Biden Signs Bill Addressing Increase in Assaults Against Asian-Americans

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

President Biden signed a bill on Thursday meant to address a proliferation of assaults and other crimes against Asian-Americans since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris thanked Democratic and Republican lawmakers for joining together to pass the legislation.

“This bill brings us one step closer to stopping hate, not just against Asian-Americans, but for all Americans,” Ms. Harris said.

She said lawmakers still had work to do to combat discrimination and hate. “Racism exists in America,” she said. “Xenophobia exists in America. Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, it all exists.”

The law passed by a vote of 94 to 1 in the Senate and 364 to 62 in the House. “We simply haven’t seen this kind of bipartisanship for much too long in America,” Mr. Biden said.

“My message to all those of you who are hurting is, we see you,” Mr. Biden said. “And the Congress has said, we see you. And we are committed to stopping the hatred and the bias.”

Over the last year, more than 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents have been recorded nationwide, according to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate. New York had the largest increase in anti-Asian hate crimes relative to other major cities, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

The measure, led by Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, and Representative Grace Meng, Democrat of New York, will establish a position at the Justice Department to speed the agency’s review of hate crimes and expand the channels to report them, in an effort to improve data collection around attacks targeting Asian-Americans. It will also encourage the creation of state-run hate crimes hotlines, provide grants to law enforcement agencies that train their officers to identify hate crimes and introduce a series of public education campaigns around bias against people of Asian descent.

The bill amounts to the first legislative action Congress has taken to bolster law enforcement’s response to attacks on people of Asian descent during the coronavirus pandemic. Experts testified before a key House panel in March that attacks targeting Asian-Americans — many of them women or older people — have increased nearly 150 percent in the past year, with Americans of Asian descent reporting being spat on, shoved to the ground, beaten, and burned by chemicals.

Democratic Asian-Americans in Congress earlier in the year had confronted the Biden administration about what they said was an unacceptable lack of representation at the highest levels of his administration, culminating in the administration appointing a senior official to focus on Asian-American priorities. Ms. Hirono and Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois had pledged to withhold their votes on some nominees until Mr. Biden engaged more actively on the issue.

Jessica Chia contributed reporting.

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Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, introduced a resolution on Thursday to block the sale of a $735 million package of precision-guided weapons to Israel, ratcheting up growing pressure on President Biden from his party’s left flank.

Mr. Sanders and other progressive lawmakers in Congress have argued that the United States could not morally send American-made weapons to Israel at a time when it has carried out airstrikes that have killed civilians.

“At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a congressional debate,” Mr. Sanders said. “I believe that the United States must help lead the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians. We need to take a hard look at whether the sale of these weapons is actually helping do that, or whether it is simply fueling conflict.”

It is unlikely that the resolution, introduced by Mr. Sanders in the Senate and in the House by a group of lawmakers including Representative Rashida Tlaib, Democrat of Michigan, will delay or halt the arms sale.

In order to block a sale, lawmakers would have to approve such a resolution in both chambers of Congress and then override Mr. Biden’s expected veto — all within a brief, designated period of time. A similar attempt to block a tranche of weapons from going to Saudi Arabia was defeated in 2019, after a bipartisan group of lawmakers linked arms to protest the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and Saudi dissident.

But the resolutions add to the groundswell of pressure Mr. Biden is facing from progressives in Congress who have urged the president to take a more aggressive stance toward Israel. Earlier this week, 28 Democratic senators — more than half of the party’s caucus — put out a letter publicly calling for a cease-fire, putting the onus on both sides to lay down their weapons, and on Mr. Biden to weigh in to demand it.

Representative Gregory W. Meeks of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, had planned to write to Mr. Biden asking him to delay the arms sale, but has since reversed course, after the State Department agreed to brief his committee on the matter.

Republicans have pushed back. Senator Jim Risch of Idaho and Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republicans on the foreign relations panels in the Senate and House, wrote to Mr. Biden on Thursday to urge him to let the arms package go to Israel.

“To withhold this sale now would call into question our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge, and the basic reliability and trustworthiness of the United States as an ally and a defender of democratic values,” they wrote. “We have heard voices in Congress that are increasingly willing to forfeit the United States’ reputation for standing by its friends and partners. This is not right. We must draw a firm line that the United States will stand with Israel and other allies in their hour of need.”

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

A divided House on Thursday voted mostly along party lines to approve nearly $2 billion in emergency spending to cover costs related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and to increase security throughout the complex.

The $1.9 billion bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled House by the thinnest of margins, a vote of 213 to 212, faces an uncertain future in the evenly split Senate, where most legislation needs 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and advance to a vote.

“Like many of us in the Capitol community, I am still shaken by the violence and terror of that day and the tragedies in its aftermath,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said of the Jan. 6 attack. “Congress owes it to every single person who works in or visits the United States Capitol to provide funding to recover, rebuild and keep all who serve in the legislative branch safe.”

A handful of liberal Democrats — including members of the progressive group known as “the Squad” — defected from support for the bill, voting either present or against the legislation, citing concerns about increasing funding for policing. Their objections nearly tanked the proposal in a chamber where Democrats need nearly every member to stick together to pass their agenda.

Nearly 140 police officers were injured in the attack — the first assault on the building since the War of 1812 — and at least five people died in connection with it.

The bill would provide more than $520 million to reimburse the National Guard, which has supplied thousands of troops to patrol the newly fortified Capitol; $250 million to create retractable fencing and other security features; $200 million to create a quick reaction force in the National Guard to respond to future emergencies; $160 million to harden windows and doors; more than $175 million to protect federal judges and courts; and nearly $40 million to fund the prosecution of suspected Capitol rioters.

It includes smaller pots of money to equip Capitol Police officers with body cameras and bolster the agency’s intelligence division, and to increase protection of lawmakers as they travel the country.

The measure would also rename the Capitol Police wellness center after Officer Howard Liebengood, who died by suicide in the aftermath of the attack.

Many of the proposals, which have been endorsed by the Capitol Police, were recommended by a panel led by Russel L. Honoré, a retired Army lieutenant general appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to investigate Capitol security.

The vote came a day after the House approved the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Capitol riot, with four-fifths of the chamber’s Republicans opposing the measure amid increasing pressure from former President Donald J. Trump and his supporters to shift focus away from the attack. Hours before that vote, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, declared his opposition to the plan, after having said he was open to voting for it a day earlier.

Unlike the vote on the commission, in which 35 Republicans bucked their party leadership to join Democrats, the party stuck together Thursday to oppose the spending bill, citing its costs and concerns about the Capitol taking on a militarized atmosphere. Since the attack, the complex has been surrounded by fencing — initially topped by barbed wire and guarded by thousands of National Guard troops.

Representative Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, argued that Democrats were taking a partisan approach by rushing forward with the bill without enough input from Republicans.

Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington, one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump over his role in inciting the mob that attacked the Capitol, said the bill should reimburse the military and fund security at the Capitol, but argued there were still too many unresolved issues with how to do so.

“We are funding something that is incomplete,” she said. “We certainly do not need to militarize the Capitol.”

Across the Capitol, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he was committed to moving a security bill, but concerned with ensuring that the Capitol remain “open and accessible to the public and does not feel like a militarized zone.”

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The Biden administration proposed a global tax on multinational corporations of at least 15 percent in the latest round of international tax negotiations, Treasury Department officials said on Thursday, a lower-than-expected offer as the U.S. looks to reach a deal with countries that fear hiking their rates will deter investment.

Treasury has been holding meetings this week with a panel of negotiators from 24 countries about the so-called global minimum tax, which would apply to global companies regardless of where they locate their headquarters. The Biden administration hopes to reach an agreement in principle with other countries this summer and is counting on the deal to help sell its plan to raise the corporate tax rate in the United States to 28 percent from 21 percent.

Treasury officials said their offer was met enthusiastically and characterized it as a pivotal moment in the negotiations, which have dragged on for more than two years. The negotiations over the global minimum tax are part of a broader global fight over how to tax technology companies and come as the Biden administration is trying to fix provisions in the tax code that it says incentivizes moving jobs overseas.

As part of its American Jobs Plan, the Biden administration called for doubling the global intangible low-taxed income (or GILTI) tax to 21 percent, which would narrow the gap between what companies pay on overseas profits and what they pay on earned income in the United States. Under the plan, the tax would be calculated on a per-country basis, which would have the effect of subjecting more income earned overseas to the tax than under the current system.

If the 15 percent global minimum tax rate is adopted, it would still leave a gap between that rate and the Biden administration’s proposed U.S. domestic rate. Treasury officials have argued that the new gap would be smaller than the current gap and therefore would not diminish the competitiveness of American companies.

Part of the Biden administration’s ability to sell its plan, however, hinges on whether it can reach a deal with other countries on the global minimum tax so that American companies are not at a competitive disadvantage.

The finance ministers from France and Germany indicated last month that they were willing to back a 21 percent global minimum tax rate. But countries will have to change their laws to formally make the agreement happen and enforcement of the deal will be complicated. Ireland, which is not a member of the steering committee undertaking the negotiations through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate and has expressed reservations about such an agreement.

Treasury officials said that they never insisted on the 21 percent rate. However, they view the 15 percent level as a floor and will continue to push for a higher rate. They said they believed that other countries were receptive to the idea of adopting higher rate depending on the fate of the changes to the American tax system that are under consideration.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has warned that a global “race to the bottom” has been eating away at government revenues, and she has adopted a more collaborative approach to the negotiations than the Trump administration employed.

Ms. Yellen is expected to continue talks about international tax reform with her international counterparts at the Group of 7 finance ministers meeting next month.

Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

The government has to do more to reduce the intensity of wildfires, starting with removing far more vegetation from federal forests, the Biden administration said Thursday in a new strategy document.

Climate change is causing rising temperatures and longer droughts, which together have made wildfires more frequent and devastating. This year’s wildfires, including the Palisades fire near Los Angeles, are expected to be even worse than usual, because much of the West has been stuck in an unusually bad drought.

As that risk grows, the Agriculture Department, which oversees the U.S. Forest Service, said it must double or even quadruple the amount of vegetation it removes from its forests each year. That leaves less fuel for fires that do ignite, making them easier to contain.

The amount of vegetation being removed each year “is not enough to keep pace with the scale and scope of the wildfire problem,” the department wrote. It called for treating an additional 20 million acres on National Forest System land by 2040, as well as 30 million acres on other federal, state, tribal and private land.

The strategy also called for more so-called prescribed burns, in which smaller fires are set intentionally to burn up vegetation.

Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, said it had long been clear that the government needed to reduce the fire risk by more aggressively thinning out forests.

The bigger question, he said, is whether the Biden administration actually follows through, adding that what’s needed is a clear plan to hit those higher targets. “Anything short of that is not enough at this point,” Mr. Wara said.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The Biden administration on Thursday provided more details on its plans to raise $700 billion in revenue through beefed-up Internal Revenue Service enforcement, saying the additional funds would enable the agency to more easily crack down on tax cheats.

The Treasury Department released a 22-page report laying out the administration’s new “tax compliance agenda,” which is a centerpiece of its plans to pay for a $1.8 trillion infrastructure and jobs proposal. The Biden administration wants to give the I.R.S. $80 billion over the next decade so that it can overhaul its outdated technology and ramp up audits of wealthy taxpayers and corporations to ensure they are not avoiding — or evading — U.S. taxes.

Previous administrations have long talked about trying to crack down on tax evasion and the head of the I.R.S., Charles Rettig, told a Senate committee earlier this year that the agency lacked the resources to catch tax cheats, including those who hide income from cryptocurrencies, costing the government as much as $1 trillion a year.

The Treasury Department estimated on Thursday that in 2019 the tax gap was $584 billion and is on pace to total $7 trillion over the next 10 years.

The Biden administration’s estimates of the return on investment that it could generate from boosting the I.R.S. budget far surpassed projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. And John Koskinen, a former I.R.S. commissioner under President Barack Obama and President Donald J. Trump, has suggested that it would be hard for the cash-strapped agency to efficiently spend that much money.

The Treasury Department said that it believes its revenue projections are conservative. Much of the revenue from more rigid enforcement would become evident in the later part of the decade, the report said, but Treasury officials believe that with more enforcement staff and better technology the I.R.S. can chip away at the “tax gap.”

“This revenue is backloaded in the 10-year budget window as several of these new investments — such as hiring revenue agents capable of complex global high net-worth examinations and building the technological infrastructure to support a new information reporting regime — take years to reach their full potential,” the report said.

In the second decade, Treasury thinks that the I.R.S. could bring in an additional $1.6 trillion.

The Biden administration’s proposal would include the hiring of 5,000 new I.R.S. enforcement agents, including those with the kind of sophisticated training needed to understand complex tax evasion schemes.

The Treasury report said that much of the revenue it estimates would come through its “information reporting” rules for financial institutions. This would give the I.R.S. more visibility into corporate accounts to determine how much money they are actually taking in and what should be taxed. The department said it expects that such reporting would be helpful for audits and would serve as a deterrent against corporate tax evasion.

The new information reporting rules would also include an effort by the Biden administration to bring cryptocurrencies into the tax regime and to crack down on those using cryptocurrencies to avoid paying taxes. The report said that cryptocurrency exchange accounts and payment accounts that accept them would fall under the reporting rules. Businesses that receive cryptoassets with a fair market value of more than $10,000 would be subject to information reporting.

The Biden administration has faced questions from Republican lawmakers, such as Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, to justify its claims that giving the I.R.S. so much money will yield such robust returns. Conservative political groups have criticized the Biden administration plan hire an army of I.R.S. agents, saying it’s a way to hike taxes.

The Treasury report attempted to rebut such claims, noting that increased audits would be focused on the rich.

“It is important to note that the President’s compliance proposals are designed to ameliorate existing inequities by focusing on high-end evasion,” the report said. “Audit rates will not rise relative to recent years for those with less than $400,000 in actual income.”

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Within hours of the Supreme Court accepting a case that could lead it to overturn or scale back a landmark abortion rights ruling, Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat facing re-election next year, issued a dire warning to supporters: The fate of Roe v Wade is on the line.

“We cannot move backwards,” Mr. Bennet said in a campaign statement. “Colorado was a leader in legalizing abortion — six years before Roe v Wade. I will always fight for reproductive justice and to ensure everyone has safe and legal access to the health care they need.”

His declaration was among the first in a quickly intensifying clash over abortion, long a defining issue to many voters but one likely to gain additional prominence as the court weighs the possibility of rolling back the constitutional protections it provided to abortion rights in Roe 48 years ago.

Motivated in part by a belief that the Supreme Court will give them new latitude to restrict access, Republican-dominated states continue to adopt strict new legislation, with Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signing into law on Wednesday a prohibition on abortions after as early as six weeks.

The court’s expanded conservative majority has injected new volatility into an already turbulent political atmosphere, leaving both parties to game out the potential consequences.

Nearly all agree that the latest fight over Roe, which has been building for years, is certain to have significant political repercussions. Conservative voters are traditionally more energized than liberals about the abortion debate, and for many of them it has been the single issue spurring voter turnout.

But Democrats say a ruling broadly restricting abortion rights by a court whose ideological makeup has been altered by three Trump-era appointees could backfire on Republicans and galvanize women.

Credit…John Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe is adding pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza to halt their conflict before it turns into a war entangling more of the Middle East.

The Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the barrage of rocket fire by Hamas into Israel eased overnight on Thursday as senior officials on both sides privately expressed optimism that a cease-fire agreement could come by the weekend.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden spoke with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, whose nation has acted as an intermediary in the negotiations.

France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu, have intensified their push for a cease-fire as the humanitarian situation for the two million people living in the Gaza Strip has grown more dire by the day.

French diplomats have sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.

At a special meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Secretary General António Guterres called for a halt to the bloodshed and destruction. “The fighting must stop immediately,” he said. “I appeal to all parties to cease hostilities, now and I reiterate my call on all sides for an immediate cease-fire.”

Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, met with Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday and also pressed for peace.

Israel’s Gaza bombardment has killed at least 227 people, including 64 children. In Israel, 12 people have been killed by Hamas rockets.

Credit…Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a news outlet funded by the U.S. government, is in a standoff with Russia over a law requiring that it label itself a “foreign agent” — something officials at the outlet said would drive away its audience and hinder its ability to report the news.

Russian officials have begun legal action and frozen the organization’s bank accounts until it pays roughly $67,000 of $2.4 million in estimated total fines for not complying with the law, Radio Free Europe officials said.

The fight has significant implications for press freedom in Russia, where many independent news outlets have managed to survive online despite Moscow’s efforts to stifle dissent. Russia has recently begun to use the “foreign agent” rule against other popular online publications, making Radio Free Europe’s battle a test case.

“It is not just RFE/RL’s physical presence inside Russia that is at stake here,” Jamie Fly, the network’s chief executive, said in an interview, “but whether the Russian people will be able to continue to freely access objective news and information during what has the potential to be a momentous period in their country.”

The issue poses a diplomatic challenge for the Biden administration, which is unsure how influential it can be. State Department officials have said that they are “deeply troubled” by the decision to freeze Radio Free Europe’s bank account and that the U.S. will respond if Russia forcibly shuts down the organization, but have provided no details.

“Ultimately, Moscow is doing what Moscow will do,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said at an event last month for World Press Freedom Day. “But we’re trying to make sure that, at least in some ways, we can be supportive and helpful even if our advocacy falls on deaf ears in Moscow itself.”

Maria V. Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, dismissed the concerns at a news conference last week.

“The complaints about the obstruction of journalistic work in Russia are a fiction and a lie,” she said. “We welcome the activities of the U.S. media in our country.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

For the second presidential cycle in a row, Democrats were stunned by the number of voters who came out in support of Donald J. Trump and his Republican allies down the ballot.

Ahead of the 2020 campaign, polls suggested that Democratic House candidates were on track to nearly match their historic margins in the 2018 midterms. But that didn’t happen.

This week, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, presented the results of an inquiry into the 2020 election, aimed at understanding what had gone askew for the party — and why, after the corrections that pollsters made in the wake of 2016, surveys were still missing the mark.

The report came to two interrelated conclusions, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the campaign committee chairman, said in a phone interview today.

One is that Trump voters are disproportionately likely to refuse to take a poll, a conclusion echoed in other post-mortem reports that have recently been released by private Democratic pollsters.

The other is that Mr. Trump’s presence on the ballot appears to have driven up turnout among the Republican base.

“In 2020, what we realized is that the polling error really equaled Trump turnout,” Mr. Maloney said. “So in polling, you’ve got this mistake in the assumption about what the electorate will look like.”

Because support for Mr. Trump lines up with a relative unwillingness to be polled, survey researchers may think they’ve reached the right share of, say, rural-dwelling, white men without college degrees. But in fact what they’ve reached is often a Democratic-skewing segment of that demographic.

In 2018, when polls were relatively accurate, this didn’t factor in as much, presumably because the most anti-institutional and anti-polling voters were also those who were likely to turn out only if Mr. Trump himself was on the ballot.

In 2020, Mr. Trump’s popularity with a typically low-turnout base meant that an upsurge in turnout actually helped Republicans more than Democrats — a rare occurrence.

“Because low-propensity voters turned out for Trump in much higher numbers than our low-propensity voters turned out for us, it ripples through the data and has a big effect,” Mr. Maloney said.

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Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion measures on Wednesday, banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.CreditCredit…LM Otero/Associated Press

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed into law on Wednesday one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion measures, banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy and thrusting the state into the advancing national debate over reproductive rights.

The legislation, also known as the “heartbeat law,” amounts to an outright ban on abortion, as many women are not aware they are pregnant at the six-week mark. It also would allow any private citizen to sue doctors or abortion clinic employees who would perform or help arrange for the procedure.

The Texas law arrives at a potentially pivotal moment in the long fight over abortion rights. This week the Supreme Court announced it would consider a case from Mississippi that could undermine Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

The case will be the first on abortion under the court’s new 6-3 conservative majority, giving anti-abortion activists hope that their strategy of passing restrictive laws in state legislatures and creating a long pipeline of new cases will pay off. Texas is among at least a dozen states to recently adopt restrictive measures.

Flanked by more than three dozen lawmakers and abortion opponents, Mr. Abbott signed the abortion bill on Wednesday, saying: “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. In Texas, we work to save those lives.”

The legislation drew support from anti-abortion groups, who broke into applause in Mr. Abbott’s office, and condemnation from abortion rights activists, who are gearing up to challenge it in the courts.

Christian D. Menefee, the chief civil lawyer for Harris County, the most populous county in Texas, called the new law “morally reprehensible, unconstitutional, and nothing more than a blatant attempt to limit women’s access to health care.”

“I look forward to the courts invalidating this law,” he said, “but it’s embarrassing that we even got this far.”