The House is poised to give final approval to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Wednesday, a landmark moment for the new president and Democrats in Congress, who have stayed united to push through the sweeping legislation.
The vote will come seven weeks into Mr. Biden’s presidency, as the growing number of vaccine doses given to Americans offers hope that the country is on course to move beyond the worst of a pandemic that has killed more than half a million people in the United States.
With final passage of the vast relief package, Mr. Biden will have succeeded in his first major legislative undertaking, though most likely without any support from Republicans. The vote in the House is expected around midday.
Republicans have attacked the measure as wasteful and excessive. But those arguments have yet to gain traction outside the party’s base, with 70 percent of Americans supporting the package, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.
The bill, which cleared the Senate on Saturday, would send direct payments of up to $1,400 to Americans and extend a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit until early September. It would provide funding for states and local governments as well as for schools to help them reopen. The bill also contains money for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and vaccine distribution.
The legislation establishes an aggressive effort by the new president to drive down poverty, as the measure offers substantial benefits for low-income Americans, including a sizable one-year expansion of the child tax credit.
“It’s a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation which goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday.
Mr. Biden is scheduled to showcase the legislation on Thursday during a prime-time television address marking one year since the virus prompted shutdowns across the country.
Republican lawmakers, however, have criticized the stimulus plan as a partisan product that lavishes federal dollars on liberal priorities unrelated to the pandemic. No Republicans voted for it when it first passed the House last month or when it cleared the Senate over the weekend.
“We could have had a bill that was a fraction of the cost of this one that could have gotten bipartisan approval and support,” said Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican.
The sharp partisan division over the package offers a preview of the political dynamics Mr. Biden will have to contend with in the coming months as he tries to advance other pieces of his agenda, including an infrastructure plan and an immigration overhaul.
The bill that will go before the House on Wednesday differs in notable ways from the legislation that the chamber initially approved last month. It no longer contains an increase to the federal minimum wage, which Mr. Biden had proposed and House Democrats had included in their bill, but the Senate omitted.
The president and House Democrats also sought to increase the $300-per-week unemployment benefit to $400, but the Senate kept it at its current level and tightened income caps for receiving stimulus payments.
Nevertheless, House Democrats were expected to give their blessing to the legislation, even if it falls short of what progressives desired. Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of House leadership, said on Tuesday that he was “110 percent confident” that Democrats would have the votes to pass it.
President Biden will announce on Wednesday that he intends to secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 single-shot vaccine by the end of this year, with the goal of having enough on hand to vaccinate children and, if necessary, administer booster doses or reformulate the vaccine to combat emerging variants of the virus.
Mr. Biden will make the announcement during an afternoon meeting with executives from Johnson & Johnson and the pharmaceutical giant Merck, according to two senior administration officials. The rival companies are partnering to ramp up production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, in a deal brokered by the White House.
In announcing that agreement last week, Mr. Biden said that the United States would now have enough vaccine available by the end of May to vaccinate every American adult — roughly 260 million people. But the senior officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to preview the president’s announcement, said the administration was trying to prepare for unpredictable challenges, from the emergence of dangerous virus variants to manufacturing breakdowns that could disrupt vaccine production.
The officials said that they expected the doses to be delivered sometime in the second half of this year, but could not be more specific. They said Mr. Biden would direct officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate the details with Johnson & Johnson, and that Wednesday’s announcement would be a first step.
The White House had initially intended to hold Wednesday’s event at the Baltimore manufacturing facility of Emergent BioSolutions, another company that partners with Johnson & Johnson to make coronavirus vaccine. But Mr. Biden canceled his trip after The New York Times published an investigation into how Emergent used its Washington connections to gain outsize influence over the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s emergency repository of drugs and medical supplies.
The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, has since said that the administration will conduct a comprehensive audit of the stockpile.
Emergent officials will not attend Wednesday’s session. In explaining the change in plans, Ms. Psaki said that the administration thought the White House was a “more appropriate place to have the meeting,” which it is billing as a celebration of what Mr. Biden has called the “historic” partnership between Johnson & Johnson and Merck.
The administration says the collaboration will increase manufacture of the vaccine itself, and will also bolster Johnson & Johnson’s packaging capacity, known in the vaccine industry as “fill-finish” — two big bottlenecks that have put the company behind schedule.
Wednesday’s announcement is in keeping with Mr. Biden’s aggressive efforts to acquire as much vaccine supply as possible, as quickly as possible. Before Mr. Biden took office, he pledged to get “100 million shots into the arms” of the American people by his 100th day in office — a timetable that seemed aggressive at the time, but more recently has looked tame. He has been trying to speed it up ever since.
At the time, two vaccines — one made by Moderna and the other by Pfizer-BioNTech — had been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use. In January, Mr. Biden said the administration would have enough vaccine to cover every American by the end of summer. Last month, the president announced his administration had secured enough doses from those two companies to have enough to cover every American by the end of July.
The recent addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received emergency authorization in late February, opened a path for the administration to move up the timetable yet again. But Johnson & Johnson and its other partners, including Emergent, were behind schedule, which prompted the administration to reach out to Merck.
The Pentagon announced Tuesday evening that more than 2,200 National Guard troops would remain in Washington for at least 10 more weeks to assist federal law enforcement agencies in protecting Congress, continuing a deployment that began during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said Guard troops would remain on Capitol Hill through May 23, approving a request from U.S. Capitol Police to extend a deployment that had been set to expire on Friday.
“This decision was made after a thorough review of the request and after close consideration of its potential impact on readiness,” John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement. He noted that the number of soldiers that would remain in the Capitol under the new agreement was approximately half of the contingent currently serving there.
Mr. Kirby said that the Defense Department would work with the Capitol Police to further reduce the number of Guard personnel guarding Congress “as conditions allow.”
The acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda D. Pittman, formally asked the Defense Department on Thursday to keep thousands of National Guard troops on Capitol Hill beyond their scheduled departure. She cited a 93 percent increase in threats against lawmakers during January and February compared to the same period last year as part of the reason for requesting the extension.
Last week, House leaders canceled a session on March 4 in response to warnings from federal officials that militia groups inspired by the pro-Trump conspiracy theory known as QAnon might try to attack the Capitol that day. No such assault materialized.
The moment Chuck Schumer achieved his longtime dream of becoming Senate majority leader, he was in a secure room hiding from a violent pro-Trump mob that was rampaging through the Capitol.
As rioters prowled the halls hunting for top lawmakers — Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, later heard that one had been looking for his desk, saying, “Where’s the big Jew?” — he was being evacuated with other leaders to a safe room at an undisclosed location.
It was then that news outlets confirmed that Jon Ossoff, a Democrat, had won the final Georgia Senate race that would give the party the majority, handing Mr. Schumer the top job. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, turned to the man who had engineered his defeat and offered a brief concession and congratulations.
With that, Charles Ellis Schumer, 70, the Brooklyn-raised son of an exterminator and a homemaker, became the first New Yorker ever to lead the United States Senate.
“Jan. 6 was the best of times,” Mr. Schumer said in a recent interview in his office, where he cracked open a Diet Coke. “And it was the worst of times.”
His dream job has come with huge challenges and a practically nonexistent margin for error. Mr. Schumer rose to power on the strength of his skills as a party messenger and relentless campaign strategist, not his talent as a legislative tactician.
Now it falls to him to maneuver President Biden’s ambitious agenda through a polarized, 50-50 Senate without one vote to spare, navigating between the progressive and moderate factions in his party in the face of a Republican opposition that is more determined than ever.
Mr. Schumer passed his first test over the weekend, squeezing Mr. Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus measure through the Senate along party lines — an effort that nearly fell apart as Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia and a crucial moderate, balked at the 11th hour. Mr. Schumer negotiated a concession, and the bill passed, paving the way for emergency aid and the most far-reaching antipoverty effort in a generation.
“I’ve never seen anyone work as skillfully, as ably, as patiently, with determination to deliver such a consequential piece of legislation,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Schumer.
The effort forced the Senate leader to straddle his party’s centrist and progressive wings, a trick he will have to master if he hopes to keep the president’s agenda on track and Democrats in control of the chamber, as well as fending off a possible 2024 primary challenge from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the high-profile progressive from the Bronx.
Asked what he would do about her, Mr. Schumer shrugged and said he talked to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez “all the time.”
“What I’ve done throughout my career,” he added. “I do my job well, and everything works out.”
The House Democratic campaign arm on Tuesday reversed a policy preventing consultants who have aided primary challenges against Democratic incumbents from receiving party money in the future, in a victory for the party’s insurgent progressive wing.
Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who took over this year as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, had previously said that he intended to overturn the policy, which was put in place after the 2018 campaign season that saw the successful challenges of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s and Ayanna Pressley’s to longtime Democratic incumbents.
Chris Taylor, a spokesman for Mr. Maloney, said in a statement on Tuesday that the committee was opening its doors to a diverse array of consultants. “This policy change means that the only criteria for a vendor to be listed in the directory are our standards for fair business practices related to use of organized labor, critical diversity and inclusion standards and other minimum qualifications,” he said.
Waleed Shahid — a spokesman for Justice Democrats, an insurgent group that grew out of Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign and supported Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Pressley in 2018 — celebrated the move. Mr. Shahid said that the ban on challenger consultants had served to keep out progressive consultants.
It is a long-held custom for parties to protect their incumbents, and the D.C.C.C. had for years wielded an unofficial policy of not doing business with consultants or political groups that had supported a challenger against an incumbent House Democrat. But in 2018, the party’s leaders made that policy official at a moment when the progressive wing was gaining clout — and growing more savvy.
Soon after Ms. Ocasio-Cortez upset Representative Joseph Crowley in a landslide that year, partly thanks to the work of a few nimble and innovative technology consultants, the committee codified its longstanding de facto policy.
That drew fire from many left-leaning Democrats, and some worried that it would put a chill on challenges by women and people of color like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Pressley.
Mr. Shahid argued that the party was harming itself by disallowing the work of certain consultants in any of its campaigns. “That happened to some of the best digital vendors in the country,” he said. “They work on a lot of progressive primary campaigns, and they can’t work for the party’s handpicked candidates.”
Mr. Shahid added that he was heartened by Mr. Maloney’s decision to reverse the ban, but that he was still waiting to see if the organization would return to its de facto policy of rejecting consultants who help challengers.
“I would hate to see the D.C.C.C. go back to an informal blacklist, which is what their policy used to be,” he said. “But it is a step forward to not have an explicit blacklist.”
President Biden’s nominees to fill out the Justice Department’s leadership ranks pledged at their confirmation hearing on Tuesday to tackle domestic extremism, racial inequality and other thorny issues within the bounds of the law, seeking to restore order to a department battered by political attacks during the Trump administration.
Lisa Monaco, a Justice Department veteran and national security expert nominated to be deputy attorney general, and Vanita Gupta, a civil rights lawyer known for her criminal justice overhaul work tapped as the department’s No. 3, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they were committed to ensuring that the department meted out equal justice under the law.
Ms. Monaco, 53, who if confirmed would oversee the department’s day-to-day operations, the nation’s federal prosecutors and the F.B.I., said in her opening testimony that as “an independent investigator and prosecutor,” it was important that the department “act free from any political or partisan influence.”
“Throughout my career, these norms have been my North Star,” Ms. Monaco said.
Ms. Gupta, 46, who was nominated to be the associate attorney general, would oversee prosecutors who argue for the Biden administration in court, officials who allocate federal grant money to state and local governments, and federal law enforcement organizations. She would also oversee the department’s Civil Rights Division, which she ran under the Obama administration.
“We will follow the president’s policy agenda so long as it’s consistent with the law,” Ms. Gupta said.
Republicans on the committee reserved their sharpest questions for Ms. Gupta, who was a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, judicial appointments and civil rights work.
Republicans also pressed Ms. Gupta on policing, sometimes echoing a conservative attack ad that claimed she supported defunding the police. She said that was not her position, adding that she supported Mr. Biden’s commitment to provide an additional $300 million for community policing initiatives.
“I don’t support defunding the police,” Ms. Gupta said. “I have advocated for greater police resources.” She has the backing of dozens of police organizations and high-profile conservative groups, including Koch Industries, for her bipartisan efforts to enact criminal justice overhauls.
Ms. Gupta was also questioned about past comments about implicit bias; she said everyone, including herself, has biases that must be managed to ensure more fairness in the workplace and other institutional settings. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, asked her whom she was biased against.
Declining to name a specific group, Ms. Gupta said: “I know that I hold stereotypes that I have to manage. I’m a product of my culture.”