery, but even if it were, this does not justify his shooting by neighbors outside on the street. The site’s owner says nothing was ever stolen from the house during these incidents or on Feb. 23, and no property was ever damaged. But neighbors were aware of the trespasses and the community was on alert. Now, back to the day in question. It’s 1:08 p.m. and Arbery is walking around inside the house. Four minutes after he entered, he walks out and runs off. In the top corner of the security footage, we can see down the street to 230 Satilla, the home of Travis McMichael. At 1:10 p.m., Travis and his father, Gregory, grab their guns, jump in a white truck, and leave the house to pursue Mr. Arbery. We don’t have footage showing the next 3 minutes, but testimony Gregory McMichael gave police at the scene, and interviews by another witness, Roddy Bryan, indicate what happened. Gregory and Travis McMichael follow Arbery onto Burford Road. Their neighbor Roddy Bryan sees the pursuit, gets in his car and follows. The McMichaels try to cut Arbery off. Arbery doubles back and passes them. Bryan tries to block Arbery, but Arbery runs past him and toward Holmes Road. Gregory McMichael climbs from the cab to the bed of the truck armed with a handgun. We don’t know exactly what happens next. But Bryan and the McMichaels end up following Arbery on Holmes Road. And we next see Arbery at 1:14 p.m. running back down Holmes Road away from Roddy Bryan and toward the McMichaels. Roddy Bryan is filming and — a warning — these scenes are distressing. Gregory McMichael dials 911 at this time. Let’s watch this back and break down what happens. This is Arbery. He has been running from the vehicles for almost 4 minutes. Travis is standing by the driver’s side of the truck, armed with a shotgun. Gregory is in the bed of the truck on the 911 call. Arbery doesn’t know where to run. He veers right, then left and then darts around the right side of the vehicle. Arbery comes around the front of the truck. We see his white T-shirt through the windshield and here is Travis now leaning toward him. This is the instant the first shot is fired. Arbery is hit in the chest, his right lung, ribs, and sternum are injured. The two men wrestle over the gun. Gregory shouts: “Travis!” Arbery punches Travis. In the back of the truck, Gregory drops the cellphone. A second blast goes off out of frame. But we see the shotgun smoke here. Arbery is heavily bleeding. He throws another punch. Travis fires a final shot, which hits Arbery in his left upper chest. Travis walks away holding his gun. Gregory gets off the truck clutching his .357 Magnum. According to the police report, Gregory rolled Arbery over to see if he had a weapon. He did not. Police officers arrive within seconds of the shooting, and a minute or so later at 1:16 p.m., Police Officer R. Minshew reports: Two subjects on Holmes Road. Shots fired. Male on ground bleeding out. The police took Gregory McMichael’s testimony and let the two men go. But now the McMichaels both face serious charges. Hi, this is Malachy and I reported this story. For transparency, a note about the security footage used in this video, which was first published by The Atlanta Journal Constitution. The time code you see here is incorrect. We know this because we lined up what we see in this video with what we hear in two 911 calls and we confirmed the time of those calls. These details and police logs also allowed us to determine that Gregory McMichael called 911 from his son’s phone just before the fatal shooting. So in this video, we used the real time that events happened. Thank you for watching.

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Using security footage, cellphone video, 911 calls and police reports, The Times has reconstructed the 12 minutes before Ahmaud Arbery was shot dead in Georgia on Feb. 23.

Three Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

The deadly encounter helped fuel nationwide racial justice protests last year, and the charges are the most significant hate crimes prosecution so far by the Biden administration, which has made civil rights protections a major priority.

The suspects — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51 — were each charged with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race and with one count of attempted kidnapping.

Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm. Travis McMichael is accused of shooting Mr. Arbery.

“As Arbery was running on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, Travis and Gregory McMichael armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at him, using their truck to cut off his route, and threatening him with firearms,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

Mr. Bryan joined the chase and used his truck to cut off Mr. Arbery, the Justice Department said. The three men were accused of chasing after Mr. Arbery in their trucks in an attempt to restrain and detain him against his will.

The case also prompted an outcry after news reports and video footage indicated that a local prosecutor had wrongly determined that the pursuers had acted within bounds of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, and that Mr. McMichael shot Mr. Arbery in self-defense.

Months after the February shooting, video surfaced that seemed to undercut the idea that Mr. McMichael acted in self-defense. The video showed Mr. Arbery jogging, then coming upon a man standing beside a truck and another man in the pickup bed. After Mr. Arbery runs around the truck, shouting is heard and then he reappears, tussling with the man outside of the truck. Three shotgun blasts are then fired.

The prosecutor, George E. Barnhill, the district attorney for Georgia’s Waycross Judicial Circuit, later recused himself from the case, and the state took over the investigation.

The three men also face state charges with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony. No date has been set for a trial.